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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Keeping My Side of the Street Clean Part 3

Almost two years ago I had a falling out with a neighbor over a trivial issue. Tempers flared, and things were quite chilly for awhile. I blogged about it at the time, vowing to do my part to repair the damaged relationship. It was hard to be civil when I felt wronged, and eventually we did have to duke things out a bit. Thankfully, the Lord spoke to me through some Peacemaker books, which explained the Biblical methods of resolving conflict. Things have been improving ever since, and I'm thrilled to report an incredible side effect of my obedience to God.

First let me relate a story a friend once shared. Like me, she had clashed with a neighbor. Not surprisingly, they weren't speaking after the argument. My friend felt terrible about the situation, and prayed for guidance. Shortly thereafter, she found a greeting card which summed up her position without apologizing, which was important to her because she truly felt the other person was in the wrong. The message inside urged reconciliation without taking the blame. She added simply, "Peace," then signed her name. Not long after sending the card, her young son had an accident and had to be taken to the emergency room. At this point in the story, my friend broke into a grin, stating, "Guess who his nurse was!" She went onto say that, while the neighbor never acknowledged the card directly, she did everything she could to make the ER experience as stress-free and comfortable as possible. What a testimony to the benefits of making the first move!

Getting back to the issue with my neighbor, I experienced a similar result. As we all know, the Northeast was hit by a doozy of a hurricane over the last couple of days. During the worst of it, a huge limb broke off a tree on my street, landing right behind my son's pickup truck. I watched wordlessly as he went over to move his vehicle, lest any other rogue boughs might decide to come crashing down on his investment. From her porch my neighbor saw what he was about to do. Suddenly she cried out, "Aaron, be careful! A power line might have come down with that limb!" She suggested a safer alternative to his backing up over the downed branch. His oblivious mother might have witnessed his electrocution, but for the quick-thinking advice of a former foe. I decided then and there I'd rather have a standoffish neighbor who comes through with the big stuff than a "hail-fellow-well-met" sort who might've let my son walk into destruction.

We don't often get such a meaningful payoff for doing the right thing. We may never know this side of heaven why He asks us to be peacemakers, especially when our attempts at reconciliation may be ignored or mistaken for weakness. I guess obedience without understanding is the essence of faith.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Keeping My Side of the Street Clean

Morsels for Meditation...: Keeping My Side of the Street Clean Part 2

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Moses Revisited

It's been way too long since I blogged. Then I get out of the habit and it feels like a burden... when really, it's a privilege.

What's been on my mind is how like Moses I am. When he was asked - commanded, actually - to put the squeeze on Pharaoh to let God's people go, he resisted. His first objection was basically, "Why me? What have I got to offer?" (Exodus 3:11). When God assured His servant that He would be with him every step of the way, Moses worried that he wouldn't have answers to the questions he might be asked. Again, God patiently addressed Moses' concern. Still not satisfied, the shepherd who had miraculously been rescued by none other than Pharaoh's daughter (during a blood bath her father had launched against male Hebrew babies) fretted that his audience might not believe him. The Lord, doubtless weary of His servant's unbelief and unwillingness to take on what He had equipped him to do, let loose a couple of miracles to remind Moses with Whom he was allied.

Incredibly, Moses was not through arguing! He next protested that he wasn't eloquent enough to persuade Pharaoh (Exodus 4:10). Here is where I get the chills, as the God of the universe takes responsibility for the full gamut of human capability, ranging from the deficient to the extraordinary:
"So the Lord said to him, 'Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.'" (4:11)

I'm astonished that this patriarch, born of God's chosen race and adopted into Egyptian royalty, still continued to doubt he had the credentials to do this job. Had he realized how much courage it took to contend with almighty God, surely he would have seen the ludicrousness of fearing an earthly king.

Yet, after all God's reassurances, underscored by physical signs of just what He was capable of, Moses begged God to send someone else, anyone else (4:13).

I was recently called by God to plead a cause of my own to a human authority. At first I tried to worm my way out by denying evidence that was right before my eyes to avoid getting involved. The Lord was relentless, and refused to remove the commission. I then sought to ally myself with others so I wouldn't have to face the situation alone. When it became obvious I needed to accept the challenge with only God (did I just say only God?) to accompany me, I spent hours preparing and rehearsing what I would say.

At the heart of my behavior was cold fear. The situation had triggered the memory of a similar experience in which I had been belittled, mistreated and outnumbered. I didn't want that to happen again. In addition, I've always considered myself a poor verbal debater; I'm exponentially more comfortable trying to persuade unknown readers out there than real live hearers right here. I pretty much relived Moses' conversation with God, with about as much success. In the end I limped into the meeting with nothing but heavenly armor covering my knocking knees, and emerged to sing praises to the Lord who did exceedingly abundantly, above all I could ask or think, according to His power (Ephesians 3:20), that did indeed work through this quivering clay vessel.

How dare I be amazed.

Check out Chris Tomlin's Our God

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

God Rather Than Men

I've been reading the story in Acts where the apostles are imprisoned by "the powers that be" for sharing their faith. No sooner are they miraculously rescued by an angel, than they receive instructions to jump right back into action again.

I don't know about you, but if I had just been sprung from jail, the last thing I'd want to do is head back to the same place I'd been arrested to commit the same offense. Unhesitatingly, the text seems to indicate, they obey. I have to wonder, though, if in their humanness they didn't blurt out, "You want us to go where? And do what? Remember what just happened to us? You just took us out of the frying pan, and now You want to hustle us right back into the fire? Something's wrong with this picture!"

I've had some large-ish trials this past year - nothing close to what the apostles faced in the first century - but enough to send me to my knees more often than when things are humming along at a normal pace. I've endured some pretty sticky dealings with "powers that be," and found them pretty intimidating. When we read the account in Acts, the religious leaders, at least to my mind, don't sound all that scary. We are only privy to a few lines of dialogue, and the apostles seem to come out on top in every confrontation. They don't appear to flounder for words, or think of things they should have said two days later, like I do. But I'm willing to bet if we could get inside the minds of Peter and the gang, we'd see they were just as petrified as we are about going up against the "big guns."  I would further surmise that the high priest and his cronies could hold their own in a debate, and shred a fisherman like Peter with a few clever sentences. After all, they were the leaders of the Sadducees, the conservative Jewish ruling body of the day. They would have been powerful, wealthy and well educated. Most of  the apostles were humble tradesmen. What business did they have going up against such an influential assembly?

To put a modern spin on the type of situation the disciples were facing, imagine being "invited" to a meeting with management to discuss some "issues" with your work performance. You enter a conference room with a table long enough to seat the Partridge Family, the Brady Bunch and everyone on Walton's Mountain. You're escorted to a high backed leather chair by men in Armani suits holding laptops which click incessantly as they interrogate you. You yearn for a cheesy poster or piece of fluff art to break some of the formality; all that meets your eye is a dead-white dry erase board and ceiling projector, both of which seem to scoff at your desperate situation. You feel helpless, overwhelmed, and without a prayer.

That's where you're wrong. There's always a prayer, and it's the smartest (and sometimes the only) thing to do in such circumstances.

The disciples knew that key fact, and they ran with it. Their courage came from none other than God Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon them on the day of Pentecost. And yesabsolutely, the same help is ready, willing and able to be tapped by timid believers like me in today's global, post-modern world. I know this because, on more than one occasion, he has un-tongue-tied yours truly, whose tendency is to stutter and stumble when feelings of inadequacy kick in, and whose debating skills are - well, let's just say lacking.

Not only that, but He sends help from unexpected sources. Looking back at Acts 5 again, we see that the apostles' case was pleaded by none other than a Pharisee, a member of the rival religious group to the Sadducees, and certainly no friend to the early Christians. It was the persuasive and self-serving argument of Rabbi Gamaliel which prompted their accusers to let the apostles off with a flogging and a warning. They didn't get away unscathed, and we may suffer some fallout, too. There is precedent, though, for believers to anticipate deliverance and unusual means of assistance.

I personally have experienced God's creative methods of intervention many times. Last spring He "sprang" me from a dangerous and hostile situation in a way I couldn't possibly have predicted. Years ago, when my husband was in medical school and we needed every cent we could lay our hands on, God guided me to resign a part time day care job. My son was a toddler at the time, and he accompanied me to work. He was becoming increasingly jealous of the attention I had to share with his peers; every shift was becoming a combat zone, leaving both of us exhausted and angry with one another. While I knew unequivocally it was time to leave, this was insanity from a financial point of view. A week later, a better, more lucrative child care position, which included a separate classroom for my little boy, fell into my lap through no effort on my part. As such evidences mount up, so does my assurance that He can and will protect and often rescue His people from the perils which assail us.

Count on it.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Deliverance

Morsels for Meditation...: Deliverance Part 2, AKA, Jurassic Park Revisited