Seek And Ye Shall Find

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth;
and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
— The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-8

One night a young man from Albania sat in a motel room in Spain, frustrated and discouraged. He was trying to make his way to a new life Canada but he was now hopelessly snared in a thorny ticket of red tape. He’d done everything he could, but the immigration officials were still shaking their heads.

He’d been brought up under communist teaching, had heard over and over, “God doesn’t exist.” This idea, they were told in school, is a lie meant to keep the common people in bondage. This myth is still being perpetrated by deceived fanatics, but we will wipe it out in time.”

As he grew up he began to question, “Why do the communists have to keep saying this? Surely by now a myth would be no trouble to them.” Or maybe God isn’t a myth? Maybe the communists weren’t able to stamp out this God and Bible business because there was something to it? He began to feel a longing to know the truth; later, working in Germany, he was able to obtain an Albanian Bible and started reading it.

In time he’d made his way to Spain hoping for a way to emigrate to Canada. Now here he sat all alone, far from home, his dreams for the future shattered. In despair he cried out to this God the Bible talked about. “Are You real? Do You see me? Will You help me?”

He looked up and saw a vivid picture on the wall. A painting of Jesus with His arms held out, to Cheti it felt like Jesus was inviting him to come. Did it appear at that instant or had it been hanging there all along and he’d just not noticed it before? In any case, he saw it now and felt the Lord speaking to him at that moment. The whole puzzle of religion became clear to him. God is real and had heard his prayer. Jesus is real. The Bible he’d been reading was telling him the truth.

That night he turned his life over to God and asked for His guidance in the future. The next day he went back to the Canadian immigration office and he received the emigration permit he needed.

LET HIM PROVE IT!

“Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.” — Matthew 27:42

In the Bible we read that the religious rulers of Jesus’ time followed him around constantly. They heard his teachings, saw his miracles — and most of them would not believe He was from God. If God really sent him, they said, Jesus would follow the traditions. For lack of a better explanation they said, “it’s the devil himself that’s giving this man power to work wonders.”

When Jesus hung on the cross there was a great earthquake, the sky was darkened, the heavy curtain of the temple was torn in half from top to bottom. Two days after Jesus’ death the soldiers guarding the tomb came running and said, “An angel came down and rolled the stone away.” Solid proof, right? The Jewish leaders bribed the guards to keep quiet about this. (And that silence wouldn’t have come cheap, I don’t think.)

Their minds were made up about Jesus. They asked for signs but refused to see. They weren’t seeking so they never found. They didn’t knock, so the truth was never opened to them like it was to our friend Cheti in his hotel room in Spain.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”— The Apostle Paul, writing in to the Hebrews: ch 11:6.

Mary’s Faith

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, “They have no wine.”
Jesus saith unto her, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.”
His mother saith unto the servants, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”
—Read the whole account of this miracle in John 2:1-8

When I read these verses I couldn’t help but be impressed with the faith Mary demonstrated. “Whatever He asks, do it.”

Somebody had a problem. It wasn’t Mary’s problem, but she knew about it – even though the fellow in charge of the wedding feast didn’t seem to be clued in. I imagine the folks giving the feast were relatives, maybe a cousin or even a niece or nephew of Mary, which is why she and her children and even Jesus’ disciples all attended.

So Mary was somehow privy to the problem. She didn’t get in a mad flap (like I might.) She didn’t wash her hands of the situation and leave others to deal with it (like I might.) No, even though it wasn’t her problem, she brought it to Jesus’ attention, believing that He could do something though He apparently hasn’t worked any miracles before.

His response was almost rude. It sounds to me a lot like, “So? What am I supposed to do about it? This isn’t ‘Amazing time’ for me yet.”

Mary didn’t get confrontational. “Listen, Son. These are our relatives and You have to help them out.”

She didn’t nag or scold. “Look, this is a disaster! Don’t just sit there. Get up and do something!”

She didn’t whine, “Something has to change here. Can’t you please, please, do something?”

She didn’t have a solution to suggest. “If you’d kindly make six buckets of wine appear right there in the pantry, everyone would be so grateful.”

So I glean from these verses that Mary was aware of the problem; there was no visible solution; she brought the problem to the only One who could solve it; she kept her cool, sat on her pride, and didn’t argue with Him about it.

I doubt she had any idea what Jesus could do to solve the problem, or even if He would do anything. She simply informed Him about the situation and left it in His hands. Yet she had faith. She prepared for a solution. She told the servants, “Whatever He tells you to do, be sure to follow through with it.”

I’m guessing she quietly took her place among the guests and waited to see if and how Jesus would provide.

These verses make me look at my own prayers, the petitions and the attitudes I come to God with. Do I wash my hands of other people’s problems? Do I bring these needs to the One Who can help, or mull them over for days and weeks first, trying to come up with a great solution to suggest to Him? Do I believe He actually can and will do something? Do I whine? He just has to do something — like NOW!

Suppose Mary had said, “This isn’t my problem.” Suppose she hadn’t wanted to bother Jesus with it. What if she’d been doubtful that He could do something and hadn’t said anything to the servants to prepare them for a solution? Would there have been any ‘water-turned-to-wine’ miracle in the Bible. I doubt it.

Lord, teach us to ask in faith trusting Your wisdom to provide the best answer.

 

The Devil Laughs

A pastor friend of ours tells the story of how he and his wife heard the devil’s fiendish laugh one night and it terrified them. During the day he and his wife had gotten into some dispute and at bedtime they were still upset with each other. Silently they got ready for bed. He lie down on his side; she on hers, backs to each other, not a word exchanged. Caught up in their angry thoughts, sleep didn’t come for either of them.

Suddenly in the silence they heard the most menacing, diabolical laughter. Horrified, they both jumped out of bed; a moment later they were on their knees praying to be delivered from this evil. Whatever the issue was that caused their dispute, it seemed so foolish when they understood what a victory it gave to the forces of Satan.

He and his wife felt that God allowed them to hear for themselves how the devil gloats when he can divide couples. I believe this is what God hears when the devil succeeds in stirring up strife in homes, in churches, between friends. Don’t you think all hell shouts the victory when a Christian loses his temper, or gives in to jealousy or discouragement? When confidence is destroyed, vows are broken, and souls that could have been helped are left to go astray?

One day over the kitchen sink I was thinking about a brother who, having been a faithful pastor for some years, became too wise in his own eyes and finally lost the way. It was shocking to hear him renounce the truths he once believed and taught. Thinking back on his years of service I shook my head and thought, This is so cruelly unfair!

I was shocked when it seemed right away the devil answered my thought — no, not audibly, but I heard his reply clearly in my mind: “I love cruelly unfair!”

This is our enemy. We can’t let him win.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith…” I Peter 5:8-9

Of Flowers and Weeds

I was working in the garden one day when I started to feel blue. I didn’t know why life suddenly felt so overwhelmingly sad, but I prayed that the Lord would help me deal with this feeling. I know it’s not His will that we spend time wandering in a blue fog, thinking how sad life is.

Awhile later when I was walking to the corner store my neighbour came out to intercept me and asked how my garden was doing. He was a retired widower who enjoyed visiting with anyone, and though I doubt he was much for going to church, he did have a reverence for God and his creation.

After we’d chatted a bit he made this comment: “I was weeding in my flowerbeds and wondering why there have to be weeds. I came to the conclusion that the Lord made weeds so we would appreciate the flowers more.”

His thought was like a little light that pierced through my dark mood. I am too much inclined to see all the weeds in life and miss seeing the flowers. In fact, too many times I don’t even believe there are any flowers!

Through my neighbour’s words the Lord was able to nudge me and remind me that there is hope, there are flowers, there are many things to be thankful for. Life isn’t all bad and days aren’t all blue. And maybe these blue feelings help me appreciate the joys more when they come.

I whispered a little prayer of thanks as I continued on my way to the store. He had given me what I needed and through this I could feel again His love for me. So many precious little jewels the Lord scatters on our pathway every day because he truly cares for us and wants us to enjoy the beauties He has created.

“Blessed be the Lord, because He hath heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: Therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him.”
Psalm 28:6-7

Rise Above the Storms

One day a man sat near the peak of a mountain, enjoying his spot in the sunshine. From his position he could look down onto the dark clouds of a rainstorm sweeping over the valley below. As he watched, an eagle burst through the rain clouds and soared upward into the sunshine. As it flew toward the peak he was sitting on, he caught flashes of diamond-like raindrops on its wings.

The man was glad that he wasn’t down there in the valley, buffeted and drenched by the storm—and probably the eagle was glad to be above the turbulence now, too. The bird might have been content to stay down there perched on a tree branch if it had not been for the storm, which drove it to seek a better place above. Suddenly the man saw a spiritual parallel in that scene.

Troubles make us miserable, knock us off our comfortable perch, drive us to go higher. Miserable and weary of the struggle, we reach up to something higher than ourselves. We turn to God for help. Then when we burst into His divine sunlight the peace and comfort He gives us more than compensate for the turbulence of our trials.

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:17-18


Faith in God does not exempt us from trials — it sees us through them.

How Far Will You Run?

Five years ago I wrote up one of Pastor Warren’s Sunday morning messages, as near as I remembered it.  Now I’ll post it again for my new site.

His topic was on accepting responsibility–which might include the need to go back and face the music. The scripture verses he started his message with were Genesis 16:6-11.

In Genesis 15: 4 Abraham was promised a son, but his wife Sarai had her doubts. At least she wasn’t producing any heirs. Then she had this bright idea — as we short-sighted humans often do. She gave her maid to Abraham thinking the maid would provide the descendants and Sarai would claim them as hers. After all, the maid belonged to her so any offspring would, too.

Alas for “the best laid plans of mice and man.” When Hagar knew she was going to have the heir, she got a bit “uppity” as Southern folks would say. Her smugness irked Sarai, who then became the classic slave driver, treating her maid harshly.

And when Sarai had dealt this way with her one too many times, Hagar fled from her face. (Verse 6) If she’s going to be so cantankerous, I’m outta here, she decided. She took the lad, Abraham’s son, and left for parts unknown.

Trouble is, the parts were unknown. She came to the end of the road, with no food, no money and no place to go. Her son was starving. And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness… And he said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou and whither wilt thou go?

God cared enough about Hagar to follow her; He let her run as far as she could and there He met her. Hagar, probably exhausted and hungry by this time, was finally ready to listen. That’s usually where God meets us, isn’t it?

So she told him, “I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.” And the angel of the Lord said unto her, “Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands… I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.”

Sometimes a few pointed words from a concerned Christian brother or sister will cause someone to run. Someone questions something they done, maybe implies they’re not the good Christian they think they are. So they feel hurt and offended. “He was too hard on me. She doesn’t really know me. I’m doing the best I can. They just don’t understand my situation. I’m not going back there again!”

There are people who go from church to church, from counselor to counselor, hoping to get answers they like. They may say they need help, that they need direction, but then listen “selectively” for the advice they really want to hear. Ten people may say “Don’t do it” but they listen to the one who says, “Yes, that would be okay.” Then they can go ahead and do as they wish, because “Brother so-and-so said it was okay.”

Naturally we want to be accepted by others as spiritual people. That we’re doing just okay. We don’t want to hear we’re wrong, that we have attitudes that are not Christ-like. We may feel so abused and unloved that we run. Perhaps not literally, but we avoid those who want to help us.

God is so good; He waits until we come to a quiet place, until we’ve exhausted every avenue and don’t know what else to do. Then He says, “Where are you? What are you doing here? How far have you already run? How much farther are you going to go?”

He tell us, “Go back. Go back to those ones that you think dealt so hard with you…and submit yourself to them. Listen to what they have to say. Consider that they may be right…that they may see something in you that does need changing.”

Heb 13:17: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

God promised Hagar a rich reward if she’d just go back and stick it out. And after all, wasn’t her attitude part of the problem between her and her mistress? Likewise, He promises us a reward. Though our attitudes may have to go through a refining fire, He promises we’ll be the better for it. Relationships will be stronger, our love purer, our light brighter.

Or will we keep on running? For how many years? Through how many broken relationships? And where will it finally end?

A Place Prepared

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Alphie was a millet-brained little betta fish. What did he know? Even if some inborn instinct told him that there should be more than this, his one-gallon fish bowl was the only world he’d ever experienced and he was content to live there. He had no clue that there was a better environment being prepared for him.

I’d learned that betta fish deserve a better environment than an unfiltered fish bowl, so I was setting up a proper ten-gallon aquarium where he could enjoy life to the full. He was going to have a heater and filter to keep his water fresh and pure. Bliss, betta style.

This preparation couldn’t happen overnight. An aquarium needs to go through a nitrogen cycle to develop the right kind of bacteria in the filter so it will purify the water passing through. Alphie’s tank sat on the counter for over a month as it went through this cycle; during this time I added driftwood and various ornaments that would make his new world so much more interesting. Meanwhile he circled round and round in his fish bowl, cramped maybe, but relaxed in the world he knew.

Then one day his new home was ready for him. I set his bowl beside the tank, then scooped him out in a small ladle. Now he was really confined! And scared, too; he squirmed and fought this horrible new situation. He was only a little fish; he couldn’t comprehend the big picture.

Though the transfer was uncomfortable and confusing for him, it was accomplished quickly. I placed him in his new tank and his delight was obvious. So much room! So many interesting things to explore. Constant warmth and pure water. For a little fish this was paradise!

Most of us are fairly happy in this world. Some content, some not so content in our little lives, but it’s the only space we’ve ever known. Like my betta, we’re not very willing to leave it — and we’re not at all enthused about being carried out in a small box! Our comprehension of what waits on the other side is so limited.

Unlike my little fish, however, we can know God’s plans for us. Jesus has revealed them to His followers; by faith we can grasp His words:

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14: 2-3

And rejoice like the Psalm writer:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Psalm 23:6