Quarantined, for His Purposes

 

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Quarantines are a real possibility, even in this day. A quarantine is imposed when disease is contagious enough that it would harm a society: Measles, Smallpox, and the recent Ebola Virus  are just a few physical diseases where strict isolation must be imposed. It can be severe— an epidemic, with desperate consequences if not adhered to; in some rare cases, the use of deadly force have been authorized to maintain a quarantine until the disease is no longer communicable.

This may surprise you, but there are examples of ‘quarantines’ in the Bible. The term ‘unclean’ was used for ‘leprosy.’ Those afflicted must isolate themselves; they had to ‘announce’ their presence when in contact with society. Lepers lived in groups away from the general populace as a result of their disease.

In Paul’s epistle to the Corinthian he addresses another kind of ‘quarantine.’ The situation was dire; the church had advocated a Christian living with his father’s wife.

“I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.”

1 Corinthians 5:3-5, NLT

Understanding the Principal of Usefulness

20 “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.”

2 Timothy 2:20, NASB

Found in God’s pantry are many things. Paul writes Timothy about the ‘large house’ which is the Church inclusive. Look around Timothy, there are gold ones, and there are silver ones. They have a noble purpose fitting for such a great house. These are the ones the guests will use; they befit the significance of the Lord himself. These vessels have great value for they are made of precious metals.

There are vessels of a different category. These are the ones made of wood, and of clay. These are part of the household, make no mistake about it. But their use is one of function, they’re used in common ways. (A clay ‘bed-pan’ perhaps?!)

21 “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”

2 Timothy 2:21

Paul, the author of New Testament doctrine of grace emphasizes the place of personal holiness. We are to ‘cleanse’ ourselves to become a vessel of honor. There is good news here:

  • All are vessels in the Father’s house. Each of us belong to Him. He determines their use.
  • Things are not yet in their final state. Change in status can be experienced. Clay pots can become ‘golden.’ Silver can become ‘wood.’

Some sin is contagious. It effects other believers and the Church. Sometimes we are quarantined by the Holy Spirit until the contagion passes. I have experienced this several times in my own discipleship. These are not pleasant times. But there is no condemnation. I’m still His servant, His love for me stays outrageously constant. God waits for me.

Yes I am His servant, and I must wait out in the hall. I haven’t been faithful. So I sit in His waiting room, waiting for His call. This is for my good, and for the Church. And Father knows best.

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“The Serenity Prayer” (the Full Version)

GOD, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.

——————————-Complete addition——————————

Living ONE DAY AT A TIME; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

Amen.

By Reinhold Neibuhr

Many of us have come across this prayer before, but this is the full unedited version. The poem, read in its full version is truly an inspiration. I find my heart echoing each line, and hoping it would be true for myself. Read it:

  • slowly,
  • carefully,
  • intensely,
  • and purposefully.

It is good to read the full prayer vs. the one that our culture seems to have adapted and adopted as their own, I suspect this this full version has a little more panache and a whole lot more authority to it. I welome it and the light to bring to us.

More info on this particular prayer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer

 

God’s Authentic Artisans

photo: aalmarkllc.com

Sculpture is 3-D art. It can be made with marble, glass, metal, wood, plastics. It can be carved or cast, welded or painted. There can be sculpture using light, sound, water, kinetic (moving), land art, and environmental enhancements. It’s just one way to be creative, with many applications.

Sometimes we can define and confine sculpture far too simply or narrowly, but there are so many ways to communicate visual art. There are so many ‘cutting edge’ efforts, showing the creativity of people who are themselves created in the image of God. When we create, we emulate the Creator. It’s something worth pondering: God creates beautiful snowflakes, and we make ‘Styrofoam’ cups. (Hardly creative.)

There are over thirty uses of “skillful” people in the Old Testament alone. The Hebrew word used is carries with it the idea of “excelling at a task– an artisan.” When both the tabernacle and the temple were constructed, the Holy Spirit directly commanded the selection of artists and artisans to design beauty right into their work. There was nothing that was prefab or shoddy. The work done was meticulous and took patience.

13 And King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. 14 He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze. And he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon and did all his work.

1 Kings 7:13-14, ESV

I’ve come to the place where I see talented people, with enhanced skills in many places: they are mothers, fathers, mechanics, plumbers. They are teachers and nurses, lawyers and accountants. They all excel at what they do, and it’s great when they are acknowledged and honored. They are creative in their work, “and full of understanding.”

When they go to work, they will carry out their duties with a flair. Some will have an awareness of God’s presence– some may not be aware. I was hospitalized a few years ago, I remember quite clearly a lady who came in and mopped my floor. She was skilled at her task, thorough and even artful. Tears came as I thought about her working. I felt humbled by her kindness. She was truly a minister of God’s grace on that day.

There is a line from Bernandos novel, “A Diary of a Country Priest.” It’s at the very end of the book, and the protagonist is dying. His attendant was disturbed by his inability to get a priest to come and minister the Sacrament of Last Rites. The dying man, looked at his friend, “What does it matter? Grace is everywhere.” Looking at the housekeeper, that same line came to my mind– grace is everywhere!


The man who carved the flourish above is a master carver. He is also a pastor and lives in Florida. His website is at http://www.aalmarkllc.com/ and he has posted a short video on YouTube,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTIuxKz5joc&w=640&h=360. He is a true example of a great woodworker.

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What Price Vigilance?

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There are times in every believer when things become crystal clear. The comes an awareness of things that are real and true. We see in detail the world as it really is; we suddenly understand.

We are specifically called to be watchful.

What that suggests to me is that we have an awareness of “each hour’ of the day. We choose to know the time, no matter our circumstances. We are made alert in hope though the world spins around us.

About 30 years ago I was ‘hitch-hiking’ in Alaska. I was not in the best place spiritually, and wasn’t really listening to the Lord. I had walked a bit and was about a mile from my cabin when I saw a ‘3×5’ card laying off the ground. Picking it up, I turned it over, and read the simple message written on it– “Stay Alert.” Weird. I walked further and saw another. I went and picked up, the same simple message. “Stay Alert.” That same day I was notified of a family emergency. My mother had been diagnosed with cancer. I was not prepared.

“So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.”

1 Thessalonians 5:6

 There are three distinct areas that demand and require every believer’s watchful attention:

  1. The Second Coming, Jesus’ return and the signs signaling
  2. Spiritual warfare, against temptation and oppression
  3. the Fellowship of the Saints, others in the Church

“Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: ”Stay awake.”

Mark 13:33-37

‘The Parable of the Ten Virgins’ is Jesus’ cry for awareness for the waiting believer. The verses in Matthew 25 is a description of wise and foolish behavior and the terrible consequences of spiritual inattention.

We know that we must sleep, it is a physical need we all have. I think Jesus is warning us of a spiritual awareness. Vigilance– being watchful can be a challenge. The World offers plenty of “narcotics” that lull the heart. Satan is quite proficient at what he does.

In the Book of Song of Solomon we see the beloved waiting for her lover. She makes the observation–

“I slept, but my heart was awake.
A sound! My beloved is knocking.”

Song of Solomon 5:2

Even sleeping we can be awake. That is a luxury given to those whom the Father loves. We can be ‘cued in’ even as we physically rest. Our hearts are very much awake, even in our pajamas!

In the sport of fencing two opponents face off with foils. The come together with the cry, ‘on guard’ and both become intensely aware of the other. I suggest we become as focused as believers. There is so much at stake. Jesus warns his disciples, and we had best listen.

aabryscript

 

God of Wonders

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“Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.

Genesis 1:16

“Wonder is retained by wise pondering.” –Ravi Zacharias

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” —Unknown

“We wake, if ever at all, to mystery. ”  –Annie Dillard

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It strikes me this morning that we live in a ‘coarse’ age. I meet so many who don’t seem to enjoy life at all. They seem to view things without ‘seeing’ them. There is mystery all around, and yet we seem to lack the faculties to perceive it. We probably would rather play X-box than write a poem, paint a portrait, or gaze through a telescope.

The older I get, the more life astonishes me. There is so much mystery saturating my life: nature, the night sky, a tiny baby, and my hands– all just ‘skimming the surface.’ When I consider the multi-layered complexity of life, I tend to ‘short-out.’

“We wake, if ever at all, to mystery.” –Annie Dillard

God reveals Himself as, ‘the God of wonders.’ When I consider our phenomenal universe with more than a million, billion galaxies I start to lose it. Once I camped on a remote beach in Mexico. There wasn’t any electrical, so at night it really got dark. Lying on my back I saw the ‘Milky Way’ for perhaps the first time. It was magnificent! But I also got somewhat scared as I looked into it’s depths. I actually ran back to my tent terrified. I guess I got ‘overloaded.’

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?”

Psalm 8:3-4, NKJV

For the freshly awakened believer, it is almost beyond belief to see so many people ‘sleepwalking’ through life. The somnambulistic masses move through life with nary an inkling of what it is all about. They are completely oblivious it would seem; they are unable to see the wonders of creation, much less the Creator. The enemy blinds so many to God’s presence and His redemption. The darkness is almost palpable.

“Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.”

Psalm 96:3

“I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.” — Harry Emerson Fosdick

“You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.”

Psalm 77:14

aabryscript

The Snare of the Fowler: Psalms 91

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“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.” 

Psalm 91:1-2, NIV

This psalm focuses on intimacy.

Throughout the entire chapter we see personal pronouns used. In contrast to other psalms that are directed to the nation, this one is written to an individual. This personal focus makes this a favorite psalm for many.

Shelter and shadow, refuge and fortress are the opening ‘word pictures’ used very elegantly. The psalmist writes what he knows, and it is apparent that he understand the needs of the human spirit, and for protection. Each of these four words creates a common link between believers. Each of us need a working understanding of all four protections.

Dwelling, resting and ‘saying’ are necessary elements for the word pictures to work. I should ‘dwell’ in God’s sheltered care. All too often, I wander out past the security of the Lord (or maybe I’m lured out?) But there is safety in having God so close to us. His proximity is for my protection.

“Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Psalm 91:3-4

silhouette-bird-on-branch-grangerV.v. 3-4, maintains its personal or familiar tone. ‘Save you’ (salvation) is far more that a theological term.  For the psalmist however, it’s not about ‘doctrine’; rather the psalm is an embrace. He is rescued from the trap, and the sickness that seems so contagious never touches him. Moving from metaphor to metaphor, he engages our imaginations to ‘see’ God’s salvation. The writer knows his stuff.

The Lord is pictured as a protective bird that covers his chicks (Ex.19:4). We have a sure confidence as we gather together in that warm and safe spot under His wing. Whatever is after us has to go through God first. His presence is formidable. In His company is found our only safety.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”

Romans 8:31, 33

It appears that all of heaven is rallying for your well-being. You are sure of this based on your faith in God’s own word. He has ‘busted us’ out of a dark cage,  and now defends you against all your enemies. And that is a very good thing.

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Listening to God’s Voice 101

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“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”

Matthew 13:16, ESV

There is a vast audio ocean that surrounds us.  Did you know that in the room where you are reading this, that there are cartoons, music, mysteries, and concerts going on? You just don’t see or hear them unless you have your radio or television tuned in to the right frequency. We live in the golden age of Bluetooth and cell phones. (Oh my!)

There is a frequency that we must lock into, where we can hear important things (or block-out confusing sounds.) God is so into ‘communicating.’  We understand He desires us to communicate with Him. He yearns for a dialogue with us,  just like He had once a long time ago in the early chapters of Genesis.

Knowing that I’ve been created in imago dei. I ponder the visible, which is a simple shadow of the real world. Mankind in general, creates and communicates–this is what we do–because it’s how God acts. In a certain sense, you might say we are miniaturized versions of Him. Afterall, we are in His image.

He is always speaking, but we’re not always listening.

The attribute of listening is amazingly profound.  Often, I listen to my local radio station while I’m driving in my car. When I drive away from the radio tower, the signal gets weaker and weaker. But if I turn the car around and drive back into town, the signal becomes stronger and I can hear it again.

In the same way, we stop hearing God when we drift away from Him. But if we will turn around and come back to Him, we’ll hear His voice again. The closer we are to God, the clearer we can hear Him. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

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