Over the next few months, my wife and I will buy and wrap many gifts. Both our boys have birthdays coming up plus there is Christmas and Valentines thrown in as well...that's a lot of picking, clicking (since we do almost all of it online), hiding, wrapping and giving.
We will try, as best we can, to buy good gifts. We will ask them what they want, figure out what we can afford, and buy them with the hope that they will enjoy them.
In life we sometimes get gifts too, and not just the kind that come from Amazon boxes. We get promotions, compliments, beautiful days, bonuses, flowers and a variety of other things that make us happy.
James, among a lot of harsher things, tells us to remember where all good things come from (and it isn't from Amazon).
In James 1 he says that "every good and perfect gift is from above" as an effort to remind us to give thanks for the good things that come. People are often quick to blame God for the bad (we even call storm damage "acts of God") but let us not forget to thank Him for the good gifts he gives.
into the great wide open
It seems that everything in our world is known these days. We know where we are going before we go thanks to GPS and Google Street View. We know all about people before we meet them thanks to Social Media. We can see what the weather is going to be like before it happens thanks to Meteorologists. So many things that used to be mysteries are now understood, forecast and knowable. This information is at our fingertips at all times.
So when a situation comes up, like this pandemic, where there are unknowns, it can be unnerving. When will this end? Who will this affect? What will happen? All of these questions, and more, are unknown. We are being forced to live with unanswered questions and lots and lots of waiting.
But, and here is the good news, none of this is surprising, confusing or perplexing to God. God knows all, sees all and is not one bit worried about what will happen. And if we trust that God is good, and can use all things (even this) for our good...then we should learn to live with a sense of adventure. We should eagerly anticipate what God will do with this. How will He use this? What will the good be that comes from this?
In Habakkuk 1 it says "Look at the nations and watch-and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."
I don't like this pandemic. I am not a big fan of wearing masks. I am not fond of social distancing...but I know that my God is bigger than any of this AND that He has a plan to do something amazing! I can't wait to see what it is.
cows and bees
In Exodus 3:8 God tells Moses that he is going to "come down to rescue" the people of Israel "from the hand of the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey."
I've always heard that phrase, "milk and honey", and didn't think much about it...but it's a significant thing to note. In order to have milk you need to have cows (or milking animals like goats) and cows need large amounts of grass to eat; so in order to have milk you need fertile soil full of grass (that same land would also be good farmland to grow crops). In order to have honey you need to have bees and of course bees need pollen to make honey and so you need to have lots of flowers and flowering trees (which often are fruit trees).
You see a land flowing with milk and honey (not just dripping with it, but flowing) needs to be a healthy land with good soil. This was the kind of land that God gave to his people, a good land, a fertile land.
In the past weeks we have been looking at the parable of Jesus (in Matthew 13) often called the parable of the sower; but it could be called the parable of the soils. We see four kinds of soil (hard, rocky, thorny and good) and how only one of those soils produces a harvest.
And our question is, "what kind of soil are you?" Do you flow with milk and honey or are you dry and barren? Are you producing a harvest or has it been a while since you've seen any fruit? What evidence is there of your soil content? What results have you seen lately? God is looking for those who are ready to grow, ready to produce...for those who can take his word and help share it with others.
What kind of soil are you? As for me, I want to flow with milk and honey.
All things new
If you have lived in this area for a while you might remember "Thunder Island" the Water Park just off 31 in Westfield. As a kid I loved it and went often to ride the slides! I was sad when it closed and still wish we had something else like that in the area.
I didn't think much about "Thunder Island" for many years until recently when work started to tear out all remains of the old park. Apparently the "ruins" had become dangerous and prone to crime and vandalism. I am not sure what will happen to that area or how it might be developed in the future; but I do know that the old adage "out with the old and in with the new" is eventually true with all things.
We seem to live in a world that is amazed (for a short time anyway) with the new and shiny things. Commercials often brag that something is "new and improved" even if it's just a minor change to get our attention.
God is also in the business of making things new. He takes our old hearts and breaks them, shapes them and makes them new. He gives us a new heart and a new spirit.
In Revelation 21:5 it says "He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'"
Are you ready to be made new? Are you ready for your heart to be transformed so that God can change you into the new person He wants you to be?
Sadly, many of us are not ready for this kind of change. We are like the ruins of Thunder Island, sticking around because we are used to the way things are. But what if God could do something amazing with you, with your heart, with your life, with your story...
He can. He will. If you let Him.