Our friend, Quina passed away so quickly on Friday that we were saying that the angels must have had to hurry to prepare a place at the table next to Jesus. Quina was born in Brazil and came to the U.S. with her family about 20 years ago. Her life while simple and not without its own struggles has been an amazing example of Christian love for those who truly knew her. She and her beloved William who shared together 55 years of marriage have been the truest models of faithfulness and love that I have been given the privilege to know. William left on his eternal journey almost exactly two years ago and today Quina has joined him there on the other side where Jesus waits.
Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away Matthew 14:22
The disciples came to land,
Thus obeying Christ’s command,
For the Master called unto them, “Come and dine”;
There they found their heart’s desire,
Bread and fish upon the fire;
Thus He satisfies the hungry every time
From Come and Dine by Charles Widemeyer
The Thanksgiving snow still falling makes me think of Christmas!
When men say they love “God’s Country” they usually speak of open spaces, mountains and prairies. But when God so loved the world that He sent Jesus, He came to where God’s country truly is: Dark city streets where He could shine!
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. Isaiah 9:2
And after he had taken leave of them,he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them… Mark 6:46
Until we can see beyond the rooftops of our little world we will never see the mountaintops of God or the troubles of others all around us…
It’s that time of year when the air is crisp and the wind has begun to sharpen the edges of the cold. In the words of the old song;
All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey…. From California Dreamin’ by John & Michelle Phillips
Yet in this brief lull between Summer and Christmas I love to pause and linger over the holiday that uniquely American holiday we call Thanksgiving. It won’t matter that hundreds of years ago a hardy band of Pilgrims took time to be thankful if we forget to do so today. We have long ago lost the quiet fields around Plymouth and the friendships that were built between settlers and native Americans. But today in our 21st century neighborhoods of Asians Latinos and Anglos, we can forge new friendships, and learn again in our “Material Girl” age to be thankful. God is still good (all the time) and before the next holiday rush let’s step on the brakes and linger long on the Selah of the moment. Jesus loves it when His people give thanks.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. Luke 17:15-16
In the face of a tidal wave of Islamic terrorism, hate, murder and fearfulness how is the Christian to stand today? When the mind rebels against unimaginable horror and the continual trauma of war, bloodshed and hopelessness how can the church give the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ? In the news we read day after day of the happenings in Iran, where our brother Abedini has now been imprisoned for two years, to Syria where yet another hostage has been murdered, to South Sudan where tens of thousands are dying uncounted in the latest political bloodletting. How can we as individuals Christians make any difference at all?
When Jesus said,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” Matthew 5:43-44,
it sounds as if he has just finished listening to the most recent CNN report. He knew that we would face all kinds of trouble, because in fact Jesus faced those exact same troubles in his day. His own neighbors had a plan to throw him off a cliff and the religious authorities were constantly looking for ways to have him arrested. After Jesus taught that He was the Light of the World, they were ready to stone Him. But in spite of all these things Jesus understood the secret of the power of forgiveness. On the day He was crucified Jesus looked down from the cross to see only one of the twelve disciples with His mother and a few of the other women. Where were the five thousand who had been fed? Where were the hundreds who had been healed? Where were even His own brothers and sisters? Jesus was abandoned and in that moment of disgrace, humiliation and suffering He unleashed the most powerful weapon in Heaven’s arsenal. While horribly nailed to the cross Jesus chose a new path,
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. Luke 23:34
With those eleven simple words, Jesus unlocked the door of Salvation for anyone who heard Him or who heard His message to come. There is no hopeless nation, tribe or tongue that cannot be won through the power of His forgiveness. So let’s follow the advice of that converted terrorist named Saul of Tarsus (whom we today call Saint Paul)
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good Romans 12:21
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14
Many years ago our company worked for a powerful man who was a wealthy New York developer. He had a multi-million dollar mansion near the Hudson river, replete with security cameras, armed guards and spectacular gardens. Not too many years previously he had been in business with another man with whom he had become a bitter enemy.
Then one day our as our client walked through his grounds he noticed another large mansion being built on the hillside above him. When he inquired who was building the home he discovered that it was that of his rival! In that moment all the beauty, security and pomp of his home lost their luster. His enemy had secretly secured the higher ground!
In the warfare between our Lord and the enemy of our souls there has been a similar conflict. The devil once strutted about heaven’s hallways with power, beauty and perfection but when he became proud he was thrown out! The first counter attack of the devil against God was in the garden where he tempted Adam and Eve and through their sin began to build a powerful kingdom in the earth. Then Jesus came. He took the low ground of Bethlehem to be born and the devil smirked. After Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt for their lives he must have felt quite in control of his destiny. Then Jesus grew up in lowly Nazareth and from the carpenter shop he went one day to the Jordan river to be baptized by John. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to begin to build His kingdom and the enemy was puzzled by what he saw. There in the desert was a weak and hungry Jesus who seemed ripe for temptation. “If you are the Son of God” the devil purred, “Command these stones to be made bread!” But Jesus the carpenter knew how the house of God was to be built and he met the devil’s every challenge with His Father’s words.
Blow by blow the battle went throughout the ministry of our Lord. Satan tempted and stole the heart of one of the twelve and turned the mob against Jesus outside of Pilate’s judgement hall. Soldiers were called and after flogging our Lord they sent Jesus out towards Calvary carrying His cross. As the nails pierced the carpenter’s hands the kingdom of darkness rejoiced. They felt that the challenge to their power and control over man was secure forever. Everything seemed to have worked out and played directly into the hands of the devil’s henchmen until early on the third day when the stone rolled away!
At that exact moment, Jesus Christ sat up, set aside his earthly garments and received the name that was above every name. In horror Satan looked up and saw a shining city on a hill far above every principality and power. We, by God’s grace are that city. We must never forget who we are or lose heart when we are facing trials. We need to remember that we are the city set on a hill. God has put us here, not because we are stronger, richer or more important than others. In fact God chose us because we are weaker, less powerful and less important to show that He is greater, higher and stronger and that we belong to Him!
But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.” Luke 10:20
When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. by James Black
The season is slowly closing and the snow clouds are peeking over the horizon. The hay is rolled and ready for the Winter and all nature is being readied for its coming. Tomorrow is not given to us so today lets allow the Lord of the harvest to make us ready for Him!