Isaiah 43:25

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Do You See Yourself in the Israel of Old Testament?

A small group of us have been reading through the Bible using the Chronological Reading Plan. An email goes out each morning, showing the passages to be read for that day. Frequently, one of us will weigh in with a comment or two. Here are a few observations from today's readings, Isaiah 40-43.

There is good news and bad news in these chapters. First, the bad news; Israel and Judah will pay for their sin and rebellion, pay dearly. There will be war and suffering. God will not tolerate sin and idol-worship in His people. He will refine them and remove all that is unholy. Then the good news; God is holy, but He is also gracious. In time, God will redeem His people from the captivity they brought upon themselves and bring them back home. Not only will He deliver them, He will punish those who oppose them. 

By the time we work our way to Isaiah in the OT, we're beginning to see that God always delivers His people when they turn back toward Him and repent, truly repent. No matter how many times they fall away, He shows them grace when they cry out to Him with authentically contrite hearts. When we arrive at Isaiah 43:45, we see that God
does this, not for their sake, but for His

Why? 

They are clearly unworthy of such grace and continue to demonstrate this by their long history of being redeemed from suffering then turning away when times get better. Why does God put up with this? God's intention is to reveal, through the redemptive work He does in His people, His glory, His patience and His mercy. He's all about showing the world His transforming power and incredible grace toward those who are His, not becasue of their behavior, but in spite of it. His redemption is always predicated on their hearts turning toward Him, a work He alone does (Luke 1:8-17, John 1:12-13). 

We should see ourselves in the stories of Israel and Judah.
Like Abraham, who was wandering through life when God chose him to demonstrate to the world that He can transform and redeem anyone He desires, regardless of his estate in life, God chose us (John 15:16). Like Abraham, we are totally incapable of saving ourselves. Furthermore, just like Abraham, once chosen, we continue to stumble, incapable of sustaining, on our own, neither our eternal status nor holiness . 

Doesn't that pattern we see in Abraham continue through the history of Israel and in our lives as well? Abraham is chosen then stumbles but God redeems. Israel is chosen, makes its way to the Promised Land, loses it to their own lack of godliness and is restored by the miraculous hand of God? We, are called, redeemed, continue to stumble but still receive blessing and grace as long as we repent and rely on the Lord.

 Abraham, The two kingdoms...and each of us...are totally dependent upon the grace of God and His faithfulness if we are to have any hope. God reaches down out of heaven and supernaturally changes our hearts and spirits. Then, by his sustaining power and grace, enables us to continue in our walk of sanctification, all the while guaranteeing our home with Him in heaven, in spite of our weaknesses and failings, just as He delivered the Hebrews to Canaan in spite of theirs.

Praise God, He is faithful, powerful and true. Praise God, He was patient with His chosen people 3,000 years ago...just as He is patient with us today (2 Pet 3:9).  

If we fail to see ourselves in the story of Abraham and the Jews, we will fail to understand the magnitude of His grace.  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Jonah, the Reluctant Evangelist

Jonah pops up in this particular position in the timeline of Israel for a reason. For most of 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles, we watch as Israel embarks on a long, persistent slide away from God with Judah following not too far behind. It seems each succeeding king, even the godly ones, slip further away from the Father. In 2 Kings 14:25, we are introduced to Jonah as a prophet of God. 

He fills another role, as well. Jonah is a little snapshot of where the two kingdoms are in their relationship with God, namely; full of themselves, openly rebellious toward Him but still being used and refined by Him for His purposes.

Jonah was probably written early in the eighth century BC during the reign of Jereboam II. By then, The Assyrians, who had a history of viciously attacking Israel, were weakening. Nineveh, situated in what is now Northern Iraq, was the home of the Assyrian king and was a huge city that was still an acute danger to Israel.

When God sends Jonah to Nineveh to prophesy over
the city, Jonah is understandably annoyed and runs in the opposite direction. After all, the Ninevites were the enemy, and a particularly nasty one at that. Why would Jonah want to see them redeemed by God? Wouldn't it be better just to let them be judged and eliminated?

On the way to Tarshish, a large port in Spain, the familiar story about Jonah being swallowed by the whale ensues. What few people notice, however, is that, due to Jonah's insistence that he is the cause of their predicament and their subsequent throwing of Jonah overboard, the sailors on the boat are delivered and begin worshiping God. I like to think of Jonah as a reluctant evangelist. 

For sure, Jonah ends up in Nineveh, in spite of his attempt to escape. He prophesies to the city and the city repents, avoiding destruction, more converts due to Jonah's reluctant preaching!

All this actually makes Jonah mad. That's where the book ends, Nineveh is saved and Jonah is upset, a rather unusual ending to an amazing story.  

Yet, we can learn much from Jonah; 
  • First, God is clearly the God of land and sea, the God of Jew and Gentile. 
  • Second, while our own heart motivation can have a huge impact on our relationship with our Father, God can still use us for His sovereign plans...in spite of us rather than because of us. 
  • Third, those who seem to be our enemies need to hear the gospel. God wants us to witness to them, not defeat them. The greatest victory will come when they turn to God and become our brothers, not when we vanquish them. 
  • Fourth, God is far more gracious than we sometimes think. Jonah earned nothing but wrath and judgment for refusing to do what God called him to do. Yet, God saved him from the whale, used him to preach His word, provided shade for him and told him the truth about himself. 
  • Fifth, ironically, Jonah accuses God of being gracious and merciful toward the Ninevites without fully realizing or appreciating the he, himself, is a beneficiary of that same grace. God could have judged him and punished him. God chose, instead to use him, in spite of his shortcomings

God can do the same with us, use us in spite of our shortcomings. Furthermore, God loved Jonah...and the Ninevites, a sobering reminder to the Body of Christ as much of the world seems to be turning into the enemy. Perhaps they are actually "fields white unto harvest." We should be careful to avoid Jonah's mindset and mistake. We should be eager to see the Ninevites of our time come to repentance. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"With These Hands" a poem for graduates

I shared a poem in this morning's service, dedicated to graduates on behalf of their parents and loved ones who raised them. It was written by Mark DeYmaz of Little Rock Arkansas and provided to us by Robin Ariola. Here's the text;


"With these Hands"

With these hands, I gently cradled this child,
Held him close to my heart,
Nursed his wounds and calmed her fears,
Held the books that I would read
And rock this child fast asleep.

With these hands, I made his lunches
And drove the car that carried her to school;
Snapped endless pictures, wrapped countless gifts,
Then did my best to assemble those gifts.
Combed his hair and wiped her tear,
Let her know that I was near
To nurse his wounds and heal her heart
When it would break.

With these hands, I made mistakes,
And with these hands, I prayed and prayed and prayed.
These hands are feeble, these hands are worn,
These hands can no longer calm the storms;
These hands have done all they can do;
These hands now release this child, my child,
To You.

For Your hands are able,
Your hands are strong,
Your hands alone can calm the storms.
Your hands will continue to do
What they are so gifted to do,
To shape his life and make her new.

Into Your hands receive this child,
For my child I now give back to You.
In the strong name of Jesus,
And with all my heart I pray,

Amen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Newfangled Nana - Newfangled Love



It's a God given gift -- being able to see hidden beauty -- to have the ability to take something that others cast off as useless, hopeless, finished and discarded and to be able to recreate it, re-purposing it, giving it new life so that the once despised object garners from others a fresh appreciation, a newfangled love.


Artists think differently, don't they?  They see the world in possibilities.  For Jennifer Davidson, aka Newfangled Nana, raw fabric pieces are her medium.  She scours fabric stores looking for just the right materials to tell a story.  



Just as each stitch pulls together her theme, every stud solidly says this is not just a pretty cover, it's a personal journal, a diary of sorts. 








I admired Jennifer's work the first time I saw it.  I told her someday -- some day --  I wanted to have something of hers.  


What I didn't realize was that when my someday would come, I wouldn't just be getting something of "hers", I'd be getting something that was uniquely mine.



"My" piece started its life as a simple, off white settee - one I'd used well, seating families and children and babies and pets in the course of my photography career.  To my discredit perhaps as a photographer, I'm not sure I ever used the strangely designed little couch to its full glory.  



Because the settee's uniqueness resides in its back piece, its character had always been overshadowed, hidden by the placement of the more prominent persons being photographed. 

We drove together to her favorite fabric stores.  She listened to me as I told her I was classic but crazy, traditional yet a little wild.  To help celebrate not only the photographer but also the singer/songwriter/musician in me...  


Jennifer chose to decoupage the legs of the settee with pages from an old hymnal. 

  
This finishing touch sings its own praises along with ours.    


With every intricate pattern chosen and every bold yet complimentary color selected, the strangely twisted yet graceful bones of the settee would now declare aloud to all who would enter my own house that they were welcome to witness a new work that had been done.  The old had passed away...



Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, 
he is a new creation. 

The old has passed away; 
behold, the new has come.  
2 Corinthians 5:17  

       







Newfangled Nana's focus is currently on upcycling furniture for the annual Shabby Love Barn Sale while taking only a few private upholstery projects each year.

You can reach Jennifer at:  newfanglednana@startmail.com

or at her website:  newfanglednana.com




Kelly's Settee Before NEWFANGLED NANA
Kelly's Settee After NEWFANGLED NANA



Monday, May 4, 2015

My Dad, My Hero


This past Saturday was 50+ years in the making...

My dad, Jean Keck, was one of 88 veterans recently chosen to fly to Washington, DC to receive a day of accolades and honor, compliments of Honor Flight of Dayton, Ohio.   

Dad was in the Army serving his country during the Korean War years and returned home to a delayed civilian life without fanfare or celebration.  He never expected any thanks.  He did his job - going where he was sent, doing what he was told. 

Without giving away all Honor Flight's wonderful surprises I can tell you Dad got the fanfare he richly deserved this past weekend!   

Thanks to the inside information and encouragement shared by my dear step-sister Debbie (Bryant) back in Ohio and the good people at Honor Flight (Jan and Larry) I was able to join my dad part way into the trip, as a surprise for what would become a memory making day for both of us.


As the buses arrived I scurried into place, hoping to hide myself for as long as I could stand, documenting at least this part of the day, honoring my dad through my photography.  But I neglected to factor how much of a weepy, blubbering mess I would be.  I made myself known and my own dear father, my hero, on his own special day, pulled us aside to sit and hold hands.  In that moment he chose to forget about his own incredible wonders that awaited him as he offered special encouragement and comfort to a daughter who felt she might be an intruder.  We lingered so long holding hands and catching up that we became the rear guard of sorts.  I'm so thankful for the support staff who gently nudged us onto the adventures of the day!  


Part of the Honor Flight experience is taking these men of valor on a whirlwind tour to see the monuments erected in their own honor.  

What was unexpected was the many men, women and children who stopped to thank my dad for his service.  Dad was often asked to be photographed with young students as well as parents.  My heart was deeply touched and my world stood still as our nation wrapped the arms of their gratitude around Dad's own heart.  

But this was only a small repeat of the reception Dad and his compatriots had already received in both Dayton and Ronald Reagan Airport.  Even while I was sleeping at home then arising to drive, metro and walk my way into town from the more rural burbs of Virginia, Dad was being cheered for and thanked.  Hundreds turned out to shake his hand and women kissed him and the others vets, making what would be the most powerful impact on him of the day. 

 





For me, it was an awakening, as if even I myself was only now beginning to realize that thanks are long overdue to all our veterans - ones who fight in far off lands and ones who work in homeland offices, ones who stand where they're told to stand and ones who leave their beloved families and our revered soil behind.  ::Thank you::




  


All soldiers put what we might call "normal life" on hold as they work to serve us and our great nation.  For some, military life becomes the new norm.  For others it is a season of sacrifice.


Whatever the reason for joining and for however long and wherever they served, the logo printed on the back of their tee shirt says it all: 

If you can read this, thank a Teacher.  
      If you can read this in English, 
                  thank a Veteran!

Dad was well thanked on Saturday.  I pray he'll continue to receive the appreciation for what he humbly considers his normal duty.  I know he felt the honor that was (in my opinion) rightfully his and all his companions.  And whether Dad ever feels like a hero or not, he was mine that whole day and even more so today.  



See, it's not just because of what he'd done (without glory) so many years ago, it's who he is and what he does today...  



from making peace in our family by sharing tender love and compassion, helping to reconcile estranged sisters to honoring his wife of 50 years - Rosemarie Keck - as they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary merely one day prior to this trip.  
     




Dad - YOU are my HERO.  I'm so glad God chose you as my father.  I'm so proud of the man you were and I'm proud to tell everyone who you are now.  

As I hear your own sweet words 
                 I echo back to you...
                                 "I love you more!"  


As a father shows compassion to his children, 
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.  
Psalm 103:13 ESV