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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Oh the Unsearchable Riches!

It’s been on my mind and heart since I got up this morning, maybe even before I got out of bed!  The Unsearchable Riches of Christ.   Unto me [Paul], who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; Eph 3:8


 Colosians 2:2-3 tells us of the riches in Christ.  That. . . hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;  In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
The world is so caught up in the thought of material riches that the riches of Christ are worthless to them.  It is only the child of God who values those riches beyond silver and gold, houses and lands.  Here it says the ‘full assurance of understanding.’  Too often we rely on the understanding that comes from Man.  We send our youth to bible colleges; we spend hours with Bible study courses offered by different religious groups and preachers.  But so many ‘Christians’ today have never learned to rely on the assurance of understanding that comes from God.  We want to know the Bible but we don’t pursue the Holy Spirit’s gently and too-slow guidance.  We want the same instant gratification that the world seeks in their lives.  
I would never deny that we cannot learn a great deal through our intellectual capacity but we can never comprehend the riches of the things of God.  That comes only through the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  And very, very often it runs directly contrary to the things taught as ‘truth’ in Bible colleges and seminaries.  Only through the study of the Word while we are alone with the Holy Spirit and no other can we have the ‘full assurance of understanding” the ‘mystery of God.’  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts  (Isa. 55:9)  So much time is wasted by men and women trying to understand the mysteries of God through the teaching of professors in Bible school.
Men and women can learn to carry out the tasks of pastorship.  They can learn to manage congregations and finances. They can learn the ways of dealing with people and diplomacy.  They can learn many things but NOT the mystery of God.  That comes only through the teaching of the Holy Spirit.  They sit under teachers or study courses outline all of the ‘doctrines’ of the Bible.  Then they go home and study those outlines and notes and say to themselves ‘the Holy Spirit taught me this.”  No it wasn’t the Holy Spirit, it was a Man.  The Holy Spirit teaches us from the Word and not written or spoken word from a Man. 
So many sincere and honest pastors stand in pulpits today and follow the leadings and teaching of Man and then wonder why their congregations aren’t prospering.  They say the standards of God for holy living are too stringent, that’s why the people aren’t flocking to their doors.   So they lighten up on the righteousness ‘angle’ and stress an entertainment program.  The congregation begins to grow and they say, “God is blessing us.”   No Satan is pleased and the people are gratified to be able tocall themselves ‘Christians’ without obeying the principles of God.
 This verse tells us of “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” that are found in Christ.  This is not the knowledge of the world, nor does it make us wise in the ways of the world.  God desires to give us a knowledge of His Word and the path of righteousness; the teachers in the world cannot give us that.  In all actuality they would prefer not to follow it if they were shown it.  A nominal religion is much more comfortable.  There is no conviction for sin, there is no guilt for refusing to follow the Spirit’s pricking and there is no condemnation for sin. 
I am so thankful that I’ve learned of the Unsearchable Riches of Christ.  I may not know all about everything just yet.  But I’ve learned enough to make me yearn for more. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Grown Children

One of the greatest blessings in my life has been in seeing my children grow up.  I look at the children of some of my acquaintances—I won’t say ‘friends’ because most of my friends have successfully raised responsible viable adults.  On the other hand, I know many who have brought their children to the size of a full grown member of the human race, but never succeeded at instilling in them the ethics and outlook of an adult.  So many of those offspring continue following the same irresponsible and selfish ways of a thirteen year old who has escaped mom and dad’s supervision.
They take no thought for their own support and maintenance, assuming, like a child, that what ever they need will be supplied to them from some gift falling from the sky.  They are content holding down a job at McDonalds or the corner gas station.  If they plan ahead far enough, much of their paycheck goes to paying the rent someplace and the rest goes for entertainment and recreation.  The bill for utilities is an affront to their nature.
They may have a vehicle of some sort.  It is one of two types—a clunker that they bought somewhere for $500 or a fancy new model car (maybe a pick-up even).  In either case the cost for maintenance, in the first incidence, is a constant drain on their finances, causing them to be constantly either trying to repair the vehicle themselves or collect cash from friends and family to have it repaired.  In the second case, the payments are almost more than they can scrape together in any given month.  If they actually think of things like groceries they apply for Food Stamps.
In the happy event that they do latch onto a job that pays decently, the paycheck is always overspent before they ever get it.  They cannot seem to grasp the fact that yes, the pay may well be $500 or $600 a week but a huge chunk of that is withheld for taxes etc.  Consequently they spend the entire amount before the check is ever in their hands.  Then they realize that they are short on payday.  This usually engenders resentment rather than the realization that they must budget more carefully.
Sadly, their parents are viewed as an open pocketbook rather than given the respect they should have. The adult offspring are angry when the parent says they cannot afford to give them the money to pay a bill or buy groceries.  They are angry when the parent isn’t forthcoming in making up the rent on the first of the month.  They expect to be able to play house as long as they can eke out the money to do it and then move back home when they can’t.  Of course, moving back home is a good deal anyway because it leaves them with their entire paycheck to spend on recreation or a fancier set of wheels; it frees them from things like utility and rent payments or grocery bills.
I’ve seen those exact circumstances over and over. 
Sometimes my heart hurts when I think of how hard my kids had things when they were growing up. Money was tight to say the least, especially after grandpa died and in addition to the groceries and bills for the kids, I took on the utilities and taxes. There was not much money for extras. Notah and Rachael knew, most times, exactly how much money we had to do with and what it had to be spent on. From the time they were able to really comprehend ‘money’ they learned that budgeting was a necessity.  They learned early on that just because there was $300 in my wallet it had to be spent for things like food and gas and paying the electric bill. They learned that doing without wasn’t a fantasy but a reality. 
Both of them went to college and struggled, more than they ever told me, to do things like pay rent and buy groceries.  Their entertainment involved things like riding a skateboard over ridiculous obstacles or hiking through Columbus parks; that was all free for the most part and didn’t involve laying out cash for alcohol and good times. Which was a good thing.
They grew up knowing, too, the value of living a life centered on grown-up things like ethics and honesty and a sense of responsibility.  They grew up with a relationship with God and His standards for living not just a good life but one that held the fullness of His Presence. 
Now I look at them from the perspective of thirty plus years.  Both of them have families, houses, good jobs, and a relationship with the Lord.  Now my whole relationship with them has reversed.  From being the one who provided for them, I’ve become the one taken care of by them.  From being the one turned to in time of trouble, I’m the one who calls them. And from being the strong one in the family I am the one who needs help.
And they give all of that freely and without grudging. 
My daughter has set beside me when I’ve gone to doctors and had surgery.  Yes, she had a job and sometimes had to rearrange her schedule or just plain take off work, but she did it because she loves me.   She wanted to be there, not just to encourage me but to know exactly what the doctors were saying and what she could do to keep things on the right path.  When the doctor put me on a low carb diet, she rearranged her and Michael’s entire menu to accommodate it. 
When she and Michael were house shopping one of their priorities was a room where I could stay and have a bathroom all on one floor.  They found that and the Lord blessed them with a house at the right price.  (When I heard what they were offering I was sure the owner would turn down the offer. It was that low.  He didn’t and they bought the house.) Before they moved in they made sure my room was painted and arranged so I could not be disturbed with paint and ladders and upheaval.  Everything was out of the way of crutches and bad knees. 
Every year Rachael plans with Notah to get me from Ohio to New Mexico so I can spend time with him. It has involved cost that I didn’t have but they have spent the money without complaint.
Now I’m with Notah for the summer. He and his family have worked everything out to make me comfortable. Keva moved to her room behind the garage. It’s a nice room but it isn’t in the house. They put me in the room Keva had, or has most of the year, because it has a bathroom attached and I have to get up several times during the night.  That arrangement gives me a place to put my clothes and so forth without having to use a suitcase for part of them.
Kerra, although she hasn’t rearranged her entire menu for me, makes sure I have fruit and sliced meat and high protein leftovers for my diet.  And the meals she makes for the family are such that I can leave out the carbohydrates and still have a good dinner.
Notah and Kerra have a better work schedule than Rachael and Michael so they can take long hikes and trips on weekends.  And they take me along. I’ve enjoyed this summer more than any of the others I’ve spent with them because I’ve been able to get out of the truck and actually walk around a bit! It has been years and years since I’ve been able to hike in the desert. I don’t really call what I can do now ‘hiking’ but at least I can get sand in my shoes and wind in my hair.
Getting me in and out of the truck is an operation, but the whole family is faithful at bringing me my stool.  Really I can get out okay; it is getting in that causes problems.  I cannot step up into that high Dodge Ram.  But Notah or one of the kids always brings me the little step stool.  Seth is particularly dependable. I think he follows his dad’s example.
My knees work fine, but the muscles in my legs and my balance are still not dependable in spite of rehab and exercise. At inopportune times I call on certain muscles or ligaments and they don’t have the strength to keep me steady on my feet. I don’t ordinarily need a cane, but sometimes just the smallest step up becomes difficult or impossible.  At those times I need a little support to hold me steady.  Seth is usually there to help.  He is willing and quite strong, but frankly I’m lots bigger than him and if I would happen to fall, I’d likely hurt him as well as myself, probably mostly him.
But he and Notah are always there for me to hold on to. It is amazing for me to find my son’s hand there to help me up hills or over uneven ground. Even walking in close quarters or rough parking lots can be difficult without him.  How many years ago did I hold a small hand to keep him safe. Now it is turned around.  Taking hold of that grown up hand  is like taking hold of a tree or a rock.  It is strong and I need not worry that it will give way when I pull on it or lean.  It is like holding to his father’s hand so many years ago. It’s firm and absolutely steady.  
I have another daughter. Her name is Dianne.  I didn’t give birth to her, but the Lord put her in my pathway and in my life.  I love her as one of my own kids. And she is just as self sacrificing and loving as them.  She would drop everything to come if I need her.  She has taken care of me and helped me over and over when my own kids were far away or not able to help.
When I came home from my surgery for the hernia repair, Rachael couldn’t be off work to stay with me and I wasn’t able to do a lot of things on my own until my abdomen healed.  When Rachael called to ask her to help for a few days, Dianne dropped her own life to bring Nic and stay with me a week until she and Rachael trusted me to be alone. Her husband brought her down on a weekend and turned around to go right back home. 
Dianne took care of me and Nic and the dogs while I got well. It was wonderful having her there, not just for the help but for the fellowship that we hadn’t been able to have for several years since I moved to Columbus. It was like having her home for Christmas, but it wasn’t winter.
Now I look at those three (and their spouses) and I’m proud of them.  No, I couldn’t have done any of it without the Lord, but I can still look at them and feel such a sense of security.  I’m not ancient yet, but my body is.  I’ve done a lot of hard work and put these bones through a lot.  They don’t work as well as they used to. 

But I look at my children and it has been worth every hard place, every heartache, every worry, every long day and early morning when I see them all three, doing what the Lord would have them do, caring for their families (well, Rachael and Michael don’t have kids, but they have the dogs and cats and Michael’s family).  They are responsible, thinking, caring adults.  They have good homes and their bills are paid with a little laid aside.  They don’t live ‘high-on-the-hog’ as grandpa would say, but they live well enough to be content.

Because we know godliness with contentment is great gain.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New Mexico Always

I grew up in Ohio. There are rolling hills and flat fields.  There are tall trees and bushes.  There are flat fields that go from empty, brown dirt to tall, green corn. There are flat pastures of grass enclosed by shaggy fences of grass and brush.  The land is crisscrossed by black asphalt bands of varying widths that carry traffic. 
Dotted among the green hills and fields there are town and cities of different sizes.  They go from little ‘hamlets’ of a few houses, a post office and a mom-n-pop grocery to full fledged cities with tall buildings and acres of paved streets and sidewalks and parking lots. 
My home town was a small city with a tall, imposing courthouse and a few buildings downtown that were perhaps three stories at the most.  When I was growing up the ‘town square’ was just a place where the two main roads, High Street and Broad, met by the courthouse.  There was nothing fancy about it, mostly just designated curbs and a little green place with a statue in front of the courthouse.  Its only claim to special embellishment was a little circus-wagon type vehicle parked in the southwest corner that sold newspapers and popcorn.  Now it has become a little more sophisticated with a pagoda for mini concerts on the northwest corner and a little park-like area on the southeast corner with benches and a couple tiny trees.  The courthouse and its sidewalks with the statue and the fountain haven’t changed a lot. 
Almost anywhere you stand in Tuscarawas County your vision is bounded by trees hills or buildings.  For the first 23 or 24 years of my life that didn’t bother me at all.  I liked the green.  I liked hiking in the woods and camping there.
Then the Lord called me to teach on a tiny mission in New Mexico.
My mother had gone with sister Grace Henry to work in the bible school at Rock Springs Mission, just outside of Gallup NM.  They both came back with tales of dry, barren, rocky, empty, mountainous desert.  Their reports of the houses was on the same order—bleak with rocky bare ‘yards’ no grass, no bushes, no flowers.
I asked the Lord why He would send me to a place I would hate.  But as always, He knew what He was doing!
I had never seen the desert.  I had never seen the wide, deep blue blue skies of New Mexico.  I had never seen the mountains, rocky and menacing jutting up from the flatness of the plains.  I had never seen the sagebrush and rabbit bush accentuated by juniper.  I had never experienced the fragrance pine and piñón smoke drifting through that of sage and juniper. I had faced into the cold bite of snow blowing across the land.  I had never stood and watched a pillar of rain with its crown of dark clouds moving across the land.  And I had never stood and reveled in the rain falling on me and the parched land.  I had never inhaled the heady perfume of wet sand and sage after the rain.
From the first time I drove across the wide land, no matter where I went my heart stayed in New Mexico.  Today when I go back to visit with Notah and his family I am going Home.
From any window in Notah’s house I can look out on the mountains.  The Manzanos loom closest, about a mile away. I see them first thing every morning.  In the distance I can see the Sandias.  On the other side, the Piños and the Ladrones rear their peaks.  And on a clear day far off to the northwest we can see Mount Taylor.
Rachael wants to move to New Mexico, but she wants to live in the mountains—up on the slopes of the Sandias where the pine is tall and the mountain lions and bears come to visit, and in winter you need a four-wheel drive vehicle or horses to get home in the evenings.   And I like that land.  It really is as awesome as the flat land between the mountains.  But waking up in the morning and seeing the Manzanos between me and the rising sun is something that still takes my breath away.
Those mountains are so close that the sun rises at our house twenty minutes later than it does other places.