Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gnats of the Heart

Gnats, gnats, more gnats! I don't know how the Egyptians stood the plague of gnats (Exodus 8:16-19)! For weeks now I've been battling gnats in our house. I looked on the web and discovered there is such a thing as a fungus gnat. Since we have orchids and I have been keeping them especially healthy with regular feeding, I thought that was the cause. So I scooped some of the dirt off the top and put sand to smother the gnats. Good plan only it didn't work!

There were gnats all over our bedroom window and our bathroom mirror. I sprayed with insect killer and more died every day but they didn't go away.

FINALLY I made an amazing discovery. I found some "hidden" potatoes and onions that had turned to soup. They didn't smell so I didn't find them, but - lo, and behold - when I opened the plastic bag, I smelled them then and a cloud of gnats escaped.

Not a very flattering parable of life but it got me to thinking about the "hidden" pockets in my heart (and yours). Some of those pockets - if I can be honest with myself - are no better than the plastic bag of rotten potatoes and onions and the gnat "fall-out" goes on and on.

God, find those "hidden" pockets of sin and self in my heart. Expose and clean them up and make me what You want me to be. Please, please don't leave me swatting at gnats! Set me free! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What's a Haman Heart?

I'm teaching a women's Bible study this fall on the Old Testament book of Esther.

We studied Esther 3 today. That's the chapter where Mordecai (who raised the orphaned Esther) refuses to bow to honor Haman. The King promoted Haman to special status in the kingdom. Everyone is commanded to bow when Haman comes around. Everyone apparently bows except Mordecai.

And then the trouble boils over in a raging tumult!

Haman is enraged that Mordecai dares to defy him and refuses to honor him.

Haman then spins his diabolical plan to kill Mordecai and also to annihilate all the Jews in the vast Persian Empire.

Haman manages to convince King Xerxes to actually give his own signet ring to Haman and thus authorizes Haman to broadcast across the empire the date and time for the execution of all Jews in Persia. It's all scary and very terrible!

Haman's heart is a very dark place filled with sin, anger, hatred, and disdain for both God and others. It would be so easy to look so much darkness in the face, take a step back and feel better or something.

The problem is that this "Haman heart" beats within my own chest and yours as well. None of us is as bad as we might be but the potential for great hearts of darkness exists and thrives! It is a sad reality of life in a world gone wrong!

The radical solution for a Haman heart is heart transplant surgery. Only Jesus Christ can give a heart of flesh in exchange for Haman's heart of stone! Only God's amazing grace can change Haman's heart and mine and yours!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rain and Rainbows

Two Sundays ago, I heard a sermon on Noah, the ark and the rainbow promise. It started me thinking about rain and rainbows.

Recently I read Tullian Tchividjian's blog thoughts (Blog: On Earth as it is in Heaven) on "Trusting God When We Cannot Trace Him" which pressed me further in my thinking about rain and rainbows.

Tullian reminds me of the lines from J.I. Packer's book, Knowing God (p. 97) about understanding "the unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things" that happen.

Paul Brand wrote an entire book relevant to this topic, Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants (now released as The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt and What Can Do About It). The bottom line to his over 300 pages of really good stuff is that we need pain to survive. From his years as a doctor to leprosy patients in India and in the USA, Dr. Brand has seen up close and personal what painlessness does in harming the human body. Pain is actually a gift in that it motivates us to stop and seek help. It's a matter of self-preservation!

Twenty years ago I heard Dr. Brand speak at the Medical College of Virginia. He talked about his work with lepers and his conclusions about the benefits of pain sensors in the body. When he finished, my husband and I went up to speak to him. At that point in time, I was experiencing some pretty extreme physical pain. It was interesting because Dr. Brand stopped, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "You know about pain, don't you?"

George Mattheson wrote the compelling hymn, "Love That Will Not Let Me Go" after he lost his sight and his fiancee walked away from their commitment due to his blindness. Through his tears and pain, Mattheson penned these awesome words

O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; ... O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain, That morn shall tearless be.

J.I. Packer observes: "We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what He is doing, and what He is after, in His handling of our affairs. Always, and in everything, He is wise: we shall see that hereafter, even where we never saw it here ... Meanwhile we ought not to hesitate to trust His wisdom, even when He leaves us in the dark." (Knowing God, p. 97)

Tullian blogs: "Faith trusts God even when it cannot trace him. God is doing something in your life, in my life, ... that is above and beyond anything we could ever ask for or imagine. ... God promises that the best is yet to come. Think big. ... "

Remember the song "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head"? Raindrops and deluges fall on all of us. The question is how to get through the rain to the rainbow. The rain may be God's gift to get us to the rainbow where we see and experience God's utter faithfulness!

The challenge for my heart is to not get stuck in the rain but rather to trace the rainbow through the rain! Only God can lead me through the rain to the rainbow!