Monthly Archives: September 2011

A Frantic Sparrow

One day I went out to my vegetable garden to check on growth and found a dragon-fly caught in the fence I’d erected to discourage rabbits. It’s gossamer wings were snared in the fence’s nylon mesh. How sad to see this wondrous creature, created to dart hither and yon, rendered immobile. I carefully freed it and away it flew.

The next day I found a wee sparrow who’d flown through a gap in the insect screen around our gazebo but could not find its way out. It frantically flitted here and there striking the netting but finding no exit until I opened a wide gap. Immediately, it soared away in the blue sky.

We would do well to learn from these creatures to avoid the snares set in our path by the evil one. What is obvious to us from our perspective is well night invisible to the dragon fly and the sparrow. Just so, depending on our temperament and maturity, the devil will craft an almost invisible snare designed specifically for us. To one it will be the lure of wealth, to another the pride that comes from being known as a philanthropist or dissatisfaction with one’s state. “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin” (1 Tim. 6:9). One person will be tempted by the lure of sexual gratification or gambling or devouring a dozen donuts.

Satan has a myriad ways to trip us up. He often uses people who disagree with us to tempt us to anger or resentment. Paul counsels us to “kind to everyone” so we can “escape the trap of the devil” (2 Tim. 2:24,26).

Oh, I know, it’s not fashionable to mention the devil nowadays. But better to watch out for temptations than gloss over the reality of spiritual warfare. “Put on the full armor of God that you may be able to stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11). Fortunately, like David we know that our “help is in the name of the Lord…who helps us escape like a bird out of the fowler’s snare” (Psalm 124:7,8). Christ is the Victor!

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Stately Trees and Quiet Times

I stood motionless on the deck at the back of our house and gazed at the soaring maples and pines east of the house. The thought came to me, “They grow steadily and yet they do not move from where they are rooted.” Of course, trees don’t move unless lashed by high winds, but what lesson is there in that? After all, we are humans born with two feet to run and walk and explore God’s earth. Trees don’t have our freedom of movement. But…

Perhaps, we move around too much. We dash from task to task. We lead important lives and must be seen to be almost frantically busy to be successful—mustn’t we? There is income to earn, emails to answer, Facebook to check, blogs to skim, phone calls to make, texts to send, repairs to complete around the house, and plans to outline for tomorrow and next week and next month and…. Work, work, work. Busy, busy, busy.

I’m one of those people who make lists. I have long lists of tasks to do so I can check them off my list. But the lists never seem to get smaller. It’s almost as if I have a compulsion to demonstrate my importance by checking off tasks on a list! Sadly, my devotions often are just another item on my to-do-list. I must have devotions if I’m to grow, mustn’t I? Of course, but…

Trees just silently grow. They imbibe water and nutrients from the ground. The sun powers their leaf factories. And slowly, week after week, year after year they grow until they become tall and stately like those on our property. Wonderful!

God counsels us, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Without still times, what an earlier generation called quiet times, how can we connect with God? And if we don’t connect with God, how will we sense what the Holy Spirit desires of us? The Spirit seldom makes himself heard above the blare of the radio or TV.

The Psalmist counsels us to search our hearts, remind ourselves of how precious we are in God’s sight and be still upon our beds. (See Psalm 4) Meditation is a vital component of Christian growth. And meditation requires quietness, stillness, a thoughtful pondering of God’s glories and the wonders of our salvation. In the desert David meditated upon God “through the watches of the night” (Psalm 63:6). The righteous man in Psalm one “meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). David writes of meditating “on all your works” (Psalm 143:5).

Modern life is much too frantic, leaving little time to stop, to sit, to think, to pray, to meditate, to listen to God. Let’s buck the trend. Avoid being known as too busy, instead let us privately carve out times when we can be still, listening for the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Admittedly, that’s not going to be easy for me.

Angry Words

A few days ago, I impatiently responded to someone with angry words. Suddenly, what had been a close relationship became strained. Silence fell and stretched on for hours and hours. It took a humble apology to restore a degree of amiability. Even though forgiven, the words cannot be erased. They linger there in the memories of the two of us, introducing a measure of constraint and caution between us.

How wisely James warns us about the danger an untamed tongue presents. “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell”(James 3: 5,6).

In this season of fires throughout Texas and across Northern Canada, we have ample illustrations of the dangers posed by a spark. Once ignited, fires in tinder-dry forests and grasslands prove almost impossible to control. Authorities employ water-bombers to try and douse them, even while they appeal for people to pray for torrential rains. Rain from above is the best solution.
Angry, hurtful words can quickly incinerate loving, happy relationships: friendships, marriages, churches, communities, countries. No wonder the Bible counsels us to quickly confess our faults, ask for forgiveness, seek immediate reconciliation wherever schism erects its ugly head. Like a sprinter, we should be quick off the mark to apologize for angry or hurtful words. Such a humble approach opens the way for God to send the restoring rain of His presence.

Unfortunately, pride often keeps us from admitting wrong. We try to justify ourselves. We blame the other person for provoking us. When it comes to confessing sin, we slow down our spiritual responses so much that we resemble snails leaving a slimy trail of self-indulgence behind us. Because the problem is self, we worry that admitting fault will somehow damage our self-image. At root it is a failure to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. But in reality, humility and honesty are the kind of qualities that contribute to a biblical self-image.