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His Sacrifice

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15

Gracious God this morning I rose thinking of the Son you sent to save us.  I remembered the pain He endured to show His everlasting and deep love for us.  You created this plan and He completed it.  In remembrance of that day I sit in awe and wonder at your glorious ways.  Amen

Over the course of 30 years a survey was undertaken asking high school and college students if they would first try to save their dog or a stranger.  I’m disturbed to report that 2/3 have always voted against saving the person.  In newer studies, adults now vote similarly.  How would you vote if asked the same question?

This study was posted online awhile back and I went to the comments section to see what people had to say.  I shouldn’t have.  It was more disturbing.  People condemning others for being “evil,” “cruel,” and “vile.”  Strangely enough, they didn’t put themselves in those categories!  The folks that would pick an animal over a human (now certainly there would be instances we all might do the same.  Say a person has just attacked you and your dog) fail to see their decision makes them complicit in devaluing human life.

What the surveyors have surmised is the lack of Judeo-Christian values in a person’s life or the watering down of those teachings increases making moral decisions based on our feelings.  In addition, a belief in God elevates human worth over that of animals.  Without that, we see the image of God brought down to having no more value than a squid.

“9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

Throughout the Bible we are reminded that humans were God’s special creation.  So special that He gave us dominion over the earth.  The earth serves us, not the other way around as some would say.  When this understanding of the world’s creation is thrown out the window it’s no wonder the people of this world have turned everything upside down!

A number of my Christians friends have struggled with the fact that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son.  We either secretly or out loud say we hope God never asks us to do something so difficult.  Yet every day parents see their children in the military risk their lives for us.  Police officers, firefighters, lifeguards and others put their lives on the line for strangers.  Because they believe we are worth saving.

The Bible is one of the most tested and proved documents in all history.  And God’s work is all around us to see proof of His ways.  There is little to no dispute that Jesus walked this earth.  Or even that He died a horrible death on the cross.  And whether or not a person believes He rose and ascended into heaven everyone should understand that He went to the cross that day for us.  He spoke over and over about the plan ahead for Him.  He didn’t die because He wanted fame.  He didn’t die to save the whales.  He didn’t die because of some terrible crime He committed.  The Father sent His Son to die to save us.  Because, thank God, He believes we are valuable. And just as our first verse reminds us, we aren’t saved just to be saved, but to spread the Word so that yes, even strangers are saved.

Friend, God in His glorious ways made us special.  I love my dog, Tucker, but he won’t seek justice for me and he won’t take up arms to protect me.  God made us in such a way that we can even ponder these moral thoughts.  He made us so when faced with difficult decisions we can decide on A, B or even A and B.  It depends on if you love God’s creation as much as He does.

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Our Furry Friends

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds;  Proverbs 27:23

I am certainly thankful that the Lord sent His Holy Spirit to be with us always – to comfort, guide, and even giving us those taps on the shoulders when we are about to say or do something we shouldn’t.  Sometimes, however, we need an earthly comfort. A warm and fuzzy hug or a big sloppy kiss.  And that’s why I’m so very thankful God gifted us with pets.

There’s no clear answer as to when we humans started domesticating animals.  Some say the beginning of the 5th millennium BC, while others think it was a bit later in that millennium.  But no matter, we can know it was a long time ago we became shepherds and farmers.  It’s thought that dogs became our companions around 27,000 years ago!  The oldest known dog remains were found in the Americas and are dated to approximately 17,000 years ago.  We’ve certainly have had a long term love affair with our pets!

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 2 Samuel 12:1-3

Now, while this verse is a rebuking lesson for David from the prophet Nathan, it also shows us a glimpse into the everyday life of the people – ones who loved their pet companions.  I can also imagine the shepherds who received the message of Jesus’ birth with their faithful sheep dogs by their sides that fateful night.

I’ve been blessed with two dogs, a few cats, some fish and even a few hermit crabs.  My dog right now, Tucker, brings me so much laughter and joy.  Don’t we all need someone in our lives that, when we come home after a long day, jumps for joy and begs to cuddle with them?  I thank God for this companionship and the love so many of us throughout the ages have received from our furry friends.

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Listen Up!

Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 
John 5:25

Today’s Fresh Fire is our last in this series.  It’s been a great adventure finding and studying verses that have helped me bolster my faith.  I hope these verses have helped your faith journey as well!

The idea of hearing the voice of God makes me think of my dog, Tucker.  When he was just a puppy, I made a commitment to train him much differently than our previous dog.  When my other dog was a puppy, I also had two small children to train.  And the dog was the last to get my attention!  So, with Tucker I’ve made it a point to make him into a good walking dog.  At this point in his training, he walks with a e-collar rather than a leash.

There were a few training goals which my husband poo-poo’d at the time.  One, that Tucker be trained to only chase rabbits when I allowed it.  And two, to only cross the street when he received our approval.  When my friends walk with me and Tucker they know that at each street corner we must stop, look both ways and proceed.  Tucker, even while walking slightly ahead of me, will sit at each corner and wait for me.  A training feat accomplished!

But what does this have to do with the voice of God?  You see, my real goal with Tucker was to help him not get hit by a car if say, he were to be in the front yard with me while off leash.  So, when we approached a corner and a car was passing by, even if it was going parallel to us, I made him wait.  I associated not only the changing texture of the surface he was on but also the sound of cars with his need to wait.

And I can almost swear he now looks both ways, looking and listening for cars.  He has learned to listen to something outside his little doggie mind before he can proceed safely.

Isn’t that what God wants from us?  To be so well trained to listen for Him that we don’t proceed until we hear what He wants of us?

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
Ezekiel 3:1

Throughout this series through verse after verse we have heard that to stay close to God we must pray, read His Word and listen through silent mediation.  And the Bible shows us so many ways which God will speak to us – dreams, visions (like with Ezekiel), burning bushes, through others, signs, and the written word.  If we aren’t listening to all His ways then how can we ever expect to cross the street safely?  To move forward in our lives along His preferred path?

When Jesus made the statement in our verse today, He is telling us to listen up!  To pay close attention!  He tells us that a time is coming where when we hear His voice again it’s resurrection time.  For those who hear His Word and turn to Him for the first time, that resurrection might mean tomorrow.  Their dead souls come to live in new life.  For others it will be when the believers are raised from the dead and enter into God’s glorious eternity.  While still others will be resurrected and judged harshly.

But if we aren’t listening for Him, what will we miss out on?  We miss the opportunity to be made righteous.  We miss the opportunities to enjoy peace and grace and forgiveness right now.

This thing I know, that when I have neither heard nor read, I have yet felt the voice of God within me, and the Spirit has, himself, revealed some dark mystery, opened some secret, guided me into some truth, given me some direction, led me in some path, or in some other way has immediately spoken to me himself; and I believe it is so with every man at conversion;

Charles Spurgeon, The Majestic Voice

I was at my first women’s Bible retreat and we were challenged to go find a quiet place to talk with God.  I found myself at a rustic, outdoor chapel of sorts.  As I sat in prayer, I laid my heavy heart out for God.  My constant prayer at the time was to help me find peace and a lightness of spirit.  I felt so heavy with burdens.  As I finished my prayer a flock of tiny birds flew directly in front of me from one side of the chapel to another.  As they raced each other along their path they chirped loudly at each other – a flock of children laughing and squealing in some unseen game.  The landed in a tree just above me and kept up their heavenly laughter.  And I laughed along with them.

I realized immediately it was God snapping His fingers at me to say, “Wake up! There is joy to be had all around you! You see, even my tiny birds, who have only themselves, this tree and this moment are filled with laughter.  You have so much more that I have given you!”

The voice of God is everywhere.  It’s in us.  He fills our dreams.  He thunders with each storm and crashing wave.  He gently rocks us to sleep with the croaking frogs.  He loves us with the cooing of a baby.  He runs laughing with us while getting that kite up in the air.  To truly hear Him, to listen to what He has to say today, we just need a bit of practice and some well-planned training.  The next time you find yourself needing to cross a proverbial street in your life take a moment to listen. He will guide you safely across.