Thursday, May 1, 2014

Trouble in Paradise: Sink or Swim

"Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. . . . The islanders showed us unusual kindness. . . .“This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” . . .  they changed their minds and said he was a god." Acts 28: 1-10

Beach on the Island of Malta

     Paul and the crew sailing to Italy had just survived shipwreck, washing ashore on the Island of Malta.  Ahhh, solid ground! Kind islanders! A bonfire! 

     Always one to pitch in and do his part, Paul grabbed a pile of brushwood and dropped it on the growing fire.  A sudden pain gripped Paul's hand. He probably thought a spark from the fire had landed on him, but looked down to see a poisonous snake latched on tightly and dangling from his hand.  

     The Islanders also saw the snake attached to Paul and the speculation and gossip started:

Hmmm. - He survived a shipwreck to be attacked by a poisonous snake?
Hmmm. - He's one of the prisoners from the ship, right? What did he do?
Hmmm. - Must've been bad - like murder!
Hmmm. - Justice says it's payback time.

     Then, Paul shook the snake off of his hand and into the fire to sizzle. 

Hmmm. - He's still walking.
Hmmm. - His color's good.
Hmmm. - No swelling. No blistering. Nothing unusual about his hand.

       *Crickets     *Crackling fire    *Campground songs

Hmmm. - He must be a god to survive both the storm and the snake!

       It's human nature to either vilify or deify people, but no one quite knew what to do with Paul.  He prophesied terrible storms and he was right.  He said "I told you not to sail now," but then shared his faith in God's goodness to encourage hopeless people on a beleaguered ship.  He shared visions of angels and God's promises, and the people lived on those promises for days. He was bitten by a poisonous snake, but shook it off and refused to die. Villain or god?  Neither. Rather, a man of God.

    The literal storms and snakes in Paul's life could have left him faith-shaken; instead, he shook them off and left deep tracks on sandy Malta beaches, turning the hearts of a people from false fertility gods to the One True God. (
     As Paul swallowed salt water and fought to stay afloat, he shouted encouragement and buoyed his fellow passengers.  Rather than allowing the snake to paralyze him in fear, he fried the poisonous thing. He, a prisoner, prayed for a bed-ridden Islander and God used him to heal all the sick people on the island.  In the middle of snakes and storms, he turned from his own perilous situations to impact a culture with his powerful faith in God. 

Dear Father,  We're so easily discouraged by storms and snakes, but we want to be like Paul - looking out for others and helping them latch onto You.  Give us faith where we lack it.  Increase our compassion. May Your Presence weigh heavily in us so our footprints lead them to You.
In the Name of the Only True Savior, Jesus!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fat Robin

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." Romans 8:26

I saw a fat robin sitting on a fence under a tree yesterday and thought, "That's me."  

I'm looking to get comfortable between the danger on the ground and the needs in the nest.  I don't long to soar or bring home the worms. There's not enough get up and go in these wings to spread them and I can't think of a single springtime tune to trill. This fat Robin just wants to sit here and groan.

Now, as a child of God, I know I'm going to be miserable if I sit on this splintery fence too long.  God didn't give me wings to hang 10 (or is it 8?) on a rail forever. Nope. Something's got to give and it's got to be me. So, 

Note to self: 
Do you not know?                                          (What?)
     Have you not heard?                                 (Tell me!) 
The LORD is the everlasting God,                     (but . . . )
     the Creator of the ends of the earth.           (that's amazing!)      
He will not grow tired or weary,                       (even though I do)
     and His understanding no one can fathom.   (I don't understand . . .)
He gives strength to the weary                        (I'll take two -)
     and increases the power of the weak.          (Weak as water, Lord, feel                                                                         free to amp it up.)
Even youths grow tired and weary,                   (So what hope is there for
     and young men stumble and fall;                   a fat bird on a fence?)
but those who hope in the LORD                      (I want to, LORD)
     will renew their strength.                           (Hope in the LORD=strength)
They will soar on wings like eagles;                  (That's a great goal)
     they will run and not grow weary,                (Maybe soon)
     they will walk and not be faint.                   (That could happen today.)   
Isaiah 40:28-31

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

If, in the very near future, you see a fat robin walking along a fence or running down the rail and shaking our her feathers to take off - don't laugh, just ask God to help her remember Who lifts and empowers His children.

Lord God, I glory in my weakness: I'm nothing without You.  You alone are the strength and wisdom I need. May Your power rest on me as I rest in You. Fill me with Your Spirit so I can release the fence and walk, then run, then soar in Your strength.   May we free You to free us: pry our toes off the fence, build the muscles in our legs, and unfurl our rusty wings.
In the Name of Jesus Who ascended!