Friday, October 29, 2010

Lessons From Israel - Part 1

Kim and I got back on Tuesday from our trip to Israel (including 3 days in Jordan). It was a trip we never could have expected to take, but by the grace of God was gifted to us through some very generous relatives. Ultimately, we know, as one rabbi we met put it, we were there because God had called us and made a way for us to be there. In these next few blogs, I want to share some of my thoughts and the lessons that were made very real to me as we were there.

Our first few days were spent in Beer Sheba, the Negev desert, and in Jordan. The terrain in those parts is so barren and dry, it amazed me that anything survived there. The part of Jordan that we were in was, in the Old Testament, Edom and Moab. It was territory that the Israelites had to travel through on their way to the Promised Land. As I looked at the land I couldn’t help but think, it’s no wonder they did so much complaining. I’d complain too. And, so would you!

As we travelled through these places, I couldn’t help but think about the great men of God who spent so much time in desert wilderness places such as those that we saw before us. Men like Moses, Elijah, David, John the Baptist, and even Jesus spent much time in places where the terrain is rough, filled with steep mountains and deep valleys and little water. I’m not sure any of us would want to spend much time by ourselves out in those places. Yet, it was there that they met God and heard his voice.

Yes, looking at the vast amount of wilderness desert brought so many of the accounts of scriptures to mind. It was sad to think about Hagar and her son Ishmael being sent out into the wilderness by Abraham and Sarah. It’s no wonder they almost died. I could see in my mind’s eye, the nation of Israel sitting at the base of a mountain whose peak comes to a plateau, waiting for Moses to come down, getting concerned that they might die of thirst or starvation. I could picture the “scapegoat” being sent out into the desert on the Day of Atonement, carrying the sins of the nation back to the abode of Satan and his demons (for that is what the wilderness represented to them). I thought of Jesus being tempted to turn stones into bread for all around are stones; lots of stones but little that might provide physical sustenance.

Finally, it’s no wonder that the writers of Scripture often used the picture of water in the desert to speak of the wonderful work of God. After all, the people understood well the harshness of the desert. But, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.” (Isaiah 35:6-7 - NIV) And, “I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” (Isaiah 41:18 – NIV)

Now the cry of psalms such as Psalm 26 has taken on new meaning for me. There the psalmist wrote: “Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:4-6 – NIV)

Sometimes our lives might feel like a desert. We might feel as if we are in a dry and barren wilderness. But we serve a God who is able to make streams flow in the desert!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lighting Up the Sky

The other night as Kim and I were coming out of a local store, the sky suddenly lit up with a streak of lighting that went from one end of the sky to the other. It was truly an amazing sight to see the lighting move horizontally across the horizon. The clouds were filled with color and what was once a darkened sky was now filled with light. Everything around seemed to come alive.

It makes me think about Jesus’ words to his disciples. As he looked towards the future, he told them that as time went on this world would become a more and more difficult place for those who followed him to live. He let them know that life in this world would not be easy. At times their world would seem very, very dark. Suddenly, however, that darkness would be filled with light – the light of his return!

Luke 17:24 – “For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.” (NIV)

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 –NIV)

Be encouraged! We as followers of Christ may find ourselves in some great times of darkness. But, may we never forget our “blessed hope.” One day our Savior will light up the sky!

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris