Tuesday at Ten: Gather

I enjoy these link-ups where I can join with other bloggers and just write. Tuesday at Ten is Karen’s first link-up, so I hope she gets a good amount of support. Similar to Five Minute Friday, the prompt word goes live at 10 pm Eastern (that’s 3 am Wednesday here in the UK, so I’m glad she’s giving us 24 hours to make our contributions!). This week’s prompt is: Gather.
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I’ve read Psalm 2 recently. It seems appropriate with all that’s going on at the moment in this world. It talks about people gathering together against the LORD (doesn’t that remind you of the situation in Iraq?), and yet the Psalm isn’t full of doom and gloom. No – what I love is its picture of God in all this. “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the LORD scoffs at them.”

Do I mean that God laughs at tragedy? Well, I can’t imagine that of a loving and compassionate God. If I want to gather those Iraqi children in my arms and protect them, surely God wants that even more. In fact, the Bible says He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart (Isaiah 40:11).

So here’s what I love about that picture of God:
I love that He’s enthroned in heaven. Whatever might be going on in the world or in your own life, whatever might be spiralling out of control, there’s One who’s still sitting on His throne, in control of it all. I’m reassured by that.

And I love that God scoffs at the ones who’ve gathered against Him. If a human being scoffs at you, that’s one thing, but God scoffing at you? Wow - that’s a dreadful prospect! Has someone treated you unjustly? Do they think they’ve got away with it? Psalm 2 reminds us that one day, we’ll all have to give an account of ourselves to God; we’ll all have to answer for our actions. And do you know your response to the one who’s mistreated you will affect their future?

Jesus taught that if we forgive others’ wrongs, they’ll be forgiven; but if we don’t, they won’t. He showed incomprehensible forgiveness Himself when His hands and feet were nailed to a cross, and He was tormented to come down and save Himself. An early Christian, Stephen, asked as he died a martyr’s death that the sins of those who killed him wouldn’t be held against them. Have you ever thought who was standing by that day? A young man called Saul gave approval to Stephen’s death. Not long afterwards, Saul was travelling to Damascus to persecute more Christians when Jesus appeared to him, and he became a believer himself. Saul (later known as Paul) believed in Jesus, so his sins weren’t held against him. Could you do that to those who gather against God or against you – forgive them, and trust that God will respond in the right way to their mistakes?

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The Shuddering Reality

God really hates the destruction of the poor.  Yet again, He talks about His people walking all over them, but this chapter’s different, in that God’s had enough.  “I will not overlook their sins anymore” (Amos 8:2).  It’s not just talk this time; He’s showing Israel there are consequences for their disobedience.  “The whole land will shake because of it”, and its people will mourn for their dead (Amos 8:8).

 

When God talks about the sun going down at noon and the earth being darkened, like a time of crying for the death of an only son (Amos 8:9-10), I can’t help but think of Jesus’ crucifixion day.  Yes, the shuddering reality is that our wrongdoing displeases God, but the marvellous truth is that Jesus took our punishment when He died on that cross – when the sky was darkened for three hours.

 

Here in Amos 8 though, God’s talking not only about a physical darkness, but a spiritual one.  “The Lord God says:  ‘The days are coming when I will cause a time of hunger in the land.  The people will not be hungry for bread or thirsty for water, but they will be hungry for words from the Lord.  They will wander from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea, from the north to the east.  They will search for the word of the Lord, but they won’t find it’” (Amos 8:11-12).  After this was written and before Jesus’ birth, there were apparently four hundred years when God didn’t speak through any prophet – the silent four hundred years, I’ve heard them called, and perhaps we’ll experience another time like that before Jesus returns.  So what to take away from this?  Well, I’m reminded of a phrase in Isaiah 55:6, which simply says:  “Seek the Lord while he may be found”.  If there’s something inside you that longs for God, reach out for Him with all your heart; I know you’ll find Him.

When You’re Tempted to Break the Rules

A friend told me this lunchtime that he couldn’t imagine me breaking any rules!  He obviously didn’t know me when I was a teenager.  I’m sure that had I got in with the wrong group of friends, I would have stolen from shops and whatever else, but I didn’t.  Anyway it got me thinking about rules, and one area where I’ve been tempted to break them.

Compassion have a very strict rule:  Children and sponsors aren’t allowed to contact each other except through Compassion.  Well, last year, I had a friend-request on Facebook – from the mother of one of my girls.  I was so excited!  I talked on the phone to Compassion, who advised me against accepting.  They said they couldn’t stop me, as we were both adults, but we weren’t allowed to talk about my sponsored child.  I thought about this a lot.  The mother lived away from the family and if anything like a typhoon had hit and she’d asked about her daughter, I couldn’t have said a thing.  I decided that would be much too difficult for both of us, wrote her a message to explain and have never heard anything back.  The friend-request is still there, waiting for me to confirm or delete it.

Quite recently I had another request, this time from one of my sponsored children.  I looked at his friend-list:  His older brother was on there; a cousin I remembered him writing about …  It had to be him.  That request reminded me of my girl’s mother, and I had a thought.  My girl is a teenager now.  I looked again at her mother’s friend-list, and there she was.

How I’d love to make contact with all 3 of them, but what would that mean?  I think first the project-staff would meet with the children and remind them of the rules.  Then, if they and their families decide not to agree to those rules, they can leave the project.  But my boy has said in a letter that he wants to finish his studies so he can help his parents!  How would he do that without Compassion?  What a poor show it would be if my desire for more contact meant their having to leave their centres and squander the opportunities they’ve got.  Shouldn’t I instead set them an example and wait?  In 10 years, they’ll be adults and probably at the end of their sponsorship.  I’m free to contact them once they’ve left Compassion, and what’s a few years really?

I think those are the main 2 things that put me off breaking rules:  The consequences, and wanting to persevere; but I wonder if God likes either of those.  Does He want us to be Christians just so we’ll escape going to hell?  Does He want us to strive and strive to finish well and do what’s right, because they’re the rules and we know we should?  Or would He rather something else:  Would He rather we have such a deep love for Him, doing what’s wrong just doesn’t seem to fit.

Do you know something?  When I’m most tempted to break rules is when my love for God is in most danger of going cold.  I’ve been hearing about Peter this week and how Jesus turned someone who was out of courage and out of passion into a bold, enthusiastic Christian.  I’m sure He can do the same for me and for you, so whenever we feel we’re going cold, let’s ask for His help.