The Spur

My husband preached a sermon from Malachi last Sunday. It was a message for the New Year that gave us all a theme to think on as we launch into 2006. The theme consists of three admonitions (it was a good three point sermon, complete with alliteration!)

The three are ? Remember the Law, Restore the Heart, and Renew Righteousness.
The first point was a caution against relying on the law to change anything ? just like the laws of our country, God's laws cannot change us, they only show us where our sin lies. We must remember the laws of God so that we can avoid the death-traps of sin. It is up to us, and God's Spirit working in us, to make the changes necessary to live our lives in harmony with those laws.

The second point, restore the heart, led us to consider the hearts of those whom God loved ? people like Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, David, and others on through history. These were men and women who failed, yet always turned back to God for mercy and grace. They always restored their love for God and restored their relationship with Him.

The third point, renew righteousness, helped us to remember that our righteousness does not come from the good works we do, but from . . .

Sulking and soaking. For me, the two always go together. I know when I'm not fit to be around people, especially the people I'm mad at, so the bathtub is the best place to be. I run the water as hot as I can stand it and stay there until I feel like I can be civil again. That night, the night before Christmas, I thought I might be there till dawn.

Tim had dropped the bomb when he came home from work two days before we were to go home for the holidays. Somehow he'd managed to mess up making the flight reservations. How could he mess up something so important, so essential to my sanity? Bad enough he'd talked me into coming here, to the end of reason and any sign of civilization, just so he could have a "real northern experience." Bad enough he didn't once compliment me on how I'd bravely been enduring the minus fifty degree temperatures. Bad enough we still had five more months to endure life in this town on the edge of the universe. Now we were stuck here for Christmas.

Even if we drove south till the temperature was warm enough for planes to fly, there weren't any seats to be had. And what was his excuse? He thought he'd told the travel agent to book it, but he had only asked her to give him the details. When she didn't hear back from him, she assumed we'd changed our minds but didn't bother to check. There are too many people . . .

I sat at the table for five hours watching people walk by. Every now and then someone would stop and pick up one of my books. I'd chat with them, telling them the book was a collection of devotionals. Sometimes I'd share how the Lord had used it to make a change in someone's life. Usually they'd smile and move on. They'd move on to buy trinkets at other tables loaded with kitsch ? painted plastic santas, crocheted snowflakes, angels made of dishtowels, and snowmen made of styrofoam.

As the day wore on I got a little discouraged. And, as discouragement often does, it started to move into bitterness tinged with anger. Why were these people so eager to grab things that had so little value and would last for such a short time? Why weren't they more interested in buying something that could nourish their souls? It made me want to scream, but I kept quiet and tried to keep smiling when someone glanced my way.

As I drove home later that day I ruminated. I love that word ? it means to turn over and over, as in a cow chewing her cud. And that's what it felt like as I drove along ? my stomach was churning; I was stewing over what had happened, and I wasn't being very complimentary to those people who had not bought my books.

Then that still small voice whispered from somewhere beyond ? ?And what about you?? Me, Lord? Um ?

We've been seeing the familiar red poppies pinned on lapels and collars for some time now. Today is Remembrance Day, here in Canada. Schools are closed, as are many businesses. At eleven o?clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, people will stop what they are doing and many will stand in silence for one minute, to honour the men and women who died during past wars. We honour them because they fought and died to preserve our freedom. And well we should.

Freedom from tyranny is a great cause. There isn't anyone on earth who doesn't value it, especially those who have had to fight to gain it. But there is something of even greater value ? something we don't have to fight for ? freedom from sin and reconciliation with God. We don't have to fight for it because it has already been won by the death of only one man on a cross over 2000 years ago. When Jesus willingly laid down His life for us, the battle for our souls was won eternally.

Being reconciled with our Father in Heaven should be the highest value anyone could subscribe to, because without it, earthly freedom is a brief illusion. Ask the thousands who are in prison because they refuse to deny their faith in Christ. They have considered freedom of lesser account. Ask those who have lost their jobs and their property because they follow Christ. They have considered . . .

I once had to walk through a swamp with a heavy pack on my back. I stumbled at almost every step because of the muskeg, my legs chilled to the bone by ice-cold water that lurked beneath the hummocks we tried to walk on. But I had a friend with me who continually turned and encouraged me with words that made me believe I could do what had to be done. I finished that arduous trip only because I sensed he believed I could do it and it made me want to.

In Ephesians 4:1 ? The Apostle Paul writes- ?I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.? On the one hand this makes me smile and want to step forward with my head held high. On the other hand, it makes me cringe. As Christians we have received a primary calling, to be like Jesus and to glorify Him in all things. That calling is irrevocable. And I am painfully aware that I fail to be worthy of it every day. I continually fall into sinful attitudes and thoughts. It makes me think of Paul's cry in Romans ? ?oh wretched man that I am!? He too knew himself to be weak and unworthy, in his flesh, yet he also says ? ?Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ? (Eph 3:8). And in that I am . . .