Thursday, 19 September 2013

In Gratitude or Ingratitude?

"He fell face down on the ground at Jesus' feet, thanking Him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan." (Luke 17:16 - NLT)

Waking up slowly. I hear a robin's song, geese chattering and the distant crowing of a rooster. The curtains start glowing and two small warm bodies wedge their way between us. Soft breathing slips into chuckles and dawn breaks in all its glory over the mountains. The scent of summer is in the air, warm earth thirsts and roots reach deep for moisture. A feeling of contentment settles in the room and my heart grows large with gratitude. If I could only lock it in there and take it with me into the day... Live a life of being thankful. For each small moment, but most of all for what was accomplished on Golgotha, in order that I may be free. And have eternal life.

There is the gift of giving, the gift of receiving and then there is the wonder of giving thanks. Jesus meets ten lepers along the border between Samaria and Galilee. They call out to him from a distance: "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” The story continues with the words that Jesus used to heal them: "Go, show yourselves to the priests. And as they went, they were cleansed." One of them, heart racing with anticipation; looks down at his hands. He runs them languidly over the once suppurating flesh, now smooth and whole... The other nine break into a run, eager to show their new health to the priest. The Jewish priests were the only ones who had the authority to declare someone either clean or unclean in society. But he hesitates, looks back over his shoulder, a call from deep down urging him back.

He does not merely say thank you. This man falls face down into the dirt at Jesus feet, weeping with joy and crying out his thanks. The Samaritan. Not only did he used to be a leper, outcast, untouchable. He is part of a despised race. 

The Samaritans were an ethnic group that grew out of the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (Joseph's sons) after their deportation in 722 BC into Assyria. The Jews at the time of Christ viewed the Samaritans as idol worshipping apostates (ones who abandoned their religious faith) to be shunned, and who had intermarried with the Gentiles. Jesus however, unlike his fellow Jews, did not shun them, view them unworthy of His grace.

The story continues when Jesus calls out over the form of the man at his feet: "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine - where are they? "Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" (Luke 17:11-18) He is not praising the man at His feet for returning, but rebuking those beyond for their "ingratitude"... To the man at His feet he says: "Rise and go; your faith has made you well" I was thrilled to find a footnote in the NLT which says: or "Your faith has saved you" The "foreigner" did not only receive physical healing. The realisation of what was done for Him compelled him to turn around. Not for a polite thank you, but to fall down at the feet of the Son of God to give praise and thanks. To acknowledge that even if he was broken, the "man" before him had made him whole.For his faith, his gratitude and for giving glory to God - he received not only physical healing, but restoration for his soul, worth so much more than a "clean" body.

I have been thinking about gratitude lately. I’ve been thinking about people who have given me gifts in the past to whom I have expressed thanks. I’ve been thinking about people who, recently, have thanked me.

And I've been thinking about people I need to thank. Of so, so many things that I am deeply thankful for. But what about the man from Galilee who hung on the cross, despised and beaten? Who was willing to become covered with the leprosy of my sins, so that I may stand before Him, the High Priest at the right hand of God, clean and free. He above all deserves my thank you - through a life lived in gratitude overflowing in praise.

"In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thes 5:18)

Friday, 6 September 2013

Forever and ever...

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

The moon rises in a halo of light over the faint rugged outline of the second Hog's back. The circle is small. One little hand rests in the strong calloused hand of their father. Another, dimpled and warm is slipped into mine. Our heads are bowed, and in this moment there is wholeness. There are moments of pure joy, love, even holiness that cause you to hold your breath and want to hold onto it forever...

I remember a time many years ago, attending a science exhibition in the CSIR gardens. I became mesmerised by a pendulum under a glass dome, which was swinging without any human intervention. It needed no gas, no electricity, no push. It was put in motion by the rotation of the earth, and it would keep swinging . . . forever. It was wonderful and frightening. Eternity was, no doubt, embedded in my heart.

Or perhaps just the opposite was true? That early event, and a number of them since, has shown me that I am in fact completely incapable of grasping the eternal. Perhaps the ability to be intrigued by the eternal is in my heart, but I certainly don’t have the ability to comprehend it. Though everything is beautiful in its time, yet till they are revealed and all viewed together; they will not be perfectly understood, or the beauty of them seen. For God has put something "hidden", or "sealed up", in the midst of them, so that it cannot be perfectly known. What I do know is that God has also "placed" the Spirit of Christ in my heart, and His salvation into eternity is mine to have and to hold through repentance, grace and more grace.

For this reason the veil or ignorance can bring rest. While we don’t feel the need to explain the death of a ninety-five-year-old saint, we often feel compelled to understand why someone dies “before their time.” Or take an even more difficult event – the suicide of a loved one. This certainly begs for an explanation and families can spend the rest of the lives trying to understand what they did to cause the suicide and why God allowed it.

This passage allows us to rest even before our quest for answers begins. Whatever explanations we invent will, no doubt, be wrong or hopelessly incomplete, so we might as well start immediately with trusting God.
The veil is reason for thanks. Do I really want to know what is going to happen to my children? If I had such knowledge I would live in fear.

To have my life "hidden in Christ" gives me reason to surrender my fears. To live in the knowledge that all things were created through Him, for Him and by Him, and that includes me. The eternity set in my heart is the knowledge that I will spend eternity with my Saviour. How or when or why is not for me to discern. "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1).

The veil teaches me to live as a child before the Father. As a child, I don’t need or want to know the details of how my father is going to get us to the beach. It is more than enough to know that he is going to get us there.

"My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore." (Psalm 131)

The veil teaches us to live by faith. How unimaginable – how inhuman – it would be to rely on what we know. To trust our God, King and Father is the most satisfyingly human thing that we can do...

Main Source and credit to: Eternity in Our Hearts? ...Ecclesiastes 3:11 Revisited, By: Ed Welch.