Category Archives: parable

A Stitch in Time

We are staying in our son’s caravan. He bought it second-hand about two years ago. We have been snug and dry in the van and tent during the past weeks of exceptionally wet weather. We are very grateful that they have allowed us to use it.

The lace curtains are old and have stood in the sun for some time. Three of them had big tears and two, smaller tears.

We decided one way to repay our family partially for their kindness, was to replace the worst of the curtains. We managed to buy similar curtaining material and replace two of the curtains. A third one, where the tear was only about 30cm from an edge, I was able to cut off the torn bit and re-hem the side.

However, the small tears worried me. I knew exactly where they were heading. It only needed our five-year-old grandson to notice one of them and decide it was big enough for a finger or a Lego man to fit through it. So I sewed up the tears, somewhat inexpertly.

“A stitch in time saves nine” goes an English proverb. In other words, one stitch in the lace curtains might save nine at a future date because big things all start as little things.

In Song of Songs we read, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” (2:15 NIV)

Sometimes the little foxes nibble away at our spiritual life. Individually they might be of very little importance but unless we catch them in time, we will have bigger problems to sort out later. One of my little foxes is selfishness. I noticed it the other day. I had been looking forward to going out for breakfast and the venue was closed. I was grumpy. The Lord reminded me that life’s not about me. What I had been looking forward to, or had planned is not the main issue. I had forgotten that my time is not my own. It is God’s. My money is not my own either. It is God’s. The end of such a selfish attitude is easy to predict.

Of course, having identified one little fox does not get rid of all of them. I need to be vigilant and look out for attitudes that show that I have not totally surrendered my life to Christ but am trying to run my life my way.

My Prayer

O Lord, please keep me vigilant to identify little foxes while they are still little. May my attitude be like that of Christ, who emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant. I have a long way to go. Please lead me, and strengthen me for one step at a time. Amen.

God-Spectacles

Today we went to visit the Hamilton Gardens again.

I appreciated my eyesight. As the children’s hymn reminds us, “He gave us eyes to see them and lips that we might tell how great is God Almighty who hast made all things well.”

Two weeks ago I had an eye infection. For a couple of days I wore neither my contact lenses nor my reading glasses. Although my eyes received light, technically I could not see.

I might have been able to distinguish a flower close up.

It made me think of a Bible passage I read recently. Jesus had told the parable of the sower and the seeds.

“The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
(Matthew 13:10-15 NIV)

I had not realised before what it might mean to see and yet not see. My daughter-in-law gave me the metaphor of God-glasses. No matter what happens in our lives, we can either see what has happened and is happening through God-glasses or The World’s glasses. Depending which we choose to wear, we will see things differently and act accordingly. Joseph could have seen his slavery and imprisonment in Egypt through The World’s glasses and allowed bitterness and anger at his brothers to define who he was but he chose to use God-glasses instead.

He said to his brothers, “Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:19b-20 NIV)

My Prayer

Father, I do not want to be like those who are forever seeing but not perceiving or forever hearing but never understanding. Please grant me the grace to take up my God-glasses before grabbing The World’s glasses. Amen.

It’s a Mind Matter

We recently met a lovely woman who is married to a very intelligent man who was a professor at the local university. In the last couple of years he has had a number of strokes and he is now in a care facility where she visits him every day. He doesn’t recognise her or his children.

It reminded me of the movie, “A Beautiful Mind” about John Nash, a Nobel Prize winner in Mathematics who developed schizophrenia.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Intelligence is a gift from God just like any other ability. Woe betide us if we think that any of these gifts is ours because of our own efforts. Even the ability to study and learn is a gift from our loving Heavenly Father.

Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”(John 15:5 NIV)

There was a king in the Old Testament who forgot that. He said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:29) NIV

While he was still speaking, God took away his sanity and he had the mind of an animal for seven years. Fortunately he was given a second chance and he repented and acknowledged God.

There is a temptation for clever people to pride themselves on their mental abilities. Sometimes they look down on less gifted people. This is a sin and does not please God.

My Prayer

Lord, please forgive me when I think I am better than others. All I am is only thanks to Your design. Amen.

Batteries and Chargers

We’ve been staying in our family’s caravan, in their garden. It is more spacious than our motorhome in South Africa and even has hot and cold running water, without our having to light a gas geyser.

Just over a week ago, a couple of things worked together to disturb the equilibrium. First of all, the water ran out. The pump had been making a noise all night because it was trying to pump but there was no water. We tried to refill it, which we have done before, but the water kept running out again. We decided we had to wait for our son to come back from work to help us. Meanwhile the noise from the pump didn’t seem as noticeable.

At about the same time, the battery in the big family car was flat so our son fetched the battery charger from the caravan to charge the car battery overnight.

Once we had filled up the water tank, the water still wouldn’t come out of the taps. We concluded that the circuit had been broken by removing the battery charger and all that was needed was to replace it. This didn’t work. Nor was the car battery charged.

Our son took the battery charger to an auto shop to be tested and they kindly replaced it with their demo model. He confidently replaced it in the caravan but after two days the water still did not flow.

We have taken the battery and charger to the auto shop and they charged the battery for two days on their high speed charger.

The problem is still not resolved but our latest thinking is the following:- Because the caravan battery got totally flattened by the pump trying to work, the charger could not charge it fast enough to counteract the power drawn by the pump. Meanwhile, our son discovered that all the interior lights of the car had been left on by the children. Again, the charger couldn’t recharge the battery faster than it was being drained.

The battery charger has two modes. Fast charge and trickle charge. It was set on trickle charge.

Sometimes our spiritual batteries get flat. Spending time with God can recharge them. Attending a church service, a retreat or a community group meeting is like a fast charge. But to maintain our spiritual power for everyday life, we need constant trickle-charging. This includes a daily reading of the Word and prayer, not only during a designated quiet time but constantly, as we go through the day, maintaining awareness of God’s presence with us.

Indications of flat spiritual batteries are personal to each individual. Some people might get snappy and irritable. I tend to get depressed and weepy. Temptations are harder to overcome and our natural character flaws, phobias or besetting sins get the better of us. I know because I have just been there and I’d like to avoid getting into such a state again.

31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 KJV)

My Prayer

Lord, sometimes I am so powerless that I can’t even maintain connection with You. I know that even though I let go of You, You will never let go of me. Please trickle-charge me through Your Spirit that I might be empowered to do Your will. Amen.

All Creatures Great and Small

On Monday we went to Auckland to visit the Sea Life Kelly Tarlton Aquarium.

From the entrance there is an iconic view of the Auckland skyline.

Inside are tanks and displays of all things marine, from large sharks and rays to starfish and bioluminescent “jellies.”

One thing I particularly enjoyed seeing was a life-sized model of Scott’s Hut in the Antarctic.

The fact that one of our family’s neighbours, Roberta Farrell, is a professor who has led expeditions to the Antarctic, made it even more interesting to me. Her teams studied fungi that survive in temperatures in the region of minus 80 degrees. These organisms caused some degradation of the timber of the hut.

What the children enjoyed most was an interactive play area where outlines of fish and other sea creatures are available to colour with wax crayons. The child then places the coloured page into a scanner which links via a computer programme to a screen along one wall where the coloured-in-fish is made life-like and can be seen swimming around in a marine environment.

In spite of this amazing technology, only God can create real-life fish or any other creature. Even the intelligence to create such programmes or the ability and stamina to study Antarctic life-forms are gifts that God has given to mankind.

As Psalm 8 declares, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! …what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? … You made them rulers over the works of your hands; … the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” (selected verses, NIV)

My Prayer

Father God, I stand in awe of You. Thank You for Your amazing and diverse creation. Thank You for the creative gifts You have bestowed on mankind. May I use my gifts to Your glory. Amen

Cuddles from God

As you might have expected if you know me at all, I enlisted the help of my youngest grandson to set up a bird feeder in a fejoah tree outside the caravan in which we are temporarily living.

Bird feeder from a recycled bottle

So far, we have seen two sparrows on our feeder but I was excited when I saw two fantails in the tree. I had tried to photograph two in Mt Maunganui but they were too fast for me.

My daughter-in-law told me of a time when she was feeling down and went for a walk in the gully below their house. Two fantails followed her, dancing around cheerfully. She experienced them as cuddles from God.

We know God loves us, but sometimes we need something physical to remind us.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zeph 3:17 ESV)

Be it singing or bird dances, God finds ways to remind us of His love when we need cuddles.

My Prayer

Thank You, Lord, for Your love which is around me all the time. even when I don’t feel it. Amen.

Sunburnt Feet

For my granddaughter’s birthday, she chose to go board-surfing in the sea. We went to a quiet beach called Raglan, about forty five minutes away from Hamilton.

Although the weather forecast had been for rain from about 1pm, we had beautiful sunshine and were able to enjoy a sunny day at the beach until 3.30pm.

We had lathered ourselves with sunscreen and we wore hats. However, I forgot to smear my feet. I should have known better. The first time I took Girl Guides to a camp in England, one of the girls got sunburnt feet. That is exactly what happened to me.

Responsible parents teach their children not to go out in the sun without sunscreen, especially in New Zealand. It is not because they are spoil sports, or they are controlling parents or because they don’t want their children to have fun. It is because they love their children and they want to protect them from harm.

God has given us commandments because He does not want us to come to harm. The Bible says, “The one who sins is the one who will die,” (Ezekiel 18:20 NIV) and “the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a NIV) This death is not a punishment, but a natural consequence, just like sunburnt feet is not a punishment for not doing what I should have, but a natural consequence.

Romans 6:23 goes on to say “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That is the message of Christmas:- although I have sinned and am in line for death, God loves me so much, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that if I believe in Him, I will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 loose translation)

My Prayer

Thank You, Lord Jesus, that You came. You humbled Yourself to become human and died the death of a sinner because You love me and want me to enjoy eternal life with You. Amen.

A Little Tent

“For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-6 MSG selected)

Last week we were in Whangateau with plans to go to Waipu Cove on Wednesday. The tent we borrowed was lovely but it was small – probably little over two metres by two metres with standing room in the middle only.

The tent was big enough for sleeping on an inflatable mattress with a small passage-way on either side for our clothes and toiletries. Food we kept in the kitchen with eating utensils, and everything else we kept in the car. Monday was a beautiful day but on Tuesday, when we were supposed to go snorkeling, the sea was rough ahead of a predicted storm and the hire company dissuaded us from attempting it. (Not sure if our grey hair had anything to do with it.) A hundred percent rain and high winds were predicted for Wednesday and not much better for Thursday so we decided to forgo our deposit and cancel our booking for Waipu Cove. Rain is not much fun in a cramped tent – especially if the tent has to be taken down and set up again in the rain. We chose instead, the relative spaciousness of my son’s caravan back in Hamilton.

However, this is not our final destination. We can look forward to the spacious living-conditions of our own house in South Africa.

Paul contrasts our earthly bodies to such cramped tents. They are limited. Our resurrection bodies are what we are looking forward to – our true home. Meanwhile we can be cheerful and put up with cramped conditions, knowing that spacious living awaits us.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, sometimes I get frustrated by the limitations of my earthly body, especially as I get older and can’t do many things I used to be able to. May these limitations not get me down but rather remind me of the new resurrection body you have planned for me, perfectly suited to the new Heaven and new Earth. Amen.

Trees

My family in New Zealand went to a Christmas Tree farm to get this year’s Christmas tree.

These trees are specifically grown to be cut down when they reach a certain age. They are brought into homes to be decorated as Christmas trees. There are special stands which stabilize the tree and provide the bottom of its stem with water.

At Waitomo Holiday Park we noticed one day that a large tree had been felled. We saw the branches and chunks of trunk being loaded onto a large truck with a front end loader.

I thought of Isaiah 53:8. “For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death.” (NIV)

The Christ we celebrate at Christmas time was born to die, just like the Christmas tree was grown to be cut down The prophets foretold it. It was scripted as part of God’s salvation plan. eg Daniel 9:26, “After this period of sixty two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing…” (NLT)

However, Christ’s death accomplished eternal life for us. On the Ruakuri Bushwalk I saw a visual parable of this.

The fallen tree has become the growing medium for new plants.

My Prayer

Lord, Your ways are so much higher than my ways. To human reasoning the death of Your Anointed One seems a tragedy, yet by this means Christ won for me eternal life. I can only say thank You. Please help me to increasingly think like a citizen of Your Kingdom and not according to human wisdom. Amen.

Christmas Productions

This weekend we’ve been to two Christmas productions involving our grandchildren. The first was a school production and the second a church production.

In each case the majority of the audience consisted of proud parents, grandparents and other assorted relatives. They had each come to watch their particular child perform and the teachers had the job of weaving the performance together to include contributions from everybody.

Image by scott payne from Pixabay

The performers had various degrees of acting ability, confidence, and costume choice. Nevertheless, each parent had eyes only for their particular child. Mistakes were overlooked and everybody was proud of their child no matter what they did on stage.

God is a Father like that. In the hodge-podge of humanity, He sees us each as His beloved child. He loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love. No matter whether we are out of synch with everybody else, have no confidence, even burst into tears, He looks on us with pride and love.

Jesus taught us to call God Father. In Matthew 7:11 He says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (NKJV)

My Prayer

My Father, I know I am not as good at certain things as others. I am also aware of my character and attitude flaws that You are working on. Thank You that You love me no matter what and that there is nothing I can do that would cause you to love me less … or more. Amen.