The Reality Behind the Obvious

I've opted for the 'winter village” theme on my Google welcome page”"a beautiful mountain village, buried in snow, begins to relax under the last rays of the setting sun. Or is it the rising sun, or maybe the rising moon? I can't really tell but it's pretty. It makes you think of warm fireplaces, hot chocolate, and laughing kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen. Looking at pictures is easier than dealing with reality, though. If our village was snowed under like that, I wouldn't be happy. I'd complain because I couldn't go anywhere in my car. I wouldn't be able to get to the grocery store or church services. I'd be a prisoner in an incredibly beautiful picture. I don't need snow to drink hot chocolate and our fireplace is out of order. Besides snow is cold and dangerous, and your feet freeze and germs sneak into your respiratory passages to give you a cold, or worse. Snow gives you a great reason to gripe, though, so it isn't a complete loss.

Seeing What's Real

Have you noticed how many things seem beautiful”" but only after they are gone? Or at least after we've taken the time to reflect on their significance. We humans have a tremendous gift from our Creator. We can look at people or a situation and see the beauty beyond. Actually, it's usually easier to see it later than when it's happening. That's why Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a heretic and then rehabilitated to sainthood. (Of course that had more to do with politics, than with a sudden revelation of deep meaning). British, American, Canadian, and French soldiers (plus others!) pushed through a gale of bullets, explosions, horror and death at Normandy. The beach was a monster's gallery of dead, mutilated bodies. Young men embraced the sand, probably more concerned about staying alive and doing their job than by any high-minded ideals at that moment. But the result of their terror and courage was freedom for millions. Ugliness ... beauty. And you, in your situation? Not very glorious, huh? You may be that Sunday School teacher who spent most of  Sunday morning wiping runny little noses ... I was at a concert Saturday evening. A young man in the singing group told how he had grown up in church to a certain point in life. His parents, seemingly committed to the Lord, divorced. He lost his moorings and got into all sorts of things, finally ending up hooked on drugs. Then he remembered those days in Sunday School and a desire was born in him to come back to the Lord. Now he is part of the group musical group, Eden. A good dozen people responded to the altar call that night. Makes wiping noses a bit more noble, huh? We paint pictures of martyrs and go to art museums to admire the glory of their acts. But, it wasn't pretty at the time. Huge emotions, blood, horror, fear ... followed by anonymous Christians who just 'pulled up their socks” and got on with serving the Lord and spreading the gospel, even under the threat of the same death they had seen. But later you hear the powerful preacher, Paul reminisce:

'And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.” (Acts 22:20, NIV).

He never forgot. Ugly ... beautiful. How about that worker who testifies and lives the gospel at work? People call him, 'Preacher.” Or that pastor who works quietly, faithfully, doing his best to serve his people and reach the lost, while next door another pastor is 'setting the world on fire?” That's the story of the Cross, isn't it? No one wore a little chain with a Cross upon it before that day. Would you wear a gold chain with a guillotine, or a hangman's noose, or a needle for a lethal injection dangling from it? That's all the cross used to be. A death instrument.

Ugly ... Beautiful

If you had seen the Cross you might have turned you head from the horror. The Son of God hung, his back beaten to hamburger, head swelled from a crown of thorns, body exposed, face swelled from slaps and blows, tongue parched. Horrible ... but oh, so beautiful; oh, so beautiful! Has a scene ever been so often painted, so often sculpted, so often remembered? From something as ugly as death for sin, grew the gift of eternal life. Now we see it, now we sing it, and preach it. But at the moment, it seemed the death of our hopes. Now, He's alive forevermore and because of what He did on Calvary, those who put their faith in Him live, too. Are you in an ugly situation, today? Don't be too quick to proclaim it a disaster. Look to the Lord in prayer and faith, keep on trusting, keep on going forward, doing what you know is right. It may be awhile but God has a way of taking what we thought was a hideous background and painting a triumphant outcome over it. Snow really is beautiful. 

Hmmm ... 'Forty years of experience and observation of leaders has taught me one profound fact in this regard: A married leader will eventually, and inevitably, treat Jesus' bride the way he treats his own. Likewise, a parent will teach and lead the family of God the same way they lead their own children.” Jack Hayford