A String of Pearls

07/03/2007

As this message was formulating in my mind, already having been given this title, we had a grandchild born! How exciting is that? Our little Maren Alexis Shore entered the world on Father’s Day! And, unbeknownst to us at the time, one of the meanings we found for the name “Maren” was pearl! Was God having fun with me? I believe so! And I also believe that many months ago, when our son, Jimm, and his wife, Cami, were undecided about a name for their new little daughter, God already had her name written down in Heaven. He was just waiting for, what seemed to be, their decision to be made! How cool is that? We think we pick our child’s name, but even in that, God already knows!

The name Philip means lover of horses…make of it what you will, but our son, Philip, had a very special relationship with his Uncle Steve, who is a lover of horses. Steve goes to the ranch almost daily to ride Penny, and Phil enjoyed many trips to the ranch with Steve when Phil was going through chemotherapy treatments in Fresno Children’s Hospital back in 1997. Steve and Phil formed a special bond during this time, something we could not have known when we gave Philip his name in 1985. This is just something I like to think about…

What is it about life that keeps it intriguing? I believe it is the string of events in our lives, the way things tie together, the so-called “coincidences” that appear seemingly out of nowhere, but if we know our Lord, we know that He is the Maker of all things, and His timing and His ways are far beyond what we can imagine…think of the great care He takes in Heaven, as He plans out each step of our lives…lives that hopefully lead us through the pearly gates of Heaven one day.

The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl.
The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
Revelation 21:21 (NIV)

What is a pearl? Well, I gathered a little information on the internet about them, and what I found interesting is where they get their luster from. Here’s what I read:

The unique luster of pearls depends upon the reflection and refraction of light from the translucent layers and is finer in proportion as the layers become thinner and more numerous. The iridescence that some pearls display is caused by the overlapping of successive layers, which breaks up light falling on the surface. (Wikipedia)

I had never thought of a pearl as having layers. Pearls where just one of those things I took for granted, and yet God gave them a very unique design--forming them inside the shell of certain bivalve mollusks—He created them with layers, added His light to reflect upon them once harvested, and then we get to enjoy their unique luster.

There are two categories of pearls: freshwater and saltwater. Freshwater pearls are formed in freshwater mussels. And saltwater pearls grow in oysters that live in the ocean. Another interesting thing I found out is that it is rarely the case that a grain of sand acts as the irritant to form a pearl. It’s usually organic material, parasites or even damage that displaces mantle tissue. These particles enter the animal when the shell valves are open for feeding or respiration. (Information gathered from: Wikipedia)

Okay, why all this pearl information? Well, really, why not? It’s all part of God’s created world, isn’t it? And isn’t one of the most popular DVD’s of the day, “Planet Earth”? It is amazing to see the creations of our Mighty God on those programs!! So, I guess it’s okay to spend some time here thinking about the pearls that God creates inside the creatures He creates, and how everything God does all strings together…one event leads to the next and the next, and if we are watching closely, if we have our ear pressed against the heartbeat of our loving God, we will hear and we will see, and we will not want to miss a moment of the events that surround and fill our lives each day.

Are you devoted to any particular sports team? Now this may seem to be changing the subject, but I’m going to go with this next thought that has entered my mind and enjoy with you watching how God plans on tying it into this message, on that string of pearls…so, about that sports team? I’m an Oakland Raiders fan! I was born in Oakland, my family used to gather every Sunday they played--eating good food and cheering on our team. For us, there is no other team. In fact, when Jim and I had our home parked in Denver for a while, our boys could barely stand the thought that we were in Bronco territory! And Chris has even said if his son ever plays football, and ends up playing for the Broncos, that he would cheer his son on, but he could not cheer for the Broncos. Call it a sickness, call it devotion, call it what you will, but it is what it is…

So, as my daughter-in-law and I sat and talked football earlier today…you heard that right…we discussed what a devoted fan is. She said that our son, Jimm, said it’s easy to know a die-hard fan…what he’s talking about is not jumping ship when the ship is going down…when the season is long, and it’s painful, and it’s not looking good--but still, no other team is worth the attention that your favorite team is worth…because they ARE your team, and that’s the end of the discussion about that. Believe me, if we still love the Raiders after last season (2006), there’s no jumping ship ever!!

Now, in thinking and talking about that with Cami this morning, it suddenly came to me that being devoted to God is the same thing, in a sense. As we talked about the Raiders, I could feel the deep-seated conviction in my soul for my team. When it comes to football, there is just nothing like the silver and black for me. It’s always been the Raiders, it will always be the Raiders, and it really doesn’t matter whether they win or they lose, they are my team.

Can we say the same about God?
Are we tempted to jump ship when it seems that we’re losing in life?
Do we start looking for some other god in our life to attach ourselves to?
Are we riding high when life is good and God seems so good to us?
What happens when we go through a terrible season…when it’s seems hardly worth tuning in? Will we? Or will we just find something else to do on Sunday?
Do we feel a deep-seated conviction in our soul when God’s name comes up in conversation, like we would if we were talking about something else we loved?
Are we a die-hard fan of our Lord?
Will we sit with God through the rain, through the snow, through the scorching sun…will we cheer for Him when everyone around us laughs at us because it seems we are attached to a loser of a God…because if He was a winner, wouldn’t all Christians be rich, famous, healthy and loved by all?
When the score is heavy on the side of evil in the world, and light on the side of the devoted followers of Christ…which side will we find ourselves on?

Pearls, Football, and God…it’s an interesting combination, which seems to have very little if any connection at all…but will God give us one? I’m waiting along with you to see what He has in mind…what strings these three things together?

There are pearls of wisdom.
There is a God full of wisdom.
There is football…

Okay, maybe that’s not it…

There are the Pearly Gates.
There is God’s curtain in the Temple of old.
There is football…

I’m seeking You here God, for direction…

As in so many things in life, there doesn’t seem to be a connection, a sequence to it, but if we remain open to the great imagination and insights of God, we may start to see how one event affects the next and the next and the next—how God orchestrates them all, perfectly, for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them. (Romans 8:28)

It’s late, so I’m going to sleep on this now, looking forward to what God has in store for the rest of this message in the morning…

Here’s what the next morning brought…WE NEED TO QUIT MESSING AROUND!! That’s an interesting way to start the morning, don’t you think?

God spoke through Hosea saying, “The hearts of the people are fickle…”
(Hosea 10:2 NLT)

So, good morning! I woke this morning and listened to some music, and then turned in my Bible to the book of Hosea, starting in chapter six. “Come, let us return to the Lord! He has torn us in pieces; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time, he will restore us so we can live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

God is looking for full-hearted devotion from His people! And we’re messing around with other gods! We’re being “fickle.” The Amplified Bible said in Hosea 10: 2, our hearts are “divided and deceitful.” This may be Old Testament, but it is true to this day! And as we see in Hosea, one event leads to another, and to another. The choices of the people led them in the wrong direction, away from their God, and to other gods that did them no good. It is written, “O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the Lord. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight.” (Hosea 6:4 NLT)

When our team is having a bad season, and we’re not truly a devoted fan, we will waver, waver, waver, and then be gone…on to another team that looks like it’s headed to the Super Bowl! Then maybe the next season, when the team we thought we truly loved starts to come back, we jump back over and cheer them on during that season….

We can do that in football. Sure it frustrates some, but it’s not the end of the world. We can’t do that with God! Not if we want to be part of the winning “team.” God’s Word says in James 1:6-8: “…for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can’t make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do.”

Oswald Chambers writes: God’s order has to work up to a crisis in our lives because we will not heed the gentler way. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him, and we begin to debate; then He produces a providential crisis where we have to decide—for or against, and from that point the ‘Great Divide’ begins.” (Jan 1st, My Utmost for His Highest)

Some may say, “But God is playing both sides of the field” in that ‘Great Divide.’” Is God for us or against us? Does He bring only good, and Satan brings only bad? Or does God allow Satan to bring the bad--but if He allows it, isn’t God really the One in control of both the good and the bad? Then the bottom line becomes, God was in control when our son died. He produced it. He gave Satan the go ahead and the power to do so…and this is the God we are to love? The One whose foundation we are to stand on through any storm? Our Solid Rock? Someone, please explain!!

As I was talking to my son, Jimm about this, he said, “It’s sort of like in Star Wars, when the Emperor was in charge of the Republic and he sees a threat from the dark lord of the Sith, but he is the dark lord of the Sith, so he builds an army of the Republic to fight the droid army of the Sith—even though they are both under his control.” Jimm concluded by saying, “The thing is, that no matter who wins the fight, the Emperor wins, because he is in charge of both of them. He set it up so he couldn’t lose.”

Now, I’m not a “Star Wars” fan, so to some of you, this will make much more sense than it does to me. I’m thinking about what Jimm said here, slowly, trying to digest it. If you know exactly what this statement is all about, you may think that I’m pretty slow in getting it…so bear with me, as I relate this to the spiritual battle that goes on around us each day.

God created Satan. He is a fallen angel. God already knew when He created Lucifer that he would turn his back on God, and become the evil power that rules the earth we live on today. God created the Garden of Eden. He placed Adam and Eve there, just as He placed the evil serpent there that deceived them. I say, “them,” because Adam was the one God explained the rules to, and Adam was with Eve when the fruit was eaten. It states it clearly in Genesis!

So, the scene is set, the characters are in position, and where’s God? He’s overseeing it all, knowing who’s going to win. But, the Emperor in “Star Wars” was not God, so he could not know who was going to win--although he was assured a victory because both sides were under his control. It’s like the story of the woman who was on a flight to California. The plane started experiencing mechanical problems, and it seemed they might not make it. The woman remained calm. She was asked how she could remain so calm in such a situation, and her reply was, “I am on the way to California to see my daughter. I also have a daughter in Heaven. Either way, I will be seeing my daughter.” Either way, she came out a winner!

God is God, and He already knew who was going to win the battle in the Garden. Satan was! But, long down the winding path through life on earth and into eternity, God was and will forever be the Winner! Because, even though our hearts turned against God in the Garden, God orchestrated it because He knew it was needed for our own good--for ultimately freely loving God as we should. As O. Chambers says, God had “to work up a crisis in our lives because we will not heed a gentler way.” It’s good to know God can’t lose, but sometimes it takes our entire lifetime to figure that out! The battle on earth has been fought, won and the monument built in honor of our freedom there in the Throne Room of Heaven…because Jesus sits there at the right hand of His Father, VICTORIOUS!

Some may say, it seems unfair, because if God is good, then why would He make bad at all? As my son, Jimm said, “That’s why He’s God!” And what exactly does that mean? It means we will never have all the answers here on earth, but one thing we can know from reading Hosea, one thing that was pointed out clearly to me in that Old Testament Book, is that God is not a people pleaser!! And I believe that Paul took that example and ran with it, and stated it clearly in Galatians 1:10 (NLT), “Obviously, I am not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

God sees what is needed when we cannot, and He does it! And, He is perfectly Just. We may not like it, we may hate it, but we are not God. We can’t see what God can see, not even in our own lives, not even in our own hearts. Only God knows what’s going on around us and in us, at all times!

In Hosea it is written, “Alcohol and prostitution have robbed my people of their brains. They are asking a piece of wood to tell them what to do. They think a stick can tell them the future. Longing after idols has made them foolish.” (4:11-12 (NLT) And in 8:14, it says, “Israel has built great palaces, and Judah has fortified its cities. But they have both forgotten their Maker. Therefore, I will send down fire on their palaces and burn their fortresses.” God not only allows the fiery trials we go through in our lives, this says He sends down the fire! Hosea writes in 6:1-3 (NLT), “Come, let us return to the Lord! He has torn us in pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time, he will restore us so we can live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

I see that word “arrival,” and I smile as God leads me through writing this message…as He strings the words, Pearl, Football and God together for me! We had an arrival in our family, our little Maren, our little “Pearl.” Our lives had been torn to pieces, now God has healed us. God had injured us, now He has bandaged our wounds. After the passing of time, He has restored us so we could live in His presence. Oh, how we know the Lord now! And we want to continue to press on to know Him more, as each season comes and goes.

Because God is not a people pleaser, it did seem He was doing harm to us when our youngest son got ill, and then was taken Home. We couldn’t understand the pain that was being inflicted…but God knew the victory was assured, because He controlled both sides of the field! As long as we didn’t jump ship, worship foreign gods, thus forgetting our Maker, the eternal victory was ours! Healing was to come…peace that transcends understanding would be given.

It is easy to say God is good, all the time, and we want to believe this. I do! We want to defend His goodness, which is great and well-deserved. But we also have to understand; God is not easy all the time, for the paths He calls us down are difficult--most times it’s because we will not “heed a gentler way.”

Can we accept God’s wrath in our lives as well as His goodness? Will we continue loving Him and remain a faithful fan of His team when it appears we are rooting for the losing team? Will we hold tightly to Him until the final second of the final game, and at last see the string of precious pearls that made up our lives, each season with its multiple layers--layers that reflect Who God is and all that He has done, and made, and Is?

God is not afraid of showing His wrath. It is clearly spelled out in His Word. But so is His great love for us!

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you sins have brought you down.
Bring your petitions, and return to the Lord. Say to him, “Forgive all our sins
and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you the sacrifice of praise.
Assyria cannot save us, nor can our strength in battle. Never again will we call
the idols we have made ‘our gods.’ No, in you alone do the orphans find mercy.”
The Lord says, “Then I will heal you of your idolatry and faithlessness, and my
love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever!”
Hosea 14:1-4 (NLT)

We get after our children, we send them to their rooms, and we punish them for the times they disobey us, sometimes openly defying us. How many of us as children complained, “I want new parents!” But through it all, our parents loved us, as much as they were capable of in their own brokenness. They did what was best for us in the long run. God is not broken, not now, not ever, and His love is perfect! That’s why His love can cast out all fear! He doesn’t make mistakes, although it seems there are times He does. He will remain forever faithful and bring us safely Home when we are willing to embrace Him through the good, the bad, and the ugly in our lives.

The Lord’s love is spelled out to Israel, and to all of us:

“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her out into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.”
Hosea 2:14-15 (NLT)

We may have given ourselves to the Lord years ago, but maybe it’s time to renew our commitment to Him. As the Raiders’ motto says, a “Commitment to Excellence.” Perhaps life has been more difficult than we could have ever imagined, perhaps our hearts have been broken--the very hearts we gave to our Lord when we were young. Maybe we have seen trouble beyond words, and somewhere along the way, we jumped ship…it’s not too late. Hope has not been lost! If we will give ourselves over to our Lord once again, as we did long ago, His answer to us will be:

I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
and you will finally know me as Lord.
Hosea 2:20 (NLT)

Pearls
God
Football

…All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose! All things are the pieces of a beautiful string of pearls that make up our life…different steps, different seasons, different events that lead us into a closer relationship with our Father.

“Seen from God's side, it is a glorious ministry of love.” (O. Chambers 7/1)

When we begin to realize through all this that all we have is God--and we know He is enough--then the whole world becomes our oyster! The “irritants” of life are transformed deep inside our hearts, growing into something beautiful—perhaps pearls of wisdom, whose luster reflects the glory of God.

In awe of all He is doing,

Diane