Monthly Archives: April 2012

When the Rocks Cry Out

Does anybody remember the “pet rock”? It came in a gift box, sometimes with straw for the rock to “sleep” on. They hit the market in 1975, lasted for 6 months and 1.5 million of them were  sold. It was in the ridiculous waste of money category. It just sat there and did nothing.

Earlier this week a friend dropped by with her two- year-old granddaughter and a frozen chicken pot-pie. She asked to use my micro to heat up a meal for the child, because the electricity was off at her house.

If you have raised a two-year old, you know they are very curious. My friend’s granddaughter is no exception – pick this up, touch that, throw that down to see if it bounces. You know the routine. And my house is definitely not “child-proof.”  This cute little curmudgeon happened to pick up a rock that rested on an antique green chest, located under my dining room window. No, she didn’t throw the rock at the window. She responded to my authoritative command and brought the rock to me. It’s not a “pet rock” – just something I use for a paper weight.

As I retrieved the rock from her tiny hands, I recalled something from my Scripture reading of the last week. It had to do with a special rock.

In the Old Testament book of Joshua there is an interesting passage in chapter 24. Joshua had just addressed the people of Israel – reminding them of their past and casting a vision for their future. He warned them of what would happen if they stopped following God and started following other “gods” in the land they had newly conquered. In response, the people all said, “We will serve the Lord!” Then came the interesting part about the rock.

Joshua 24:26-27  “On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord. “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God…”  ESV

This passage calls to mind something in the New Testament.  When Jesus was entering Jerusalem on his triumphal (and final) visit to that city, he had an interesting exchange with some Pharisees:

Luke 19:37-40  “ . . the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these [people] were silent, the very stones would cry out.’ ” ESV

There is another passage that deals with talking stones:

“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house . . . You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many people: you have forfeited your life. For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.” Habakkuk 2:9-11

It seems from the Scriptures that what we think of as inanimate objects, such as rocks, not only could speak in a given situation, but also hear what is being said.

You’re probably thinking right about now that I am a bit kooky, or reading into Scripture. You may feel that the quoted Scriptures are metaphorical language which I’m taking too literally. I don’t think so – and I’ll tell you why.

Not far from where General George Washington made his famous crossing of the Delaware exists a strange place. Within a forest sits an open field that is filled with rocks – no vegetation. The property of the rocks is what makes the location peculiar. It seems that when the rocks are struck lightly, they ring like bells. Because stones don’t usually ring – this is a mystery to science. These rocks are composed of the same type of materials that make up most of the crust of the earth. In this particular field, though all the rocks are made of the same materials, only 1/3 of them ring.

In 1965 a geologist names Richard Faas from Lafayette College in Easton, PA, took some of the rocks to his lab for testing. He found that when the rocks were stuck they created a series of tones at frequencies lower than the human ear can hear. He concluded that when the various tones of the rocks interact with each other, there is a sound high-pitched enough to be audible to the human ear. But, the specific physical mechanism in the rocks that rendered them able to make sounds could not be discovered. (Information from site of “The Unmuseum”)

Many years ago, I had an experience with sounds recorded on vinyl that amazed me:  I was playing an LP on my turntable when the phone rang in another room. I lifted the needle arm off the album to answer the phone. I forgot to turn off the record player, so the vinyl continued to spin on the turntable.

I later returned to the room and sat down to read. I heard music playing very faintly in the corner where the stereo player sat on a table. When I approached the record player, I noticed that a very pointy leaf-tip from a plant sitting on the same table was resting on the spinning record. It was releasing the sound of the music from the vinyl. It seemed that the sound was coming through the plant itself, for the leaf needle had no connection to the speakers.

We live in a strange and wonderful world, created by a mysterious and awesome God.

If sound can be captured in vinyl, on CD, DVD, and computer chips, carried on air waves, and released through the leaf of a plant, then surely it can be captured in the walls around us, in the rocks of the hills and in the trees of the forest.

I am amazed at God’s creation – surely as Isaiah 6:3 says of God the Creator, “. . .the whole earth is full of His glory!”

One day our Savior Jesus the Christ will return to earth. And in that day we’ll hear real “rock music”.

“. . . you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace;  the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12 (NRSV)

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.” Ps. 96:12-13 (NRSV)

Are you as amazed as I am about the world of God’s creation? Are you ready for the day when all creation will welcome our Savior’s return? Will you also welcome Him, the “rock of your salvation”?

©2012, Marcy Alves

Warning: Don’t Ignore the Chirps

The high-pitched chirp woke me at 5:41 AM this morning. I thought I might have dreamed the sound, but a few seconds later another chirp sounded. It appeared to come from our ceiling smoke-detector. From then on, a single chirp signaled every thirty seconds.

The bed was warm and toasty, the air in our bedroom was on the chilly side. I didn’t want to get up, so I gave my husband a little nudge.  But he was still in a deep sleep and didn’t acknowledge the nudge. I got up and opened our bedroom door into the hallway – no smoke there, none in the kitchen area, and no other smoke-detector was beeping – only the one in our bedroom.

I climbed back into bed, snuggled under the warm covers and tried to get back to sleep, but I am too light a sleeper to turn off high-pitched sounds. Without his hearing aids in, David was oblivious to the chirps. I was a bit jealous that he could continue to sleep, while I hovered between a feeling of exhaustion, which cried out for just one more hours’ sleep, and irritation at that infernal metronomic chirping.

Then a sudden power surge briefly shut off our room hydrator; David awoke to my “What was that?!” Ah, a companion in my awakeness.

Assuming that the smoke-detector needed a new 9-V battery, I quickly located one, which my 6’3” husband used to replace the one in the ceiling detector. The chirping continued. So we replaced the battery in the hallway detector. But the steady 30-second chirp never wavered. It was like being in a hospital room with the sound of a heart monitor, only more ear-piercing.

David wanted to call the fire-department, but I asked for time to do my bathroom routine and get dressed. I didn’t want to be evacuated in my pajamas, without hair and make-up done for the day. Since it was not a real emergency, I figured I could ignore the chirp a while longer.

There are some warning signals that are non-emergency types – like a sniffle at the beginning of a cold, or a weak-battery visual on your cell-phone that says you need to plug-in for a recharge. Or the amber color on a stop-light.  Nothing bad has happened yet, but you need to be thinking about a change.

Of all the signals that people tend to ignore, the ones that relate to our spiritual lives seem to be the most universally ignored. God has set up a series of beeps and chirps that call us to consider the spiritual forces behind the material world – and this evidence that God does indeed exist means that we are accountable to Him.

The first series of beeps and chirps comes from the world of nature in which we live and move every day. However, we all too frequently don’t notice the sights and sounds that call our attention to something higher, purer, more noble than the world of man’s creation that also surrounds us:

The heavens declare the glory of God;  the skies proclaim the work of His hand.                                                                                                                                                             Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.                                                                                                                                                         They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.                                                                                                                                                                              Yet their voice goes into all the earth; their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

All creation speaks of God; we only have to attune our ears to hear what it is saying of our Creator. And once we hear what nature is saying about God, we are responsible for that knowledge: “responsible” means we need to “respond” to it – we are now accountable.

As nature speaks to us of God, it sends out messages of shock and awe. Shock at how destructive the created forces of nature can be – as in floods, tornados, earth quakes, etc. And awe at the majesty and power of the God who created the earth and the forces of nature that are capable to both sustain and destroy it.

Nature speaks to us of a God of love and beauty, but also of justice. Wrongs must be righted, and wickedness that holds back the truth has to be dealt with.

Romans 1:18-25 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to themEver since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.

So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!  NRSV

The truth about God is buried in our sub-conscious, sending out many beeps and chirps into our conscience.  If we will listen for the truth and determine to follow it, it will lead us to God – if we ignore the chirps, it will eventually lead to our destruction.

Romans 2: 12-15   “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.  For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them  . . .”

Often Christians are accused of being “preachy” and “judgmental”, because the “God-detector” (conscience) built into their family, friends, and acquaintances is active and is sending out beeps and chirps of conviction directly from God’s Spirit into their hearts: the believer gets the bad rap, because he or she is there in plain sight. It seems to be human nature to blame someone else when we’re uncomfortable – but that’s another blog.

By the way, the chirps this morning? After replacing batteries and even installing a new smoke-detector, we discovered the chirps were coming from our carbon monoxide detector, probably due to several power surges during the early morning hours. Go figure.

So, hey! Are you hearing the beeps and chirps that continually come to your spirit from God? Do you think it might be time to pay attention to them?

©2012, Marcy Alves

Credit Cards Not Accepted

Last weekend David and I drove to VT for an overnight.  I was slated to speak for a Christian women’s group and we decided to combine the ministry with a visit with some friends who live in Newport Center, VT.

On the drive to VT on Sunday afternoon, I got a blog idea and reached for my purse where I always carry a small notebook and pen – only to discover that my purse was not there. To say this was a bit disconcerting is putting it mildly. For a woman, forgetting her purse is like missing an essential piece of clothing. It’s kind of a “naked” feeling.

My husband said not-to-worry, I wouldn’t need my purse because he was there. I reminded him that he was not going to be driving when I went to speak at the women’s group the next night and my driver’s license was in my purse at home. He told me to just be careful and drive slowly (I guess he meant, not my usual how-fast-can-I-drive–without- it-being-fast-enough-to-get-a-speeding-ticket).

We arrived at our destination about two hours later, got settled in our guest room and prepared to leave for dinner with our friends. Remembering that we were treating our friends to dinner, David reached into his pocket for his wallet to make sure he had brought the proper credit card with him, only to discover his wallet was not there. He then recalled that earlier that day he had used one of his credit cards in my car and had laid his wallet on the console. And there it remained – back at home.

So, here we were with no money or credit cards between the two of us. Our very gracious friends offered to treat us to dinner, which was very embarrassing, but under the circumstances, and since we were all hungry, we had no other solution.

There have been many times in each of our lives when we have been short on funds, but never been so thoroughly without resources. No money and no way to buy anything. It struck both of us that this is what many people face on a daily basis – no job, no money, no way to pay bills or buy even the most necessary supplies. It must be discouraging at the least, and frightening at the extreme.

Two days later we began our 2 ½ hour drive back home with a half-tank of gas. Though our friends would have gladly filled our gas tank, we decided to exercise our faith muscle. We arrived home with the tank registering empty. After stopping off at the house to pick up David’s wallet, we had enough gas to get to a local station for a fill-up.

As I thought back on the unusual turn of circumstance with our missing wallets, I was grateful that we discovered our lack of resources before receiving the bill at the restaurant.  I can only imagine our extreme embarrassment at not being able to pay.

In regard to our spiritual debt to God, there will be a day when the bill comes due. On that day, we will all discover we have left our wallets behind, with absolutely no provision of our own to purchase what we need. Good works won’t do it, moral lives won’t do it, “spiritual” service won’t do it. No amount of praying, witnessing, or genuflecting, or self-denial will meet the need.

No one can boast,“ I have earned my way in; I did it on my own.” For the Scriptures are clear:

Eph. 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We have to humble ourselves to receive His provision, His gift to us, just as David and I had to humble ourselves before our friends and let them treat us to the restaurant meal.

It’s also important to realize that God does not grade on the curve.  We are not in competition for a few admission tickets into the kingdom of God. We cannot clean up our act and offer our best selves to God. We are totally impoverished – nothing to offer of self or personal substance. There is only one way to God’s heart; one door through which we enter into his kingdom of eternal life.

John 10:7-9 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. . .  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”

John 14:6 “Jesus said  . . .“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

No other way in, no layaway plan, and credit cards are not accepted on that day. But God the Father accepts us on the basis of the credit of His Son on our behalf, and on the humbling of ourselves to accept His provision.

1 John 4:10 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

You can save yourself embarrassment later, by accepting His free offer now. Don’t wait until the bill comes due.

What’s in your wallet?

©2012, Marcy Alves

Birthday Celebrations: Is Your Time Well Spent?

This past week was my birthday week. On the morning of my birthday, as I lay awake in bed, the thought occurred to me – how many more birthdays do I have in this body of flesh? How many more years are allotted to me in the “Lamb’s book of life”? None of us knows the length of days that have been written in the script of our life.

As I pondered these thoughts I realized that whatever days, or months or years are left for me, they need to count for something that will outlast me.

My husband, David, shared an interesting statement with me from a devotional reading. I don’t remember who he was quoting, but the thought communicated was this: 100 years from now (if the earth still exists) no one will remember who we are, or even be aware that we ever existed.

Think about it. The only one who will know us, remember us, or see the meaning in the lives we lived – is the Lord who created us and to whom we will return.

We are literally “spending” the time allotted to us here on earth – on something. It’s either being spent on things that last, or things that will dry up and blow away in the winds of time. We only have “now” to affect our world. So, how should I be spending the rest of my life?

This is how I want to spend my time allotment:

  • On the enjoyment of my relationships – with the Lord, my family, and my friends.
  • On getting to know my heavenly Father better – opening up more and more to His transforming work in my spirit, mind and body.
  • On becoming all He desires me to become; including, to be a person of genuine faith – the real thing, not just hopefulness, but certainty.
  • On bringing others into this love-relationship of God’s true family.
  • On encouraging brothers and sisters to put their full confidence in the God who loves them.
  • On communicating through both spoken and written word the awesomeness of our God.

My birthdays are measuring sticks – not a measure of years I have lived on earth – but a measure of increasing levels of faith and maturity in things of the Spirit of God.

I’m glad that I have experienced two births – my natural birth and my spiritual re-birth. My spiritual birth gives purpose to my natural birth.  And the prayer I have prayed for others I also pray for myself. It’s found in Philippians 1:9-11:

“And this is my prayer: that [my] love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that [I] may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”  NIV

How about you? Have you thought about your remaining birthdays? Have you decided how you want to “spend” the time you have left on earth?

©2012, Marcy Alves

Loving God Means What?

How hard is it for you to love God? How do you know that you love God?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this “love” thing. I’m beginning to think that most infractions of the laws of God, the commands of God, the revealed desires and will of God, hang on this single, delicate thread called “love”.

Scripture teaches that love is primary in the development of both personal and corporate Spirit-life. The effectiveness of the body of Christ, as we re-present God’s kingdom here, is powered by love.

John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ESV

God not only loves, but according to 1 John 4:8 “. . . God is love.”

Jesus considered love to be uppermost in both vertical and horizontal relationships; note the following Scriptures:

  • Vertical love

Mark 12:28-30 And one of the scribes came up and . . . asked him [Jesus], “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” ESV

  • Horizontal: easy-to-love people

John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. ” (Jesus to his disciples) ESV

It’s fairly easy to love those who love us. But Jesus goes on to give us a greater challenge, because not everyone is easy to love. There are people who are mean, nasty, argumentative, hardened, bad-tempered and just plain weird. People who hurt us, betray us, criticize us, misjudge us, speak ill of us to others, dislike us without a cause. There are also those who seek to belittle Christians, because they do not know or love Christ; these are people who lack Spirit-life. Does God expect us to love them?

  • Horizontal: hard-to-love people

 Luke 6:32-35 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” ESV

Which is the hardest to do: to love God, or to love others? I believe that if we get the vertical right, the horizontal is a whole lot easier.

So, how do we know we love God? How do we measure our love for God? Our love can be measured by the way we live:

Joshua  22:5  “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep His commandments and to cling to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.  ESV

Jesus reaffirms the idea that loving God results in obeying God:

John 14:23 “Jesus answered, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. The one who doesn’t love Me will not keep My words.’ ”  NIV

So, love for God is demonstrated in obedience; the command God gave is to love; hence, to love is to obey- and to obey is to love. It all boils down to “love”. Refusing to love others is not only disobedience; it’s a violation of your love for God.

The emphasis should not be on “obey”, but on love. We don’t need to learn to obey – we know how to obey, even when we choose not to do it. Obedience or disobedience is not the real issue – love is the real issue.

Both the incentive and the power to obey God, come out of a love relationship with God:

1 John 4:7-8 “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.   NRSV

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death.   NRSV

Love is not a feeling we get for God or for people – it’s a choice that results in actions: we love God, so we obey Him – obeying Him results in loving others, even to the point of personal discomfort at times.

Over the years we have opened our home (apartment, house, etc.) for various people to live with us for extended periods of time – students, teens, drug-addict trying to get free, homeless adults, etc. It was not always easy or convenient. But it was our chance to demonstrate God’s love to others and our love for God.

It’s hard for people who have not felt loved to be able to love God or others. That’s why God had to initiate the love cycle. We first have to let God’s love in, by acknowledging our need of that love, our sadness that Jesus had to die for our sins, our acceptance of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

1 John 4:9 This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

As God’s love flows into us, we become a conduit for that love to flow back out toward others. He is the source of the very love He is asking us to show to others.

1 John 4:19 19  We love because He first loved us.

When we enter into and nurture a love relationship with God, obedience to the command to love others will not be such a struggle, it will be the natural overflow of loving God.

If you are having a hard time loving people, check your love-relationship with your heavenly Father. Surrender you inability to Him and ask Him to fill you with His love for you and for others.

How’s your love life? How good are you at loving God?

©2012, Marcy Alves

%d bloggers like this: