Not In Kansas Anymore

Characters from the film “The Wizard of Oz.” Photo by Richard Hitt.

Have you ever brought preconceived notions to a new situation, but then realized they simply don’t apply anymore?

I did something of the sort when visiting Southern California as a teen.

Growing up in Central Canada, I was used to street numbers being put on the actual houses themselves, at eye-level. But when I stayed in San Diego for a time, I noticed that the street numbers were instead spray-painted on the vertical parts of the curb at the foot of people’s driveways, just a few inches above the pavement.

That made no sense, I thought to myself. In winter, those numbers on the curb will be covered under several feet of snow, and no one will be able to read them. How silly!

I soon realized that my line of thinking was faulty: it doesn’t snow in San Diego. The numbers on the curb will always be readable. What was true for Toronto had no bearing on what was true for San Diego.

I needed to realize that I was “not in Kansas anymore,” as Dorothy said in the film, “The Wizard of Oz.”

I think we sometimes make the same mistake when we think about the Kingdom of God.

We superimpose our past experiences and assumptions on it, but we don’t realize that with the Kingdom of God we’re in a whole new world. The old rules don’t apply anymore.

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Precedented Times Are Coming

Aren’t you a bit tired of living in “unprecedented times”?

You’re not alone. I saw a slogan on a T-shirt the other day which read, “I miss precedented times.”

We’re all longing to go back to our normal, predictable lives, the way they used to be.

But even when we’re able to return to a semblance of our pre-pandemic existence, we still aren’t guaranteed a life without injustices, sorrows and unwelcome surprises.

Jesus told us that “in this world, you will have trouble.” And ain’t that the truth!

Even so, we can have hope that with God, we can still live in “precedented times.” How so?

When you read the Bible, you find there are precedents to receiving healing, restoration, wholeness and joy, no matter how dire the circumstances may seem.

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Marinate Yourself in God’s Word

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

When you marinate food before cooking it, more is going on than meets the eye (or the taste buds).

You’re doing more than simply soaking the food in a seasoned liquid to add extra flavour to it.

You’re actually changing its structure and making it yield.

Marinating tenderizes meat, breaking down tough connective tissues to make it more palatable. It also helps meat retain moisture, ensuring that the cooked meat will be juicy and not dry.

Marinades usually have a sharp, acidic ingredient, like wine, vinegar or lemon juice, or an enzymatic one, like yogurt of papaya. Herbs, spices and oils are added as well.

Whether you use a red-wine-based marinade for beef dishes, or a tangy yogurt-lemon one for chicken, your meat is guaranteed to turn out tender and better-tasting.

Likewise, when we meditate on God’s Word, or “marinate” in it, we’re doing more than simply adding Biblical quotations to our knowledge base.

As we absorb and internalize Scripture, it changes us and leaves us better off than before.

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The Dark Side of the Moon

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Is the “dark side” of the moon truly as dark as we think it is?

From Earth, we only see one side of our companion satellite. The moon is “tidally locked” with our planet, with the result that it always presents the same face to us.

Because we can’t see the side of the moon facing away from the Earth, we sometimes assume that it’s in perpetual darkness.

But this isn’t so. The “dark side” of the moon (which should more accurately be called the “far side”) gets just as much sunlight as the face we see. All sides of the moon receive the sun’s light equally in turn.

From the sun’s perspective, the moon doesn’t have a dark side at all.

It’s our perspective that throws us off and leads us to the wrong conclusion.

We can easily fall prey to misconceptions about our own lives, too. When we don’t have the right perspective, we can assume that things are darker than they really are.

Naomi in the Old Testament Book of Ruth certainly made this mistake.

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The Centre of God’s Will

Photo by Phil Gold on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Before the advent of rear cameras in vehicles, some drivers had trouble knowing if they were properly backed into a parking space.

(Come to think of it, some drivers still have trouble with this, despite having rear cameras!)

Some people may need several attempts to get centred in the spot. They may have to open their car doors and peek down to see how far they are from the lane markers.

They just don’t have a sense of whether they’re in the centre or not.

I think all of us can relate to this. Perhaps not as drivers, but certainly in life, because we often don’t know if we’re in the centre of God’s will or not.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

We can’t always determine whether we’re in God’s will by merely looking at our circumstances. We might be going through some terribly difficult life events, and think, “This can’t be God’s will for me. It looks all wrong.”

And yet we might actually be smack dab in the centre of God’s will for our lives at that time.

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Date Night With God

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

If you’re married, do you have a “date night” with your spouse?

Some people set aside time each week when they get together with their spouse, just the two of them, and do something special.

Life is so busy these days that we sometimes have to actually schedule time to spend with our spouse. We have to juggle work, raising children, community involvements, caring for aging parents, hobbies, and so on.

There are so many demands on our time that we often have difficulty making sure we’re giving enough attention to the person most important to us.

And besides, we know that our spouse is aware of our love for them. So we let things slide and don’t make the relationship a priority.

In this way, however, the bond between you starts to suffer. Without regular conversations and one-on-one time, a distance can start to grow in the relationship.

It’s the same with our relationship with God: we’re so busy with family and work commitments that we sometimes fail to fit Him in to our schedules.

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Leave Satan Speechless

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Have you ever been at a complete loss for words?

Like if your little boy comes in the house, covered in purple paint, and proudly announces, “Guess what, Dad! I’ve painted your car!”

Or when your daughter announces that she’s dropping out of med school to become an itinerant street juggler?

Maybe you’ve been left speechless after you’ve searched the house for the vintage fishing tackle box in which you hid thousands of dollars, and your spouse says, “That old thing? I donated it to the thrift shop months ago.”

How would you like to leave Satan speechless?

Jesus showed us that it’s possible, as long as you have the key.

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What Can’t You Live Without?

You’ve heard it said that “man shall not live on bread alone.”

That’s absolutely correct. He also needs tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni.

As in pizza.

I’m pretty sure that I could live on pizza alone, and I’m willing to give it a try. Is there someone out there who wouldn’t mind providing me with a daily supply of freshly baked pizza?

(I’m just kidding, of course. Sort of.)

Joking aside, we’re missing something crucial here, and that’s the rest of the verse I quoted above:

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Jesus in Matthew 4:4, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3)

Jesus seems to be telling us that the revealed word of God is every bit as important as the food we nourish our bodies with.

But do we really treat the word of God as being as essential to us as the food we eat each day?

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A Series of Fortunate Events

Image by Susann Mielke from Pixabay

Sometimes it takes a bit of time before we can tell if an event will turn out to be good or bad for us.

Take the famous Chinese proverb about Sai Weng losing his horse. The story goes like this:

Sai Weng, a old farmer, raised horses for a living. One day, his prized stallion ran away. His neighbours comforted him in his misfortune by saying, “What terrible luck!”

Sai Weng merely replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Later, the stallion returned, bringing with it several wild mares. The farmer’s neighbours congratulated him on his good fortune: “What wonderful luck!”

Again, Sai Weng only said, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

One day, Sai Weng’s son tried to ride one of the new mares, but was thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbours again commiserated with the farmer, saying, “What bad luck!”

Sai Weng once again replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Later, soldiers from the national army came through town, conscripting all able-bodied men for service in the war. The farmer’s son was spared, however, because he was still recovering from his broken leg. The neighbours said, “What great luck!”

Sai Weng simply said with a smile, “We’ll see.”

We often can’t judge whether an event in an of itself is fortunate or unfortunate. Sometimes only time will tell the whole story.

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Believe Six Impossible Things!

Alice In Wonderland Mad Hatter Tea Party. Image from Pixy.org CC BY-NC-ND-4.0

With 2020 behind us, it’s time to believe that good things are in store for us in 2021.

Are you having trouble believing that? Has your faith been a bit battered by the events of the past year? Do you find it difficult to believe that God has something good lined up for your future?

You’re not the only one to think certain things are simply impossible.

Have you read the book, “Alice in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll? At one point in the story, Alice is challenged by the White Queen to believe impossible things.

When the Queen says that she’s a hundred and one years old, Alice is incredulous.

“I can’t believe that,” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the Queen said, in a pitying tone. “Try again; draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed.

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Even though this story is fictional, I think we as believers in God can learn a lesson from it. Sometimes God wants us to believe things that the world might consider to be “impossible.”

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