The Valleys Of Life

As I write this blog it is July 2nd. I started this yesterday, July 1st, on Canada Day. A day when we celebrate Canada and all that is good, and we should celebrate. Hoist the Maple Leaf, wave our flag. When I see the maple leaf on our flag, it reminds me of Uganda. Let me look back. In 2007 a team went from Coastal Church to Uganda to build a home for orphans. I was on that team. One of our team members took a large maple leaf flag, the Canadian flag. When we had finished our mission, we left the flag for that house. We returned the next year to build another house. When we arrived, we planned to visit our first house and meet the people on that settlement. When we got there, the house was painted, landscaped, and filled with precious things. The eight orphans and their house mother, who lived there, were there to meet us. So were many other orphans and people of that settlement. There was a big crowd to greet us. I will never forget walking inside and there on a wall was the large Canadian Flag. I remember their enthusiasm to show us the flag. These orphans, many did not know their parents or even their own name. Some had been left in paper bags at the dump or on church steps. These orphans knew the Canadian flag, and Canada was a good land. Canadians are good people who come and build houses. They did not, as yet, use the phrases we use but they would learn: Canada “true north strong and free,” Canada, a land that is good, welcomes people, diverse, does not discriminate, land of opportunity. They would one day want to come here, and some have come.

This weekend Pastor Dave has taught us on “The Valleys of Life.” A lesson that is so fitting with our times, and a lesson so needed for all times. The valley Pastor Dave began with was from Psalm 23. A valley with a big shadow. But remember he said it is only a shadow, there is light there also, but the shadows trouble us.

Not all valleys are like this. Some valleys are a pleasure to drive through. Scenic and beautiful. On your map, you will see the words: “area of outstanding natural beauty.” Let me look back again, I remember one such valley, in fact I will never forget. I was with my younger brother Glyn. We had a huge container truck; we had delivered in Belfast and we crossed over by ferry to the UK. We were heading to Galashiels, a textile town just over the border into Scotland to pick up a full load of Scottish wool to take to Germany. As we drove, following the border, we knew it was going to be difficult to arrive in Galashiels before they closed the mill that day. So, Glyn said there is a short cut up through a valley, let us try that. We crossed the border, drove off the highway through a little village crossed over a little stone arch bridge. I do not know how we fitted over that. Glyn said “I would never drive over a bridge like that if I had a load on this truck. Then I saw it… a sign saying, “scenic route to Edinburgh,” So it began. Narrow road, many tight curves, fortunately not much traffic. I looked at Glyn as he turned that big steering wheel, to the right then to the left around tight corners, and he looked at me and said, “I am enjoying this.” I was a little tenser. But it was beautiful, sheep on the side of the mountains, little lakes below, driving past small farms with pastureland, meadows, and forests. When we got to Galashiels the men could not believe we came up through that pass with this truck. But it was beautiful and a pleasure to drive, but please use an SUV.

The valleys Pastor Dave is teaching us in not one of these. There are valleys with shadows. We are coming out of a shadow now with covid 19. This pandemic has left many other shadows with us. The Canadian flag is flying at half-mast this week, because of another huge shadow over us with the Residential Schools and the sorrow they caused our First nation people. The orphans of Uganda began life under a huge shadow. Remember what Pastor Dave said, in all the valleys of life with huge shadows, there is one constant: the unchanging, immovable, solid rock, The living God. Remember our National Anthem, and we should not forget: “God keep our land, glorious and free.” Psalm 33:12: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

I began by saying the orphans of Uganda said Canada is good, but what makes us good? How do we know we are good? Psalm 16:2 says “my goodness is nothing apart from You.” Leave out the word good and now fill in the blank… my life, my hope, my career, my family, my future is nothing apart from You. Paul asks in I Cor. 4:7 “what do you have which you did not receive?” Isaiah the prophet: 51:1 “listen to me you who follow after righteousness. You who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to hole of the pit from which you were dug” Isaiah 55:6: “seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon while He is near.” Is Isaiah saying there will be a time when God will not be found, a time when He is not near? He began the chapter with a great invitation: “To everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money. Come buy and eat. Yes, come and buy wine and milk, without money there is no price.” What are we doing with God’s invitations? With the revelation He has given of Himself? Do we know Him? Maybe we do not know Him well enough. His revelation should help us, or does it? In this same chapter God says: v8 “My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways My ways says the Lord.” Numbers 23:19. God is not a man that He should lie. Psalm 50:21: “You thought I was such a one as you.” He knows what we are thinking.

The living God is not like us, that is all the more reason to seek Him. Tozer said: “what we think when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What are we thinking? Isaiah 66:2: “But on this one will I look: On him who is of a poor and contrite spirit, and who trembles at My Word.” He is speaking of reverence. That is something I need to know. Listen to Pastor Dave’s message again. So many good lessons when we are in a valley with a shadow.

There is one sure way of getting out of the shadows. King David had many concerns, but one real good one was Psalm 122:1: “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” David made instruments for music and worship. He knew the power of congregational worship and he wanted to be there. Psalm 100 ought to be read again. v2: “come into his presence with singing,” v4: “enter into his Gates with thanksgiving, into His courts with praise.”

Wow look around, see what is happening, things are opening up, we can go back to church, to congregational singing. To hearing the word preached, to being in fellowship again with one another. This is the Biblical invitation. The biblical model… To quote David again, a man who really knew his God: Psalm 26:8 “Lord I have loved the habitation of Your house. And the place where your glory dwells.” In the valleys of life, there is good and bad. When in the shadows there remains One Who is constant, one full of compassion, full of mercy, one who does not change. We need to know Him, He is our first love. Listen to the message, it will encourage and strengthen you. Hope to see you in church!