A DIFFICULT QUESTION FOR DIFFICULT TIMES!

Recently, I was asked a question.  The blog reader had read the blog The Mighty Rushing Wind, part 1, and asked this question:  “Are tornados that tear down houses a breath from God?”

I have struggled with this question, even though I know the theological answer.  It is a difficult answer to give to one who is hurting, who has had everything blown away, who has nothing to fall back onto.

So, I turned to Dr. R. C. Sproul and his teaching series “The Hard Sayings Of Jesus”.

When tragedy strikes, people are frequently stunned into asking important questions that they have not thought about for a long time. We have seen this in recent years, especially related to terrorism. Who could forget the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 that destroyed buildings and killed thousands of people? We also have seen horrible natural tragedies, such as the Great East Japan earthquake of 2011 that created a tidal wave and ended up killing nearly 16,000 people. People see tragedies such as these and ask questions such as: “Where was God in this?” or “Did these people do something to deserve such a tragedy?”

Men and women asked the same questions in the first century as we see in today’s passage. 

“Those eighteen whom the tower in Siloam fell and kill them:  do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” 

Luke 13:4-5

Jesus makes reference to two horrible things that happened in His era.  On one occasion, Pilate attacked some worshippers and mixed their blood with the animal sacrifices they were offering.  See Luke 13:1.  This was an act of deliberate evil on Pilate’s part.  The other event Jesus mentioned is non deliberate: the tower in Siloam fell on eighteen people, crushing them.  See Luke 13:4.  In both cases, Jesus knew the temptation for people was to ask what the victims did that was so bad to deserve such tragic ends.  He knew the people would assume that they were somehow better than those who were dead.

Jesus used the opportunity to show the people that they were asking the wrong questions.  Yes, there is a broad connection between all sin and suffering in that there is pain in this world only because Adam fell.  But the Scriptures are quite clear that while suffering and sickness may sometimes be due to a person’s sin, that is by no means always the case.  See John 9:1-3.  The real question is why such suffering does not happen more often, since we are all sinners and deserve nothing but judgment.  See Romans 1:18-3:20.  All suffering is an occasion to examine one’s heart.

The real question is not: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Rather, the key issue is “Why do good things happen to bad people?”  Even the best of us has sinned against our infinitely holy God, so we deserve nothing more than divine wrath.  The Lord is gracious beyond measure to us, and we should use that grace as an opportunity to look for sin in our hearts and repent.

Father, forgive me when I have sinned against You; when I have refused to do that which You require; when I have taken matters into my own hands and failed to let You act your own time.  Father forgive I pray through Your beloved Son, Jesus, and it is in His name that I pray.

Fear Not!

If you have done a study of these two words in Scripture, you will have found that they are mentioned a multitude of times.  Indeed, according to Blue Letter Bible, these words appear 327 times in 138 verses. 

In Luke chapter 2, the angelic choir, announcing the birth of Baby Jesus, told the shepherds to “fear not”. 

Angels over the choir seats in Bath Cathedral, England.

Jesus speaking to the disciples said that they were of more value than a sparrow and that they should “fear not”.  Matthew 10:31.

These words are also found in the Old Testament.

Isaiah 41 reads as follows:

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend;  you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;  fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:8-10

What would you do if you knew that God would strengthen you; that He would uphold you; that you should “fear not” because God is with you?

Would you undertake that project that has been nagging you for years?  Would you reach out to your neighbors even though they are not as “loving” as you are?  Would you talk to your friend and forgive him/her for hurting your feelings long ago?  Would you forgive your relative for that hurtful slander that they had issued? 

You see, if God is for us, we do not need to fear.  He is with us.  He will help us do that which we find difficult because He is upholding us with His right hand. 

What if we are in fear for our safety, or for the status of our health? 

And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

Numbers 11:23

Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;

Isaiah 59:1

Beloved, we don’t worship idols who are made of wood and stone.  We worship the living God who sits in heaven and knows us intimately.  The Lord’s hand is not shortened so that He cannot save us, nor is His ear dull so that He does not hear our plea.     Our God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, He can surely come to our aid if that is His purpose for us. 

The words “Fear not” are just as relevant to us today as they were in the Old Testament days or when Mary birthed Jesus.  Fear not because God has us in His hands.

Father, forgive me when I forget that You are the omniscient, all-powerful God, not a god of silver or gold but the everlasting, eternal God who orders the lives of His children.  Thank you for Your presence with us, even when we are frightened.  Help us to depend upon You and ease our frightened visage so we can tell others of Your strength and aid to us at all times.

What do you see?

It has become crystal clear that I need some new glasses!  (I use the “crystal clear” language advisedly!)  In short, I cannot see as well as I should.  I have gone to the eye doctor and am waiting for the new glasses, but in the meantime, I am struggling to see things clearly.

For example, the other day I thought I saw a hummingbird at the feeder.  I shrieked in delight when Bill said “Honey, it’s a bee.”  I wanted to see a hummingbird when, in reality, I saw a bee.

We enjoy playing rummy while we talk.  When we are playing, I have to have the “jumbo index” which means larger numbers and suit markers in order to see what is on the table.  Otherwise, I think I know what is on the table, but often it is not what I thought!

The long and short of it is that we often see what we want to see, rather than what is in front of us.  This is not a unique problem to 21st century folks.   It took place in the Bible too.

In fact, the priest Samuel had this problem.  He was told to go to Jesse’s house and select the next king of Israel, because Saul had lost favor of the Lord due to his transgressions.  Jesse brought his sons before Samuel and this is what transpired:

When they came, he (Samuel) looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.”  But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:6-7

As a result of this instruction, Samuel looked at each of Jesse’s sons and found none that the Lord accepted.  He asked Jesse if this was all of his sons and Jesse replied that there was still the youngest who was with the sheep.  Samuel asked for him to come to the tent and when he did, Samuel was confronted by David.

This is what the Lord said:

And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.”

1 Samuel 16:12

So, who do you see?  Do you surround yourself with those like you so you see no one who is in need, who is disabled, who is one of the least of these?

Years ago, we were eating dinner when my young children said that there was a handicapped child at school and the other children (including them I expect) were laughing at him.  My children knew that I had spinal surgery when I was 9 years old which resulted in my returning to middle school in a body cast. They didn’t know the cruel taunts that I endured when I returned to school.  When they were telling me about this child, I became filled with wrath, and they both received a lecture (sometimes fairly loud and caustic) about caring for others.  I concluded with something like “if you don’t help this child, you will be sorely disciplined because when you look at this child, you are seeing your mother!”

I am glad to say that both the children have taught their children the importance of doing good to others, especially to those who are disabled. I guess my lecture took hold, praise the Lord.

The children’s disregard for those less fortunate is nothing new.  We read about the same thing in the Bible.

In our Old Testament reading we have been looking books of the Bible and reading of the Lord’s anger at people’s disregard for those who are poor and helpless.  Hear this from Psalms:

They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless;  and they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.” Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise?  He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke?

Psalms 94:6-10

Turn and look at those who are in need.  Don’t ignore them or cast them away because they are not like you.  The Lord cares for the widow, He cares for her children, He cares for the disabled, He cares for the downtrodden. 

So should we, the children of God.  Jesus healed and taught; He brought sight to the blind and strength to weakened bones; He brought hope and love to those around Him.  We, as His brothers and sisters, should do likewise.

Father, forgive us when we have failed to meet the needs of those around us.  Forgive us when we have turned a deaf ear to those who are desperate for friendship and hope.  Father, forgive us when we have been so consumed by our own misfortunes that we have failed to do all we can to attend to those who have their own misfortune.  Father, hear us as we pray for more compassion and caring for those in need.

DO YOU WANT GOD TO LOOK AT YOU?

I dare say that the majority of folks don’t want God to look at them.  We are too messy.  We have made too many mistakes.  We have become too sinful to be seen by a holy God. 

The reality is, however, that God does see us.  He sees us each and every day, every moment actually.  God is omnipresent and omniscient.  He is everywhere and He knows everything.  So, He sees us more than we can imagine!

We look at His creation and it reveals His Glory.

The tiny hummingbird that can reach speeds of 60 mph!

We see stunning scenery and we know it is God’s creative hand on display!

We look at the beauty of created creatures and consider why such a caring God would craft creatures with such beauty.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah had numerous insights into the plight of mankind.  Often, Isaiah would relay messages to the people from the Lord, whether or not the people wanted to hear or learn from those messages.

In the book of Isaiah, we read the following:

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?  All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

Isaiah 66:1-2

Our earth is really nothing more than a footstool for God.  Heaven is where He is enthroned.  In this passage God is saying that He has made all things.  God is reminding us that we are not the creative geniuses that we think we are.  He is the creator, we are the creatures.

But far more than that, in this passage we read what is important to God.  Remember, this is God speaking:

“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

Matthew Henry says this about Isaiah 66:2:

God has a heaven and earth of his own making, and a temple of man’s making; but he overlooks them all, that he may look with favour to him that is poor in spirit, humble and serious, self-abasing and self-denying, whose heart is truly contrite for sin, penitent for it, and in pain to get it pardoned, and who trembles at God’s word, with an habitual awe of God’s majesty and purity and an habitual dread of his justice and wrath. Such a heart is a living temple for God; he dwells there, and it is the place of his rest; it is like heaven and earth, his throne and his footstool.

We don’t need to fear God if we are washed in the blood of Christ Jesus and if we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness.  If we are humble and serious, self-abasing and self-denying, contrite over our sin and penitent for it, and desiring to get it pardoned, God will hear our cry and grant our request.

So, are you humble?  Are you contrite in heart?  Do you have an awe of God’s majesty and purity and a dread of His justice and wrath?  If so, God calls you to rest in Him. forever!

Father, help me to cast away all the things that weigh me down and so I can look only to You.  Help me to cast aside the material things of this world so I may partake of the spiritual things that You desire to provide to me.

Finding contentment!

Long ago, Aesop created a fable regarding a dog seeing its reflection as he crossed a stream.  Basically, the story line is that the dog is carrying a stolen bone [although other variations say it was a piece of meat or cheese] as he crosses a stream.  He sees his reflection in the water and believes that it is another dog.  Not only that, but he sees that the other dog has a bone [or some meat or cheese, as the case may be] and he believes it to be bigger and better than that which he has in his mouth.  Thus, he opens his mouth to bark at the other dog and get that trophy and, in so doing, the bone in his own mouth falls into the stream and is lost, both to the dog and to his reflection!

I have known this fable for many years and have seen it, recently, enacted in our own family room.  We have two miniature pinchers rescue dogs, and they have provided us with hours of humor and entertainment.  Almost without exception, when one is playing with a toy or chewing on a bone, it matters not that there are 3 other toys/bones on the floor; the second Mini Pin is jealous and wants the one that the first dog is chewing.  In short, the only toy that is worthwhile is the one that is being used at the moment. 

The second Mini Pin ultimately will begin, half-heartedly, chewing on a different bone or toy when the first dog will stop with what she has and go stare longingly at the second dog and what she has.  When this happens, often the second dog will “give up” what she is doing and hasten to the toy/bone that was abandoned.

How like children to fight over the blue ball in the toy box when there is a red one right next to it!  How like teen boys to fight and maneuver their way into dating the cheerleader when there are other delightful young ladies who never get a glance!  How like adults who want the next electronic toy when they haven’t really figured out how to use the one they already have!

While the dogs don’t have words to say and they would not necessarily understand the concept, what they are doing is being discontented with their lot.  We laugh when we see the Mini Pins in our home doing this, and we often laugh when we see babies or children doing this.

Scripture is filled with admonitions that we should be content with our position.  That is certainly not to say that we should not seek to make our lives better or to do more for others for whom life is more difficult.  But, we should be content with the things that God has granted to us. 

Indeed, our Lord told His disciples to be content. We read this in Luke:

Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

Luke 3:4

In Philippians, the Apostle Paul said the following:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Philippians 4:11

The writer of Hebrews continues in this vein when he writes that the Hebrews should be content with what they have.

Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said: “I will never leave you nor forsake

Hebrews 13:5

Our canine daughters played a good bit more years ago, now they are more relaxed and enjoy the comfort of their bed, even with both of them curled up together.

The are content. … unless we are too late in giving them their treats, Then, all bets are off!

However, I believe that we, as children of our Heavenly Father, can, and should, exercise more discipline so that we are content, even if our treat is late in coming.. God has told us that His ways are not our ways. Indeed, He has said through the prophet Isaiah: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

We must remember that we are the creation. Albeit we are the paramount of God’s creation, we are still, nonetheless, created beings. We are not infinite, we are not all knowing, we are not all powerful, in short, we have none of the attributes that epitomize our God. For that reaon, we cannot be like God, knowing the future as the past, even knowing the present moment.

Praise the Lord tht He has faithful and true. That He is with us every step of the way, even when we are unaware of His presence. praise His name that He cares for us and that He will be with us even when the days are dark and fearful.. Be content, my friend. There is nothing more wonderful than being content with where the Lord has me because I know that it is the best place that I could ever be!

Father, forgive me when I have sown the seeds of discontent. Help me to remember that You want the best for me and that Your will is the best place for me to me. Keep me in Your will, Dear Lord, and when I veer to the side, pull me back so that I am once again in your hands..

Hummingbirds

As I mentioned last month, I am having some health issues that are making doing the blog on a consistent basis difficult.  As I also mentioned, I am enjoying watching the wildlife in our backyard, especially the hummingbirds.

It occurred to me that they are a microcosm of Christian behavior, at least in one respect – their approach to and consumption of the sweet nectar in the feeder. 

Some of the birds swoop in, have a peek, and they fly off.

.Others approach the feeder cautiously, and dip their bill into the flower to get the sugar water they so dearly love, never stopping to sit on the perch.

Then there are those who sit on the perch and drink from the flower getting some more of the wonderful nectar in the feeder. But, they don’t hand around!

Others, will sit on the perch, take a drink,, look around, and then dip their bill back into the feeder to get more of the nectar that they dearly love. One drink simply is not enough for them.

As I watched the hummingbirds, I thought about how I go about receiving God’s Word. 

Do I hover around the Word, never getting into it or receiving it from His hands?

Do I get a taste of it from the sermon on Sunday morning but then never follow up on it or think about it until the next Sunday?

Do I read the Bible sometimes during the week, getting something from it but not meditating on it or really understanding what I am reading?

Or, do I sit on the porch (or perch), reading the Word each day and meditating on what it says?  Do I think about it and talk about it with other Christians?  Do I then go back to the Word for more because I can’t get enough of God and His promises, His covenants, His blessing, His instruction?

What about you?

Perhaps we can learn from our tiny friends that drinking deeply the sweet nectar from the Spirit is the best way to learn God’s Word.

Lord, forgive me when I have given Your Word a passing glance, the minimal attention or the momentary response when hearing a sermon.  May I meditate on Your Word daily, not just because You tell me to but because I long to be close to You, because You are my God!

IF MY PEOPLE PRAYED!

What would it be like if the Christians in this world took action … not military action but action that seeks the Lord?  What would it be like if we each did that in our homes?  If we honored the Lord in all that we did, day to day, every day?

In Scripture we read this:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

This is one of the “if … then” promises in Scripture.  If we will do this, then God will do that.  In this case, if we will humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face and then turn from our wicked ways, then God will hear, and forgive our sin and heal our land.

What wondrous love is this that God promises to forgive us for turning our backs away from Him.  Note that this is a promise, based on our actions. 

Oh Lord, our land needs you so very much.  May all those who call on your name be faithful and take your Word seriously.  May we humble ourselves and pray for our land, turning from our wicked ways and turning, instead, to You and Your Word.

The prophet Jeremiah received a message from God in which God said:

I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

Jeremiah 24:7

What a blessing it would be if we would have a heart that knows God, that we would be thrilled to be called the people of God, and that we would turn to Him with our whole heart.  This will happen, oh that it would happen to us, now, as we seek to heal our land.

Blessings on you today as you walk with the Lord, our Savior.

Lord, forgive me when I have sinned.  Forgive me when I have ignored your Word and have ignored the needs of my neighbor.  Enable me to walk with you, Lord Jesus.  Help me to honor your Word and may I be humble and seek your  help me to seek your face as I pray for my country.

I will be off line for awhile.

I am sending this post as an apology for the infrequency of my posts recently.

For the past 6 months I have been having health difficulties that have intensified recently. I hate to say this, but I do not believe that I can publish anything regularly at this point.. I hope to be able to post something once a month, but even that may be a stretch.

I pray that The Ruminant Scribe has been of comfort, encouragement and maybe even challenging for you. I will return to posting as soon as I can and I covet your prayers as I struggle with these health issues. For now, though, I will watch the hummingbirds and revel in God’s glory.

Blessings to each of you, my dear readers.

Linda

BRIDGES

Bridges have always been a source of facination for me.  I love to drive across them and I love to look at them.  Some are known world wide, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Other bridges are not quite so well known.  Take for example some of these bridges that are beautiful and which take their job seriously.  This bridge is along the coastline of Oregon. 

This bridge is the Perrine Bridge in Jerome, Idaho, and it is beautiful as it spans the canyon created millenia ago.

This is just one of the bridges over the Mississippi River.      

Then there are the much smaller bridges that you come upon in the woods when you are walking the trail.   Here are a couple of samples that you might find on the next trail you walk.

This is a swinging bridge in Manitoba, Canada.  I don’t know if I would go down that bridge … I might find a boat to carry me to the other side of the stream.

Then we have the wooden plank bridge that goes between the two sides of the cavern below.

Wooden bridge across creek in the Smokey Mountains

And last, but certainly not least, we have the bridge over the Royal Gorge in Colorado. 

Bridge over the Royal Gorge, Colorado

All these bridges have something in common.  Not their construction materials or their location, not their popularity or their scare factor when looking down.  No, all these bridges have this common factor – they enable people to move from one side of the canyon/river/stream/whatever the hindrance may be, to the other side.

That is precisely what a bridge does.  We use the bridge to get where we could not otherwise go. That is its job.  That is its purpose. 

We have need of a bridge in our personal, spiritual life too.  In the Bible, Isaiah says this about our condition before God:

Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;  but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Isaiah 59:1-2

IAdam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, and that set the tone for the rest of us.  We are all sinners and we cannot come to God on our own because God will not look at us in our sinful state.  This is what Isaiah said … our sins have hidden God’s face from us so that He will not hear us.   We are separated from God by our sin.  

Indeed, the Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards made this observation: “The smallest sin is an act of Cosmic Treason against a Holy God.”   Edwards also said: “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” 

How do we span the chasm that exists between us and God?  God did not forget our helpless estate.  Indeed, Jonathan Edwards noted: “The door of God’s mercy is thrown wide open, and Christ stands in the door and says to sinners ‘Come.’” 

On our own, we cannot span that chasm.  Rather, Jesus Christ is the intercessor between us and God; He spanned the chasm when He was on the cross, dying for our sin.  He led the perfect life that we cannot live, and He died the horrific death that we deserve.  He is the One who made it possible for us to cross the gulf between us and God.

Beloved, bridges are fun to drive across and to look at, to marvel at how they are constructed and to be thankful that they transport us to the other side of the river/stream/whatever.  But, the most important bridge that you can fathom is the intercessory work of Jesus Christ on your behalf. 

Trust Him.  Look to Him in all circumstances.  Praise His holy Name.  Thank Him for your salvation and for the gift of eternal life. 

Lord Jesus, we praise Your Name for the blessings that You so grant to us.  The freedom from sin, forgiveness when we do err, the gift of eternal life, the gift of the Holy Spirit Who guides and leads us moment by moment each day, and so many more blessings that are beyond counting.  We thank You and we praise Your Name.