FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH

When we were in England, we had the opportunity to visit the city of Bath.  It was a fascinating day as we saw the Roman baths, the wall around the city, and the Abbey.

 

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Looking down a street in Bath, England

The town is quaint — who could resist this shop of Cornish delicacies!

Bath 5

The hot springs that existed there were known to people in the area for centuries prior to the Romans’ arrival.  According to the Victorian churchman Edward Churton, Bath was known as “Akemanchester” (translated “aching men’s cry”) during the Anglo-Saxon period, this name referencing the reputation the baths had for healing the sick.  

However, the city of Bath became a world-renowned spa in 60 A.D. when the Romans built public baths and a temple. 

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Massive sculptures of Roman gods and soldiers line the colonnade around the baths, dwarfing the tourists visiting the area. 

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In the Pump Room, the restaurant that is attached to the baths facility, there is this fountain which provides hot drinking water for those who desire it.  The thermal springs that made Bath famous thousands of years ago are still providing warm rejuvenation for people in the modern era. 

Fountain of hot spring water at Bath England
Fountain of hot spring water from the thermal spring that has provided hot water for millenia.

Of course, one of the most imposing structures in the city of Bath is Bath Abbey, founded in the 7th century.   An incredibly ornate, beautiful building complete with leaded stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings.  

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Bath Abbey

We were mesmerized by the town, its history and its beauty.  But we are not the only people who loved the place!

Folliott Pierpoint [1835-1917], a classical scholar who lived a rather leisurely life, loved his hometown of Bath, England.  It is thought that the loveliness of the area inspired Pierpoint to write this hymn in 1864 when he was 29 years of age.  While he wrote other hymns and poetry, this is his most remembered and cherished hymn.

It was originally written as a Eucharistic hymn with the title “The Sacrifice of Praise”.  The repeated refrain was :

Christ, our God, to thee we raise
This, our sacrifice of praise.

Later, the refrain’s text was changed to read:

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

And, it is these words, rather than the original words, that we find in most hymnals today.  The hymn praises God for a host of beauties, indeed, they are things that we encounter in everyday living, but which we often fail to appreciate:  the beauty of the earth and skies, the beauty of each hour, the joy of ear and eye, and the joy of human love.  Moreover, it includes thanksgiving for the church and for our Christ. 

Listen to this hymn that began in Bath, England and marched around the world in celebration of the great gifts from our God and our Savior Jesus Christ.  

In lifting your heart and your voice in thanksgiving, you are acting in accordance with both the Old and New Testaments of Scripture.  Consider these passages from Psalms and 2 Corinthians:

” To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David. I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 9:1

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.

Psalm 30:4

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.”

Psalm 57:9

“Praise the LORD!  Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Psalm 106:1

All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!”

Psalm 145:10

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:11-2

This Thanksgiving holiday, stop and thank God for the multitude of blessings that He has bestowed on us each and every moment of every day. 

Then, make it a priority to give thanks to our God each day, not just on the secular day of Thanksgiving.  Make gratitude your “default position” … putting thanksgiving at the top of your list daily.  You will be edifying our God and you will be encouraging your own heart in so doing.  And, the Holy Spirit will be able to work in you in ways that will surprise and excite you.

Be thankful in all things.  Bless His Holy Name!

Father, may we see Your blessings and gifts to us every day.  Open our eyes so that we can recognize the gifts that you so bountifully grant to us moment by moment and then may we give thanks in humble gratitude and recognition that we cannot do anything on our own, it is all through Your grace and love that we even exist, let alone thrive.  Thank You Father.

THE SNEAKY WAY OF SIN

We all like to do things that we enjoy.  Just watch children playing together with their Playdoh.

Grandchildren at table playing (C)

 Or watch children playing in the sprinkler during the hot summer sun!

playing in sprinkler

When the children get a bit older, what could be more fun than a multi-generational game of backyard football.  No refs and no goalposts, but fun nonetheless!

USED family playing football (C)

None of these things are sinful, in and of themselves.  But sin has an insidious way of breaking into our daily routine even when what we are doing is innocuous.  Indeed, even good things can become sinful if it results in disobedience to that which we know God wants us to do.

The other evening, we had finished supper, cleaned up the dishes, and descended the stairs to the family room where we watched television.  We had been discussing, that very day, about how we needed to rethink our meals and eating habits because we need to lose weight for any number of health-related reasons. 

Following our normal course, at 9:00 we had ice cream bars, low calorie bars so in our minds they are ok to have, especially since we had no dessert for dinner. So far, so good.

But then the program we were watching focused on a family in various humorous, although troubling, life situations.  At the end of their day, the teenaged children came into the kitchen and found the Dad sitting at the table, looking haggard.  He had something in front of him that was not really identifiable for the audience.

The television Dad looked up at the children and said: “want some cheese toast?”

At that the program ended, and at the same moment, my husband and I looked at each other and simultaneously said “Cheese Toast!” 

Within moments we had retrieved the toaster oven from over the freezer and were siding bread onto the rack while the cheese was being unwrapped and made ready for melting.

Cheese toast is certainly not sinful.  But, what struck me most was how quickly our dedication to the proposition that we should lose weight fell by the boards when we heard the words “cheese toast” even though it was 11:15 p.m. 

Not a word was uttered in support of dietary restraint.  We bounded up the stairs as quickly as we could, toting the toaster oven to the kitchen and grabbing the bread and cheese almost in one smooth, coordinated, motion. 

When sin beckons me, do I really run toward it like we ran to cheese toast?  What if Satan puts something else in front of me so as to tempt me to leave the Lord that I love … will I run to it as fast as I did to cheese toast?

Our culture has done a great job of inoculating us from the actions of Satan.  We think of him as a guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork, certainly nothing that we would be inclined to follow!  But that is not how Scripture talks of him.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

I have not been in the wilds of Africa to see a lion up close and personal however I  did see a lion in the zoo!  But, when the lion prowls around, I believe that it sneaks up on its prey, saving the roaring for after the kill.

In speaking of the false teachers who were misleading the Corinthian church, Paul says this about Satan:

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”

2 Corinthians 11:13-15

Of course, Satan’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the Church and all that Christ accomplished through His death on the cross.

“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you–I, Paul, again and again–but Satan hindered us.”

1 Thessalonians 2:17-18

The good news is that Satan is not the victor – He has been defeated by our Lord and Savior Who is more than capable of holding on to us as His people.  Indeed, James put it this way:

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

James 4:7

If we resist Satan, he will flee because he understands that the only way we have the power to resist him is through Christ, and our Savior’s power far exceeds that of Satan any day of the week.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen.

Jude 1:24-25

With that benediction I end this post.  Blessings to you, Brothers and Sisters in the Lord.  Take heart – cheese toast does not win the day.  We can meet the adversary and sin has no controlling hold on us anymore.  We are still sinners, yes.  But now, through the blood of Jesus Christ, we don’t have to yield to sin – we can resist it through the poser of our Lord and Savior.

Father, I praise Your Name for the gift of salvation through belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I praise Your Name that I am no longer a slave to sin and that through Christ’s power I can resist Satan and claim life with Christ for eternity.  Thank You Lord.

A COMPASSIONATE HEART

When your children were young, did they ever have an accident that resulted in a broken bone, or perhaps a burn or a sprain?  Often the injury is the result of some foolishness on the child’s part.  Perhaps the child is doing something that he/she knows they should not do, or perhaps he/she is taking a shortcut through an area that is dangerous, or perhaps he/she decides to try flying! 

But, the cause is not relevant to the pain in the parent’s heart!  When your child is injured, that hurt, while not physical, brings such pain to your heart that it is as if you had sustained the injury too.

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Child’s cast for his broken leg.

When dealing with the immediate aftermath of the injury, the focus is necessarily on getting help, treating the wound, stemming the tears and insuring no further harm is experienced.  And, while this is going on, compassion is enabling us to handle things that we never dreamed we could.

Compassion – sympathy, empathy, commiseration, feeling, pity, tenderness.  This is just one of the emotions we feel when someone we love is injured.  Compassion frequently expresses itself in an anguished cry on behalf of the one who is, or will be, experiencing pain.

Jesus is known for His compassion as is evidenced in the Gospels, for example, when He fed the 5,000 people who came to remote locations to hear Him teach. 

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

Mark 6:34 NIV

Jesus’ compassion expressed itself by an anguished cry in the book of Luke, when He was on His way to Jerusalem, the city in which He would stand trial and be crucified.  As He was on the road to the city, Jesus said:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Luke 13:34

The compassion of our God is evidenced throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testaments.  Consider Moses’ discourse to the Israelites as he recounted what happened during the wilderness years.  In Deuteronomy 5:27 Moses reminds the people of their promise to do all that God said, and then he tells them what God said to him in response to the people’s promise:

“’Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’ And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken.  Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!  Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.'”

Deuteronomy 5:27-31

God chose His people and loves them as a Father.  In verse 29, you can almost hear the anguish when God said, “Oh that they had such a heart as this always”.  God’s compassionate heart screamed the desire that His people would be loyal and devoted to His worship and that they would obey His commands.   He wanted it to “go well with them and with their descendants forever” and such would be the case if they were obedient, if they would make good on their promise of that day!  But He also knew that this would not happen!

Punishment is forgotten when the injury occurs.  Fix the injury, then consider  the punishment.  In Israel’s case, their punishment was wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and, later in their history, captivity and removal to Babylon, all because of disobedience.

How like the Old Testament folk we are.  We read Scripture and say that we will do what it says.  But, like our New Year’s Resolutions, slowly but surely, we forget about the words of Scripture as the things of everyday life push it out of our minds and schedules.  We want to do what God says, but we just can’t seem to pull it off.

It is for this reason that Jesus Christ was born, lived a perfect life of obedience to God’s commands, had no sin in Himself, but took our sin on Himself, that we might have life through belief in His Name.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” – John 20:30-31

When we commit our hearts to Jesus, when we fall at the cross and acknowledge Him as our Lord and Master, then we will receive forgiveness of our sin and the Spirit can infuse us with the nature that Jesus Christ had.  We will still sin, surely, because we are a sinful people.  But there is forgiveness and restoration through the cross of Christ upon our confession and repentance. 

Then we can express compassion that is not self-centered or self-aggrandizing.  Rather, our compassion will be a characteristic of our loving Father, of our Savior Jesus Christ, and from the Holy Spirit Who will give it to us as we seek to do the Father’s will in our world.

Blessings to you today as you serve our God and Savior.

Father, I pray that I would exhibit Your compassion to those that I meet.  May my heart break for the things that break Your heart, Lord Jesus, and may I express my compassion through the power of the Holy Spirit in words, thoughts and deeds that glorify Your Name.

THANKSGIVING IS A HIGH HONOR!

I am doing a good bit of embroidery since last Christmas when my beloved husband gave me an embroidery sewing machine.  Although I am certainly not an expert in using the machine and all its features, I am enjoying my new-found hobby immensely. 

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We joke that the machine is the “gift that keeps on taking”!

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Because of the continuing costs of fabric, embroidery floss, stabilizers, and, of course, embroidery patterns there is some basis for this assertion. 

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I was looking at new designs and found many with Thanksgiving as the theme, understandably so since, in the United States, we will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday on November 22.

There were innumerable designs, many with expressions such as:

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

“A Grateful Heart is a Thankful Heart”

“O Give Thanks Unto the Lord”

“There Is Always Something to be Thankful For”

“Grateful Hearts Gather Here”

While it seems that our celebration of Thanksgiving often is more focused on the meal including the turkey, dressing, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie, the real foundation for our Thanksgiving is not food, not even a great harvest: it is in our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the book of Leviticus, we read:

“”And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil.  With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread.”

Leviticus 7:11-13

Thanksgiving was a part of worship throughout the Old Testament.

“Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers.”

1 Chronicles 16:7

“And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving.”

Nehemiah 12:8.  These folks were specifically set apart to be in charge of the thanksgiving songs of the people in worship.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Psalm 50:23

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

Psalm 100:4

Thanksgiving continues to be extolled in the New Testament as well.

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:11

“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Ephesians 5:4

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Philippians 4:6

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Colossians 4:2

Thanksgiving will continue even after the end of the age and we are in Heaven with God. 

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.””

Revelation 7:9-12

Can you hear it?  Can you see it in your mind’s eye? 

Thanksgiving is not just something that is imposed on people.  Rather it is from the heart and it is ranked in the same category as “blessing”, “glory”, “wisdom”, “honor”, “power”, and “might”.  Listen as these words are sung in the Chorus “Worthy is The Lamb That Was Slain” as presented in Handel’s The Messiah. 

Thanksgiving is due to God because of Who He is and what He has done for His people.  Thanksgiving is due to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb Who was slain, because of His atoning work on the cross that paid the price of our sin, satisfied the wrath of God against us because of our sin.  Thanksgiving is due to the Holy Spirit for His quickening of our hearts which had been dead because of sin, and for His leading and guiding us as we are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

Make thanksgiving the norm, the modus operandi of your daily walk.  Look for opportunities to give our Lord thanks throughout the day, however murky and disappointing it may be.  At a minimum you could thank Him for life, grace, mercy, and His unconditional and unfailing love … that should provide sufficient fuel for you to lift your eyes and your heart to Him, even as the day is swirling around you.

Blessings to you as you journey along your walk of faith. 

Father forgive me for the multitude of times that I have accepted Your gifts with open hands without so much as a whispered prayer of thanks.  Forgive me for the myriad of days that have passed through my fingertips without any acknowledgment from me that the day is, in itself, a gift from You, a gift for which I should be profoundly thankful. Lord, forgive me for accepting the gift of mercy and grace, of salvation and of Your love without even humbling myself so as to bow at Your feet in adoration and thanksgiving for the great work that You did in securing my salvation from my sin.  Lord, have mercy and forgive.

SABBATH REST

We enjoy camping.  While our method of camping is certainly not “roughing it”, we do enjoy the retreat into the RV and the varied scenery that we encounter in different campgrounds that we have visited across the U.S. 

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Mississinewa River, Indiana Standing along the shore looking at the 7 pillars of the Miami Nation of Indians near Peru, Indiana

Camping, getting away from the hectic schedule even we retired people have, is a marvelous way to unwind and just relax, contemplate your relationship with the Lord and with the various people in your family, church, work, etc.  And we do just that, but for the vast majority of the time, we relax.  We rest.  We just sit and look at the beautiful scenery, or we walk and get closer to it. 

Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho

There usually is no schedule and nothing that would require our attention if we didn’t want to pay attention to it.  And, at least after the campground deadline for “quiet time”, there is the solitude that comes from being in God’s creation, simply soaking in the silence and then the sounds of the evening. Rest for the mind, rest for the body, and rest for the soul.

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Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

God knows that we need rest – He made us and knows us intimately.  He knows that nonstop work is harmful to us, just about as harmful to us as nonstop idleness.  He commanded that we stop work and rest on the 7th day, the Sabbath, the day that He declared to be holy unto the Lord. 

In giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, God said:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Exodus 20:8-11

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River in Yellowstone National Park

In the Garden of Eden things were wonderful – Adam and Eve were not subject to the difficulties that sin introduced into the world.  However, once they were banished from the Garden and subject to sin, God had to set out commandments so that His people would know His moral law. 

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.”

Psalm 19:7-9

Consider what the Psalmist says about keeping the law of the Lord.  The soul is revived, the simple become wise, the heart rejoices, the eyes are enlightened, not to mention that the fear (reverence and awe) of the Lord endures forever, and His rules are true and righteous. 

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Badlands National Park, Interior, South Dakota

Needless to say, these commandments are not just for the Old Testament folks!  While the New Testament Christians are not “under the law”, the commandments reflect how our God wants us to live, and we are told of the benefits of following the commands of our God.  Surely, we must obey them even in the 21st century. 

[I realize that there are many in service professions that must work on the weekend, and that includes the day called the “Sabbath” or for the Christian on Sunday, the first day of the week;  but for those folks, there should be another day on which they look to their Savior dedicating their time and energy to Him.]

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Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

God understands that we need that time to recalibrate our lives and to refocus so that we are looking to God as the source of life and all that it has to offer.  Contrary to our world’s culture and Hollywood, we are not the center of the universe, God is.  He is due our reverence, loyalty and love.

Rest is not only a subject of the commandments — Jesus had some poignant words about rest as well.  In one of the most beautiful passages in Matthew, Jesus says:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Rest for your souls.  That, my Beloved, is what our culture is longing for and which they will not find in materialism, philosophies, or any place other than God.  Don’t be deceived by anything that promises joy, comfort and rest without reliance on God, the Father Almighty.  It is in His arms that rest and relief from sin can be achieved.  He is the author of rest and it is only through Him that it can be received.

Father, I praise Your Name for the rest that comes only from You through Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer.  For those who seek this rest, I pray that You would grant them Your Spirit to show them the way, through Christ our Lord, I pray.

ANGER MANAGEMENT

On our trip to Yellowstone National Park, we visited the Norris Geyser Basin.   According to the information on the park’s signs, the basin is far below the towering peaks of the Gallatin Mountains.  Water accumulates underground.  The basin sits near the Yellowstone Caldera and is at the edge of one of the largest volcanos on our planet – the Yellowstone Volcano.  Heated by the volcano, the water travels upward to erupt from acidic geysers, or to rise from steaming fumaroles (an opening in or near a volcano through which hot, sulfurous gasses emerge), or to simmer in shimmering pools, steaming throughout all kinds of weather.  Names such as Fearless Geyser, Monarch Geyser, Yellow Funnel Spring, Steamboat Geyser, Whirligig Geyser, and Pinwheel Geyser give evidence of the variety of sights available in the Norris Geyser Basin, appropriately described as beautiful and bizzare.

While watching the geysers, I considered that they were rather like an allegory for what anger looks like.    

For example, the White Dome Geyser stands tall and is silent. 

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Until, at some unpredictable time, it erupts.

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Now, I’m certainly not saying that the geyser is angry … but the unpredictability of its eruption is similar to those whose anger can flare up for seemingly no reason.

Of course, we know that the geyser named Old Faithful erupts almost to the minute on its schedule.  No National Park Ranger has to tell it when to erupt – it just does it, day in and day out, on time, on schedule.

Old Faithful could represent the one whose anger erupts over the same trigger, time and time again.  Those around him/her know not to say anything about that trigger in fear that the tantrum could erupt again.

We even saw one vent in a fenced off area of a parking lot.

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Steam rising up from underground without an on or off button!  This geyser could represent the one whose anger is just under the surface, whose anger tinges his/her attitudes and reactions even if a full-fledged eruption does not occur.  It is just a matter of time.

Not all geysers shoot high into the heavens.  Some geysers bubble up from under the ground, and they continue bubbling nonstop.

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This could represent the one whose anger is always churning within, whether or not anything is said to others … the anger is seething and boiling up inside in a never-ending tumult of pain.

Anger – it is something that all of us, if we are honest, have experienced and most would likely say they have experienced it often. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.”

Long before Emerson said this the Psalmist said:

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”

Psalm 37:7-8

In the Book of Proverbs, we read Solomon’s words on anger:

“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

Proverbs 14:29

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” –

Proverbs 15:18

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,”

Proverbs 22:24

“Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

Proverbs 27:4

The Apostle Paul said:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Ephesians 4:31

But too often our anger is misplaced, and many times our anger is motived from self-interest, greed or a desire  to control.  I know that I have been angry over the actions of another person and the Holy Spirit immediately brings to mind a time when I had done the same thing to someone else.  In other words, sin in our life is also a cause for anger.

Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying something along these lines:  “When angry count to ten before you speak.  If very angry, count to one hundred.”

The advice to be reluctant before exercising anger is stated in scripture frequently, with the Apostle Paul saying:

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,”

Ephesians 4:26

I suspect that most everyone has heard “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger”.  This is a good statement to newly weds and is a good policy for a positive marital relationship.  But it extends much more broadly to all our relationships. 

However, the first part of Ephesians 4:26 is not quoted as often.  In certain situations, it is appropriate to be angry. Remember Jesus at the temple when he was angry that it had been turned into a “den of thieves”?  Read Mark 11:15-17.  That is appropriate anger, my friend!

Aristotle said:

Anyone can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

I suggest to you that anger is frequently sinful and, when harbored continuously, is physically harmful to you.  Eruptions of anger increase blood pressure and all sorts of physical reactions when, in the long run, can cause damager to your body, even disregarding the damage it can cause to relationships, family members, etc.

Take time to consider the geysers and their eruptions, consider which one parallels your emotional make-up, and then consider the scripture that speaks to anger and its management. 

The Holy Spirit will help you because it is the Spirit’s job to transform you into the image of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Father, I pray that we would read Your Word and consider whether the anger that we so often experience is a holy anger or if it is motivated by selfish desires, pride, arrogance or any other sin that we have harbored in our hearts.  Let us confess and repent of that sin and live a life that is based on Your Word and empowered by Your Spirit.  In Jesus Name, I pray.

UNDERLYING POWER

Recently I saw a Facebook post saying something like:

“Watch out for people who are always bragging about what they can do, a lion never has to tell me that he is a lion.”

Of course, the thrust of the comment is that the lion does not have to advertise that it has power — its power is evident and well-known to others.  Unlike the lion, however, often the people who are doing the bragging will be embellishing and exaggerating their status whereas people who actually have abilities or who have had accomplishments do not have to brag.     

While in Yellowstone National Park recently, we were privileged enough to see a family of buffalo strolling down the road and into some trees.  They were minding their own business, walking as a unit without being a threat to anyone and seemingly not aware of our presence.  There were three adult buffalo and three young ones.

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This baby buffalo is not particularly threatening.  We saw him walking through some trees with two of his siblings and three adult buffalo.

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Now, these two buffalo present a different picture than the baby did.  They are not threatening as they are laying in the grass but staring at us while standing seemed to be potentially threatening.  Especially when the National Park Ranger told us that adult buffalo weigh about 2,000 pounds.  Combine that weight with an ability to run at 30 miles per hour, and you have a considerable threat both to man and vehicle.

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Like the lion, the buffalo does not have to brag about its abilities.  It can be calm and in control, and it can also be terrifyingly fast if it needs to defend itself or its family.  In short, they are animals of great strength and speed – animals with underlying power that we as humans simply don’t have ourselves.  We may be able to drive our car faster than the buffalo can run, but if the buffalo impacts the vehicle, it is probably going to be damaged beyond repair.

The lion and the buffalo have underlying power within themselves.

So, does the Christian.  I don’t mean that we can run fast – anyone who knows me realizes that running at all is not likely going to happen.   And I don’t necessarily mean that we have physical strength, although some people I know are incredibly strong.

What I do mean is that ALL Christians have underlying power within them, specifically the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus Christ so that we are enabled to be witnesses for our Lord Jesus Christ wherever we are.  Jesus said:

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.  And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

John 15:26-27

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Again, after His resurrection, Jesus said:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

We know that the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and that same day they preached the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly.  Fishermen and tax collectors who were cowering in fear after Jesus’s death were transformed on that day into evangelists who virtually blanketed the known world with the good news of faith in Christ.

They didn’t brag about their achievements.  They gave the glory for what they were doing to Jesus Christ and to the Holy Spirit, praising God for the good works that they were seeing all in the name of the Lord.  They were Christians who were powered by the Holy Spirit.

So are we.  We have the same Holy Spirit, the same Lord Jesus Christ, the same God and Father Almighty.  They are our brothers and sisters just as much as the Christians we see in church.   We too have the Holy Spirit, and as part of the unchanging infinite triune God, the Holy Spirit is no different now than he was 2000 years ago. 

Underlying power.  Do I take advantage of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life?  Do I call upon His power to enable me to do the work that Christ has called me to do?   Do I use that power for spreading the gospel?  Do I boldly tell others of Jesus Christ or do I shrink back in fear of what they will say, or think?

What about you?  How would you answer these questions?

Father, I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to witness to others of Your marvelous gift of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  I pray that you would embolden me to witness of my Lord without fear and that Your Spirit would put the words in my mouth that will accomplish Your Work in those to whom I speak and in me as I do Your will.

Who are you and where do you live?

People are diverse, unique, different.  Take for example, where we live.

As we were driving on our vacation this summer, we went through the City of Chicago.  The traffic going down the highways going into the city were crowded with trucks, cars, vans, busses.  Not to mention the train that ran to various parts of the city with terminals in between the highway lanes.

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Then, when the highway signs were somewhat out-of-the-way, the skyline came into view!

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Thousands upon thousands of people live within the scope of that picture.  They live in high-rise apartment buildings which have incredible views of the city beneath and Lake Michigan along the shoreline, some of the views going almost to the Wisconsin state line!  However, some live in much less splendor, along the railroad tracks and in dilapidated buildings in the center of town.  And of course, there are shops, businesses, banks and all sorts of eateries spread throughout the city.

This kind of congestion is not for everyone, however.  One of the places we visited was Bar Nunn, Wyoming.

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The campground was rustic and the people were super friendly.  The view of the community from the campground was beautiful with its backdrop of mountain terrain.

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The first night we were there, the clouds provided a beautiful ending to a glorious day.

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In contrast to the “majesty” of Chicago, the little post office next to the campground in Bar Nunn provided a different perspective as it gave the whole community postal services, and we, as sojourners, appreciated its presence since we could purchase stamps and use the handy mailbox to send post cards to the family back home.

We all don’t live in the same type dwellings, in the same area of the country or in the same climate.  But, almost all of us are often asked the same questions, no matter where we are:  “Who are you, and where do you live?” 

Our answer frequently is to respond with the name our parents provided to us and then to give our place of permanent residence.  And these are appropriate responses as they give some fundamental information about us to the person we have just met.  From there, we can continue the conversation and a friendship might result, or we can walk away after conducting the transaction with the individual without any further personal information being exchanged.

That is not the whole answer to those questions for the Christian.

Jesus said:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:1-6

Jesus clearly said that the one who believes in Him, through faith alone, will spend eternity with Him in heaven.  Indeed, belief in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way that we can enter heaven and come to God.  In fact, Jesus also tells us to put our treasure in heaven since there the treasure is secure for all eternity, rather than having it on earth where it can be easily destroyed.  Read Matthew 6:19-20.

Paul said it this way:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,”

Ephesians 2:19-20

In other words, the Christian has dual citizenship – we are citizens on this planet, living in the country, province or state, city or hamlet in which we reside.  But we are also citizens of heaven where we will live eternally with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, along with all our brothers and sisters who have been adopted into the family of God through faith in Christ.

So, how do we answer the question propounded above … “where do you live?”  We might want to go into an explanation of our dual citizenship, or we might just want to give our address and let our Christian walk do the rest of the talking for us.  Either way, let the Lord guide you as you witness for Him in our world.

Father, forgive me when I have been too timid to express my conviction that Jesus Christ made it possible for me to be Your child.  I cannot express my gratitude and thankfulness for such gracious mercy extended to me, an undeserving sinner who was saved by grace!  May I always be ready to tell others of Your gift of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  Help me, I pray.

TIME AND THE TALE

We recently returned from a trip out west and we visited a number of the U. S. National Parks.  They all made indelible impressions upon us with their grandeur, their diversity, their colors, and their spectacular beauty.

One example of this is Bryce Canyon outside of Richfield, Utah.  At an elevation of 8,000 feet, it is a riveting place of fascinating geological formations, which are called “hoodoos”. 

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The “hoodoos” are spires that reach way above the canyon floor.  At first glance, they appear as if they are giant orange-flavored snow cones. 

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Some of the spires seem to be huge apartment buildings, even with balconies overlooking the terrain and with green trees growing on the “roof penthouse”.

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Around the bend, toward the edge of the canyon, there were more spires, albeit somewhat shorter and they did not seem to be as carved as the other spires.  We were advised that this area was the “new” portion of the canyon.  In future years, these will be as incredible as the “hoodoos” that we had just seen, and they likely will be reduced to rubble.

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As we stood looking at the new section, I pondered what storms these youngsters would have to endure in the future, what temperature extremes would come their way, if they would stand sentry over their aging counterparts.   And I thought of the stories that the mature “hoodoos” would tell them if they were able to do so. 

But, the reality is that all of this came in the millennia that created the canyon as we see it today and it was captured, in a nanosecond, by a digital camera.  The details of the canyon’s creation, the carving of the individual “hoodoos” and the struggle of the trees to find a place to grow are not part of the story told by the canyon in our pictures. 

In short, the canyon’s history was condensed into a split-second picture of serene beauty.

Often on our trip, the high desert terrain gave me a visual impression of what I supposed the people of God might have experienced in the wilderness.  We know that the people of God were in the wilderness for 40 years, but Scripture only tells us of what happened in the first two years of their wandering and then the narrative skips to the end when they arrive at the Promised Land.

Matthew Henry says this of the missing years:

The thirty-eight years, which after this they were away in the wilderness, were not the subject of the sacred history, for little to nothing is recorded of that which happened to them from the second year to the fortieth.  After they came out of Egypt, their time was perfectly trifled away, and was not worthy to be the subject of a history, but only of a tale that is told, for it was only to pass away time like telling stories, that they spend those years in the wilderness, all that while they were in the consuming, and another generation was in the rising.  The spending of our years is like the telling of a tale.  A past when it is past is like a tale when it is told.  Some of our years are as a pleasant story, others as a tragical one: most mixed, but all short and transient, that which was long in the doing may be told in a short time.

Psalm 90:9 says:

For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

We know from personal experience that we can tell the tale of events in mere moments when the actual event took months or even years.  While we think we will live a long time, the reality is that in cosmic terms, our life is fleeting and, when it comes to an end, it is like a sigh.  Even the canyons of our national parks change with the years. 

But there is something that is, indeed, eternal and not fleeting.  Jesus said:

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Matthew 24:35

Praise the Lord for His Word, the Holy Bible.  Praise the Lord for His steadfast love and mercy.  Praise the Lord for His wondrous works.  Praise the Lord!

Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your love and Your sacrificial death on the cross to pay for the sins of Your people.  Thank You for Your Word and for preserving it so that we could learn of You and trust in Your Name for our salvation.