BLESSINGS … MISSING SOMETHING?

We were in Grand Junction, Colorado for several days, and we had reservations at the KOA so we could park our RV.  Once settled at the campground, we would unhitch the Jeep and drive around the area.  It was great. 

Grand Junction Co campground without RV
Grand Junction, Colorado, Kampground of America

The site at the campground surprised us.  We had paid for a premium site, but this one was beyond the other campgrounds we had visited.  It was a premium site with table and 6 chairs, a big BBQ grill, a fire ring and park bench type seat on paving stones rather than gravel.  We enjoyed our first evening there by sitting at the table outside in a cool breeze, sipping coffee and just talking.  What a blessing this site was since it had been a long day of travel.

The picture above shows the premium site, but there is something missing — if you know what it is, identify the missing component in a comment!

In our Christian life, we enjoy so many blessings from our God and His Son, Christ Jesus, that we can’t even begin to count them.  They are myriad and they surround us each moment of each day.  The world sees some of these blessings as what we are due, but in reality, we are due nothing from God since our forefather Adam sinned and ruined man’s communion with his Creator.

The gift of a new day.  Of breath.  Of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.  Of beauty in flowers, trees, sunshine, rainbows.  Of mountains, meandering rivers, canyons carved by water.  Of the beauty of a newborn baby, a toddler’s expression of amazement at learning new things, a child’s sense of accomplishment at school or sports.  Of strength to continue even when difficulties arise, of the strength that the presence of God brings to us throughout our days.

His blessings are not confined to the material world; rather, God’s preeminent blessing to His children is His Son, our Savior and Redeemer, who atoned for our sin with His death on the cross.  As a result of His life, death and resurrection, we have the assurance of eternal life with God and with our Lord, no matter what situation surrounds us here on earth.

Sometimes God provides a premium site for us to use, other days we may have a gravel site with no extra stuff.   Do we thank Him for both?

How often do we forget to thank Him for the blessings, while we are certain to run to Him when we are sick or when problems engulf us?  When we have enough money to do what we want, we take credit and think it is because of our hard work at our job or our savvy in investing.  (Think of the parable Jesus taught as recorded in Luke 12 about the rich man who had this world’s treasures but who had nothing in his heavenly account!)

Rather, the thankful heart, the heart of gratitude for God’s blessings, would remember that God not only gives us the job to do to earn our money but He also gives us the strength and ability to do so. 

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13

Thankfulness and gratitude are attitudes that the Christian should exhibit throughout the day.  Thank Him for what He has done for you through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Consider the humiliation of our Lord when He left heaven and came to the world that He created, leaving His glory in heaven and coming as a baby into a sinful world. Consider all that He suffered throughout His life, the ridicule and harassment by the authorities, the constant clamor of people who wanted Him to heal them even though they would not even say thanks,  culminating in condemnation and execution even though He had led a perfect life and had not committed any crime. 

Of course, the reason Christ had to die was so that He could satisfy the justice of God by paying for your sin and mine.

This thought alone should result in our singing praises to Him throughout the day. 

Thank God for all things, good and bad, big and little, significant and insignificant.  All things are under His control and the Christian is in His hand. 

Blessings to you and may you give thanks to our God and Father and to His Son, our Lord and Savior, through the Holy Spirit on this day.

Father help me remember to thank You throughout the day.  Forgive me when I have accepted your blessings without so much as a “Thank You”.  Forgive me when I have taken credit for blessings that You have granted to me.  Give me a heart that is thankful and full of gratitude for all Your many blessings.  Through Christ my Lord, I pray.

EATING – LIVE TO EAT OR EAT TO LIVE?

I have heard it said that some people “live to eat” and others “eat to live”.    We have two dogs who represent these two concepts.

Cuddles loves to eat – in fact the trainer who worked with us when the girls were brought home from the animal shelter said, and I quote: “I have never seen a dog that was so food-centric as Cuddles!”  If you want her to do anything, you need to give her a treat, preferably before AND after her obedience.

20190604_143355
Cuddles, in the foreground, LOVES to eat; Snickers, in the background, is pickier!

In this picture of the two of them “sitting pretty”, Cuddles is in the foreground and you can see that she has to sit with her rear legs spread apart to keep her balance. 

On the other hand,  Snickers, despite her candy-bar-name, eats her food but she is not hankering for a treat every time we turn around.  You can see that her rear legs are at right angles to her body.  She does not have to sit “side-saddle” like her younger sister does.

In short, the difference between the girls is that Cuddles lives to eat and Snickers eats to live.

Since both my husband and I are overweight, I am not going to point to us as examples of this concept.  Rather, I want to think about what we consume from Scripture.  Do we eat to live, that is only eat from Scripture a sufficient amount to gain our fire insurance from hell, or do we live to eat, that is feast on the truths of Scripture and come again and again to the Word for more food for our spiritual souls’ growth and development?

The Bible talks about eating in many places.  In the very first book of the Bible God tells Adam that he can eat of every tree in the Garden of Eden, except for one.  (Genesis 2:16-17)  After their disobedience, Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden and they had to work for their food ever after.

In Exodus we read of the meal of unleavened bread and bitter herbs which preceded the visitation from the angel of death.  After the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and God sent manna and then quail for them to eat.

David puts God’s provision like this:

Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven.  Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance.  He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind;  he rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; he let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings.  And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved.

Psalm 78:23-29

The New Testament talks of food as well. For example, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding feast. (John 2)  Jesus fed thousands as He taught them along the seaside. (Mark 8.)

In 1 Corinthians 6 we find Paul’s instruction regarding eating the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of His death for our sins.  Some call this feast Communion and others Eucharist, but the essence is that we are celebrating the marvelous work of our Lord and His sacrifice for us.

Paul has strong words for the people in the Corinthian church.  He wrote:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.  I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,  for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

The writer of Hebrews expresses this same idea in this way:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. 

Hebrews 5:12-14

We know from our own experience that babies take milk and then, at some point in their infancy, they move up to some diluted cereal such as infant oatmeal.  Then comes soft food and, upon reaching childhood, they can eat regular food, starting with soft meats and them ultimately moving up to steak! Meat comes with maturity. 

What does this solid food look like?  Paul tells us, it is the food in Scripture that we read with our power of discernment trained by constant practice, to do what?  To distinguish good from evil. 

Do you know when the preacher’s doctrine is faulty?  You know it when you have read the Scripture, studied and have discernment from constant exposure to the Word of God.  Then you can tell good teaching from the faulty teaching.

So, beloved, when it comes to spiritual food, are you satisfied with milk?  Or, do you long for solid food, for the meat not just the milk?   Do you read the Word of God for yourself?  Do you study with others so that you can practice your discerning powers and so identify both the good and the bad.  Do you ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thinking and open your eyes and your mind to the truths and riches that are found in the Word of God?

From a spiritual perspective, the question is:  Are you Snickers or Cuddles?  Do you eat to live, or do you live to eat.  Oh, that we would be spiritually overweight with the rich meat of Scripture.

Father, forgive me when I have been satisfied to skim the surface of Your Word, when I have been lazy and have not studied Your Word to uncover the truths and precepts that You want me to have.  Enable me to feast on the meat of Your Word through Your Holy Spirit, I pray.

IMITATION

Have you ever tried to imitate someone?

When we were in England eight years ago, we went to London so the Beatles fans in the family could see Abbey Road.  Then, in typical tourist style, the four men in the family walked across the street, in an apparent attempt to imitate the album cover!

Abbey road

When I look at the picture, I have to smile seeing the totally serious faces of the participants!

In June 2018 I used this same picture in a blog entitled “Who do you imitate?”.  Apparently the Lord wants me to reinforce this thought in the blog site!  Please refer to that blog for additional thoughts on our duty of imitation.

The Greek definition of the word “imitate” relates to one who mimics or who is an actor.  In Vine’s Expository Dictionary, it is noted that the verb “imitate” is always used in exhortations and always in the continuous tense, suggesting a constant habit of practice.

So, do you make it a habit of imitating those Christians who have provided us examples of Christlike actions?  Think about these exhortations:

WE SHOULD IMITATE THE CONDUCT OF MISSIONARIES

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,  nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.  It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.

2 Thessalonians 3:7-9

WE SHOULD IMITATE THE FAITH OF SPIRITUAL GUIDES

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:7

WE SHOULD IMITATE THAT WHICH IS GOOD

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

3 John 1:11

God is good, and we should imitate this characteristic of our Heavenly Father.  God’s goodness is shown in His benevolence toward us, His creatures.  In like manner, we should reflect His goodness.  How?  We should imitate His goodness in our benevolence to others.  This may look different for each of us as we relate to others in our own unique manner, but it should have the same fundamental characteristic – the actions should be for the benefit of the other person without regard to whether they thank us, like us or even know that we did anything for them.  Our benevolence is based in God and in our transformation into the likeness of Christ.

Recall when Christ healed the 10 lepers.  The story is found in Luke’s gospel.

And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance  and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;  and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:12-19

Ten were healed of the dreaded disease leprosy.  Ten men went from having to stand outside the city, without family or friends, covering their mouth and crying “Unclean, Unclean”.  Ten men went from having no interaction with society to being welcomed home, in the community and at the synagogue.  But, only one came back to thank Him.

Scripture says that all ten of the men were healed as they were walking to the synagogue.  There is no indication that their healing was reversed when they failed to give thanks.

One said thank you to our Lord.

We, too, are diseased.  Oh, not with leprosy but with a disease just as deadly and putrid – sin.  Oh that we would have a realistic understanding of how grievous our sin is to God, how God will not look at sinful creatures.  He sent His Son to take our sin upon Himself so that we could come to God and become His children, children who God can look upon because what He sees, instead of our sin, is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that has been given to us through the blood of Christ.

May we imitate that one man who turned back, praising God with a loud voice;  and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.   May we recognize our sin and thank God through Christ Jesus for wiping it away, for cleansing us, now and forever.  Once we are cleansed from our sin, may we imitate our God and Father Who lavishes His benevolence on us.  When we give to others, when we help others, when we do for others without their knowledge, we are imitating our Father.  Praise His Holy Name.

Father, so often we minimize our sin, saying it was just a ”white lie” or “not as bad as murder” when there is no gradation of “sin”.  Disobedience to Your Word is sin, no matter how we may want to characterize it.  Thank You for sending Your Son to be our atoning sacrifice that paid for the consequences of our sin.  Thank You for calling us to Yourself through the Holy Spirit, and enabling us to imitate Your benevolence to those You place in our world.

EXPECTATIONS

Expectations.  We all have them.  Sometimes they are met and we rejoice.  However, many times we are disappointed when the expectation is not met, completely ignored, or disregarded.  Then, we are emotionally distraught because we feel abandoned, cheated or unfulfilled.

When we went out west on vacation, I had certain expectations, and all of them were met and exceeded.  The scenery was jaw-dropping.  The people were incredibly friendly.  The events we had lined up to do surpassed their claims.  We had doubts about one expectation, however.

We went through several National Parks where the brochures said there would be a plethora of wild animals for us to see, and we saw NONE.  Even in areas that had flashing “Watch for Bison” signs, no bison, chipmunks or squirrels were in sight. At one point, I suggested to Bill that we purchase a statue of a bison, put in way out in a field, and then the next day we could drive by and take a picture …

The last day in Yellowstone National Park we did see bison, and lots of them. Then we saw a bison family that walked along with us through the woods.

.

Bison family walking
Bison family walking through trees in Yellowstone National Park.

I was ecstatic – my expectation for seeing bison out west was fulfilled.  Then, when we went to Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park, we saw hundreds of them.

Hayden Valley bison herd
Part of one of the herds of bison in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

But, the best was yet to come … as we were leaving the Park, we saw “our” family of bison, relaxing and laying in the grass alongside the roadway.

Bison family relaxing
“Our” family of bison, resting along the roadside as we were leaving the National Park.

What a joy.  My expectation for seeing bison was, truly, surpassed when we saw these beasts relaxing, although the “daddy” was surely standing guard and would not have hesitated to attack if we had posed any threat.

We have expectations about a great many things, not just wild animals on vacation.  When they are met we are happy, and when they are ignored we are saddened and disappointed.

Scripture says that we are made in God’s image.

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:26-27

We know, of course, that at some point after creation, sin entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s instruction.  So, while we no longer walk with God in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8), we still were made in the image of God and the Christian will bear God’s image through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul said this about Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”

Colossians 1:15

In the Book of Romans we read:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.”

Romans 8:28-30

So, what does God expect of those who bear His image in the world? My husband created this listing of expectations for his Sunday School Class.  I present them here for your consideration, and with his approval:

God expects a  man to FEAR HIM AND OBEY HIM.  Ecclesiastes 12:13

God expects a  man to PLACE HIS TRUST IN HIM.  Psalm 3:5

God expects a  man to LOVE HIM.  1 John 4:19

God expects a  man to BE OBEDIENT TO HIS WILL.  Revelation 22:14

God expects a  man to DESIRE HIM.  Psalm 27:4

God expects a  man’s EXCLUSIVE DEVOTION.  Matthew 4:10

God expects a  man’s PRAISE AND DEVOTION.  Psalm 100:4

God expects a  man to WORSHIP HIM.  John 4:21-24

God expects a  man to be HIS SERVANT.  Romans 6:16-18, 22

God expects a  man’s PRAYERS TO BE ADDRESSED TO HIM.  Matthew 6:9

In short, God has told us exactly what He expects from us:

He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

So, how do you stack up against what God expects from you?  Thankfully, our God is loving and merciful, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance before Him.  (2 Peter 3:9)  So, if you are disappointing God in His expectations, repent and turn to Him for support and strength to do that which He desires.

Expectations can be met through prayer, devotion and dedication to seek the face of the Lord in all things.  As you do these things, you will find that you experience joy and peace that had bypassed you previously.  Love God and follow His commandments and you will experience the abundant life that Jesus promised to you.

Blessings as you walk with the Lord this day.

Father, forgive me when I have missed your expectations of my life and service to You.  Help me to look to You in all things and to praise You with a heart of gratitude.  I praise Your Holy Name, through Jesus Christ my Lord.

The Planets

We had the opportunity to listen to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra recently.  The program included Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy, On the Beautiful Blue Danube by Johan Strauss, Jr.,  These Worlds in Us by Missy Mazzoli, and The Planets, Suite for Large Orchestra, Opus 32 by Gustav Holst.

Each piece was masterfully performed and it was a pleasure to hear them performed live.

The work that is subject of this blog, however, is The Planets.  The composer characterized the orchestral work as “mood pictures” in which each separate movement represented a planet in the solar system. (Notably, he did not include Earth.)  This composition was created in 1916, so there were only seven planets, excluding the Earth, that had been identified and were the subject of Holst’s work..

Along with the music, the Symphony presented a montage of video showing each of the planets in space.  Viewing the video, one became acutely aware of the difference between each of the planets and our Earth.  All were beautiful in their own right.  The rings of Saturn were gorgeous while the rings of Uranus were not quite as complex. While beautiful, none of them had any visible evidence of life.  No trees, no flowers, no animals, no oceans, no clouds.  Just barren rock.

earth-from-space-dscovr
Earth as seen from space.

In contrast, on this planet that is the third from the Sun, we have life in all its fullness.  Beautiful trees, incredible variety of flowers, animals that range from minute little gnats to enormous elephants and apes, fish that swim in the oceans that live so deep man cannot go there apart from specialized submersibles.  Evidence that God created creatures for His glory and beauty is found when, at the bottom of the deepest oceans where no light is found, the camera lights come on and fish are seen displaying a panoply of colors.  God’s enjoyment of His creation is profound, and man can only taste a bit of that joy here and now.

Scripture tells us that God created all things.  Genesis 1:1 states without equivocation:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Matthew Henry says of this verse that:

this world was, in the beginning of time, created by a Being of infinite wisdom and power, who was Himself before all time and all worlds.

The Apostle Paul says:

“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,

Ephesians 3:8-9

Paul was more clear on this point when he wrote to the Colossians:

“He [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Colossians 1:15-17

For the Christian, these words are comforting and clear.  The Old Testament says that God created all things and, in the New Testament, we find that Jesus Christ is the Person who performed that creative work.  We are also told that this creation was created by Him and for Him, and that He holds everything together.

The Biblical creation story is certainly not popular in our 21st century culture.  Big Bang and Evolution are more tantalizing today than a mere statement that by the Word of God creation came about.  But, popular or not, this is the Word of God and it is the authoritative source for my faith and its practice.

I believe the video showing the barrenness of the other planets in our solar system is evidence of the grace of our God in giving us this Earth to live on.  Not too close and not too far from the Sun.  My husband said that Earth’s placement  is called the “Goldilocks Zone” … it’s just right!

Praise God for His marvelous works.  Thank you Lord for giving us this beautiful planet on which to live, and for giving us life itself.

Father, forgive us when we act like we created anything!  Forgive us when we take Your creation for granted.  Forgive us when we disrespect our world and when we take actions that harm the environment.  Thank you for giving us such a beautiful world in which to live, all because of Your glorious grace, mercy and love.

BLOWING YOUR TOP!

We have been watching one of The Great Courses on Pompeii.  It is a fascinating look at the society that formed in the Bay of Naples centuries before the time of Christ.  The predominant physical structure of the area is Mount Vesuvius.   The lecturer said that today, the volcano is about 3,000 feet high.  Prior to its eruption in A. D. 79, the volcano was in excess of 7,000 feet high.  The effect of the volcano blowing its top was a sudden cataclysmic pouring of lava, volcanic ash and pumice throughout the region.  Notably, Pompeii was buried in 13 to 20 feet of ash and pumice.   That is blowing your top in a big way!

When we were in Yellowstone National Park, we observed a number of geysers including one call the White Dome Geyser.  It was clear why it was called that – it was a white dome that looked like the top of an ice cream cone. 

20180628_143017
White Dome Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

It would erupt at different times each day with a spray that went high into the air.  Although it is the result of volcanic activity deep underground, clearly the White Dome Geyser is on the scale of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.  It is much more controlled, still venting, but not destroying.

20180628_142656

Fortunately, few of us ever experience a Mt. Vesuvius explosion.  But, on a personal level, blowing your top can take a variety of forms.  Usually there is loud, sometimes abusive, language accompanied by throwing things, slamming doors, or breaking items that are in our way … in short, there is dynamic activity that potentially destroys something, or someone, in the process of relieving our pent-up anger.  Then, when all is done, there is a, perhaps, strained quiet, but after the outburst at least it is quiet.  The outburst is over – now it is time to assess the damage. 

Scripture talks about blowing your top … not in those words, but the meaning is abundantly clear.  Take these Old Testament references for example:

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  

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 19:11  

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

Proverbs 22:24  

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”

Psalm 37:8  

This theme is continued in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians:

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

Ephesians 4:26.  This verse states that it is alright to become angry; but we must not let it fester so that you become enraged, and out of control so that you then are guilty of sin.  

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

Ephesians 4:31  

Jesus Christ showed us what should cause our anger:

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.””

Matthew 21:12-13

Jesus was angry when His Father’s house was subject to desecration, when people were being cheated and when people could not pray there.

Scripture tells us that God can become angry, very angry indeed!  But His is a righteous anger when His creation has become so sinful that He cannot tolerate to even look upon it.

Consider the flood which wiped out all people, animals and plants, except for Noah, his family, and the animals secreted in the ark. (Genesis 6 and 7)  Consider Sodom and Gomorrah where God said He would spare the cities if He could find 10 righteous people in them.  When He could not identify even that few righteous ones, the cities were destroyed by fire from heaven. (Genesis 18 and 19)

David recognized that God could become angry. 

Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?”

Psalm 90:11  

David also recognized that God was merciful and slow to anger.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Psalm 86:15  

If we are honest, our anger is usually triggered by a feeling of personal hurt, by a sense of being ignored or cast aside.  Our own agenda has been violated, our desires have been dashed, our wants have been slighted.  We feel that others have taken advantage of us to our detriment and to their benefit, and we are angry.  In short, our anger is usually self-centered.  We are focused on I/Me/Mine.

As Christians, we are called to be like our Father and to follow the example of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  James, the half-brother of Jesus said we should live like this:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

James 1:19-20  

We are called to keep our anger under control.  Note the list that includes anger and the list that includes self-control in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of GodBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Galatians 519-:24

Don’t blow your top.  When the acid of anger wells up in your heart, quench it with the fruit of the Spirit.  Remember that you did not deserve to be saved from your sins – it was an unmerited gift from God.  Because of that gift, you should give others undeserved love as well.  Remember, Paul gave this instruction, from Deuteronomy 32:39, to the Christian:

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.””

Romans 12:19 

For the Christian, there really is no need to blow his/her top!

Father, forgive me when I have become angry with others, when I have vented my anger in an ungodly manner rather than seeking the other person’s good.  Help me to remember the Holy Spirit is my strength and guide and may I grow in self-control today, and throughout my life.

CONTRAST AND COMPARISON

We have had occasion to consider the beauty and brevity of life recently.  It is something that no one wants to ponder for long, it is too sobering; but, it is an inevitable fact of life.  We are born, we live, and we will experience physical death.

English field
Idyllic English fields that symbolize the Garden to me

We read of creation in the very first book of the Holy Bible.  God created man to live a life that was fulfilling — he had work to do and food for nourishment.  Man was not created to sit and do nothing, he was to work the Garden of Eden and keep it. 

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26

However, there was one test in the Garden for Adam and Eve … God asked for obedience.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:15-17

They could eat of any tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they could not eat.  God said if they disobeyed, they would die.

Of course, we know what happened.  Chapter 3 begins with the serpent testing Adam and Eve by twisting the words of God and telling them that they should not believe God’s threat of death, rather they should believe the serpent’s words that they would not die and the fruit was good to eat.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 

Genesis 3:6-8

They disobeyed, and there it was – death arrived, sin entered the world, and a gradual disintegration of creation began.

Physical death was not the only result of their disobedience.  Prior to eating the fruit, Adam and Eve enjoyed a close relationship with God, something that we cannot comprehend in our fallen condition.  God walked in the Garden in the cool of the day and He communed with His creation.  After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve heard God walking in the cool of the day and they hid themselves because they, then, knew that they were naked and they were ashamed. 

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”  And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”  He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?””

Genesis 3: 9-11

I love this passage – if you have had children, or been around children, you will undoubtedly relate to this picture.  You see the child hiding under the blanket or in a corner but you call “Where are you?” anyway.  You know where they are, but they don’t know that!  Then the conversation continues as you determine if there is something amiss or if they are simply playing hide and seek.

Our Creator God did not need to call Adam and Eve to find out where they were.  He is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent … He knew exactly where they were.  And He knew exactly what they had done.  He wanted them to admit to it.

Spiritual death, separation from God, occurred when they disobeyed the Creator and nothing Adam and Eve could do would change that.  Praise God that He did not leave us without hope, however.

In the first recorded shedding of blood in the Garden, we read that God did not leave His children hiding behind fig leaves.  Rather, He made clothes for them.

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

Genesis 3:21

Then, on a hill called Calvary, blood was again shed, this time it was the precious blood of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son.  His blood was not shed because of any sin that He had committed; rather, He shed His blood on the cross of Calvary as the atonement for the sin that Adam and Eve committed and for the sin that you and I have committed.  This was done so that we could be reunited with God through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We would escape eternal death by faith in Jesus’ atoning work on our behalf.  We have eternal life with God through Christ our Lord.

End of the Road
The end of the road sign in Denali National Park.

We all come to the end of the road when death stares us in the face.  The reality is that this will happen to each one of us; but physical death is not the end.  Our soul will live eternally and the end of the road leads to only two destinations, Heaven or Hell. 

Just as God clothed Adam and Eve in the Garden after their sin, God will cloth us in the righteousness of Christ if we have faith in Jesus as our Savior and if we trust in Him as Lord of our life.  Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

Christ shed His blood for His children … come to Him in faith and repent of your sin, claim Him as your Savior, and the end of the road here will open the door to an eternity in Heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I pray that these words would have full effect and that You would send Your Spirit to quicken hearts dead from sin so that faith can bear fruit in the lives of Your children.

The Addometer

I was cleaning out a cabinet drawer when I came across an interesting item. 

Addometer
Have you ever used one of these?

It is about 11 inches long and has a series of 8 dials with holes around each dial and numbers on the dial face corresponding to the holes.  A stylus is provided so that you can put its tip in the hole for the number you want to use, and then turn the dial to “enter” the figure you want added, or subtracted as the case may be.

Addometer 3
The Addometer – The portable adding machine for home or office!

The item is named the “Addometer” and the directions are written on the top of the item itself:

[1]  To add, use large figures – turn to right.  [2] to subtract, use small numbers – turn to left.

The box identifies the Addometer as “the portable adding machine for home and office”.

While it is true that the Addometer does, indeed, add and subtract by the use of the built in stylus, its use today is overwhelmed by the ease of doing calculations on a wide variety of devices, including but not limited to the cell phone!

I suspect our Addometer is doomed for the dump unless we can find a museum that needs to have a portable adding machine! The point, however, is that, although it was state-of-the-art when designed, the Addometer is no longer useful in the modern world.

Unfortunately, some place the Holy Bible in the same category as the Addometer … something that was useful once but which has no relevance to today’s world.  In their arrogance, the “Influencers” assert that we have grown past the Holy Bible; thus, its rules and guidelines are simply not necessary now.   In fact, those who hold the Bible in their hearts as the Word of the Almighty God are categorized as antiquated, as deluded and as uninformed to the light of today’s culture.

Beware of this kind of thinking.  It reeks of brimstone and is a delusion that has been used by Satan for millennia.  Satan tempted Adam and Eve when he said “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”   Of course, God had said that they could eat from every tree in the garden, except for one.  Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and the concept that Scripture is no longer relevant to our modern culture is a lie that people have swallowed — hook, line, and sinker.

Scripture, itself, tells the real story about its relevance to us, even in 2019:

“A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.””

Isaiah 40:6-8

Here the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah is told by God to cry to the people and tell them that they are like grass in the field.  Their pride and arrogance should be dissipated and they should humble themselves before the Almighty God because they are like grass and when God’s breath blows on them they will perish.  This is in direct contrast to the permanence of the very Word that God speaks.

“the word of our God will stand forever.”

Then we read further in the book Isaiah wrote, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he transmitted God’s message to the people of Israel, the following text about God’s Word:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:10-11

Here, Almighty God is telling the people that the effectiveness of His Word is unaffected by the people’s reaction to it.  We have no control over the rain or snow. It comes and the earth uses it to grow and bring forth food for us to eat.  Absent that rain and snow, we would not have water that is so necessary for our survival.  And that water is given to us by God, without our involvement in its delivery to us.

In like manner, God’s Word is His, and we have nothing to do with its delivery to us.  Rather, His Word will accomplish all that He purposes for it and His Word will succeed in each task for which it is intended.  We, in our extreme arrogance and conceit, have nothing to do with whether it succeeds or not … indeed, we are incapable of stopping the purposes of God.  He is omnipotent and, quite simply, we are not.  What He says will happen will, indeed, happen.

So, don’t place the Bible, the Holy Word of God, in the same category as the Addometer.  While the modern culture seems to be ignoring the precepts found in the Bible, rest assured that the culture’s digression away from the Scripture in no way mitigates or minimizes the truth of the Word of God.  Man may choose to ignore the directives and teachings of Scripture, but he does so at his eternal peril, because God’s Word remains forever — whereas we are grass!

Father, forgive us for our human conceit and arrogance, when we believe that we can replace You with our own creations, or when we consign Your Word to the corner of insignificance.  Thank You for loving us so completely that You provided the Holy Scriptures to shine a light on our path, and thank You for preserving it through the millennia so that we can have the benefit of its presence in our lives, today.

Niagara Falls

This summer our vacation trip was to the northeastern area of the United States.  Our first stop was at Niagara Falls. 

DSC_1885
Niagara Falls, NY, with the iconic Maid of the Mist boat on the Niagara River 

I had heard about the Falls all my life and had visited there when in elementary school.  However, Bill had never been to the Falls, so we decided to correct that situation and visit them this year. 

 

 

The sound of the water rushing past as if it was in a headlong race straight toward the jagged cliff was deafening.  The spray as the water fell to the River below was beautiful to see.  It was wonderful to be there.  We did not get on the Maid of the Mist, which would have taken us underneath the Falls, but we watched as it rocked along the rapids and soaked the passengers who were decked out in yellow slickers. 

The next day we crossed the bridge that went over the American border to Canada and, after clearing the entry process, we found ourselves in Ontario, Canada.  
 

DSC_1893
The American Falls viewed from Ontario, Canada.

The Canadian side of the Falls is horseshoe-shaped, and it was beautiful as well.

 

 

I don’t mean this to be a travelogue on Niagara Falls; others can do a much better job of that than I can.  But I cannot ignore the importance of water to our land, indeed to our very lives. 

Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well when she came to draw water at midday, rather than in the cool of the day as the other women would do.  In discussing the need for water, we read: 

“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

John 4:13-14 

Again, Jesus said in John 7:38: 

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”” 

As I was watching the water falls on both the American and Canadian side of the border, I thought of Jesus’ words.  The water in the Niagara River surely gives life to those who drink from it, but it is not living water.  Jesus gives to each of His children the water of life that flows out of his heart in abundance.   It is as if each of us has a Niagara Falls within our hearts, enabling us to do Jesus’ work in our fallen world through His Spirit and His strength.  

Niagara Falls — beautiful to see, fun to be near, and illustrative of the abundance that Jesus can make available to each of us, if we yield our hearts and lives to Him and His service.

Father, I thank You for giving us the opportunity to see Niagara Falls.  I pray that I would follow your Word and allow the Holy Spirit to create in me living water that would enable me to do the work that Jesus desires me to do as I live my life for Him throughout my days.