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.

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.

Yellowstone 083

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.

UNITY AND THE BODY

Recently I saw a cartoon based on Deuteronomy 27:6 which reads:

“you shall build an altar to the LORD your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God, …”

I then found it on a website of funny Christian jokes:

burnt offering - funny-christian-jokes-christian-humor

The drawing presented this scenario:   A family sitting down to dinner, with heads bowed and hands folded.  Mom and Dad at the ends of the table with Junior on the side between them.  This evening, Junior had been asked to pray.  The expression on the faces of his parents reflects horror when he prays:

“We want to thank you Lord for all that you have given us. In return, I hope you like this burnt offering my Mom prepared for all of us …”

The desire to thank the Lord is wonderful.  The burnt offering analogy is a bit harsh and not at all in the context of what Scripture was directing.

We often see this frequently humorous but still misguided effort from children.  But sometimes we see it duplicated in adults as well. Then, it is not quite so humorous.  

You know, the joke that has too much salt in it not to hurt; the backhanded comment that was not intended for the subject to hear, but they did; the criticism that came from a lack of understanding all the circumstances; and the list could go on and on. 

What do we do then?  Frequently we laugh and shrug it off, as if it did not matter.  But it often does.

Many times, the response is for feelings to get hurt, anger to burst into flames, frustrations fester and relationships can be broken, sometimes irrevocably. While this is indeed unfortunate in our social or work environment, it is heartbreaking when something like this divides the Church.  Not only is it heartbreaking, it is unnecessary.

Hardware Baptist Church established in 1802
Hardware Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia established in 1802

As Christians, we have been touched by the Holy Spirit and He lives within us.  It is His work that convicts us of our sin, teaches us of God’s will, enlightens us as to the Word of God, etc.  The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.  He is just as much God as is the Father and as is Jesus Christ, the Son. 

How the Holy Spirit indwells each and every Christian is beyond my understanding, but it is a doctrine that I believe and I have experienced His work in my life.  So, while I don’t understand the “how”, I understand the “fact”.

Church with cross in front
Illinois church with cross on their building

Since there is only one Holy Spirit, and since He is within each believer, how come Christians often can’t stand each other?   I submit that it is the natural man coming out … the sin nature that all of us have.  After all, Satan does not want the Church to be successful, to be unified, to be fruitful.  It is his desire that no one hears of Christ, that no one remains resolute in their faith, that no one looks to the Lord on a daily basis. 

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 Greene Memorial United Methodist Church in Roanoke, Virginia

Instead, we need to be mindful of Paul’s exhortation that we be unified as Christians. 

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Ephesians 4:1-7

We as Christians are to be one … one in the spirit, one in the Lord.  But, this does not mean that all are identical.  We are, indeed, all sinners saved by grace.  That is to be sure.  But, we are not clones of each other, although we are all in the process of being transformed into the image of our Lord and Savior.  (See Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18) 

Canterbury cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

Rather, the Lord has given each of us varying gifts and talents that are for His use in accomplishing His purpose in the world through us.  Just as our body is not composed of one part, like the lung, neither is the Body of Christ composed of one part, all Christians being the same.  So, there will be differences in worship style, in church buildings, in mission efforts … but the fundamentals are identical – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. 

Just as all the churches pictured above look different and have varying worship styles and languages, if they honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, if they teach from His Word, if they praise His Name, if they baptize in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, if they praise and glorify God the Father, then we can call them brothers and sisters in the Lord.  The variety of church styles, worship styles, song styles is immaterial as long as the fundamentals are in place.

Don’t let division among Christians cause any to leave the fellowship, cause the church to split, cause brothers and sisters to go against each other in anger.  Through the power of the Spirit, resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Keep the church, the Body of Christ, unified and healthy.

Blessings to each of you as you walk in the way of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I pray that these words will bear fruit for Your Kingdom.  I pray that the Body of Christ will remain strong and vibrant, that it will grow and bear much fruit for the Lord Jesus Christ.  I pray that Satan will be kept away from our churches so that the doctrine will remain pure, so that the parishioners will remain strong, and so that the church’s witness will proceed to go throughout the land untarnished by division or backbiting among its members.

AGAINST ALL ODDS

The Arlington International Racecourse is located in Arlington Heights, Illinois.  The track officially opened in 1927 with 20,000 people as Jockey Joe Boliero won riding a horse named Luxembourg to victory. 

In 1981 Arlington was the home of the world’s first million-dollar thoroughbred race: The Arlington Million.

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The result of that race is immortalized in bronze at the top of the paddock at Arlington, where a statue shows jockey Bill Shoemaker riding John Henry as the horse charged down the stretch, coming from way back, to catch The Bart at the wire. 

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It was a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the 40 to 1 long shot, and the statue celebrates Thoroughbred racing’s inaugural million dollar race.  The sculpture’s name is “Against  All Odds.”

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The sculpture is captivating; it is mesmerizing.  You can feel the tension, hear the crowd, see the strain and effort of both horse and jockey.  The horse ran the race and, against all odds, became the champion, receiving the victor’s crown at the end.

Running the race is, of course, a paramount objective at Arlington.  It is also a paramount objective of the Christian.  I don’t mean that each of us must go to a race track and run a marathon, sprint, or even a trip around the track’s oval. 

Rather, I am referring to running the race in our witness and daily walk with the Lord.

The Apostle Paul uses the race analogy often in his letters to the churches of his day as an illustration of the dedication and focus the Christian should have in spreading the gospel of Christ.   Consider the following passages:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. but I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”

2 Timothy 2:5

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

Ultimately, Paul says:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

2 Timothy 4:7

The horses competing in the race rely on the jockey and their training to carry them through at the race.  They only have their own resources to rely upon, and on that day in 1981, John Henry pulled out the stops and won the race, receiving his crown.  It was a perishable crown, but that is not what the Christian race is all about.  The Christian’s crown will be presented by the Lord Jesus Christ and it will be an imperishable crown. In the words of our Lord:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21

Train yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually for the race that is set before you.  Keep running the race even when it is hard and you are tired.  Remember that you have the Holy Spirit to strengthen you, to guide you and to give you the words to speak as you witness to others of Jesus and His love. 

The race we are in as Christians is not one on which to wager.  Our running is secure in Jesus and through His grace, power and might we will, like Paul, fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.

Father, I pray that You would enable me to finish the race You have set before me.  I pray, too, that I would keep the faith You have given me and that I would persevere to the end as Your child, through Jesus Christ my Lord and my Redeemer.

IF THOSE WALLS COULD TALK!

Often, when we are driving down the road, I will see an old barn or house, dilapidated and long unused, and I think “what if those walls could talk!”  I wonder what we would learn about the lives lived there, the hopes and dreams that were discussed, the hopes and dreams that were dashed, the laughter of children that rang through the halls, the cries of delight at holidays … what if those walls could talk!

While visiting Vicksburg, Mississippi, we stopped at the Court Square in downtown.  There we saw this plaque which gave the history of the town and its courthouse.  It was as if the walls did talk, at least in very brief terms.

Warren County Courthouse, Court Square plaque Vicksburg MS
Plaque in Court Square, Vicksburg, Mississippi

The plaque reads:

Court Square

When Rev. Newet Vick founded Vicksburg in 1819, he designated this city block as a public square, and after the city was incorporated and became the county seat in 1825, a court house was built on the site: it burned in 1856 and the present structure was erected.  It was here that federal soldiers lowered the confederate flag and raised the union banner on July 4, 1863, and Gen. U. S. Grant reviewed his victorious army.  Many famous Americans have spoken on Court Square, including Zachary Taylor, William McKinley, Booker T. Washington, and Theodore Roosevelt.  The building was abandoned as a court house in 1939 and became a museum on June 3, 1948, under the leadership of Mrs. Eva Whitaker Davis and the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society.

Court Square, clearly, was pivotal to the community and many significant events occurred there throughout the 100 years of its history.  Now the courthouse is a museum where people, like us, can come and see detailed information about what occurred in the area throughout the years.  

What if the walls could talk!  The monument gives us some insight into what the walls of the courthouse might say, but not everything is provided there.  It is just a sample of the highlights.

The writer of Ecclesiastes talks about the variety of events in one’s life and then warns that we should enjoy those things that God gives us, but we should be aware that there will be a judgment. 

“So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.”

Ecclesiastes 11:8-9

Jesus said:

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,”

Matthew 12:36

Some translations of this verse change the word “careless” to “idle” or “empty”.  The meaning is the same, and it is sobering.  We will not hear the highlights of our lives.  Oh no, instead we will hear every careless word that we say … they all will be brought before us when we are being judged before our holy God.  Words that we say in anger, words that we say in jest but which cut like knives, words that we say flippantly without seeing the pain inflicted by the harsh tone, words that we say just to sound important, words spoken about others in the stillness of our home … all the words we speak will be splayed out before God on that day. 

Then, the walls will talk!  Nothing will be hidden … and we will be ashamed.

Praise our Lord and Savior that for those who believe in Jesus through faith in His Word will be covered by His righteousness.  Jesus will, in effect, stand in front of us before God and will blot out those hurtful, wasted words so that we will be unblemished through His righteousness.

Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Rest in His atoning work on the cross of Calvary and in His resurrection from the dead.  Read His Word and confess and repent of your sin, accepting His forgiveness. 

Then, when facing God with our Savior at His side, you will hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Father, I bow in humble thankfulness, gratitude and love, I am in awe of your grace and mercy that was extended to me through Jesus Christ my Savior and Redeemer.  Use these simple words to spread your kingdom in our world, My Lord and my God.

ARE YOU A SOLDIER?

We love to take pictures of courthouses as we travel.  It is understandable since I spent 30 years in the practice of law and was in many courthouses throughout the Southeast United States.

On a visit to Vicksburg, Mississippi, we saw the old Warren County Courthouse and decided to look around.  As we were leaving the courthouse, we saw a plaque in honor of the soldiers from Vicksburg and Warren County, Mississippi, who fought in World War II.  The poem at the top of the granite block is entitled SOLDIERS and it reads:

We were that which others did not want to be, we went where others feared to go, and did what others failed to do.  We were … AMERICAN SOLDIERS.

Monument to american soldiers outside vicksburg old courthouse
Monument in Vicksburg, Mississippi 

The word “soldier” brings up many different emotions, memories, experiences to people, but I suspect that for the vast majority of people, the word “soldier” encompasses the concept of one who is willing to deny themselves for the benefit of others.  That is certainly what is within the words on the Warren County monument to  Company B of the 106th Engineer (Combat) Battalion, 31st Infantry (Dixie) Division of the Mississippi National Guard in the 1940s.  

The Apostle Paul was certainly well acquainted with the role that soldiers had in the Roman world.  He, after all, was imprisoned on more than one occasion, and each time there were soldiers who guarded him who undoubtedly heard Paul’s witness for Christ. 

“And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.”

Acts 28:16

Therefore, it is not surprising that Paul used the analogy of being a soldier when referring to serving Christ Jesus in our walk through this life.  Specifically, in 2 Timothy, Paul told the young preacher:

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”

2 Timothy 2:3-4

Being a soldier for Jesus reminds me of a song that I sang as a young child.  It was sung to the tune of The Old Gray Mare and the words went like this: 

I may never march in the infantry;  Ride in the cavalry; .Shoot the artillery.

I may never fly o’er the enemy; But I’m in the Lord’s army! 

Yes Sir!  [with a child’s salute]

The concept of being a soldier is especially strong in my heart today as, this past weekend, one of our congregation’s covenant children and a recent high school graduate left our town and flew to the other side of the world so she could work with a mission organization in Asia. 

She will be in a culture totally foreign to her, away from her family, for a year.  She is, in the truest sense of the term, a soldier for Jesus Christ in a foreign land. 

I pray that the Lord will bless her work and will bring many to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ because of her witness.  I pray that the Lord will give her peace and comfort as she is away from home for such a long time, and I pray that she will be supported through the prayers of the congregation that she left in our town.  [As a parent, I pray too that the Lord will give grace, comfort and peace to her family who will miss her presence daily.]

But, the fact that she left to do her work in the Lord’s army does not mean that there is no such work for me, or for you, to do.  We are all called to be soldiers for Jesus, no matter if it is in a foreign land or across the street.  To paraphrase the Vicksburg granite monument,

We are called to love those who others would not, we will go where others fear to go, and we will give witness even when others fail to do so.   We are … SOLDIERS OF THE KING. 

Listen to my husband’s favorite hymn as presented by 101 Strings on the album Amazing Grace Songs of Faith and Inspiration, “Onward Christian Soldiers”.

Father, I praise You for giving us the gift of Jesus Christ as our Savior, Redeemer and King.  I pray that I would be a soldier in your army who operates in accordance with your orders, and that I would be fruitful in my witness as I do your work in my world.

TRAVEL IN GOD’S HANDS

We have just returned from a trip that covered over 6,000 miles, through lands that were densely populated and through lands where there was no person or building for hundreds of miles at a time.  We experienced mountains followed by corn fields which were followed by huge ranch areas which had brush, cacti and very few trees.  We were in the desert and going through Monarch Pass which registers over 11,000 feet above sea level.   It was an incredible feeling to be standing at the Continental Divide, ears popping all the while!  

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The variety of the landscape is impossible to describe as we traversed from Tennessee to South Dakota, then to Wyoming, on to Idaho, then to Utah, and Colorado, Kansas and Missouri, ultimately returning to home in East Tennessee.

The trip and the thousands of digital pictures will be subject of many future blog posts, I suspect.  Suffice it to say today that our overwhelming experience was encountering our marvelous God everywhere we looked.  Saint John wrote in the Book of Revelation:

“”Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.””

Revelation 4:11 

This is the song that the twenty-four elders sing to our God, and we echoed that song in our hearts as we saw dramatic scenery that revealed His creative power like we have seldom seen.  Some examples are the Red Canyon outside Richfield, Utah.

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In Indiana we saw the Wabash and Mississinewa Rivers and spent time finding and admiring the Seven Pillars on the river.

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And in Wyoming we saw the Grand Tetons looming over the highway, glorious with their snow covered peaks even in the heat of July.

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And in Yellowstone, the geyser basins were the source of incredible beauty.   The orange surrounding the cobalt blue boiling water is bacteria which thrives in this environment. Watch where you walk, though … the water in these “ponds” is way hotter than the boiling point of water and the ground is very thin.  Boardwalks are the only safe way to experience these vents in the earth’s crust.

As spectacular as all this is, God was not only seen in the grand and glorious scenery splayed out before us.  His providential Hand was experienced first-hand when we were filling the gas tank in the RV in a very small Utah town.  A long-distance truck driver who had been following us for some distance came up to us and said one of the rear coach tires was very low, recommending that we add air as soon as possible.  

We thanked him for his kindness and, when the tank was full, we went to the back of the station where there was a three-bay mechanic’s shop.  The owner came out and looked at the tires, noting that the tread on one was split and four of them were long past their replacement date.  (This clearly was something the mechanic in Tennessee should have told us about, but that’s a different story.)

Needless to say, we replaced four of the six tires on the RV and we were on our way, praising our Lord that He was watching out for us, even when we didn’t know we were in danger.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!”

Psalm 143:10 

We have always known God cares for us and is guiding us with His Hand.  But when you can see His Hand working on your behalf, it is overwhelming.  The God who created all this beauty cares about us so much that His immutable love is watching each moment, so that His purpose will be fulfilled in our world and in each of our lives.

Keep your eyes open and see His Hand before you.  Read His Word and let His Spirit speak to your heart and mind.  Bask in the love that our Lord Jesus has for you … He gave His life as a ransom for you.  Praise Him all the day long.

Father, I thank You for the marvelous creation of Your Son.  I thank You that You sustain all things with the power of Your Word, and yet You even know the details of my life as it unfolds before me.  Forgive me when I forget the power of Your Word and when I act as though I am in control.  Take my life, Lord, and make it what You want it to be and may the words of  Scripture bring forth fruit for Your Kingdom. 

JUST WANT TO BE NEAR!

Cuddles and Snickers love to travel with us, at least when we are not going to the Vet’s office!  Then, they are not quite so happy about it.

But, on our recent travels, they enjoyed looking out the windows and, when there were long times between stops, they would fall asleep … something that dogs seem to be able to do with great ease!  But, for their safety as well as ours, we could not take the risk of having to move the vehicle quickly with them loose in the cabin, exposing them to falling down the steps, slamming into furniture, etc.  Also, we did not want them to be able to get under our feet near the accelerator or the brake pedal.  That would have been a recipe for disaster, to be sure!

Cuddles and Snickers near us while moving down highway in RV

The solution was a leash and harness attached to the seat belt on the floor.  We thought we had the leash short enough so they would not get in the way while we were moving along the highway, but at one point I looked down and saw this.  The two of them had wriggled the leash in such a way that they could reach the space between us.  Cuddles had her nose on the engine compartment while Snickers had her back touching it.

It was as if they were saying “We just want to be near you.  We’ll be asleep, but we can sleep better with you right here!”

I believe they were feeling secure.  They didn’t understand that the roadway was going past them beneath their feet, or that the scenery was changing as we were going down the highway, or that towns and cities were passing by them without trouble … they knew they were near us and that is all that mattered to them.

Once again, the canine daughters were teaching me a lesson.  Security in our Lord is available each and every moment of our day and then through the night, even when we are sleeping and unaware of anything. 

The Psalmist wrote:

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.”

Psalm 5:11

David further recognized the love God has for His people when he wrote:

“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.”

Psalm 86:5

Of course, our Lord Jesus talked about rest in Him when He said:

“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.”

Matthew 11:29

These verses reinforce the concept that we are to rest in Jesus, God is loving and will protect us from harm, that is, we are secure in Him for eternity.  I doubt that these concepts were in the dogs’ minds when they were reclining on the floor of the RV.  But I do think that they understood that we were there so that they were not frightened, even of all the strange sounds and vibrations that they may have felt.  They were secure in our love.  They just wanted to be near us.

So, how are we near to our Lord Jesus Christ?  We see Him when we read the Scripture.  The Bible is all about God and our Lord, from beginning to end.  We see Him when we meet together to worship Him.  Believers can encourage and enlighten us as we live our lives in Christ.  We see Him when we look at His creation.  While the creation alone cannot provide saving grace, the fallen creation is still evidence of His power, majesty and glory.  Let creation speak to you and raise your voice in worship and thanksgiving to Him.  We see Him when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide our thoughts and actions. 

 “Be still and know that I am God.” 

Psalm 46:10

Be still before God.  Read your Bible and meditate on its words.  Worship and be under the preaching of Bible teachers who live what they preach and who preach about Jesus Christ as seen in scriptures.  Fellowship with believers who can encourage and support your growth in Christ.  Beloved, be near to Him — He is always near to you!

Be secure and rest in the Lord and be thankful for His sacrificial love. 

 

Father, I thank You for sending Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for my sins.  I pray that I would give honor and glory to you through His blood, and that, through faith alone, I would rest in Him for my salvation.  Grant me peace and security as I travel the road you have placed before me.

LOVE – WHAT’S IN A WORD?

Love, it is a word that is used in the English language for so many things.  Most of which probably don’t really require the term “love”.  For example,

“We love pizza.”

“We love our dogs.” 

KOA dog park 2.JPG
The “girls” running at a campground play yard.

“We love the lake!”

“We love that outfit.”

“We love the mountains.”

Waimea Canyon Kauai mountains
Waimea canyon, Kauai 

“We love how you decorated the room.” 

“We love our children.”

“We love our spouse.” 

But, do we love pizza as much as we love our spouse?  The reality is that we probably don’t love pizza more than our spouse (at least I hope that is the case!).  Do we love our spouse as much as we love an outfit?  

In short, the English language is a bit lame on the word “love.”  Love encompasses a positive emotion, often giddy and mushy, about anything, with no distinction between the type of love or the character of love for the thing before us. 

The Greek is not that way – there are at least three words for “love” and they have very different meanings.

First is Eros from which we derive erotic, or romantic love, sexual and physical; it is a love that desires to possess for personal benefit.

Second is Phileo from which we get Philadelphia and philanthropy, words that mean companionship and friendship.

Third is Agape love.  This is the New Testament Greek word that describes God’s love for us.   Agape love is the result of a decision that commits itself to the well-being of the beloved regardless of the condition or reaction of the one who is loved. 

As Christians, we are to love as Christ loved us – we are to love with the self-sacrificing love that puts others first, no matter what, that puts others’ needs before our own, that grants us the privilege to serve rather than to be served. 

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:2 from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12 from Jesus’ own words to His disciples.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35 from Jesus’ explanation as to the importance of loving each other.

Following Jesus’ example, we are to give ourselves to others as we love others

  • even if we think they don’t deserve our love.
    • As sinners, we certainly did not deserve the love that Christ lavished upon us when He died for us on the cross of Calvary! See Romans 6:23.
  • even if they don’t desire our love.  
    • When we were dead in our sin, we couldn’t ask for or desire help from Christ! See Ephesians 2:4-7.  We all know that a corpse cannot do anything to become an “un-corpse.”  When you are dead, there is no life in you, and you can’t do or desire anything.  But Christ, in His love, touched us and claimed us as His own, even while we were dead in sin.  We did not deserve that love. It was a gift of grace from God.  Therefore, we should not be so judgmental as to think that we could withhold love from anyone!
  • even if they dislike us.
    • Scripture teaches that we not only disliked God and His Son Jesus Christ, we were actual enemies of God. See Romans 5:10.   If Jesus died for us while we were His enemies, we can surely extend love to those to may dislike us!  In fact, Jesus taught that we were, indeed, to love our enemies.  See Jesus’ words in Luke 6:35.

Love is an action word.  We choose to love; we choose to obey Christ; we choose to minister to others in His name; we choose to deny ourselves and to serve others.  Love is not something you fall into or fall out of … it is a decision to commit yourself to the well-being of those you are called to love.

Now that we have made the decision to love others, TELL THEM!

We have had 4 friends who have died in the past 2 months, each of them being special to us in so many ways.  We have known all of them for over 10 years, worshipping with them and learning of God’s love through their lives.  Their lives took very different turns and experiences, but we were all unified through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

  • Don was an elder in our church, a tireless man who aided many and who died suddenly, without warning, his witness through the Gideons and in Bible study will be sorely missed;;
  • Shirley was an incredible Bible teacher and a leader in women’s Bible studies for decades who suffered with ALS for years but her witness for her Lord remained constant;
  • G. B. was a member of Bible-based fellowship group which included my husband and they met weekly for over 15 years; while he struggled with cancer, his death was unexpected and a surprise to all; and
  • Claire was a lady with whom we worshipped, who was a close friend to me even before I met my husband, whose son was best friends with our son from preschool through grammar school, when she moved across country. She was beset with all sorts of physical ailments for decades but her faith in the Lord was solid and she praised Him for all her days.

Tell those you love that you love them.  One day, they will be gone and you will have missed the opportunity to extend love to them in Jesus’ name.

Father, I ask forgiveness for ignoring the multiple opportunities You give me to extend Your love to others.  I ask that You enable me to be more loving and that I would be more vocal about how I love my family, friends and those I come in contact with.  May I bring glory to Your name, Father, because it is only through Your love that I can love others.