ONE STOP AND IT’S ALL DONE!

When we were in Bar Nunn, Wyoming, right near the RV park, there was a sign that I thought was hysterical.

Car truck dog wash sign

In my mind, I was envisioning the long conveyor belt pulling the car, then pulling a truck followed by a dog, all of them going in tandem through the sprayer with the soap squirting all over, then the brushes or perhaps strips of material swinging around lathering up the soap.  Of course, then there is the rinse which is followed by the fans to dry off the car, the truck and the dog! 

I started to laugh, with my mind going to a mental picture of our two MinPin canine daughters going through the dog wash. 

Cuddles and Snickers near us while moving down highway in RV
Cuddles and Snickers resting between the seats in the RV on our trip out West.

Of course, the dog wash was not actually a mechanical thing, rather it was a room with a tub and faucet for cleaning the little darlings!   The mental image, however, stayed with me and brought a chuckle even when they were sitting on my lap sound asleep.

One stop cleaning for car, truck and beast.

Often we want to multi-task, that is, getting more than one thing done at a time.  This is especially true in our modern society with all the technical advantages that former generations did not have and could not even imagine.  

You can be walking, talking on the phone and looking up the Google map of where you are going all at the same time.  We drive the car while eating the fast food on our way to an appointment while an associate is telling us detailed information we need to know before getting to the meeting. 

Multitasking, dividing our attention between multiple things is a common sight in the modern society in which we live.

While you can accomplish much with multitasking, there is at least one thing that you cannot accomplish with that technique.  You cannot commune with the Almighty God while you are doing numerous other things.

In the Holy Bible, the book of Matthew, we read the following account between a lawyer and Jesus:

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law.” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.””

Matthew 22:35-40 ESV

Loving God with all your heart, soul and mind … that doesn’t sound like multitasking to me.  That sounds like we are to meditate on God, on Who He is, on His commandments, on His Word in Scripture … we are to think about God and not squeeze Him into our schedule right after dusting and just behind laundry. 

The Psalmist talks about meditation repeatedly in the Psalter.  Consider these verses:

“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Psalm 77:12 ESV

“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.”

Psalm 119:15 ESV

Beloved, the Almighty God has given us His Son as a sacrifice to pay for our sins.  He who was sinless died a horrible death and suffered the wrath that the Holy God has for sin, our sin.  He took our blame so that we could received His righteousness, through faith in His amazing work.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.”

Psalm 29:2 ESV

The vision of God and the recognition that we are to worship Him properly always brings a realization of our sin.  See what Isaiah says when he saw the vision of God:

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!””

Isaiah 6:1-5 ESV

Isaiah clearly was not considering multitasking when he acknowledged his sin after recognizing the holiness of God.  God is holy and He deserves, no He properly demands, wholehearted worship.  He is the Creator and we are the miniscule creations, but He loved us enough to send Christ to pay the price for our sin.  So, while we may be weaklings when compared to the omnipotent God, we are His pride and joy as His children when we come to Him through faith in His Son.

So, multitasking is fine for some things, but the worship of God deserves our full attention as we seek to know Him better and as we give Him the honor and worship due His Holy Name.

The place for the car wash, truck wash, and dog wash pales when we remember that the Christian is washed in the blood of the Lamb, and that washing does not wear off and does not have to be repeated over and over.  Further, it is a washing that is unique to each and every one of us, and it makes us God’s children for all time.

Meditate on all that the Almighty God has done for you.  Meditate on the work of Jesus Christ as He suffered abandonment by the Father because God could not look on His Son who was covered in humanity’s sin.  Meditate on the work of the Holy Spirit as He quickens our hearts so we can exercise faith in Christ and then He teaches us what we need to know about who God wants us to be – people who are transformed into the image of His Beloved Son.

Praise His Holy Name!

Panguitch what?

We were driving along the road from Richfield, Utah to Bryce Canyon when we saw Panguitch.  What is Panguitch, you might ask?  It is a lovely, small town just 24 miles from Bryce Canyon, and we felt like we were driving through the old west a century ago (as long as you didn’t notice the traffic lights, paved road and modern cars!).

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The Panguitch Mercantile

The town is small, but it has a rich history.  According to the town’s website, “Panguitch” is a Native American Paiute word meaning “Big Fish”, a reference to the many lakes in teh area which are teeming with award-sized rainbow trout.

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Every town needs a Thrift Store

The site further describes the town by saying: “This historically rich town is unassuming, quaint, and full of its own charm. Sprinkled with wild-west history, the city boasts small museums, original architecture, stunning wilderness, and plenty of pioneer spirit.” (Emphasis mine.)

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Cowboy’s Smoke House Cafe on Main Street.

Have you ever stepped back in time?  I know we can’t do it for real, but have you ever thought about a time different than our own?  Perhaps it was a time in your life when things were wonderful, even though you didn’t realize it then.  Or, perhaps you were reading an historical novel and found yourself lost in the time period of the characters in the book.  Or, perhaps you were watching a television series like Downton Abby, and you found yourself thinking how you would have reacted if you had been living at that time.

No matter, the point of that I want us to think about is that God created time, and God is outside of time.  What was yesterday, today and tomorrow for us are all the eternal present for God. 

I certainly cannot explain it, because my mind is limited to time references of a temporal human being.  But, the eternal Creator of time is certainly able to be outside of time.  He has existed forever and He will continue to exist forever. 

In Deuteronomy we read:

There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. And he thrust out the enemy before you and said, ‘Destroy.’”

Deuteronomy 33:26-27 ESV  (see the endnote for more information about Jeshurun)

This verse tells us that none of the gods of the nations around Israel were capable of doing for their worshippers that which Jehovah did for His people.   Matthew Henry says this about this passage:

Riding on the heavens denotes his greatness and glory, in which he manifests himself to the upper world, and the use he makes of the influences of heaven, and the productions of the clouds, in bringing to pass his own counsels in this lower world: he manages and directs them as a man does the horse he rides on. When he has any thing to do for his people he rides upon the heavens to do it; for he does it swiftly and strongly: no enemy can either anticipate or obstruct the progress of him that rides on the heavens.

His boundless eternity; he is the eternal God, and his arms are everlasting.  The gods of the heathen were but lately invented, and would shortly perish; but the God of Jeshurun is eternal: he was before all worlds, and will be when time and days shall be no more.

God’s eternality is one of His attributes that is fundamental to our understanding of His nature.  He existed before the Creation of all things and He will continue to exist long after this world has gone.  He doesn’t need to “step back in time” because all of time is in Him at the same time. 

But for us, we time-bound people, while we can think back and recall other times,  we have no ability to think forward to the future.  That belongs to God.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

Jesus put it this way:

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:34 ESV

Beloved, no matter what faces you today, be aware that God knows of your situation and He has it in His control.  There is simply nothing that comes your way that either surprises God or that is too difficult for Him to deal with – He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.  In other words, God knows all things, God is all powerful, and God is present everywhere. 

All the idols that mankind has created share at least one fundamental characcteristic – they are all manmade.  God, however, is not manmade: rather, He created man.  Trust Him.  Believe in Him.  Look to His Son who paid the price for mankind’s sin and believe in Him for your salvation and eternal life. 

Moses was right – “There is none like God”.

Father, I thank You for your word and I thank You for loving your people with an everlasting love.  You are God.  Forgive me when I have looked to other gods for help when only You can give me life abundant now and eternal hereafter.  You are God, and there is none other.

[By the way, Jeshurun is a poetical name for the people of Israel that is used as a token of affection.  Its meaning is “the dear upright people” and it is used in only four places: Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 22:5, Deuteronomy 33:26, and Isaiah 44:2.]

FRUSTRATED PLANS!

Have you ever had a plan that you had all ready to go and then it was frustrated by something outside your control?  If  you are one of the few people in the world who has not had this experience, here is one that I had on a vacation trip to Alaska. 

We took the train from Anchorage to Healy, and then from Healy to the national park.  Along the way, we were told that we should look out the window and we could see this unique house.

I placed myself at a perfect vantage point, found the house in the viewfinder, clicked the picture and this is what I found.

picture with trees in the way
Trees obliterating the view I had hoped to capture!

The train went a bit farther and, given the blessing of digital photography, I snapped another picture.

picture without trees
There is the Tower House as seen from the train to Denali National Park.

I got it!  Here is the house, enlarged for better viewing.

picture with intended site enlarged

We had been told about the Dr. Seuss House outside Willow, Alaska.  The local folks say that it is 12 stories tall, sufficient to stand above the surrounding trees.  The owner built the house after a forest fire and as a result of the fire, he had incredible unobstructed views of Mount McKinley (also known as Mount Denali) and of the Denali National Park as well.

However, as trees will do, the forest rejuvenated itself and new trees grew up after the fire so that the owner lost the view that he coveted.   Not willing to concede defeat, he simply built another story on top of the existing house so he could see above the trees. This continued and, ultimately, he had a 12-story house, but at least he could see above the trees!  The locals call it “The Dr. Seuss Tower House”.

 [For more information about this unique house, you can find an article written by Alexa Carrasco, dated April 17, 2015 at http://www.curbed.com/2015/4/7/9972998/dr-seuss-willow-alaska-house.  The article includes an aerial video of the house as well as some photographs of the entire building.] 

My plan to take a picture of the Tower House was frustrated because between the time I saw the house and clicked the camera for the picture, trees intervened and blocked my view. 

This, of course, is quite mundane, all I had to do to get my plan accomplished was to wait a moment and snap another picture.  But, many of our plans that we create are not so trivial. 

That same trip to Alaska actually was frustrated shortly after I snapped the picture when, after eating lunch at the End of the Road Restaurant in Denali National Park, I fell and severely broke my ankle.  I didn’t know when I was taking the picture or when I was eating lunch that my Alaska train tour was going to end moments later.  I spent the rest of the time in Alaska either riding for 6 hours in an ambulance out of the national park, riding  for 6 hours in a taxi taking me from Healy to an Anchorage hospital (the nearest place that had x-rays), spending the rest of the week at doctor’s offices, surgery with 9 weeks of non-weight bearing ahead of me.

Our plans were frustrated big time!  But God.  Don’t you love reading those words in Scripture?  But God had other plans for us. 

Scripture tells us:

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

Proverbs 19:21

While the trip took a dramatic turn which we did not expect, the trip was in every way a success, and I even have the plates and screws in my ankle as souvenirs that most other people don’t receive!  The Lord was especially present with us during this time.  For example, we met people from the train who were missionaries to native Alaskans on remote islands prayed when they saw me fall and I learned that they told our traveling companions along the way that they were praying for healing. 

On the only day after surgery that I could go anywhere to see any sights in Alaska, we drove to Seward and saw a landscape rainbow.  It was as if God was saying “I know you only see the clouds of pain and difficulty ahead, but I am with you even protecting you from the clouds.  Trust me.  You are in my hands.”

Landscape Rainbow
Landscape Rainbow, Alaska

My husband took a picture and then we rounded the corner to come back and get the picture from another angle … but the rainbow was gone.  God’s message was received and He didn’t need to let it hang around any longer.   It is my favorite picture from Alaska and we had it enlarged so that it hangs in our family room reminding us of God’s incredible love and constant care.

O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”

Isaiah 25:1

At the end of the trip, we were singing the Lord’s praises along with the prophet Isaiah.  You see, God’s plans are not frustrated by anything.  He knew I was going to fall and He also knew that He had put in place people that He wanted us to meet and experiences to have during this time.  His love never fails and He is faithful and sure. 

Beloved, when our plans are frustrated and we feel that we have been robbed of opportunity, don’t believe Satan’s lie – don’t think that God has let you down or that God is not in control of all things.

Our God is omniscient and omnipotent.  He knows all things and He is all powerful.  This Almighty God loves you and His plans for your life will be accomplished, even if they are seemingly interrupted by negative events.  Trust Him and believe His unfailing Word.

Father, I praise your name for your steadfast love and endless mercy and grace.  Thank You for your mercy in  your provision of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, Who provides salvation for all those who believe in His name.  Thank You for your promise that You are always with us and that You will never leave us or forsake us, even when it seems that all is going wrong.  We praise your holy Name. 

THE COLOR OF THINGS

There are times that I can only just marvel at the variety of colors that God has given us to enjoy in His creation.

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Colors in the gardens at Blenheim Vineyards, Virginia
Blooming trees in spring
Redbud trees with blooms reaching to the skies.
Virginia colorful leaves in autumn 2
Virginia mountains showing their colors in the Autumn.
Miami colorful cactus
Even a cactus provides a splash of color against its green spikes.

God’s colors don’t just exist on top of the earth, they extend to the waters below ground level as well.  

Nassau - colorful fish swimming past
Colorful fish swim by in Nassau.

And His colors extend to the heavens where the clouds reflect His light and glory.

Sunset over Annandale VA 4
Sunset in Annandale, Virginia

Even in the deep canyons of our earth we see the beautiful colors of the Lord’s handiwork.

Bryce Canyon 1
Bryce Canyon

I realize there are scientific explanations for why colors exist, why we see certain colors in the way that we do, why clouds reflect the light of the sun, etc.  I understand all that, but I still come back to the fact that God is the Creator of all things and He is the One who designed the system that produces the colors we see.

Colors abound in God’s creation, and He delights in them.  However, there are two other colors of which God is intimately aware that abound in man.  These colors must be dealt with here, on earth, before we are called into eternity.

The first is the scarlet/crimson stain that sin has placed on our hearts.  Simply stated, sin is disobedience to God.  It is doing that which He said not to do, creating idols that take His rightful place in our hearts, putting ourselves at the helm of our life as if God is not only unnecessary, He is irrelevant to how we want to live.  Such pride and arrogance is sin.  The holy God cannot tolerate, condone or even look upon such disobedience.

This being true, Isaiah 1:16-18 God says:

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 

In other words, while your hands are full of blood I will have nothing to do with you, though you bring me a multitude of sacrifices; but if you wash, and make yourselves clean, you are welcome to draw nigh to me; come now, and let us talk the matter over.

James 4:8 says:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Isaiah 1 says:

That all their sins should be pardoned to them, and should not be mentioned against them. “Though they be as red as scarlet and crimson, though you lie under the guilt of blood, yet, upon your repentance, even that shall be forgiven you, and you shall appear in the sight of God as white as snow.’ Note, The greatest sinners, if they truly repent, shall have their sins forgiven them, and so have their consciences pacified and purified. Though our sins have been as scarlet and crimson, as deep dye, a double dye, first in the wool of original corruption and afterwards in the many threads of actual transgression-though we have been often dipped, by our many backslidings, into sin, and though we have lain long soaking in it, as the cloth does in the scarlet dye, yet pardoning mercy will thoroughly discharge the stain, and, being by it purged as with hyssop, we shall be clean.  See Psalm 51:7.  If we make ourselves clean by repentance and reformation, God will make us white by a full remission.

How does this occur?  How can God even discuss turning our scarlet sinful heart into a heart that is white as snow?  The prophet Isaiah had an inkling of how this would be done and he described it in his prophecies:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14  By the way, Immanuel means “God with us.”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”

Isaiah 9:6-7

In Isaiah 52-53 we read of the Suffering Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ who was the Redeemer for our souls.  See these three verses indicating the transfer of our sin to the sinless Jesus Christ as he died on the cross.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53:4-6

So, what color is your heart?  Is it scarlet with unrepentant sin or is it white as snow because you have claimed Jesus Christ as your Savior Redeemer?  

There are a myriad of marvelous colors in God’s creation, but there are only two colors that decide the eternal fate of every person on this globe.  Scarlet because of sin — White as snow because of Jesus’ transforming power in your life.  Surrender your life, your will, your everything to God through Jesus Christ and you will be changed inside so that your sin will be forgiven and you will become a child of Bod, clothed with the white robe of the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Lord, I pray that Your Word would work in the hearts, minds and souls of each of us as we consider whether we have become white with Jesus Christ’s righteousness.  Let those who are so clothed be thankful and humbled by the loving obedience and acceptance of our Savior.  Those who do not know the Lord Jesus, I pray would read Your Word and that Your Spirit would touch their hearts and transform them into children of our God.  

 

 

 

GIVE TILL IT HURTS?

In the days of my childhood, i recall the minister preaching about giving our money, time and talents to the Lord and His Church.  One of the phrases that he repeated was that we were to give to the Lord “until it hurts”. 

I suspect that the scripture he was using for this thought was Jesus’ comparison of the rich men giving to the temple treasury with that of the widow.   Read Luke 21:1-4. In short, the rich were giving out of their abundance while the widow, in her poverty, gave all that she had.  Giving to the Lord did not “hurt” the rich men but it cost the poor widow everything.  

But, does scripture require us to hurt when we give to the Lord?  I don’t think so.

In 1 Chronicles 29 we read of the freewill offerings that the Israelites provided to the house of God.  The figures of their gifts that we find recorded for us to consider are truly staggering.  In verse 7 we read that they gave 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze and 100,000 talents of iron.

I am not an accountant nor am I a math whiz, but research tells me that these figures equate to approximately 188 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, 375 tons of silver, 675 tons of bronze and 3,750 tons of iron.  (See the New Living Translation for these figures)  And this does not even consider the precious stones that were given to the treasury of the house of the Lord.  

When God created our world, He did not skimp.  He did not say “they are going to sin and cause heartache for me so I’ll give them a dump to live in, that’s all they deserve!  They are going to mess up my creation anyway, so they don’t deserve to have my beauty around them.” 

That’s not the way of our God. He created a beautiful world full of abundance and reflective of His glory even though it is now marred by man’s sin.  

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Snow-capped Grand Tetons 
Ocean verticle sun going down
Sunset over the ocean.
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Frozen Head State Park, Morgan County, Tennessee.
Yosemite 2011 WRM 095 Overlook of Kings Canyon National Park (C)
King’s Canyon National Park Overlook, California
Waimea Canyon Kauai mountains
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

David said it this way:

“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.  He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

Psalm 33:6-8 

God displayed His incredible beauty, power, majesty and glory through His creation which He provided to us.  We should stand in awe of our God, because He is the Almighty, the one true God.  Of course, God’s display of His beauty in our world does not even begin to encompass what God has provided us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  God’s steadfast love, mercy and grace is abundantly evident in Christ’s atoning death on the cross.  

God gave us His Son to satisfy the judgment of death that sin brought to us.  Praise God that Jesus rose from the dead and now intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  There is nothing that we can do to earn salvation.  We are sinful creatures and have no good within us.  Even our best is equivalent to filthy rags in God’s eyes.  So we have no ability to bridge the gap between sinful man and a holy God.  Through Christ’s death and resurrection, He provides us with His righteousness. 

This righteousness is a gift from God. We can do nothing to earn it.  But, what is it worth?  What would you pay for it if you could do so?  In thankfulness, give God your life, your plans, your dreams, your abundance.  Love Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and then love your neighbor as yourself.  Obedience to God is the sacrifice that He desires.   

Of all people, we as Christians should be honoring the Lord daily, giving thanks to Him for this great gift of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, and glorifying God by obeying His word.  Give until it hurts?  No.  Give to Him in praise and thanksgiving, with joy and gladness.   

Going back to 1 Chronicles and the gifts that the people gave to the house of the Lord, what I find beautiful is not the amount or weight of their gifts, but the fact that they rejoiced in their giving.   Here is the record in 1 Chronicles 29:9-13:

Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly.  Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever.  Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.  Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.””

Be like the Israelites of old. They they didn’t grouse about how poor they were!  They rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD.  

When was the last time you rejoiced in your giving?  When was the last time you gave with a whole heart offering your resources, time and energies freely to the Lord?   When was the last time you rejoiced in being of service to the King of King, the Lord of Lords, and the Redeemer of your soul? 

Give until you hurt?  No.  Give until your giving reflects your thanks to the Lord for all that He has done for you through Christ as well as on a day-to-day basis. 

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Eruption of White Cone Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

Give willingly and freely.  Give obediently and rejoice in the Lord.  Let your thanks erupt into giving from a full heart devoted to our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I praise Your name for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ my Lord and my Redeemer.  Forgive me when my giving has been skimpy and unfeeling, when I cared more for what I wanted to do with my money than what I could give to You in thanksgiving for all that You have given me.  May I rejoice in Your steadfast love and may that find expression through joyful giving with a thankful heart.  

DO RULES MATTER?

A brief look around will reveal that we have a multitude of churches and many of them look very unlike each other!  

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Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!

There are awe-inspiring cathedrals with vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, while offering worshipers a place for singing, prayer and contemplation.. 

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

Some churches are much simpler, far less ornate; some are centuries old and others are of newer vintage.  Building style is irrelevant.  These, too, offer worshipers a place for singing, prayer and contemplation.  In short, the question is whether the focus is on God as the one being worshiped or on the worshiper as a consumer or customer.

Jesus said:

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

John 4:24 

Sometimes things go on in church that are inconsistent with God’s instructions for worship.  When the priests were selling animals in the temple at Jerusalem, Jesus was angry and overturned their tables and scattered the animals, saying: 

“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

Matthew 21:13 

Jesus was quoting from the prophet Isaiah who wrote these words centuries earlier: 

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant–these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Isaiah 56:6-7 

Do rules matter?  Yes, God’s rules matter.  An example of this is found in 1 Chronicles when David, with incredibly good intentions, sent to have the ark returned to Jerusalem.  When he did not follow the rules, disaster struck.

“Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.” 

Deuteronomy 31:9 

Here we read that the priests were to be from the tribe of Levi, and the priests were the ones who were to carry the ark of the Lord.  Certain priests were to carry the ark on poles so that no one would ever touch the ark. (Exodus 25:10 et seq.) It was holy because God was there, and God had established the way for it to be transported safely. 

“And four wagons and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.  

But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because they were charged with the service of the holy things that had to be carried on the shoulder.

Numbers 7:8-9

The sons of Merari received wagons and oxen for use in their service as priests in the tabernacle of God, and Uzzah was one of Merari’s sons.  He, therefore, had the cart and oxen ready for use in temple service.  But reading the very next verse in Numbers 7 reveals that the sons of Kohath did not get a cart or oxen because they were to care for the things of God that had to be carried on their shoulders, like the ark of the covenant.  

“So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim.  And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim.  And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. “And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets.  And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled.  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.”

1 Chronicles 13:5-10

Uzzah tried to do something good in that he was steadying the ark so it would not fall when the oxen stumbled, but the ark of God was to be carried on the priests shoulders by using the poles permanently affixed to the ark.  It was not to be put on a cart pulled by oxen.  Uzzah disobeyed God’s rule and he died, immediately, on the spot, without any appeal or delay. 

God’s rules matter.  God’s justice mandates that His rules be followed, if for no other reason than He is God and He said so!  Even human parents look at their children and say “Because I said so!”  That’s all the reason the young child needs to have to obey what his/her parent directed.  And it is all that we need when we consider whether we should follow God’s rules … choosing not to do so is SIN and that carries serious consequences.

David learned the lesson.  After leaving the ark for three months at the home of Obed-Edom, David summoned the priests and ordered them to bring the ark to Jerusalem.. However, this time he used Levites who were commissioned to carry the ark on poles … he did it in accordance with God’s rules.

“Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it.  Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule. So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel.”

1 Chronicles 15:11-14 

The ark was successfully carried by the priests and came to rest at the place David had prepared for it.  God’s rules are to be followed. 

Worship is, by definition, not about you or me!  Rather, it is about God.  In Deuteronomy 6:5, Moses wrote:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” 

This was reiterated by Jesus when He called it the great and first commandment:

“Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:29-31 

How do you see worship?  Is it a time for you to boast in your pride of position of power, or in your ability to financially support the church?  While you are in the service are you thinking about all the things you could be during the hour you sat in worship? Is it a time when you walk out of the service thinking that you didn’t get anything out of being there that day?  

Or is it a time when you worship God with your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength?  Is your focus on God and your relationship with Him?  Is your desire to praise Him for who He is, for His attributes and character?  

Rules matter.  I pray that we will return to worship God in the way that He has directed.  God’s commandments are not suggestions nor are they optional.  Follow them and live.  Worship Him in spirit and in truth, and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  

Father, forgive me when I have failed to worship You as You desire.  Help me to focus on You and Your Word throughout my day as I worship You in my life.

HOW GREAT THOU ART!

We had the privilege to go on an extended vacation last summer.  We traveled throughout the western United States  and visited many of our national parks. 

The sights and sounds were incredible.  Often, the primary sound we heard was silence, as the beauty of the national park was mesmerizing in itself … words were impossible to describe the beauty and we just drank in the view.

IMG_20180626_1342546_rewind

The Grand Tetons were magnificent in their snow-topped heights, and sprawling majesty.

20180707_141941

The colors and pillars (called “Hoodoos”) of Bryce Canyon became etched in our minds as we considered the beauty and majesty of God’s handiwork.

Monarch Pass in Colorado, at an elevation of 11,312 feet, was windy, cold and dizzying when viewing the mountaintops that surrounded the parking lot at the summit.

11 colorado 2 monarch pass 1 continental divide

Descending form the parking area, the mountains were up close and personal.  Visages of raw power, strength and rugged beauty. 

descending from monarch pass

We were praising God throughout our trip as we saw glorious, sculpted rock pillars in numerous variations of colors and shapes, and prevalent even along the highways.  We praised our God for the beauty of the mountains and for the wondrous provision of water, lakes, rivers, ponds and fountains throughout the hills and byways. 

The hymn “How Great Thou Art” does a good job of summarizing our reaction and wonder as we got a view of God’s creation that was different than we usually experience in East Tennessee. 

HOW GREAT THOU ART

[Verse 1]

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

[Refrain]
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

[Verse 2]
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze

[Refrain]

[Verse 3]
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin.

[Refrain]

[Verse 4]
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

[Refrain]

Of course, the hymn does not describe merely the creation that God has provided to us, it goes on to describe the glories of salvation that God has given when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Creation tells us that God exists.  Salvation tells us the magnitude of God’s love for His people in that He sent Christ to pay for our sin.  Praise is the our rightful response for both His creation and His gift of salvation.

The Book of Psalms in the Bible is the hymnbook of the Israelites, and it is full of exhortation to praise the Lord.  Here are just some of the verses that admonish us to praise Him:

“Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:” 

Psalm 102:18

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

Psalm 106:1

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!”

Psalm 113:1

Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!  For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 117:1-2

The book of Psalms ends with this same exhortation that applies to everyone:

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!”

Psalm 150:6

Oh, that I would remember how great our God is even during the humdrum activities of life that so often seem to be frustrating and irritating.  When we consider all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ, His Son, we should be shouting our praise and love for Him from the housetops, in everything that we do and in all the ways we serve others. 

Praising the Lord is a matter of the heart.  We can have a settled heart and mind because we can praise the Lord through whatever comes our way.  Praise Him when good things happen, certainly.  That’s not hard!  But, praising Him when adversity may arise is difficult.  We know that pain will be present in our lives; difficulties will present themselves at unexpected and usually inconvenient times; heartache will interrupt our lives when malevolent activities cause grief and loss. 

Beloved, no matter what we may have to endure, nothing will take us out of the Hand of our God, the Almighty God who uses even these hard times to transform us into the image of His Son.  This is why we can praise the Lord even as we are in tears.

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!”

Psalm 112:1

Praise the Lord.  I am challenging myself to make praise my “default position” before God.  Care to join me in this challenge? 

 

Father, I praise Your Name for the wonder and glory of salvation through Christ our Lord.  I praise You Name when I see the creation that You have placed before me, and when I think of Your steadfast love and mercy.  Enable me to praise You even more each day, and may I make praise my “default position” before You!

DID YOU SEE THE MOON!

On Jan. 20, 2019, the moon passed through Earth’s shadow in a total lunar eclipse. This is the only total lunar eclipse that we will have in 2019.  Lunar eclipses can occur only during a full moon, and this one was extra special because it was also a supermoon. A supermoon occurs when the moon is full and closest to Earth in orbit.

The moon truly was a “supermoon”.  When it rose over the horizon, it looked like an immense ball in the heavens.  It was huge and it dwarfed the vegetation beneath it.  I realize that its size was a function of the effect that the horizon has on my mind.  It is explained that when the moon is near the horizon, we perceive it to be farther away from us than when it is high in the sky. But since the moon is actually the same size, our minds make it look bigger when it is near the horizon to compensate for the increased distance.  No matter the mental, physical, psychological or scientific cause for the size of the moon when it appears at the horizon, it was enormous last evening.

We watched the recent eclipse of the sun, a solar eclipse, and saw the moon block the sun, with the black moon surrounded by the blazing light that emanates from the sun’s surface.   The total lunar eclipse is much different.

When there is a total lunar eclipse, our planet slides between the sun and the moon.  For the eclipse to be total, the moon has to be in perfect alignment with the sun and Earth, with the moon on the opposite side of Earth from the sun.

When the full moon moves into Earth’s shadow, it darkens, but it doesn’t disappear. Sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere lights the moon so that it appears to be a red coppery color.

According to Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History:

If you were standing on the surface of the moon when this event was happening, and you were staring back at the Earth, what you would see is this beautiful reddish-orangish tinted ring.

We went outside in the below-freezing temperatures to see what we could of this lunar event.  Unfortunately, clouds were moving in so we could not see the full eclipse, but we did see its beginning as the earth moved into position! 

Thankfully, numerous pictures can be found on the Internet so that we can see this picture of God’s handiwork even if clouds obscured it from our vision.  This picture was taken by a telescope at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.

griffith observatory lunar eclipse
Credit: Griffith Observatory

The Psalmist said:

Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!”

Psalm 148:3 

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 19:1 

One of the things that affected me, even when watching the beginning of the eclipse when clouds were filtering in, was the silence of the night.  This incredible display of nature was going on above me, high in the heavens, without sound, without fanfare, just doing what God ordained to be done. 

As I put my head on the pillow, I thought about the eclipse and how silently the event was unfolding, how gloriously rhythmic nature is in its movements, how amazingly dependent we are on the clockwork movement of nature, and how fragile we are when compared to the glories that God manifests in His creation.

Surely, the heavens do declare the glory of God. 

Let our lips join the heavens as we glorify God all our days.  As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says:

1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

 

Father, I praise You for all the marvelous works in creation.  I praise You for all the wonderful works given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.  I praise You for all the truths expressed through the Holy Spirit in Your Word.  Thank You for the beauty of Your creation.  I pray that I would glorify You today, and all the days that You grant to me.

TIME – WHO CAN COMPREHEND IT?

My husband and I had occasion to talk about time the other day.  Specifically, we were speaking about how it seems like something that happened one year ago seems as though it happened yesterday and, at the same time, seems as though it happened many years ago.  We know the date of the occurrence, and we know the current date, but time seems to both telescope into the distant past as well as coming down to the microscope of yesterday.

I suspect you have had those same feelings.

Dover cliffs
The white cliffs at Dover, England.

When we were in England about 8 years ago, we saw the white cliffs at Dover, England, something that my Dad talked about seeing during the war.  They were beautiful, and it was an experience that I treasured having.  It seems that it was yesterday when we were walking on that path; but it also seems as though we were there at least 20 years ago because of the multitude of experiences that we have had since then.

How can our concept of time be so fluid when, in fact, time is one of the most measured and constant things we have in our world.  Every year has 365 days in it (except for leap year, then it is 366), every day has 24 hours in it, every hour has 60 minutes.  We know this … yet sometimes it seems the days go by slowly and other times it seems the time flies past us.

We know from the account of creation that God created all things, including the establishment of time for our universe. 

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

Genesis 1:1-5

That is how we still speak of time – the morning and the evening is one day. 

Although God created time, God is not bound by it.  Indeed, God is eternal.  Not only will God exist undiminished everlastingly into the future, but He has existed identically throughout the infinite past.

God told Moses His Name in Exodus 3:14:  “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  No beginning and no end.  God IS.   

Jesus, as one part of the Trinity, is God and is, like the Father, eternal, with no beginning and no end.  In Hebrews 13:8 we read:  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

But that is not all that speaks to us about time.  Scripture also says this:

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

2 Peter 3:8

We are finite creatures, not like the infinite eternal God.  But I wonder if God gives us a taste of what is like when we seem to have the same event in the recent past as well as in the long past.  It would seem that this might be the case given Peters words in his second epistle. 

There is much that I don’t know.  But, I do know this – God is my powerful, infinite, personal, awesome God, and He is far beyond the limits of time.  He knows the past and He knows the future, both for the universe in a cosmic sense and yet for me personally, even though I am no more than a humble creature that is less than a miniscule dot on the planet.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. 

Father, I thank You for the gift of life, the gift of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit.  You know the future that has been planned for me, and I am secure and confident in Your hands.