CREATION AS AN EXPRESSION OF A LOVING GOD

When the dark days of late autumn and winter arrive, it is hard to find color in the world.  It seems that everything comes in shades of gray.  So I like to remember the beauty of the flowers of the summer and early autumn.

Jefferson vineyard and gardens grounds Charlottesville VA
Jefferson Vineyard and Gardens, Charlottesville, Virginia

Scripture tells us of the creation story, specifically on the third day God created the plants and vegetation of our earth.

“And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so.  The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.”  

Genesis 1:11-13 ESV

God saw the vegetation, flowers, plants and trees and saw that “it was good”! 

Gardens at Jefferson Vineyards, Charlottesville VA 2
Gardens at Jefferson Vineyards, Charlottesville, Virginia

In fact, God was so pleased with His created nature that when He gave the directions for construction of the tabernacle by His people in the wilderness, He specifically included flowers to be depicted in the furnishings. 

“You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it.”

Exodus 25:31 ESV

Blenheim gardens around tasting room 2
Gardens at Blenheim Vineyards, Charlottesville, Virginia

Can you imagine the beauty of the golden lampstand shaped as flowers for the use in the tabernacle?  Can you imagine what it looked like when the sun shined and the gold reflected light as it glittered in the stark contrast to the wilderness surrounding the people? 

This same motif was to be followed in the house of the Lord that King Solomon was instructed to build.

The cedar within the house was carved in the form of gourds and open flowers. All was cedar; no stone was seen. … Around all the walls of the house he carved engraved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms.”  

1 Kings 6:18, 29 ESV

Can you imagine the beauty of trees and flowers carved into the cedar?

Jefferson garden giant sunflowers
Giant Sunflowers in Jefferson Vineyard and Gardens, Charlottesville, Virginia

“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!  Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!  For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.”  

Psalm 96:1-6 ESV

Our God is the One who created the universe and He included in our world the beauty of a wide diversity of flowers and vegetation of all kinds.  Praise His holy name for the beauty of His creation for the children of men.

Father, I praise Your name for Your marvelous work in creation.  Thank You for the beauty around us.  May I give You honor and glory for this is due You because You and You alone are God.

GLORIOUS BEAUTY ON DISPLAY

Sometimes we get a glimpse of the incredible variety and diversity among even things that usually look very similar.

While that sentence sounds like gibberish, I am thinking of the glorious beauty that God gives each Autumn when the leaves on most deciduous trees change from their traditional green color into an incredible pallet of colors of various intensities, hues and shades. 

Colorful vista in Virginia mountains

As we were driving through the mountains of Virginia recently, the views from the highway were breathtaking as the colorful leaves broadcast their praise to their Creator.  The beautiful views in the mountains made me think of the Scripture speaking of the joy we can have through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

In Matthew Poole’s in-depth commentary on Isaiah 55, he says the scripture speaks of an invitation to seek spiritual blessings from Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father.  We should come to Christ speedily, by repentance, and rest assured that His grace is infinite, His Word is powerful and that believers in Him will have joy eternal. 

In Isaiah 55:12-13 God is speaking, and it reads as follows:

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Isaiah 55:12-13 

Colorful leaves along highway in Virginia

The mountains and hills and the trees of the field will break forth in singing and clapping their hands at the joy of the Lord and at His reign.  

Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter IV.1 says:

It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.

Scripture confirms this statement of faith.  See for example:

Colossians 1:16

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.

Psalm 33:5 says:

He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love [goodness] of the LORD.

This world was created by our God for His glory, and even the plants and animals were created for His glory.  In fact, we, too, were created by God and it is our incredible privilege to live for His glory and to love Him supremely.

Beloved, does your spirit soar when you consider the love that the Lord has for you?  Do you look around at this beautiful time of the year and see the Lord’s hand outstretched before you? 

Open your eyes and see the marvelous works of God.  Praise His name and come to Him in repentance and love.  Bless His name throughout your days, and the peace of our Lord will rest upon you eternally.

Father, thank You for evidence of Your love and blessing as we look around us during the beautiful autumn days.  I pray that I would not take these blessings for granted but that I would praise You and glorify You each day that I live.  In Jesus name, I pray.

 

THE HORSE – A VISION OF MAJESTIC STRENGTH

We were visiting in Tampa recently when we were invited to have lunch at a restaurant named Ulele.  It is in the old waterworks building so it has a charm that modern buildings just cannot replicate.

Ulele - Tampa 4

Inside the restaurant, there is a magnificent bronze statue of a stallion created by Victor Delfin, that is the focal point of the décor.

Ulele - Tampa 14

Standing closer to the figure you get a sense of its size and musculature.

The Laughing Horse by Victor Delfin at Ulele in Tampa Florida
“The Laughing Horse” by Victor Delfin.  The artist was skilled in his representation of this magnificent animal.

Scripture contains many references to horses.  One that I dearly love is found in the book of Job where God is responding to the demand for answers that Job propounded to Him:

Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?  Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying.  He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.  He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword.  Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin.  With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.  When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”

Job 39:19-25 ESV

This description of the horse grips me with awe for the strength, courage and resilience of this mighty animal.  But we are warned in Proverbs to give credit where credit is due:

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”

Proverbs 21:31 ESV

When we have battled a temptation and won, we must not boast in the victory – rather, we give God the glory for the victory because He enabled us to be victorious. 

Further, we read in Psalm 147 that while God created both the horse and man, their strength does not bring God delight:

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”  

Psalm 147:10-11 ESV

Just think of the privilege we have — we can bring pleasure to the Creator of the universe!  When we reverence the Lord, when we cling to His steadfast love, it is in those times that we bring the Lord pleasure!  The prophet Micah reminded the people that God has told them what He required:

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

Micah 6:8 ESV

These same commands apply to us today.  These things bring our God pleasure!

One of the final references to the horse in Scripture is in the last book of the Bible, Revelation where we read:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.”

Revelation 19:11 ESV

Our Lord will be victorious.  He will come in righteousness as the perfect Judge of the world He came to save but which rejected Him.  For the Christian, the white horse is a welcome sign; for the non-believer it bespeaks of judgment and rejection. 

So, do you trust in the horse or in the One who created the horse and who will ultimately return on a white horse in judgment at the end of time?

Father, I praise Your name for sending Jesus Christ to be our atoning sacrifice on the cross.  Thank You, Lord and Savior, for Your obedience and willingness to come to save us from our sin.  Thank You, Holy Spirit, for quickening the hearts of Your children so that we can believe on the name of the Lord and be saved.

500 years and counting!

Just a short note to say that Today, October 31, is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  October 31, 1517, marked the beginning of the unveiling of the light of the gospel that had been hidden during the dark Middle Ages.  It was a day that resulted in being able to spread the word that salvation is available through faith alone in Christ alone.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther stood up and faced the authorities, challenging them to accept Scripture as God’s Word and the sole guidance for our life and as the rule for our faith.

He also penned multiple hymns, the most famous of which is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, based on Psalm 46.  This hymn celebrates the sovereign power of God over all earthly and spiritual forces, and it highlights our sure hope that we have through Jesus Christ.   It is said that Luther’s hymn was on the lips of the people and that it encouraged the faint-hearted, bringing strength to fight the battle of the Lord.

It was sung at Augsburg during the Diet, and in all the churches of Saxony, often against the protest of the priest.  It was sung in the streets; and, so heard, comforted the hearts of Melanchthon, Jonas, and Cruciger, as they entered Welmar, when banished from Wittenberg in 1547.  It was sung by poor Protestant emigrants on their way into exile, and by martyrs at their death.  It is woven into the web of the history of Reformation times, and it became the true national hymn of Protestant Germany.

Studies of Familiar Hymns, by Louis F. Benson, D.D., The Westminster Press, 1903, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” at page 159.  

Listen to this wonderful hymn and praise our God for the work of Luther and the other Reformers 500 years ago.  Then, praise God for His preservation of His Word and for His marvelous Gift to the children of men!

Here is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as presented on the album Hymns for All Saints: Adoration, Praise, Comfort, (Concordia Publishing House). 

As you listen to this wonderful hymn, praise our God for the work of Luther and the other Reformers 500 years ago.  Then, praise God for His preservation of His Word and for His marvelous Gift to the children of men!   Now, work for God’s kingdom and pray that 500 years from now, if the Lord has not yet returned, the light of the Reformation will still shine out over our planet!

Praise the Lord!

DOCTORS, HOSPITALS, PETS AND FEARS, REVISITED

One of our canine daughters, Cuddles to be exact, has a problem with her feet. 

Apparently, at some time in her past, she was abused in and around her paws.  When she first arrived at our home, we tried clipping her nails and could not get her to hold still.  She violently pulled back — never snapped, but clearly was terrified.

So, we took her to the groomer’s and asked them to clip her nails.  They returned the dog to us, with one or two nails a bit shorter, but clearly not clipped as we expected, and the groomers appeared to have fought in some battle, rather than attending to her paws!  Again, she was clearly terrified.

cuddles-rin-min-pin-stance
Cuddles in her “Rin-Min-Pin” stance.

Next stop on the journey for reducing nail length was the veterinarian.  We told him that no one had been able to clip her nails and he gave us the “You poor guys, can’t even get the dog to hold still for a minute!  We’ll take care of it!” look as he carried her into the treatment area.

About 8 minutes later, a very harried vet returned carrying Cuddles.  Her nails are no shorter, and he is significantly humbled by the strength of our little MinPin.  And, as per previous encounters, she is clearly terrified.

“We were not able to calm her sufficiently to do the job”, this being a complete understatement if I had ever heard one.   He then said we had two options: 1) to bring her back on another day and have him clip and cauterise her nails under anesthesia (the expensive option) or 2) to have our limbs shredded when our skin came in contact with her paws (the cheap option).

We chose the costly option rather than experiencing Samurai sword claws when she jumps up onto our lap. She has been with us for 4 years and her fear remains as a visceral barrier to a normal pedicure.

So, is this post about our travails with Cuddles nails?  Yes, but just a bit. 

Like Cuddles, I am facing a fearful situation – another spinal surgery where 2 broken rods will be replaced and 2 more will be added in an attempt to stabilize my spine so as to alleviate additional curvature and pain.

I have had this type surgery twice and doing it again is fearful.  But, I am sure I am not alone in this.  Whether the injury is physical, psychological, mental or emotional, whether it is from the past or something you are facing in your immediate future, fear is visceral.  .

Cuddles trusts us — she, in her own doggie way, knows we would not intentionally harm her.  But her trust is not sufficient to overcome the fear that some other event had imprinted on her psyche.

Cuddles and I are different, however. I understand that perfect love casts out fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18

While my fear from past events knocked me down, it could not overpower my Lord and Savior. Fear of the upcoming surgery will not overwhelm me now. My Lord is sovereign and trustworthy, and I am in His hands. 

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” 

Psalm 9:10

We are repeatedly admonished in Scripture to trust the Lord.  For example, the Psalmist compares objects of trust in Psalm 20:7 where he affirms:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

And, the writer of Proverbs says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

The God that is described in the Old Testament as being trustworthy is the same God we serve in the New Testament body of Christ.  The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:8 that:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

So, who do you trust when you come face to face with your fears?  Do you trust in human wits, Oprah, psychology, or tabloid suggestions? Or do you trust the Creator of the Universe, the omniscient, omnipresent God who sent His Son to be our Savior?

May we say, along with the prophet Isaiah:

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” 

Isaiah 26:4.

Father, forgive me for the myriad of times when I let my fears and insecurities rise to the surface so that they distract me from living my life in victory in the power of your Son through your Holy Spirit.  I praise You for being an everlasting rock upon whom we can trust.  I praise You, also, that You have never forsaken me even when my fears turned my eyes away from your beloved Son.  Thank You for your overwhelming love and protection, despite my fears.

 

HOW BRIGHT IS THE LIGHT?

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. … He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Matthew 17:1-2, 5.

In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John records his vision of the Lord Jesus Christ and says, in part:

In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

Revelation 1:16.

When the solar eclipse was occurring on August 21, 2017, we stood transfixed while watching the moon march through the afternoon sky, with the sun high in the heavens.  When the moon completely covered the sun, the corona was still visible as a flaming band surrounding the image of the dark moon. 

DSC_0034 a

But, when the moon continued its preordained trek across the sky and began to uncover the sun, the sun’s radiant light was not restrained any longer.  The power of that first glimpse of the sun’s light was so strong that the corona which had transfixed our gaze seemed to disappear in the brilliance of the sun’s pure light.  And, the moon’s participation in this planetary spectacle was almost obliterated by the re-emergence of the sun’s light.

How bright is the light? 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

Scripture writers recorded the light emanating from the Lord at his transfiguration by referencing the sun and its bright light.  Paul records his confrontation with a bright light when the Lord called him to do His work:

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me.”

Acts 22:6

How bright is the light?  The light from the Lord blinded Paul as he was on the road to Damascus.  Similarly, we were told that it was dangerous for us to gaze at the sun with our naked eyes, even when the moon was covering part of it.  In our sinful nature, we cannot look at the holiness and magnificence of God — He is surrounded in blinding light. 

We used eclipse glasses to watch the heavenly event without danger.  The Light of our Lord is strong enough to find us when we stray, to guide our path and to extinguish the darkness of sin.  When we look at God through the righteousness of His Son, we see His power and His glory, and we have comfort in His omnipotence because we are in His arms.  

For a couple of minutes during the totality of the eclipse, the sun’s light was stopped by the moon.  The Son’s Light, however, does not stop — it will last forever!  

Father, I thank You for the privilege of watching Your creation operate in such wondrous ways.  I praise Your name for the gift of seeing Your power and majesty as they are exhibited in Your creation.  You are God, and there is none like You.  Praise and honor are due to You, and You alone.

 

GOD’S GLORY MADE MANIFEST IN THE SKY

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

On August 21, 2017, many of us in the continental United States had the opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse.  While I am told that eclipses occur frequently, there has not been a coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the United States since 1918.

Solar Eclipse in totality with large corona
The corona visible during the Solar Eclipse in Totality on August 21, 2017, as seen in Maryville, Tennessee

The moon cast a 70-mile wide shadow over the earth as it traversed between ourselves and the sun.  How could the moon block out the sun?  The numbers are easy to understand but incredible to comprehend.  The sun is 400 times greater than the moon, but the moon is 400 times closer to the earth than the sun.

Even though you no longer can see the sun itself in the total solar eclipse, its power is impossible to contain as the corona emanates from the sun while the moon appears to linger on its journey. The corona is a superheated region of plasma located above the sun’s photosphere, and scientists assert that it extends for over five million kilometers.  Staggering figures that give further evidence of the magnificence of our Creator God.   

There are many who will write tomes about this eclipse, and my offering here will surely be rudimentary and simplistic, but, after seeing this heavenly event, I can only be in awe of God’s majesty and glory, repeating what the Psalmist said:

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.  

Psalm 145:5

God has chosen to communicate Himself to us through the glory and majesty of His created order, nature.  The theologians call this General Revelation or Natural Revelation – that is to say, these are the works or acts by which God reveals himself through nature. 

The purpose of General Revelation is to make God’s eternal power and deity manifest to all mankind. 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:18-20.

The solar eclipse caused me to sing praises to my God and the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ.  Truly His eternal power and divine nature were on clear display during the eclipse, confirming the truth that His majesty is above earth and heaven.  His glorious splendor is apparent in His creation, and His works are, indeed, wondrous.  Praise God that He has provided evidence of Himself in nature and in His created order.

Father, I thank You for the privilege of watching Your creation operate in such wondrous ways.  I praise Your name for the gift of seeing Your power and majesty as they are exhibited in Your creation.  You are God, and there is none like You.  Praise and honor are due to You, and You alone.

 

IN CELEBRATION OF THE REFORMATION – part two

In the prior post, we noted that this is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, an event that began when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  The debate that arose out of this action culminated in what is now called the Protestant Reformation.

One of the primary teachings of the Reformation is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Good works do not constitute any basis for our right standing before God; rather, our good works are the result of and the witness to our faith in Christ.  Ephesians 2:8-10.

Justification is a legal term referencing God’s declaration that we are not guilty, that we are forgiven of our sin, and that we have righteousness  provided through Christ’s sacrifice for our sin.  2 Corinthians 5:21.

In other words, the Reformation’s clarion call is that the just shall live by faith alone, and that faith must be in Christ alone.

Once we are justified, through faith in Christ, we are to live a Christ-centered life in thankfulness for all that He has done for us and for the Holy Spirit’s presence within us.  Paul says we are new creatures when we have yielded our lives to Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17.

Elaborating on this statement, Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24 that we are to:

“put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

What would this look like?   Remember the butterfly? 

USED Butterfly close up (C)
At the Butterfly Farm, Cayman Islands

After the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, it not only can fly into the heavens, it must fly to live a healthy, fulfilled life. They must migrate to other locations, ultimately returning to their place of origin.  But we are not talking going around the block; oh no, we are talking long distances!

The flight of the butterflies is the longest known distance insect migration on Earth – and it’s been occurring for thousands of years. Monarchs sense certain topographical features, avoiding both large bodies of water and tall mountains. Instead, they choose cool valley passes between mountains. 

Several migration routes in central southern Canada lead down through the central U.S. Several others start in western North America and merge with central ones. The majority of Monarchs who survive obstacles and predators manage to thread a geographical needle, hitting a 50-mile wide gap of cool river valleys between Eagle Pass, Texas, and Del Rio, Texas, and then wind their way to a dozen specific high mountain peaks in central Mexico where they roost. After resting there for several months, the same generation returns north to Texas and other parts of the southern United States, where the females lay hundreds of eggs.  …  

Of course the question automatically pops into your head – How does the butterfly know where to go when they migrate such a long distance and end the trip on a mountain top to which they have never been.  Scientists believe that they now have an answer:

[Scientists] felt confident that they could prove that it was a combination of brain signals sent from the Monarch’s complex compound eyes and antennae that allowed them to track the position of the sun and the time of day (“like an internal GPS”) to navigate during their migration.

Monarchs have specialized body parts to help it navigate and migrate long distances. They orient themselves both in longitude and latitude, a unique ability, and can travel up to a mile high.

To conserve energy, Monarchs ride along prevailing winds and catch rising thermal waves, helping them travel great distances in a single day. They hide from the rain and will die if exposed to freezing temperatures and ice storms

[Information from http://www.flightofthebutterflies.com/epic-migrations]

Notice that? The butterfly has been given specialized body part to enable it to migrate such long distances.  And, the butterfly is so strong that it can travel hundreds of miles, even going a mile high, but rain or ice will kill it.

Likewise, once we emerge from the stranglehold of sin through faith in Christ, we too have been given equipment to enable us to walk the pilgrim passageway in strength and confidence.  Read Ephesians 6 to identify all the armor available to us.  We are strong in the Lord, but we are not impervious to peril.  Sin can attack and derail our efforts.  We must persevere and keep looking to our Lord as we live in this world. 

Putting off the old sinful self is hard – it takes struggle and dedication to Christ to accomplish it, even for a moment.  But God’s grace and mercy is always sufficient for our struggle because it is His plan to renew us in the likeness of His Son, our Lord.

Praise God that 500 years ago men were ready to stand up for the Gospel so we would learn that salvation comes through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Thank you, Father, for the provision and protection of your Word and for the work of Martin Luther and other saints of the church who suffered greatly for their proclamation that justification is a matter of faith in Christ alone.  And beautiful butterfly, a daily illustration that difficulties are for a time, and that the end result is worth the struggle as we are growing in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE HEAT?

I came out onto our porch the other day and noticed the candles that had been removed from the dining room table.  I knew it was warm on the porch, with the summer heat way and all, but I did not expect to see what I saw! 

Candles on porch

One was standing tall, as it had done for many weeks earlier, and the other, well it was bent over, so far that its wick was facing the tabletop.

What would cause the difference in the reaction to the heat on the porch?  One seemed to fold under the heat while the seemed to be untouched by it.

I am not a scientist (as my high school science teachers would readily confirm) but I suspect that one was exposed to more light from the outside while the other had more access to the cooler air from the house.  But, my purpose is not to discuss the scientific melting point of wax candles; rather it is to consider why one Christian can be so unnerved by difficulties while another seems to glide through problems without any apparent negative reaction to them.  

In the twentieth chapter of the second book of Chronicles, we read about Jahaziel’s encouragement to Israel before a battle:

And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’”

2 Chronicles 20:14-15 ESV.  (I encourage you to read the whole chapter.)

Moses told the same thing to the people of Israel:

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. – Exodus 14:13 ESV

candle standing tallDid you see that?  When we are facing the heat from others because of our stand for the Lord, because of our faith in Christ Jesus, because of our unwavering belief in the truth of the Holy Bible, the Lord says that the battle is His, not ours.  This does not mean that we can ignore the fight, and it is not a guarantee that we will have an easy time of it.  Rather, it means that we will not do battle alone.  He will be with us in the fight; He will strengthen us for the battle; He will encourage us; and we can be assured that the outcome is in His control.  We are to trust and not be afraid.  Stand up straight for Him, even when the heat seems unbearable.

Paul in the letter to the Ephesians says:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:12-13 ESV. 

After this exhortation, Paul identifies the armor that God has provided to us in His grace:  the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness given by the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:13-17.

The Christian who can stand tall in the heat of the cosmic battle between God and Satan is the one who relies on the Word of God, who has his armor on, and who trusts God that we are to stand firm in our faith, no matter what.

Candle folded overJesus, in the parable about the soils, describes this person who cannot withstand the heat:

And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

Luke 8:13 ESV

The person who tries to fight the battle in his own strength is the one who, when the heat intensifies, succumbs and folds, the light of his witness is gone and he is incapable of doing what he was created to do.

Stand in the strength of God Almighty.  He is totally sovereign and His purposes will prevail.  Our God is the Creator of the universe and He holds all things, including each and every one of His children, in His hands.  This is the God who is telling you to stand firm.  Obey Him — be strong, and just watch and see what God will do for you today.

Father, forgive me when I have been overcome by the heat of struggle and when I have failed to rely on Your strength.  Give me the grace to trust You as difficulties come and enable me to stand tall, with my witness shining bright even through darkness and testing.  Grant me Your power through the indwelling Holy Spirit, through Christ my Lord.