SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT

Long before I moved from my native Illinois to Chattanooga, Tennessee, I saw a barn with its roof painted with the words “See 7 States from Rock City”.  This is a sample of one such barn.  The barns were ubiquitous.  They were not limited to Tennessee or the surrounding states.  I was in Des Moines, Iowa when I looked out the passenger window to see a Rock City barn roof hundreds of miles away from Tennessee.  They often would add the location, “Chattanooga, Tennessee”, or perhaps it would say “atop Lookout Mountain”, but the message was the same.  Rock City was a place where you could see 7 states at the same time.

Rock City barn

While the marketing pitch is a good one, of course, you really can’t see 7 states at one time. The physical reality is that on a very clear day, the Smoky Mountains outside of Knoxville, about 100 miles away, can be seen.  But, the curvature of the earth’s surface places any of the mountains in Kentucky, South Carolina and Virginia below the horizon.  But that is of small concern when you stand at Rock City’s Lover’s Leap and see the compass points aimed at the seven states:  Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.  In short, the view from Rock City is extraordinary and one that is worth the stop on your trip around the area, particularly on a clear sunny day.

Since we were from the state with Rock City, while we were on vacation, we headed off to see Idaho’s City of Rocks, a National Park Service Reserve outside Almo, Idaho.  Here we were, two people from Tennessee looking forward to getting to Idaho’s City of Rocks.

The name was the same thing in reverse, but what we found when we arrived at the site was very different from what we were used to in Tennessee.  First, the GPS routed us through miles of country roads with planted fields as far as the eye could see.  The fields gave way to mountains with steep crevices and no guard rails, not to mention the cattle grazing in the “open range” mountain terrain.  And, the road was gravel, rather like driving over a washboard.   After a couple of hours in the fields, there was a sign for City of Rocks.  (In fairness, unbeknownst to us, the GPS routed us to City of Rocks via the “back entrance”.)

We found it ironic that, as we left the City of Rocks, alongside the road to the Visitor’s Center was a souvenir shop named, … wait for it … Rock City!

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While the road to Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee is not necessarily for the faith-hearted, it is paved and there are well-marked intersections with directions to Rock City.  Further, Rock City has well-defined paths around the cliffs and rocks that define the area with a gift shop at its entrance.  Not so in Idaho.  

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But, we found out that the City of Rocks is a favorite rock-climbing area because it is rough, undeveloped and has huge rocks to clamber over.

Don’t misunderstand me – City of Rocks was beautiful in its own way.  But it was vastly different from Rock City.  The names were exceedingly similar, but the reality was totally different.

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We in our society today face the same kind of scenario when we consider the teaching that we receive in our churches.  We hear people say that they are teaching what the Word of God has to say, and we listen to great oratory and think that we have heard a wonderful sermon.  But, if you read the Bible to see if what they are teaching is what Jesus taught, you will find that it may sound the same, but the reality is totally different. 

For example, it is exciting to hear that if you believe in Jesus, He will give you everything you want in your life.  In short, if you are not rich beyond belief, then you just don’t have enough faith!  The prosperity gospel has many adherents. 

But, Scripture does not support this “gospel”.  Indeed, Jesus said:

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

Matthew 16:24-26

That doesn’t sound like the prosperity gospel to me!  Taking up your cross … losing your life for Jesus’ sake!  Indeed, Jesus said that His followers would have persecution in their lives, and so they did.  (Read John 15:20)  In fact, after the stoning of Stephen, we read:

“And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”

Acts 8:1

The City of Rocks and Rock City are very different places.  The message of Jesus Christ as given in the Bible is very different from that which is preached and taught in many of our churches in the 21st century. 

Paul warned the Galatians:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

Galatians 1:6-9

Paul did not allow for any gospel other than the Good News of Jesus Christ.  No distortion and no changes.  No “almost the same.”  He said they should not listen to any other preaching that is contrary to what they heard from Paul.

So, is a distortion of the gospel of Christ alright for you?  Or do you want to follow Jesus by reading His Word, listening to teaching from His Word, and seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance as you discern what is the true and correct doctrine to follow.

Father, enable me to identify what doctrine is false and what is true so that I can know with confidence that I am following Jesus Christ alone.  Give me wisdom and may I listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading in all things.

FINAL RESTING PLACE

Cemeteries are found throughout the countryside. I love to read the headstones and see the notations made about the life of the one who died. Some cemeteries seem to be random, standing as solitary sentries for a few memorial markers along the roadside.  Some are huge and stand as monuments commemorating historic events that shaped our nation, community, and ourselves.    

One such place that we visited was the cemetery in the Vicksburg, Mississippi battlefield.  It was sobering to see the cannons all lined up as if they were ready to inflict injury on the enemy.  It was even more sobering to consider that in the battle, American was pitted against American as the Civil War was raging throughout the country.

Cannons in Cemetery in Vicksburg MS
Cannons lined up and ready, Vicksburg, Mississippi

In the battlefield there were monuments throughout the area to fallen soldiers form various states and communities.  This is the Illinois monument, complete with soldiers names inscribed inside the mausoleum-type structure.

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Illinois monument, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Some have a decidedly modern atmosphere, such as Sunnyslope cemetery in California. 

Sunnyslope Cemetery, CA '56

While some have a decidedly older atmosphere,  such as this cemetery located in Boston.

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Cemetery in the City of Boston, Massachusetts

Then there are cemeteries that bear special significance to us personally, feelings that other places do not produce.

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Cemetery in Salem, Virginia

My husband’s family is buried in this Virginia cemetery.  I love going there, not only to remember the people and thank them for teaching my husband to be a Christian man who loves me unconditionally, but also to meditate on the end that will ultimately come to all of us.  I also love to look out over the hillside and see the church steeples reminding me that Christ is the One who governs all of life and who gave His life as a ransom for many.

I truly don’t mean this to be morbid, but I do want us to think about our mortality and the finality of our days. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes correctly notes:

No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.”

Ecclesiastes 8:8

The writer of Hebrews affirms that each of us will die, it is the fate of all finite beings:

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

Hebrews 9:27-28

Paul, writing to the Thessalonians said this about the end of our lives:

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise firstThen we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

In other words, all people will have to die unless they are still alive when Christ returns.  Even they will rise to meet the Lord.  None of His people will be left out!  This is what Jesus meant when He said:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.””

John 8:51

The believer in Christ will certainly die a physical death just like everyone else – but the believer will not have a spiritual death.  Instead, we will be with Christ.   Physical death is a reality for all mankind because of sin.   Spiritual life is a reality because of the grace of God as it is a gift from God given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

Our Western culture does a fantastic job of shielding us from death.  We are killing each other faster than we are birthing people, but we rush the bodies off to the undertaker, to the funeral home, so that we don’t even see the body, often with either closed casket or cremation burials.  Many children have never been to a funeral/memorial service and go into their early adult years before experiencing this type of personal loss.

Even if we wish to hide our heads and ignore reality, all of us will face death at some point, and when we do, we will no longer have time to make the decision that is of eternal consequence.   Do I follow Christ Jesus as my Savior or do I act as if God does not exist at all, only to be supremely surprised when that belief is in error!

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Beloved, be sure of your faith and of the One in which you have your faith.  Be sure that you have answered that question correctly.  Let the cemetery remind you that no one is immortal, we are all going to die and the ground will not be the final resting place for our spirits. 

Blessings to you, today, tomorrow and throughout your life.

Father, I pray that these words would be of encouragement to those who believe in Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would use these words to convict and soften hearts that are hard and that You would work in those hearts to bring them to Yourself.  In Christ’s name I pray.

MIRRORS AND REFLECTIONS

Did you ever go to the circus or perhaps an arcade “fun house” when you were a child, or perhaps you took your children or grandchildren?  If so, you may have seen the mirrors that you walk past which create a deformed reflection of yourself.  Remember?

One wavy mirror reflected a very T A L L you, while the next wavy mirror reflected a very short you.  The next mirror, the one that I hated, reflected a chubbier version of yourself.  As a child, I understood that I did not look like what the mirrors showed, and I also understood that I would not change my shape that fast.  But, there was always a little something tugging at my self-image – what if the mirror really showed me how I looked to others?

Mirrors are fun.  I recall our grandson making faces in the mirror when he was a small child.

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Mirrors can confuse your pets as well.  When we first introduced Cuddles to our home, she barked at each window and mirror, apparently thinking that there was another dog in the house.

Cuddles frightened by reflection in mirror

If you look at the picture carefully, you will see her eyes reflected in the center of and at the bottom of the dresser’s center section of the mirror.  Even today, several years after coming to the house, she will look in a mirror and stare, cocking her head and watching that the dog in the mirror does the same thing.  Funny to us, but sometimes scary to her.

Mirrors are not the only things that provide reflective images. 

USED Mirror lake (C)
I love this picture of Mirror Lake, taken with a sepia tone filter.

We can see ourselves reflected in the still waters of a lake or pond.  But, while rivers have the same water that is found in the lake, the river is running, and the surface of the water is not calm, so the reflection is not visible.

Scripture talks about images and reflections.  We say that we want to know what God is like, but we cannot see Him because He is Spirit.  But, we have seen what God is like.  We have seen Him in Jesus Christ, our Lord.  In speaking of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews says:

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for [our] sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”

Hebrews 1:3

Jesus is the visible, earthly presence of the holy God, Father Almighty.  He, Jesus, holds all power and authority in heaven and on earth, and He is our Savior.  The mirror of Jesus Christ is not wavy nor is it fuzzy.  Jesus is the exact imprint of God in physical, visible, touchable form. 

Our problem is that we are mortal, made of dust.  But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, He has enabled us to be transformed into His image. 

“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”

1 Corinthians 15:49

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

This transformation does not occur all at one time … we still bear our carnal, earthly nature even after we have been saved from our sin by the gracious love of our Lord and Savior.  For example, Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says:

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 [New Living Translation]

Our growth in Christ and our transformation into His image takes place as we study His Word, as we worship with other believers, as we hear His Gospel proclaimed, as we obey His voice, as we pray and intercede for others, as we live a life in conformity to the commands of our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

How do I know that this will take place?  Scripture tells me that I need to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only.

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

James 1:23-25

So Beloved, do you look into the mirror of Scripture and see what it says, then going home and forgetting what you have seen?  Or, do you look into the mirror of Scripture and persevere as you do that which you have seen and heard, as you serve the Lord in humility and in love, as you praise Jesus Christ and His Father for your salvation and for your life in grace, as you praise the Holy Spirit for His presence in your life and for His guidance as you are transformed into the likeness of Christ?

Mirror clock

Now is the time to repent and be justified by your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  Look into the mirror of His Word and allow the Holy Spirit to transform you from the man/woman of dust into the man/woman in the image of Jesus Christ.

Father, I pray that Your Spirit would transform me into the image of Your Beloved Son, so that I can be a witness to others of His love and mercy, of His atoning sacrifice, of His serving nature as He did all that You asked of Him.  I pray that I would look into the mirror of Your Word and see where I am lacking, and then do that which Your Word directs so that I will grow into the likeness of my Lord.

THE END AND THE BEGINNING!

There are many things that come to an end during our life on this whirling planet. 

Babies wearing diapers.  Many a mother thinks that day will never ever, ever, ever come, but it does (unless something horrific intervenes).

The end of the work day.  Again, there are times that even that seems to be far off in the distant future if the assignment you are working on is difficult or unbelievably boring.  But even that day does, in fact end, at the appropriate time.

One thing that occurs like clockwork (please pardon the pun) is the ending of the day. 

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Driving westbound on Interstate 40

Heading west on I-40, we can see the sun setting behind the mountains with the beautiful colors lighting up the evening sky.   This was the sunset one evening when we visited the family in Virginia.

There are times that God’s creation is simply too beautiful to describe.  Pictures certainly do not do justice to the glory that shines out from God’s world. 

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Setting sun with clouds

We know that God created the sun and the moon – it says so in Genesis:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  … And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lightsthe greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.”

Genesis 1:1, 14-19 

The Psalmist says it this way:

Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.”

Psalm 74:16

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Ocean with far distant shore

In our world of technology and scientific data, we have analyzed, digitized, and categorized the sun, the clouds, the atmosphere, the solar flares, and all kinds of things that I don’t even know.  We have studied and drawn, recorded and photographed the sun in our effort to understand it, and we have gone a long way from our forebears who pointed and said “bright!”

But in my little corner of the world, at sunset, I look in the sky and see the hand of my Father, painting a particularly beautiful picture for me to see as I head into the evening hours of the day.

Many are so much more scientific and analytical than I am. They can explain so much about things of nature and of our world.  It is my prayer that we all would stop and look at what God has given us, cherish the view, lock the mental picture into our minds, and then thank Him for His unfathomable love and mercy. 

When the day is over and the sun is running its course to the other side of the world, they are awaking to the warmth of its rays.   “Good evening” to you is “Good morning” to someone else!

The end, thus, is really also a beginning!

USED Butterfly caterpillar (C)

I doubt that the little caterpillar in this picture ever would think that he would be transformed into a beautiful butterfly. 

The truth of the matter is, however, that the caterpillar must get into his cocoon and shed the body that had restricted him so that the transformation can take place.  Rather than crawling along in the dirt, the butterfly can soar incredible distances, looking down on the land that he used to call home.  The caterpillar’s end was also its beginning. 

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For us, when we are relieved of our mortal shell, our physical body, we will be transformed into our eternal bodies, glorious and without blemish.

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.””

1 Corinthians 15:51-54

Billy Graham said this in the years prior to his death:

Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead.  don’t you believe a word of it.  i shall be more alive than i am now.  i will just have changed my address.  i will have gone into the presence of God.

The end is not really the end … rather, what we think of as the end is actually just the beginning. 

 

Father, I thank You for giving us the example of nature in Your marvelous creation.  The setting of the sun where I live is the end of the day, but it is the beginning of a new day elsewhere on this whirling globe.  The “death” of the caterpillar is just the transforming work so that it can be a butterfly.  Our physical death is simply the shedding off of our mortal bodies into the eternal body that You have prepared for us.  Thank You for Your steadfast love and for calling Your children to come to You from every corner of the earth.

 

WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE?

The City of Chicago lies along the coastline of Lake Michigan, the only one of the five Great Lakes that is entirely within the United States.  The other four Great Lakes are shared by the U.S. and Canada.  Several years ago, I received slide pictures that my father had taken over many decades.  After reviewing the slides, I found this picture taken in 1960 of the coastline of Lake Michigan.

Chicago coastline along Lake Michigan circa 1960

Lake Michigan is a huge lake.  It is 118.1 miles wide and has an area of over 20,000 miles.  It’s maximum depth is 923 feet and it contains bowfin, largemouth bass, yellow perch, smallmouth bass and lake trout, to name a few inhabitants.

Many rivers and streams flow into Lake Michigan, with the major tributaries being the Fox-Wolf, the Grand, and the Kalamazoo Rivers.  Lake Michigan is connected to the Gulf of Mexico via the Illinois River (from Chicago) and by the Mississippi River. 

Scripture does not mention either the Great Lakes or Lake Michigan.  But it does mention at least two other bodies of water. 

A number of years ago I came across the following in a lesson.  

There are two seas in Palestine, which, in their contrast, preach a most eloquent sermon. 

The first speaks of forsakenness and desolation.  There is no splash of fish; there is no song of birds, no fluttering leaves, no laughter of children. Men call it the Dead Sea, also called the Salt Sea.

We read of the Salt Sea in Joshua 3 where we are told about how the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on dry land:

“So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.”

Joshua 3:14-17

The other sea is a delightful place with its emerald bays, its cobalt-blue expanses.  Along its shores little children play.  Its waters teem with fish. Songs of birds fill the air; it gleams like a jewel in a setting of superb natural charm.  Men call it the Sea of Galilee.  It is comparable to Lake Michigan, a thriving coastal area which is beautiful and which also is teeming with fish.

The Sea of Galilee is spoken of often in the New Testament, for example:

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.”

Matthew 4:18

What makes the difference in these two neighbor seas?  Not the River Jordan; it empties the same good water into both. 

The difference is this: the Dead Sea has inlets but no outlets; the Sea of Galilee has an outlet for every inlet.  

There are two seas in Palestine.  What each does with the Jordan determines the difference between them. 

There are two kinds of people in the world.  What each does with Christ and in turn with him or herself determines the difference between them.  The one refusing Christ can only keep his/her worldly goods, remaining stagnant, and then leave the accumulated stuff behind when he/she dies. 

“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”” …  Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

Matthew 19:16, 21-22 

The other takes Christ, shares Christ, lives Christ, and finds abundant living through giving

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” –

John 10:9-10 

There are two seas in Palestine; there are two kinds of people in our world.

Jesus understood that the crowds did not necessarily understand who He was.  Luke 9 describes a dialog that Jesus had with His disciples, asking them who the crowds said that He was.  The answer He received reflected the variety of possibilities that the people surmised – John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets of old.

“Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.””

Luke 9:20

You see, it is one thing for the crowd to speculate on Jesus’ nature, but He wanted the disciples to think about Him: “who do you say that I am?” 

Jesus asks this same question to us today, in 2018.  “Who do you say that [He] is?”  Do you answer that with the fumbling response of the crowd or can you say like Peter: “The Christ of God”.  Is He your Savior or just a name from an historical document?  Is He your Lord or is He a mythical character who does not deserve your love, respect and honor? 

If your answer is the same as the crowd, your life, spiritually speaking, is comparable to the Dead Sea.  The Sea with inlets but no outlet. The Sea without life. Do you keep and hoard, so that ultimately you will lose all?

Or is your answer like that of Peter?  If so, your life is, spiritually speaking, comparable to the Sea of Galilee.  You have inlets: the Word of God, feeding on the Scripture, praying to the Lord and living with the Holy Spirit empowering you.  And you have outlets: service to others, worshiping with fellow believers, loving your neighbors, caring for the believers around you and spreading the message of salvation to those who come into your area of influence.  If you are not exercising your life in Christ so that others can see it, I challenge you to pray to the Lord and let Him energize you so that you will be a strong witness for Him.

There are two seas in Palestine.  There are two kinds of people in the world. 

Who do you say that He is?

Father, I pray that these words would encourage and strengthen the believers who read them.  I pray, too, that these words would be a challenge to non-believers to pray for the Lord’s leading them into a relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

 

CLOTHED IN … WHAT?

Several years ago, the women of my church got together to sew dresses for children in  Southeast Asia and Africa who are cared for in a ministry called Homes of Love.  The children who were orphaned or abandoned are brought into a home where they are loved and cared for by their house mother.   [For more information about Homes of Love and the wonderful work that they are doing, see their website at homesoflove.org/]  The homes undertake a marvelous work, all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the Homes of Love motto is “Creating Families for Life”. The ladies in our church wanted to help by creating and sending some much-needed clothing.  Look at the impact that having new clothes can make in a child’s life.

At the time this project was undertaken, I was still employed full time, so I was not able to join in this effort.   Now, however, retirement has given me some time during the day that I could do something like this,, on a smaller scale of course, but I didn’t even think about it until Christmas when my husband surprised me with a new sewing machine.

1st Homes of Love dress - picture 2
First dress with cute buttons

 

I have now completed three dresses for the precious little girls. 

2nd Homes of Love Dress - Copy
Second dress, now with a pocket.

They are not professionally done, that’s for sure, and I know where the mistakes were made and remedies attempted; but, they were made because of love for our Lord and for His children.

3rd Homes of Love dress
Third dress with decorated pocket.

3rd Homes of Love dress - decorated pocket

This project has prompted me to consider the relationship between clothing and our spiritual well-being.

Dr. R. C. Sproul, in the Renewing Your Mind broadcast entitled “Clothed in Righteousness,” comments on the first covering mankind had.  [You can access this broadcast by going to renewingyourmind.org and then accessing the archive listing for January 16, 2018.] 

Immediately after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, scripture says:

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

Genesis 3:7-8

Prior to their sin, the first couple did not know embarrassment; they did not have feelings of shame because they were naked.  They were in perfect union with each other and with God. Their bodies certainly were not shameful; they were made specifically by God for each other.   In fact, each evening the Lord would come and walk with them through the garden.  No clothing, no shame, nothing to interfere with their enjoyment of their God.

But all that changed in an instant, when they ate the fruit from the forbidden tree; their eyes were opened, and Adam and Eve now felt embarrassment, shame, guilt.  They sewed fig leaves to make themselves a covering, to help them hide and when they heard the Lord, they ran for the trees to hide themselves from their God.  Note that their fig leaves were not clothes – they were coverings.  The intent was not to exchange nakedness with fig leaves; the exchange was between innocence and obedience in sharp contrast with sin, shame and guilt.

We are like that too, are we not?  When we have disobeyed God, or even merely our parents or employers, we are shameful, and we hide ourselves.  Guilt and shame are powerful agents for hiding, trying to disappear so that our actions will not be found out or, if they become known, at least we will not be around to see the consequences. 

God, of course, knew where they were and what they had done.  He didn’t need them to provide information to Him – He needed them to understand the full ramifications of their actions.  So, after they admitted what they had done, God punished them, issuing curses on the serpent, the woman and the man.  Then God said something miraculous, and indicative of His love for His creation.  In speaking to the serpent, God said:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

This is known as the “protoevangelium”, a fancy word meaning that it is the first gospel, the first good news found in Scripture, and it comes in the third chapter of the first book in the Bible.  It pronounces the curse on mankind because of Adam’s sin but God does not stop there … He goes on to tell of His provision for a Savior who would take the curse upon Himself, thus relieving His people from their sin.   Think of it — even though God cursed Adam and Eve because of their disobedience, their actions did not take God by surprise!  Genesis 3:15 tells us that God had already a plan in mind for a Savior who could restore the relationship between mankind and God, the Savior known as the Lord Jesus Christ. 

This is good news indeed, but for Adam and Eve, they were still in the trees with their fig leaves.  God could have told them to get out of the garden, to leave everything that He had given them, and get out!  Go roam wherever you want but you are not welcome here, under my shelter, under my protective hand. You disobeyed, and you brought this on yourself.

But instead, the Lord provided tangible evidence of His love and care, despite their disobedience.

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

Genesis 3:21

Before He cast them out of the garden, God himself made garments of skins for clothing of the man and his wife.  Dr. Sproul calls this “God’s first act of redemption,” and the first act that required the spilling of blood.  God did not cover Adam and Eve to hide them, He clothed them with skins.  Just as blood was shed when God clothed our first parents after they sinned, He offers to clothe us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ because of the shed blood of our Lord and Savior.

Scripture says that our best works, our best clothes, our best words and actions are as filthy rags before the Holy God.  So, we, like Adam and Eve, need clothes from God so that we can stand before Him.

The prophet Isaiah said it this way:

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Isaiah 61:10

Beloved, Jesus Christ, our Lord has clothed us in His righteousness.  Praise His Holy Name!

Hear now the song “Clothed in Righteousness” as presented on the album entitled Glory to the Holy One.  The lyrics are presented below so you can follow the words as they sung.

 

Clothed in Righteousness, Lyrics

Fallen race in Eden fair
Exposed and full of shame
Fled we naked from Thy sight
Far from Thy Holy Name

Refrain

Clothe us in Your righteousness
Hide filthy rags of sin
Dress us in Your perfect garb
Both outside and within

 

Sent from the garden in the east
Outside of Eden’s gate
Banished there from Thy pure light
Were Adam and his mate

Scarlet souls are now like snow
By Thy atoning grace
Crimson hearts become like wool
For Adam’s fallen race

Refrain

 

No work of ours is good enough
For evil to atone
Your merit, Lord, is all we have
It saves, and it alone

Refrain

 

Father, I pray that the words of this post and the music presented here would be used by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who read the message and hear the music.  Thank You, Father, for Your Spirit and for Your love as You clothe us in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – HOLINESS

When you think of holiness, or of being holy, what image do you conjure up in your mind?  Someone who is a “goodie-two-shoes” or a person who speaks and acts as if he is “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”?  Or do you not have any idea of what holiness is, so you don’t have any image to ponder?

I realize that holiness is not something that we think about on a daily, moment-by-moment basis but, if we want to know God, we should consider it because holiness is fundamental to God’s character. 

Holiness is synonymous with God’s total purity and separation from the rest of creation.  Consider Adam and Eve’s reaction after they ate the forbidden fruit and God came to visit with them in the Garden of Eden.

“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

Genesis 3:8

Up until this time, Adam and Eve had enjoyed God’s presence with them, but when He came to them that day, they hid.  They instinctively knew that God was holy and they were not, they had disobeyed, they had sinned and God could not look upon sin.  They hid among the trees.

Consider when God called to Moses from the burning bush, after Moses walked closer to see it, God said:

“”Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3:5-6

Moses surely was not afraid of a burning bush … it was a distance away from him and the flock, no threat.  He went over to investigate because it appeared that the bush was not being consumed by the fire. 

Why was the place Moses approached “holy” ground?  It was not because the sand was any different than the sand that was all around Moses in the wilderness.  It was not because the bush was different than all the others in the area.  It was because God was there, so Moses was in the presence of the Holy God.     

It was at that point that God spoke to him, and notice Moses’ response — he hid his face, he was afraid!  Why?  Because then Moses knew that he had encountered the holy God

“Holy” is the English translation of the Hebrew word “qodesh”, and it means “apartness”, “sacredness”, and “separateness.”  This set-apartness is evident in the Old Testament in texts such as Leviticus 20:7.

Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.”

Here God is telling the people to consecrate themselves, in other words to sanctify, to dedicate, to separate themselves for a special purpose or use. 

In the Book of Acts we read:

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.””

Acts 13:2

Setting apart for a specific task from God is one way we acknowledge that God is holy and that even people who are doing His work should be separated from that which is worldly or ungodly.

God’s holiness can be understood as moral purity, although it is much more than that.  His holiness, His purity, is eternal and incorruptible, there is no time or likelihood that God will, at some point, no longer be holy or pure.  This total purity, total separation from anything that is sinful, explains why God gave detailed commands in the Old Testament about the way mankind could approach God. 

USED Canterbury cathedral view of the altar area
Looking toward the altar in Canterbury Cathedral,
Canterbury, England, if man can build such a glorious place, imagine what Isaiah saw!

One of my favorite passages in scripture is Isaiah 6. The prophet Isaiah had a vision of God and he described it as follows:

“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!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.””

Isaiah 6:1-8

Forgive me for quoting so much from the passage but I want you to get the full impact of Isaiah’s vision.  Just a look at the description of the LORD.  Listen to the angels, the host of heaven, calling “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” 

What is Isaiah’s reaction in this vision?  Essentially the same as Moses’ reaction to God’s presence.  Isaiah said “WOE IS ME!”  “I AM LOST!”  “I AM … UNCLEAN!”  In his vision, Isaiah was afraid because he instantly recognized that God is holy, and he was not.

Centuries after Isaiah wrote of his vision, John was on the island of Patmos and wrote the Book of Revelation, citing the same words as Isaiah heard.

“At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. … And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!””

Revelation 4:2,8

God’s holiness is one of the primary reasons why the advent of Christ is so amazing.  Because of Jesus’ coming to this earth and dying on the cross, men, who were once unable to come before God, now can kneel before the throne of God and worship Him forever and ever. 

Because of the cross and His resurrection, because of our faith in Him as Lord and Savior, we no longer must hide our face or be afraid of God.  We now can join the heavenly chorus and shout “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!”  We can face God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and, rather than hiding our face, we can come to the throne of God and call Him “Abba, Father.” Praise His Holy Name!

Listen now to the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” s on the album  “Hymns for all the Saints: Adoration, Praise, Comfort” from Concordia Publishing House.

Father, I pray that I would never lose sight of the wonder and glory of Your holiness.  I praise Your name that Jesus Christ died so that His righteousness would cloth my sinfulness, so that I could join with the heavenly chorus and praise Your Holy Name.

SIGNS – FOLLOWED OR IGNORED?

It seems as though our culture is overrun with signs.  Billboards are all along the highways and some are digital, enabling the billboard owner to multiple “signs” displayed for all to see.

Some signs are humorous.  There is a van for a lock and key company which has, along the bottom of their vehicle, the statement “Cheer up it can always be worse.”

Some signs are informational. 

Blenheim Palace signpost
Signpost at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England

Some signs are confusing even though they have been in use for over 60 years.

Road signs from England the magic roundabout
The Magic Roundabout in Swindon, England

(For a video on how this roundabout works, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OGvj7GZSIo.)

Other signs are rather straightforward.

Texas sign
Welcome sign at the Texas state line

Sign - Hats and Boots in Nashville TN

Hats Boot Co. sign in Nashville, Tennessee

There is another sign on the highways that we have no difficulty following, because we know that an accident will surely occur if we disobey its warning.

One Way sign cropped
One-Way Sign along the highway

No matter what your language may be, when you see the arrow going in a certain direction, you understand that such direction is the only correct one.

In the Bible, Jesus tells His disciples that He will be leaving them very soon.  John chapter 14 details this conversation between Jesus and his closest friends:

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

John 14:1-6

How many ways are there to God the Father?  Just one – belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Just as the One-Way sign points to the correct direction to be followed on the highway to avoid disaster or death in an accident, Scripture details the one way to avoid disaster and eternal death.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross for our salvation.  He said it clearly – “I am THE way”.  He did not say “I am A way” as if there were more than one option.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:12

Signs – they are helpful, instructive, humorous, and some remind us of eternal consequences. 

I pray that if you have not sought the Lord, please do so now.  Scripture has told us everything that we need to obtain eternal life.  Now is the day of salvation.  Now is the time to go the right direction on that narrow road to salvation. 

Father, I pray that those who read this missive would be touched by Your Spirit.  If they are already believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, may their faith be renewed, and their spirit be encouraged by these words. If the reader is not already a believer in our Lord, I pray that Your Spirit would quicken their heart and that they would realize their need for the Savior. 

 

THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – ETERNALITY

We know that God created the world and everything in it.  We are told that in the very first book of the Bible, Genesis chapters 1 and 2.  In these verses we are told that God created all things in six days, He rested on the seventh day after proclaiming His creation to be “very good”.  Genesis 1:31.   On the fourth day of creation, God set the sun and moon into action thereby establishing the time that governs us throughout our lives. 

dar-library-clock-c
Clock in the DAR Library, Washington, D.C.

We, along with all of the created order, have a beginning and an end.  In other words, simply put, we are bound by time; we are finite; we are not eternal. God, however, is not so bound.  God is eternal and His eternality is one of His attributes.          

Wayne Grudem says:  “God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in his own being, and he sees all time equally vividly, yet God sees events in time and acts in time.” [Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 168]

Louis Berkhof notes that the eternal nature of God means that He “possesses the whole of His existence in one indivisible present.” [Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 60]

Being outside of time is virtually impossible for us to comprehend.  However, it is an attribute of God which is fundamental to our thought about our Creator and Savior. 

In Exodus Chapter 3 God is speaking with Moses and, in answer to Moses’ question about Who was sending him on the mission to free the Israelites from Egyptian captivity, God says:

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'””

Exodus 3:14

God will exist undiminished everlastingly into the future, and He has existed identically throughout the infinite past. For this reason, God said to Moses “I AM WHO I AM”.

David understood God’s attribute of eternality when he wrote:

“But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.”

Psalm 102:12

Not only is God the Father eternal in His nature, but this same eternality extends to Jesus Christ, the eternal Son.  He existed eternally before His incarnation as the Firstborn over creation, even though at that time He did not have human form. 

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

Hebrews 13:8

Peter wrote of the eternality of the Lord in words that we can understand, even if we cannot wrap our minds around what it means:

“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

The attribute of eternality is a wondrous truth for the believer God and in His Son, Jesus Christ.  This attribute gives us confidence in our faith and in the salvation and preservation that He gives to us as we live within time.  We can live without fear because God is always with us.

Eternality – a word that we don’t use or think about, but it is a word that gives hope, security and confidence as we rest in God’s eternal nature and in His eternal promises.

Father, I cannot understand how You can exist forever … I cannot even understand the concept of forever since all that I have known will last just a short time.  But I understand Your name – I AM – and I bow at Your feet in thanksgiving that the God of creation would rescue me from sin and claim me as His child, eternally.