Living water

If you have ever been to Oregon, I hope you visited Multnomah Falls along the Columbia River Gorge, between Corbett and Dodson, Oregon. It is 620 feet high and its longest drop of water is 542 feet. Water tumbles over it at a rate of 150 cubic feet per second! While I have seen this magnificent water falls, I can’t imagine that kind of flow volume, really!

But numeric descriptions don’t do the falls justice. You have to see it to be awed into silence at its beauty and its power.

Water is something we need daily. Sadly, it is also something we take for granted. God created us, so He knows that we need water. It is not a surprise to Him that we get thirsty. And, He takes care of our needs by providing us fresh water to drink and as well as water for bathing.

When the Israelites were in the wilderness, after being released by God from the bondage they suffered in Egypt, they grumbled against Moses and against God because there was no water. Indeed, they grumbled on numerous occasions! We read of such grumbling in Exodus 15, 16 and 17, in Numbers 15 and 16.

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, she had come to draw water to drink but He told her about water that was everlasting:

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

John 4:10-15

Our Lord makes the same promise to us today. If we drink the water that He provides, we will not thirst. We will be satisfied. We will have water that wells up to eternal life.

In John’s Revelaton of Jesus Christ, we read what God says:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Revelation 21:5-6

What does this water look like?

Think of Multnomah Falls — there is no measly flow from that waterfall. It is vibrant. The flora surrounding it is lush with an abundance of water. The flow is crazy loud as it splashes to the earth below.

In the same way, the Christian’s supply of spiritual water is never ending. The actions of the Christian should affect all who are around him/her. We should make noise and let people know of the love of Christ in our hearts. The water of eternal life should be evident in what we do, what we say and how we conduct our lives. This is not a gift that we should hoard for ourselves; it is a gift from God that is for all who believe on His Son.

Praise God for this marvelous gift, and glorify His name in all that you do.

Father, we come to you and praise Your Holy Name for the sending of Your Son to be our atoning sacrifice. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we could become His righteousness, something that we could never do on our own. We thank You and praise the name of Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord. Enable us to be lifegiving water to the people we come in contact with, through the power of Your Spirit we ask this.

LOST IN SPLENDOR

LOST IN SPLENDOR

Have you ever …

Gotten lost in …

The splendor of nature?

Bryce Canyon in Utah was one such place for us.  It was beautiful and the hoo-dos were intricately made from rain, wind and ice.  They were not carved by water!  We stood at the canyon rim and we were breathless in its beauty and expanse.

Another place that took our breath away was Yellowstone National Park in Montana. 

The stunning terrain …

The smoking pits with water way past the boiling point …

Geysers like the White Dome geyser that spewed hot water high into the air …  

And Old Faithful geyser that is so predictable its eruption can be timed to the minute.

We live in a chaotic world where people have a difficult time getting along, where people murder and maim those who hold philosophies different than theirs, and where wars and rumors of war disrupt life for millions of people on a daily basis.

But, when we look at nature, we see God’s magnificent handiwork and His power, even in this fallen and sinful world. 

David said this about God’s creation in the Psalms:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

Psalm 8:1

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

Psalm 19:1

The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.

Psalm 90:11

The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.

Psalm 97:6

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

Psalm 103:11

Paul, in the letter to the Romans, says this about God:

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 1:20

Beloved, look around and see the glory of God.  It is evident in the beauty of nature.  God’s glory is shown in His creative work, even today.  The beauty of flowers and trees, of birds and animals, the beauty of a newborn baby.  Yes, sin has entered the world and it is not the glorious creation God intended, but evidence of God’s power and nature still exist, even in this fallen world.

Take time to open your eyes and behold the beauty of God’s creation.  Then, praise Him for His wondrous works to the children of men.

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your savior, seek out a Christian who can tell you about the Lord and help you come to saving faith in the Savior who gave His life for His people.  Then you will be able to rejoice and view the world in a new light, an everlasting light through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer.

Father, thank You for the glorious creation You provided for us.  I pray that whose who don’t know You would seek out someone who could guide them in their walk with Jesus.  I ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Are we walking worthy of God?

During a trip to Oregon, we drove along the coastline and, ultimately, came to the Garibaldi estuary.  That is, we came to the point where the river met the ocean, where fresh water mixed with salt water.

Estuary in Oregon 2009 159 (C)
Garibaldi estuary,, Oregon

The setting was beautiful and the concept mind-numbing.  How does fresh water and saltwater combine while remaining separate and not tainted by contact with each other at the estuary?  Given the mass of the ocean, it is clear that the fresh water is not going to dilute the salt in the ocean.  But the same cannot be said of the fresh water in the river.  Its mass nowhere compares to the ocean so why does the saltwater not taint the river’s fresh water? 

I’m not an expert on watersheds or the movement of rivers, etc., but after doing some reading, I think a simple answer is that the saltwater is much more dense than fresh water.  The result is that saltwater cannot go over the natural barriers that occur in the riverbeds.  While there is some mixing of the two, in various ways depending on the estuary configuration, ultimately the fresh water is not at risk of contamination from the salt of the ocean.  It seems to be impervious to it!

While we were reading in 1 Thessalonians, this week, we read these verses:

For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12. 

Paul uses the illustration of a parent and his child, one we can certainly understand even 2000 years after this was written.  We teach our children how they should behave, how they should be courteous, how they should be kind and assist those who need help, etc.   I recall that, when I would come back from visiting with relatives or friends, my parents would specifically ask if I “behaved myself”, and often a phone call would be made by my mother to confirm the validity of my affirmative response.  She didn’t take my word for it, she checked herself!

This is like what Paul is saying to the Thessalonian Christians.  We exhorted (strongly encouraged or urged) and they charged (entrusted them with a task or responsibility) the people.  Why?  Paul wanted them to “walk in a manner worthy of God.”    

Matthew Henry, writing in the 17th century, asks what our “gospel duty” is regarding our relationship with God. 

What is our great gospel privilege-that God has called us to his kingdom and glory. The gospel calls us into the kingdom and state of grace here and unto the kingdom and state of glory hereafter, to heaven and happiness as our end and to holiness as the way to that end.

What is our great gospel duty-that we walk worthy of God, that the temper of our minds and tenour of our lives be answerable to this call and suitable to this privilege. We should accommodate ourselves to the intention and design of the gospel, and live suitably to our profession and privileges, our hopes and expectations, as becomes those who are called with such a high and holy calling.

A more modern approach is expressed by David Guzik when, in considering these same two verses, he says the following:

It is impressive that Paul could freely appeal to his own life as an example. Paul didn’t have to say, “Please don’t look at my life. Look to Jesus.” Paul wanted people to look to Jesus, but he could also tell them to look at his life, because the power of Jesus was real in his life

… “How we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you … that you would walk worthy of God.”  Paul himself lived justly and blamelessly, but he also told the Thessalonians they should live the same way. He could tell them that they should walk worthy of God because his life and message were consistent.

I suspect that you are asking yourself, “what does our walk with the Lord have to do with an estuary?”

Perhaps nothing in your mind, but in mine, I come up with these questions: Am I mixing salt with fresh?  Am I getting so bogged down in this world that I no longer desire God and His kingdom? Am I so acclimated to the saltwater that I no longer relate to the fresh water of the gospel?  I pondered whether my walk was worthy of God and His kingdom as I flittered from one thing to another, ignoring people in need, taking precious time for frivolous activities, putting Bible time off until I’m too tired to concentrate on what I’m reading.  You get the idea.  

Do I spend so much time doing things, which seem important at the time, with the result that I have no more energy, time or ability to pay attention matters that are of paramount importance, matters that have eternal consequences?

Does this sound familiar to you?

We are to walk through this world although we are citizens of God’s kingdom.  We are to be salt and light to those we come in contact with, but we are not to be so attracted to them that we lose our perspective.  We are to mingle and be Jesus’ representatives to others but we must remember, always, that our citizenship is in God’s kingdom — so we are not attached to the temporary things of this world, rather we look to those things above that are unperishable.  In short, we must walk worthy of God even as we walk through this fallen world. 

Paul reiterated this point in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 where we read:

To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.

Do I walk, every day, in a manner that is worthy of my citizenship in the kingdom of God?

Do I walk worthy of my calling so that the name of the Lord Jesus will be glorified through me?

Do you?

Father, I read in the Bible tht I should not have an attachment to this world but that I should set my mind on tings above, that I should glorify You through my actions, thoughts and words, that I should walk worthy of my calling that I have received from You.  Oh Holy Spirit, cleanse me and give me Your power to do that which has been commanded so that my life will glorify my God and my Lord.

ARE YOU SECURE?

We are still housebound. The Governor has issued a “Stay at Home” order which is stronger than the “Safer at Home” order given previously.  The COVID-19 has overtaken our world and it has changed our activities on a national/ regional/ and individual basis. We are told that the absence of interaction with others outside the house is the secret to keeping healthy and eradicating the virus that has overtaken the world.  Things that have been routine, such as birthday parties, getting together with church friends for lunch on Sunday afternoon, working at jobs and going to stores, have been cut short. Things that normally would provide the security of routine have been eliminated as we are all staying at home.

Arches National Park 1
Arches National Park

When we were at Arches National Park in outside of Moab, Utah and we came across this sight — formations called “Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers”.  They clearly were made over thousands of years as water and wind sculpted the stone.  But they dwarfed the people visiting the site. and they seemed secure.

Another formation was found in the Park and it, too, was the result of centuries of wind and water sculpting its contours, which included a cave-like structure that could have provided respite from the elements.

Arches National Park 2

The permanence of monoliths such as El Capitan in Yosemite National Park give a sense of security, if for no other reason than their size and durability.

Yosemite El Capitan 6-2011 069
El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

Or, staying in our own house, away from possible contamination by a virus that you can’t see except under a microscope, will provide security from the virus, but is that real security?

Scripture tells us much about security.  Take Psalm 15 for example.  It is short, and it is duplicated here for your reference.

A Psalm of David.

O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;  who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;  in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;  who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

Psalm 15:1-5  [ESV]

So, what are we to do to be secure?  Walk blamelessly, do right and speak truth.  Don’t slander with your speech and don’t hurt your neighbor.  Honor and fear the Lord.  Freely look for ways to care for your neighbor, not expecting something to be done for you in return.  Don’t take a bribe so that you will do anything to subvert justice or prosecute the innocent.

Honor God and serve Him and you will not be moved.  You will be secure because you will be in the Lord’s hands.

Matthew Henry says of this psalm’s conclusion:

The psalm concludes with a ratification of this character of the citizen of Zion. He is like Zion-hill itself, which cannot be moved, but abides for ever, Psalm 125:1. Every true living member of the church, like the church itself, is built upon a rock, which the gates of hell cannot prevail against: He that doeth these things shall never be moved; shall not be moved for ever, so the word is. The grace of God shall always be sufficient for him, to preserve him safe and blameless to the heavenly kingdom. Temptations shall not overcome him, troubles shall not overwhelm him, nothing shall rob him of his present peace nor his future bliss.   (Emphasis added)

This Psalm does not relate merely to the Old Testament Israelites.  Rather, it relates to all those who claim the name of Christ as their Redeemer Savior.  The grace of God is sufficient for us, even today, even as we are sequestered in our homes under the government’s “Stay at Home” order.  Discomfort because of inability to see our friends and relatives, unease as we face an Easter at home rather than in communion with our Christian community, concern about finances and whether there is sufficient toilet paper to hold until we can return to normal living.  All these things can rob us of the peace and security that is available in God, if we will only seek Him and allow Him to encourage and assist us fdring these times.

Yes, the formations in Arches National Park took time to become what they are, and in years to come they will likely change.  But for now, they seem secure.  We too have gone through various difficult times in our lives which have formed us into the people that we now are.  Likely, we will change in future years, but we are secure — not in our physical strength or intellectual capabilities, but in the strength that we have through the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is our strength, and He is our Redeemer Savior.  He is our Lord, and He is our Shepherd.  We are the beloved sheep of His pasture, and we are the ones for whom He gave His blood as our atoning sacrifice.  Additionally, He is the one who is interceding for us, this very minute, before God the Father in heaven.  

That is security in its highest and truest form.

Seek Him and honor Him.  Then, as David said in Psalm 15, we will not be moved.

Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be our Savior and Redeemer.  Thank You Lord for living a perfect life which we could not live, and then dying the horrific death on the cross, bearing our sin so that we do not have to carry it, thereby granting us eternal life with You which we would otherwise not be able to have.  Thank You that we are secure in Your love, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout whatever this world may throw at us.  We are Yours and are secure in Your hands.  

HOLY – WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH ME?

As a child, I remember singing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” with great gusto in my home church with my mother and father standing by my side. 

Then, as I got older in my faith walk with the Lord, I sang the hymn with less gusto and more meaning as I pondered each of the words while singing them.

Some places just evoke a feeling of sacredness, of being a special place where we feel close to God.     Consider the Canterbury Cathedral, where worship services to God have been conducted for over 1400 years!

Canterbury cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

Or, consider Bryce Canyon where we see the majesty and jaw-dropping creativity of our Sovereign God.  The beauty and sheer magnitude of the canyon evokes a feeling of gratitude to God for the beauty of His creation.

Bryce Canyon 1
Bryce Canyon with its “hoodoos” – spires standing up over the base of the canyon!

Or, consider Yellowstone National Park with its geysers and pools of water that exceed the boiling point, spewing steam and sulfur continually from their fissures.

Yellowstone 083
Yellowstone National Park. The pavement in the parking lot gave way under the pressure of the geyser beneath.  

These things tell us that God is different than we are … that He is far greater than our finite minds can comprehend. 

We say God is holy, that we have the Holy Bible, that Jesus foretold of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and we know that are to be holy but: “What is ‘holy’?” 

The Hebrew word for “holy” as found in Strong’s concordance is Strong’s Number H6944 which matches the Hebrew  קֹדֶשׁ  English transliteration “godesh”.  This word occurs 519 times in 382 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the NASB

The word signifies apartness, sacredness, separateness and it is used in relation to God, places and things.  There is a “set-apartness” for that which is holy.  In reading Leviticus we see how the tabernacle and all its furnishings and utensils were “consecrated to God”, another way of saying they were set apart for God’s use, specifically for use in their worship of Him.  The clothing that the priests wore was consecrated for when they were performing their priestly duties.  They were set apart for use in the worship and service of God, taken out of the ordinary and set apart for God.

We remember that when Moses was in the wilderness and saw the burning bush, he walked over to it and, when he approached the bush, God spoke and told him to remove his sandals because the ground where he was standing was holy ground.  Before the bush started burning the ground around it was just regular ground, like all the rest of the wilderness.  But God’s presence, His use of the bush to get Moses’ attention, set the bush and surrounding ground apart from the rest: it became holy. His sandals that were covered in the dust of the ordinary had to be removed because they were contaminating the ground that had become holy.

God directed Moses to tell the people that they were to be holy because He, their God, is holy.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 19:1-2

God elaborates upon His relationship with His people in the next chapter:

You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

Leviticus 20:26

God set apart His people for His own purposes, that they should be His and that they should follow no other god.  He separated them from all the peoples on the earth and they are His.  They are a holy people – not because of their own abilities or value. 

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 7:6-8

God’s people are His because He has chosen them and He is faithful to fulfill all the promises that He made to the patriarchs of old. 

In the New Testament, Peter tells the Christians that they are God’s children and that they are to be “holy” in their conduct!

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:14-16

We know, of course, that we cannot be holy on our own – we need the Holy Spirit to bring us the holiness that we need so we can show God’s holiness to the world.  We are sinful creatures and cannot be “holy” in our own right.   Because God is holy, we are to be holy as His children.  Holiness is to be a family trait!

So, what does this have to do with me, or with you?  We need to remember that, as Christians, we have dual citizenship – we are citizens of the place on earth where God has put us for His purposes, and we are citizens of God’s kingdom. As much as we are involved with the workings of our homes, cities, governments, schools, etc., these take second place when we think about our ultimate, eternal citizenship. 

God’s world is a beautiful, magnificent creation that reflects His glory daily.  But Scripture tells us that this world will pass away, but God’s Kingdom will never pass away.

Jesus said that our focus should not be on this world, but rather on heaven.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Matthew 6:19-20

Be holy because God is holy.  Think of the words of the hymn as  you listen to it being sung on the album Hymns for All Saints: Adoration, Praise and Comfort, by Columbia Publishing House.

Father, I know that I cannot be holy other than by Your grace and mercy through the power granted to me by the Holy Spirit.  Enable me to grow in holiness so that others may see You reflected in my life.

SOLID FOOD

We enjoy eating in various restaurants, as our widening girth exhibits.  We travel in a recreational vehicle (RV) for long trips, and we eat “at home” in the RV dining room or outside on the patio.  Occasionally, however, we like to try the local cuisine in a restaurant.

In Wisconsin, for example, we ate at Bullhead’s Restaurant.  Bill had pork ribs and sausage and all its trimmings. 

Pork sausage food
Pork dinner at Bullhead’s Restaurant

I had broasted chicken.

Broasted chicken food
Broasted chicken at Bullhnead’s Restaurant

The meals were delicious and, in fact, the second night we were at that campground, we went to Bullhead’s again and repeated our order from the prior day!

The point, however, is that these meals were solid food. We are adults, way past the age of infancy.  Infants could not enjoy these meals because infants cannot eat solid food.

In Hebrews 5:12-14, the writer of Hebrews chastises the people because they were acting as infants in the Lord, needing milk because they were incapable of eating solid food.

You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Milk is good, I like it and have it often with my breakfast.  But solid food is sooooo much better than just milk. 

How does the writer of Hebrews identify the mature Christian, the one who can, and does, eat solid food?

It is the person who has trained his/her powers of discernment to distinguish good from evil. 

And how did they train their ability to be discerning? 

          By constant practice.

We all start this life as infants who can feed only on milk.  We graduate to infant oatmeal and other cereals and then to baby food.  After the infant’s teeth arrive, some solid food is given. 

As Christians, we are born into the family of God as infants who need milk to survive.  But the Christian life is not determined by calendar age.  Someone in their teens may have been a Christian longer and studied the Word more than an individual who came to faith in Christ in their 70s. 

In short, maturity in the Christian is determined by the ability of the individual to eat solid food.  The ability to develop and repeatedly practice his/her discernment so that he/she can tell what is good and what is evil.  The ability to discern when a teaching is leading them away from the straight and narrow road.  The mature Christians do their best to present themselves to God as workers who have “no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15   

Beloved, don’t be a Christian who is stuck “dining on milk alone”.  Read the Scripture, listen to sound teaching, study the Bible and develop a discerning spirit so that you can identify when teaching is leading you astray. 

In the Christian classic Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan presents a picture of a man named Christian and his journey from being Graceless to his entrance in the Celestial City.  At one point, Christian is walking the road called Salvation.  It is described like this:

Now I saw in my dream that the highway up which Christian was to travel was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation.  Up this way, therefore, Christian did run, but not without great difficulty because of the load on his back.

This picture is described in the writing of the prophet Isaiah where God says;

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks.

Isaiah 26:1

Further along in Isaiah’s prophesy he says this:

And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

Isaiah 35:8

Jesus spoke of the way of salvation, characterizing it as having a narrow gate that is hard to find but which leads to life eternal.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14

Beloved, develop a discerning spirit that can show you right from wrong.  Don’t walk along the wide road to destruction – follow the straight road of salvation that leads to eternal life.  Don’t be satisfied with milk.  Become mature Christians who can feast on the Word of God, who study so that they will know their God and Savior through the power of the Holy Spirit, and who stay on the narrow road.  It will be hard, but nothing worthwhile is easy!

Blessings to you as you walk along the Way.

Father, thank You for Scripture that tells us how to grow and mature into Christians who are discerning and who refuse to leave the narrow road in favor of the easier one.  I pray that I would have the dedication and purpose to be steadfast in my walk with my Lord.

WHY SHOULD WE PRAISE GOD?

Bald eagle, Moores' pix cropped

When we were in Alaska, we had occasion to see eagles soaring high overhead and one of them was flying along the river, likely anticipating the taste of the duck that we saw flying just ahead of it.   The eagle was beautiful, sleek and fast.  Its talons were strong and its beak was sharp.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Our traveling companions snapped this picture of a bald eagle while they were on an excursion along the glaciers.

Eagles are referenced in the Holy Bible for various reasons.  One is as a warning for disobedience.  See, for example, Deuteronomy 28:49:

The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand,  …

The picture is clear.  If the people are disobedient to the commands of God, a nation will come against the disobedient Israelites bringing swift destruction.

Like an eagle!

But, Deuteronomy not only warns us by using an eagle as an illustration, the book also tells of God’s love for is people, again using the eagle as an illustration. 

Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.

Deuteronomy 32:11-12  

Of this passage, Matthew Henry makes the following comments:

The eagle is observed to have a strong affection for her young, and to show it, not only as other creatures by protecting them and making provision for them, but by educating them and teaching them to fly. For this purpose she stirs them out of the nest where they lie dozing, flutters over them, to show them how they must use their wings, and then accustoms them to fly upon her wings till they have learnt to fly upon their own. This, by the way, is an example to parents to train up their children to business, and not to indulge them in idleness and the love of ease. God did thus by Israel; when they were in love with their slavery, and loth to leave it, God, by Moses, stirred them up to aspire after liberty, and many a time kept them from returning to the house of bondage. He carried them out of Egypt, led them into the wilderness, and now at length had led them through it.  The Lord alone did lead him. God needed not any assistance, nor did he take any to be partner with him in the achievement, which was a good reason why they should serve the Lord only and no other, so much as in partnership, much less in rivalship with him. There was no strange god with him to contribute to Israel’s salvation, and therefore there should be none to share in Israel’s homage and adoration, Ps. 81:9.

The eagle teaches her young to arise and to be industrious.  She teaches them to fly, at times carrying them on her own wings until they can do it on their own.  God worked alone in accomplishing Israel’s release from bondage and, thus, God is to be praised and worshiped.  There is no other god beside Him.

In Psalm 103, David is praising God for the numerous benefits given to His People.  I encourage you to read it in its entirety, but here are the first five verses:

1 Of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The theme of the psalm is our blessing of the Lord.  Blessing, here, refers to one who kneels or gives humble adoration – it is absolute praise of the one who is to be blessed.

David knows that we would forget to bless the Lord given our natural tendencies.  It is for this reason that he exhorts us to bless the Lord with all that is within us … all that we are, our thoughts, words, actions, feelings, desires … all that is within us should praise the Lord. 

He then goes on to remind us that the reason we should be compelled to bless the Lord is the remembrance of all the benefits that come with following our Lord. 

            Forgiveness of our sins

            Healing of our diseases, both of mind and body

            Redemption from hell

            Crowns us with steadfast love and mercy

            Satisfies us with good

            Renews our youth like the eagle’s

That last one, renewing our youth like the eagle’s, threw me for a loop.  What does that mean?  So, I consulted Matthew Henry, again.

The eagle is long-lived, and, as naturalists say, when she is nearly 100 years old, casts all her feathers (as indeed she changes them in a great measure every year at moulting time) and fresh ones come, so that she becomes young again.  When God, by the graces and comforts of His Spirit, recovers His people from their decays, and fills them with new life and joy, which is to them an earnest of eternal life and joy, then they may be said to return to the days of their youth.  Job 33:25.

Matthew Henry was born in 1662 and died in 1714.  I don’t know how long eagles would live in our day, and it may not be the 100 years that he referenced.  But, the explanation of molting I do understand.   And, I also understand the new life and joy that comes to the believer when God, by His grace and mercy, because of their faith in Christ alone, adopts them into His family. 

Why should we bless the Lord?   The reasons as too numerous to count.  They are as the grains of sand on the seashore, or as the number of stars in the heavens.

Pick your reason to praise the Lord for today! 

Then, praise Him frequently throughout the day.  Don’t skimp … praise when you feel joyful, and when you are grumpy!  Praise Him when things go well, and when they are not so hot!  Praise Him when you want to, and even when you don’t. 

Father, I praise You for the gift of life and I praise You for your loving kindness, patience, mercy and grace extended to me each day, moment-by-moment.

Niagara Falls

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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The American Falls viewed from Ontario, Canada.

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

 

 

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

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

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

John 4:13-14 

Again, Jesus said in John 7:38: 

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

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

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

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

RECOLLECTIONS AND REJOICING

We have seen many old buildings, most of which were in horrible disrepair due to their age, harsh weather and lack of maintenance, on our travels through the U.S.   Some are not falling down [yet], just boarded up, no longer relevant to the modern era. 

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House with a history known to some but not to the passers-by on the highway.

When I see an old barn, house, store, whatever, I think about the people who lived there many years ago.

Old barn along interstate (C)
Barn along interstate with the roof missing at one end of the building.

In South Dakota we stopped at Fort Hays, outside Rapid City, and visited some buildings that were used in the movie Dances with Wolves.

Fort Hayes, South Dakota
Fort Hays near Rapid City, South Dakota, the Tin Shop

Fort Hayes stockade
Fort Hays – Stockade

Although this was a movie set, not the “real” old buildings, it still is a reminder of that way people lived in years past.  No matter the actual age of the structure, structures from the past are fascinating to me.  The stories that they could tell about what happened there and how people lived and acted within the structure. The past holds good and bad memories, recollections of good times that are often countered by remembrances of times that were not so good, possibly even horrible!

There are times that Satan throws our sin back in our face and we can get mired in the muck of self-pity, self-doubt, loathing, etc.  In short, if we get stuck in the past by recollecting the depravity of our ways,  we cannot live the abundant life God wants us to have in the present.

God is all knowing and all powerful, eternal and loving, holy and good.  Reformed theology teaches that even before creation existed, God knew us, He saw all our actions and knew the words we would speak, both those that were intended and careless. The plan of salvation existed before creation, because God knew we would sin and need a Savior.  Because of His love, He sent His Son to be that Savior for His children. 

Paul told this truth to the Ephesians so long ago:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you have been saved;)”

Ephesians 2:4-5 

This certainly is not something that I can explain, it is a matter of faith.  I can, however, thank Him for the grace and mercy extended to me in the forgiveness of my sins.  The Psalmist says:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:11-12 

Matthew Henry comments on these verses, in part, as follows:

As the heaven is high above the earth (so high that the earth is but a point to the vast expanse), so God’s mercy is above the merits of those that fear him most, so much above and beyond them that there is no proportion at all between them; the greatest performances of man’s duty cannot demand the least tokens of God’s favour as a debt, …  Observe, God’s mercy is thus great towards those that fear him, not towards those that trifle with him.  We must fear the Lord and his goodness.

As far as the east is from the west … so far has he removed our transgressions from us, so that they shall never be laid to our charge, nor rise up in judgment against us.  The sins of believers shall be remembered no more, shall not be mentioned unto them; they shall be sought for, and not found.  If we thoroughly forsake them, God will thoroughly forgive them. [Emphasis mine]

The difference between God and man is referenced by the prophet Isaiah where God is speaking and says:

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:9

God’s ways and His thoughts are fundamentally different from ours.  When He forgives, He wipe the slate clean.  There is no remnant of the sin to remind Him that we deserve punishment.  Rather, He has cleaned our sin ledger with the blood of His Son and there is no longer any record of our sin before God. 

So, when you begin to focus on the sins of the past, surprise Satan and tell him to take a hike.  Turn your eyes to Jesus, the lover of your soul and the One who bought you with a price, His sinless blood.  Don’t let your past eliminate the present.  Look to Jesus and worship Him, then rejoice!

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 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

For the Christian, the antidote to living in the miserable part of your past is to rejoice for the glorious love of your Redeemer in the present and to think about the joy we will have when we see our Redeemer in the future and for all eternity to come.  For the one who does not believe in Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior, there is no escape from your past until you call upon Him and claim Him as your Savior.  Do so today!

Father, Thank You for the truth of your Word and for the Holy Spirit who enables us to live a victorious life as a testimony of your marvelous, steadfast love and mercy.  Forgive us when we focus on the past, when You have already erased it from our account, when You have already credited us with Jesus righteousness because of His death and resurrection, as we have come to the cross in faith and believed on Him as our Savior.