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.

ONE STOP AND IT’S ALL DONE!

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

Car truck dog wash sign

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

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

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

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

One stop cleaning for car, truck and beast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 22:35-40 ESV

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

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

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

Psalm 77:12 ESV

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

Psalm 119:15 ESV

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

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

Psalm 29:2 ESV

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 6:1-5 ESV

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

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

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

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

Praise His Holy Name!

Panguitch what?

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

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The Panguitch Mercantile

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

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Every town needs a Thrift Store

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

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Cowboy’s Smoke House Cafe on Main Street.

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

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

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

In Deuteronomy we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

Jesus put it this way:

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

Matthew 6:34 ESV

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

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

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

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

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

FRUSTRATED PLANS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

picture with intended site enlarged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scripture tells us:

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

Proverbs 16:9

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

Proverbs 19:21

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

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

Landscape Rainbow
Landscape Rainbow, Alaska

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

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

Isaiah 25:1

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

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

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

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

THE COLOR OF THINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunset in Annandale, Virginia

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

Bryce Canyon 1
Bryce Canyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

James 4:8 says:

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

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Isaiah 1 says:

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 9:6-7

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

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

Isaiah 53:4-6

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

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

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

 

 

 

Grand Canyon, River, and Nagging

When we visited Yellowstone National Park, we had the opportunity to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone River.  It certainly was deep and an impressive canyon.  Not on the scale of The Grand Canyon, but still wondrous in its own right.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River with raven on spire
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone River

When I took the picture above, I hoped that I had captured the bird that had soared into view just as I was snapping the shot, but I wasn’t sure.  After we got home, I checked, and there he was, sitting tall and proud on top of the tree looking out over the river far below in the canyon.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River with raven on spire circled
My little friend in the circle!

It is a wonder when you look at the scenery in its broad perspective and realize that the canyon was created by the action of the river.  The water continues, moment by moment, day by day, year by year, to carve away the rock as it deepens the canyon.

We know that water is one of the necessary components to our life, in fact the human body is approximately 60% water.  We need it to drink, we need it for cleansing, we need it to live.

But water is also destructive.  We can well remember Hurricane Katrina with its incredible devastation and loss of life in the southern United States.  The canyons with their beautiful rivers running through them tell the story of thousands of years of sculpting as rocks are shaped and fissures are created.

Scripture brings the point home a bit more pointedly, however.

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon has quite a bit to say about water and words.  Specifically, in Proverbs 27:15 we read:

A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; [ESV]

Houses in the Middle East were formed of planks loosely joined and covered with a coating of thatch, clay or plaster. (Remember the friends to let their disabled friend down through the roof so he could get to Jesus! See Matthew 9)  The roof of these homes was always likely to leak in heavy rain.  

Solomon is comparing the irritating  bickering and nagging of a wife to the continuous drip of water through an imperfectly constructed roof. This proverb has formed the basis for a Scottish saying: “A leaky house and a scolding wife are two bad companions.” 

In defense of women everywhere, I must hasten to note that this admonition does not singularly relate to the wife in the home.  The Message, a modern-day paraphrase, renders this wording of the proverb:

A nagging spouse is like
    the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet;
You can’t turn it off,
    and you can’t get away from it.

In short, both spouses can be leaky faucets if they don’t keep their eyes focused on the One who can give peace, even in difficult circumstances. 

Further, lest either spouse points a finger at the other, I would refer to Paul’s admonition regarding husbands and wives:

“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. …  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Ephesians 5:28-20, 33

I pray that we will seek forgiveness when we have been a nag to our spouse or when we have ignored or frustrated our souse, and then i pray that we would seek strength from our Lord Jesus Christ to guard our mouths so that we will have an harmonious home rather than a contentious one.  I pray that we would love each other and that we would cherish and respect each other.  I pray that our homes would be beacons of light in which God’s Word shines as we reach out to others each day.

Father, thank You for providing us Your Word as a book of instruction, reproof and correction for us.  Thank You too for giving Solomon wisdom extraordinaire which he incorporated into the book of Proverbs, expressing Your wisdom for our understanding.  Open our eyes and our hearts as we read Your Word so that we can glorify You in our relationships with others, even in our marriage relationship. 

THE BLACK HILLS WILD HORSE SANCTUARY

While visiting Tampa, Florida, we had lunch at a restaurant named Ulele.   The focal point of the décor inside the restaurant is a magnificent bronze statue named “The Laughing Horse” created by Victor Delfin.  The size and musculature of the figure is breath-taking.

Ulele - Tampa 14

The statue was beautiful, but it cannot compare with what we saw when we visited The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, South Dakota.  It was raining during our visit but nothing could dampen our wonder at these magnificent animals.  Wild mustangs created by God and living in thousands of acres of beautiful terrain.

mustangs 4
The Sanctuary has over 11,000 acres of incredible terrain for these horses to roam.  What a beautiful sight!
mustangs
Having a salad with some friends!

 

 

The inquisitive nature of the horse is evident, even in these wild mustangs, none of whom have ever been ridden nor have they had saddles, bit or bridles on them.  But they did like to come up and see what was going on!

mustangs 3
One of the herds gathering together.
mustangs 5
Please pardon my hair, it’s wet from the rain. But, I look great anyway!

We were told that the Native Americans did not have a word for horse, so they called them Big Dogs and this video shows that the characterization is pretty accurate.

 

We felt like we were at home because we have seen our little MinPins do this same thing on the family room carpet, as well as in the backyard grass.  Same thing, other than the size difference, of course!

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 21:31  

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

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

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

Psalm 147:10-11

Just think of the privilege we have — we can bring pleasure to the Creator of the universe!  When we reverence the Lord, when we cling to His steadfast love, it is in those times that we bring the Lord pleasure!   Do you ever think of bringing pleasure to the Almighty God? 

We praised the Lord for the beautiful horses that we saw and we gave thanks that He led people to create the sanctuary so that these animals would not be destroyed, people who would demonstrate His steadfast love to this small segment of His creation.

What a blessing we would receive if we remembered to do that which pleases Him throughout our day.  May praise to our Lord be the “default position” of our life!

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

HOW GREAT THOU ART!

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

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

IMG_20180626_1342546_rewind

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

20180707_141941

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

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

11 colorado 2 monarch pass 1 continental divide

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

descending from monarch pass

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

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

HOW GREAT THOU ART

[Verse 1]

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

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

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

[Refrain]

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

[Refrain]

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

[Refrain]

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

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

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

Psalm 102:18

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

Psalm 106:1

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

Psalm 113:1

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

Psalm 117:1-2

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

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

Psalm 150:6

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

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

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

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

Psalm 112:1

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

 

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