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!

HONEYSUCKLE – a fragrance that lingers!

Honeysuckle – the fragrance lingers in the air and fills the yard with sweetness!  We have a honeysuckle bush and several honeysuckle vines that climb some of the trees in the woods in our backyard.

Honeysuckle - tall bush
Honeysuckle tree that is bordering the woods in our back yard.

The scientific name for honeysuckles is caprifoliaceae.  The bush is large, upright and grows to 15 to 20 feet in height.  

The flowers change from white to yellow and it has red berries in the fall.  In late autumn, leaves typically remain green and attached well after the leaves of our native trees and shrubs have fallen.

Honeysuckle - close up
Honeysuckle blooms proliferate throughout the tree.

While seeing the blooms in the tree is beautiful, the thing that I love most about the honeysuckle is the fragrance.  Scientific reports state that the honeysuckle bush flowers in May through June and that the flowers are “fragrant, in clusters from the leaf axils, tubular, 1 inch long, slender, distinctly 2-lipped, with the upper lip having 4 lobes, the lower lip with 1 lobe.” 

That’s all well and good, but it does not, in my humble opinion, give enough print to the luscious fragrance of the honeysuckle bush.  It fills the air on a summer evening.  You can sense the fragrance even when you can’t see the flowers, you just know it is there … you can tell because you are familiar with the scent.

God has always been interested in fragrances both in His worship and in the lives of His people.

In the book of Exodus, we read this regarding the tabernacle in the wilderness:

“”You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood.” … “And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it,””

Exodus 30:1, 7 ESV

The Lord God also gave numerous instructions as to how to make the incense, when to burn it, etc.  In short, God’s dwelling was to be a place of fragrant beauty.  It is no surprise, then, that God’s creation is a place of myriad fragrances, and honeysuckle happens to be one that is pervasive in our yard during the summer!

The Psalmist says:

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;  you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;”

Psalm 45:6-8 ESV

Paul tells the Ephesian Church that they were to walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us:

“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:2 ESV

Christ was described as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God, on our behalf, in payment for our sins so we could avoid the wrath of God because of our sinfulness.

In response to Christ’s incredible gift of love for us, we are to give to others, to enable others to see the Lord Jesus Christ in us, and to assist our brothers and sisters in the Lord as they walk their journey of faith.  Our works for others are not payment for our salvation, rather they are gifts of love in thanksgiving for what God has done for us, in other words, they are a sweet, fragrant offering to our God.

Paul said it this way:

“I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”

Philippians 4:18 ESV

You see, we are not to hoard our blessings, but we are to give to others just as the Lord gave to us.  When we do, our actions become a fragrant offering to God.  Consider the words in Revelation regarding the prayers of those who have gone before us:

“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.”

Revelation 8:3-4 ESV

Matthew Henry speaks of these verses and admonishes us as follows:

It is very probable that this other angel is the Lord Jesus, the high priest of the church, who is here described in his sacerdotal [priestly] office, having a golden censer and much incense, a fulness of merit in his own glorious person, and this incense he was to offer up, with the prayers of all the saints. … The prayers of the saints come up before God in a cloud of incense; no prayer, thus recommended, was ever denied audience or acceptance.

So, as Christians, we are to walk in love as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  We are to give to others both in terms of material help as well as with prayers, and these offerings will rise as a fragrant sacrifice to God.

We should give off the pleasing fragrance of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that fragrance should permeate the air around us so that, even if people don’t hear us say anything, they will know that we are Christians.

Enjoy the wonderful fragrance of honeysuckle, and let it remind you of the fragrance that we should give to those around us as we share the pleasing fragrance of love that our Lord Jesus Christ has given to us.

Father, I pray that I would live my life as a fragrant offering that is pleasing to you.  I pray that my prayers would be presented to you through the wonderful work of Jesus as my intercessor and mediator, and that they, too, would be a fragrant offering that is pleasing to you.

EVERYONE BELIEVES IN SOMETHING!

An old joke told by my husband goes something like this:

After a long discussion about serious matters confronting our country and our businesses, one man asked another “What do you believe?”  The response was “I believe I’ll have another cup of coffee.”

While the humor is superficial, the real question hangs in the air like Spanish moss hangs from tree limbs – what do you believe?  Or, more pointedly, what do you believe about God?  This is the question, the only question, that is of eternal significance.  Do you believe that because you are a good person God will certainly accept you into His heaven?  Do you believe that your money and fame will be, on balance, more than your evil, selfish deeds on earth?  Do you even believe that there is a future or do you think that life on this earth is all there is?  What if you are wrong?  What then?

What you believe in is of critical import – it is a matter of eternal consequence.

One thing that is certain  is that you can trust the Holy Bible to be true.  What it says is true because it contains the Word of God, the Creator and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And, regarding the need for a Savior, the Bible says this:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

John 3:16. 

Cross
Consider the cross, a reminder of the glorious gift provided to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

While there are many additional concepts involved in God’s salvation for His people, the Scripture of the Holy Bible encapsulates them concisely and definitively in the John 3:16.  Christians can argue about the finer points, the details and the doctrine, but ultimately, eternal life comes down to believing in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

But salvation does not come just from believing that Jesus existed … even the devils believed that.  Rather, Paul expresses the belief required as:

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Romans 10:9

In our church, we recite The Apostles’ Creed each week.  

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into Heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic* church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

*Catholic means “universal”.

It is appropriate for us to remind ourselves of that which we believe because what we believe about Jesus Christ determines our ultimate destiny.  Why do we need Jesus as a Savior?  See Romans 3:23.

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

Unfortunately, we cannot save ourselves from the consequences of our rebellious sin. 

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,”

Colossians 2:13

Paul said that we are “dead” ro God because of our trespasses and sins,  and we know that a dead person cannot do anything to bring himself back to life.  Rather, God has to intervene to raise that person from death to life in Jesus Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 

Ephesians 2:8-9

If you receive Him as your Savior through grace alone, as you believe in His atoning death on the cross and His resurrection and ascension into heaven, if you confess your sins and repent, Scripture says that you will be saved.  Your position in Heaven for eternity is guaranteed and you will be a new creation in Christ.

Think about the Apostles’ Creed and each of its elements.  Do you believe this?  Does it make a difference in your life?  Pray that you will be more aware of how your beliefs determine your actions, because they do.

Here is a song entitled “I Believe” sung by the Bar J Wranglers from their album entitled For God and Country.  I pray that you would be encouraged by its beautiful message.

 

Father, I thank You for Your grace that was extended to me by Christ’s death for me on the cross of Calvary.  I thank You for the mercy and forgiveness you granted to me and I praise Your holy name for the gift of salvation.  I pray that these words would challenge those who may not know You, and I pray that Your Holy Spirit would touch their hearts and bring them to You.

 

 

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!).

DSC_0190
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.

DSC_0189
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.)

DSC_0188
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.

Sunset over Annandale VA 4
Sunset in Annandale, Virginia

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

Bryce Canyon 1
Bryce Canyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

James 4:8 says:

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

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Isaiah 1 says:

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 9:6-7

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

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

Isaiah 53:4-6

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

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

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

 

 

 

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. 

TAXES AGAIN!

It is that time of year when all Americans go through their papers, drawers, pockets, computers, cabinets, etc., trying to find all the documents necessary to prepare their tax returns for the preceding year.   Of course then you have the tax code to negotiate, with the various changes from year to year, and tax preparation services touting that they can get you a bigger, faster, better refund than anyone else.

I am confident that almost all of us have heard the statement: “Only two things are certain, death and taxes”.  In pondering this statement, i wondered who said it first. 

According to Fred Shapiro in his blog Freakonomics, he answered this question as follows:

This statement is usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote in a 1789 letter that “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, The Yale Book of Quotations quotes “‘Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes,” from Christopher Bullock, The Cobler of Preston (1716). The YBQ also quotes “Death and Taxes, they are certain,” from Edward Ward, The Dancing Devils (1724).

So, I can affirmatively say that this saying is older than I am, and I am fairly confident it is older than you are as well!  

Taxes have been around for millennia.  Taxation, or something akin to it, has been around as long as there are people ruling over others.  

England - Monument to King George V
Statue of King George V in London, England.  I am confident there were taxes/tribute levied on the people during his reign.

As long ago as when the Israelites were a theocracy, with God as their Leader, there were other nations who were ruled by kings and, it is a safe bet that where there are kings, there are taxes.  A different word might be used for them, like tribute, tithe, levy, fines or some other term but the meaning is the same — the ruler gets something of yours in exchange for continued life under the ruler’s protection. 

Indeed, in the Bible, the book of First Samuel records the Israelites’ demand for a king, simply so that they could be like the other countries around them.  They wanted to forget being governed by God, that wasn’t cool, that didn’t conform to the other people around them.  They wanted to be like everyone else!

“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. … And the LORD told [Samuel]: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights””.

1 Samuel 8:4, 7-9 [NIV]

Samuel then repeated to the people all that God told him about the ramifications of their request. 

“”He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. … He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”  But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us.  Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.””

1 Samuel 8:15, 17-20 [NIV] 

Despite the ramifications, the people demanded a king, rejecting God and incurring all the things that God identified, and which would not be the result if they let God rule over them instead.

We can look at this scenario with disdain and think “how foolish they were to reject God just so they could be like everyone else!”  But, before we start pointing fingers, we need to inspect our own demands, desires, attitudes and cravings. 

Do we follow God, without reservation and without grumbling? 

Do we allow Him to rule our lives, guiding us even though we don’t understand what is happening and we don’t want to do that which He is directing? 

Do we tell God what we are going to do while ignoring that which He has told us to do?

Do we want to be like our neighbors, sleeping in on Sunday morning, using both weekend days for our pleasure activities without regard to worshiping our Lord and Savior?

In short, can people tell that we are Christians by how we live our life?  Or are we good people who are nice, pleasant, and maybe even generous, but whose priorities have nothing to do with God?

Have we rejected God in favor of being like other people?

Jonathan Edwards said: 

“How can you expect to dwell with God forever, if you so neglect and forsake him here?”  

I pray that we will repent and turn back to God, seeking Him as the ruler over our lives.  He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is the Lover of our souls.  He sent His Son to be our Savior Redeemer, the One who paid for our sins.  But, He is also the Judge of all humanity and there will be a time when we all will be held to account for our actions, our words, and our thoughts.  

Quoting Jonathan Edwards again: 

“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”

Rather than wanting to be like others, let us make this our life theme, our standard, our own resolution.  May we make each single day that the Lord gives to us a day in which we live for God.  Even if no one else does!

Father, I thank You for the witness of the saints of old like Jonathan Edwards who could give glory, honor and devotion in the harshest of times.  I pray that I would yield my life to You daily so that You can work through me as You wish.  Forgive me when I have wanted to blend into the crowd, to be like others, rather than to be like Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer.  .  

GIVE TILL IT HURTS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20180626_1342546_rewind
Snow-capped Grand Tetons 
Ocean verticle sun going down
Sunset over the ocean.
frozen-head-state-park-trees-forming-arch-2
Frozen Head State Park, Morgan County, Tennessee.
Yosemite 2011 WRM 095 Overlook of Kings Canyon National Park (C)
King’s Canyon National Park Overlook, California
Waimea Canyon Kauai mountains
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

David said it this way:

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

Psalm 33:6-8 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20180628_142647
Eruption of White Cone Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

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

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