CONTRAST AND COMPARISON

We have had occasion to consider the beauty and brevity of life recently.  It is something that no one wants to ponder for long, it is too sobering; but, it is an inevitable fact of life.  We are born, we live, and we will experience physical death.

English field
Idyllic English fields that symbolize the Garden to me

We read of creation in the very first book of the Holy Bible.  God created man to live a life that was fulfilling — he had work to do and food for nourishment.  Man was not created to sit and do nothing, he was to work the Garden of Eden and keep it. 

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26

However, there was one test in the Garden for Adam and Eve … God asked for obedience.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:15-17

They could eat of any tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they could not eat.  God said if they disobeyed, they would die.

Of course, we know what happened.  Chapter 3 begins with the serpent testing Adam and Eve by twisting the words of God and telling them that they should not believe God’s threat of death, rather they should believe the serpent’s words that they would not die and the fruit was good to eat.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 

Genesis 3:6-8

They disobeyed, and there it was – death arrived, sin entered the world, and a gradual disintegration of creation began.

Physical death was not the only result of their disobedience.  Prior to eating the fruit, Adam and Eve enjoyed a close relationship with God, something that we cannot comprehend in our fallen condition.  God walked in the Garden in the cool of the day and He communed with His creation.  After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve heard God walking in the cool of the day and they hid themselves because they, then, knew that they were naked and they were ashamed. 

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”  And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”  He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?””

Genesis 3: 9-11

I love this passage – if you have had children, or been around children, you will undoubtedly relate to this picture.  You see the child hiding under the blanket or in a corner but you call “Where are you?” anyway.  You know where they are, but they don’t know that!  Then the conversation continues as you determine if there is something amiss or if they are simply playing hide and seek.

Our Creator God did not need to call Adam and Eve to find out where they were.  He is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent … He knew exactly where they were.  And He knew exactly what they had done.  He wanted them to admit to it.

Spiritual death, separation from God, occurred when they disobeyed the Creator and nothing Adam and Eve could do would change that.  Praise God that He did not leave us without hope, however.

In the first recorded shedding of blood in the Garden, we read that God did not leave His children hiding behind fig leaves.  Rather, He made clothes for them.

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

Genesis 3:21

Then, on a hill called Calvary, blood was again shed, this time it was the precious blood of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son.  His blood was not shed because of any sin that He had committed; rather, He shed His blood on the cross of Calvary as the atonement for the sin that Adam and Eve committed and for the sin that you and I have committed.  This was done so that we could be reunited with God through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We would escape eternal death by faith in Jesus’ atoning work on our behalf.  We have eternal life with God through Christ our Lord.

End of the Road
The end of the road sign in Denali National Park.

We all come to the end of the road when death stares us in the face.  The reality is that this will happen to each one of us; but physical death is not the end.  Our soul will live eternally and the end of the road leads to only two destinations, Heaven or Hell. 

Just as God clothed Adam and Eve in the Garden after their sin, God will cloth us in the righteousness of Christ if we have faith in Jesus as our Savior and if we trust in Him as Lord of our life.  Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

Christ shed His blood for His children … come to Him in faith and repent of your sin, claim Him as your Savior, and the end of the road here will open the door to an eternity in Heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I pray that these words would have full effect and that You would send Your Spirit to quicken hearts dead from sin so that faith can bear fruit in the lives of Your children.

The Addometer

I was cleaning out a cabinet drawer when I came across an interesting item. 

Addometer
Have you ever used one of these?

It is about 11 inches long and has a series of 8 dials with holes around each dial and numbers on the dial face corresponding to the holes.  A stylus is provided so that you can put its tip in the hole for the number you want to use, and then turn the dial to “enter” the figure you want added, or subtracted as the case may be.

Addometer 3
The Addometer – The portable adding machine for home or office!

The item is named the “Addometer” and the directions are written on the top of the item itself:

[1]  To add, use large figures – turn to right.  [2] to subtract, use small numbers – turn to left.

The box identifies the Addometer as “the portable adding machine for home and office”.

While it is true that the Addometer does, indeed, add and subtract by the use of the built in stylus, its use today is overwhelmed by the ease of doing calculations on a wide variety of devices, including but not limited to the cell phone!

I suspect our Addometer is doomed for the dump unless we can find a museum that needs to have a portable adding machine! The point, however, is that, although it was state-of-the-art when designed, the Addometer is no longer useful in the modern world.

Unfortunately, some place the Holy Bible in the same category as the Addometer … something that was useful once but which has no relevance to today’s world.  In their arrogance, the “Influencers” assert that we have grown past the Holy Bible; thus, its rules and guidelines are simply not necessary now.   In fact, those who hold the Bible in their hearts as the Word of the Almighty God are categorized as antiquated, as deluded and as uninformed to the light of today’s culture.

Beware of this kind of thinking.  It reeks of brimstone and is a delusion that has been used by Satan for millennia.  Satan tempted Adam and Eve when he said “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”   Of course, God had said that they could eat from every tree in the garden, except for one.  Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and the concept that Scripture is no longer relevant to our modern culture is a lie that people have swallowed — hook, line, and sinker.

Scripture, itself, tells the real story about its relevance to us, even in 2019:

“A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.””

Isaiah 40:6-8

Here the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah is told by God to cry to the people and tell them that they are like grass in the field.  Their pride and arrogance should be dissipated and they should humble themselves before the Almighty God because they are like grass and when God’s breath blows on them they will perish.  This is in direct contrast to the permanence of the very Word that God speaks.

“the word of our God will stand forever.”

Then we read further in the book Isaiah wrote, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he transmitted God’s message to the people of Israel, the following text about God’s Word:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:10-11

Here, Almighty God is telling the people that the effectiveness of His Word is unaffected by the people’s reaction to it.  We have no control over the rain or snow. It comes and the earth uses it to grow and bring forth food for us to eat.  Absent that rain and snow, we would not have water that is so necessary for our survival.  And that water is given to us by God, without our involvement in its delivery to us.

In like manner, God’s Word is His, and we have nothing to do with its delivery to us.  Rather, His Word will accomplish all that He purposes for it and His Word will succeed in each task for which it is intended.  We, in our extreme arrogance and conceit, have nothing to do with whether it succeeds or not … indeed, we are incapable of stopping the purposes of God.  He is omnipotent and, quite simply, we are not.  What He says will happen will, indeed, happen.

So, don’t place the Bible, the Holy Word of God, in the same category as the Addometer.  While the modern culture seems to be ignoring the precepts found in the Bible, rest assured that the culture’s digression away from the Scripture in no way mitigates or minimizes the truth of the Word of God.  Man may choose to ignore the directives and teachings of Scripture, but he does so at his eternal peril, because God’s Word remains forever — whereas we are grass!

Father, forgive us for our human conceit and arrogance, when we believe that we can replace You with our own creations, or when we consign Your Word to the corner of insignificance.  Thank You for loving us so completely that You provided the Holy Scriptures to shine a light on our path, and thank You for preserving it through the millennia so that we can have the benefit of its presence in our lives, today.

Niagara Falls

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

DSC_1885
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.  
 

DSC_1893
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.

WE’VE GOT WHAT?

Some time ago we noticed some dirt on the baseboard of the guest room in our home.  It is a room that had gone through multiple iterations of use, from a suite for our daughter and her family, to a bedroom for us after surgery, to a guest room for visiting clergy and friends.  Since our children have moved back home and have established homes of their own, we no longer have need of the guest room for housing their families so it is not put to frequent use.

Therefore, we did not pay much attention to the “dirt” on the baseboard in the corner of the room.  We went into the room recently and discovered that the “dirt” seemed to have become more pervasive and we became a bit concerned about the cause.

The answer to the title question is “We’ve got mold!”  It has not intruded into the entire room, just one corner, but it did a real good job of invading that area.  We have now had the corner stripped of the dry wall by the mold remediator, and we can see the damage that it caused.  Now the mold has been killed and the area sealed off until we can get a contractor to repair the damage.

mold damage 0708191104b
Ceiling in the corner of the room showing mold damage

As I was looking at the damage, while trying to settle my stomach from how ugly it was, the Lord struck me with the realization that my hatred of the mold and what it did to the house is miniscule when compared to His holy hatred of sin. 

The room looked fine when you looked at the wall.  Yes, there was some discoloration at the baseboard, but no one looks at that!  Put something in front of it and you don’t even know it is there!

The room looked presentable.  It was fine.  It was even quite pretty with the curtains and lovely furniture, with knickknacks on the shelves and a broad window showing off the rose bushes outside. 

But when the sheet rock was taken down, what a horrible scene embraced the eyes!  At the lower corner of the room, you could see the outside through the vinyl siding on the exterior wall of the room.  The only thing between the room and the outside was the thin vinyl siding.

mold damage 0708191104a
The lower corner exposed pure sunlight through the siding.

On the outside, we can look presentable, maybe even pretty or handsome as we go to church, pay our tithe, sing in the choir, and do all the things that we are supposed to do.  But if we harbor sin in our hearts, if we are quarrelsome and spiteful, if we covet or lie, if we murder the reputation of others through gossip or slander, or if we abuse the marital bed through adultery, we present anything but a pretty picture when the veneer is taken away.

Jesus spoke of this situation in the Gospel of Matthew:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” – Matthew 23:27-28

The Pharisees and scribes were holy men before the people, but they were lawless sinners before God, the One who could read their hearts and minds like an open book. 

It is humbling to realize that God knows your thoughts, your minds, your actions, your motives … your everything.  While the mold hid behind the drywall, it fooled us but it was still there, working its damage. Likewise, God is not deceived by outward appearances.

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.”

2 Chronicles 16:9  These words were said to Asa, King of Judah, after he had sinned by consulting with a medium about an upcoming battle, rather than relying on God.  This was in direct violation of God’s command.  There are negative consequences to violating God’s laws.

David understood the ability of the Lord to see our actions:

“The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.”

Psalm 34:15   Fortunately, there also are consequences to obeying God’s command, and these consequences lead to righteousness and a relationship with the Almighty God.

The writer of Proverbs, too, understood the all-encompassing knowledge of God, not just actions but motives and reasons, unspoken words and thoughts:

“For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths.”

Proverbs 5:21

God’s omniscient knowledge of us is repeated in the New Testament by the half-brother of Jesus who said:

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.””

1 Peter 3:12

Believer, don’t harbor sin in your heart.  Confess your sin and repent of your actions.  You will be restored and the blot will be taken away … new boards will be erected and the new sheet rock will be unblemished.

Such is not the future of the wicked, however.   In the verses immediately after Proverbs 5:21 quoted above, we read:

“The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.  He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.” – Proverbs 5:22-23

The remedy for sin in the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. 

“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);  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 10:8-9

Don’t let the mold of sin ensnare you.  Confess your sin and repent, claim the Lord Jesus as your Savior, and you will be saved.

“The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!”

Psalm 22:26

Lord, I pray that the mold of sin, eating away at the fiber of our beings, will be purged by the blood of the Lamb, that sin would be eliminated from our lives and that Jesus would replace that rotten wood with clean firm resolve through the Holy Spirit working in our lives on a moment by moment basis.  Forgive us for our sin and cleanse us from all iniquity. In Christ’s holy name, I pray.

The Gateway

St. Louis, Missouri, boasts the Gateway Arch which stands at the Mississippi River as a testament to the pioneering spirit of the people approaching the eve expanding West.

the Gateway Arch rises up behind the new glass entrance
Gateway Arch National Park. Photo courtesy of StudioBrookes.

Founded by the National Park Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a transcontinental United States, the Gateway Arch National Park (formerly known as the “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial”) stretches from the Old Courthouse to the steps overlooking the Mississippi River. In between, the Gateway Arch rises high, a bold monument to the pioneering spirit.

Today, the Gateway Arch celebrates the diverse people who shaped the region and the country. The dreamer, Thomas Jefferson, negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, doubling the size of the United States. The explorers, Lewis & Clark, and their Shoshone guide Sacagawea, scouted the new territory and mapped a route to the Pacific Ocean. The challengers, Dred and Harriet Scott filed suit at the Old Courthouse for their freedom from slavery, and St. Louis suffragette Virginia Minor sued for women’s right to vote. The Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen designed the stainless-steel monument that honors them all.

gateway arch 1
Picture taken while I was visiting the arch.

The graceful arch is based on the catenary curve, that is the shape made by a free-hanging chain when held at both ends. When speaking of his design, Saarinen said, “The arch symbolized the gateway to the West, the national expansion, and whatnot.”

A view of the Gateway Arch reveals over 43,000 tons of concrete and steel that arc 63 stories high into the Midwest sky. Since its completion in 1965, the tram ride in the monument has taken millions of visitors on the trip to the top to enjoy stunning views stretching up to 30 miles to the east and west.

Much more information about the arch is available at the National Park Service website. (www.nps.gov/jeff/index.htm)

The Gateway Arch, of course, is not the only way to the West. It is certainly a wonderful monument to those who made the trek through difficult terrain with less than ideal circumstances and comforts.  But, today, there are many ways to get to the West from the East, in addition to going through the Gateway Arch.

Such is not the case in a matter of significantly more import than physical travel.  I am speaking of our ultimate destination for eternity. 

We know that we are finite creatures, born in space and time, and that we were created from dust and, given enough time, we will return to dust after our death. 

In Scripture, the Holy Bible, Jesus says that He is the gateway to heaven.  That is, that no one can come to the Father Almighty, God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, except through Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

Unfortunately, today there are many who assert that there are a variety of “ways” to get to heaven or to please God.  However, Jesus’ words do not equivocate.  There is no quibbling.  There is no suggestion that any other “way” is possible or effective if we want to go to heaven where the Father resides.  Jesus simply and clearly said that He is the only way to the Father.

Good works are not sufficient.  Giving money is not sufficient.  Being hopeful that the balance will tip in your favor is not sufficient.  Nothing is sufficient because everything other than what Christ did on the cross is based on our own abilities.  The problem is that we are all sinners and we are dead in our sins.  We can do nothing to aid ourselves or to move ourselves toward heaven.  We are dead.

If a person is dead, he cannot do anything for himself.  If he is to have life, an outside force must operate to give him life again.  He can’t summon up the strength to get life, he is dead.

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Praise God.  He loved us even though we were sinners, we had been disobedient to His law.  While we were sinners, before we could do anything to assist in our salvation, Christ died for us.  He accomplished all that was necessary to pay for our sin.

Jesus Christ, however, rose from the dead.  He conquered death and sin. 

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

Romans 6:9

Because He died and rose again, He is capable to rescue us from our sins, and He will do so if we have faith in Him.

“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. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Romans 10:9-10

If is for this reason that Jesus could tell His disciples, that He was THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life … there is none other

There are many gateways to the Western part of the United States, but there is only one way to heaven, no matter where you live or who you are. 

The Way is Jesus. He is the way to eternal life. Come to Him if you have not already done so and claim Him as your Savior and Lord of your life.   If you have already come to Him, praise His name. Thank Him for the life that He has given you, now and forever more.

Father, we praise your name for the love that was expressed to us through Christ’s life and death, and for your mighty power in raising Him from the dead so that we could claim Him as our Savior and Lord.   Thank you Father, thank you Lord Jesus, and thank you Holy Spirit for quickening our hearts and bringing us to yourself.

PRAISE GOD FOR OUR FREEDOM TODAY, JULY 4, 2019

THIS IS A REPOST OF THE ENTRY JULY 4, 2016 AND IT EXPRESSES MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS TODAY, JUST AS IT DID THEN.  I PRAY THAT THE GOD OF ALL WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE, PEACE AND MERCY WILL USE THESE WORDS TO EDIFY YOU AND BRING GLORY TO HIMSELF, AS WE CELEBRATE THE FREEDOM FROM TYRANNY THAT WE ARE BLESSED WITH IN OUR COUNTRY AND AS WE CELEBRATE THE FREEDOM FROM OUR SINS THAT OUR LORD HAS PROVIDED THROUGH HIS SACRIFICIAL DEATH ON OUR BEHALF.

Today, Independence Day, July 4, 2016, we celebrate the fact that we are a free people.  We do not have the tyrannical rule of those who subjugate the people for their own profit.  We do not have the fear that our property will be confiscated if we disagree with the sovereign over some issue.  We do not have the fear that the government will prevent us from worshiping God according to our own beliefs and the Scripture.  Indeed, we don’t even have to give honor to those who guaranteed these freedoms for us.

Harold Wittenborn 1943
Harold Wittenborn, my father, a loving Christian witness, and a veteran of World War II. He has now gone to be with the Lord.

But on this day, July 4, we stop to celebrate all those who served to give us our freedom.  The soldiers who fought in the various wars, World War I and II, the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts, and a host of other conflicts around the world, both past and present.

Marine officer
My son, now retired from the USMC, was preserved by God through numerous conflicts overseas.

We celebrate those who survived the wars and returned to their families, and we remember those who are no longer with us, whether they died on the battlefield or in the subsequent years since their service.

But, freedom without some standard, some constraint, some guideline is really nothing other than anarchy – everyone doing that which seems fitting (and profitable for) themselves.

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Judges 17:6 (KJV)

When we abandon the governing standard, we have undermined the very freedom that allows us to select that standard as our own.

I suggest that Scripture presents the standard that we should follow – the Old Testament Law of God as given to His hand-picked man, Moses, is the standard that shows us how we are to live.  It applies to those under the Law in the Old Testament and it applies as an indicator of God’s character to those of us who live in New Testament times, following Christ’s death and resurrection.

Flag
Old Glory flying high.

Today, it is right that we should honor our flag, our military, our Constitution and our Country.  God has blessed America with incredible riches, beauty and power.

However, it is also right that we offer our thanksgiving to God for the country in which we live.   The men who founded our Country had incredible vision and were confident that they had been led by the Hand of God in their decisions and focus for the new land. 

President George Washington, in his first inaugural address delivered April 30, 1789, stated:

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations and whose providential aides can supply every human defect; that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes; and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.  In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow citizens at large, less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.

Today, let us give thanks for the vision of our Founding Fathers and for the courage of the men and women who forged the way into the land, who established this marvelous country, and who preserved it, some with their lives, for freedom to be upheld and sustained for future generations.

 

USED praying hands
Praying hands.

 

Today, let us also give thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died for our sins so that we could be covered in His righteousness before God the Father Almighty.   His death and resurrection grants us freedom not only for the here and now but also for eternity.  His sacrifice granted us freedom from spiritual death, from sin, from the power of Satan and from the power of our sinful nature.

Father, we give thanks to You for this day, as we celebrate our Nation’s independence. The song “America the Beautiful” reminds us of your constant blessings on us. Your grace and your mercy have been given to us in full measure, abounding fully to your glory.  As we celebrate our independence today, may we be aware of your hand in the workings of our country and, moreover, may we be aware that true freedom comes only from You, and for that we give You thanks.

A NEW AVOCATION

I recognize that I have been somewhat absent in the blogosphere lately.  When the Ruminant Scribe came into being in 2015, I was submitting a new post every 3 or 4 days.  I then went to submitting a post twice a week, usually on Tuesday and Friday.  That schedule continued uninterrupted, for the most part, until 2018 when my postings became more sporadic.

I apologize to my readers for the drop off in submissions, but I have been working on a new avocation.  I have posted previously about the surprise Christmas present that my husband gave to me in December of 2017.  It is an incredible embroidery/sewing machine.  And, I have been enjoying it tremendously ever since it was given (at least after I had taken the classes so that I knew what buttons to push, how to thread the machine, etc.).  Then, after somewhat mastering the sewing aspect of the machine, I had several more lessons on how to use the embroidery aspect of the machine.  I have had fun!

Several years ago, the women of my church got together to sew dresses for children in  Southeast Asia and Africa who are cared for in a ministry called Homes of Love.  The children who were orphaned or abandoned are brought into a home where they are loved and cared for by their house mother.   [For more information about Homes of Love and the wonderful work that they are doing, see their website at homesoflove.org/]  The homes undertake a marvelous work, all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the Homes of Love motto is “Creating Families for Life”. The ladies in our church wanted to help by creating and sending some much-needed clothing.  (See the post “Clothed in … what?” dated February 13, 2018.)

The dresses that I started making in 2018 were known as pillowcase dresses.  They are loose and easy to sew, at least they are not too problematic for a beginner sewer like me.  (It had been a l-o-n-g time since 7th grade Home Economics sewing class, and, in case you were wondering, sewing is not included, in any way, shape, or form, in the law school curriculum!)  So, the pillowcase dress was good for me to use as I began my sewing adventure.

20190422_200108

However, now that I have learned (in a rudimentary sense) how not only to sew but also to embroider on this marvelous machine, I have begun making Tee-Shirt Dresses with embroidery on the shirt and, sometimes, on skirt as well.  It has become an avocation in which I have been blessed to participate.

20190521_133425

These dresses are certainly not professionally sewn.  But, they are prepared with love and prayers as I am working on them.  And, the Lord had given me much pleasure in making these clothes for children who may not have had a “nice new dress” to wear in a long time.  It is not much, but it is something that the Lord can use for His glory.

More recently I began making some shorts and tops for the little girls.  This has been a new challenge since I had never made “pants” before.  I guess I’m not too old to learn, although, again, they are not as error free as a professional outfit might be. But they, too, are made with love and prayers for the safety and well-being of the children who will receive them.

20190607_112650

I then combined the embroidery on the tee shirts with shorts, cut the tee shirts down a bit so the shirt would not hide the shorts, and then added a pocket to the shorts.

20190610_134809

I think I have provided at least 25 dresses and 4 shirt/short outfits to be sent to the Homes of Love since the first of the year.  All this is simply to say, my posting activity has plummeted, and now you know why.  I plan to continue posting on the Ruminant Scribe. I just wanted you to know what has been consuming my time.

Blessings to you and thank you for patience as I try to balance the sewing avocation, posting on the blog, church work that we lovingly offer to our Lord and Savior, and family activities with the loved ones who God has placed in our lives and hearts.

Father, thank You for all the blessings that continually come our way, through your great mercy and love.  You are the Father of all mercies, and we praise your name for your steadfast love and kindness to us.  Let us be careful to give You the praise and honor that rightly belong to You, our God, our Savior, our Lord, our heavenly Father.

Yes, You Learned Math You’ll Never Use After High School. Here’s Why. — Brandon J. Adams

I follow  Brandon J.  Adams, and his most recent post reminded me, fondly, of physics in high school.  My teacher, Mr. Townsend, was a patient man, whose Christian ethic was evidenced in how he taught our class.  I was his problem child — not from a disruptive standpoint — I simply could not understand physics.  I just did not grasp it.  And, since I was going to be a nurse, I didn’t believe that it was anything that I would use in the real world.  I passed the class, barely, only because I repeatedly stayed after school with him tutoring me, trying to figure the subject out, to only moderate success.

However, God had other ideas.  Through a series of avenues, I ultimately found myself in law school, 11 years after graduating from college as an English teacher.  I began working in a law firm where my clerking and then my practice centered on product liability litigation.  In doing this work, I found myself dealing with experts in mechanical devices, learning how the differential on a vehicle worked, what a limited slip differential was, what the Delta-v of the accident was and why that mattered.  In short, I was using physics in my defense of the product at issue.

Each time I used these concepts I envisioned Mr. Townsend, spinning in his grave, but smiling also, knowing that his work was not misguided!  In short, God was even then teaching me what I would need to know later in life (much later in life, actually!).

This is rather the subject of Brandon’s post, and I pray that you would enjoy it and ponder how God prepares each of us for the work that He has planned for us to do. I find Brandon’s posts at brandonjadams.com.  Please feel free to check out what he has to say here and on his site.  I think you will find it enlightening and a wonderful blessing.

I see it all the time – some character on the internet asking why they were taught (fill in the blank algebra) they never used after high school instead of (fill in the blank practical math like budgeting or taxes or mortgage math).

Having served in the teaching profession, this question is really mine to answer. I now oblige.

Beyond the fact that many schools do offer alternative courses in such math (I’ve taught them)…

…or the fact that practical math is far easier for someone to self-teach, so we reserve algebra for professionals…

…or lines like “it’s about problem-solving” or “we could use more trade schools” or “because federal agencies are dictating our content #lessgovernment #murica”…

…the answer is simple.

You learned math you’ll never use after high school – because your teachers believe in you.

You’re welcome.

Contrary to popular opinion, teachers have no crystal ball revealing exactly what each student will grow up to be. We have no way of knowing a future environmental researcher or mechanical engineer from a future office receptionist or restaurant manager.

And since we don’t know, teachers labor to equip students for as many choices as possible. Perhaps for when that space exploration video smacks your eyeballs in junior year and launches your imagination into overdrive, or when you read about that ecological crisis brewing in the Solomons and suddenly feel driven to find solutions. Darned if teachers are about to bar you from those possibilities by not teaching the basics.

Students might think we should know. “Can’t you see the loser I am? Can’t you see I have no capacity for that great stuff?”

No. We don’t. That’s not our job. Teachers believe in every human that sits before them – even when they don’t believe in themselves. How can they do their jobs with any passion otherwise? We will not count you out, even when you count yourself out.

Even if you do become a stay-at-home mom, had you chosen a path of research at Cal Tech, you at least had the option. That is not a waste of your time. For you were not a waste of their time. You may not have understood the lesson then, but it gives you limitless options later.

You could say much the same of God – except he knows exactly where you’ll end up.

Perhaps you’re currently wondering, when on earth am I going to need these heartbreaking lessons I’m learning? Perhaps your current circumstances are stretching you to the breaking point, beyond what you thought you could bear. The fear and depression don’t lift. Money stays suffocatingly tight. The loneliness bears down like a fog. Month in and month out, year in and year out, no matter how many “things are about to change!” sermons you hear, nothing ever does.

Know that it is not in vain. Nothing on God’s blackboard smartboard is ever wasted. 

Imagine being admitted to a NASA engineering internship only to find out you haven’t the slightest math skills. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

God is averting you from that fate. He loves you fiercely and is arranging the strength and knowledge, professionally taught, that you will need for your destiny. When it arrives, you will be ready.

 

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. 

DSC_1802
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.