Panguitch what?

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

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The Panguitch Mercantile

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

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Every town needs a Thrift Store

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

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Cowboy’s Smoke House Cafe on Main Street.

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

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

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

In Deuteronomy we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

Jesus put it this way:

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

Matthew 6:34 ESV

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

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

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

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

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

FRUSTRATED PLANS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

picture with intended site enlarged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scripture tells us:

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

Proverbs 16:9

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

Proverbs 19:21

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

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

Landscape Rainbow
Landscape Rainbow, Alaska

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

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

Isaiah 25:1

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

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

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

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

THE COLOR OF THINGS

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

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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.  

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Colorful fish swim by in Nassau.

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

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Sunset in Annandale, Virginia

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

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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. 

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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.  

DO RULES MATTER?

A brief look around will reveal that we have a multitude of churches and many of them look very unlike each other!  

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Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!

There are awe-inspiring cathedrals with vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, while offering worshipers a place for singing, prayer and contemplation.. 

Hardware Baptist Church established in 1802
Hardware Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Virginia was established in 1802.

Some churches are much simpler, far less ornate; some are centuries old and others are of newer vintage.  Building style is irrelevant.  These, too, offer worshipers a place for singing, prayer and contemplation.  In short, the question is whether the focus is on God as the one being worshiped or on the worshiper as a consumer or customer.

Jesus said:

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

John 4:24 

Sometimes things go on in church that are inconsistent with God’s instructions for worship.  When the priests were selling animals in the temple at Jerusalem, Jesus was angry and overturned their tables and scattered the animals, saying: 

“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

Matthew 21:13 

Jesus was quoting from the prophet Isaiah who wrote these words centuries earlier: 

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant–these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Isaiah 56:6-7 

Do rules matter?  Yes, God’s rules matter.  An example of this is found in 1 Chronicles when David, with incredibly good intentions, sent to have the ark returned to Jerusalem.  When he did not follow the rules, disaster struck.

“Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.” 

Deuteronomy 31:9 

Here we read that the priests were to be from the tribe of Levi, and the priests were the ones who were to carry the ark of the Lord.  Certain priests were to carry the ark on poles so that no one would ever touch the ark. (Exodus 25:10 et seq.) It was holy because God was there, and God had established the way for it to be transported safely. 

“And four wagons and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.  

But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because they were charged with the service of the holy things that had to be carried on the shoulder.

Numbers 7:8-9

The sons of Merari received wagons and oxen for use in their service as priests in the tabernacle of God, and Uzzah was one of Merari’s sons.  He, therefore, had the cart and oxen ready for use in temple service.  But reading the very next verse in Numbers 7 reveals that the sons of Kohath did not get a cart or oxen because they were to care for the things of God that had to be carried on their shoulders, like the ark of the covenant.  

“So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim.  And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim.  And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. “And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets.  And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled.  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.”

1 Chronicles 13:5-10

Uzzah tried to do something good in that he was steadying the ark so it would not fall when the oxen stumbled, but the ark of God was to be carried on the priests shoulders by using the poles permanently affixed to the ark.  It was not to be put on a cart pulled by oxen.  Uzzah disobeyed God’s rule and he died, immediately, on the spot, without any appeal or delay. 

God’s rules matter.  God’s justice mandates that His rules be followed, if for no other reason than He is God and He said so!  Even human parents look at their children and say “Because I said so!”  That’s all the reason the young child needs to have to obey what his/her parent directed.  And it is all that we need when we consider whether we should follow God’s rules … choosing not to do so is SIN and that carries serious consequences.

David learned the lesson.  After leaving the ark for three months at the home of Obed-Edom, David summoned the priests and ordered them to bring the ark to Jerusalem.. However, this time he used Levites who were commissioned to carry the ark on poles … he did it in accordance with God’s rules.

“Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it.  Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule. So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel.”

1 Chronicles 15:11-14 

The ark was successfully carried by the priests and came to rest at the place David had prepared for it.  God’s rules are to be followed. 

Worship is, by definition, not about you or me!  Rather, it is about God.  In Deuteronomy 6:5, Moses wrote:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” 

This was reiterated by Jesus when He called it the great and first commandment:

“Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:29-31 

How do you see worship?  Is it a time for you to boast in your pride of position of power, or in your ability to financially support the church?  While you are in the service are you thinking about all the things you could be during the hour you sat in worship? Is it a time when you walk out of the service thinking that you didn’t get anything out of being there that day?  

Or is it a time when you worship God with your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength?  Is your focus on God and your relationship with Him?  Is your desire to praise Him for who He is, for His attributes and character?  

Rules matter.  I pray that we will return to worship God in the way that He has directed.  God’s commandments are not suggestions nor are they optional.  Follow them and live.  Worship Him in spirit and in truth, and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  

Father, forgive me when I have failed to worship You as You desire.  Help me to focus on You and Your Word throughout my day as I worship You in my life.

THE BLACK HILLS WILD HORSE SANCTUARY

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

Ulele - Tampa 14

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 21:31  

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

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

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

Psalm 147:10-11

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

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

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

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

DO YOU REMEMBER?

Many years ago, a couple of my cousins from Wisconsin would come to Illinois to visit.  They were about 10 years younger than I and we would have a good time visiting together.  When it was bedtime, I would read to them from an English storybook that my Father brought home when he returned after World War II.  The book had adorable pudgy-cheeked children and precious elves and even snow fairies!

I married about 10 years later and these two delightful girls were my flower-girls at the wedding.   We really did not have much contact through the ensuing decades, other than some Christmas cards, attending the funeral of a beloved Aunt died, and receiving a wedding announcement.

On our trip last summer, we were going through Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin to visit friends and I contacted one of these ladies to see if we could get together for dinner as we journeyed through the state.   Plans were made and we did so. 

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Decoration at campsite in Rivers Edge Campground, Stevens Point, Wisconsin

She contacted her sister and the next day both of them came to the campground for a visit and then dinner.  We had a delightful time. 

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Pool play area at Rivers Edge Campground, Stevens Point, Wisconsin

To my astonishment, they asked if I remembered the stories that I read to them years earlier from that old English storybook.  When I said that I did, they asked that I tell them two of those stories before they left the campground that evening.   I was honored to do so, and we revisited the Pixie who stole a taste of pink ice cream and the Snow Fairy who disobeyed and became stuck on earth.  Two adult women remembering life lessons that had been encapsulated in stories told decades earlier in their childhood, and me cherishing the time with them and recalling when the stories calmed them so that they could sleep in a strange house.

This past week we were working with come elementary school children and singing the song “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the Book for me, I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.”

In doing so, the children had fun singing at the top of their lungs, while the adults revisited the time in their childhood when they, too, learned the song.  But far more than having fun, the song is imprinting the message on the children’s minds that the Bible is the Word of God and it is something that lasts, you can stand on its teaching because it is from Almighty God.  They may not understand all that, but it is in their heads and hearts and someday, when they are older, they will remember its teaching, just like my cousins remembered those comforting stories.

The importance of teaching children the Word of God is a direct command of our God.  For example, in speaking of the law and commandments of God as given to Moses, we read:

You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Deuteronomy 11:19

The Psalmist says the following:

Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

Psalm 34:11

No matter our age or station in life, we all can say with King David:

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”

Psalm 86:11

Snow fairies and Pixies are not real and the stories are not imbued with the imprint of the Holy Spirit of our God.  However, Scripture is, and we have an obligation to our children and grandchildren to teach them what God says in His Word to guide them as they go along life’s pathways. 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

This great cloud of witnesses refers to those who have gone before us, who paved the way so that we could know of God and of His Word.  So, will your children remember when you read the Bible to them?  Will your grandchildren remember that you told them the stories in the Bible?  Will your family be able to point to you as a person who assisted them in understanding God’s Word? Are you paving their way through the Scriptures?

Father, teach us to do Your will and to tell the next generation about Your marvelous works in our own lives as well as in the lives of those who have gone before.  May I spread Your Word as I live my life in witness to Your love, grace and salvation through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.