HOW GREAT THOU ART!

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

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

IMG_20180626_1342546_rewind

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

20180707_141941

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

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

11 colorado 2 monarch pass 1 continental divide

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

descending from monarch pass

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

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

HOW GREAT THOU ART

[Verse 1]

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

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

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

[Refrain]

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

[Refrain]

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

[Refrain]

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

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

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

Psalm 102:18

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

Psalm 106:1

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

Psalm 113:1

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

Psalm 117:1-2

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

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

Psalm 150:6

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

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

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

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

Psalm 112:1

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

 

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

ABANDONED

As we were driving through a neighboring town, we spotted a large retail complex with the high parking lot light, the mesh screens to keep the merchandise intact, with the promise of more goodies in the adjacent building.  On the property just next to this complex was this small building, that had clearly been abandoned some time earlier.

 Abandoned broken down building cropped

As we looked at it, I wondered what stories that building could tell, and what had happened to reduce it to crumbling timbers.   

Another example of abandonment that we saw on a trip through Colorado is this mining camp, high in the mountains of the Rocky Mountain Range. 

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains 2

 

A closer look at this site reveals that this camp was destroyed by the ravages of time and weather.  When it closed, nothing could save it from the destruction that comes with abandonment.

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains

The problem is that buildings are not the only things that are affected by abandonment.  It is a sad and distasteful statement to make, but the reality is that people are abandoned on a regular basis.

Human relationships are frequently conditional, and often people are abandoned when they have done something that is distasteful to another, and that person abandons the relationship, walking away and leaving the first person alone and sometimes destitute.  Consider the wife who is told that her husband wants a divorce because she no longer pleases him.  He walks out, and she is emotionally, and often, physically and financially abandoned.

Or, consider the employee who has spent decades working for the benefit of the company, only to be told that his efforts are not longer required because technology has rendered his job obsolete.  He is abandoned by his employer and he finds himself without a meaningful job and, sometimes, without means to care for himself or his family.

While it seems the situation is stark and there is no refuge to which to turn, there is One who will not abandon His children – the Lord Jesus Christ.

When the Israelites were facing a severe challenge in the wilderness wanderings, Moses told them:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

This comforting truth was brought from the Old Testament into the New Testament when the writer of Hebrews said:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.“”

Hebrews 13:5

The Psalmist assured us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that:

“For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage;”

Psalm 94:14

Jesus, Himself, told His disciples these comforting words taken from John 14:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Verses 16-18

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Verses 26-27

What comfort and what encouragement, even if you feel abandoned by all others, Jesus has said that He will not leave His sheep, His children, as orphans.  Rather, He will send the Holy Spirit to be within each believer in Him.  The Holy Spirit will teach the believer all that he/she is to know.  The Holy Spirit will encourage and strengthen the believer so that there is no fear.  In place of fear there will be heavenly peace that is sent from Jesus Himself. 

Note, this is not a blank check so that you can get whatever material stuff you want! 

This is a free gift that will provide all the peace and comfort that you need, whenever you need it.  It will provide courage and strength to face whatever is ahead of you, even that which you don’t recognize today.  There is no reason to fear because your Lord and Savior is with you.

This is a free gift with no limit because your debt has been paid in full by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.  You are debt free. That does not mean that you will not sin any more, believers in Christ are not immune from the temptation to sin, but the Spirit gives us the strength to withstand sin.  And, if we yield to tht temptation, confession and repentance will restore us to the peaceful relationship we can have with our Lord.

Abandoned?  I personally know that it is a scary time, but you are not alone if you are in Christ Jesus.  It is not an easy time, and getting through the trial will probably take more time than you like, but God’s schedule is eternal and not limited to our minutes.  He can give you peace moment by moment, as He directs you to those who can assist with your needs.  While God is with you each moment of this trial, His renovation of your spirit and your outlook may take some time, but it is a transformation that is worth the wait!

Often, when something is abandoned, there is a remarkable new structure that is ultimately built exactly where the abandoned building had stood.  When we feel we are abandoned, God can take this time to rebuild and refortify us so that we can serve Him in a new way. 

Rest in the Lord, and let Him overwhelm you with His peace, as He prepares you for your next adventure in the life with Christ.

Father, I thank You that You are the master builder who can transform an abandoned individual into someone who lives for You and who loves Your Son.  Thank You for not leaving us as orphans in this hard land; and thank You for the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, a peace that passes all understanding.

SWEET MUSIC

Yesterday was beautiful – the weather was a bit cool but the sun was bright, the grass and flowers were shining in glory after being washed in abundant rain for several days in a row, and the birds were singing their sweet music throughout the backyard.

Also, the wind was a gentle breeze that sent the porch’s windchimes into a beautiful rhapsody.  

As I was looking at the yard and listening to the chimes’ gentle tones, I was praising the Lord for His gracious goodness and love in sending such a time in the midst of a hectic world.   It made me smile and made my heart resonate with the love that God has for us.

We went to our Bible study that evening and I mentioned the wind chimes in general conversation.  A dear friend asked if I had ever heard the “ice chimes”.  I had not, and she provided a picture that she had just received from near her summer home in Maine.

Lake in Maine with ice breaking up - chiming sounds echoing from the ice

She explained that the lake had frozen over during the winter months.  Indeed, it was so thick and strong you could walk (and some would drive) across it.  However, now the ice was melting.  And when this happens, often but not always, there will be a high-pitched sound, rather like tinkling little bells.  Some have described the sound as the tinkling sound of wind chimes, and thus the sound is named “ice bells.”  She continued to note that the sound was “absolutely beautiful”.

I researched the cause of this natural phenomenon and found that the ice thins as the weather becomes warmer and, at some point, it begins to crack.  When the ice sheets break up, the pieces of ice bump against each other, and the sound is created.

See the article entitled The Sounds of Ice from Margaret LeMone in Atmos News, February 16, 2012 for more information.

Here is a YouTube video from the Town of Dillon, Colorado, dated December 21, 2017 which depicts the lake with the sound of the ice chimes.

As I was thinking of this, it struck me how we think we are something special when we create wind chimes to catch the wind, that God gives us, so that we can hear the beautiful tones, that God grants through the gift of hearing. We often think of nature as being rather static, not really creative necessarily, just doing what it does so that we can live – a rather me-centered attitude.

Instead, we should open our eyes, open our ears, open our minds, and open our hearts so we can see the glory of God as it is revealed in His creation.  I know that Paul points out, eloquently, that nature has fallen because of our sin. 

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Romans 8:19-21

I cannot dispute the reality that creation is not, today, as it was in the Garden of Eden before the Fall.  However, even in its fallen state, some aspect of the glory of God is evident in His creation. 

Now, thanks to a comment made at the Bible study, when I am listening to the wind chimes while sitting on the porch, I can also recall the “ice chimes” that ring out to the glory of the Creator.  Note that God didn’t need me to make chimes – His chimes ring out by His hand.  He didn’t need me to teach the birds to sing, He imprints their song upon them and they raise their voices in witness to His goodness. He didn’t need me to teach the whales to sing, the bees to buzz or the hounds to “roo”.  What a marvelous creation we have spread before us, through God’s amazing hand.

“He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:15-16

Praise our glorious, wonderful God, and His Son who created all things through the power of His word.  

Father, I thank You for the beauty of Your creation.  There is so much of Your creation that I have not experienced and there is so much that is beyond my ability to comprehend, but I praise Your name for giving me such a marvelous world with ice chimes, singing birds, beautiful rainbows, glorious sunsets, and the list goes on with the best Gift of all, Your Son as my living Lord and Savior. 

ABOVE THE TREE LINE

When you are above the tree line in the mountains, there is nothing to obscure your view of the terrain below.  There is nothing to prevent you from scanning the heavens above.  No trees – the terrain is barren, just rock or dirt. 

above the tree line in Colorado
Road in the High Country, Colorado

Peter, James and John certainly had a mountain top experience with our Lord:

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.”

Mark 9:2-3 ESV

It was incredible – it was awesome – it was glorious, quite literally!  They wanted to stay; in fact, Peter even said they should build tents or tabernacles there!  Mark 9:5.   But, that was not what Jesus wanted.  Rather, He directed that they could not say anything!  No boasting or gloating that they had been chosen to see Jesus in His glory … nothing!

“And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.”

Mark 9:9-10 ESV

Although they didn’t understand, they obeyed Jesus’ command and kept quiet about what they had seen, but the questions still lingered.

 

Colorado cinnamon pass over 12000 feet high
Cinnamon Pass, Colorado.  The pass is over 12,000 feet above sea level.

We want to be on the mountain top instead of in the valley – it is pretty, and it is easier than the messy life of the valley.  But there is no growth there. Growth takes place in the valley, where problems, hatred, disappointments, or other malevolent conditions of humanity reside.

But we, like Peter, James and John, must live in the valley.  We are told to obey His commands and that is the hard part – obeying what was commanded without obstinate questions such as “Why should I do this?”   “Who cares whether I do it or not?”  “Why can’t I do what I want to do?” 

David had a mountain top experience, literally, when he was saved from the hand of Saul.  He exalted the Lord and said:

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Psalm 18:2 ESV

Jesus is my rock and my fortress; He is my deliverer, my rock, and my stronghold. More than that, He is the lover of my soul.  He gives me the mountain top experiences so that I am prepared to encounter the difficulties I will find in the valley below.

  • I just need to obey. 
  • I just need to trust His plan.
  • I just need to rely on Him as He is just, merciful, and loving. I just need to remember that without Him, I can do nothing of spiritual significance.  He is the Vine and I am merely a branch in the valley. 

Beloved, look to Jesus for your salvation and security.  He is the Rock that will not be moved.  He is a sure stronghold for your life and eternal destiny.  He is the lover of your soul.  Call Him Savior and Lord each day of your life.

Father, I praise the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, and claim Him as Lord of my life.  I repent of my sin and of my disobedience, and I pray in the knowledge that You will forgive and cleanse my sinful heart, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord.

A CHRISTIAN LIFE – IS IT SOLITARY OR IN COMMUNITY?

There are times when I wonder if I should be a hermit so I could be quiet and introspective.  Then there are other times that I am glad I am in a community of believers where I am nourished and fed spiritually as well as emotionally and socially.

When we were in Colorado we saw the quintessential example of one who apparently preferred their own company to that of others.

bridge-to-house-in-colorado-mountains
A beautiful cabin in the high mountain woods!

Here, in the high mountains of Colorado, stands a house with a chasm between the roadway and the front door.  It is not a gentle slope that one could walk down and then up to get to the house. Oh no, it is truly a chasm.  It reminded me of the castle of yesteryear with the moat around it and the gate that came down thereby allowing visitors to enter the castle or, conversely, to keep them out!

There was no gate that opened allowing passage over the chasm at this house – rather it had its own bridge.  Look at the picture carefully and you can see the green bridge from the road to the cabin.

When we returned home, Bill found out that this cabin has a name — Thoreau’s Cabin.  A real estate brochure description of the place says this:

FULLY FURNISHED log cabin located along the national “Alpine Loop Scenic Byway”.  …  Spectacular setting in the rugged San Juan Range of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  Dramatic Mountain views in every direction; cabin is surrounded by 13,000 foot mountain peaks. … Cabin is located on five private acres at 11,450 foot elevation in Hinsdale County, Colorado.  Cabin borders the 102,000 acre nationally designated “Uncompahgre Wilderness” area. Henson Creek runs through the property with views of multiple scenic waterfalls.  150 foot long suspension bridge over Henson Creek provides access to cabin via private parking area. 

The brochure (that has more pictures) was accessed February 14, 2017 and can be found online at http://lakecitycoloradorealestate.com/15001-County-Road-20-a153865.html

A disclaimer here — I am not making any comment about the people who live there.  I don’t know them and I don’t even know their name.  I can say that I completely appreciate their selection of the view that they have from their home – it is incredible.  I can also say that I would try to insure that I had enough food to last me through the winter because I would not want to be driving that road with the snow and ice that most certainly would come in buckets! And, finally, I would note that someone would have to carry me across that bridge since I suspect my legs would give out at the first step!

However, in all seriousness, I am looking at this view and thinking about those Christians who assert that it is possible to maintain a strong Christian life without associating with other Christians. They build walls around themselves, excluding others from sharing their Christian walk.  They purposefully set themselves apart from others so that they have no, or very limited, interaction with them.  In so doing, they deprive themselves of the encouragement fellow believers could give them.  They preclude others from giving wise counsel so as to prevent error in their doctrine. They miss out on the celebration of joys that others have, and they miss out on the personal joy that comes from helping others in need.  Most of all, they voluntarily extract themselves from the Body of Christ.

Luke, the writer of the book Acts in the Bible, said:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Acts 2:42 ESV

That is the description of the early church.  And each believer, even in 2017, should follow this pattern.  Meet together with other believers for worship, for teaching, for the fellowship, for communion and for prayer.  Don’t try to go it alone.

Each person’s relationship with Jesus is individual and no one, not even your own parents or spouse, can receive Jesus into your heart nor can they put their Christianity over you like a blanket.  That being said, Christianity is not a solitary lifestyle.  It is a life in unity with Christ and with other believers.

Here is a parable that illustrates this point:

The story is told of the man who did not go to church and who lived alone. 

Although he had attended church in the past, that was a long time ago and he did not see any reason to go now. 

The new pastor came to visit him and the man silently opened the door and gave a mute welcome, gesturing to a chair in front of the blazing fire.  The minister entered and sat down.  Both men rocked in front of the fire without any words being exchanged.

Finally, the pastor took the fireplace tongs and grabbed a blazing coal, taking it out of the center of the fire and putting it on the edge of the fireplace.  Still there was no conversation.

After a time, the coal that had been blazing was nothing but a lump of partly burned wood, no blaze, no heat, just some distasteful smoke arose wafting toward the ceiling. 

Silently, the two men looked at the coal for a few moments when the pastor took the tongs and replaced the coal into the fire.  Within moments the coal, that seemed to be dead, was blazing and providing heat and light to the room.

The pastor stood up and, rising slowly, the old man stood:  “I’ll be in church on Sunday morning, Parson.”

A coal cannot continue burning when taken out of the fire. 

The Christian cannot grow in a holy life without corporate worship, prayer and fellowship with other believers.

I pray that you are in communion with other Christians often, that you pray for them and support them with encouragement, assistance and love.  Enjoy peace and quiet but don’t forgo Christian relationships as you study, sing, worship and pray together.

Blessings to you, this day. 

Father, thank You for giving us the Church, the Body of Christ, so that we can worship You and we can grow in our faith, in our understanding of Your Word, and in our transformation into the likeness of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior.

VISTAS, TIME AND THE NEW YEAR

Mountains – Oceans.  Some people love the ocean more than they do mountains.  I admit that I like to look at the ocean on occasion, but I love mountains!  Specifically, I love my mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina.  What I truly enjoy is getting to an overlook or valley and then marveling at the vista splayed out around me.

smoky-mountains-vista
Great Smoky Mountains – vista from Cades Cove, Tennessee

I hasten to add that I am an equal opportunity mountain lover.  We have been privileged to see a number of mountains in our country, and I have loved every minute of it!

colorado-shelf-road-and-vista
Colorado “shelf road” and mountain vista.

When I stand looking out at the grandeur of the mountains and contemplate the forces that created them, my soul sings to the Creator God, my heavenly Father, in praise and worship.

used-half-dome-c
Yosemite National Park, Half Dome and surrounding vista.

What does this have to do with the new year?  A great deal. 

We are temporal, mortal, and our days are limited.

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

Psalm 103:15-16

In fact, the Bible affirmatively states that all we have is this moment, and even it is a gift from God.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, says it like this:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

James 4:13-16

He advises us that we are not to think that we will be here on this earth forever, rather we are to make plans according to the will of our Father.  So, it is good for us to look back at the vista of 2016 and see how we did on that directive.  Use the beginning of this new year to consider the condition of our relationship with our God so we can more effectively grow in 2017.

  • When were we close to God;
  • When did we do His will;
  • When did we say “I will” when He prompted us to say something to an individual;
  • When did we learn from His Word;
  • When did we testify to others of His great mercy and grace,
  • Now, you add your own points to consider, as each of us will have different things to ponder.

The year 2016 is in the record books.  It is over and there is nothing we can do to change what was said, done, or experienced.  The stuff we planned to do, but didn’t, will not get done in 2016, it is over.  The relationships we intended to nurture, but didn’t, will not be stronger today because of anything we did in 2016, it is over.

dar-library-clock-c
Clock in the DAR Library, Washington, D.C.

As Scripture points out, the only time we have is today.  We don’t even have any guarantee that we will see much of 2017 other than the moment we are in right now.

So, take the time to consider your life.  Renew your dedication to focus on the Lord God Almighty rather than on the temporal things of this world.  Those things that you were going to do in 2016 but then neglected — now is the time to get them accomplished.  

Write the letter, send the card, make the phone call, give the hug, encourage the fainthearted, reach out to those who are hurting.  

Whatever you need to do, do it in the name of our Lord and Savior.  Don’t wait until 2018 — now is the time to do that which our God has asked us to do.

Remember how the Lord blessed and protected you in 2016, how He secured your salvation through Christ our Lord, and how the Holy Spirit worked in your life during the year, and praise Him for it.

Then, as you look ahead to 2017, praise Him for what He is going to do in and through you as you rely on His strength, power, wisdom and love.

The great hymn “How Great Thou Art” details much and can provide a springboard for your praise to our God.  Here is the hymn sung on the Concordia Publishing House album Hymns for all Saints, Adoration, Praise, Comfort.  Daily, let your heart and soul sing out in praise to our gracious heavenly Father. You might even want to add your voice to that song!

 

Father, thank You for being with us throughout our life as You lead and guide Your children in Your will.  Thank You for sending Your Son to be our Redeemer and thank You for providing Your Spirit to indwell and empower us we grow into the likeness of Your Son.  As we look to the new year, may we always remember that You are the only living Almighty God and may we sing praises to You in all that we do.

WHO IS IN CONTROL HERE?

 

I am in control of my life … right?  Are you in control of your life?  Really?

 

We get up, brush our teeth, go to work, come home, prepare meals, chauffeur the kids to and fro, do the laundry, mop the floor, make the beds, pay the bills, run to the post office for stamps, wash the toddler’s hands and face, do more laundry, exercise, go to the gym, ride the bicycle … the list is never ending. But, we are in control, right!?

Birthday cake on face (C)
Adorable toddler with birthday cake on her face!

 

Then there are the other obligations that we have on our schedule. Things like birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, worship at church, preparation for the children’s class party, choir rehearsal, women’s meetings for fellowship and prayer.

 

Thanksgiving meal new recipe (C)
Yummy acorn squash that folks would enjoy!

 

We take food to those who are suffering, participate in the Bible study and prayer group, leadership meetings, and work with outreach activities such as Habitat for Humanity, the Soup Kitchen, Second Harvest, etc.   And we still think we are in control, right?

 

Of course, we would be remiss if we ignored the incessant interruptions that the smart phone provides – email, tweets, Skype, messages, not to mention phone calls (the purpose of the telephone)! And we must not forget the magnetic call of social media such as Facebook. Hundreds of our friends want to know what we are doing, minute by minute. Could I honestly post that my status is that “I am in control of my life”?

 

Being in control of my own life is the focus of our culture … songs glamorize the concept by saying  “I did it MY way” and “I want it all and I want it all now!,”  an illustration that the focus of our world is I/me/mine!  In essence, we are the center of our universe. All else is irrelevant. Yet we still are running, we are out of time and energy, and, because we are so busy that we can’t squeeze another thing into our schedule, we believe that we are in control of our own life!

 

If we are honest, it would appear that we are slaves to the chores and obligations of family, home, society and employment! Like the little pet hamster, we are on the treadmill — running in circles with no visible exit point where we can rest, rejuvenate, relax, and refresh!

 

Ocean waves and beach (C)
Oregon beach with waves coming in, nonstop, with soothing sounds.

 

When was the last time you got off the treadmill and stopped so that you could listen to the sound of Nature? When was the last time you experienced the continual, powerful, pounding of the ocean and remembered that there is no switch to turn it off, yet the Lord could still the waves with His voice?  Mark 4:39.

Colorado Rocky Mountains
Colorado mountains, awesome in grandeur and strength.

 

When was the last time you stopped to look at the mountain and to consider the power of Him who holds the summit in His hand?

 

Beautiful butterfly
Beautiful butterfly found in Butterfly Farm in the Cayman Islands.

 

When was the last time you were still enough to inspect a butterfly, one of the magnificent beauties of God’s creation?   Creatures that are so fragile they will be blown away by the wind, yet they are strong enough to fly in migration across the ocean!

 

When was the last time you sat in a quiet room with your Bible open, reading it so you can learn more of Who God is? When was the last time you listened for the still small voice of God, speaking to you in a whisper in your soul, telling you that He loves you and wants you to focus on Him, not on the treadmill?    1 Kings 19:11-12.

 

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

 

The very life we have, breath that we breathe, is a gift from God.  Certainly, those blessings are deserving of our thanks.  But even more we should be thankful for the gift of salvation, purchased at such great cost as Christ’s death on the cross, as payment for our sin.  When was the last time you said “Thank you” to Him for all His blessings that He has given you, because of His grace?

 

Who is in control here?  According to Scripture, the answer to that question is “God is in control.”  In speaking to the men of Athens, Paul says it like this:

And he [God] is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.  For in him we live and move and have our being.

Acts 17:25-28.

 

In the Psalms, David describes God in a much more personal way.

For you [God] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-15

 

God is in control and I can allow Him to take me off the treadmill so that I can do the work that He has planned for me from the foundation of the world.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

 

May I glorify God and His Son, Jesus Christ, as I experience the glorious adventure of life with my Savior holding my hand as His Spirit guides my path.

 

Father, I praise, glorify, and honor you as the Creator God, sovereign, all-powerful, and all-knowing. I thank you that you are in control, and I bow in humble gratefulness that I am yours. May I live in the fullness of life that you have provided through Jesus Christ my Savior and through the power of your Holy Spirit.

 

OUR CREATOR GOD — THE HOLY ONE.

Scripture tells us at the very beginning of Genesis that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1. The six days of creation are all itemized in Chapter 1 of Genesis.

Light — and the light was good.

Dry land and the seas– and God saw that it was good.

Colorado mountains, where earth and sky collide.
Colorado mountains, where earth and sky collide.
Oregon ocean waves and beach.
Oregon ocean waves and beach.

Vegetation, plants and trees – and God saw that it was good.

Yosemite Giant Sequoia Trees
Yosemite Giant Sequoia Trees

Lights in the heavens – and God saw that it was good.

Super Moon in Mississippi.
Super Moon in Mississippi.

All creatures that move, in the sea and in the air – and God saw that it was good.

Hummingbird getting a drink for nourishment.
Hummingbird getting a drink for nourishment.
Florida Spiny Lobster seen in aquarium along Florida's coastline.
Florida Spiny Lobster seen in aquarium along Florida’s coastline.

All beasts of the earth and all that creep on the ground – and God saw that it was good.

Caribou with large rack in Denali National Park, Alaska.
Caribou with large rack in Denali National Park, Alaska.
Pet pooches are under His care too!
Pet pooches are under His care too!

Then, in Genesis 1:26-27, and 31, God said:

“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.’   So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. … And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

Everything that He had made was very good. Simply put, God’s creation is good and it gives glory to its Creator.

Looking at the creation of God, it is clear that beauty is an attribute of the Creator God. David speaks of it like this:

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27:4 [ESV]

God’s desire for beauty is also expressed in Exodus 28:2 where God is telling Moses what garments the priests were to wear when conducting worship before Him even in the wilderness tabernacle.

And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. [ESV] (The emphasis is mine)

A review of the construction of the tabernacle is way beyond the scope of this post, but it was clearly a pinnacle of beauty, shining with gold, bronze, silver, precious jewels for the objects to be used in worship, and even for the thread used to create the curtains. The directions were explicit and detailed, and they were dictated by God. Beauty is an attribute of our Creator. Read Exodus Chapters 25 through 40 and see the incredible detail God directed for the construction of His tabernacle.  Then remember where it was built — in the wilderness.  Clearly, this was not the most beautiful of places, but His tabernacle was to be beautiful because it was to reflect our God and one of His attributes, beauty.

Beautiful music and singing are also part of God’s creation and an expression of His beauty.   Way back when David was king, we read that he appointed the priests to sing a song of thanksgiving to God. Read 1 Chronicles 16 aloud, to yourself or anyone else who would listen, and your spirit will be lifted as you, through David’s words so long ago, praise the Lord for His wondrous works. Verse 10 of this chapter directs that we are to “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.”

This past Monday evening, we were blessed to attend a concert sponsored by Ligonier Ministries for the performance of sacred music entitled “Glory to the Holy One.”  The concert was held in Nashville, Tennessee.

Downtown Nashville at night.
Downtown Nashville at night.

The venue was the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, a beautiful building that is dedicated to the symphony.

The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee
The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee

The building was beautiful with marvelous craftsmanship evident throughout.

Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee
Inside the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee
The symphony platform was ready.
The symphony platform was ready.

Of course, the acoustics were incredible. The choir was extraordinary and the symphony was wonderful. But the music touched your soul, heart and mind.

The choir and symphony ready for the music to begin.
The choir and symphony getting ready for the music to begin.

Our seats were much closer to the musicians than I anticipated … we were IN the music, not just listening to it! This picture was taken while we were sitting in our chairs.

Superlatives are inadequate to describe the event. The words to the hymns were written by Dr. R.C. Sproul and the music was composed and conducted by Jeff Lippencott. Tears streamed more than once as God’s glory was extolled in music and singing. The words to the hymns were beautiful and poignant, detailing the journey of faith and culminating when we see Jesus face to face.  Here is one of the hymns entitled The Secret Place, the words are below the link for your reference.

Excerpt from music on soundtrack of GLORY TO THE HOLY ONE

Who dwells within His most secret place

Is never far from His blessed grace

‘Neath His great shadow all will be well

No better place now for us to dwell

 

Refrain

The secret place of God Most High

The shadow of our mighty King

The dwelling place where angels cry

Is where our praise will forever ring

 

Fear not the terror that comes at night

Nor flaming arrows by morning light

His truth is always our sword and shield

Against His power, all foes must yield

 

Refrain

 

A thousand fall now at ev’ry side

Ten thousand more may have yet to die

Yet plague and sword can

Ne’er kill the soul

His angels guard us now safe and whole

 

Refrain

 

Refuge and fortress for all who trust

No safer pasture for men of dust

‘Neath wings and feathers of Holy Lord

No great comfort can He afford

 

Refrain

 

I pray that these words and the music will be a blessing to you this day.

Father, thank you for the gift of music and for the talents of those who can create, compose, sing and perform such magnificent works to your glory and honor. I thank you too for the truth of the words of this hymn. No safer place can find us than when we are in your care, now and forevermore.