ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – GOODNESS

Another one of God’s intrinsic attributes is His goodness. We read about it in the opening verses of the Bible where we read of creation done by God simply at the power of His words.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good.”

Genesis 1:3-4. 

Waimea Canyon Kauai mountains
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

This continued throughout creation and then, in verses 26, 31 we read: 

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  … 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.”

When the Triune God was done with the creative work on the sixth day, He looked at His completed creation and said not only that each of the component parts were good, He declared that “it was VERY GOOD” and that statement included mankind, created in His image, for fellowship and relationship with Him.  God is good, and we were created in His image. 

A short look at the newspaper tells us that we are not good, however.  Sin entered the world and contaminated that which God had created.  But sin did not change the character or nature of God.  He is still Good.

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 100:5

God is not good because it is attractive for Him to be so, and He does not strive after following some standard for goodness that is outside of Himself.  God IS good.  J.I. Packer says that God’s sovereign redemptive love is just one facet of God’s goodness. Goodness underlies virtually all that He does.  [J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, p. 46]

He is the Source of all goodness.  In other words, goodness is not an abstract concept – it is personal – it is WHO — it is God.  The only reason we know anything at all about goodness is because God, who created us in His image, IS good.

The Jews knew that to call yourself good was to take an attribute of God and apply it to yourself, something that was clearly within the definition of blasphemy, as is evidenced by Jesus’ response to the man in Mark 10:18 where He says:

“Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.” 

Goodness is one of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul identifies in Galatians.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” 

Galatians 5:22

Due to sin, we have no inherent goodness within ourselves.  But, the believer has the fruit of goodness due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is part of the Triune God-head and thus the Spirit has the same nature as the Father and the Son.  Since goodness is intrinsic to the Father’s nature, it is also part of the Holy Spirit’s nature, so that it is a fruit that will grow within the believer as we give more and more of ourselves to the Lord.

Dr. R. C. Sproul notes, in the Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series from Ligonier Ministries, that when God’s goodness is evidenced in our lives as a fruit of the Spirit, there is a new ability to appreciate excellence and beauty because it is evidence of the beauty, order and exquisite detail of God’s nature and character.

 We have already spoken of God’s joy in His beautiful creation. A further example of God delighting in beauty can be found in Exodus 28:2 where God tells the people how to make Aaron’s garments for use in worship:

 “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty”.

Even though they were in the wilderness, God did not want the priest to be clothed with normal garments.  Exodus 28 details what was to be made, including what materials were to be used.  A very partial listing includes: blue, purple, and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen; two large onyx stones engraved and set in gold filigree; chains of pure gold; twelve gems for the breastplate – sardius, topaz, cabruncle, emerald, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx and jasper – each one being put in gold filigree settings.  And there is much more!  Clearly, Aaron’s garments reflected God’s glory and beauty!

Another example God’s goodness is appreciation for music.  Music was an integral part of worship in the Old Testament. 1 Chronicles 15:28, 2 Chronicles 7:6.  David talks of making music and singing to the Lord in many of the Psalms.   Psalm 101:1, Psalm 92:1.

More recently, Johan Sebastian Bach [1685-1750] composed his music to give glory to God.  Bach wanted his music to point to the existence of God when, during the “Enlightenment”, people were arguing that man was the be all and end all and that God was unnecessary.   Bach himself said:

“Music’s only purpose should be the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” 

Listen to “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” as composed by Johan S. Bach and performed by the Choir of Sommerville College, Oxford. 

God’s goodness is just one of the intrinsic aspects of His nature, it is one of God’s attributes.  Goodness is truly the foundation for all that He has done for us. We should praise Him continually for the mercy, grace, and salvation that has been extended to us through Christ our Lord, all because of His goodness.

GOD’S GLORY MADE MANIFEST IN THE SKY

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

On August 21, 2017, many of us in the continental United States had the opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse.  While I am told that eclipses occur frequently, there has not been a coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the United States since 1918.

Solar Eclipse in totality with large corona
The corona visible during the Solar Eclipse in Totality on August 21, 2017, as seen in Maryville, Tennessee

The moon cast a 70-mile wide shadow over the earth as it traversed between ourselves and the sun.  How could the moon block out the sun?  The numbers are easy to understand but incredible to comprehend.  The sun is 400 times greater than the moon, but the moon is 400 times closer to the earth than the sun.

Even though you no longer can see the sun itself in the total solar eclipse, its power is impossible to contain as the corona emanates from the sun while the moon appears to linger on its journey. The corona is a superheated region of plasma located above the sun’s photosphere, and scientists assert that it extends for over five million kilometers.  Staggering figures that give further evidence of the magnificence of our Creator God.   

There are many who will write tomes about this eclipse, and my offering here will surely be rudimentary and simplistic, but, after seeing this heavenly event, I can only be in awe of God’s majesty and glory, repeating what the Psalmist said:

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.  

Psalm 145:5

God has chosen to communicate Himself to us through the glory and majesty of His created order, nature.  The theologians call this General Revelation or Natural Revelation – that is to say, these are the works or acts by which God reveals himself through nature. 

The purpose of General Revelation is to make God’s eternal power and deity manifest to all mankind. 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:18-20.

The solar eclipse caused me to sing praises to my God and the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ.  Truly His eternal power and divine nature were on clear display during the eclipse, confirming the truth that His majesty is above earth and heaven.  His glorious splendor is apparent in His creation, and His works are, indeed, wondrous.  Praise God that He has provided evidence of Himself in nature and in His created order.

Father, I thank You for the privilege of watching Your creation operate in such wondrous ways.  I praise Your name for the gift of seeing Your power and majesty as they are exhibited in Your creation.  You are God, and there is none like You.  Praise and honor are due to You, and You alone.

 

HOW MAJESTIC IS YOUR NAME

At this time of the year, the full moon seems larger than life.  There is a school with its large parking lot, running track and baseball fields ½ mile from our house.  When we come home from Bible study in the evening, the moon is visible over this expanse of space, without the interjection of trees hampering the vision.  It has been wonderful to stare at the moon, marveling at its orange-tinted hue when it is first visible and appears huge.  Then, as it rises high in the sky, it seems to spread a glow of white light that blankets the land. 

I realize that there is a scientific way of explaining the light, the coloration, the change in apparent size of the moon, etc. and I appreciate that we have gone such a long way in understanding our world.  But, science is quite irrelevant when I see the full moon advancing overhead: I know it does this because God ordained it to do so, and it is awe-inspiring to me.

Moon and lake (C)
Full moon rising over still Mississippi lake.

 Scripture says:

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Psalm 8:3-4 ESV

These verses from David come front and center when we look at the moon and at the beauty of God’s creation.  What is man, indeed?  How is the Creator God mindful of mankind?  He is the One who spoke all of our universe into existence by the power of His Word!  More incredible to think of, this same Almighty God who existed before the universe was created and who is infinite, not only knows of human-kind, He knows ME, individually and personally.  

Psalm 139 provides a listing of all the intimate details that God knows about each person on this planet. He knows: 

  • When you sit down and when you stand up. – 139:2 
  • The path you will take, when you lay down, all your ways. –  139:3
  • What I say even before I speak it out loud. – 139:4
  • His hand is on you and he hems you in. – 139:5
  • You can go nowhere outside of God’s sight or knowledge. – 139:7-12
  • Even in the lowest part of earth, far from heaven, God sees you. – 139:8
  • God is in the heavens and in the sea. – 139:9
  • No matter where you are, God’s right hand will hold you. – 139:10
  • Even darkness cannot hide you from God. – 139:11-12
  • God created you and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. – 139:13-15
  • God knew the number of our days even before we were born – 139:16

John Calvin said the following about Psalm 139:17-18 in his Commentary:

The truth is one which we would do well to consider more than we do, for while we may cast a glance at our hands and our feet, and occasionally survey the elegance of our shape with complacency, there is scarcely one in a hundred who thinks of his Maker. Or if any recognize their life as coming from God, there is none at least who rises to the great truth that He who formed the ear, and the eye, and the understanding heart, Himself hears, and sees, and knows everything.

So, the next time you look up into the heavens and see the full moon reflecting the sun’s light over the earth, remember Psalm 139.   

A. W. Tozer [1897-1963] said:

“If we miss seeing God in His works we deprive ourselves of the sight of a royal display of wisdom and power so elevating, so ennobling, so awe-inspiring as to make all attempts at description futile.  Such a sight the angels behold day and night forever and ask nothing more to make them perpetually satisfied!”

The God who formed us knows us and loves us, and gave His Son for us.  Perhaps we should say that the moon is reflecting His Son-shine as it witnesses to us of God’s love and provision.  Let us declare that which the Psalmist said: 

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Psalm 8:9 ESV

Father, when I consider Your greatness and Your marvelous creation, Your love and intimate knowledge of me, I can only fall on my knees and confess that You are God.  O Lord, my Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

ADVENTURES IN TILLAMOOK COUNTY CONTINUED

 

In my previous post, I spoke of some of the adventures we had in Tillamook County, Oregon several years ago.  I did not include one of the most interesting aspects of our visit, specifically it was having the opportunity to get up close and personal with The Octopus Tree.

This tree is located just a few hundred feet from the Cape Meares Lighthouse.   It is a massive Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) that has multiple monikers, including:  The Monstrosity Tree, The Candelabra Tree, The Council Tree and The Octopus Tree. 

 

Oregon 2009 434 (C) Octupus Tree at Cape Meares State Park near Tillimook Oregon
The Octopus Tree, Cape Meares State Park, Tillamook County, Oregon

The tree is certainly not hard to miss – it has a 50 foot base, it reaches upward over 100 feet.  Its most incredible characteristic, however, is that it has no central trunk!  Instead of growing straight up from the trunk, the limbs extend horizontally from the base as much as 16 feet before turning heavenward. This gives it the appearance of an inverted octopus. 

Oregon 2009 435
The base of The Octopus Tree showing no central trunk but sturdy branches growing horizontally.

 

It is impossible to determine the tree’s actual age because, to do that, we would need to cut it down and examine the rings.  No sense in destroying such an incredible living thing simply for that purpose. But, it is believed to be 250 to 300 years old, which would date the tree at the time when the Native American Indians lived in the area. In support of this theory, rumors exist that the Octopus Tree got its shape from being used to hold their canoes with their dead in them.  In other words, it is believed that the tree was a sort of burial site or a site used for sacred purposes. 

Octupus tree looking up Oregon 2009 436
The beautiful limbs soar overhead.

The tree’s limbs towering overhead are beautiful in their strength and dignity.  It would appear that the tree is thriving, notwithstanding its unique formation at the base. 

For more information I would encourage you to look at the following websites provide a great deal more information about Tillamook County, Oregon.  I would then encourage you to visit the area itself. 

http://gotillamook.com/things-to-do/sights/cape-meares-octopus-tree/  and https://theoregoncoast.info/OctopusTree.html 

Beside from being an interesting place to visit, what does the Octopus Tree have to do with me?  Or with you?

The Octopus Tree provides us with an example of God’s creation extolling His greatness, even if distorted or disfigured through time or by the acts of others. 

Paul says this about the condition of His creation after sin entered and broke the relationship between the creation and the Creator:

“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.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

Romans 8:19-22 ESV

When sin entered the world, everything changed.  Instead of love reigning and instead of walking in fellowship with God, mankind now spoke of hate and walked in opposition to His Creator.  That continues even to this day.  A brief look at the news headlines confirms that the world is in the grips of sin and that evil rules almost without opposition.

How many of us have been abused as children; have been in destructive relationships; have been addicted to drugs or alcohol or have endured any of a multitude of other addictions?  How many of us have been in poverty, have been hungry, have been sick and hospitalized?  How many of us have been subjected to these conditions because of the actions of others?

That is the story of The Octopus Tree.  It was misshapen and became a tree unlike any of those surrounding it in the forest.  Whether forces of nature changed the tree’s shape or whether it was the result of being used in some sort of religious rite, the result was disfiguring of the beautiful tree.  But it still stands, growing in God’s sunshine, honoring the Creator by reaching to the heavens. 

So to, when we have been subjected to hard times, trials and the evils in our world, we may well become misshapen, scarred, and have hurts that are too deep to even mention to our loved ones.  We know they are there nonetheless.  No matter what has happened to and/or through us, we can still stand in the grace and power of our God.  We can honor our Creator by looking to Him, reading His Word, surrendering our will to Him and living for Him as guided by the Holy Spirit.  We can grow in His Son-shine, the Light of the world, Who shines on us and infuses His light into us so that we then can brighten the darkness we find around us. 

You can be The Octopus Tree in your neighborhood.  If you are misshapen and scarred, that adds character and strength to your witness of God’s goodness, love, mercy and grace.  Share your witness and the Word with those around you – God will use it for His purposes, you can be assured of that!

By all means, if you are in Oregon, take time to visit Tillamook County.  Open your eyes and open your heart and hear your Creator speak to you as you see the sights and hear the sounds around you, both in Oregon and wherever you call home.

 

Father, I pray that You would empower me as I live my life, scarred and misshapen though I am.  I pray that I would bring You honor and glory and that Your Word would be on my tongue as I spread Your truth to others.

 

FOUNTAINS, REFLECTIONS AND POWER

We were camping at a beautiful little campground in Crossville, Tennessee, Spring Lake RV Resort. 

spring-lake-campground
Spring Lake RV Resort, a panoramic view of peaceful campground.

Although the fall colors were not yet in their fullest, it was clear that they would be brilliant very soon.  

In the morning, the cool air held the promise of a beautiful day as we sat eating breakfast looking out at the lake.

 

used-spring-lake-breakfast
Eating breakfast outside with a view of the lake before us. God’s creation is magnificent!

In the evening, the air was crisp, requiring a shawl for me, as Bill and I sat on the swing and looked at the stars through the hanging pine branches overhead. 

One of the most relaxing and mesmerizing sights for us was watching the fountain in the center of the lake that began its work about 9 in the morning and continued, nonstop, until dark. 

spring-lake-fountain
Spring Lake fountain showing droplets plummeting to the lake’s surface.

Having worked on a number of water cases during my law practice, I am well aware of the importance of aerating lakes and ponds so that the water does not stagnate and cause all sorts of problems in the environment.  So I understood the reason for the fountain. 

But having knowledge of the characteristics of lakes and ponds and the variations of fountains and aeration systems did not eliminate the mesmerizing magic of watching the water shooting into the air, of seeing the mist going higher than the water itself, and then following the arc of the water spouts as they turned and plummeted to the lake’s surface.

spring-lake-fountain-and-ripples
Fountain and ripples on the lake from the falling water.

In the morning, as the sun rose over the lake, the fountain became even more hypnotizing when its reflection became apparent.

spring-lake-0648
Fountain spray reflected in the lake.

While thinking about the reflection in the lake, I also thought about how Scripture says we are to reflect the image of Christ to those with whom we come in contact.

We have just completed a 25 week series on the Fruit of the Spirit in this blog.  As I often noted in discussing the fruit that the Holy Spirit wants to grow, nourish and blossom in our hearts, minds and souls, the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s is to transform us into the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  In short, we are to reflect Jesus Christ to those we meet during our day.

Paul says we are not to conform to the world but we are to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, see Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In Romans 8:29, Paul describes the transformation that occurs in the Christian through the Holy Spirit when he says:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The reflection of the fountain in the lake is not the same thing as the fountain itself.  The reflection has no power of its own; it cannot make an impact on the lake because it is just a reflection. 

Likewise, when we speak of “conformed to the image of his Son” we are not talking about physically looking like Jesus.  Nor do we have any power of our own, like the fountain reflection; we can do nothing apart from the source of our power, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5

Rather, we are Jesus’ image bearers to our world.  We are to have the same attitudes and spirit of the Lord.  What matters to Him should matter to us.  His response to people should be our response to people.  His sacrificial compassion should be evident in how we treat others, putting their needs ahead of our own at all times. 

But, we cannot do it on our own because we are sinful and God’s way is totally counter-cultural and against the ways of the world.  On our own, we are like the reflection of the fountain – powerless.  We must be transformed before we can do Christ’s work in the world.         

That required transformation comes by the work of the Holy Spirit, so we should cherish the development of the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts because that is evidence that we are growing in our Christian walk.  Then, when we are walking in the Spirit and the Holy Spirit is working on our transformation into the likeness of the Lord, we will be able to impact our world for the glory of God. 

The challenge – don’t be just a powerless mirror reflection of our Lord, one who says words without faith in action; one who does good deeds without telling of Jesus.  Connect to the power of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to transform your heart and mind into the image of our Lord.  Then you will have His power to spread the Good News of the Gospel to those you meet throughout your day. 

 

Father, forgive me when I have failed to reflect your love to others, when I have neglected the needs of those around me, when I have put myself ahead of others on my list of importance!  Transform me from a powerless reflection into the vital image of your Son through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit so that I can be an effective witness of your power, grace, mercy and love.  May I spread your Gospel to others through your leading and your strength.

 

The Bradford Pear Tree – the Rest of the Story!

Okay, I confess that I have a love/hate relationship with Bradford pear trees. I love the way they look in the spring, with beautiful flowers and the pyramid shape of the tree’s limbs illustrating praise to the Lord our God, and our Creator.   I hate the way the trees smell!

Even though I still hate the smell, I have become aware that the smell of the flowers has a significant role to play in the overall environmental scheme.

Indeed, we believe that God, the LORD, created all things and He created it so that all creatures’ needs would be met, even the Bradford pear tree’s needs, and it is all to His glory!

 

Bradford pear tree  in downtown Nashville (C)
Bradford pear tree in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.

 

The Psalmist says:

The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

Psalm 24:1 [NIV].

Now even though it has been a long time since I was in science class in school, I do remember that flowers and trees usually need fertilization to survive and procreate and, for the most part, that comes from pollen being transferred from one plant to another. What I have failed to recall (assuming I knew it in the first place, of course) is that flowers are one way that the plant communicates with insects for fertilization purposes. In short, the flower’s fragrance is a telegraphic invitation that is sent to, and received by, an insect a long distance away. In response to that invitation, the insect will come over and bring pollen with it, take pollen from the flower, etc.   All of this, of course, being in God’s plan so that His creation could thrive and renew itself on a continuing basis, for the blessing of the acme of His creation, human kind, and all to His glory.

Back to the Bradford pear tree – I have been informed that flowers with bad fragrances (shall I say “odoriferous flowers”?) will attract carrion insects, specifically, those flies and beetles that feed off feces, rotting flesh and other decaying organic matter. Granted, I had not really thought about how dead things disappear in the normal course of nature. But, it does not strain the mental capacity to think that if there were not “carrion insects” or other such creatures, the decaying corpses of numerous animals, birds, etc., would become overwhelming in a very short time. So they have a significant role to play in our world.

Specifically, blowflies are one type of carrion insects. They are so “skilled” in what they need, one expert opined that they can locate a dead carcass within hours, and they can smell the odor of a fresh or rotting carcass up to a mile away. [See: http://www.harnett.org/coop/March-7-2008-ask-the-hort-agent.asp?v=p ]

The connection with the Bradford pear tree is that the blowfly is the primary insect that pollinates the Bradford pear tree flower. The flowers of the Bradford pear tree smell like a rotting animal and that attracts the blowflies which are necessary to pollinate the flowers.  It reminds me of the adage that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Apparently, what I think is putrid, the blowfly thinks is wonderful.

It seems to me that bees might do just as well since I think that is one of the primary functions of bees in our gardens, woods and forests. But, the Bradford pear tree is one of the first bloomers in the spring and there are often “cold snaps” during the time the flowers are in bloom, so the blowflies could do that which the bees would have done if they were around when the flowers showed up.

This is not meant to be a science lesson. Rather, it is intended to point to just one of the gazillion, countless, ways that our LORD has established His creation by providing the creatures to pollinate the flower and by having the flower smell just right to entice the creature to come it.   Jesus talked about God’s love for His creation. In Luke he says:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Luke 12:6-7 [NIV]

Clearly, one of the lessons Jesus is teaching here is that God loves His creation including even the small birds of the air –sparrows which are bought and sold for less than 1/2 penny each are known and not forgotten by the Creator God.

Our God, Who created the earth and called it good, cares for the birds and flowers, and even provided the blowflies as part of the circle of life. Each one is part and parcel of the system so carefully established by God. It is not happenstance – it is not luck. Rather, it is the detailed, carefully ordained world that God ordained by His spoken Word.

And this same God has said that we, His children for whom Christ died, are worth more than the sparrows (and implicitly, the blowflies). He loves us and His Son, Jesus Christ, died for us. That is the ultimate proof of God’s love and care. (1 John 4:9-10)

Praise Him, oh my soul!

Father, your wondrous creation is beyond my ability to comprehend.  You have cared for all your creatures and have supplied all their needs.  May I remember that You have supplied all my needs as well.  Forgive me when I have confused my needs with my wants.  May my life reflect reliance on You in all things for You are Sovereign and I can rest in your loving care.  Thank You for the lesson of the Bradford pear tree and the blowflies. 

HELPING OTHERS

I came across a picture the other day that made me smile; okay, it made me laugh. I copy it here for your consideration. And, I suspect that you are at least smiling too!

Doggie giving a head's up to infant
Doggie giving a head’s up to infant

I don’t know the name of either the photographer or the child nor do I know the name of the considerate canine. But, I do know that the little one could not have had as clear a view of the outside but for the help of his friend.

The ways of helping others are as varied as there are people and needs. We could help a child overcome the fear of water.

Helping child to overcome fear of water
Helping child to overcome fear of water

We could take care of the wildlife in our sphere of influence.

 

Ruby throated hummingbird
Ruby throated hummingbird
Squirrel at corn cob feeder in backyard
Squirrel at corn cob feeder in backyard

And we could enable young children to participate in feeding the backyard critters, thereby teaching them that all of God’s creation is important — that we are stewards, not owners!

Helping child learn about feeding backyard friends
Helping child learn about feeding backyard friends

Often we think that we need to help others by being busy about doing things … hurrying here and there, bustling and caring for others while our frenetic schedules are clamoring for our attention.  But, sometimes, helping others means stopping and being still. Sometimes all that is needed is a little help to get a different view of the situation, a new perspective. Sometimes the best help we can give is just being with someone who needs an ear, or a shoulder, or a smile. Take time to pray with them, or cheer for an accomplishment, or perhaps give encouragement to take the next step!

Toddler learning to walk
Toddler learning to walk

The Bible often talks about helping others. For example:

Acts 20:35: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” [NIV]

Philippians 1:18‐19: “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” [NIV]

1 Thessalonians 5:14‐15: “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” [NIV]

Lord, in answer to your commands and as I respond to the guidance of the Holy Spirit:

  • I pray that I am kind to each person with whom I interact.
  • I pray that I will help those I come in contact with who need special attention, whether family, friends or neighbors.
  • I pray that my help will address the need of the individual, rather than my own need for recognition.
  • I pray that my help will be sacrificial and that it will be done in secret, without concern for receiving thanks.
  • I pray that in all things I will bring glory to God and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, without whom I would, most likely, not be inclined to help at all!

Amen.

OCEANS – WHETHER FEARFUL OR PEACEFUL, ALWAYS UNDER GOD’S CONTROL

What exactly is the ocean? Merriam Webster defines it as “the whole body of salt water that covers nearly three fourths of the surface of the earth, or any of the large bodies of water (as the Atlantic Ocean) into which the great ocean is divided.” [http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ocean]  But, somehow this definition does not even come close to capturing the essence of the ocean, does it.  It does not account for the pounding waves that keep coming ashore with their relentless hammering of the coastline, dissolving the rocks into grains of sand, and destroying even the most well-intentioned child’s sand castle!

Standing in waves on Oregon coast
Standing in waves on Oregon coast

We drove along the Oregon coastline and saw the waves pounding against the side of the mountains, receding back into the ocean body as if it had accomplished nothing. But then we would look at the sand along the beach and we could see the result of the wave’s incessant pounding.

Oregon 2009 251 Coos Bay beach

The sand dunes at Coos Bay, Oregon are mind-numbing in magnitude and sheer volume.   The dunes are literally mountains of sand.

Oregon Sand Dunes - mountains of sand
Oregon Sand Dunes – mountains of sand

The Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area website notes that there are “40 miles of wind-sculpted, shifting sand dunes!” Some of these mountains of sand tower 500 feet above sea level. They are like no other dunes in the world and comprise the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. “The strong elemental forces of tides, waves and winds have been constantly moving the sand for centuries – up to two and a half miles inland in places!” [See http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/siuslaw/recarea/?recid=42465 ]

Coos Bay Sand Dune
Coos Bay Sand Dune

Webster’s antiseptic definition doesn’t account for the majesty of the ocean, the pure scope of it; the power of the water as it becomes a hurricane, or the tranquility of the water’s surface at sundown with clouds showing vibrant colors as the sun descends from view.   Here we were watching the sun set from a ship off the New England coastline.

Ocean sunset from ship with distant lighthouse
Ocean sunset from ship with distant lighthouse

Scripture tells us that God created the heavens and the earth, including the ocean or sea.

“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.   God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:9-10 [ESV]

In Psalms 24:1-2, David says:

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths.[NLT]

When I look at the ocean, I am reminded that my Savior is Lord over all. The ocean and seas of this world, with their incredible expanse and surpassing power, came into being at the power of His voice and they obey His voice, even today. If the oceans of my life are turbulent, and fear engulfs my heart and mind, I must remember that all of creation came into existence at the power of His voice.

That same Creator God is with us in every circumstance. God is in control and we can be confident that whatever flood overwhelms us, whether it be water, problems, illness, finances, relationships, employment, or some other circumstance, our Lord is in control.

Rainbow across the ocean
Rainbow across the ocean

Trust Him, even when you feel that the ocean of despair has flooded your heart. Pray, ask Him for help. His voice is still powerful! The power that created the seas of the world can create peace within you.

Look to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Sovereign of this world and the Prince of Peace who also happens to be the Lover of your Soul. Let Him calm the storm of doubt and fear when He provides His rainbow of love, peace, assurance and security.

Praise His holy name!