The Incomprehensibility of God

I am pleased to introduce you to a Guest Writer today, my beloved Husband and editor of The Ruminant Scribe, Bill Mowles. He wrote this submission several years ago, but I only became aware of it recently and I wanted to share his comments with you.

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The Webster’s definition of “incomprehensible” is “impossible to comprehend”.  Not hard to understand, not difficult to put into words, but impossible to comprehend.

During a Sunday School Class on the development of the Church, the leader used the word “incomprehensibility” in the context of our inability to fully understand God.   Indeed, when cataloging 15 attributes of God, one author stated: 

What are God’s attributes? When we talk about the attributes of God, we are trying to answer questions like, Who is God, What is God like, and What kind of God is he? An attribute of God is something true about him. While fully comprehending God is impossible for us as limited beings, God does make himself known in a variety of ways, and through what he reveals about himself in his Word and in his creation, we can begin to wrap our minds around our awesome Creator and God.

As I thought about the incomprehensibility of God following this class, I resisted the use of our relationship with our dog Cuddles as an example of this concept.  But I kept returning to how similar our understanding of God and Cuddle’s understanding of us seems to be. 

What we do must seem incomprehensible to her.  We make her food and water appear, and while she “knows” when we go to a particular cabinet that a meal is forthcoming, she cannot grasp why, or what we have to do to make sure that there is food there to give her. She “knows” that when we put her harness on her that she is going for a walk or for a ride, but she has no control over what will happen to her, nor can she tell if she is going to visit a dog park (a good thing) or the vet (not quite so good).   She seems to understand somehow that we are the source of all of this. 

Cuddles trying to understand what Daddy was doing when fixing the faucet in the kitchen sink.

I’m amused at her expression sometimes when we are doing something not related to her care; she cocks her head to one side and seems completely puzzled.  “Why”, I imagine she is thinking, “do they spend so much time staring into those funny lights on their laps (computer and cell phones), where I should be?  Or that big funny light on the wall (television)?“  We provide her every need, because we care for her and want her to be well.  But we don’t grant her every wish, nor do we give her a snack whenever she wants one.

Likewise, God is our loving Father, and from the beginning made available to us our every need.  He has created a world made perfect for our needs.  He has given us His Word, to feed on, to guide us, to make us understand what He wants for us.  He doesn’t explain everything and He doesn’t give us everything we might want, but He provides our every need.

Cuddles seemingly asking Daddy “Hey, can I drive?” while we were on an RV trip and she was studying his movements at the wheel.

I feed the Squirrels. I started doing this to keep them out of the bird feeders, but have continued because the little rascals can be pretty entertaining, One day, when I was putting the peanuts in the little hinged box and the ears of corn on the holders, I became aware of Cuddles barking at me, She might have been saying, “why are you taking care of them? They don’t belong to our family! They don’t love you like I do!”  She doesn’t understand that I care about them too.

This made me think about some of my responses to situations: Why am I surprised that God makes the “rain fall on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45)?  Why does God let “bad things” happen to good people? (the unbeliever’s favorite argument!)  Why does He call people home to Himself when we aren’t ready to see them go? 

These questions have the same answer: because there are things about Him that He is not ready for us to understand.  God is incomprehensible to us now, but we will understand them when He calls us home.  His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8). 

What God wants from us, here and now, is that we trust Him and to know that He is providing. He wants us to love Him and glorify Him as best as we can.  He wants us to embrace the gifts He has given us, curl up in the lap of His Son, and be a part of His Body.

And I don’t need to understand much more than that!

Father God, I praise Your name for all that You are, and I pray for the wisdom and peace to accept Your will, which is beyond my comprehension. In all things, gain or loss, joy or sorrow, may Your will be done.

LOUD VS. STILL

It seems that in our modern culture, there is an emphasis on volume.  Music is no longer melodic and soothing (I’m old school, sure enough), but rather it is ear-splitting loud with lyrics that are almost unintelligible to the listener.   Even country music has transformed from the acoustic guitar to electronics along with bands and a variety of drums. 

Sounds, loud sounds, are found in nature as this world was created by our Almighty God.  Indeed, Scripture frequently references God using thunder to get his message across, and anyone who has been in a thunderstorm, with the cloud above their house, knows the fierce sound and shaking that occurs with thunder.   Consider these verses:

Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt.

Exodus 9:23

And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.

Exodus 19:19

David, a man who tended sheep and was a warrior, who was outside and saw the handiwork of God often, said this:

The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.

Psalm 77:17-18

We understand thunder and loud crashes and sometimes it terrifies us.  But there is a flip side to God’s loud creation, and that is Silence.

Currently, we are in the midst of a show shower.  Likely, it won’t amount to much accumulation, but it is positively beautiful to watch as it falls from the sky and covers the ground. 

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Snowy tranquility in the backyard.

This blessing, in the form of small white flakes, comes, not with blasting thunder, but in silent beauty descending from the sky.

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Snowy branches up close and personal

In First Kings, we have the record of God speaking with Elijah who had just confronted King Ahab and Jezebel.  God understood that Elijah was exhausted and deflated from his work, and God came to him.

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; [but] the LORD [was] not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; [but] the LORD [was] not in the earthquake:  And after the earthquake a fire; [but] the LORD [was] not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

1 Kings 19:11-12 KJV

God came to Elijah in a still, small voice.  Oh yes, God can shout louder than our ears could withstand, but He comes to His servants, often, in a still small voice.  A voice which we will miss if we only pay attention to the cacophony of sound constantly around us.  We must retreat and be quiet, be still!

God has even directed His people to be silent before Him.  In Exodus, Moses told the people to be silent and watch as God brought about their salvation from the Egyptians.

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.  The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Exodus 14:13-14

David understood this concept of being still before God.  In Psalm 46:10, God tells him:

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Be still – know that God is with you.  Be still – know that God loves you.  Be still  — know that God will fight for you.  Be still – hear His still small voice in your heart, mind and soul. 

The command to “be still” is not the same as “do nothing.”  The command does not mean that we sit down in a comfy chair and just relax while God does everything.  He is not your manservant nor is He going to do that which He has called you to do. 

Remember, God’s Son, Jesus, left heaven and His eternal relationship with the Father to come to earth and do that which we could not do, save us from our sin.  Jesus did not come to earth, do some miracles and then just rest on his laurels … “I healed the leper so I don’t have to do anything else today!”  No, He was busy doing God’s will, all of it, every day and every moment.  Even when He was a youth, He went into the temple “to do His Father’s business.”  Luke 2:49.

Beloved, let the beauty of falling snow remind you that there is beauty in silence.  Be silent before the Lord and let Him fill you with His voice and His love, with His direction and His grace.  Be silent and know that He is God.

Father, I too often run around “doing good things for You” and forget that I need to send time listening to You, hearing Your still small voice.  Forgive me when I don’t block out the loud sounds of materialism, commercialism, greed, consumerism, violence, entertainment media seeking my attention, distractions from the cell phone … everything that takes the place of listening to Your voice.  Calm my heart and help me hear You.

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.  .  

TIME – WHO CAN COMPREHEND IT?

My husband and I had occasion to talk about time the other day.  Specifically, we were speaking about how it seems like something that happened one year ago seems as though it happened yesterday and, at the same time, seems as though it happened many years ago.  We know the date of the occurrence, and we know the current date, but time seems to both telescope into the distant past as well as coming down to the microscope of yesterday.

I suspect you have had those same feelings.

Dover cliffs
The white cliffs at Dover, England.

When we were in England about 8 years ago, we saw the white cliffs at Dover, England, something that my Dad talked about seeing during the war.  They were beautiful, and it was an experience that I treasured having.  It seems that it was yesterday when we were walking on that path; but it also seems as though we were there at least 20 years ago because of the multitude of experiences that we have had since then.

How can our concept of time be so fluid when, in fact, time is one of the most measured and constant things we have in our world.  Every year has 365 days in it (except for leap year, then it is 366), every day has 24 hours in it, every hour has 60 minutes.  We know this … yet sometimes it seems the days go by slowly and other times it seems the time flies past us.

We know from the account of creation that God created all things, including the establishment of time for our universe. 

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

Genesis 1:1-5

That is how we still speak of time – the morning and the evening is one day. 

Although God created time, God is not bound by it.  Indeed, God is eternal.  Not only will God exist undiminished everlastingly into the future, but He has existed identically throughout the infinite past.

God told Moses His Name in Exodus 3:14:  “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  No beginning and no end.  God IS.   

Jesus, as one part of the Trinity, is God and is, like the Father, eternal, with no beginning and no end.  In Hebrews 13:8 we read:  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

But that is not all that speaks to us about time.  Scripture also says this:

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

2 Peter 3:8

We are finite creatures, not like the infinite eternal God.  But I wonder if God gives us a taste of what is like when we seem to have the same event in the recent past as well as in the long past.  It would seem that this might be the case given Peters words in his second epistle. 

There is much that I don’t know.  But, I do know this – God is my powerful, infinite, personal, awesome God, and He is far beyond the limits of time.  He knows the past and He knows the future, both for the universe in a cosmic sense and yet for me personally, even though I am no more than a humble creature that is less than a miniscule dot on the planet.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. 

Father, I thank You for the gift of life, the gift of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit.  You know the future that has been planned for me, and I am secure and confident in Your hands.

TRAVEL IN GOD’S HANDS

We have just returned from a trip that covered over 6,000 miles, through lands that were densely populated and through lands where there was no person or building for hundreds of miles at a time.  We experienced mountains followed by corn fields which were followed by huge ranch areas which had brush, cacti and very few trees.  We were in the desert and going through Monarch Pass which registers over 11,000 feet above sea level.   It was an incredible feeling to be standing at the Continental Divide, ears popping all the while!  

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The variety of the landscape is impossible to describe as we traversed from Tennessee to South Dakota, then to Wyoming, on to Idaho, then to Utah, and Colorado, Kansas and Missouri, ultimately returning to home in East Tennessee.

The trip and the thousands of digital pictures will be subject of many future blog posts, I suspect.  Suffice it to say today that our overwhelming experience was encountering our marvelous God everywhere we looked.  Saint John wrote in the Book of Revelation:

“”Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.””

Revelation 4:11 

This is the song that the twenty-four elders sing to our God, and we echoed that song in our hearts as we saw dramatic scenery that revealed His creative power like we have seldom seen.  Some examples are the Red Canyon outside Richfield, Utah.

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In Indiana we saw the Wabash and Mississinewa Rivers and spent time finding and admiring the Seven Pillars on the river.

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And in Wyoming we saw the Grand Tetons looming over the highway, glorious with their snow covered peaks even in the heat of July.

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And in Yellowstone, the geyser basins were the source of incredible beauty.   The orange surrounding the cobalt blue boiling water is bacteria which thrives in this environment. Watch where you walk, though … the water in these “ponds” is way hotter than the boiling point of water and the ground is very thin.  Boardwalks are the only safe way to experience these vents in the earth’s crust.

As spectacular as all this is, God was not only seen in the grand and glorious scenery splayed out before us.  His providential Hand was experienced first-hand when we were filling the gas tank in the RV in a very small Utah town.  A long-distance truck driver who had been following us for some distance came up to us and said one of the rear coach tires was very low, recommending that we add air as soon as possible.  

We thanked him for his kindness and, when the tank was full, we went to the back of the station where there was a three-bay mechanic’s shop.  The owner came out and looked at the tires, noting that the tread on one was split and four of them were long past their replacement date.  (This clearly was something the mechanic in Tennessee should have told us about, but that’s a different story.)

Needless to say, we replaced four of the six tires on the RV and we were on our way, praising our Lord that He was watching out for us, even when we didn’t know we were in danger.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!”

Psalm 143:10 

We have always known God cares for us and is guiding us with His Hand.  But when you can see His Hand working on your behalf, it is overwhelming.  The God who created all this beauty cares about us so much that His immutable love is watching each moment, so that His purpose will be fulfilled in our world and in each of our lives.

Keep your eyes open and see His Hand before you.  Read His Word and let His Spirit speak to your heart and mind.  Bask in the love that our Lord Jesus has for you … He gave His life as a ransom for you.  Praise Him all the day long.

Father, I thank You for the marvelous creation of Your Son.  I thank You that You sustain all things with the power of Your Word, and yet You even know the details of my life as it unfolds before me.  Forgive me when I forget the power of Your Word and when I act as though I am in control.  Take my life, Lord, and make it what You want it to be and may the words of  Scripture bring forth fruit for Your Kingdom. 

A CHANGE IN DIRECTION

We were driving down a highway one day when, straight ahead of us, there was what appeared to be a silo and a walkway going over the highway to a tall structure on the other side of the road.  While that may not be earthshaking, when I looked up from my reading it appeared to me that we had to drive directly underneath that walkway and in between the silo and the other structure.  There was nothing but farmland on either side of the highway for miles and the road seemed to be flat, no rise in elevation or hills to consider just more farmland up ahead.  But, there stood these two structures and the tiny bridge. 

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I have to say I was startled, and wondered how we were supposed to navigate this passageway.  My fears were unfounded, however, when we got to the point of no return and the road curved so that the buildings were on the right side of the roadbed.

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A change in direction.  We think things are going along just fine.  We have our lives all laid out.  The plan is determined and things are being put in place to execute that well-thought-out plan.

When all of a sudden, there is a change in direction.  A curve in the road that we didn’t see or even consider.  The flatness of our life’s terrain is a source of comfort and security.  We know what is going on and we don’t have to worry about surprises. 

Jesus said that His followers would have problems and trials in this life, He certainly did and He told us that we should expect it also. 

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!”

Luke 6:22 

But, Jesus also said that God, His Heavenly Father, knows all about all of His creation.  When a little sparrow falls from the tree, God knows about that.  Jesus then said, if God cares for the sparrow, just imagine how much He cares for you!  Again, Jesus said God knows how many hairs we have on our head. 

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:29-31

If that is the case, do you really think God would be surprised about anything that would happen to you?

As certainly as the sun comes up in the morning, there will be surprises that come into our lives, some good ones and many others not so good, and we have to learn to handle them, sometimes in a split second.

How can we do that?  By leaning on the One who loves us with an eternal love and who does, indeed, have our life plan before Him.  While we may be surprised by events that occur and seem to derail our life, God is not surprised by any means.  He is omniscient – He is all-knowing.  Further, He is omnipotent – He is all-powerful. 

Combining those two eternal and immutable attributes of God, He knows all things that will happen to you and He is strong enough to be sure that His plan for you will be fulfilled.  That does not mean that there will not be difficulties for us as Christians.  Rather, it means that when there is a difficulty, we can be certain that we are in God’s hands and that He is in control of the situation. 

This is when faith comes into play.  We need to have faith in God so that we can truly rest in His eternal arms during whatever trial or difficulty we are experiencing at any given time.

A change in plans often is unwelcome, distressing and disturbing.  But it often brings surprises and growth in our spiritual life that outweigh all the distress originally felt.  In the process, we can learn a great deal about our God and our relationship with Him. 

Think you are running into an unmovable obstacle? Think again, God may have turned the roadway just in time so that you are, once again, on the straight and narrow way!

Father, I praise your name and give you all glory and honor because only You are God.  There are many imitations and false gods in today’s world, there are many things that man has made into a god such as money, fame, privilege, possessions, even family.  Forgive us when we replace You for anything else.   You are the one and only true God, and it is to You that our love and allegiance must be directed.

 

TRYING TO UNDERSTAND

Cuddles, one of our two Miniature Pincher dogs, always seems to want to understand what is going on.  She will watch what we are doing and cock her head to the side, with her eyes piercing ours, as if she was trying all her best to know what is going on.  Perhaps she is thinking that her people are really goofy, I don’t know, but it seems as if her mental wheels are spinning when she focuses and looks at us like that, at least my humanizing of the canine would think like that!

Recently my husband was going to fix a leaking kitchen faucet.  He got all the materials together to do the job and then opened the cabinet under the sink.  In Cuddles’ mind, this was a perfect opportunity to help Daddy!

Cuddles helping daddy 1

You are not aware of the step of faith this is for her.  This cabinet houses the dreaded garbage disposal, and each time I turn it on, she will come running from wherever she is in the house and bark at it. When it stops, she walks off as if she had killed the monster that was threatening Mommy.  This time, though, she had Daddy with her, and she was proud to stand side by side with him.

Cuddles helping daddy 2

Getting into the nitty-gritty of the issue under sink, Daddy was leaning far forward, and Cuddles was standing close to him, with eyes forward as if she were inspecting or monitoring his actions.  Even a flash bulb would not divert her attention from Daddy and the cabinet.

Cuddles helping daddy 3

At this point, she really was trying to assist him because now her front paws were on the floor of the cabinet.  She was absorbed in trying to understand what he was doing.  But, she couldn’t help, and she did not know what was going on.  Her inquisitiveness had to yield because it was just beyond her ability to comprehend.

These pictures present a sort of image of me and God.  There have been times that I felt just like Cuddles.  I want to help, to do something, but I just can’t understand what needs to be done.  God is working in my life, but I don’t comprehend what I am supposed to do; I don’t know where He is leading, I don’t know why something painful happened. 

Can you relate?  Perhaps all is well, and you are not peering under the cabinet for answers now, but you have done so at some point in the past.  Or, perhaps you are now seeking answers as you are under the protection and guidance of your Heavenly Father, but you are wondering where He is leading you, or why your circumstances have changed.

Perhaps you are trying to understand why a dreaded disease has attacked your child or spouse, or yourself.  Perhaps you are trying to understand why a beloved family member was taken from you too soon, or why your dream job came crashing down when the company closed. 

There are too many scenarios to list, and each of us has to deal with situations and problems that come our way, seemingly with virtual regularity. 

But, Beloved, know that our Heavenly Father has written us a love letter, the Holy Bible.  It details what God’s plan is and how we are to live. 

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

Deuteronomy 6:5

It tells of His provision of a Savior to atone for our sins so that we can have an abundant life now and eternal life with Him after death envelops our body. 

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

John 14:6

And, God has given us His Holy Spirit to quicken our hearts which are dead in sin, Who then speaks to us and opens our eyes so that we can understand the Bible as we read it, and Who guides us in prayer.

“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.”

John 14:26

Beloved, you don’t need to peer into the cabinet of the future in fear.  You don’t need to cock your head to the side and wonder what God has planned for you.  You don’t need to be in panic when something comes at you out of that cabinet, God has you in His hand and He is omniscient and omnipotent. 

There is one reality and God knows it in its entirety, as it exists by, through, and for Him.  This omnipotent God has said that if you seek Him, He will be found.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”

Proverbs 8:17

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:13

Just as Cuddles tried to understand but could not, some things are simply beyond our capacity to understand; but even those difficult things are not outside God’s control or knowledge.  As a child of God, as a Christian, you are secure, and you are the child of the Omniscient, Omnipotent God of all creation.  Trust Him and obey His Word.  Him and He shall be found.

Father, thank You for giving us little animals who can remind us of eternal principles.  Thank You for Your Word, for Your Son, and for Your Holy Spirit.  Thank You for salvation and for the promise of life eternal through Jesus Christ my Lord.  May these words be encouraging and of comfort to those who read them.

WHAT DID YOU MEAN?

I have often heard that the English language is very difficult to learn.  There are so many “rules” which are “broken” so often that it almost makes the rule meaningless.  And so often, we use the same word to mean something quite different in two different situations.  For instance, one word can mean a vocal part or a brass instrument.

Recently, “Mr. Smith” agreed to accompany our church choir on a musical instrument.  The choir director mentioned this to another member, saying that “Mr. Smith” would be playing a baritone.  The response was “a baritone what?”  to which she said, “a baritone”.  The inquiry then was “a baritone saxophone? a baritone what?”  She responded: “a baritone baritone.”   After a frustrating conversation, it became clear that the choir director was speaking of an instrument and, although musically inclined, the church member had never heard of an instrument called by that name.

BARITONE
The baritone horn, or sometimes just called baritone, is a low-pitched brass instrument in the saxhorn familY.

If a man says he is a baratone, does that mean he is a brass instrument?  Of course not.  But, how often do we say the correct word and others hear that word but interpret it with a meaning very different than what we thought we conveyed with the word?

Jesus recognized this problem as the distinction between what Scripture says and how the Pharisees and Sadducees interpreted those same words.

“”You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults [whoever says Raca, which is a Greek word of contempt] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Matthew 5:21-22

The Pharisees and Sadducees were repeating one of the Ten Commandments as expressed in the Old Testament without understanding the scope and intent of that commandment.  They were using the same words but meaning something much less than intended.

Another example relates to adultery.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Matthew 5:27-28

Again, same words but different and expanded meaning. 

The misunderstanding of the words expressed by God through Moses in the Old Testament was not a surprise to God and it was not something that only became apparent when Jesus came into His ministry.  The Prophet Isaiah said:

“And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.””

Isaiah 29:13-14 NLT

When we speak of our God to our neighbors, we need to be clear about Who we are talking about.  Although He is the creator of the universe and all that is in it, He is not only the creator.  Although He is God, there are no other gods above Him.  We may have gods that we look to, gods such as money, fame, even family or health; but nothing is anything even approaching our God.

Beloved, the bumper sticker with all the symbols of other religions with the term “Co-Exist” cannot be the philosophy of the Christian.  We certainly recognize that others believe in gods.  But, those ideas are not the same as the one true God of Scripture, whose Son is Jesus Christ our Savior.

Be careful of what you say and how you say it.  Mean what you say and be ready to stand up for your faith.  Our world needs to see Christians who are committed and willing to say that God is the only God and Jesus Christ is His Son and the only way of salvation.

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

John 14:6 ESV 

Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be my Savior.  I pray that I would be willing to stand and affirm this truth in witness to others and that Your Holy Spirit would give me the strength and grace to so witness to the glory and honor of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.

WHAT TAKES YOUR BREATH AWAY?

There are some things in this life that are just too beautiful, too incredible, too wonderful that we say: “it takes my breath away”.  What are some of those things for you?

For me, here are a few things that take my breath away.

  • The first look at my son and daughter.

The incredible reality that all their “pieces” were present and in the right place.  The reality that these little babies were born from me, that their lives were, at least in the beginning, in my hands. 

Jonathan 3 monrha
My son at 3 months of age.

 

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

 

Psalm 127:3

Elizabeth christening 6 weeks old Easter 1978
My daughter at 6 weeks of age with her grandmother.

These two little babies took my breath away, and I cried out to the Lord God in thanksgiving for their little lives, and in prayer for their future.  They took my breath away. 

Now, when I see them as adults with families of their own, I am so blessed.  This, too, takes my breath away.

  • The beauty of the sunset.

Sunset over Annandale VA 2
A Virginia Sunset

The day has been spent in doing many tasks, things that took time and energy, things that were encouraging and sometimes things that were incredibly hard.  But at the end of the day, I can look at the sunset and know that God is in control.

The Levites were commanded to recognize that God alone was responsible for providing the day to them.  David’s instructions included the following:

“And they were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the LORD, and likewise at evening,”

1 Chronicles 23:30

God’s watchful care results in praise to Him.  This, too, takes my breath away!

  • Places of worship, such as Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, England.

Canterbury cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

When we visited Canterbury Cathedral, the sign in the entrance way to the church and grounds advised that worship services were held in the Cathedral every day for over 1,400 years.  St. Augustine came to England in 597 A.D. as a missionary and he ultimately became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.  The building was magnificent; the stained-glass windows were beautiful; the soaring vaulted ceiling dwarfed the people inside.  While all that is true, what I found most humbling was the reality that God had met with the people worshiping in this place for more than 1,400 years. 

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Matthew 18:20

I was overwhelmed.  This took my breath away!

  • God’s Word.

Holy Bible
The Holy Bible

When reading God’s Word, often there are passages that speak to me and bring joy to my heart.   His word brings a warmth to my soul, and its truths take my breath away.

Recently, we were studying Psalm 32 where David speaks of his relationship with God and of the damaging effect of his sin toward God. 

“A Maskil of David. Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Psalm 32:1-2

Blessed, happy, is the one who, after coming to God in confession and repentance, is forgiven. 

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah”

Psalm 32:3-4

David understood the heavy weight of unconfessed sin.  His description is not only poetic, it is personal and profound.  

“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.  Selah”

Psalm 32:5

David confessed his sin.  He did not try to hide it from God; he understood that God already knew of his sin and what he had to do was to confess and seek forgiveness.  David also expressed that God’s forgiveness meant that his sin was covered and would not be counted against him by God any longer. 

By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.”

Proverbs 16:6

In our age, that of the New Testament covenant, we understand that through Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross, our sin is not only covered but that sin debt is erased, and our account is clean.  Across our ledger page is written the words “Paid in full and covered by Christ’s righteousness.” 

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah”

Psalm 32:7

After David confessed and received forgiveness from his sin, he was secure in God and described this security in verse 7.  The forgiven person is surrounded “with shouts of deliverance.”  When we see pictures of people who were delivered from prison camps or from dangerous situations, such as a mine cave in, the rescued person is not shouting.  They are too stunned, and sometimes too weak from the ordeal, to do much of anything.  The rescuers are the ones who are shouting of deliverance and joy. 

Have you ever thought about heaven surrounding you with shouts of deliverance when you have come to God seeking forgiveness from your sin?

“Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORDBe glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”

Psalm 32:10-11

The conclusion of the psalm is resounding joy, gladness, shouting for joy. 

This, too, takes my breath away!

God’s love, His provision of the plan of salvation for you, His Son dying on the cross for our sin, not His.  These are all truths that take my breath away.  Why would God, the Almighty Creator, the Holy God who cannot look upon sin, the Righteous Judge of all, why would this God call me to Himself and adopt me as a child of His, clothing me with His Son’s righteousness and taking my filthy rags away. 

Nothing that I have done or ever could do would merit such grace and mercy.  I am a sinner saved by grace.   This reality is overwhelming.  This takes my breath away!  

What about you? 

What takes your breath away?

Father, I pray that these words would resonate with their readers and that You would be glorified.  I pray that I would praise You for Your wonderous love and kindness, Your grace and mercy, Your goodness and righteousness that has covered my sin and canceled my debt, restoring my relationship with You through Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.