DOCTORS, HOSPITALS, PETS AND FEARS, REVISITED

One of our canine daughters, Cuddles to be exact, has a problem with her feet. 

Apparently, at some time in her past, she was abused in and around her paws.  When she first arrived at our home, we tried clipping her nails and could not get her to hold still.  She violently pulled back — never snapped, but clearly was terrified.

So, we took her to the groomer’s and asked them to clip her nails.  They returned the dog to us, with one or two nails a bit shorter, but clearly not clipped as we expected, and the groomers appeared to have fought in some battle, rather than attending to her paws!  Again, she was clearly terrified.

cuddles-rin-min-pin-stance
Cuddles in her “Rin-Min-Pin” stance.

Next stop on the journey for reducing nail length was the veterinarian.  We told him that no one had been able to clip her nails and he gave us the “You poor guys, can’t even get the dog to hold still for a minute!  We’ll take care of it!” look as he carried her into the treatment area.

About 8 minutes later, a very harried vet returned carrying Cuddles.  Her nails are no shorter, and he is significantly humbled by the strength of our little MinPin.  And, as per previous encounters, she is clearly terrified.

“We were not able to calm her sufficiently to do the job”, this being a complete understatement if I had ever heard one.   He then said we had two options: 1) to bring her back on another day and have him clip and cauterise her nails under anesthesia (the expensive option) or 2) to have our limbs shredded when our skin came in contact with her paws (the cheap option).

We chose the costly option rather than experiencing Samurai sword claws when she jumps up onto our lap. She has been with us for 4 years and her fear remains as a visceral barrier to a normal pedicure.

So, is this post about our travails with Cuddles nails?  Yes, but just a bit. 

Like Cuddles, I am facing a fearful situation – another spinal surgery where 2 broken rods will be replaced and 2 more will be added in an attempt to stabilize my spine so as to alleviate additional curvature and pain.

I have had this type surgery twice and doing it again is fearful.  But, I am sure I am not alone in this.  Whether the injury is physical, psychological, mental or emotional, whether it is from the past or something you are facing in your immediate future, fear is visceral.  .

Cuddles trusts us — she, in her own doggie way, knows we would not intentionally harm her.  But her trust is not sufficient to overcome the fear that some other event had imprinted on her psyche.

Cuddles and I are different, however. I understand that perfect love casts out fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18

While my fear from past events knocked me down, it could not overpower my Lord and Savior. Fear of the upcoming surgery will not overwhelm me now. My Lord is sovereign and trustworthy, and I am in His hands. 

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” 

Psalm 9:10

We are repeatedly admonished in Scripture to trust the Lord.  For example, the Psalmist compares objects of trust in Psalm 20:7 where he affirms:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

And, the writer of Proverbs says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

The God that is described in the Old Testament as being trustworthy is the same God we serve in the New Testament body of Christ.  The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:8 that:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

So, who do you trust when you come face to face with your fears?  Do you trust in human wits, Oprah, psychology, or tabloid suggestions? Or do you trust the Creator of the Universe, the omniscient, omnipresent God who sent His Son to be our Savior?

May we say, along with the prophet Isaiah:

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” 

Isaiah 26:4.

Father, forgive me for the myriad of times when I let my fears and insecurities rise to the surface so that they distract me from living my life in victory in the power of your Son through your Holy Spirit.  I praise You for being an everlasting rock upon whom we can trust.  I praise You, also, that You have never forsaken me even when my fears turned my eyes away from your beloved Son.  Thank You for your overwhelming love and protection, despite my fears.

 

UNPLUGGED – GOOD OR BAD?

We were camping in Charlottesville, Virginia.  It was a beautiful location, with wooded camp sites and quiet surroundings.  It is quite a distance from the city, but we were camping so that was perfectly alright.

What we did not realize is that our cellular provider offered no coverage in the area of the campground.  The city had good cell coverage, but where we were camping there was virtually none.  We were forced to be “unplugged”. 

Now that is likely a good thing.  We are entirely too used to looking at the cell phone or tablet while spending a nice evening next to each other, but focusing on various news stories, books, card games instead of actually spending time communicating with each other.  Perhaps the unplugged status is good after all.

While being unplugged from electronics is an inconvenience, it is not earth-shattering or of eternal significance.  However, there is nothing inconsequential about being unplugged from God.  The stakes for being unplugged from Him are both horrific and eternal!

The ultimate unplugged condition is that of unrepentant sin.  God is a holy God and He cannot and will not tolerate or look upon sin.  As R. C. Sproul says, sin is cosmic treason against God.  It is against His holy nature and, His justice demands that it be punished, eternally.

As Christians, however, we understand that God’s justice has been satisfied for His children through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary.  Jesus, our Good Shepherd, paid the price for the sin of His sheep by giving up His life.

He offers us life abundant through His grace and mercy if we are plugged into Him. 

Wisteria blooming vine close up
Wisteria vine stem at ground level, providing nourishment for the plant.

The analogy Jesus uses is that He is the vine and we are the branches.  If we abide in the vine, we will bear much fruit, but if we are not in the vine, we will be cast out and burned. See the Gospel of John, Chapter 15.  We need to be plugged in to the vine for the power to produce fruit for Him. Only through Him can we experience a life that is abundant and fruitful.

Wisteria blooms
Wisteria vine along the front yard fence.

Christianity is a relationship between you and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Neither your parents, your pastor, your spouse, indeed no one, can enter a relationship with Christ for you.  You must receive Christ through the call that God makes on your heart.  It is a gift from God, not of works.  Ephesians 2:9.

While each of us has our own unique call into Christianity, once you are a child of God, the life in Christ is not a solitary experience. Our meeting, worship and fellowship together with other believers provides power and strength, accountability and support, so that you can grow in your Christian life and witness. 

Just as our cell phone needs charging from a source outside itself, our Christian life needs power that we do not have on our own.  Our life charger is not a plug or cable, rather our power comes from abiding in the Vine of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Are you unplugged?  Need power?  Go to the Cross and repent.  Receive your nourishment from the Vine and you then will be able to be used for the Glory of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Father, thank You for providing power through Your Word, Your Spirit, Your Son.  Forgive me when I fail to appropriate that power for my life and when I try to life a life in Christ through my own efforts or good works.  Give me the power to yield to You solely so that Your Spirit will shine through me.

I CAN DO IT!

When our grandson was an infant, he was fascinated by light.  He would stare at a lighted lamp, in fact, you could entertain him by turning the lights on and off!  That fascination continued through his toddler age when his goal, multiple times daily, was to push the button or flip the switch to turn on the lights BY HIMSELF.

What parent has not heard the words “I can do it!”  They usually are stated in rather loud tones, often with a toss of the head as they refuse assistance even though there is little time to accomplish the task. 

I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 1      I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 2   I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 3

 After significant effort, often the child can do the task  and there is the feeling of success!

                I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 4      I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 5

Children aren’t the only ones who say this.  Adults utter these words as well, for example, consider these words in the context of following the instructions in the set up guide for some electronic gadget.  “I can do it!” 

But there are some things that I cannot do on my own.  

How often has this scenario unfolded in your life?  We see something that we believe God would have us do and we run into it, arms open (sometimes mouths open as well) but we fail, it is not successful, and we are worn out with the effort.  The problem is that we have not bathed the project in prayer.  We have not asked Him for His guidance.  We have not requested His Holy Spirit to be in control of this project. 

In short, we have not recognized that we CANNOT do it ourselves

Jesus was quite firm in this regard.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  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 15:1-5 ESV

Did you see that?  How much of eternal consequence can we do on our own?  NOTHING!  To state the obvious, the word “nothing” is the combination of two words – “NO THING”.  We can do “no thing” for Him, no thing of eternal consequence, unless we abide in Him. 

He is the One who gives us the ability; He is the One who provides the power; He is the One who gives direction for His work. 

The words “I can do it” are the death knell for any effort on our part to be productive in the Kingdom of God, especially if you mean that you can do it by yourself.  Paul noted that God could use him when he was weak, because then the power of God is made manifest.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  God may well use us, but it is always at His direction, through His power, and in His providence, and for His glory

More spiritually fundamental is the fact that we cannot even save ourselves from our sin.  The very act of salvation is all God’s work, not ours. Indeed, Scripture is totally clear on this point – no one can do anything to accomplish his/her salvation because we are dead in our sins.  Colossians 2:13-14.  It is foolish to think that a corpse can take any action on its own – it is dead.  So too, we cannot resolve our sin issue on our own because our sin, our intentional disobedience to God’s commands, renders us spiritually dead.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– … For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  

Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9 ESV 

“But God” – words that are music to the Christian’s ears.  But God … made us alive … by grace you have been saved through faith … it is the gift of God.

Beloved, the words “I can do it” simply do not apply to the resolution of our problem with sin.  We cannot save ourselves from our sin and we cannot approach a holy God while we are still in sin.  Absent God’s Grace and Mercy, we are doomed.  “But God”, salvation is all about Faith and Providence. Our salvation is a gift and we cannot do it absent God’s grace.

And, we must be abiding in the Vine before we can do anything of eternal consequence.  

Next time you are about to run off on your own … stop and seek His guidance and His power.  You can do all things as long as you are abiding in the Vine!

Father, thank You for Your great grace and mercy in providing salvation through Jesus Christ, Your Son.  May I give You honor and thanksgiving each day as I live through the power of the Holy Spirit, and may these words be glorifying to You, My God and my Savior.

THE PERFECTION OF GOD, PART 2

Oregon picture perfect mountains

In the prior post we considered the perfection of God and the reality that His perfection extends to each of His attributes.  Perfect beauty, perfect love, perfect mercy, perfect wisdom, perfect justice, perfect power, etc.   Further, God’s perfection has always existed and it will continue to exist even after the end of time.  He is perfect and nothing will change that condition.

Recall, too, that which the medieval theologians said of God:  they used a phrase which may be translated as “the most perfect being”, the Latin phrase “ens perfectissimus”.

Today, we want to consider God’s perfection as it compares to our own. 

Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, which is composed of the Father, the Son [Jesus] and the Holy Spirit.  We believe that Jesus was fully divine as part of the Godhead.  We also believe that Jesus was fully human, just as you and I are human, but He had no sin. 

Jesus, the incarnation of God, said:

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48 ESV.

In His human nature, He lived a perfect life because He fulfilled the law in each and every aspect of it.  Therefore, He was the sinless sacrifice that atoned for the sins that we have committed.  Because Jesus lived this perfect life as a man, He fulfilled His own commandment to us that we should be perfect as God, our heavenly Father, is perfect.  

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes our condition in which our mind and heart want to follow God and do His commandments but our flesh refuses and chooses to sin instead.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” 

Romans 7:18-19 ESV

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”  

Romans 7:24-25 ESV

Paul answered his gut-wrenching scream in verse 24 with his thanks as expressed in verse 25 – Jesus Christ is the One who can rescue us from this dilemma.  Clearly, because of sin we cannot even be considered a little bit good in God’s eyes, certainly not “perfect”!  

In the letter to the Philippians, Paul talked more about perfection, and said:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:12-14 ESV. 

Paul recognized that we are not, nor can we on our own be, perfect.  Even the apostle had not attained perfection; but he pressed on toward this goal because he belonged to Jesus Christ.  Our victory over sin is through Jesus Christ who did live that perfect life which we regularly fail to accomplish.  Not only did Jesus live a sinless life, He died on the cross and was raised from the dead on the third day.  He vanquished sin and death and He has promised to do that for us, for those who believe in His name and accept Him as their Savior.   

Paul, here, was referring to Isaiah 25:8, when he told the Corinthians that perfection did not belong to us, but to the One who conquered sin and death:

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 ESV 

The quintessence of perfection belongs to God, the Father Almighty because He is perfect:  simply put, perfection is just one of His attributes.  Indeed, it is because of His love for His people that we even get a glimpse of perfection in this fallen world.  Thank Him for giving us His Son, through whom we can be counted as righteous, or as perfect, before the holy eyes of our Almighty God.

Praise Him that He loves us so much that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life among us sinners so that we could be transported to heaven and live in His perfect righteousness there!

Father, when we consider Your attributes and realize that You are perfect, in all things, we can only bow in humble reverence that You would consider us at all.  When we remember that You sent Your Son as our Savior, the only response we rightfully can offer is one of repentant obedience, gratitude, and devotion.

A TRAGEDY OF OUR TIMES

Newborn
Newborn child, wrapped in hospital blanket and cap; sleeping soundly in the cocoon of the blanket.  But, not all newborns are healthy and comfortable … some are born addicts, a tragedy of epic consequence!

 

A newborn baby is a gift from God.  See Genesis 33:5 and Hebrews 2:12.  They are to be loved, cared for, protected, nurtured, and taught of God and His Word.  This is not the future that many of our young ones have, however.

 

A while ago, the Knoxville News Sentinel, ran an article under the headline “East Tennessee Children’s Hospital treats drug-dependent babies”.   Most of these precious babies became dependent on drugs due to abuse of painkillers or anti-anxiety medications used by their mothers during pregnancy.  The article spoke of a two-week-old child that exhibited the “telltale signs of a baby agitated and in pain”.  The little boy had an open sore on his face from rubbing the skin raw; a scratch on his left cheek; tremors so severe that he was placed in a special area where nurses can watch him 24/7 in case he has seizures or stops breathing.

 

This little guy is experiencing untold horrors placed upon him by the actions of his mother prior to birth.  The article states that the pain for these infants is excruciating.  The medical personnel who treat them say the infants suffer from nausea, vomiting, severe stomach cramps and diarrhea that is so severe the skin can blister like a severe burn.  And the babies are inconsolable.

 

I cannot judge this child’s mother for what she did or did not do.  I don’t know what circumstances she found herself in other than that she was going to have a baby.   I can only pray for this woman, her little baby and his recovery from an addiction that he did not cause but which will likely continue to plague him for the rest of his life.

 

It would be bad enough if this little tyke was the only child so afflicted.  But the numbers show that the club into which he was born is not exclusive to him.  Tennessee statistics show that in 1999, drug dependent babies were hospitalized 55 times.  In 2011 that had figure skyrocketed to 672 infant hospitalizations due to addiction.  In 2015, the Tennessean newspaper blog advised that in 2014 there were 921 drug dependent babies born in Tennessee.

 

And, these numbers have not gone down.  In an April, 2016 news article about the end of a Tennessee law related to incarceration of mothers of drug-dependent babies, USA Today discussed the status of Tennessee’s fight for these helpless babies and stated:

 

“Roughly 1,000 babies suffering from drug dependence have been born every year since 2013, when the state began requiring all hospitals to report them to the health department.”

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, as cited in a USA Today article entitled Born into suffering, the number of drug dependent babies admitted to intensive care units nearly quadrupled from 2004 through 2013, from 7 to 27 per 1,000 hospital admissions.  Vanderbilt University researchers said in the Journal of Perinatology that one affected baby was born every 25 minutes in 2012.  That figure is likely higher now.

 

We cannot continue to harm the unborn generation by killing babies through abortion or by rendering infants incapacitated because of drugs ingested by their mothers.  This must stop; but we must recognize that both actions are merely symptoms of the underlying spiritual war raging in our world.

 

I don’t have any pill, plan or panacea that would stop this travesty.

 

But I do believe in God and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is the Savior of our souls.  I do believe that He came to earth and died on the cross for my sins and for the sins of all who would repent and claim Him as their Savior.

Used Easter in Canterbury (C)
Easter display at Canterbury Cathedral, in Canterbury, England

 

I do believe that the power of sin and evil was defeated when Jesus rose from the dead, the event we celebrate as Easter.  I do believe that He will come again and that He has already won the cosmic struggle which is evidenced by the depravity that we see in our world today.

 

And, I do believe that He can reverse this tide if we repent, seek His strength to withstand the pull of addiction and utilize all the tools He has provided for support, withdrawal assistance and reintroduction of mothers and families into a drug-free existence.

 

Jesus used little children as living examples when he taught His disciples:

 

He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Mark 9:36-37. (NIV)

 

He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Mark 10:14-16. (NIV)

 

I look at my own grandchildren and praise the Lord that they are healthy, growing strong and in loving, supportive families.  They remind me that I must come to the Lord with the same open, trusting and loving heart that they exhibit when they come to me.

 

Children swinging
Children swinging at the campground playground.

 

They also remind me that there is a dramatic contrast between their lives and so many children for whom a loving and supportive family is a mere dream, and for those children my heart weeps.

 

In humble obedience, I believe that we all must pray for these little children.  I believe that we must take part in caring for these little ones, trying to give them as much of a life as we can.  We need to work with the mothers during pregnancy to stop abortions and the use of drugs.  And I believe we must work toward addressing the situations that create the desire to abort children and abuse drugs in the first place.

 

Above all, we need to point the mothers to the Savior who loves them and their unborn child more than they could ever know.

 

Father, this horror is too big for me.  I feel helpless against its magnitude.  But You are all powerful and all wise, and I believe that You are the answer to the problem of addiction of any type.  Guide me and give me strength to follow Your lead in doing what I can to help these precious infants who are suffering so upon their birth and to help their mothers understand that drugs are not the solution to any problem.

 

CLIMBING, HIDING AND SECURITY!

Do you ever feel like climbing the walls?  We saw a literal example of this several years ago when our grandsons would climb the wall – or rather door frame.

Climbing the walls
Climbing the wall, or the door frame, literally.

 

There certainly is no way I could do that, when I was his age or now (at a significantly older age!).   But, the fact that I cannot literally climb the wall is not an indication that I have never wanted to do so!  Tension, anxiety, questions, financial problems, health issues, decisions, worries, … you fill in the blank for your situation … all pile up and I would want to climb the wall, mentally if not physically.

 

Another response to tension or difficulty is the head in the sand attitude.  In our house, it more precisely should be called the MinPin in the blanket response because each of our canine daughters will go to the blankets on the floor, lap or chair and, literally, wrap themselves up, sometimes with a nose sticking out, but most often they will be totally covered.  [It is rather humorous when they begin walking out of the blanket, it looks like a blanket-ghost going along the floor!]

 

Snickers in blanket
Snickers wrapped in blanket with her nose sticking out, curious about what is going on outside the blanket.

 

I have felt like that too.  “Couldn’t I just stay in bed and not face the day?  It’s too hard, and there are too many problems to deal with, I just don’t want to face it … I can’t!”

 

Ralph Ransom is an American painter from Saint Joseph, Missouri who died in 1908, likely from tuberculosis, certainly struggled with problems.  He said:

“All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.”

 

I would take Mr. Ransom’s statement one step farther.  For the Christian, “the very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid may be a major building block in our conformation to the image of Jesus Christ.

 

In the Christian life, we often find that the time we struggled and had to work hard through a situation or problem was, in fact, the time when we grew the most in our understanding of the love, mercy, and all-sufficient grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Romans 8:29 says:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

 

We are to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and sometimes it takes difficulties to bring us into that image.  The April 6, 2016, Presidential Prayer Team devotional, Vantage Point, was entitled the “Master Sculptor” and spoke to the connection between suffering and growth in our Christian life.  In part it read:

A little boy watched a sculptor begin chiseling a large block of marble. The sculptor worked meticulously until the slab looked like the face of Abraham Lincoln. “How did you do that?” the little boy asked. The sculptor said with a smile, “All I have to do is chip away everything that doesn’t look like Lincoln.”

Pain, persecution, stress and accusations are some of the struggles that believers in Christ often endure.  At the time, it may not be known exactly why the Lord has allowed them.  However, the loving Father uses trial to chip away at flaws in character.  He uses great care and thoughtfulness so that the end result will look like His Son.

Thank God, the Master Sculptor of your soul, for His work in your life and His dedication to your future. Whatever difficulties are happening with you personally (and in the nation), practice patience and trust that He will do His work carefully and creatively. Pray also that America’s leaders who are Christians will allow their trials to draw them to a closer relationship with the Lord and conform their lives to His purposes.  [Emphasis mine]

 

When we want to climb the wall, when we want to hide under the blanket, when we just don’t want to face the difficulty any more – turn your eyes to the Father and thank Him for the problem.  Take your eyes off the condition that confronts you and see the One who is in control of that condition.  See the Father working in your life to conform you to the image of His Son.

 

As unbelievable as it sounds to the unregenerate person, thank God for the difficulty and rest in Him to carry you through it. 

 

The reason we can thank God for whatever comes our way is the security that we have in Jesus Christ.

Picture hanging in our office
Picture depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding His lamb in His nail-pierced hand.

 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Romans 8:35.

 

Paul himself answers these questions in the following verses:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   

Romans 8:38-39

 

Life in this world is difficult … but we can be confident that the love of Christ will carry us from this world to an eternity with Him.  This world is short-lived and temporary; eternity is forever, which by the way is a very long time!

 

During difficult times we tend to focus on ourselves and our dastardly plight!  But, pull your eyes off yourself and look to the cross … look to the Savior … look to the Father who has you in His hands … look to the Son of God who secures you in Him.

 

Christian, be confident in the knowledge that nothing can separate you from the love of God through Jesus Christ.

 

Nothing.

 

Father, help me to remember that You are sovereign and in control of my life and all that happens to me.  Help me to recall, during difficult trials, that I am secure in Your love because of my Savior Jesus Christ.  Give me strength to face difficult times as I praise Your holy name for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.

HEAVENLY PRAISE, HERE AND NOW

What do we do in worship of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and of the Father, Creator of the Universe and Lover of our Souls?   Some of us go to large churches with beautiful scenes depicted in stained glass and a carillon ringing from the bell tower.

Church with stianed glass window
Large, stone, church with beautiful stained glass windows.

 

Others of us go to neighborhood churches that do not have the same type formal adornments but which provide a family atmosphere  among the members.

Church in neighborhood
Neighborhood church with large cross adorning the front of the building.

 

There are a variety of activities that we engage in as we worship in our local church, and those activities vary with the denomination of which we are a part.

 

However, I suggest that we could look at the worship in heaven and take that as a guide for our worship here on our spinning globe.

 

We have a beautiful description of the praise that is given to God in the vision that Isaiah had of the Lord, sitting upon His throne.  Read the words of Isaiah and then close your eyes and picture what he saw.  The heavenly creatures whose function is to praise the Lord because the Lord is deserving of all praise and glory:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

Isaiah 6:1-4.

Scripture continues to say that, in response to the incredible vision of the Lord, Isaiah fell to the ground proclaiming that he was a sinner, that he had unclean lips. Then, he was cleansed when the angel touched his lips with a coal from the fire, thereby allowing him to stand before God.  [I submit that a true understanding of who God is and who we are will result in terrible awe as we recognize that we cannot stand before God, without His intervention to cleanse us of our sin.  A holy God cannot look upon sinful creatures nor can a holy God tolerate or excuse sin.  However, back to the topic of praise!]

 

Isaiah is not the only one in Scripture who had a vision of the Lord and the praise rendered ceaselessly to Him.  This praise to the Lord is described by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation:

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”   And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “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 4:8-11

 

Clearly, we should praise God with our lives, our words and actions as well as the motives of our hearts.  But, our praise to God also extends beyond ourselves, even to our corporate worship each Sunday, for it is there that we glorify God in the presence of other believers as the Holy Spirit is present with us.  In fact, Scripture exhorts us to worship the Lord and give Him glory in all that we do, whether it is in church or not.

 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31.

 

So, the question becomes:  “Do I praise the Lord every day?”  Do you?  Not with a plastic sneering grit your teeth mantra of “praise the Lord” whenever something bad happens, but with heart-felt humbleness as we remember all that God has done for us through Christ our Lord.  Even if a trial comes our way, if distress raises its head, we have the calm assurance that God is in control and He is sovereign.  He will use even the things we consider negative to teach us something about Himself and to draw us closer to Him.

 

Go ahead … join David when he says “Praise the Lord!”  In fact, the exhortation to “Praise the Lord” is found 49 times in Psalms alone.  Clearly, praise is important to our God!  Here are just a few verses from Psalms about praising God:

 

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

Psalm 112:1

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

Psalm 148:1

 

In fact, make praise the default position of our spirit no matter what comes our way.  Anticipate that God will use each situation for His purposes, and praise Him for having you in His hands and for Him being with you all the way.

 

How can I praise the Lord?  Sing.  Not only do Scriptures exhort us to praise the Lord, but we are told to sing to the Lord.  Here is a sampling of verses with this directive:

 

Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.

1 Chronicles 16:23

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

Psalm 104:33

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!

Psalm 147:7

 

Singing to our God is exhibited in the New Testament as well.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, … .

Act 16:25

… addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, …

Ephesians 5:19

 

Praise God.  Sing a song, out loud.  [You don’t even need to be in the shower!]  Go ahead and let out your praise in prison, at home, in the car, in church, in the choir, wherever you are.  It matters not whether you can carry a tune or read music … your song will be transformed by the Spirit into heart tones that are pleasing to our Father and that will bounce back to you in enriching joy and peace, filling you with His comfort throughout the day.

 

Here is Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Song entitled “O come, let us sing”  which features the text of Psalm 95:1-3.  This song was composed by Joey Holder and is on the album entitled The Power of Thanksgiving.  I pray that you will listen and memorize these verses so you will be reminded as you go through your day that the Lord desires praise and we can rightfully provide that praise because He is a great God and a King above all gods.

 

 

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Psalm 95:1-3

 

Go ahead, praise Him even now.  Lift your voice in song and praise the Lord!

 

Father, forgive me when I have gone through the day with a grumpy spirit, or with a frown on my face rather than the glow of your love.  Forgive me when I have forgotten all that you have done for me through Jesus Christ. Accept my petition and enable me to give You praise today, through my words, actions and thoughts.

 

In Memoriam

Yesterday, we celebrated Memorial Day in the United States.  This holiday was formerly called Decoration Day because we decorated the tombs of our loved ones who had paid the ultimate price for our freedom.  The moniker Memorial Day is more likely attuned to the intent of the day.  While placing flags or flowers on tombstones is appropriate, we should take time to actually remember the fallen:  remember the sacrifice they made by giving their life for our cause, remember the families who have shared in that terrible cost at the loss of their spouse, son or daughter, mother or father, remember the life that was lost while we enjoy the freedoms that their actions provided.

 

 

Boston cemetery
A cemetery in Boston.

By setting aside a day to remember, we create a specific time when we can teach our children and grandchildren that our freedoms and rights are not cheaply obtained.  They are costly, and they are precious.

 

In the Gettysburg Address presented at a dedication ceremony for the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the site of one of the bloodiest and most decisive battles of the U.S. Civil War, just a few months after the war had ended, President Abraham Lincoln rendered words that have resounded through the decades:

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

 

Lincoln understood that the individual and cultural memory of significant events in the personal or corporate life of citizens must be maintained or the past actions will dissolve into an ethereal cloud without form or substance — in short, it will be lost.

 

The people of Israel in the Old Testament knew this because God specifically directed that there be standing stones, pillars if you will, that were to serve as reminders of the mighty acts of God on the people’s behalf.

 

While there are many examples in the Old Testament, one is found in Joshua chapter 4, when the people of Israel had just crossed over the Jordan River on dry ground.  God told Joshua that he should take twelve stones from the middle of the river and put them on dry land as a monument for future generations to see and learn of God’s acts.

And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal.  And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’  For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

Joshua 4:20-24

 

Using markers to spark our memory is also found in the New Testament where we are reminded to remember our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by a very different monument, the words of our Lord at the Passover Meal just before His arrest and subsequent crucifixion.   We call it the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion.  Paul described it as follows:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-25.

 

At this season of remembrance, remember the sacrifice that provides freedom from sin and that gives life for all eternity, this eternal liberty comes from faith and belief in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross of Calvary.

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Acts 16:30-31.

 

Security in Christ and Cross
Security in Christ – College float from years past.

There is no other way to achieve salvation and eternal life — not our works and not the works or prayers of others.  Christ alone offers eternal life.

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

 

If you have trusted in Christ, praise His glorious name and thank Him for all that He has done for you, in this world and in the next.  If you do not know Christ, read the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind and heart so that you realize your sin and you can claim the forgiveness and glorious freedom from sin’s bondage that is available to you through Christ Jesus.

 

Take the opportunity this week to set aside a time to remember family members who served in the military, or those whose company we no longer have due to death from whatever cause.  Thank them for their service if they are still with us, and if not, thank the Lord for the benefits we have through the sacrifices that these individuals made. It is fitting and appropriate that we should do so, as individual citizens and, collectively, as a country.

 

But also remember the acts of God that have shaped your life.  In memory of … have you set up your “pillar of stones” so that you are reminded of all the times God has preserved you and led you through days of sorrow and trouble, into the peaceful valley of His presence?

 

In memory of …  you fill in the blank and then praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy.

 

Father, thank You for the land of America, for the forefathers who struggled and fought to live in a land where we have the right to worship without interference from the government, a land based on Your Word and Your Commandments.  Thank You, too, for those who have fought to keep our freedom sacred.  Guide this land and its citizens as we move forward in these times of stress, uncertainty and hatred.  Father, thank You for  Jesus Christ, Who is our Savior and Lord.  Help us to honor Him and rejoice in His work on our behalf.  Enlighten those who read this missive and have not accepted Jesus as Lord of their life … I pray that your Spirit would guide them into the knowledge of our Lord and His salvation.