WHAT LIGHT? DID YOU SEE A LIGHT?

Jesus said:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16

Consider the following comparison.

1,  On November 3, 1871, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse in Oregon was lit and its beam was first broadcast over the ocean.  The light was a single wick lantern which burned refined lard oil and its light was a steady white beam that was 161 feet above sea level.

Let the light shine light Oregon 2009 412

A plaque at this display, shown in the picture, gives more information about this lighthouse lamp.

Let the light shine sign Oregon 2009 411

2.  Years ago, we were driving in Florida from Orlando to Cape Canaveral.   At that time, there were still undeveloped areas along the highway.  There was a bit of cloud cover so not many stars were shining through. 

As a passenger, just sat gazing out over the seemingly empty space when I thought I saw a light.  I turned my head, but there was nothing there.  I looked out the right-hand window when my peripheral vision detected a light to the left.  Turning my head, again there was nothing visible.

My husband asked what was wrong since I was turning my head back and forth, and I said that I thought I saw a light, but there was nothing there.  I really thought I was going batty or, more likely, that my vision was on the blink! 

Just then, the light beamed again and both of us saw it and laughed as we realized it was a strobe light for aircraft guidance.

Do you see the difference?  Strobe lights are not like the lighthouse that shines its light throughout the night sky.  Strobe lights can best be described as “Now you see it, now you don’t.”

Jesus said that we are to be lights in the world.  But that light should not be “on again/ off again”..  Strobe lights are like that.  We are like that too.  Jesus addressed this type of person when He used an agricultural example and said:

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:43-45

Our actions don’t always match up with the words that we speak. 

We say that we love someone but then we spread gossip about them when we have the chance.  We say that we want to help others but then we are too busy to go the extra mile when the need arises.  We say that we are Christians, but we don’t attend church because “you know they are all hypocrites!”  We say we love Jesus, but then we hate our fellow Christians because they have different views than those we hold.  We say we love God, but then we curse using His name as an expletive when something happens that we don’t like.  We are strobe light Christians.

When we witness to the hairdresser and talk about all that we are doing for Jesus in the church and in the community, and then we criticize and condemn her for how she did our hair, the strobe light is dimmed.

When we put the decal on our car indicating that we love Jesus, the witness light is bright.  But the strobe is darkened when that same car cuts off others on the highway or when expletives are heard because of a slow start at the light.

Let us not be strobe light Christians.  Let us not dim the light with our pride, arrogance or lack of love.  As noted at the Yaquina Bay lighthouse (and with just a bit of editorial license), “Let YOUR Light Shine” for the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Father, I pray that I would not tarnish my own witness for You by inconsiderate actions, unkind words, or unloving attitudes.  I pray that You would forgive me, Lord, when I have put my own desires ahead of others, my own wants ahead of others’ needs, my own interests before Yours. 

 

 

A PART OF THE WHOLE

 

Have you ever felt that you were getting nowhere in your service for our Lord?  I have felt that I was working hard, doing what I believed that I had been called to do, but there did not seem to be any fruit for that labor.

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped one

The reality is, however, that we don’t have to comprehend the full impact of our labors.  That is not what the Lord has for us to know at this time.  Paul said it like this:

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped two

There are times when we look at others and it seems their Christian walk is easier, more fruitful, just better than our own.  Such comparison often results in discouragement; or, conversely, it may result in the sin of pride as we consider ourselves to be on the winning side of that comparison.

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped three

I love it when Paul uses an understandable analogy to illustrate a spiritual lesson.  He talks about our physical bodies in 1 Corinthians 12:

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. … But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”

1 Corinthians 12:14, 18-20 ESV

This is true – we are all more than one eyelash or one toe.  We have many parts that make up our physical bodies.  And some of the parts, organs for example, don’t even get a passing thought unless disease strikes.

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped five

Then Paul gets to his point – the body of Christ. 

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” 

1 Corinthians 12:27-28 

Just as our bodies have different parts with different functions, so the body of Christ has different parts with different roles assigned to each Christian. 

The glorious thought, and that which thrills my soul, is what Paul expressed to the believers in the church at Ephesus:

“There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Ephesians 4:4-6 

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped four

No matter what role we have or how insignificant our role appears to us, God sees the whole picture and He has decreed that there is one body, the Church, which is unified in our Lord and in God the Father through the Holy Spirit. 

I have not gone crazy — the pictures inserted in the post have meaning.  They don’t look like much individually, do they?  In fact, for some of them you can’t even tell what you are looking at!  But, put them together … 

Oregon picture perfect mountains

and you will see a beautiful picture of the snow-capped mountains in Oregon.

Beloved, lift your eyes and look to the Savior.  Let the Spirit show you your role in the body of Christ.  Whatever it is, do your work to the glory of God and for the furtherance of His kingdom.  God will use you to create the glorious picture that He has decreed for you from the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4-6, Matthew 25:34.

Father, thank You for Your Spirit who guides and instructs in the way we are to live and in the work that we are to do for the kingdom of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

THE PERFECTION OF GOD

Perfection.  What a glorious word.  When it is said, we know that a high standard has been met, the pinnacle of achievement was accomplished, and we have witnessed work which cannot be improved upon.  Perfect.

Diver at hotel pool in Florida perfect
A perfect dive in Florida!

Perhaps you have achieved perfection in a sporting activity, like diving.  Or, perhaps you have achieved perfection in a hobby, maybe a picture that people have said is “picture perfect”.

Oregon picture perfect mountains
Picture perfect scene in Oregon.

Or perhaps it is the sleeping newborn infant, while family members look at the child and marvel and say “Perfect!” as they look at the little fingers with tiny fingernails! 

Newborn baby girl (C)
Newborn baby daughter, alive with all sorts of possibilities ahead of her.

While each of these examples do show what could, in human terms, be considered perfect, they come nowhere close to the perfection that is the standard of our God. 

Medieval theologians used the Latin phrase ens perfectissimus  to refer to God.  The phrase may be translated by the words “the most perfect being.”  … [They wanted to] underscore the reality of God’s perfection so clearly that they would eliminate any possibility of suggesting the slightest lack of perfection in God’s character.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998p. 197

Dr. Sproul continues:

God’s perfection applies to all of His attributes.  His power is perfect; it has no weaknesses or any possibility of weakness.  His knowledge is not only omniscient but reflects perfect omniscience.  There is nothing that God does not know or that He could possibly learn. … God’s love, His wrath, His mercy – all that He is — is perfect. Not only is He perfect, but He is eternally and immutably so.  There never was a time when God was less than perfect and there is no possibility that in the future He may slip into any kind of imperfection. What has been with God will be so forever.  His perfection is immutable.  It cannot change.

Ibid., p. 198  (Emphasis is mine)

The very consideration of the scope of God’s perfection makes it hard to comprehend.  How extensive it is … how overwhelming it would be for us to see … how unlike us it makes our Creator God.

When God delivered him from the hand of King Saul, David extolled the Lord and gave praise to Him, including the following description of the monumental difference between God and man by saying, in part:

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.  But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”

Psalm 103:19 ESV. 

“As for man … BUT God.”   The chasm between God and man is so great that it cannot be truly fathomed.  Those who think that God is unnecessary because we can handle things for ourselves, “thank you very much”, are simply – well, wrong.  The very fact that we exist, the fact that we have air to breath or that rain comes for nourishing our planet so food will grow, and the fact that the earth keeps spinning is in God’s providence and in His good pleasure.   

“This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.   For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?  This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless.”

2 Samuel 22:31-33 ESV

Jesus, the incarnation of God, said:

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

Matthew 5:48 ESV.   Of course this is an impossible goal, but we are called by our Savior to strive for perfection.

God’s perfection is one of the attributes of His nature.  Praise His holy name that His perfection extends to all His attributes.  He is the same today as He was before the creation of the world and He will be the same perfect powerful God when this creation is transformed into the new heaven and new earth. 

God’s perfection – hard to comprehend in its fullness, He is the “most perfect being”.  God’s perfection – difficult to fathom, but easy to hold on to as we rest in the perfect love of our Savior and God.

Father, You are perfect, You are the most perfect being and You have been such since before You spoke the world into existence.  Perfect in power, in love, in wisdom.  I praise Your name and bow in humble gratitude as I think of Your perfection touching my heart which is so full of imperfection and sin.  Father, enable me to live my life as a testimony to Your perfect character, and I ask this through the power of the Holy Spirit.

VISIONS OF GLORY HERE ON EARTH

Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

Psalm 33:8 KJV

There are times in our lives that we encounter something that is just too wonderful to fully appreciate at the time.

Consider some of the places that God has provided us on the planet – places that exhibit His power, beauty, majesty, omnipotence, just to name a few of His attributes that are represented in His created order. 

Yosemite 2011 WRM 095 Overlook of Kings Canyon National Park (C)
Yosemite overlook at King’s Canyon

Towering mountains.    “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” – Psalm 90:2 ESV

Consider the thundering waterfalls.    “Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.”  Psalm 42:7 ESV

Oregon 2009 066 (C) Multnomah Waterfalls
Multnomah Waterfalls, Oregon

Consider beauty and destruction combined, such as with volcanoes.  When we were on Maui, in Hawaii, we traveled to the crater of Haleakala and watched the sun come up over the horizon.  The crest of the volcano is over 10,000 feet high, so it was windy and the clouds were constantly changing as they flew over and passed the crater.  While volcanoes can be deadly and can cause widespread destruction, they also provide silent witness to the power of God’s creative hand and the beauty of His majesty.

Haleakala sunrise 4
Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, Sunrise over the crater.

While God’s creation is majestic in scope, it is also awesome in its beautiful detail. 

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” – Luke 12:27-28 ESV

flowers - lilies

Or, consider the birth of a child – we know the biological process that takes place.  Some of us even know all the details of human anatomy and physiology that work together in the creation of that little one you hold in your arms.  But, just describing the biological process of childbirth does not even touch the full impact of the birth of a little baby.  The joy that the child brings to the parents; the marvel in the expression of the young sibling who now is the older child; the tears in the grandparents’ eyes as they look at the personification of their living heritage. 

Grandparents holding baby
The infant is comforted by grandparents who just want to look adoringly at the child’s face!

I am not so Pollyanna to think that this is the lot granted to each child born on this planet – far from it.  Some children are born into a house that is far less than supportive and can even be abusive. But Scripture tells us that mankind was created in the image of God. 

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 ESV

Each person, even the smallest infant, is a creation of God the Almighty Creator and Sustainer who imprints His image onto the heart and soul of each one.  The reason we cannot see God’s image in others is not because of a problem with the image of God, but rather it is a problem that we have because of Adam’s fall and the interjection of sin into the world.

Scripture tells us of God’s majesty like this:

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.”

Psalm 65:5-8 ESV

What a marvelous God we serve.  What a powerful and majestic God we serve.  What a loving God we serve. 

“But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.”

Habakkuk 2:20 KJV

Today take the time to contemplate (or ruminate) on being silent before God.  Think about His majesty and glory.  Think about His intimate love for you and of the salvation that He has provided.  Read the love letter that He has given us, His Word, the Holy Bible.  Then, love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind.  Matthew 22:37. 

Father, I thank You for showing us Your power, beauty and majesty through the natural creation you spoke into existence.  I thank You for giving us Your Word and Your Spirit.  that tells us what you want us to do, how we should live in Christ, and what your Spirit

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.

 

ADVENTURES IN TILLAMOOK COUNTY

On one of our trips out West, we drove up the Oregon coast and found that there is much to see and do in Tillamook County.  For example, you can take a tour and taste incredibly delicious cheese at the Tillamook Cheese factory. 

Oregon 2009 456 (C)
Tillamook Cheese factory – tour and taste testing of marvelous cheeses awaits.  Be sure you are hungry — enjoy!

A marvelous sampling of their cheeses prompts purchases of the goodies, as well as investigation into the stores at home where we can acquire the cheese without traveling across the country!  In fact, I would love to enjoy God’s creation right now by having some Tillamook cheese! 

A real treat awaits the traveler because the Oregon coastline itself provides beautiful images of the ocean with the waves breaking upon rocky shoreline.

Oregon lighthouse 2009 422
Oregon coastline shows waves pummeling the shore.

Another place to visit in Tillamook County is the Cape Meares State Park which boasts the Cape Meares Lighthouse.  A wide asphalt trail goes from the parking area, through the forest, into the clearing with the lighthouse directly ahead.

USED Oregon 2009 417 Cape Meares Lighthouse Ore
A stroll through the woods, down the paved trail, heads straight to the lighthouse at the coast. 

The lighthouse is 38 feet tall, not exactly stellar height for a lighthouse.  In fact, it is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon.  But, it sits at the coastline on the top of a cliff making its effective height 223 feet above sea level.  So despite its own short stature, when the light was operating, it could be seen for 21 miles.

USED Cape Meares Lighthouse short - not height but placement Oregon 2009 424
The lighthouse exhibits all her 38 feet in stature!

Beside from being an interesting place to visit, what does Tillamook County, Oregon have to do with me?  Or with you?

I think it provides us with an illustration and/or lesson for our life and our Christian walk, especially when we focus on Ephesians 2:8-10.

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

Ephesians 2:10 ESV

The lighthouse was built for a purpose – it was to warn mariners that they were approaching the shoreline and it was dangerous to come too close.  It was to provide navigational assistance, and it saved lives as a result of its light shining far out over the water.  

USED Lighthouse lamp Oregon 2009 419 (C)
Its purpose was to provide light to the mariner in a time when GPS did not exist.

Notably, it did all this while being only 38 feet tall.   Its effective height did not come from itself, rather it came from the terrain on which it was placed – the cliff was high and from that vantage point, the little lighthouse could be seen for 21 miles. 

Paul says that we have been saved through grace by faith alone.  We had nothing to do with securing our salvation from sin; Jesus Christ did that atoning work on the cross for us.  And, we did nothing to deserve the atonement that He provided.  It was a gift of grace – not based on our work, our reputation, our finances, our stature in the community, our anything. 

The reason for this gift is stated in verse 10 – we were created by God in Christ for good works that God had prepared for us to do long before we were born.  

God is sovereign.  He is in control of our world and all that is in it.  His will, His purpose, will be accomplished and mankind cannot thwart it.  In Concise Theology, J. I. Packer says:

“The assertion of God’s absolute sovereignty in creation, providence, and grace is basic to biblical belief and biblical praise.”  [Sovereignty, God Reigns at page 33.]

One of the best descriptions of God’s sovereignty came from a pagan king after a lesson God provided to him. 

“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;  all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?“”

Daniel 4:34-35 ESV

The little lighthouse had a job to do and it was able to do it because of strength that was not its own – it was based upon the strength of the mountain on which it was built.  We were created by God and saved from our sin by Jesus Christ so that we could do the work that God preordained for us to do all for His glory and His purposes through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

“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 ESV 

We have no strength in our own self to do anything of eternal, lasting value for God.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit to do God’s work in the world. 

Am I serving His purpose, the good work that God had preordained for me to do?  Am I working for the Lord through my own power and for my own reputation or am I relying on Him and the Holy Spirit to work through me for the glory of God? Am I refusing to shine because I am only of modest stature, or am I willing to shine my brightest for my Lord and let the Holy Spirit magnify the light so that it shines where He wants it to go?

Father, I give You honor and glory for Your sovereign love and mercy, grace and power that was shown by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  I pray that You would give power to these words and that they would accomplish that which You desire, through Christ Jesus I pray. 

THE TRIP TO … WHERE AM I?

It is no secret in our family that I have absolutely no inherent sense of direction. Even with the little N or SW on the car’s information panel, I often don’t know which way to go.  Unless I am driving to my grocery store, my office, my church, it would be anyone’s guess about when, or whether, I would get to the place I intended to go.  [I call this my “elongated route syndrome” rather than simply saying that I get lost all the time.]

The best example of one of my elongated routes was the subject of an earlier blog entitled The Elongated Trip posted May 23, 2015.  I was to go to Bristol, Tennessee from Knoxville in the days before GPS or the voice of Siri directing your travel. This trip is, for almost everyone, about 120 miles.  But, for me, on that day, the trip was over 240 miles, not on interstates but rather on state routes through the mountains, valleys and byways of Tennessee and Kentucky. 

map-showing-elongated-trip

As you can likely guess, the yellow is the easy route that I should have taken while the green line shows the actual path that I drove.

Bill and I recently drove through Bristol and, since Bill was driving, I could think about that long drive.  While the trip was decades ago, I still remember it vividly.

It occurred on a day when frustrations, fears and financial deficits were facing me with full force; it was a day when I was sure that the future was bleak and that there would be no possible rescue.  I did not doubt that God loved me, nor did I think that He had abandoned me … I just did not see how any relief would be coming that would help my dire situation.

When we don’t know what to do or where God is directing us to go, we often become anxious, frustrated, and sometimes resentful, thinking that we are just “biding time” while others are active in the ministry that we want to do. After all, we want to get going!

During times such as this, try to back away from the situation and consider whether God might be trying to teach you a lesson.  Remember, the Holy Spirit indwells each Christian and it is His job to transform us into the likeness of God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. This transformation occurs by developing the fruit of the Spirit that Paul details in Scripture, such as in Galatians chapter 5.  So, look and see where the Holy Spirit is working in your heart, see what God is teaching you.

Think about the lessons in patience that you can learn as you wait for the Lord!  Scripture often exhorts us to wait …

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Psalm 27:14  

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31  

But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

Micah 7:7

Think about the lessons in peace and faithfulness that you can learn as you trust God to guide your steps …

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

Psalm 28:7

… For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

 

oregon-lighthouse-and-gps-c
Lighthouse and GPS — the old and new navigation tools meet along the Oregon coastline.

God will lead us as surely as the lighthouse pointed the way to the seafaring voyagers and as specifically as our modern GPS technology allows.  (Both are noted in this picture from the Oregon coast, the lighthouse on the left and the GPS on the roof of the adjacent building.)

We usually don’t know why we have an “elongated route” on our road with the Lord.  We can’t see His reason for taking us along that way at that time, but we don’t need to know all that.  All we need to know is that we are in the Hands of our loving Father. 

Charles R. Swindoll said it like this in Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Zondervan):

“We’re not supposed to have airtight answers! Why? Because our understanding is earthbound. . . . Our focus is from the ground up. . . . We see now, He sees forever. We judge on the basis of the temporal; He, on the basis of the eternal. . . . His vantage point is infinity.”

Trust this Lord who will teach us lessons while we are going along the “elongated route”. He knows our ultimate destination and He has planned our trip so when we get to our destination, we will have the ability to do the assignment that He has for us to do.  The lengthened route may be designed to quiet your soul so that you can hear His voice speaking words of calm, encouragement, direction, and strength into your heart and soul.  It certainly did that for me.    

The classic hymn “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” expresses the desire to grow in our Lord while we are “waiting, yielded and still”.  Here is the hymn as sung on the album Hymns in the Vineyard.

 

Give Him the keys to your life.  And keep your eyes on Him as He directs your path.

Father, I praise Your name for Your faithfulness and patience as You teach me lessons even when I am complaining about having to wait or when I am unsure of where You are directing me to go.   Enable me to have faith sufficient to simply hand over the keys to my life to You and then let me ride along on the trip that You have planned out for me.  Mold me and make me after Your will, so all can see Christ only always living in me.   

 

PERCEPTION/ILLUSION VS. REALITY

When we were in Oregon, there were so many beautiful places to take pictures, it was hardly possible to do the scenery justice through pictures.  There were the stark, seemingly dead places where volcanic eruptions had erased the vegetation, but even in the places where the trees had sustained incredible damage, there was beauty.

 

One such place was Lava Butte just outside Bend, Oregon where we came across this tree.

 

Bird in the Tree -- Oregon 2009 049 (C)
Tree outside Bend, Oregon at the Lava Butte.

 

The contrast between its barren limbs and the flourishing evergreens nearby made me think about the incredible strength of nature.  And then I saw a yellow bird on the tree’s limb.  I didn’t have any idea what kind of bird it was, but it appeared to be resting before going off to further exploits of this land.

 

When we got home, I looked at the pictures, again thanking the Lord for the beauty of His creation.  Trying to identify the yellow bird, I enlarged the picture above, and this is what I saw:

Bird in the Tree - 2 -- Oregon 2009 049 (C)
Was it a bird? No!

Apparently this “bird” is of the genus “Lady Taking a Picture”.

 

Perception/Illusion  versus Reality.

 

There are times when we think something is one way, when the reality is that it is quite another.   I perceived that a brightly colored bird was sitting on that branch, when the reality was that a lady in a bright shirt was standing beyond the tree taking a picture at the same time I was taking a picture of her.  My perception was certainly not reality, but it was harmless and funny.

 

But the difference between perception or illusion and reality is not always harmless or humorous.

 

We see people harming innocents and calling it justified because of their hatred.  We see people abusing others in the name of ambition.  We see the slaughter of babies that somehow becomes less offensive by calling it a “woman’s choice.”  This is our perception – but the reality is vastly different.

 O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?  They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.  They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage.  They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; and they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.”  Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise?  He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?  He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge– the LORD–knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.

Psalm 94:3-11.

 

God sees –God hears – God is fully aware of what mankind is doing.  He is sovereign and in control, even when it appears that things are out of control.  He knows the thoughts of man because He created man.  The fool is the one who dismisses God as irrelevant or of no concern.

 

There are times we feel powerless against the foes that confront us.  This too is a perception that we are led to believe – but it is not the reality for the Christian.  Elisha and his servant confronted the army of the enemy and we read the following about this encounter in the book of Second Kings where it says:

When the servant of the man of God [Elisha] rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

2 Kings 6:15-17.

 

Elisha was not worried about the forces against them.  The problem was that the servant believed the perception that they were defenseless.

 

In the book of Romans, Paul talks about perception and reality when he tells the Romans that God has revealed Himself through creation but man chooses to believe the lie Satan promotes.

 

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”   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.   For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Romans 1:17-25.

 

  • Don’t believe the lie that if your good outweighs your bad, you will get to heaven.   In Romans 10:3-18 Paul states that “”None is righteous, no, not one”.
  • Don’t believe the lie that all you need is to get along, love everyone and do your best.
  • Don’t believe the lie that this world is all there is, so get all you can because God wants you to be wealthy and to have all that you desire.
  • Don’t believe the lie that since God is love there will be no judgment.
  • Don’t believe the lie that hell is not real and the concept of eternal damnation is ridiculous.

 

Both the Old and New Testaments describe God’s response to sin and disobedience, and it is powerful, fierce and just!   God’s wrath is upon sinful mankind … only His mercy is stopping His hand from executing judgment on sinful man this very moment!

 

While you are not righteous, and while you cannot wash your sin away, Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection has paid the sinner’s debt and that freedom from sin is available through God’s grace.  Paul says:

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 2:8-9.

 

Perception/illusion versus Reality.  In that battle, reality wins every time and Reality has a name – the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent triune God!

 

Father, forgive me when I have believed Satan’s lies that You do not care, or that You have no plan for me,  or that You do not love me.  Enable me to see the protection that You place around me, and grant me the grace to reach outside my comfort zone so I can extend your love and compassion to others, through your Spirit and in the power of the name of Jesus Christ.

A GOD OF BEAUTY!

Beauty.  Our culture seems to idolize the beautiful people.  Mega-dollar industries have been built on providing cosmetics, beautifying potions, exercise machines to make the body sleek, to name just a few examples, all for making people beautiful.  But what is beauty, really? Is physical beauty really what is important?

 

The Merriam Webster online dictionary [found at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/] provides one definition of “beauty” as “The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit; loveliness.”   I like this definition.

 

In his book, The Holiness of God, p. 196-7, Dr. R. C. Sproul states that God is the source of beauty.  Indeed, that beauty is one of the attributes of our Divine Creator.

 

God Himself is the ground of all unity and diversity, of simplicity and complexity. His very being is internally consistent and harmonious and proportionate.  In him there are no distortions, no disorder, no ugliness.  His voice admits to no noise or cacophony. The works of his hands are cosmos, not chaos.  Chaos is marked by disorder and confusion; it is manifest irrationally. The beauty of God is a sane and rational beauty in that his being is one of perfect sanity and order.  Insofar as the beautiful bears witness to these qualities, they bear witness to Him. … To cultivate an appreciation for beauty is to set our course to follow after the sublime Author of all beauty.

 

Appreciation for beauty is a consistent theme throughout the Bible.  The Old Testament Scriptures are particularly appreciative of the beauty of nature. God announced that creation was good in Genesis and, after the creation of mankind, the penultimate act of creation, God declared it to be “very good”!   Then, in Exodus we read:

 

Exodus 28:2 – “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.”

These words were spoken by God when He gave the instructions and directions for the Tabernacle to be built in the wilderness and for the dishes and implements to be used, even down to the detail to be included on the clothing to be worn by the priests.  Note, God included as a characteristic of the holy garments that they are “for beauty”.

 

The psalms exhibit an appreciation for God’s handiwork in numerous passages.  Consider Psalm 8:1, 3-4:

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens. … 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 19:1 states:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”

 

Psalm 104 describes God’s mighty work in creation noting that He set the earth on its foundations and going on to describe the individual parts of creation all under the umbrella of the prayer “Bless the LORD, O my soul!”

 

Listen to Brentwood Jazz Quartet’s rendition of “All Creatures of Our God and King” from their album The Best of the Brentwood Jazz Quartet.

 

Take some time to look at the pictures as you listen to the music, and then meditate on the following Scriptures.  Renew your sense of the beautiful and praise God for His wondrous works.

 

Yosemite 2011 WRM 095 Overlook of Kings Canyon National Park (C)
King’s Canyon scenic overlook, California, USA. Majesty and power reflected in the glory of creation.

 

Psalm 96:6 – “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.”

 

Sunset and clouds 3
Sunset and clouds show God’s pallet of colors!

 

 

Psalm 104:19 – “He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.”

 

Brook trees and mountain Oregon 2009 141
Mountain, trees and brook in Oregon, USA.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

 

Bath Abbey (C)
The door at Bath Abby in Bath, England. Craftsmen creating a beautiful place for worship of a God Who loves beauty.

 

1 Chronicles 16:29 [KJV] – “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”

 

Baby girl 1 month old
A baby girl, full of promise and beauty.

 

Proverbs 31:30 – Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

1 Peter 3:3-4  – Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear– but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

 

 

Ocean verticle sun going down
Sunset over the ocean, an acknowledgement that the day is over but the ocean continues to roar and churn, as ordained by our Creator God.

 

Psalm 104:25 – “Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.”

 

Schmerhorn building in Nsahville Symphony and choir ready to perform
The Schermerhorn Symphony center in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Orchestra and choir ready to sing a sacred concert to the glory of God in their performance of Dr. R. C. Sproul’s hymn collection “Glory to the Holy One”.

 

 

Psalm 104:33 – “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.”

 

Snowy tranquility (C)
Snowy tranquility. Snow blankets our surroundings and causes us to stop and cherish the silent beauty of God’s world.

 

Psalm 51:7 – Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

 

 

Father, I pray that my meditation is pleasing to You, for I rejoice in You and your Holy Name.  (Psalm 103:34)  I pray that these pictures, this music and these humble words would be used by Your Spirit to encourage and strengthen those who read this post.  I pray that You would use Your Word to speak to the heart and minds of those who encounter these passages of Scripture.  Father, I pray that You would be glorified in all things.