THE BLACK HILLS WILD HORSE SANCTUARY

While visiting Tampa, Florida, we had lunch at a restaurant named Ulele.   The focal point of the décor inside the restaurant is a magnificent bronze statue named “The Laughing Horse” created by Victor Delfin.  The size and musculature of the figure is breath-taking.

Ulele - Tampa 14

The statue was beautiful, but it cannot compare with what we saw when we visited The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, South Dakota.  It was raining during our visit but nothing could dampen our wonder at these magnificent animals.  Wild mustangs created by God and living in thousands of acres of beautiful terrain.

mustangs 4
The Sanctuary has over 11,000 acres of incredible terrain for these horses to roam.  What a beautiful sight!
mustangs
Having a salad with some friends!

 

 

The inquisitive nature of the horse is evident, even in these wild mustangs, none of whom have ever been ridden nor have they had saddles, bit or bridles on them.  But they did like to come up and see what was going on!

mustangs 3
One of the herds gathering together.
mustangs 5
Please pardon my hair, it’s wet from the rain. But, I look great anyway!

We were told that the Native Americans did not have a word for horse, so they called them Big Dogs and this video shows that the characterization is pretty accurate.

 

We felt like we were at home because we have seen our little MinPins do this same thing on the family room carpet, as well as in the backyard grass.  Same thing, other than the size difference, of course!

Scripture contains many references to horses.  One that I dearly love is found in the book of Job where God is responding to the demand for answers that Job propounded to Him:

Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?  Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying.  He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.  He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword.  Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin.  With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.  When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”

This description of the horse grips me with awe for the strength, courage and resilience of this mighty animal.  But we are warned in Proverbs to give credit where credit is due:

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”

Proverbs 21:31  

When we have battled a temptation and won, we must not boast in the victory – rather, we give God the glory for the victory because He enabled us to be victorious. 

Further, we read in Psalm 147 that while God created both the horse and man, their strength does not bring God delight:

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”  

Psalm 147:10-11

Just think of the privilege we have — we can bring pleasure to the Creator of the universe!  When we reverence the Lord, when we cling to His steadfast love, it is in those times that we bring the Lord pleasure!   Do you ever think of bringing pleasure to the Almighty God? 

We praised the Lord for the beautiful horses that we saw and we gave thanks that He led people to create the sanctuary so that these animals would not be destroyed, people who would demonstrate His steadfast love to this small segment of His creation.

What a blessing we would receive if we remembered to do that which pleases Him throughout our day.  May praise to our Lord be the “default position” of our life!

Father, I praise Your name for sending Jesus Christ to be our atoning sacrifice on the cross.  Thank You, Lord and Savior, for Your obedience and willingness to come to save us from our sin.  Thank You, Holy Spirit, for quickening the hearts of Your children so that we can believe on the name of the Lord and be saved.  May I praise You for all that You created and may I remember Your steadfast love throughout my days.

THE HORSE – A VISION OF MAJESTIC STRENGTH

We were visiting in Tampa recently when we were invited to have lunch at a restaurant named Ulele.  It is in the old waterworks building so it has a charm that modern buildings just cannot replicate.

Ulele - Tampa 4

Inside the restaurant, there is a magnificent bronze statue of a stallion created by Victor Delfin, that is the focal point of the décor.

Ulele - Tampa 14

Standing closer to the figure you get a sense of its size and musculature.

The Laughing Horse by Victor Delfin at Ulele in Tampa Florida
“The Laughing Horse” by Victor Delfin.  The artist was skilled in his representation of this magnificent animal.

Scripture contains many references to horses.  One that I dearly love is found in the book of Job where God is responding to the demand for answers that Job propounded to Him:

Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?  Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying.  He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.  He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword.  Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin.  With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.  When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”

Job 39:19-25 ESV

This description of the horse grips me with awe for the strength, courage and resilience of this mighty animal.  But we are warned in Proverbs to give credit where credit is due:

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”

Proverbs 21:31 ESV

When we have battled a temptation and won, we must not boast in the victory – rather, we give God the glory for the victory because He enabled us to be victorious. 

Further, we read in Psalm 147 that while God created both the horse and man, their strength does not bring God delight:

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”  

Psalm 147:10-11 ESV

Just think of the privilege we have — we can bring pleasure to the Creator of the universe!  When we reverence the Lord, when we cling to His steadfast love, it is in those times that we bring the Lord pleasure!  The prophet Micah reminded the people that God has told them what He required:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8 ESV

These same commands apply to us today.  These things bring our God pleasure!

One of the final references to the horse in Scripture is in the last book of the Bible, Revelation where we read:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.”

Revelation 19:11 ESV

Our Lord will be victorious.  He will come in righteousness as the perfect Judge of the world He came to save but which rejected Him.  For the Christian, the white horse is a welcome sign; for the non-believer it bespeaks of judgment and rejection. 

So, do you trust in the horse or in the One who created the horse and who will ultimately return on a white horse in judgment at the end of time?

Father, I praise Your name for sending Jesus Christ to be our atoning sacrifice on the cross.  Thank You, Lord and Savior, for Your obedience and willingness to come to save us from our sin.  Thank You, Holy Spirit, for quickening the hearts of Your children so that we can believe on the name of the Lord and be saved.

WISDOM AND HUMILITY CARRY THE DAY

As adults, when we are asked a question, our most frequent response is to give an answer – usually with our chest puffed out just a bit and our head held a little bit higher.  We have been asked to pontificate and show our intelligence as we provide the individual standing before us with the information desired.

However, the wise response is to investigate the issue and then give an answer. Whether it is in the realm of the law, medicine, or any other discipline, the ability to identify the issue and then know where to look to find the answer is supremely better than just rattling off an answer based on what you recalled from yesterday, last month, or last year.  Indeed, knowledge is important, but wisdom is far better.

Scripture has much to say about the know-it-all and wisdom. 

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Psalm 111:10

Taylor school
A college education may indicate learning, but real knowledge comes from reverent fear of the Lord.  Praise God for Christian universities such as Taylor University, Upland, Indiana, that provide a quality education while fostering Christian growth in their students as well.

A college education may indicate learning, but real knowledge comes from reverent fear of the Lord.  Praise God for Christian universities such as Taylor University, Upland, Indiana, that provide a quality education while fostering Christian growth in their students as well.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

And he said to man, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom and to turn away from evil is understanding.”

Job 28:28

What is the “fear of the Lord”?  The answer to that requires more space than as a footnote to this post.  But, suffice it to say at this juncture, the following excerpt from “What Does it Mean to Fear God?,” an article posted October 22, 2016 by Dr. R. C. Sproul in the Ligonier Blog gives us some guidance when thinking of the fear of God as noted in the Wisdom Literature of scripture:

The focus here is on a sense of awe and respect for the majesty of God. That’s often lacking in contemporary evangelical Christianity. We get very flippant and cavalier with God, as if we had a casual relationship with the Father. We are invited to call Him Abba, Father, and to have the personal intimacy promised to us, but still we’re not to be flippant with God. We’re always to maintain a healthy respect and adoration for Him.

So, we know the source of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.  Where does humility come into the picture?

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,…

Colossians 3:12

So, what is humility?   Someone named Anonymous said “Humility is a strange thing – the moment you think you’ve got it, you lose it.”  

C. S. Lewis says that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” In other words, it is the quality of “self-forgetfulness”.  Rather than, “Me first,” humility allows us to say, “No, you first, my friend.” 

This does not mean that we must be passive followers; humility does not require that we lose our voice or that we cannot lead.  In Numbers 12:3 we read the following about Moses, the man who told Pharaoh to let God’s people go, the man who led the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years, the man who spoke directly with God and who received the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone:

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”  (NIV)

Moses was humble and he didn’t seek his own welfare when attacked by his family.  God stood up for him when he was attacked by his siblings.  Read the rest of Numbers 12 to see the conflict between Moses and his brother and sister over Moses’ Cushite wife. What happened to them is priceless; but, if I may cut to the chase, I would simply summarize the story as  – spoiler alert — 

Humility Wins!

Of course this, too, is consistent with scripture.  See, for example, Psalm 147:5-6 where we read:

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (NIV)

In the Lord’s calculus, wisdom comes from Him and man’s humility trumps man’s pride every time. 

Father, thank You for Your Son’s sacrifice that cleanses us from our sin and that results in life everlasting for the believer in Him.  Thank You that we can come to You, acknowledging our lack of understanding, and that You will lead us and teach us in the way of righteousness. Grant me humility and enable me to see when I am acting in disregard of that quality.  Then give me the grace to repent and return to Your side. 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 21,GENTLENESS – HUMILITY SHOWN IN MEEKNESS

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 21

 GENTLENESS – HUMILITY SHOWN IN MEEKNESS

PART ONE

Gentleness, also known as humility, is a subject about which the world has a good bit to say but most of it is not from the Christian’s world view.

 

Consider the song “It’s hard to be humble” … I will quote some cleaned up lyrics for you if you don’t know this song from the late 70s.

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
when you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me
I must be a heck of a man.
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
but I’m doing the best that I can.

C. S. Lewis says that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. And someone aptly said that “Humility is a strange thing – the moment you think you’ve got it, you lose it.”

 

What does Scripture say?

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:22-23.

 

In Scripture, the Greek word for gentleness (humility) is Prautas.  It is the quality of “self-forgetfulness”.  Rather than, “Me first,” humility allows us to say, “No, you first, my friend.”  This is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs and demands of others.

 

Its opposite is aggressiveness, arrogance, and boastfulness and the world’s counterfeit is inferiority; being self-absorbed and self-consciousness.

 

When we think of gentleness or humility, we sometimes think of meekness which sounds like weakness … picturing someone who is rather milque-toast in nature.  However, that is not at all the scriptural view of either meekness or humility.

 

Meekness is the strength to refrain from taking part in a fight that you know you could win, or from making a point about which there could be no question, in order to prevent the damage that otherwise would be done.

 

Consider Moses the “in charge” leader bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. In Numbers 12, God stood by him when Aaron and Miriam grumbled about his marriage to a Cushite woman, God calling them aside and saying:

 

“Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.   Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house.  With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD.  Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”  (NIV)

 

After this, the Lord struck Miriam with leprosy and Aaron pleaded with Moses to seek God for healing for their sister.  Moses didn’t respond that Aaron and Miriam deserved what they got and he did not have an “I’m more important than you” attitude.  Instead, he pleaded with God on Miriam’s behalf and God healed her after 7 days.

 

Clearly Moses had access to the ear of the Lord.  He was powerful and knew that God stood by him.  But the verse that is most telling about Moses comes before this story … it is Numbers 12:3 which says:

 

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”  (NIV)

 

Moses was humble –he was meek – he was gentle – and God stood up for him when he was attacked by his siblings.   See Psalm 147:5-6:

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (NIV)

 

Remember that the whole point of the Fruit of the Spirit is to conform us to the image of Jesus.  Therefore, we need to consider how Jesus responded to situations.

 

In Matthew 11:20 we read that Jesus was “humble in heart” (Matt 11:29).   In other words, Jesus was conscientiously following the Father’s plan for his earthly life rather than his own earthly desires.  This is consistent with his prayer in the Garden found in Luke 22:42:

 

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

 

Humility as a virtue is a major theme of both the Old and New Testaments for a number of reasons.

 

First, with respect to our vertical relationship between God and man, humility goes hand in hand with obedience.  The one who is humble will follow God’s direction and will honor the plan that God has for his life.

 

Second, with respect to our horizontal relationship with our fellow creatures in this world, a demeanor of humility is exactly what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons. Humility allows us to see the dignity and worth of all God’s people.

It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Proverbs 16:19

How does this apply to my daily life?

Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self-worth.  Theologian J. I. Packer says:

“Humility in Scripture means, not pretending to be worthless and refusing positions of responsibility, but knowing and keeping the place God has appointed for one. Being humble is a matter of holding on to God’s arrangement, whether it means the high exposure of leadership or the obscurity of subservience.”

 

In other words, humility affirms the inherent worth of all persons. We should exhibit a humble attitude whether we are the president or the janitor.  Our title or position does not matter – humility is expected if we are to grow in Christ Jesus.

 

The humble person has proper deference toward both God and others.   Our humility rests on a sense of our own comparative lack of value and honor in relation to God and to others.  Paul implies this rule when he says in Romans 12:3 that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.

 

The humble woman will refuse to glory in any good that she has or does but rather will give all glory to God.

 

“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and thy truth’s sake”

Psalm 115:1

 

This week, look for times when you can exhibit a gentle, humble spirit towards others.  Imitate Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let this fruit grow in your heart, mind, soul and life!

 

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

 

STARS – God’s Diamonds in the Sky

I love to go camping. Often, we just sit outside after dark and look at the night sky. We like to do this especially when the sky is completely cloudless and the moon is bright, even if it is not full.  On one occasion, we were several miles from the nearest city so ambient light was not much of an issue, and the stars were exceptionally beautiful.

Millennia ago, the Psalmist had occasion to sit outside and look at the heavens created by our God. His reflections are recorded in part in the Psalms. In Psalms 147:4-5 David wrote:

He [God] determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Think about it … God, the creator who put the stars in the heavens in the first place (Genesis 1:16), not only created the stars but He has given them names. All of them – even the myriad of stars that we have not yet seen or contemplated. They are known to the Creator God.

As we gazed at the heavens in awe, praising God for His wondrous creation, we thought of Psalm 8:3-6:

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? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.

 

Stop look listen sign from ebay
Railroad crossing sign featuring the Stop, Look and Listen admonition that was so popular from the 1930s and beyond.

And again in Psalm 19:1 David says:

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

In the hustle and bustle of our everyday life, sometimes God seems far away. This is particularly true when we are in the midst of the holiday season. It starts with the Thanksgiving Day feast, and all the family coming and going, with guests and friends stopping by as well. Then there is the decorating, cooking, baking, shopping, gift wrapping and cleaning in preparation for the onslaught at Christmas, not to mention the parties, gatherings, cookie swaps, etc. that require culinary expertise. Christmas day, the celebration of the Lord’s birth, is often almost anticlimactic in that we meet for Christmas eve, we feed the family on Christmas day, somewhere in that time period we open presents both given and received, and then climb into bed thanking God that the holidays are virtually over.

For many people, nowhere in the Christmas cacophony of sounds, events or meetings do they find the Christ Child. Nowhere do they experience the silence of the manger with the sleeping Child resting therein. Nowhere do they experience the awe that the shepherds felt when they heard the angelic announcement of the Babe’s birth. In short, the focus is far from the town of Bethlehem and the Babe who was born that night 2000 years ago. Simply put, many folks don’t have peace at Christmas even though that was the word used when the angels told Mary and the shepherds of the Babe’s coming.

If God seems to be far away from you, you don’t need an RV, camper or tent; you don’t need to go to a campground. If God seems far away from you, you don’t need to do more things, bake more cookies, be more active!

You just need to follow the railroad advice of yesteryear – Stop, Look and Listen.  [The railroad crossing sign shown here is a “cast iron railroad crossing plaque sign stop look listen large heavy sign” as posted on ebay after a search for same on December 29, 2015.]

Stop look listen sign from ebay
Stop, Look and Listen.

 

Stop – all the frenetic activity.

Look ‐‐ go outside on a clear night and look up at the glories that God has given us to enjoy or look at the creative detail in a flower or, better yet, look in on your sleeping child. Look into His Word and read the promises made to you by the God who created all things, including those beautiful stars..

Listen – hear Him speak to you as you praise Him in reverence (awe) and thankfulness for His wonderful works to the children of men, and that includes you and me!

Praise His Glorious Name!

Father, forgive me when I have let the activities and cares of the world overwhelm me. Forgive me when my desire to spend time with you is snuffed out by the loud calls of the world demanding attention. When I am struggling to find you, Father, give me wisdom to Stop, Look and Listen so that I will hear your Spirit speaking comfort, guidance and love into my pacing heart. Remind me, Father, that you are not far from me … if there is a distance between us, it is due to sin of which I have not repented. Give me the strength to repent, and draw me close to you through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ your Son and my Savior, I pray.