DID YOU SEE THE MOON!

On Jan. 20, 2019, the moon passed through Earth’s shadow in a total lunar eclipse. This is the only total lunar eclipse that we will have in 2019.  Lunar eclipses can occur only during a full moon, and this one was extra special because it was also a supermoon. A supermoon occurs when the moon is full and closest to Earth in orbit.

The moon truly was a “supermoon”.  When it rose over the horizon, it looked like an immense ball in the heavens.  It was huge and it dwarfed the vegetation beneath it.  I realize that its size was a function of the effect that the horizon has on my mind.  It is explained that when the moon is near the horizon, we perceive it to be farther away from us than when it is high in the sky. But since the moon is actually the same size, our minds make it look bigger when it is near the horizon to compensate for the increased distance.  No matter the mental, physical, psychological or scientific cause for the size of the moon when it appears at the horizon, it was enormous last evening.

We watched the recent eclipse of the sun, a solar eclipse, and saw the moon block the sun, with the black moon surrounded by the blazing light that emanates from the sun’s surface.   The total lunar eclipse is much different.

When there is a total lunar eclipse, our planet slides between the sun and the moon.  For the eclipse to be total, the moon has to be in perfect alignment with the sun and Earth, with the moon on the opposite side of Earth from the sun.

When the full moon moves into Earth’s shadow, it darkens, but it doesn’t disappear. Sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere lights the moon so that it appears to be a red coppery color.

According to Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History:

If you were standing on the surface of the moon when this event was happening, and you were staring back at the Earth, what you would see is this beautiful reddish-orangish tinted ring.

We went outside in the below-freezing temperatures to see what we could of this lunar event.  Unfortunately, clouds were moving in so we could not see the full eclipse, but we did see its beginning as the earth moved into position! 

Thankfully, numerous pictures can be found on the Internet so that we can see this picture of God’s handiwork even if clouds obscured it from our vision.  This picture was taken by a telescope at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.

griffith observatory lunar eclipse
Credit: Griffith Observatory

The Psalmist said:

Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!”

Psalm 148:3 

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

Psalm 19:1 

One of the things that affected me, even when watching the beginning of the eclipse when clouds were filtering in, was the silence of the night.  This incredible display of nature was going on above me, high in the heavens, without sound, without fanfare, just doing what God ordained to be done. 

As I put my head on the pillow, I thought about the eclipse and how silently the event was unfolding, how gloriously rhythmic nature is in its movements, how amazingly dependent we are on the clockwork movement of nature, and how fragile we are when compared to the glories that God manifests in His creation.

Surely, the heavens do declare the glory of God. 

Let our lips join the heavens as we glorify God all our days.  As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says:

1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

 

Father, I praise You for all the marvelous works in creation.  I praise You for all the wonderful works given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.  I praise You for all the truths expressed through the Holy Spirit in Your Word.  Thank You for the beauty of Your creation.  I pray that I would glorify You today, and all the days that You grant to me.

WHAT DID I SAY?

The other day I was looking at our table setting and pondered the place mats.  On the front, as I was looking at it, is a border with a paisley design running down the center.

placemat front

The back is the same fabric as the border, uniform and without any extra design. 

placemat back

The place mat performs the same function, no matter which side is up; but the two sides are definitely different.

It made me think of what people say, and how sometimes they say one thing when, immediately thereafter, they say something else.  Or, they may say the same words on two occasions, but the meaning is very different.  For example, consider the words “Bless her heart!”  Said with a loving spirit, the words can be comforting, to be sure.  But, said with a condescending tone (as sometimes occurs in the South!), those same words indicate anything but blessing! 

Scripture says much about our speech.  Indeed, a search for the word “word” reveals hundreds of instances of its use in the text of Scripture.  Here are some illustrations of speech and its ramifications:

Words can bring about thanksgiving and praise to the Lord, such as when Abraham’s servant found Rebekah and she was given to him to take to Isaac as his wife:

“When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before the LORD.”

Genesis 24:52

Other words can bring sorrow and strife within the family, as when Esau found out that Jacob, his twin brother, had taken Esau’s birthright blessing.

As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!””

Genesis 27:34

The Psalmist wrote of the power of words on multiple occasions.  Here are a couple for consideration:

“And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad.”

Psalm 41:6

“For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. …”

Psalm 59:12

In these verses we see the one who comes and brings platitudes, probably with a smile on his face, but the real purpose of the visit is to gain information, not to bring comfort.  Then, when the visit is over, the phone line lights up with the “dirt” discovered during the “comforting” visit!

There are many references to words in the Book of Proverbs as well.

“The eyes of the LORD keep watch over knowledge, but he overthrows the words of the traitor.”

Proverbs 22:12

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Proverbs 29:20

Lest we think only harsh pronouncements are made in Proverbs, we also read:

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

Proverbs 16:24

In today’s American culture, this proverb may not have much meaning to the general reader.  But, I well remember when my own Father would get a jar of honey, which included the honeycomb.  He would relish the sweetness of the honeycomb, including eating it in front of me with his eyes closed and a soft “Mmmmm” sounding from the depths of his being. 

Such is the picture of one uttering gracious words to another who is in need of love and encouragement.

We seem to capitalize on the flippant, hasty word, but such is not the perspective of Scripture.  Indeed, the Lord takes what we say seriously, often more seriously than we take our own words!  This truth is evident in Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:36-37

Considering the number of words that I speak each day, Jesus’ words cause me to stop and contemplate what I have said or what I am in the process of saying.  My prayer is that of David, so long ago, as recorded in Psalm 19:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14

placemats 2

Father, I speak so carelessly, and there are times that I want to retract what I have said but I cannot put my mouth in reverse!  Forgive me, Lord, when I have spewed forth things that are unloving, unhelpful, or even untrue.  May my words be acceptable to You, my loving Lord and Savior.

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 24, SELF-CONTROL part two

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 24

SELF CONTROL – SELF MASTERY SO WE CAN SERVE GOD IN FREEDOM

PART TWO

 

Developing the fruit of the Spirit of self-control is not instantaneous once we become Christians.

 

G. K. Beale says it like this:

Christians are like pilgrims passing through this world.  As such they are to commit themselves to the revelation of God in the new order so as progressively to reflect and imitate his image and increasingly live according to the values of the new world, not being conformed to the fallen system, its idolatrous images, and associated values.

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 175. [Emphasis mine]

 

As with all the fruit of the Spirit, we have the seed of the fruit within us because the Holy Spirit resides within the Christian, but that seed may not have grown very much yet.  We have to commit ourselves to the Holy Spirit so He can develop the character and image of Christ in us.

Remember our thoughts last week comparing a life without self-control to a jungle while a life with self-control is rather like a  well groomed, tended garden.

jungle-scene
   Jungle scene from Parrot Jungle in Kings Bay, Florida.
garden-walkway-parrot-jungle
Beautiful garden walkway from Kings Bay, Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One characteristic of a growing and maturing Christian is the ability to bridle the wild impulses that lead to destruction — self-control.  Note, we can have self-control in one area but not in another.  The Spirit will encourage you to increase self-control so that it encompasses all the areas of your life, not just some of them!

 

How do we develop self-control of the Holy Spirit?  There is no pill to take for it and there is no substitute for hard work.  We train ourselves, just as an athlete would do, so that we learn to exercise self-control through God’s grace and His Spirit.

 

What does Scripture say?

 

So, what does the scripture say about temperance [abstinence or restraint]?

 

Consider Eating:

 

Table manners are important!  Proverbs 23:1-3 speaks of restraint when eating with those over you:

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.  Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.  

 

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.

Proverbs 25:16

 

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. … “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” … At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

Daniel 1:8-16.  Honor God in controlling our appetite for food and beverages.

 

Consider Desires and Passions:

I made a covenant with my eyes, not to look lustfully at a girl.

 Job 31:1

 

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:13-16

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age,… 

 Titus 2:11-12

 

Consider our Dress

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

Proverbs 31:25

 

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

1 Timothy 2:9

 

Consider our Speech and Thoughts

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;

Philippians 4:5

 

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3 (NIV)

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

 

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth.  Therefore let your words be few. 

Ecclesiastes 5:2-3

 

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Titus 2:6-8

 

Consider the standard for Christian Leaders

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

Titus 1:7-8

 

Older Christians to be models for younger Christians

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

 Titus 2:2-5

 

Consider Self-Control In all things

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Proverbs 25:28

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

 Titus 2:11-12

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

The temperate person lives within restraints and keeps his life under control.  Self-control is not strict adherence to rules.  Further, this is not done through sheer willpower, through grit teeth or rank stubbornness … it is done through the Spirit of our Lord and the strength that only He can give.  It is for the purpose of glorifying God by living self-controlled, upright and godly lives before those we come in contact with, in direct contrast to the worldly life that is so chaotic and random, without control or order.

 

Thinking back to last week’s lesson, is our life a jungle or a garden?  Are we tending it and, through self-control, weeding out the bad and developing the good for our Lord’s sake?  Have we committed ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that He can transform us into the image of Christ?

 

Let us develop self-control to the honor of God through the power of the Holy Spirit!

  

Blessings to you and I pray that you have been blessed as we have studied 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.   Next week we will have the final conclusion for the study; please join me as we seek to learn and do the will of our Father. 

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.

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.