Disassembling your sin!

We have several beautiful oak trees in our front yard.   They are all many, many years old, and they shade the front of the house.  The squirrels loved the acorns that they dropped, and we raked like crazy in the fall when the leaves dropped from their branches.

Tree before removal began
The oak tree close to the house.

Years earlier we had a cable run to unite the two trunks of the tree closest to the house so that it would not fall on the house if it split at its base.  Recently, we called the experts in to look at the tree after huge limbs were dropped in the yard after a particularly strong storm and damaged the roof.  This is what we were told:  “The tree is disassembling itself.”

I had never heard of this situation, but it certainly seemed to describe what was going on in the front yard with this particular tree.  So, we contracted with a tree service and they brought out a large bucket truck and began taking the tree down, piece by piece.

Tree being disassembled
The branches have been removed and they are now taking down the tree trunk in pieces!

They clearly knew what they were doing.  No huge branches hit the house and no one was injured on the ground.  No branch hit anyone on the ground and the young man in the lift did not fall out!  The limbs came down tethered and they descended to the ground with orchestrated precision. 

Man working on stump showing the last part of the tree trunk laying on ground
The tree trunk is on the ground, the giant has fallen.  It is now “disassembled” entirely.

Two and one-half hours later, the trunk of this over-60-foot-tall oak was the last remaining part of the tree, other than the stump, of course.  The stump reveals the age of the tree, and it gives some indication of all the climactic events in its life.

The stump of our aged tree
The remaining stump of the magnificent tree reveals its history and age.

The front of the house seems bare now that the tree is gone.  I’m glad we will no longer have roof repairs made necessary from branches that pierced the roof when they fell or that upended shingles with the weight of the limb.  Now, however, we will be able to have grass and flowers in the yard that were not possible because of the shade from the tree and because of the amount of water that the tree took out of the ground.  Grass did not have a chance!  Now, it does.

I began to wonder about my life.  The tree was “disassembling” … are there areas in my life that I need to “disassemble”?  Are there things that I have held on to for many years which are hindering my walk with the Lord Jesus Christ?  Are there attitudes or emotions that are preventing me from having the full joy that the Lord desires for me?  Are there things that have occurred which I have refused to forgive?  Do I harbor resentment or ill-will toward another person? 

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.  They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,  slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Romans 1:28-31

This catalog of unrighteousness behavior that Paul writes for us in Romans 1 is certainly not the only negative behavior that scripture warns against, but it is comprehensive.  We would surely agree that “murder” and “deceit” are evil and illustrative of unrighteousness.  But I am somewhat more silent when I consider other unrighteous deeds committed by people who are “gossips”, “haughty, boastful”, “foolish” and “heartless”.  Those attitudes and actions hit rather close to home, almost like the limbs of the tree hitting the roof of the house.

In John, chapter 8, men of the town brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in adultery.  They were accusing her and saying that she should be stoned.  You will recall the story that Jesus heard this and wrote in the ground.  Then we read this:

 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

John 8:7-11.

Beloved, disassemble those things that hinder your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.   Confess your sin and stop it.  When you fail, confess your sin and stop it.

Ultimately, the Lord will help you conquer that besetting sin.  You will have “disassembled” the tree of unrighteousness and can move forward in your life of faith without the hindrance of besetting sin dogging your trail.

Lord, I confess to you that there are many areas of my life that need to be “disassembled” through Your Word and Your Spirit.  Give me the courage to do that which would enable me to walk according to Your Word, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

GOD’S GLORY MADE MANIFEST IN THE SKY

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

On August 21, 2017, many of us in the continental United States had the opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse.  While I am told that eclipses occur frequently, there has not been a coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the United States since 1918.

Solar Eclipse in totality with large corona
The corona visible during the Solar Eclipse in Totality on August 21, 2017, as seen in Maryville, Tennessee

The moon cast a 70-mile wide shadow over the earth as it traversed between ourselves and the sun.  How could the moon block out the sun?  The numbers are easy to understand but incredible to comprehend.  The sun is 400 times greater than the moon, but the moon is 400 times closer to the earth than the sun.

Even though you no longer can see the sun itself in the total solar eclipse, its power is impossible to contain as the corona emanates from the sun while the moon appears to linger on its journey. The corona is a superheated region of plasma located above the sun’s photosphere, and scientists assert that it extends for over five million kilometers.  Staggering figures that give further evidence of the magnificence of our Creator God.   

There are many who will write tomes about this eclipse, and my offering here will surely be rudimentary and simplistic, but, after seeing this heavenly event, I can only be in awe of God’s majesty and glory, repeating what the Psalmist said:

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.  

Psalm 145:5

God has chosen to communicate Himself to us through the glory and majesty of His created order, nature.  The theologians call this General Revelation or Natural Revelation – that is to say, these are the works or acts by which God reveals himself through nature. 

The purpose of General Revelation is to make God’s eternal power and deity manifest to all mankind. 

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.

Romans 1:18-20.

The solar eclipse caused me to sing praises to my God and the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ.  Truly His eternal power and divine nature were on clear display during the eclipse, confirming the truth that His majesty is above earth and heaven.  His glorious splendor is apparent in His creation, and His works are, indeed, wondrous.  Praise God that He has provided evidence of Himself in nature and in His created order.

Father, I thank You for the privilege of watching Your creation operate in such wondrous ways.  I praise Your name for the gift of seeing Your power and majesty as they are exhibited in Your creation.  You are God, and there is none like You.  Praise and honor are due to You, and You alone.

 

EVIDENCE OF FAITH

We need rain!  In East Tennessee we currently have multiple fires burning sending smoke into the air in a spreading blanket of contamination across the area.  While we have needed rain for several months, it was only of passing general interest.

I drafted this post before the air quality alerts went into effect and the need for significant rain became obvious on a daily basis.  The initial focus of the post is rain,  but its application relates to faith in all areas of our life.  May it be a blessing and a challenge to you, my dear Reader.

 

A friend sent me a modern parable that goes something like this:

It was especially dry, and the village needed water but no rain was in the offing.  In response to the situation, all the villagers decided to pray for rain.  On the day of prayer, all the people gathered and prayed, but only one boy came with an umbrella.  That’s FAITH.

This parable reminds me of an Old Testament story illustrating faith.  There had been no rain in the land as a judgment by God on the people and evil King Ahab, and this act of judgment was to be relieved only by Elijah’s word.  I Kings 17.  After winning the challenge between Baal and God on Mount Carmel, the people repented of their sin in going after other gods, and they said that the Lord would be their Lord.

Thus, the prophet prayed for relief from God’s judgment.  After petitioning God for rain, the following discourse occurred between Elijah and his servant.

And he [Elijah] said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he [the servant] went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he [Elijah] said, “Go again,” seven times.  And at the seventh time he [the servant] said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he [Elijah] said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.'”

1 Kings 18:43-44. 

rain-in-mississippi
A massive rain storm in Mississippi. Rain is visibly falling in several places as we were heading toward the storm.

Elijah sent his servant to look for the rain cloud … 7 times.  And, that 7th time the servant saw “a little cloud like a man’s hand”.  Although no rain had yet fallen, Elijah told the servant to go tell the king to get ready to run now, otherwise you will be stuck in the mud because of the rain.  That’s FAITH.

What is scriptural faith?  In the Bible, the writer of Hebrews describes faith as follows:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. … And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:1, 6.

It is not faith in everything that comes along, nor is it a blind faith that has no foundation. Your faith is misplaced if you sit in a small plastic chair for it will collapse under the weight of a 250 pound person.  Clearly, the amount of your faith is not in question — you acted on your faith by physically sitting down.  The problem was that the object of your faith was seriously deficient. 

Faith in God, the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, the Lover of our souls, and the foundation of our salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord is the faith that provides peace, support, and salvation.  Faith alone in God, through Christ Jesus, is the path to eternal life.

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

John 14:6.

Paul testified:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17.   Note, the King James Version of verse 17 uses the more familiar language “The just shall live by faith.”   The meaning of the two translations is the same – God justifies and declares us righteous through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:1-2.

Jesus repeatedly told persons during His ministry that the faith of those He healed had made them well.  For example:

Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

Matthew 9:22

Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.”

Matthew 9:29

And He said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:19

These people had faith that Jesus could heal them, an event that had not occurred but was to be in the future.  Because of their faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, they were healed so that God would be glorified.  It was at that point that their faith became a reality.

So, when you pray, do you have faith that you will receive an answer to your prayer?  The answer may not come immediately, and it may not come in a form that you expect; but there will be an answer.  David understood that God would answer his prayer according to God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

But as for me, my prayer is to You, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of Your steadfast love answer me in Your saving faithfulness.

Psalm 69:13

Praise God that He is faithful, that He abounds in steadfast love.  He is in control, He is the Almighty God, and He will respond to the prayer of faith in His time and in His way.

By the way, do you know where your umbrella is?

Father, I pray that I would have more faith so that I would be the one who brings the umbrella when prayers are raised up for rain.  I pray that my prayers would not just take up my time but that they would come before you in your majesty and power.  And, I pray that I would not be faint when the answer seems to be so long in coming; may I trust in your unfailing love and mercy and may I rest in your grace, through Christ my Savior I pray.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, GOODNESS, part one

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 17

GOODNESS – A FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTIC OF GOD

PART ONE

In his sermons compiled as The Glorious Feast of the Gospel by Richard Sibbes, an Elizabethan Era theologian, teacher and preacher, he makes the following statement: 

Here you may see that God doth veil heavenly things under earthly things, and condescends so low as to enter into the inward man by the outward man. For our apprehensions are so weak and narrow that we cannot be acquainted with spiritual things, but by the inward working of the Spirit of the Almighty.

 

Simply, we cannot understand spiritual things except for His imparting that ability to us.  This is precisely what we have been speaking about throughout this series. The Holy Spirit resides within us and it is He, and only He, who can teach us of the fruit of the Spirit as we allow Him to do so.   

What does Scripture say?

 

So, turning to Galatians 5, we read:

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.  

 

The Greek word used here is ἀγαθωσὐνη.  The transliteration is agathosyne. According to Strong’s Lexicon, it means “uprightness of heart, goodness, kindness.”

 

Dr. R. C. Sproul notes, in the Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series from Ligonier Ministries, that goodness is a relative term and that any definition must be based on a standard.  First, there is an external and an internal aspect of goodness.  Externally, a good deed is one that appears to conform to the demands of the law … but this is not the full definition of a good deed.  Rather, it also incorporates an element related to motivation.  Internally, a good deed is one that is motivated by a desire to please God in our vertical relationship with Him.  The concept of goodness as moral excellence is evidenced horizontally in our personal relationships by unwavering integrity and a generosity to others that is based on the recognition of how God has blessed us through Christ.  Further, there is a new ability to appreciate excellence and beauty, this being evidence of the beauty, order and exquisite detail of God’s nature and character.

 

The Jews knew that to call yourself good was to take an attribute of God and apply it to yourself, something that was clearly within the definition of blasphemy and not to be taken lightly, as is evidenced by Jesus’ response to the man in Mark 10:18 where He says:

 

“Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.” 

Mark 10:18.

 

Paul said in Romans 3:11-12: 

“None is righteous, no, not one;   no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”

 

Given Jesus’ statement that only God is good, and given Paul’s assertion that no one is good on their own, it really is a futile gesture for us to look within ourselves for goodness.  Why?  Because of sin. Sin has robbed us of the good that God granted to us at creation. 

 

We know that Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And, if you are like me, you have learned that sin is “missing the mark,” rather like shooting an arrow at God’s glory and the arrow fell short. 

 

However, John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, (Crossway Publishers, 1998) argues that the Greek definition of the word for “falling short” (husterountai) means “lack”.  The concept focuses not so much on the missed target but on the fact that you were aiming at the wrong target.  In other words, Piper says that sin is where you could have had God’s glory as a treasure but you chose something else instead.

 

In Romans 1:23, Paul confirms this concept when he says that people “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.”  John Piper elaborates on Paul’s statement when he says: “This is the deepest problem with sin – it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute.  This is the great insult” to God.  We choose sugarcoated misery while at the same time we mock and dismiss as irrelevant the God upon whom our very existence depends. 

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

While believing that we ourselves are good may be arrogance of the highest order, it is by far not a new problem.  In Jeremiah 2:12-13 we read the Lord’s words saying that the people’s dismissal of God is appalling. 

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the L
ORD, for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

 

The people had needs that the Lord was ready to provide, but they did not want His help – they wanted to do it their own way without realizing that their way was incapable of satisfying.  

 

Unfortunately, the Old Testament people of Israel are not the only ones who miss the mark, who have traded a counterfeit for the only real, living God, and who sin in word, deed, and thought; it occurs today in 2016 just as it has in all the years since the fall.  We may not have idols of wood or precious metals that we have fashioned with our hands, but we sin in trading God for our bank account, or for our self-confidence, or for our family, or for Hollywood stars, or for our houses, or for our successes, or … well you fill in the blank. 

 

What does this have to do with the Fruit of the Spirit?  A great deal!  Rather than simply wiping everyone out in judgment and condemnation as would be His right, our living, creating and loving God is GOOD. 

 

GOD IS GOOD.  It is a fundamental characteristic of His being and it is the underlying aspect of virtually all that He does, although we do not usually think of it in that way.   He is the source of all goodness.  In other words, Goodness is not an abstract concept – it is personal – it is WHO — it is part of the character of God.  The only reason we know anything at all about goodness is because God, who created us in His image, IS good.

 

Theologian J. I. Packer says God’s “sovereign redemptive love is one facet of the quality that Scripture calls God’s goodness”.  According to Packer, the supreme expression of God’s goodness is His amazing grace and inexpressible love that is evidenced by His saving sinners, who deserve only condemnation, at the tremendous cost of Christ’s death on Calvary

 

Next we week we will speak more of Goodness, its characteristics and how it is evident in our day to day life.  For now, bask in your relationship with our God who is Good and praise Him for his grace and inexpressible love extended to each of us!

 

 

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.  

 

 

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.

OPEN YOUR EYES … NOW, WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Have you been in the high mountains and soaked in the vista sweeping across the horizon for a far greater distance than that which you can usually see?

 

Blue Ridge Parkway view
Vista view from Blue Ridge Parkway overlook.

 

Things seem so different from that perspective. Have you ever had an opportunity to be in an airplane or on top of the mountain when you could see the fields, houses, rivers, buildings and roads below?

Knoxville Downtown (C)
Knoxville, Tennessee downtown from Sharp’s Ridge.

 

Looking at a city from the mountain top hides the random streets with roads clogged with traffic. It conceals the home with a messy yard or a tree that is less than beautiful when walking past on your evening stroll. Instead, all those features become one piece of the fabric that gives character to the overall motif when viewing things from above.

When I view the mountains …

Rocky Mountains from air (C)
Rocky Mountain peaks from an airplane.

 

or the oceans, …

Ocean waves and rock formation Oregon (C)
Pacific Ocean waves and rock formations along Oregon coast.

 

the minutia of the day is lost in the splendor and majesty of God’s creation. Indeed, God’s creation is awesome in its scope, beauty and power. Just check out Yosemite National Park, for example!

Yosemite water fall and downsream 2011 (C)
Yosemite National Park waterfall and downstream.

 

The Bible says in Genesis 1:1 that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In Deuteronomy, Moses prayed:

“O Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do?”
Deuteronomy 3:24.

The Psalmist says:

“Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.”
Psalm 104:1.

See the mighty Giant Sequoia Tree in King’s Canyon, California.

Sequoia -Yosemite 09 (C)
Giant Sequoia Tree in King’s Canyon, California.

 

God’s power is truly visible in the overwhelming splendor, beauty and majesty of His creation. His creation prompts us to praise Him for His mighty works.

But, His power is not only visible in the huge glorious vistas splayed out before us on this planet. His creative power is shown in the minute, as well.

Azalea in full bloom (C)
Azalea blooms up close and personal.

 

The detail in the flower of an azalea bush bespeaks of a Creator Who loves beauty.

Birds - American Goldfinch (C)
Goldfinch sitting atop branch in flower garden.

 

The glorious chirp and beauty of the Goldfinch as he sits atop a branch in the garden, searching for food, his mate, or just taking in the scenery.  God’s handiwork is evident even in this small creature.

Yes, God’s creativity is visible even in that which we walk past and ignore on a daily basis, in the beautiful birds, butterflies, flowers, clouds, sunsets, and in the myriad  of His majestic works which are simply too big for me to comprehend.

The Bible tells us that God wants us to know Him. Paul says in Romans 1:20:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…”

God, the Master Creator, has made the world and everything in it, including us. Such power, majesty and glory is too incredible for me to understand  – I only know that He wants to have a relationship with me. When I take my eyes off the problems, pain and discomfort of this life and look to Him in love, trust and obedience, then I remember that and I know that He loves me and is in control.

I am not a Polyanna who cannot see problems or pain – I have experienced both problems and pain on multiple occasions in my life. Rather, I am suggesting that, even in the middle of the problem or pain, you can look up to the Father Who loves you so much that He  sent his Son to be your Savior and Lord.  Becoming a Christian does end problems or pain, however.  When Paul asked that his “thorn in the flesh” be taken away, we read this:

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.

Pain will still be present, but His comfort and His grace is sufficient to overcome whatever the world may throw at us.

So, I ask you, “What do you see?” Keep your eyes open and expect to see God today. He is present and He will make Himself known to you, you just need to look and listen as His Spirit guides you through the day!

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24.

Praise the Lord!

 

Father, forgive me when I have focused so much on my own personal problems, pain, discouragement that I have failed to see You all around me. Open my eyes and my heart to your comforting care and draw me close to You, each day. May I praise your Name each day You give me the gift of life.

THEY LIKE ‘EM BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW ANY BETTER.

We were getting ready for breakfast when my beloved said that he felt like having waffles.

Now, in our home, we never have waffles – I no longer have a waffle iron and when I did have one, the waffles were almost inedible because they either were burned to a crisp or stuck on the cooking surface so when you opened the waffle iron to retrieve the food, you had to scrape the stuff off onto the plate in a clump … not particularly waffle-like!

But, in looking through the freezer, I found a box of waffles that I had purchased for breakfast when the grandchildren were with us. Not exactly sure how long they had been under the vegetables in the freezer, but I got at least one “wife point” for having waffles when they were requested!

After I toasted them, I put them on the plate along with the syrup and apple butter and we were ready for breakfast.

One taste was all it took to know that these were not going to get a blue ribbon in the waffle baking competition. As we were eating them in silence, I looked at my beloved and said “at least the grandchildren like ‘em!”

His response was

“They like ‘em because they don’t know any better!”

That prompted me to remember the Lord’s Word when describing how often human-kind satisfies itself with something less than the best.

Scripture tells us that the Israelites in the wilderness did exactly this … they exchanged their relationship with the Holy God for idols of their own creation.   Having never been to the Holy Land, when I think of the wilderness, I picture the terrain we saw as we approached Albuquerque, New Mexico. [I don’t know if this looks like what the Israelites experienced, but it gives me a visual image that helps when I read the Word.]

Albuquerque desert places
Albuquerque desert places

This incident is recorded in Exodus 32 where the people were tired of waiting for Moses who had gone up the mountain to speak with God. The people asked Aaron to make a god for them to worship, and he took their gold and made the calf.

And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf.

And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.”   And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

Exodus 32:4-6.

God, of course, saw this and told Moses to go down the mountain and speak to the people before he destroyed them in his fury. Moses pleaded with God and total destruction was averted, but turning their backs on God to follow a man-made god is a pattern that repeated itself throughout the Old Testament.

In Psalm 106:20 we read:

“They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.”

We read this and think “How in the world could they do that? They had direct experience with the power of God as they were lead away from Pharaoh and as they wandered through the wilderness with ample provision of food and water. God lead them with the pillars of cloud and fire and His presence was resident in the tabernacle. How could they ignore all that and turn to idols that they, themselves, had created?”

But before we point fingers, we need to look at ourselves. We may not have seen God’s hand as they did, but Paul tells us that all people have knowledge of God and His power just by looking at creation. This is called general revelation. Some examples of the variety of our God’s creative powers can be seen here:

The exquisite detail of a butterfly.

Butterfly munching on strawberry
Butterfly munching on strawberry

The human newborn baby, a complete adult in miniature.

Newborn baby asleep
Newborn baby asleep

In Romans 1:20 we read:

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.

The detail found in the myriad of beautiful flora and fauna in our world.

Beautiful flowers
Beautiful flowers

The majesty of mountain peaks, covered in snow even in June.

Mount Washington in distance, Oregon
Mount Washington in distance, Oregon

The ocean, peaceful power waiting to be unleashed.

Rugged Oregon coastline at the ocean
Rugged Oregon coastline at the ocean

Then, Paul tells what people have done, despite God’s creative general revelation that is available to all people.

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.

Romans 1:21-23.

This exchange of the immortal for that which is mortal, finite and of minimal power is what was forbidden in Exodus 20:3-6 which are the first two of the Ten Commandments.  We are to have no other gods and we are not to make any carved image to bow down to it or serve it.

Stonehenge, burial area for ancient peoples
Stonehenge, burial area for ancient peoples

Stonehenge in England is thought to be an ancient site for burial and for processions related to the sun.

In Isaiah, the prophet quotes the message that God has for the people and in Isaiah 42 and 43 there is the repeated statement that God is the LORD. See for example,

Isaiah 43 verses 11 through 13 assert:

I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

Isaiah 42 verses 5 and 8 tell us:

Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: … “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”

While the grandchildren might be satisfied with old, frozen waffles because they have never had the fresh, hot and steaming with goodness real thing, we cannot say that our turning to idols is because we never had any knowledge of The Real Thing. God has given us every breath we take – God has created our universe and all that is in it. Each person, in their heart of hearts, knows that God is but this is a far cry from worshiping God in spirit and in truth.  Even people in our 21st century who are too urbane to believe in God, have decided that our world was created by “an intelligent being”.

Idols that man creates for himself may be wood or stone, but, in this day and time, they are probably a bit more intangible:

  • Fame
  • Popularity
  • Success in business
  • Recognition
  • Yourself
  • Big house, boat, car, whatever
  • Big bank account
  • Independence from anyone or anything

In comparison, the Living God who demands our worship:

  • is the one who created.
  • is the one who saves.
  • is the one who provides life.
  • is the one who is the Living God.
  • is the one who loves us with an everlasting love.
  • is the one who sent his Son to be our propitiation, our savior and our Lord.
  • is the omniscient, omnipresent, almighty God, and there is no other god before him.

When we worship our own gods, we are robbing God of what is rightfully his. We are unilaterally transferring honor, praise and glory to something far less than God. When we worship gods that cannot save or even reply, that cannot move or act on our behalf, that have no power over fire, wind or evil, we are guilty of sin against the Holy God, Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Let us repent and praise God for his grace, mercy and love, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Father, forgive me when I have traded my relationship with you for worshiping gods of my own making. When I have acted as though I am god, forgive me. When I have created gods of my own choosing, or when I am unintentionally worshiping something other than you, forgive me and point out my sin so that I may repent and be restored to a right relationship with you. I praise you and honor you, my Creator, my Savior, and my God.