Attitude – What is yours?

The story is told that an old man was wearing a shirt that sported the following sentence: “I am not 80 years old…I am sweet 16 with 64 years of experience”.  That is an example of ATTITUDE.  There are all sorts of variations on that theme, but recently I saw a marque sign at a motel that was unique, and it made me laugh.  While I don’t think it really had anything to do with the motel, I loved the sign, drove around the block to see it once more, and then took a picture of it so I would remember what it said:

Sign - winter fat gone
“My winter fat is gone, now I have spring rolls!”

You may have heard that before, but I had not.  I think it illustrates an attitude that does not bemoan circumstances, rather it acknowledges facts and moves on.   

The reality is that we all have things about ourselves that are less than flattering, perhaps some more than others, but each of us is held captive by some negative comment made by others that has shaped our own image into a false image which we cannot seem to overcome. 

Beloved, the eternal reality is that Jesus Christ loved us when there was NOTHING to love.  We were sinners through and through.  Adam determined that way back when he ate the forbidden fruit, and we have been under that original sin curse ever since.  We have no beauty in us, even the good things that we do are marred by sin and self-interest, by pride and arrogance, and by disobedience of God’s law. 

Paul said it this way:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:6-8

Let those words sink into your heart and into your mind … God loved us while we were sinners.  But He could not leave us as sinners because of His holy justice.  So, He sent Christ to die for us.  Christ paid our debt on the cross.  We no longer have to struggle to try to please God because that has already occurred.  We just need to claim Christ as our Savior and Lord, and we then live a life that is in conformity with His Word.

That means that the false image that plagues you today is washed away by the blood of the Lamb of God.  What does God see when He looks at you?   We know what He sees because His Word tells us:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Isaiah 1:18

In referencing what the Lord Jesus did for us, Paul says this about God sending His Son:

“For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Jesus Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:21

For those in Jesus Christ, God sees the Lord’s righteousness when He looks at us.  We are covered in the robes of our Lord and His righteousness.  No false image, no trying to be good enough, no sin and no fear of God because He has given His Son to be our Savior.  

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Romans 8:16-17

So, what should be our attitude?  Paul, farther along in the same chapter, supplies the thrilling answer:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

Many people want to be a conqueror, but we are more than merely conquerors … we are children of the Sovereign, Almighty, Creator, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent GOD, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Attitude – it should not be arrogant because we are children of the King, rather it should be that of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We should be servant to all because we are nothing more than sinners, saved by grace.  For that we should be eternally thankful.  So, what is your attitude?

Father, please forgive me when i have let the opinions of other men and women dictate what I think of myself.  Give me the strength and courage to look only to You for my meaning, worth and value.  Enable me to think in terms of eternality rather than earthly, and let me remember that my true value is seen in terms of Jesus and His righteousness.

“DON’T DO IT!  UH UH -NO!”

It seems that we have recently focused on our canine children as illustrations of spiritual lessons for our daily lives.  Today is no exception as our MinPin doggie daughters, also known as “the girls”, have once again tried our patience.

We have tried to “train” the girls to stay put in one place while we are eating our meals.  The original intent of this routine was to stop them from barking while we are eating, and also to stop them from begging during the meal.  It has, for the most part, stopped the barking.  But, it has not been as successful with the begging.

Usually their “place” is the living room sofa as we are eating dinner in the dining room, in full site of them.  When we have finished our meal, we will say “you’re through” and they are to come bounding up to the table for a good girl treat, thankful to their parents that they are being so wonderfully rewarded.  That is what is supposed to happen.

Doggies ready to jump
Doggies ready to jump!

What actually happens is that they go to their “place” right away when we tell them to do so as we are sitting down to the table.  Then, when the wait is too long or if the aroma is especially exciting to them (such as the smell of bacon), they hop down and come over to the table where we are sitting.  At first, they would just run over and jump up at our side to tell us that they are there.  We, then, point to the sofa, say “Uh Uh – No, go back, place” and they run back, jumping up on the sofa and sitting as if they were good girls.

If we are engaged in serious conversation during dinner, they become stealth doggies.  They slide off the sofa and sneak through the kitchen so we don’t see them walking around.  Then they cut between us to get under the table in the hopes that something will have fallen through a crack.  We find out that one or both are under the table when we move our feet and hit something.  Then, we again, point to the sofa and say the dreaded words “Uh Uh – No, go back!”. 

I suspect that we are not the only ones that have this experience.  However, aside from the humorous smiles that their actions might induce, there is a parallel with my own life experiences and obedience, and it is not at all humorous.

As long ago as when the law was given to the Israelites, God said:

“So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 22:31

Again, in the wilderness they were told:

“You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.”

Deuteronomy 13:4

God is serious about our being obedient to His commandments.  In fact, Jesus used obedience to His commandments as the test of our love for Him.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. …  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

John 14:15, 21

In full recognition of the fact that we could not keep Jesus’ commandments through our own power, Jesus told His disciples that, after His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit would be sent to help them do that which He commanded them.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 14:26

Moreover, the Holy Spirit seals us in Christ. He is the surety, the guarantor of our salvation. 

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

Ephesians 1:13

Indeed, one of the Holy Spirit’s assignments with respect to believers is to transform us into the image of our Lord and Savior. 

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

When God has told me to stay in a difficult situation, I try to jump out of it, a classic definition of disobedience.  When I do, it is as if I hear the Holy Spirit saying “Don’t do it. Uh Uh – No!”.   Often I obey that voice and repent from my attempted jump of disobedience.  But, there are times when I disobey intentionally and then, too, I must repent of my arrogant disobedience and seek forgiveness, asking the Spirit to strengthen me so that I am able to resist temptation. 

God has given us His Word and His Spirit who indwells the believer in Jesus Christ.  The Spirit transforms us and renews our mind so that, as we are sanctified, we are conformed to the image of Jesus.  But that process is not linear. 

By that I mean, it is not a smooth road toward transformation.  We struggle and fail to obey the directives that are clearly given in Scripture and brought to our attention through the Holy Spirit.  Praise the Lord that when we have been disobedient, the Holy Spirit still is within us and He will tenderly guide you back into relationship with Him and with our Lord if you will confess your sin and repent. 

Next time you see your canine or Homo sapiens children disobeying your directive, stop and ponder whether there is something in your own life for which you need to confess and repent.  Is there some act of disobedience that you need to address?  Is the Holy Spirit saying “Uh Uh – No!”? 

The Psalmist knew the sweet fellowship with God that confession and repentance provides when he said:

Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah.  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”

Psalm 32:2-5

When David sinned, and kept silent, he was tormented day and night because of his guilt.  When he turned to God and confessed his sin, he was forgiven and he could say “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity”.  Happy is the one who does not stand before God covered in the guilt of his sin. 

Doggies patiently waiting
Obedient doggies!

Praise God that the Spirit says “Uh Uh – No!” preventing us from sinning, but praise God also that when we fail to be obedient, we can be restored to full fellowship with Him through confession and repentance. 

Father, I praise You for Your Holy Spirit and for the work that He does in my life as He guides me and leads me in the path that I should take.  Thank You too that Your Spirit also stops me from disobeying and, when I do sin, that He leads me back into the fold.  I praise Your Holy Name.

MIRRORS AND REFLECTIONS

Did you ever go to the circus or perhaps an arcade “fun house” when you were a child, or perhaps you took your children or grandchildren?  If so, you may have seen the mirrors that you walk past which create a deformed reflection of yourself.  Remember?

One wavy mirror reflected a very T A L L you, while the next wavy mirror reflected a very short you.  The next mirror, the one that I hated, reflected a chubbier version of yourself.  As a child, I understood that I did not look like what the mirrors showed, and I also understood that I would not change my shape that fast.  But, there was always a little something tugging at my self-image – what if the mirror really showed me how I looked to others?

Mirrors are fun.  I recall our grandson making faces in the mirror when he was a small child.

mirror

Mirrors can confuse your pets as well.  When we first introduced Cuddles to our home, she barked at each window and mirror, apparently thinking that there was another dog in the house.

Cuddles frightened by reflection in mirror

If you look at the picture carefully, you will see her eyes reflected in the center of and at the bottom of the dresser’s center section of the mirror.  Even today, several years after coming to the house, she will look in a mirror and stare, cocking her head and watching that the dog in the mirror does the same thing.  Funny to us, but sometimes scary to her.

Mirrors are not the only things that provide reflective images. 

USED Mirror lake (C)
I love this picture of Mirror Lake, taken with a sepia tone filter.

We can see ourselves reflected in the still waters of a lake or pond.  But, while rivers have the same water that is found in the lake, the river is running, and the surface of the water is not calm, so the reflection is not visible.

Scripture talks about images and reflections.  We say that we want to know what God is like, but we cannot see Him because He is Spirit.  But, we have seen what God is like.  We have seen Him in Jesus Christ, our Lord.  In speaking of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews says:

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for [our] sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”

Hebrews 1:3

Jesus is the visible, earthly presence of the holy God, Father Almighty.  He, Jesus, holds all power and authority in heaven and on earth, and He is our Savior.  The mirror of Jesus Christ is not wavy nor is it fuzzy.  Jesus is the exact imprint of God in physical, visible, touchable form. 

Our problem is that we are mortal, made of dust.  But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, He has enabled us to be transformed into His image. 

“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”

1 Corinthians 15:49

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

This transformation does not occur all at one time … we still bear our carnal, earthly nature even after we have been saved from our sin by the gracious love of our Lord and Savior.  For example, Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says:

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 [New Living Translation]

Our growth in Christ and our transformation into His image takes place as we study His Word, as we worship with other believers, as we hear His Gospel proclaimed, as we obey His voice, as we pray and intercede for others, as we live a life in conformity to the commands of our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

How do I know that this will take place?  Scripture tells me that I need to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only.

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

James 1:23-25

So Beloved, do you look into the mirror of Scripture and see what it says, then going home and forgetting what you have seen?  Or, do you look into the mirror of Scripture and persevere as you do that which you have seen and heard, as you serve the Lord in humility and in love, as you praise Jesus Christ and His Father for your salvation and for your life in grace, as you praise the Holy Spirit for His presence in your life and for His guidance as you are transformed into the likeness of Christ?

Mirror clock

Now is the time to repent and be justified by your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  Look into the mirror of His Word and allow the Holy Spirit to transform you from the man/woman of dust into the man/woman in the image of Jesus Christ.

Father, I pray that Your Spirit would transform me into the image of Your Beloved Son, so that I can be a witness to others of His love and mercy, of His atoning sacrifice, of His serving nature as He did all that You asked of Him.  I pray that I would look into the mirror of Your Word and see where I am lacking, and then do that which Your Word directs so that I will grow into the likeness of my Lord.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – SOVEREIGNTY

Unlike centuries ago, we no longer have many sovereigns in our world today.  When we visited England, we stayed in London and went to Buckingham Palace, one of the homes of Queen Elizabeth II.  It is in downtown London and it takes up significant acreage with the palace, gardens and grounds.

2011-04 England 139

Looking at Buckingham Palace from across the grounds you can get a glimpse at the magnitude of the Queen’s residence. 

2011-04 England 152

Standing closer, we could see the guard making his route securing the sovereign, as we were on the other side of the gate looking in with a throng of others.  

We in the United States have a hard time with the concept of “sovereignty”.  Our whole corporate psyche is centered on freedom.  We believe that we were born free, to live as and where we choose while doing whatever it is that we want to do.  No caste system.  No one dictating what profession or job we must take.  No one telling us where we can or cannot live.  

Having a person over us who is sovereign is exactly what our forefathers rebelled against and it was the springboard for the Revolutionary War between our country and England.

So, when we come to the attribute of God that is titled “Sovereignty”, we have a hard time comprehending all that such term entails.  It is easy to speak the words that “God is in control of everything.”  But the reality of a Sovereign God is much more far-reaching than a platitude.

In Exodus chapter 18, we have a beautiful vignette of Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro:

“And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and [how] the LORD had delivered them. Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, “Blessed [be] the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, [and] who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.  Now I know that the LORD [is] greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, [He was] above them.“”

Exodus 18:8-11 NKJV

Jethro was glad for the deliverance of Moses and the children of Israel and, after Moses had described all that God had done in Egypt, Jethro rejoiced and praised the LORD who is sovereign over all.  Nothing that some people may attribute to a god is outside His sovereign control.

The Psalmist says this about God’s sovereignty:

“Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

Psalm 115:2-3

God is sovereign over all mankind or anything that he worships, nothing compares to our God and Lord.

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

Proverbs 21:1

God is sovereign over other monarchs on earth – while the king might be making plans, the Lord God controls that which happens.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

Proverbs 16:33

As with kings, even the common man is subject to the sovereignty of God.  Men cast lots and then make their decisions based on that result, but God is the One who controls the decision that the lot mandates.

In fact, God is even sovereign over the actions of animals.

Recall what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 10:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:29-31

Now, remember Jonah’s free transportation in the belly of the great fish, and then, at the word of the Lord, his being catapulted from the fish onto dry land.  Jonah 2:10.   Also, remember how God gave Balaam’s donkey the power of speech when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the street, but his master did not.  Numbers 22.

There is nothing outside the control of God’s loving hand.

  • Not the plans of the wicked even if they are dictators or despots.
  • Not the way our physical world works which sometimes seems to be in opposition to mankind such as when there are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, or droughts.
  • Not the actions of demons or even Satan, remember how Satan had to get permission to test Job and could only take action within the confines established by God.
  • Not even my own free will. Regarding salvation, we may believe that we accepted Jesus through our own free will, but even then, it is God Who quickens our heart to become aware of our sin and our need of His grace. 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:28, 38-39 

God’s sovereignty is a tremendous comfort to the believer because it enables him to have confidence that he does not need to fear, God is still on His throne and He is still sovereign – in charge – in control, no matter what might be going on in this temporal world.

We must remember that when sin entered the world, man had turned himself into a headlong catapult toward sickness, illness, pain, sorrow and death.  God intervened in Genesis 3:15 where we learn of a Redeemer, a Savior Who will pay the price of sin and redeem God’s children for Himself.  We all must die physically because of the curse of sin on our mortal bodies.  But, we don’t have to die spiritually if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.   

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:31-32, 35, 37

Beloved, God’s sovereignty is an attribute that is hard for us to comprehend but it is the basis of God’s providence.  We know that God’s will, His providence, shall prevail because God’s sovereignty mandates it.  Nothing can defeat God’s will.  Praise His Holy Name!

God’s sovereignty + His love for His children

=

Unassailable confidence and comfort for the believer.

 

Father, there are no words available to express my praise and love for You and for Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Lord, I cannot comprehend Your sovereignty and all that such attribute entails, but I do have confidence in You and Your sovereignty brings comfort to my heart.  Thank You, Lord.

 

FAMILIES

We know what families are – the traditional family was father, mother, children. 

The extended family was father, mother, children, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, and in the South, you also would add the “kissin’ cousins”.  (Having my roots in the North, I don’t exactly know what they are, but you hear it anyway!)

Go cart with grandpa
Papa and Grandson at a go-kart track.  Not at all certain which of these fine men had more fun, but I believe it was Papa!

Then there are the folks who play a role in the family but who are not blood-line related.  I’m thinking of the Grandma and Grandpa my children had when they were very young children.  My parents were hundreds of miles away and this wonderful couple had no children, but they bridged the generation gap and “adopted” my children as if they were their own grandchildren.

Gramma Ford
The “Grandma” feeding a precious child who she loved as her own..

When we would visit, the children ran to the kitchen and found the drawer where “Grandma” kept “kid friendly” candy at just the right eye level for them to see and grab. 

When we moved from one city to another, the children came under the care of another “Grandpa and Grandma” who lived just a few doors away from us. 

Jim and Virginia Metzger
Grandpa Jim and Grandma Virginia kept the children when I had to travel for work.

In fact, Grandpa Jim taught my daughter not to be afraid of dogs during the time they took care of her when I was a single parent and was out of town for work on an extended case. 

On a whole other note but no less significant to dear friends of ours, we are now taking care of a canine daughter of an elderly couple who have suffered pneumonia and the flu and are now in rehab to regain their strength.  Not being able to have their pup with them was a terrible concern for them, a concern which was alleviated by bringing her into our home.  This picture of her resting comfortably with our girls brought comfort to this “Mom and Dad”. 

Doggies with friend.jpg
The MinPins with their temporary sibling!

The marvelous wonder of each of these relationships is that they were from our church “family.”  Each of the couples who cared for the children and who are the loving “parents” of our canine guest are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and they worshipped with us every Sunday, and often during the week as well.

Scripture teaches us that believers in Jesus Christ are children of God. 

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Romans 8:16-17

When we are received by the Holy Spirit and indwelt by Him through belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are adopted into God’s family.  We become children of God and each believer becomes our brother or our sister in the Lord.

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Ephesians 3:6

The Christians of the first century were Jewish, just as Jesus and each of the Apostles were Jewish.  Saul of Tarsus was a Jewish leader who persecuted the Christians.  He was going to Damascus to continue that persecution when he encountered the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  In Acts 9:15 we read that Saul, later to become Paul, was commissioned to minister to the Gentiles.  In preparation for Saul/Paul’s ministry, the Lord asked a disciple named Ananias to go and care for him.  He was understandably resistant given the fact that he knew Saul was coming to Damascus to round-up and persecute the Christians.   

“But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

Paul later wrote to the Galatians and said:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 3:28

So, for the believer, his/her family is far broader than the bloodline would seem to indicate.  The Christian’s spiritual genealogy includes all the men and women and boys and girls who have been adopted into God’s family.  The love of Christ is shed abroad to each of the family members and, when one needs help, the body rushes in to care for the wounded.

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he included a commendation for their works of brotherly love that extended to other bodies of believers throughout the area.

“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,”

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

So, who is your family?  Certainly, your family is, at least, those who live under your roof, and the Christian has a clear obligation to care for and provide for his/her family. 

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

1 Timothy 5:8

But it is broader than that – for the Christian, the family is all those who worship the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is particularly those that worship with you, and we are charged to take care of the family of God.

So, who is your family?  Are there needs that have gone unmet?  Can you meet those needs?  Can you lend assistance to someone who is in your church family?  Can you bring encouragement to someone who is being attacked because of their faith?  The list of needs and opportunities is endless.

So, who is in your family and what needs might they have that you could alleviate?

Father, I pray that we would take the words of your Word and put them into effect in our hearts and in our actions.  I pray that we would not read your Word without being affected by it, without being transformed by it, without having it take root in our words and actions.  Let us be Your hands and feet to those who are in need, through the power of Your Spirit, I pray.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD — IMMANENCE AND IMMUTABILITY

Today we are considering two aspects of God’s nature that we almost never think about, but which are aspects of the majesty of God with respect to His relationship with us – Immanence and Immutability.

IMMANENCE

Immanence is a fancy way of saying God is with us, always.  Our God is at hand and He works even through the minutiae of our lives to produce a love for and enjoyment of His Word and, in fact, of Himself.  This attribute is in direct opposition to the concept that God established the world and then just walked away and left it to spiral wherever it wanted to go.  That God did not involve Himself with the creation; once the creation was done, He was finished with it and things could go well or poorly and God didn’t really care.

In Jeremiah, God asks:

“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 23:23-24

The Psalmist frequently talks about God and His relationship with the creation.  One of my favorite chapters is Psalm 139 where David says God knows him so well that He even knows when we stand or sit, or recline in slumber.  God is so near that He knows what we are going to say, even before we express the words out loud.  There is absolutely nowhere on earth or heaven or hell that we can go where God cannot see us, reach us, hear us.  This chapter extols the immanence of God, without using that term.  Beloved, read this chapter and know that our God cares about you, personally and intimately.

In Acts 17, verses 27-28 we read:

“Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed His offspring.'”

Acts 17:27-28 

Scripture describes our God as One who does not sit back and merely observe a creation which He set in motion millennia ago; He is present and actively participating in His world.

What does this mean to you as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?  Immanence is an attribute of God that provides the believer confident rest in the knowledge that there is no place or situation that is too far to be under God’s providence and protecting hand.  Things may be difficult as far as this world is concerned, but there is no reason to fear that things will remove you from His love and care.

Paul put it best:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

IMMUTABILITY

Our world is always changing.  Even things that we consider unchangeable, immoveable – actually do change.

Half dome (C)
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Mountains such as those found in Yosemite appear so strong and solid, and they are – at least until God shakes them in an earthquake.  But even mountains are changed, albeit gradually, by the ravages of weather. 

Yosemite giant sequoia fallen tree (C)
Giant Sequoia Tree fell and its root system was exposed.

Even Giant Sequoia Trees that have stood for centuries, change and, at some point, will come crashing to the earth.  Change in this world is inevitable.

Because of this, we have a hard time contemplating the attribute of immutability.  Nothing in this world stays the same … everything changes.  But not so with God. 

Not only does God know every little thing that is going on with each one of us, His immanence, the attribute of immutability means that God will not change His mind when it comes to His ultimate will for His children’s care and protection. 

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Malachi 3:6

God, Himself, is saying that He does not change – a characteristic that is totally foreign to us.  He is immutable.  He is the same today as He was before creation even existed. 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

The fact that God does not change his mind, his characteristics, his plan, or anything else guarantees God’s character will remain the same and that which He has willed, will, in fact, occur.   

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

Hebrews 13:8

This gives the believer security to know that when we have been adopted into God’s family through faith, we can trust God not to change His mind and “unadopt” us on a whim.

No man can slip through His fingers into the breach of hell if that person is a child of God and has expressed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God neither changes His plan, His covenants, His prophecies, nor His justice. In other words, God is dependable – God is immutable!

Listen to the beautiful hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.   Note the words “As Thou has been, Thou forever wilt be.”  That’s immutability!  As you listen, identify other phrases that point to God’s immutability.  Praise Him that He is unchangeable, and He loves us with an unchanging love!

This hymn is sung by Robert and Robin Kochis on the album entitled “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.

Father, Your mercies, grace and love are magnificent.  Your involvement with us on a moment by moment basis is such comfort and security, even when things seem to be going poorly, we know that nothing will thwart Your plan for us.  I praise You for your Immanence and Immutability.  You are God.  I praise Your Holy Name.  May my life reflect Your grace to others throughout my days.

 

JOY TO THE WORLD

When Isaac Watts was a young man, he became dissatisfied with the quality of singing in the British churches.  The songs sung were almost entirely taken from the Psalms in Scripture which were translated into poems with rhyme and rhythm so that they could be sung.  Watts, therefore, began writing hymns to be sung that were outside the Psalter thereby “inventing” the English hymn. 

Nativity with angel and wisemen

He did not ignore the Psalms, however.  In 1719, Watts wrote Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament.  In this work, he paraphrased 138 psalms from the perspective of his New Testament faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   Watts stated that: “I have rather expressed myself as I may suppose David would have done if he lived in the days of Christianity.” 

The hymn “Joy to the World” was included in Watts’ work and it describes the incarnation of Christ, the presence of Christ in our hearts through the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the return of Christ as described in the book of Revelation. 

Psalm 98 depicts the salvation of God in three tenses:

  1. Salvation in the past for the people of Israel (verses 1-3)
  2. Salvation in the present for all the earth because God is King (verses 4-6) and
  3. Salvation in the future for the entire universe because God will be coming to judge at the end of time. (verses 7-9)

In other words, Christ is not just a Babe in the manger.  Christ is our Savior and, as such, He is the Victorious Warrior and Judge who is the fulfillment of David’s prayer for righteous deliverance.

Christ has won the battle.  It is the Lord who completed the prophesy of Genesis 3:15 as the One who put enmity between the serpent and the woman.  Both the carol and Psalm 98 tell us what our response should be to such great salvation given by our God.  For the Christian, the carol rightly proclaims Joy, which is our gift from God because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. 

God’s covenant people in all nations and of all tongues joyfully tell of His salvation and righteousness, His sovereign reign and judgment.  When we consider God and all that He has done on our behalf, both in the past and in the present, we cannot possibly do anything other than praise and worship Him.

Even nature joins in the celebration of praise.  Nature gives God praise because God is its creator. 

Paul says in Romans 8:18-23 that all creation waits and longs for the return of the Lord.  When man sinned in the Garden of Eden, all creation including nature was corrupted.  But, when Jesus Christ returns as the triumphant victor over sin, the creation will be released from bondage and will receive the freedom of the glory of the Lord.

Psalm 98 envisions the glorification that is referenced centuries later in the New Testament writings and to which we are still looking forward to with eager anticipation:

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

Revelation 22:20 

Here is “Joy to the World” from the Christmas program entitled “The Joy of Christmas”, as sung by the choir of my home church and as accompanied by members of the Knoxville Symphony. 

Scripture says:

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance” (Proverbs 15:13) and

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.” (Psalm 33:3)

May this Christmas season find you praising the Lord and singing carols and hymns, even if you can’t carry a tune in a barrel.  The Lord looks at your heart, so He will know you are praising Him no matter how it sounds to those around you!

Cheerful countenance and loud shouts!  That sounds like joyful praising to me!

Father, thank You for the One who provides true joy to us daily and for the joy that comes eternally through Jesus Christ our Lord.  

CAUGHT AND CAGED

We live on an acre lot with our house surrounded on the side and back by dense woods.  We have various feeders out with a plethora of cardinals, woodpeckers, titmouse as well as other brightly colored birds swirling around the backyard as the squirrels and our canine daughters eat the birdseed that falls to the ground.  These are our welcome visitors. 

Then we have some unwelcome visitors as well.  We have seen a groundhog for several weeks and, given the kind of damage they can, and have, inflicted on the house, my Beloved bought a trap so we could capture it and send it on its merry way via the City’s Animal Control van.  He put the trap in the backyard with an apple for bait and, low and behold, the next morning there was a plump groundhog munching on the apple, seemingly unaware that his ingress and egress had been drastically reduced.  The Animal Control officer took him away to a relocation place far from our yard.  Expecting there to be more than one groundhog in the woods, we set the trap again and went to bed.

In the morning, we could tell that the trap had worked and captured its prey.  What we could not tell from the house was that it was not a groundhog.

Racoon in overturned trap
Raccoon in overturned trap

Rather, it was a huge, angry raccoon.  He was so mad about things that he had turned the trap over in his machinations trying to escape, to no avail of course.

When I saw the pictures of the critter in the trap, my mind went to our situation as sinners.  We each have disobeyed God, multiple times in our lifetime: in fact, it is more likely correct to say that we have disobeyed God’s law multiple times per day!  We are caught in the trap of sin and we cannot, on our own merit or work, get out of the situation. 

“The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.

Proverbs 5:22 

Then, in the New Testament, Scripture repeats that all mankind has sinned. 

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Romans 8:7-8

We are then told that redemption must come from outside ourselves as a gift of grace from God through the atoning work of Christ Jesus: 

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” 

Romans 3:22-24

Racoon in trap
Trapped, caught and unable to get free!

Like the raccoon that was trapped and unable to get free, we, too, are trapped in sin and we cannot get free even though we struggle and fight.  Sin has too strong a grip on us.  But, through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, and as a gift of God’s grace, we can be set free from sin’s trap.

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

Romans 8:2

Listen to the song “Free Indeed” as sung on Scripture Memory Songs: Overcoming Guilt, the song focusing on the words of John 8:36 and Galatians 5:1, using the NIV translation.

Praise the Lord for His incredible, wonderful gift of life and love in His Spirit and through His atoning work on our behalf.

Father, I praise Your name for your grace and your wonderful gift of life through your Spirit.  Thank you for releasing us from the bondage of sin and death when we receive, by faith, Jesus Christ as our Savior.

THE MIGHTY RUSHING WIND – PART 2

In an earlier post, we ruminated about the wind which can remind us that the Spirit of God is characterized by wind or by the breath of God.  We then thought about the influence of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost when He came into the room like a “mighty rushing wind” and enabled the apostles to preach to the foreigners in Jerusalem in their own language.  Acts 2:2-5

The Spirit of God did not stop His work on earth when Pentecost was over.  Even in 2017, the Spirit has continuing involvement with those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Spirit convicts us of our sin so that we can repent, and the Spirit teaches us the way of righteousness.  Paul says it like this:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. [John 3:18] For the law of the Spirit of Life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death. “

Romans 8:1-2 NIV[Amplified]

And again Paul says it like this:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” 

Romans 6:1-2

And again, like this:

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. … But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. … But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. … 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 5:5, 16, 18, 22-23. ESV

As Christians, the Spirit of God enables us to walk in ways of righteousness, not in sin.  We, as sinful creatures, cannot defeat sin by ourselves; we need help outside of us to overcome our sinful desires, and that help comes from the Holy Spirit.

What does all this have to do with wind?

Fence with trees felled by wind
Trees felled by strong wind along neighbor’s fence.

There is a fence between our house and our neighbor’s house.  It has been standing there for well over 30 years and has withstood numerous rain/wind storms.  After a recent storm with ferocious winds, we noticed a change in the backyard fence.  Something certainly looked amiss, but we couldn’t quite tell what it was.

Fence with tree root ball and uprooted fence
Root ball of tree with upended fence posts.

Upon a more detailed inspection, it immediately became apparent that a 70+ foot tall oak, along with several smaller trees, had fallen over. Further, it had upended one of section of the fence when its root ball, which apparently had grown under the fence and into our yard, was pulled out of the ground as the large tree toppled over. 

I certainly am not going to say that the tree sinned so it was knocked down by the wind.  But, I am going to say that this can be seen as a mini-parable describing the cleaning out that the Holy Spirit can do in my heart when I give control to Him. 

Paul says that we are not to continue to sin.  We are under grace so sin has no control over us … that is to say, sin cannot make us do wrong.  Because our sinful nature is not yet under the full control of the Spirit of God, we will be tempted to sin.  But, praise God, the Spirit is with us and He can knock down any sinful thought that we have, He can prevent any sinful action that we desire to take, and He can mute any sinful word that we yearn to speak.  Just like the tree came down, and it mattered not that the roots were under the fence – it came down as the roots were pulled out of the dirt, lifting the fence with it.  The Spirit will stop at nothing to rid our hearts of sin, because transforming us into the image of our Savior is His job and He knows how to do it.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29 ESV

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Romans 12:2 NKJV

We are to be transformed into the image of God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is the Spirit’s work as He leads us away from sin and into righteousness. 

Here is Romans 12:2 as presented in the song entitled “Do Not Be Conformed” and sung on Renewing Your Mind, an Integrity Music Scripture Memory Song album.

When you see or hear the wind outside, ponder and ruminate on whether you have allowed the wind of God’s Spirit to blow through your heart and uproot any sin that is hiding there.  Consider whether you have experienced the freedom in Christ as a result of the Spirit’s snapping the bonds of sin that had entrapped you for so long.  Praise the Lord for His provision of the loving Spirit who desires only that we be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, now and forever more.

Father, I praise You for sending the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and for calling me to Yourself so that I could partake of this infinite gift of salvation that You have given to those who believe on the name of Your Son.  I praise You for providing the Holy Spirit as the enabling wind Who can eradicate the sin that besets me, and Who guides me in the ways of righteousness.