UNDERLYING POWER

Recently I saw a Facebook post saying something like:

“Watch out for people who are always bragging about what they can do, a lion never has to tell me that he is a lion.”

Of course, the thrust of the comment is that the lion does not have to advertise that it has power — its power is evident and well-known to others.  Unlike the lion, however, often the people who are doing the bragging will be embellishing and exaggerating their status whereas people who actually have abilities or who have had accomplishments do not have to brag.     

While in Yellowstone National Park recently, we were privileged enough to see a family of buffalo strolling down the road and into some trees.  They were minding their own business, walking as a unit without being a threat to anyone and seemingly not aware of our presence.  There were three adult buffalo and three young ones.

DSC_0016

This baby buffalo is not particularly threatening.  We saw him walking through some trees with two of his siblings and three adult buffalo.

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Now, these two buffalo present a different picture than the baby did.  They are not threatening as they are laying in the grass but staring at us while standing seemed to be potentially threatening.  Especially when the National Park Ranger told us that adult buffalo weigh about 2,000 pounds.  Combine that weight with an ability to run at 30 miles per hour, and you have a considerable threat both to man and vehicle.

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Like the lion, the buffalo does not have to brag about its abilities.  It can be calm and in control, and it can also be terrifyingly fast if it needs to defend itself or its family.  In short, they are animals of great strength and speed – animals with underlying power that we as humans simply don’t have ourselves.  We may be able to drive our car faster than the buffalo can run, but if the buffalo impacts the vehicle, it is probably going to be damaged beyond repair.

The lion and the buffalo have underlying power within themselves.

So, does the Christian.  I don’t mean that we can run fast – anyone who knows me realizes that running at all is not likely going to happen.   And I don’t necessarily mean that we have physical strength, although some people I know are incredibly strong.

What I do mean is that ALL Christians have underlying power within them, specifically the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus Christ so that we are enabled to be witnesses for our Lord Jesus Christ wherever we are.  Jesus said:

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.  And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

John 15:26-27

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Again, after His resurrection, Jesus said:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

We know that the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and that same day they preached the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly.  Fishermen and tax collectors who were cowering in fear after Jesus’s death were transformed on that day into evangelists who virtually blanketed the known world with the good news of faith in Christ.

They didn’t brag about their achievements.  They gave the glory for what they were doing to Jesus Christ and to the Holy Spirit, praising God for the good works that they were seeing all in the name of the Lord.  They were Christians who were powered by the Holy Spirit.

So are we.  We have the same Holy Spirit, the same Lord Jesus Christ, the same God and Father Almighty.  They are our brothers and sisters just as much as the Christians we see in church.   We too have the Holy Spirit, and as part of the unchanging infinite triune God, the Holy Spirit is no different now than he was 2000 years ago. 

Underlying power.  Do I take advantage of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life?  Do I call upon His power to enable me to do the work that Christ has called me to do?   Do I use that power for spreading the gospel?  Do I boldly tell others of Jesus Christ or do I shrink back in fear of what they will say, or think?

What about you?  How would you answer these questions?

Father, I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to witness to others of Your marvelous gift of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  I pray that you would embolden me to witness of my Lord without fear and that Your Spirit would put the words in my mouth that will accomplish Your Work in those to whom I speak and in me as I do Your will.

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE HEAT?

I came out onto our porch the other day and noticed the candles that had been removed from the dining room table.  I knew it was warm on the porch, with the summer heat way and all, but I did not expect to see what I saw! 

Candles on porch

One was standing tall, as it had done for many weeks earlier, and the other, well it was bent over, so far that its wick was facing the tabletop.

What would cause the difference in the reaction to the heat on the porch?  One seemed to fold under the heat while the seemed to be untouched by it.

I am not a scientist (as my high school science teachers would readily confirm) but I suspect that one was exposed to more light from the outside while the other had more access to the cooler air from the house.  But, my purpose is not to discuss the scientific melting point of wax candles; rather it is to consider why one Christian can be so unnerved by difficulties while another seems to glide through problems without any apparent negative reaction to them.  

In the twentieth chapter of the second book of Chronicles, we read about Jahaziel’s encouragement to Israel before a battle:

And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’”

2 Chronicles 20:14-15 ESV.  (I encourage you to read the whole chapter.)

Moses told the same thing to the people of Israel:

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. – Exodus 14:13 ESV

candle standing tallDid you see that?  When we are facing the heat from others because of our stand for the Lord, because of our faith in Christ Jesus, because of our unwavering belief in the truth of the Holy Bible, the Lord says that the battle is His, not ours.  This does not mean that we can ignore the fight, and it is not a guarantee that we will have an easy time of it.  Rather, it means that we will not do battle alone.  He will be with us in the fight; He will strengthen us for the battle; He will encourage us; and we can be assured that the outcome is in His control.  We are to trust and not be afraid.  Stand up straight for Him, even when the heat seems unbearable.

Paul in the letter to the Ephesians says:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:12-13 ESV. 

After this exhortation, Paul identifies the armor that God has provided to us in His grace:  the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness given by the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:13-17.

The Christian who can stand tall in the heat of the cosmic battle between God and Satan is the one who relies on the Word of God, who has his armor on, and who trusts God that we are to stand firm in our faith, no matter what.

Candle folded overJesus, in the parable about the soils, describes this person who cannot withstand the heat:

And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

Luke 8:13 ESV

The person who tries to fight the battle in his own strength is the one who, when the heat intensifies, succumbs and folds, the light of his witness is gone and he is incapable of doing what he was created to do.

Stand in the strength of God Almighty.  He is totally sovereign and His purposes will prevail.  Our God is the Creator of the universe and He holds all things, including each and every one of His children, in His hands.  This is the God who is telling you to stand firm.  Obey Him — be strong, and just watch and see what God will do for you today.

Father, forgive me when I have been overcome by the heat of struggle and when I have failed to rely on Your strength.  Give me the grace to trust You as difficulties come and enable me to stand tall, with my witness shining bright even through darkness and testing.  Grant me Your power through the indwelling Holy Spirit, through Christ my Lord.

 

THE TEAR

The tear – it can be shed because we are sorrowful, in pain, frightened, or angry. Or, it can be shed because we are joyful, relieved, empathizing, or celebrating. (I will always cry when the Bridal March begins, whether or not the bride has even begun walking the aisle!) Crying is therapeutic – it gets pent up emotions out and relieves tension. You could say that tears are suitable for a host of purposes!

used A Tear
A child’s tear lingers on his cheek, even as a smile crosses his face!  For his grandmother, the tear tugs at her heart.  For him, the tear will be gone soon, but the grandmother’s heart will take a bit more time to heal!

 

What tugs at my heartstrings the most, though, is a tear from my grandchildren. Now, I know that children shed tears in the process of growing up, it just happens.   I also know tears can be shed when children encounter something that is unfamiliar to them even if there is no discomfort or danger. I know that tears come as a result of, often very well-needed, discipline. And, I know that children are not above shedding some tears in an effort to get what they want, even if it is abject posturing to get something from their Grandparents!

 

Crying
Sometimes the adult, believing she is giving the child an exciting day, results in frightening the young child so much that tears flow. The adult may explain that there is no danger, but still the tears flow.

 

As parents, we want our children to be healthy and happy. Who has not looked at their sick child and at least thought, if not said aloud, “I wish it was me instead of my baby!” Sometimes we simply cannot kiss it and make it better, and our tears will flow out of frustration, concern, helplessness ‐‐ love.

 

Jesus knew our feelings because He experienced them. He wept when his close friend Lazarus died.  [John 11:35] He wept when he looked out over the city of Jerusalem [Luke 19:41 ] knowing that, because they had rejected him, tribulation would come and the city would be devastated. Our Savior experienced physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual pain, during his time here with His creation.

 

And, deep down inside, I believe that His heart hurts when He hears our cry and sees our tears. However, unlike us, He was not “helpless” in the face of sorrow or disappointment. He was, at all time, the God‐man – fully God and fully man. Through His act of obedience to the Father’s plan, He went to the cross so that we would have an escape from the pain inflicted upon us by sin.

 

Further, because of His triumph over sin and death, He knows that our troubles will last only for a short while, that there is a lesson we need to learn from the events that sparked the tears, and that He is with us through the dark times. We simply need to trust Him and hold His Hand as He sees our path while we cannot.

 

I have not been immune from those dark times. I have experienced nights on end with tears as my only companion. I worked to keep the family on an even keel when its support suddenly disintegrated before my eyes. There were times that the tears flowed so hard that I could not breathe, and I relied on the Holy Spirit to pray for that which was best because I could not.

 

I also know that no one can take your tears away; no one stands in your shoes; no one understands the disappointment you have encountered; and no one has endured the dark night that you are in or that you have experienced. It is yours and yours alone. David was well acquainted with the loneliness and pain that difficulties, fearful events, strife, and sin can create.   He refers to it as the “valley of the shadow of death.”

 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4-6.

 

But notice the rest of this sentence, even though he was in the valley, he was not bound by fear. David knew that the Lord was with him and was providing comfort to him, even in the darkness of that valley.

 

I certainly am not David, but I can affirm that I have experienced release from the tears and dark times through the grace of God, the love of His Son Jesus, the solace of the Comforter, and the soothing hands of His Church.   Beloved, rest assured that you are not alone as you go through your difficult times.

Picture hanging in our office
Picture depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding His lamb in His nail-pierced hand.

The Good Shepherd has given His life for you and He will guard and protect you as His own. [John 10:11]

 

Lift up your eyes and look for Jesus and He will give you strength. As incongruous as it sounds, while you are crying tears of grief, sorrow, fear or pain, you can experience peace and even joy because He has you in His arms and there really is nothing to fear.   Martin Luther says it well in the Hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:

The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.

 

 

One day you will be able to look in the rear view mirror of your life and see the valley that you climbed out of, and you will be able to praise His Name as you thank Him for His kindness and grace, even in those dark times.

 

Joy is possible even as tears linger on your cheek!

 

Father, I thank You for being with me through your Son, my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and His Spirit, my Comforter. Thank You for the truth that You are sovereign and that nothing will frustrate your plans for me or for your church. Thank You for bringing me through the valley and for holding me even when my tears flowed. Thank You for your love.

 

 

 

NEED TO REFOCUS?

Christmas village that is out of focus
Christmas village that is out of focus

 

The day after Christmas I went to a physical therapy session — not exactly what I wanted to do that day! But I had scheduled it this way so I was going to the appointment. I was waiting for the elevator when the doors opened and I joined others on our trip up to the therapist.  I was in a bad mood since this appointment was interrupting my holiday time with the family, but I was doing it — not smiling about it though!  I was walking with an ankle brace and a cane and was in my second month of physical therapy after severely breaking my ankle four months earlier.

The young man who exited at the second floor with me was walking on two prosthetic legs with a cane for help. My first thought was that he was a Wounded Warrior, a subject dear to me as our son is active military with the Marine Corps. However, as we were waiting to be called in for PT, several of us in the waiting area spoke together and I learned that he lost his legs in an employment-related electrical event eight years earlier. Indeed, he smiled at me and said that it was no one’s “fault”, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Just then we were both called back for PT and I thought our conversing was over. However, we were placed in the same area and I had occasion to observe his work, his effort and his dedication to rehabilitating to a normal that most of us take for granted and, I dare say, which most of us do not truly appreciate.

 

Therapeutic rocker board
Therapeutic rocker board

We both used the same tilt board which previously had been a painful obstacle that I did not want to tackle. It looks easy but I found it difficult, tiring and just pain hard.  After watching him struggle to conquer it, I was humbled and contrite as the therapist put it in front of me, smiling as she said “here is your favorite toy!” Complaining about the challenge of this device was nowhere in my thought that day. I wanted to do my best, without complaining, as this young man had done moments before.

Perhaps this encounter was particularly potent given the timing, coming immediately after Christmas which always involves reflecting about our Lord and His birth and sacrifice for us, about family and the various relationships that we have in our family as well as with others in our circles of involvement. But I find myself pondering whether we recognize how blessed we are in so many ways, especially in ways that we don’t even think of as blessings from our Lord and Savior. The very air that we breathe comes from Him. We are created so that systems which are required for living are automatic, like breathing, our heart beating, our brain functioning, and of course physical healing.

With these blessings, however, come obligations. One is Focus.

Focused attention
Focused attention

There is certainly a time for focused attention to a problem, an issue of concern, or even a rock (if you are a budding paleontologist).  However, when we are focused solely on ourselves and our problems, everything else is out of focus. We need to look at the long view, not the myopic view that is so prevalent in our society today.

 

Difficult to keep your focus sometimes
Sometimes focus is hard!

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus taught that the one to whom the Kingdom of God will be open is the one who helps others: the one who feeds the hungry; who provides water to those who are parched; who takes in the stranger; who provides clothes for the naked; the one who visited the sick; the one who visited the prisoner.   These acts are not the “Salvation silver bullet”.   Indeed, when these things are done in our own strength, they are done so that we get the glory, so that we get our name in lights, so that we receive accolades.

Rather, these things reflect a life-style that puts others first, a life-style that addresses the needs and cares of the marginalized and those who are ignored by society. In short, it is a life-style that Jesus Christ exampled for His disciples and it is a life-style that can only be lived by the Christian. It is a life-style that desires glory for God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and this can only come when the Holy Spirit in-dwells the Christian.

On that day, I was acutely aware that while the broken ankle was difficult for me and for my beloved husband who had to do much for me during this time, I know that it is healing and that I  can walk and am not confined to the wheelchair.   My co-patient today was alive and able to live a normal life while many others who encounter an “electrical event” are not able to do so. He, also, knew that he is healing and, although it is a “new normal”, he is able to live and enjoy life and mobility given his prosthetic limbs. He is seeking to walk and move more confidently with his new legs.

I don’t know if the young man in physical therapy was a Christian or not. I do know that he and his actions spoke to me and reminded me that I need to get my focus back on others as the Lord directs.

Now, I am facing surgery on my knees – another time when it would be easy to focus on the me/my/mine of problems. Again I pray that I would be focused so that, even in the time for rehab and recovery, I will be praising my Lord and Savior and that I will be a blessing to others in the name of my Lord.

Focus – sometimes it is hard, but it is always worth it!

WHO IS HOLDING YOUR HAND?

Church in Cades Cove, Tennessee
Church in Cades Cove, Tennessee

There was a song that we sang in my home church when I was a child and the words went something like this:

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know Who holds tomorrow
And I know Who holds my hand.

I believe the title of the song is “I know who holds my hand”. I have tried to find out who authored the lyrics to give credit where credit is due and all I have come up with is “unknown” as the author. I don’t remember the words to the rest of the song, but I know that the part I have quoted has been part of my being for many decades and has provided peace and comfort through its text.

My parents and me
My parents and me

So – Who holds my hand? My parents held my hands and took me to church, telling me of God, of Jesus and His love. But, both of them are now gone. Now, my loving husband holds my hand, but he, like I, cannot know what tomorrow may bring.

In our fallen, sin-sick world, there are times when situations come upon you that stun you into complete silence. Circumstances arise that you could not have imagined, and, if you had been told of them before they actually happened, you would have vehemently denied that such an event would even be possible!
But then it happens, and what was formerly unthinkable becomes not only possible but fact, and you are left with shambles in your hands, a hole in your heart, and confusion reigning in your mind.

U.S. Marines at the Barracks, Washington D. C.
U.S. Marines at the Barracks, Washington D. C.

One such situation arose in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Thursday, July 16, when a gunman drove to a recruiting office and started shooting through the windows; he then drove to a Marine Reserve Center and started shooting, ruthlessly taking the lives of four members of the United States Marine Corps, one member of the U. S. Navy, and injuring a number of others before he was stopped by the Chattanooga Police. Men who defended our country in war overseas were gunned down in their own country.

U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, Washington, D.C.
U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, Washington, D.C.

They didn’t know when they left home for work that morning that it would be their last day on earth. Their families didn’t know that they were about to lose a beloved member of the family. Chattanooga didn’t know that the city would be rocked by the act of a shooter who killed indiscriminately that morning.

As we watched the news about Chattanooga, the similarity to the news from Charleston, South Carolina came to mind as we remembered the carnage at the Mother Emanuel Church just a few weeks ago.  Nothing can prepare you for such an event.   It was unthinkable until we had to face the fact that it was, indeed, a reality.

Empty platitudes are insufficient to offer a balm or salve for hearts that are ripped open by grief.   As we try to recover from the shock and enormity of the carnage, we must remember all the promises that we have in Scripture through the grace and mercy of our God and Father.

Who holds my hand? Who can give solace and peace when things fall apart? Who is Strength, Comfort and Everlasting Love?

It is my God, my Savior and my Comforter.

  • God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
    • Old Testament: God is not limited in time, as are we. Indeed, He is the perpetual I AM. See Exodus 3:13 where God tells Moses that I AM is directing Moses to lead the people out of Egypt.
    • New Testament: This thought is reiterated in Hebrews 13:8 where we read: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
  • God is the lover of my soul.
    • Old Testament: Isaiah 38:17 reads: “Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.”
    • New Testament: Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
  • God is also my Redeemer and my Savior.
    • Old Testament:
      • Job 19:25 says: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth….”
      • Isaiah 48:17 says: “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.’”
    • New Testament:
      • Paul says in Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
      • John 3:14-16: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
      • John 6:35: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”

So, where do you draw your strength and comfort in difficult times? We who are Christians are called to be strength and comfort to those who are grieving, hurt and distressed.  We are to be the hands and feet of Christ as we live out our faith to others, especially during difficult times like these.  We can pray for them, comfort them, and provide assistance because even the routine things will be difficult for the families who have had their lives disrupted in such a brutal way. This is not to minimize the tragedy at all, but ultimately, the best thing we can do is to point them to Jesus Christ who is the Source of real comfort and peace here and forever more..

So, Who is holding your hand?

WHAT SIZE WAS THAT !?!?

Flowers in downtown Anchorage, Alaska
Flowers in downtown Anchorage, Alaska

Spring has given way to Summer, and the flowers are blooming, grass is growing, pollen is aggravating everyone with allergies, and the winter clothes in the closet must be switched to lighter‐weight summer duds. I dread moving the warm clothes to the guest room bedroom closet and moving the cooler clothes into the bedroom closet for use!

Flowers at Hotel Alyeska, Alaska
Flowers at Hotel Alyeska, Alaska

Please don’t misunderstand ‐‐ I like the clothes I have. I don’t dread the clothes per se. I dread looking at last season’s clothing and wondering if there is any possibility that I will be able to get into them this summer!

But the sad truth is that the older I have gotten, the wider I have become. (Wish that word could be “wiser” instead of “wider”!)  In short, many of the clothes from earlier years just do not fit.

Scale
Scale

When sorting through the closet, some of the clothes are put in the pile to take to the rescue shelter. Others are about the right size so I expect that I can wear them this year. But then there is the third pile — the “keep” pile even though I recognize that they no longer fit (and likely will never fit again). Why are they “keepers”? Because if I am going through a difficult time, they are my “comfort” clothes whether or not they look good on me at the time.

While gaining weight is not a good thing for me physically, the task of switching the clothes in my closet made me wonder about my “fit” spiritually?

  • Am I still the same spiritual size I was last year?
  • Am I still struggling with the same issues, the same sins, the same negative attitudes that I had last year or have I grown?
  • Is the work of the Holy Spirit evident?
  • Am I using the gifts that He has provided more fully today than last year?
  • Am I walking closer to Him, depending and trusting in His providence rather than my own planning?
  • Am I studying His Word and learning of His wisdom and guidance for me in my life?
  • Can others tell that my faith is deeper and my love for the Lord is stronger?
  • Have I grown more into the likeness of my Savior this past year?

Just as we grow in our physical bodies, growing is mandatory in the spiritual realm. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul states:

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

So, what size was that? As I focus on decreasing my physical size, my prayer is that I will be able to concentrate on increasing my spiritual size!  Scripture promises that I have a Helper in this effort – the Holy Spirit is on hand to guide, prompt and enable me to grow spiritually.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! 1 Chronicles 16:34.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; Lamentations 3:22

Praise the Lord oh my soul!

PERSPECTIVE: FROM MICRO TO MACRO

We happened to be in England when rapeseed was in full bloom. As we left the airport we were told to watch for the “yellow fields” because they were so pretty. We saw the yellow plants as we sped (literally) down the motorway.

Rapeseed field from highway
Rapeseed field from highway

Pretty? Sure, but not necessarily spectacular as we were led to expect.

But then – Oh, but then, we went up a hill and saw the countryside splayed below us, and the “yellow fields” were gorgeous! Only by looking at the overall broad picture could we appreciate the beauty of these fields in full bloom. The patchwork of yellow blossoms, trees bordering the various parcels of land, fields plowed with crops just starting to grow, and homesteads with trees providing shade all melded together to form a mural that made a lasting impression on my mind and heart.

Yellow fields and hillside
Yellow fields and hillside

 

As we were looking at this vista, I could not help but think of the perspective that we usually have. We get lost in the detail of every-day life – bills to pay, work deadlines to meet, housecleaning, laundry, children’s activities to watch, etc.

mirror and child (C)

To quote an old adage, sometimes “we can’t see the forest because of the trees!”

We live moment-to-moment because we were created, in time ‐‐ without the ability to transcend that which is immediately upon us. God, however, has a far different perspective.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:14 says:

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.”

As the creator of time, God is not controlled by it. He sees the end from the beginning, and He sees all that is in between with perfect clarity. While we do not know the future, we can rest in the confidence that He does! In Psalm 139:16 we read:

 “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

God had our days numbered and the events in them mapped out for our growth in faith and trust in His unfailing love – for the fulfillment of His purposes and for His glory – even before we were born!

We cannot live above the daily grind. As long as we are capable of movement and activity, we will be cleaning homes, watching after the children, doing the laundry, working at our jobs, cooking meals (and even yummy desserts), etc.

Yummy Dessert
Yummy Dessert

We can, however, live above the circumstances by knowing that God is in control and that He knows what we need for our own spiritual benefit. God sees the pattern of our life and how it interacts with the lives of thousands of others – a pattern that we cannot see because we don’t have His perspective.

Next time you are down because of the demands of all the activities pressing upon you, change your perspective.

Stop and visualize the yellow fields from above.

English fields of Rapeseed
English fields of Rapeseed

Or picture your town sparkling in the evening light as you stand on a mountain top.

City in evening with lights illuminated
City in evening with lights illuminated

Or visualize standing on a sand dune, gazing out over the vast ocean.

Standing on sand dune looking at ocean waves
Standing on sand dune looking at ocean waves

Or visualize the power and majesty of our Creator God, at least as we can see and understand it in our finite minds.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

May I always take time to praise our Sovereign God for His provision of a perspective that is slightly altered from what I can usually see, a perspective that enables me to remember that the big picture belongs to Him.  May my perspective be changed from the micro of every day to the macro of His divine majesty.

He is the Divine Artist Who creates the pattern of each of our lives, all for His glory and honor.  Praise His holy name for His promises and perspective!

                                              

THE ROCK

Many of us have heard the old hymn, Rock of Ages, and we probably also have heard the description of Jesus Christ as the “Rock of Ages”. Further, we likely have heard preachers compare Jesus to being our Foundation, Security and Surety. Those concepts are surely accurate, but they are lofty and sometimes hard to think of in real terms that we can touch and feel.

We were in England and visited Stonehenge – now there were some rocks, and big ones too. It was so hard to imagine how the people created this monument with such immense stones. They are truly “solid rocks”.

Stonehenge 5 (C)  Stonehenge 11 (C)

But then, when we were in Yosemite National Park, we saw a physical illustration of a Rock of Ages!

Yosemite 2011 WRM 133 (C)

El Capitan is a peak that rises 7,569 feet high in the Sierra Nevada range of central California in Yosemite National Park. Its exposed monolith rises 3,600 feet above the valley floor.

Yosemite El Capitan 6-2011 069 (C)

El Capitan ‐‐ according to the National Park Service, El Capitan is the largest monolith of granite in the world! “Capitan” is Spanish for “Captain”. The monolith is awesome in its scope, size, power and strength!

If we are Christians, our Captain is Jesus Christ, upon whom our hope is built. He is our Rock, and He will provide us the strength and ability to stand when the storm comes. He will preserve the believer even if all may desert him/her, and He will preserve us from that supreme disquiet that attends fear, anxiety and worry.

Christ’s comforts will not fail; they will be the believer’s strength and song; and they are the believer’s an anchor of his soul, sure and steadfast, in this life and the next.   The Apostle Paul says it this way:

 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7‐8. [New Living Translation]

The Christian life is certainly not without difficulties, in fact, Jesus promised that we would have problems and trials. But, we can stand on the Rock and know that, whatever buffets us in life, nothing can take us away from our Captain.

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38 [New International Translation]

When the believer comes to the last moment of life, our hope in Christ will remove both the terror of death and the power of the grave. Christ will carry the believer, covered in the blood and righteousness of Christ, to God the Father where the believer will be accepted by God and given life eternal.

Praise Him, our Rock, Captain, Redeemer and Savior, now and forevermore!

                                    

Giant Sequoia Trees – Tall and Strong

Sequoia -Yosemite 6-2011 109My husband and I had the opportunity to go to the Giant Sequoia National Park in California and saw the incredible trees that just shout the majesty of God’s creation.  These gentle giants are REALLY tall.  For example, in 2002, the tree named General Sherman was measured to be 274 feet in height and 102 feet in circumference.   Other trees of normal height from a different forest would be considered very tall, but they are positively dwarfed by the height and size of the Giant Sequoia trees.

These trees are not only tall, they are strong.  They are old, not just several hundreds of years old, but REALLY old.  It is estimated that the Giant Sequoia trees are between 1800 and 2500 years old.  Just imagine what they have experienced.  They have survived longer than most civilizations.  And they have endured numerous, possibly thousands, of forest fires over the centuries, yet they still stand.  Sequoia side by side 100_3415

As I was looking at these trees, in awe and respect for their existence, I wondered if the same could be said for us ‐‐ for me?  I certainly am not going to survive longer than any civilization, but, for the time the Lord has granted to me on this earth, am I standing strong, am I enduring trials while still standing?

God instructed Joshua in Joshua 1:6‐9: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.  Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you.  Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. …  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God has instructed that those who go by His guidance should be strong and courageous.  They are to obey His commandments and, if they do so, they are to be strong and not terrified or discouraged as they go through life.

How can this be?  Verse 9 promises that “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Truly it is only by God’s grace that I can even come close to saying that I am standing, not always as straight and strong as I would pray, but through His grace, yes – I am still standing because of His strength and His presence.

But the question extends out from that initial focus.

Yosemite 2011 WRM 046Am I helping others to stand tall in the face of trial and adversity?  Am I assisting when there is no one else to stand in the gap?  Am I pointing to God and the salvation offered through Jesus Christ as The Way, The Truth and The Life?

In their silent witness to the strength of God’s creation, these Giant Sequoia trees declare praise for their Maker’s glory in an eloquence that mankind can only imagine.

And yet, God sent His Son to die for mankind, not the Giant Sequoia trees. We are the beloved creation of the Sovereign God.

Oh that I might be of courage and strength so that I will praise and glorify Him the length of my days.