THE END AND THE BEGINNING!

There are many things that come to an end during our life on this whirling planet. 

Babies wearing diapers.  Many a mother thinks that day will never ever, ever, ever come, but it does (unless something horrific intervenes).

The end of the work day.  Again, there are times that even that seems to be far off in the distant future if the assignment you are working on is difficult or unbelievably boring.  But even that day does, in fact end, at the appropriate time.

One thing that occurs like clockwork (please pardon the pun) is the ending of the day. 

Sunset along I 40 4
Driving westbound on Interstate 40

Heading west on I-40, we can see the sun setting behind the mountains with the beautiful colors lighting up the evening sky.   This was the sunset one evening when we visited the family in Virginia.

There are times that God’s creation is simply too beautiful to describe.  Pictures certainly do not do justice to the glory that shines out from God’s world. 

Sunset and clouds 2
Setting sun with clouds

We know that God created the sun and the moon – it says so in Genesis:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  … And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lightsthe greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.”

Genesis 1:1, 14-19 

The Psalmist says it this way:

Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.”

Psalm 74:16

Ocean sunset with lighthouse (C)
Ocean with far distant shore

In our world of technology and scientific data, we have analyzed, digitized, and categorized the sun, the clouds, the atmosphere, the solar flares, and all kinds of things that I don’t even know.  We have studied and drawn, recorded and photographed the sun in our effort to understand it, and we have gone a long way from our forebears who pointed and said “bright!”

But in my little corner of the world, at sunset, I look in the sky and see the hand of my Father, painting a particularly beautiful picture for me to see as I head into the evening hours of the day.

Many are so much more scientific and analytical than I am. They can explain so much about things of nature and of our world.  It is my prayer that we all would stop and look at what God has given us, cherish the view, lock the mental picture into our minds, and then thank Him for His unfathomable love and mercy. 

When the day is over and the sun is running its course to the other side of the world, they are awaking to the warmth of its rays.   “Good evening” to you is “Good morning” to someone else!

The end, thus, is really also a beginning!

USED Butterfly caterpillar (C)

I doubt that the little caterpillar in this picture ever would think that he would be transformed into a beautiful butterfly. 

The truth of the matter is, however, that the caterpillar must get into his cocoon and shed the body that had restricted him so that the transformation can take place.  Rather than crawling along in the dirt, the butterfly can soar incredible distances, looking down on the land that he used to call home.  The caterpillar’s end was also its beginning. 

USED Butterfly beauty (C)

For us, when we are relieved of our mortal shell, our physical body, we will be transformed into our eternal bodies, glorious and without blemish.

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.””

1 Corinthians 15:51-54

Billy Graham said this in the years prior to his death:

Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead.  don’t you believe a word of it.  i shall be more alive than i am now.  i will just have changed my address.  i will have gone into the presence of God.

The end is not really the end … rather, what we think of as the end is actually just the beginning. 

 

Father, I thank You for giving us the example of nature in Your marvelous creation.  The setting of the sun where I live is the end of the day, but it is the beginning of a new day elsewhere on this whirling globe.  The “death” of the caterpillar is just the transforming work so that it can be a butterfly.  Our physical death is simply the shedding off of our mortal bodies into the eternal body that You have prepared for us.  Thank You for Your steadfast love and for calling Your children to come to You from every corner of the earth.

 

WHAT TAKES YOUR BREATH AWAY?

There are some things in this life that are just too beautiful, too incredible, too wonderful that we say: “it takes my breath away”.  What are some of those things for you?

For me, here are a few things that take my breath away.

  • The first look at my son and daughter.

The incredible reality that all their “pieces” were present and in the right place.  The reality that these little babies were born from me, that their lives were, at least in the beginning, in my hands. 

Jonathan 3 monrha
My son at 3 months of age.

 

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

 

Psalm 127:3

Elizabeth christening 6 weeks old Easter 1978
My daughter at 6 weeks of age with her grandmother.

These two little babies took my breath away, and I cried out to the Lord God in thanksgiving for their little lives, and in prayer for their future.  They took my breath away. 

Now, when I see them as adults with families of their own, I am so blessed.  This, too, takes my breath away.

  • The beauty of the sunset.
Sunset over Annandale VA 2
A Virginia Sunset

The day has been spent in doing many tasks, things that took time and energy, things that were encouraging and sometimes things that were incredibly hard.  But at the end of the day, I can look at the sunset and know that God is in control.

The Levites were commanded to recognize that God alone was responsible for providing the day to them.  David’s instructions included the following:

“And they were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the LORD, and likewise at evening,”

1 Chronicles 23:30

God’s watchful care results in praise to Him.  This, too, takes my breath away!

  • Places of worship, such as Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, England.
Canterbury cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

When we visited Canterbury Cathedral, the sign in the entrance way to the church and grounds advised that worship services were held in the Cathedral every day for over 1,400 years.  St. Augustine came to England in 597 A.D. as a missionary and he ultimately became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.  The building was magnificent; the stained-glass windows were beautiful; the soaring vaulted ceiling dwarfed the people inside.  While all that is true, what I found most humbling was the reality that God had met with the people worshiping in this place for more than 1,400 years. 

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Matthew 18:20

I was overwhelmed.  This took my breath away!

  • God’s Word.
Holy Bible
The Holy Bible

When reading God’s Word, often there are passages that speak to me and bring joy to my heart.   His word brings a warmth to my soul, and its truths take my breath away.

Recently, we were studying Psalm 32 where David speaks of his relationship with God and of the damaging effect of his sin toward God. 

“A Maskil of David. Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Psalm 32:1-2

Blessed, happy, is the one who, after coming to God in confession and repentance, is forgiven. 

“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”

Psalm 32:3-4

David understood the heavy weight of unconfessed sin.  His description is not only poetic, it is personal and profound.  

“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 32:5

David confessed his sin.  He did not try to hide it from God; he understood that God already knew of his sin and what he had to do was to confess and seek forgiveness.  David also expressed that God’s forgiveness meant that his sin was covered and would not be counted against him by God any longer. 

By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.”

Proverbs 16:6

In our age, that of the New Testament covenant, we understand that through Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross, our sin is not only covered but that sin debt is erased, and our account is clean.  Across our ledger page is written the words “Paid in full and covered by Christ’s righteousness.” 

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah”

Psalm 32:7

After David confessed and received forgiveness from his sin, he was secure in God and described this security in verse 7.  The forgiven person is surrounded “with shouts of deliverance.”  When we see pictures of people who were delivered from prison camps or from dangerous situations, such as a mine cave in, the rescued person is not shouting.  They are too stunned, and sometimes too weak from the ordeal, to do much of anything.  The rescuers are the ones who are shouting of deliverance and joy. 

Have you ever thought about heaven surrounding you with shouts of deliverance when you have come to God seeking forgiveness from your sin?

“Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORDBe glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”

Psalm 32:10-11

The conclusion of the psalm is resounding joy, gladness, shouting for joy. 

This, too, takes my breath away!

God’s love, His provision of the plan of salvation for you, His Son dying on the cross for our sin, not His.  These are all truths that take my breath away.  Why would God, the Almighty Creator, the Holy God who cannot look upon sin, the Righteous Judge of all, why would this God call me to Himself and adopt me as a child of His, clothing me with His Son’s righteousness and taking my filthy rags away. 

Nothing that I have done or ever could do would merit such grace and mercy.  I am a sinner saved by grace.   This reality is overwhelming.  This takes my breath away!  

What about you? 

What takes your breath away?

Father, I pray that these words would resonate with their readers and that You would be glorified.  I pray that I would praise You for Your wonderous love and kindness, Your grace and mercy, Your goodness and righteousness that has covered my sin and canceled my debt, restoring my relationship with You through Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

A GOD OF BEAUTY!

Beauty.  Our culture seems to idolize the beautiful people.  Mega-dollar industries have been built on providing cosmetics, beautifying potions, exercise machines to make the body sleek, to name just a few examples, all for making people beautiful.  But what is beauty, really? Is physical beauty really what is important?

 

The Merriam Webster online dictionary [found at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/] provides one definition of “beauty” as “The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit; loveliness.”   I like this definition.

 

In his book, The Holiness of God, p. 196-7, Dr. R. C. Sproul states that God is the source of beauty.  Indeed, that beauty is one of the attributes of our Divine Creator.

 

God Himself is the ground of all unity and diversity, of simplicity and complexity. His very being is internally consistent and harmonious and proportionate.  In him there are no distortions, no disorder, no ugliness.  His voice admits to no noise or cacophony. The works of his hands are cosmos, not chaos.  Chaos is marked by disorder and confusion; it is manifest irrationally. The beauty of God is a sane and rational beauty in that his being is one of perfect sanity and order.  Insofar as the beautiful bears witness to these qualities, they bear witness to Him. … To cultivate an appreciation for beauty is to set our course to follow after the sublime Author of all beauty.

 

Appreciation for beauty is a consistent theme throughout the Bible.  The Old Testament Scriptures are particularly appreciative of the beauty of nature. God announced that creation was good in Genesis and, after the creation of mankind, the penultimate act of creation, God declared it to be “very good”!   Then, in Exodus we read:

 

Exodus 28:2 – “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.”

These words were spoken by God when He gave the instructions and directions for the Tabernacle to be built in the wilderness and for the dishes and implements to be used, even down to the detail to be included on the clothing to be worn by the priests.  Note, God included as a characteristic of the holy garments that they are “for beauty”.

 

The psalms exhibit an appreciation for God’s handiwork in numerous passages.  Consider Psalm 8:1, 3-4:

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens. … When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

 

Psalm 19:1 states:

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

 

Psalm 104 describes God’s mighty work in creation noting that He set the earth on its foundations and going on to describe the individual parts of creation all under the umbrella of the prayer “Bless the LORD, O my soul!”

 

Listen to Brentwood Jazz Quartet’s rendition of “All Creatures of Our God and King” from their album The Best of the Brentwood Jazz Quartet.

 

Take some time to look at the pictures as you listen to the music, and then meditate on the following Scriptures.  Renew your sense of the beautiful and praise God for His wondrous works.

 

Yosemite 2011 WRM 095 Overlook of Kings Canyon National Park (C)
King’s Canyon scenic overlook, California, USA. Majesty and power reflected in the glory of creation.

 

Psalm 96:6 – “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.”

 

Sunset and clouds 3
Sunset and clouds show God’s pallet of colors!

 

 

Psalm 104:19 – “He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.”

 

Brook trees and mountain Oregon 2009 141
Mountain, trees and brook in Oregon, USA.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

 

Bath Abbey (C)
The door at Bath Abby in Bath, England. Craftsmen creating a beautiful place for worship of a God Who loves beauty.

 

1 Chronicles 16:29 [KJV] – “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”

 

Baby girl 1 month old
A baby girl, full of promise and beauty.

 

Proverbs 31:30 – Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

1 Peter 3:3-4  – Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear– but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

 

 

Ocean verticle sun going down
Sunset over the ocean, an acknowledgement that the day is over but the ocean continues to roar and churn, as ordained by our Creator God.

 

Psalm 104:25 – “Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.”

 

Schmerhorn building in Nsahville Symphony and choir ready to perform
The Schermerhorn Symphony center in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Orchestra and choir ready to sing a sacred concert to the glory of God in their performance of Dr. R. C. Sproul’s hymn collection “Glory to the Holy One”.

 

 

Psalm 104:33 – “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.”

 

Snowy tranquility (C)
Snowy tranquility. Snow blankets our surroundings and causes us to stop and cherish the silent beauty of God’s world.

 

Psalm 51:7 – Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

 

 

Father, I pray that my meditation is pleasing to You, for I rejoice in You and your Holy Name.  (Psalm 103:34)  I pray that these pictures, this music and these humble words would be used by Your Spirit to encourage and strengthen those who read this post.  I pray that You would use Your Word to speak to the heart and minds of those who encounter these passages of Scripture.  Father, I pray that You would be glorified in all things.