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. 

THE WORD OF THE LORD, FOR US

Bible - Grandfather's bible given to him in 1939 by wife and son
My Grandfather’s Bible given to him in 1939 by his wife and his son, my Dad.

The Holy Bible tells us:

“’All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”  

1 Peter 1:24-25 ESV

The phrase “the word of the Lord” is first referenced in Genesis and runs throughout the entire Holy Bible.  Space does not allow for a complete listing, but here are some of the references to the “word of the Lord”:

The word of the Lord came to Abram – Genesis 15:1

The word of the Lord came to Samuel – 1 Samuel 15:10

The word of the Lord came to Elijah – 1 Kings 21:17

The word of the Lord created the heavens – Psalm 33:6

The word of the Lord remains forever – 1 Peter 1:25

Of course, Israel had the word of the Lord as given to them through the Torah, the prophets and the writings, in essence what we call the Old Testament.  And we now have both the Old Testament as well as the record of Jesus’ life and ministry in the Gospels, along with the letters and record of the ministry of the various apostles, and the prophetic writing of the Apostle John in The Revelation.  This collection of books is the New Testament. 

Holy Bible parallel translation
The Parallel Bible with 4 versions side by side, the King James Version, the New International Version, the Living Bible and the Revised Standard Version.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

2 Timothy 3:16

In other words, the entire Holy Bible, ALL Scripture, is God’s word and is profitable for us in numerous ways.  So, what does “breathed out by God” mean? God-breathed means that the words were inspired. 

Irenaeus. a 2nd century cleric from Lyons, France, said that we should be “most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit.”  Martin Luther said, “Scripture, although also written of men, is not of men nor from men, but from God.” 

From the 2nd Century to today, we see the same thought regarding God’s involvement in the Scriptures.  In an article entitled “God-Breathed Scripture” prepared by Ligonier Ministries, we read the following:

The Greek word translated as “breathed out” in 2 Timothy 3:16 is theopneustos, and Scripture is the only thing described as such by the Apostles. Thus, Scripture has a unique character as the voice and words of the Lord. It uniquely serves as God’s special revelation, as His inspired and revealed will for His people. Nothing else today is theopneustos, so we can point to nothing but Scripture as the Word of God. 

When we speak of Scripture as theopneustos, we are pointing to its divine inspiration. The Word of God written is identical to God’s speech. It is exactly what He intended us to have as the revelation of His will and how to please Him. At the same time, this does not take away from the Bible’s human character. God breathed out His Word, but He did so through the instrumentality of His prophets and Apostles. So, for example, the book of Romans is Paul’s word, bearing the Apostle’s unique style and character. Nevertheless, it is also God’s Word, given by Him. That our Lord used a man to give us the book of Romans does not in any way make it less than the very speech of God. And this applies to all books of Scripture. 

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/god-breathed-scripture/ 

The Holy Bible is not only translated and printed into books, it is now online and is also available in e-book text for viewing on all sorts of electronic devices.  This presents a new issue for modern Christianity.  Are we letting the multitude of Bibles in the house and the easy accessibility of it through internet and online sources render it just another book to throw on the floor or to dust around on the coffee table.

Beware!  It is NOT the Reader’s Digest or the daily newspaper. 

Does it retain the holy place it deserves in our minds and hearts or has it lost, for us, the power of The Word of God?  

My prayer is that the ready accessibility of The Holy Bible in our country will not cloud our minds or distort our perception of how cherished and sacred the Scriptures should be.   The Holy Bible as a printed book is not some magical relic that has powers if we hold it to our breast.   

It is even more profound.  The words in The Holy Bible do, most surely, have power through the Holy Spirit because they are, indeed, THE Words of God.  

When we contemplate the grandeur of this Book that God has, through His grace, placed in our hands, we can begin to realize how blessed we are.  What a treasure it is to have the very words of our Sovereign God in our possession.  The most important document that you could possibly possess is a Bible, the message of God to you, and to me.  Don’t neglect its divinely inspired message to you.

Do you?  

Do I?

Father, forgive me when I have neglected to read and study Your Word.  I pray that I would give Your Word the proper respect and reverence that it deserves.  I pray that I would read it and place its words into memory, and that I would do what The Holy Bible directs, so that I would reflect its words to those around me, through the power of Your Holy Spirit.

SO, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK?

I enjoy reading.  I enjoy research, which involves reading.  I enjoy … well reading.  Reading and analyzing was a part of my work career for many years but I enjoyed reading even before going to law school.  So, what book do you love to read?  What is your favorite book?  If you were on a desert island and only had one book with you, what would it be?

I expect there would be a myriad of answers, and there are quite a number of books that I would like to have with me, but there is one that is high above the others, that is the love letter sent to us from a Holy God and it is entitled the Holy Bible.

I believe that the Holy Bible is the Word of God, that it is inspired and God-breathed, and that it is the only guide for my faith and life as a Christian.  So, it is the book that I would select above all others.

In our home, there are a number of Bibles and each one has a special meaning to us.   All are versions of the inspired Word of God.

Holy Bible KJV
The King James Version of Scripture that I have used for many decades.

This is the Bible that I used for many years.  When it began to come apart, my beloved husband had it rebound for me.  I use the English Standard Version now, but there are times that the text of the King James Version is just too beautiful for me to ignore.

Bible - Uncle Ed's worn Bible
My Great Uncle’s Bible that I received after my Great Aunt went to be with the Lord.

This is my Great Uncle’s Bible.  It was so worn, that he had electrical tape around the edges to keep it together.  One characteristic of this Bible is that in the front of it there were blank pages.  These pages were for the owner to write notes in, to keep at hand references that would assist their study of the Scriptures, or even outlines of lessons that were presented during Sunday School or worship. 

Bible - Uncle Ed's note pages
The tape used to affix the articles to the pages in my Great Uncle’s Bible are yellowed with age and, in many cases, no longer keep the note attached to the page.

The first entry is dated August 24. 1947.  For more than 50 years my Uncle had written in his Bible, had kept copies of inspirational thoughts, had written the Sunday School lessons that he taught in the Men’s Class, and had read and notated the text of God’s Word.  I have spent hours reading his notes and lessons that are recorded in these tissue-like pages of his Bible.  This is a beautiful reminder of a man who is now with our Lord.  I am blessed each time I read out of it.

Praise God that He has provided us with His Word. 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

Note that this verse does not say “Only the New Testament is breathed out by God” or “Only the scripture that you think is easy to obey is breathed out by God” or “Ignore what you don’t like because this is just an historical text!” 

ALL Scripture is the Word of God, even the passages that are difficult to hear.  Scripture tells us that which He desires, how He wants us to live, what He values … we don’t have to guess and we don’t even have to ask.  He has given us the answers already, and they are available if you just read His Word.

God’s Word is powerful.  Through it the Holy Spirit can convict of sin, and through it the Holy Spirit can teach us how to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12 ESV

God’s Word is our guide to living the life that God has intended for His people to live.  We are to share it and we are to express it through our life as we live out its teachings to those who watch us interact with others. 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16 ESV

I thank God that I live in a country where owning a Bible is not a crime and where I can carry my Bible with me without fear of being attacked or killed.  Not all in our world are so blessed.  My heart aches for them as I pray for those for whom owning a Bible seems to be a far off dream. 

The Holy Bible is the inspired holy scripture of the one and only holy God.  The Holy Bible truly is a love letter from the Almighty God to us, telling us everything we need to know to live a life that is pleasing to Him.  We should recognize its inestimable worth and treat it with the respect that a love letter deserves!

So, what is your favorite book?

Father, I pray that we would remember that Your Word to us is holy, that You inspired the writers and that You protected the Word so that it has remained inviolate for thousands of years.  Forgive me when I treat it with little respect or ignore it altogether.  Help us to remember that it is Your Word to us, not just another book by some author or another.  Reverent treatment should be afforded to the scriptures and loving use should be given as we cherish it through the years.

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?

An old joke told by my husband goes something like this:

After a long discussion about serious matters confronting our country and our businesses, one man asked another “What do you believe?”  The response was “I believe I’ll have another cup of coffee.”

While the humor is superficial, the real question hangs in the air like Spanish moss hangs from tree limbs – what do you believe?  Of course you need to complete the thought … what do you believe about ____fill in the blank_______?  We can believe any number of things about any number of topics: politics, military necessity, recipes that are tempting, education, how much to drink at any given time, etc. but the only belief that is of eternal consequence is “What do you believe about God?”

“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 3:16. 

Cross
The cross, a reminder of the glorious gift of God provided to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

While there are many additional concepts involved in God’s salvation for His people, the Scripture of the Holy Bible encapsulates them concisely and definitively in the John 3:16.  Christians can argue about the finer points, the details and the doctrine, but ultimately, eternal life comes down to believing in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

In our church, we recite The Apostles’ Creed each week.  It is a statement of the common beliefs of the Christian community that is a bit longer than John 3:16.  

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into Heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic* church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

*Catholic means “universal”.

It is appropriate for us to remind ourselves of that which we believe because what you believe about Jesus Christ determines your ultimate destiny.  Why do we need Jesus as a Savior?  See Romans 3:23.

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

According to Dr. R. C. Sproul our sin is “cosmic treason” against God.  [For more from Dr. Sproul on this topic, see the post Good and Bad Together?, posted January 27, 2017.]  

Unfortunately, we cannot save ourselves from the consequences of our rebellious sin.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 

Ephesians 2:8-9

If you receive Him as your Savior, through grace alone, as you believe in His atoning death on the cross and His resurrection and ascension into heaven, if you confess your sins and repent, Scripture says that you will be saved.  Your position in Heaven for eternity is guaranteed and you will be a new creation in Christ.

Think about the Apostles’ Creed and each of its elements.  Do you believe this?  Does it make a difference in your life?  Pray that you will be more aware of how your beliefs determine your actions, because they do.

Here is a song entitled “I Believe” sung by the Bar J Wranglers For God and Country.  I pray that you would be encouraged by its beautiful message.

Father, I thank You for Your grace that was extended to me by Christ’s death for me on the cross of Calvary.  I thank You for the mercy and forgiveness you granted to me and I praise Your holy name for the gift of salvation.  I pray that these words would challenge those who may not know You, and I pray that Your Holy Spirit would touch their hearts and bring them to You.