Posted in encouragement, God

God, use me in a mighty way

Do you ever pray that God would use you mightily? I do. I want to be used by Him and magnify His name. We often think of women in the bible who were used in a mighty way because they did mighty things. Deborah, military victor. Rahab, courageous with the spies of Israel; Mary humbly bearing the Savior. When we think of “mighty” we think of events large in scope.

But to be used of the Lord mightily can also be small in scope – but mighty just the same. The LORD will prosper His name and cast Glory onto Himself through His works. There is a small moment in the Bible worth looking at where a mighty work was done, glory shone on the LORD, but the one who did them is not even named! Yet her faith and her ‘one, small act’ was indeed mighty in scope and nature. Best of all, the Lord was glorified through them.

Naaman’s wife’s maid.

Rhoda was a maid, but named in the Bible. This girl was not even named. But no matter. Her act lives on! 

Naaman was a Syrian General, humiliated because he contracted leprosy. Meanwhile, back at his home, his wife had been given a little slave girl to attend to her. This maid was an Israelite, captured and brought to a strange land. The Israelite slave girl was strong in faith and knowing of the works God through His spokesman at the time, Prophet Elisha. (2 Kings 5:1-19)

When Naaman and his household bemoaned Naaman’s leprous state, this little girl piped up. Her time away from her culture, the temple, the assembly, her God-loving home did nothing to diminish her enthusiasm for Yahweh. She extolled His virtues to Naaman’s wife, burbling over the many miracles of Elisha and the works God did through Him. This girl was small, but she knew her God was big.

I can’t imagine such strong faith. She bore no resentment toward her captors! If it was me, I’d probably mutter something like, “Good, he deserves leprosy. I hope he rots.” But then again, we know that what we deserve is death and hell. Only the largess of the grace bestowed upon us by God saves us from “what we deserve.” So this girl unashamedly and enthusiastically shared the knowledge of the Holy God who is able to do miracles. She did not hold back and lived a life of proclamation in word and deed. When the moment arose, she did not hesitate to share God as the solution to Naaman’s uncleanliness. Though Naaman’s leprosy was very real, in the Bible leprosy is always a metaphor also for unrighteousness. A leper was never pronounced cured. He was always pronounced “clean.”

We know the rest of the story. Elisha’s servant met the General, the General in his pride was angry. The prophet told the general to dip in the Jordan river seven times, Naaman’s pride again led him away from God’s solution. But entreaties from Naaman’s servants enticed Naaman to the river, and he finally did as he was instructed. he came up the 7th time, clean.

Naaman became a believer! (2 Kings 5:15a). The little girl was a messenger of the Good News, that cleansing was available from a Holy God. One might wonder why the second in command of an entirely strong nation would listen to the urgencies of a little slave maid. Her life was not contained in one plea to her mistress, but her life must have had a persistent genuineness and a spiritual credibility so that Naaman’s wife listened, and Naaman in turn listened too.

This nameless sprout of a slave from Israel living in captivity in Syria and to which only 20 verses recount the story, did a mighty work for God. When he returned to Syria who knows how much Naaman’s worship had an effect. A MIGHTY effect.

And then there is the lad with the loaves…(John 6) whom Andrew said were nothing against so many. Never let yourself feel that your words, your act, your gift, is too small and insignificant. The unnamed slave girl’s proclamation of God led to the mightiest work of all, a cleansed heart. The lad’s loaves in God’s hands multiplied and fed thousands. You don’t know, maybe your act or your few words, small as you think they may be, will be multiplied in ways incalculable for the Kingdom and in a manner which brings glories you cannot see to the Lord. Have faith and keep heart. You are not insignificant, but mightily significant!

Posted in eternity, God, heaven, prophecy, ten thousand year clock

Clock of the Long Now

A man is building a clock in the West Texas Mountains that will keep time for 10,000 years. It is a 10,000 year clock, and the foundation supporting this enterprise is called The Long Now.

It is written about the clock

Designed by Danny Hillis, the Clock is designed to run for ten millennia with minimal maintenance and interruption. The Clock is powered by mechanical energy harvested from sunlight as well as the people that visit it. The primary materials used in the Clock are marine grade 316 stainless steel, titanium and dry running ceramic ball bearings. The entire mechanism will be installed in an underground facility in west Texas.

Why is this man building a clock that will keep time for 10,000 years? Well, why does any man do anything? Why did they climb Everest? Why do they go down to the sea in ships? Why do they tramp the Arctic?

But this man, why is he building a long now clock?

I wanted a symbol of the future, in the same way that the pyramids are a symbol of the past. I wanted to build something that gave us that sense of connection. 

I’m Danny Hillis and I’m building a clock that will last for 10,000 years. ..One of the ways we keep the clock accurate is that we synchronize it to the sun… Exactly at solar noon the chimes begin to play. … They worked out a way of ringing ten bells in a different sequence each day, for ten thousand years. … We’re invested in generational thinking, and answering the question, ‘were we good ancestors?’ 

There’s a problem of people not believing in the future, a long-term clock challenges those short-term civilizational stories. I’m very optimistic about the future. I’m not optimistic because I think our problems are small. I’m optimistic because I think our capacities are great. 

Oh. I see. Like the Tower of Babel.

To see the Clock you need to start at dawn, like any pilgrimage. Once you arrive at its hidden entrance in an opening in the rock face, you will find a jade door rimmed in stainless steel, and then a second steel door beyond it. These act as a kind of crude airlock, keeping out dust and wild animals. You rotate its round handles to let yourself in, and then seal the doors behind you. It is totally black. You head into the darkness of a tunnel a few hundred feet long. At the end there’s the mildest hint of light on the floor. You look up. There is a tiny dot of light far away, at the top of top of a 500 foot long vertical tunnel about 12 feet in diameter. There is stuff hanging in the shaft.

And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 9:3-4)

The first part of the Clock you encounter on the ascent up the spiral staircase is the counterweights of the Clock’s drive system. This is a huge stack of stone disks, about the size of a small car, and weighing 10,000 pounds. Depending on when the clock was last wound, you may have to climb 75 feet before you reach the weights. 

You keep climbing. For the next 70-80 feet of ascent you pass 20 huge horizontal gears (called Geneva wheels), 8 feet in diameter, each weighing 1,000 pounds. This is the mechanical computer that calculates the over 3.5 million different melodies that the chimes will ring inside the mountain over the centuries. 

And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 9:5-7)

This is what happens when man worships created things instead of the Creator. Man has an inherent notion of time. Man knows he is in a great slip-stream current of time, connected to those who have passed before us and linked to those yet to come. That is because God has put eternity into man’s heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  Man seeks the great questions, desires to know the end of things, wants to achieve greatness under the sun- or on the plains of Shinar.

The 10,000 year clock’s design and these beginning moments of its construction are truly remarkable. That men could design such a thing does seem to indicate a nearly bottomless well of capacity for accomplishment. Yet man’s capacity is only as deep or as long as the Holy God allows it, as we know the end of the story of the Tower of Babel. What the 10,000 year clock really is, is a monument to man. What a shame to use all that money, time, skill, and labor for something that is really an ode to man.

What blessings he has given us to enter His courts and see the angelic beings with wheels within wheels, TRUE machinery that lasts ten thousand upon tens of thousands of years, eternities.  What greatness He has bestowed on us to hear the trumpet and harps and worship songs that are the chimes of heaven.

In Jesus we have the eternal questions answered. We know that we know we are in His slip-stream of time and in the current that is endless and infinite. We know we are good ancestors because He is our father, the root ancestor, having in us His greatness. Apart from Him we can do nothing, but in Him we can do whatever His will allows and sustains in us to do. From man’s perspective, the clock in the mountain in West Texas is a remarkable thing. It really is. Personally, I’m in awe of it and wonderstruck at the men who are creating it. From God’s perspective it is a mote on a gnat on a flea. My true awe is of the God who invented time. What a blessing He gave His children the eternal answers. We do not have the restlessness of clockmakers, but possess an eternal peace. In Him, in heaven, there is no time, and no need for clocks.

Posted in encouragement, endless, God, infinity

Infinity

We’re familiar with infinity, even if we can’t really comprehend it. We know the Realtor selling point “there’s an infinity pool!” or the Toy Story motto “To Infinity and beyond!” which is pretty funny actually.

In the second grade classroom in which I am stationed as teacher aide, there is a number line above the Smart board. (AKA chalkboard for us old timers). To the left of zero are a host of negative numbers and to the right of zero is a host of increasing whole numbers. The teacher occasionally mentions to the kids that the numbers go on and on, to infinity.

When I was a schoolchild I learned about the number googol. I used to think that a googol was the largest number. It isn’t. But here is a Wikipedia definition of a googol:

A googol is the large number 10 to the 100. In decimal notation, it is written as the digit 1 followed by one hundred 0s. The term was coined in 1920 by 9-year-old Milton Sirotta (1911–1981), nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner.  A googol has no special significance in mathematics. However, it is useful when comparing with other very large quantities such as the number of subatomic particles in the visible universe or the number of hypothetical possibilities in a chess game. Kasner used it to illustrate the difference between an unimaginably large number and infinity, and in this role it is sometimes used in teaching mathematics. 

The ancients had a difficult time expressing just large numbers. For centuries, the standard way to describe any number over 10,000 was “myriad.” A really, REALLY big number would be ‘myriad myriads’. Here in Deuteronomy 32:30 ISV the rhetorical question is asked how could one of the the thinly populated Jews have put ten thousand soldiers to flight, or two of the Jews put “a myriad to flight”. Other translations say ten thousand.

How can one person chase a thousand of them and two put a myriad to flight, unless their Rock delivers them and the LORD gives them up?

Of course a verse that comes immediately to mind is Revelation 5:11-

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,

One day, the famous mathematician Archimedes (287BC-212BC) wanted to sort of count the number of grains of sand, Or rather, he wondered how many grains of sand would be the upper limit of grains of sand that could fit into the universe. Archimedes definitely had big thoughts.Yet he knew that ‘myriad upon myriad’ was not going to suffice as a reckoning for this large number experiment he desired to perform. Wikipedia says,

In order to do this, he had to estimate the size of the universe according to the contemporary model, and invent a way to talk about extremely large numbers. … Archimedes had to invent a system of naming large numbers. The number system in use at that time could express numbers up to a myriad (μυριάς — 10,000), and by utilizing the word “myriad” itself, one can immediately extend this to naming all numbers up to a myriad myriads (10 to the 8th power.) 

And Archimedes went from there.

Anyway, the ancients had a hard time naming large numbers, and infinity is just beyond us all. It means endless, and comprehending endless numbers, or endless anything, is impossible.

Here’s another brain buster. The only reason we can even have numbers to infinity is because of God. God is infinite. He is beyond everything that there is.

This photo is of a book called God Does Exist!: Defending the faith using presuppositional apologetics, evidence, and the impossibility of the contrary. A Twitter friend posted this page from the book as he was studying. I read the excerpt he posted below, and became entranced with the idea of an infinite God and infinite numbers. You can click on the photo to enlarge it.


Even though in our own crude, puny human way, we can only express the majestic God as myriad upon myriad big, the fact that we have an infinite relationship with Him is enough. Our time with Him is endless, boundless, impossible to calculate. We will worship Him in infinite glory endlessly.

—————————

Further Reading

What is Infinity? Math is Fun

Ligonier Devotional: Our Infinite God

Bible Hub Topic: Infinite

Posted in bible, bible art journaling, discernment, God, jesus

Bible Art Journaling: No, No, No

The Second Commandment says that any graven images of the Holy God are forbidden.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Exodus 20:4)

The next sentence says nor shall you bow down to them, so this commandment is talking about worshiping idols. Matthew Henry Commentary explains,

It is forbidden to make any image or picture of the Deity, in any form, or for any purpose; or to worship any creature, image, or picture.

And then Henry goes on to explain the deeper meanings of the command..

So, I’ve been thinking about pictures lately, spiritual pictures. I became aware last week of Presidential candidate Dr Ben Carson’s portrait with Jesus. Carson claims to be a believer, but as a Seventh Day Adventist there are too many aberrant beliefs within that cult in order for me to take his claim at face value. (FMI on Seventh Day Adventism, please go here,  here  or here)

Yes Dr Carson’s portrait is real.

Carson has said it is representative of his faith and displays his gratitude that Jesus gave him ‘gifted hands’ as a surgeon. I personally believe the portrait is blasphemy. The Second Commandment said not to portray in pictures any image of the Deity, and yet there is a big old picture of the Second Person of the Deity. Worse, Carson is seated while Jesus is standing. At the least one would think Carson would be bowing.

I like this picture of the Robe of Righteousness by Lars Justinen. In Justinen’s painting, Jesus’ face is not shown. The focus is on His act of clothing us with His righteousness and the reaction of the sinner. I’m still not sure if the Justinen painting breaks the Second Commandment if Jesus’ face and His body is not shown. But it might.

A friend made a comment on Twitter last night. She posted a photo of a Bible that had been altered by the owner having added paintings all around the edges of the margins. Apparently it’s called Bible Art Journaling. Apparently Bible Art Journaling is a “movement”.

Many visually oriented folks know that prayer journals and art journals are a great way to record thoughts and reactions to scripture. I mentioned in last night’s essay that I made art journals and individual little books during my process of coming to salvation and just afterwards. As a new babe in Christ I had difficulty grappling with new doctrines and I’d often try to visualize them since words failed me. I also used my art journal to make collages in praise to the Lord. I was so excited! The depth of my gratitude overflowed and words failed me then, too, so I’d use pictures to express what I felt. I did them in my blank sketchbook, though, NOT in my Bible.

I have had a lifelong aversion to writing, drawing, or even underlining any book whatsoever. Not novels, not textbooks, nothing. I never even wrote my name in one. I don’t write in my bible nor do I underline anything in it. Since that book is God’s Holy Word I feel even more strongly that a Bible should be handled with gravitas and respect. I’ve never underlined or written anything in any of my Bibles. “Prettying up” a Bible with my own art is not necessary and mixes my paltry words and pictures with God’s. Besides, the Bible isn’t an art project! We don’t need tutorials explaining why gesso is not a good idea to use on the thin pages of God’s word, but stencils are!

Google Image search results page for search term “Bible art journaling”

Now, if the Bibles being decorated don’t violate the Second Commandment by depicting an image from heaven nor does the owner bow down to it, then why am I writing about it? Where is the concern? Isn’t it just a matter of preference?

I have three answers for that.

1. Yes, it is a matter of preference. There is no commandment that a Christian can’t find solace in creative work on the pages of one’s Bible. But not everything allowed is profitable. (1 Corinthians 10:23). See #2.

2. I don’t want to disrespect this young woman, but I do have concerns with this approach to “encountering Jesus.” This page is a tutorial page on how to “journal your Bible.” It’s called Bible Art Journaling Challenge, and the woman promises to “Help you encounter Jesus through creativity” through “52 weeks of life-changing creative fun!” She’s not the only one. Bible Art Journaling is being promoted this way in many places.

Now here’s the issue. There is nothing wrong with art. There is nothing wrong with creativity. There is nothing wrong with collages, illustrating a prayer, painting a verse. Visuals combined with words often helps us meditate on the Word. Here is a collage I did when I was a babe, regarding 2 Corinthians 4:4 and satan’s blinding of men to the truth. All the while people play games with their life, never heeding the seriousness of it and the squandered worship they could be performing.

Here is another one I did as a babe in Christ, musing on Philippians 4:7 and the peace that passes all understanding. No matter if there is violence, war, explosions, the gal sipping tea is peaceful and unperturbed because she has Christ.

Another creative outlet I employ is spending a lot of time matching a verse with one of my photographs, all the while thinking of what the verse means. I shared these with you to show I’m not a wordsmith purist nor an old fuddy-duddy, lol. Creativity is good. Visuals are good. It’s just not a substitute for engaging your mind totally on the unadulterated word of God. Reading God’s Word is the encounter with God. Painting swirls on a Bible page is not an encounter with God.

The difference is, God’s word should stand alone and not become an “fun activity.”

We read that satan is the most subtle creature in the Garden. (Genesis 3:1.) If he can do anything to divert a Christian’s attention from the pure, unadulterated word of God, he will do it. This Bible art journaling is just such an activity. The Bible is not an art project. Coloring on its pages does not bring you closer to Jesus. Painting on its pages does not spark an encounter with Him. Reading His word, meditating on it, and obeying it is what illuminates the mind of God to us. Satan is an incremental foe. I have no idea abut the theology of this blogger but this one paragraph struck me as the best description of satan’s ploy in incrementally changing our stance on doctrine.

Incrementalism is the single best arrow in Satan’s quiver…It is a subtle approach to change masked as genuinely positive, and since it always comes in slow, bite size chunks over time, you do not even feel that you have been deceived until too late.

See what this blogger said about her jump into the journaling Bible movement. Again, I don’t disrespect her, but her opening statement seems to perfectly capture the incremental nature of satan’s ploy as explained above,

Truth be told, I had resisted this whole “art journaling in your Bible” movement at first since I already do a lot of Bible studying and I didn’t want to take time away from that in order to “play”. BUT, the seed was planted. Just about every time I cracked open my Bible I could see how I could incorporate this into my life by keeping it simple and recording what I was already learning. (source)

So once the seed was planted when she opened her bible she didn’t see Jesus anymore but all she saw was how to use the space for her art. See? It’s a problem. We have blank sketch books for art. We have altered book tutorials. Not Bible art. As a matter of fact, bible art journaling IS a form of altered book art.

Altered books: An altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into a different form, altering its appearance and/or meaning. An altered book artist takes a book (old, new, recycled or multiple) and cuts, tears, glues, burns, folds, paints, adds to, collages, rebinds, gold-leafs, creates pop-ups, rubber-stamps, drills, bolts, and/or be-ribbons it. The artist may add pockets and niches to hold tags, rocks, ephemera, or other three-dimensional objects.

Here is an example of altered book art:

Source

Here is an example of MY altered book art:

EPrata art

Here is an example of altered Bible art:

Source

Bible art journaling obscures God’s word. It competes with it. To be fair, the Bible art journaling blogger does not advocate abandoning devotional time nor substituting creative time for actual bible study. But that is the subtle genius of satan. He is an incremental foe. A sly insertion of an activity with the Bible instead of reading the Bible itself is the goal. A familiar proverb or saying goes,

“If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.”

#3. I’d said that satan is subtle. Usually there is not anything particularly wrong with an activity or practice. You can’t point a finger and show the smoking gun. However the incremental nature of satan, taking an inch here, a half an inch there, over time chisels away at the foundation and all of a sudden you look around and wonder, “how did I get here?”

Just as Catholic labyrinths were re-branded as Protestant prayer walking, just as occult channeling was re-branded as “hearing from God”, just as mystical “contemplative prayer” was re-branded as “Protestant contemplative prayer”, just as Hindu Yoga was re-branded as ‘Christian Yoga’, just as Wiccan pentagrams were re-branded as “circle making”…”. Remember enneagrams? Those have Sufi roots. Bible art journaling is already melding with Hindu Mandala coloring. “Color your way closer to God?” No, no, no.

This Mandala Coloring Book For Grown Ups Is The Creative’s Way To Mindful Relaxation

For the unfamiliar, a mandala is a sacred symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, made from a nest of squares and circles, that represents the cosmos. As the Asian Art Museum put it: “mandalas are not just images to view, but worlds to enter — after recreating the image in their mind’s eye, meditators imaginatively enter its realm.”

Oh! You mean, an encounter with the divine through creativity! Like this Christian description!

Bible art journaling is part of the growing, Illustrated Faith and Bible doodling movement where many are creating on the pages of their Bible. The idea is to engage more freely with the Word of God in new ways and to record personally inspiring scriptures in creative and artistic ways, which serve to remind us of moments in our personal journey with God. (source)

Or like this book available at Amazon, coloring Hindu mandalas to match Christian hymns.

Abide: An Adult Coloring Book Featuring 30 Great Hymns of the Faith: Where Art-Therapy and Soul-Therapy Meet

With original mandala artwork and hymn excerpts to color, Abide is certain to stimulate spirit and heart. Turn on some background music to play along as you color. Each coloring sheet is one-sided, with hymn texts printed on the back of each design.
Carefully selected hymns to appeal to young and old. Original mandala artwork. Artistic script designs. Simple, but beautiful mandala designs.

Source

People, Mandalas are HINDU. They are not, nor will they ever be CHRISTIAN. They represent something sacred to the unsaved. Something sacred to the unsaved is an IDOL. We are back to the Second Commandment I opened this essay with. Don’t believe me? See mandalas defined-

Definition of mandala:Mandala (Sanskrit Maṇḍala, ‘circle’) is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Indian religions, representing the universe. The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. In Hinduism, a mandala (yantra) is a two- or three-dimensional geometric composition used in sadhanas, puja or meditative rituals. It is considered to represent the abode of the deity. Each yantra is unique and calls the deity into the presence of the practitioner through the elaborate symbolic geometric designs. According to one scholar, “Yantras function as revelatory symbols of cosmic truths and as instructional charts of the spiritual aspect of human experience”. (source)

Do you really think it’s innocent to color a mandala just because some money-grubbing, undiscerning author re-packaged a pagan activity by pasting a line from a beloved hymn over the top of it and adding “Christian” to the title?

That is where Bible art journaling leads. It’s a diversion.

The Puritans had a high view of the Bible. Puritan Richard Baxter wrote in the mid 1600s,

The reading of the word of God, and the explication and application of it in good books, is a means to possess the mind with sound, orderly, and working apprehensions of God, and of his holy truths: so that in such reading our understandings are oft illuminated with a heavenly light, and our hearts are touched with a special delightful relish of that truth; and they are secretly attracted and engaged unto God and all the powers of our souls are excited and animated to a holy obedient life.

Therefore I do not believe that painting butterflies on my Bible’s pages is an encounter with Jesus. Doing so incrementally adulterates it, alters it, and then slowly degrades the high view we should have of it. The Bible is not an art project.

See? I like butterflies. Really.

Posted in creation, God, valley of vision

Hovering over chaos, order came to birth: Valley of Vision

My morning devotional includes reading one prayer from the phenomenal book “Valley of Vision.” These are Puritan prayers, collected and compiled by grand subject. Today’s was “The Spirit’s Work”. For me, these prayers are utterly moving, piercing, and beautiful with a lyricism of writing and a stirring of the soul that is unmatched, except by the Bible. Here is today’s, and I comment at the end:

The Spirit’s Work (from The Valley of Vision)

O God the Holy Spirit,
Thou who dost proceed from the Father and the Son,
have mercy on me.

When thou didst first hover over chaos,
order came to birth,
beauty robed the world, fruitfulness sprang forth.
Move, I pray thee, upon my disordered heart;
Take away the infirmities of unruly desires
and hateful lusts;

Lift the mists and darkness of unbelief;
Brighten my soul with the pure light of truth;
Make it fragrant as the garden of paradise,
rich with every goodly fruit,
beautiful with heavenly grace,
radiant with rays of divine light.

Fulfil in me the glory of thy divine offices;
Be my comforter, light, guide, sanctifier;
Take of the things of Christ and show them to my soul;
Through thee may I daily learn more of his love,
grace, compassion, faithfulness, beauty;
Lead me to the cross and show me his wounds,
the hateful nature of evil, the power of Satan;

May I there see my sins as
the nails that transfixed him,
the cords that bound him,
the thorns that tore him,
the sword that pierced him.

Help me to find in his death the reality
and immensity of his love.
Open for me the wondrous volumes of truth
in his, ‘It is finished’.

Increase my faith in the clear knowledge of
atonement achieved, expiation completed,
satisfaction made, guilt done away,
my debt paid, my sins forgiven,
my person redeemed, my soul saved,
hell vanquished, heaven opened,
eternity made mine.

O Holy Spirit, deepen in me these saving lessons.
Write them upon my heart, that my walk be
sin-loathing, sin-fleeing, Christ-loving;
And suffer no devil’s device to beguile
or deceive me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As I read the line that says,

When thou didst first hover over chaos, order came to birth, beauty robed the world, fruitfulness sprang forth.

It brought to mind a metaphor. When all three Persons of the Triune God were intimately involved with the earth’s creation, it made me think of a metaphor of how the Triune God is intimately involved in similar work to hover over us, order coming to birth, beauty robing our soul, and fruitfulness springing forth. He creates out of the formless void of our disordered heart peace, calm, rest, fruitfulness. All three Persons of the Triune God are involved in creating in us an interior world of light.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:2-3)

May the perfect and loving God who created earth and soul, bring you truth and comfort today. Let the Light of His love and Word illuminate your soul.

Posted in creation, encouragement, fall, God, seasons

First day of fall: God’s glory in creation continues to awe

The next three months are among my favorites of the year. The hot-hot-hot summer is done. The sticky humidity is over. The skies have cleared of that summer haze, and the stars are again bright at night. There is a new vigor and freshness of the days and a crispness to the evening where it feels just so good to draw up your blanket and cuddle.

The Lord ordained the seasons in their progressions since the very beginnings. The cycle is one that is both useful and beautiful. He could have made everything gray and rectangular. But He didn’t. The diversity of foods, lands, stars, trees, and seasonal changes is gloriously gorgeous. The display of leaves during fall, the harvest bounty, the stars glittering above in the clear night sky…all useful,yes, for signs and growing and timing … but beautiful too.

Our God is creative and His works are to be praised.

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, (Genesis 1:14)

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. (Psalm 104:19)

Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. (Exodus 34:21)

He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes. (Psalm 147:16)

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. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Posted in bible, God, god's word

Where is wisdom?

EPrata photo

Some look for wisdom in philosophy. But God’s word says philosophy is empty.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

Some look for wisdom in psychology. But God’s word says psychology is empty. Solomon said the wise dies just like the fool! (Ecclesiastes 2:16b). Man’s wisdom is vanity. God’s word is sufficient.

Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Some look for wisdom in the heart. But the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Some look for wisdom in the world. But God says the world is in the hand of the evil one.
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)

It is only God’s word where we can find the knowledge we need for living in a way that pleases Him. David was declared by God to be a man after His own heart. One reason is that David relied on His word, reveled in His word, and walked in His word. See all the ways David describes God’s word:

Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.
I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me! (Psalm 119:1-8)

The Hebrew meaning of each of these different ways David described his delight in God’s word:

way: road, distance, journey, (bespeaks a journey from justification to glorification, not just one instance of obedience)
testimonies: spoken word (bespeaks the legal aspect of the LORD’s commands for His people)
precepts: A mandate of God; collectively when plural, for the Law, commandment (bespeaks His authority and our obedience)
statutes: something prescribed or owed, a statute, limit or boundary (bespeaks do not go beyond but stay within)
commandments: obligation, terms. (commandments are not suggestions)
rules: ordinance promulgated by, law of Kings (bespeaks the origin of the Law)

Do you read your Bible every day? Are you a woman after God’s heart? A man after God’s heart?

Where is wisdom? In God and His word.

Posted in God, Michelle Lesley, providence, sovereign

Freedom from Sin, 10 Things about Southern Baptists, Heart problems, But God…

It is said that a flippant young man remarked to a preacher in mocking fashion, “You say that unsaved people carry a great weight of sin. Frankly, I feel nothing. How heavy is sin? Ten pounds? Fifty pounds? Eighty pounds? A hundred pounds?”

The preacher thought for a moment, then replied, “If you laid a four hundred pound weight on a corpse, would it feel the load?”

The young man was quick to say, “Of course not; it’s dead” Driving home his point the preacher said, “The person who doesn’t know Christ is equally dead. And though the load is great, he feels none of it”

The Christian, unlike the average non-Christian, is not indifferent to the weight of sin. He is actually hypersensitive to it. Having come to Jesus Christ, his senses are awakened to the reality of sin. His sensitivity to sin intensifies as he matures spiritually. Such sensitivity prompted a saint as great as Chrysostom, the fourth century church father, to say he feared nothing but sin (Second Homily on Eutropius).

More at link

10 Things I Wish Southern Baptists Knew About Southern Baptists

Yes, there is a lot of ignorance about Southern Baptists out there among those who aren’t part of our denomination. However, there’s also a lot of ignorance inside the SBC about what’s really going on in our denomination, our doctrine, practices, leadership, and so on. These are ten SBC realities I wish the average Southern Baptist church member were more aware of.

The Lord is stunningly graceful. Read this from Sunny Shell and see if you don’t weep.

My Flesh and My Heart May Fail, But God…

This past Friday, my Cardiac Electrophysiologist confirmed that I have an uncommon heart arrhythmia called sick sinus syndrome (SSS). What this means is that my heart can no longer keep a steady rhythm because it’s “sick”.

But God… such powerful words. We read in Ephesians 2:4

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,

Here is a devotional from Our Daily Bread on “But God…”

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8 

Howard Sugden, my pastor when I was in college, preached many memorable sermons. After all these years, the one titled “But God . . .” still makes me stop whenever I come to those words in the Bible. Here are a few examples of verses that encourage me with the reminder of God’s righteous intervention in human affairs: 

“You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to . . . save many people alive” (Gen. 50:20). 

“Their beauty shall be consumed in the grave . . . . But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave” (Ps. 49:14-15). 

“My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26). 

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7-8). 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard . . . the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:9-10). 

Whenever you feel discouraged, look up some “but God” verses and be reassured of God’s involvement in the lives of those who love Him. 

Creator of the universe
Who reigns in awesome majesty:
How can it be that You’re involved
With such a one as me? —Sper 

God’s involvement in our lives should reassure us of His love.

Posted in creation, discernment, God, paul, southern lights

What do Aurora Australis, Romans 1, and Apostle Paul have in common?

In Romans 1, the famous passage in which Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit describes the pagans’ reaction to experiencing the God of Creation, begins in verse 18.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

How does this play out, exactly? How are His invisible attributes seen and known? How is it that what can be known about God is made plain to people whose minds are darkened?

I was watching a very excellent documentary called “Antarctica: A Year On Ice”. It follows the people who live and work through a year’s cycle at the various scientific stations on the most remote and brutal continent on the planet. The continent is staffed with about 1100 people at various international stations up and down the Antarctic coast. The largest is the United States’ McMurdo Station. In most documentaries, they show the scientists working. Penguins, climate change, volcanic action, geology…but this documentary features the people who staff the stations in support of the scientists’ work. The regular folks.

The documentary further features the many hundreds of regular people who both work there during the summer, and who “winter over.” They man the store, staff the fire station, fix tractors, cook the meals, wash the dishes, take inventory of all the equipment, etc. When the last plane out at the end of summer leaves, they stay. Thus, the wintering over experience is unique to only a few individuals each year, as the full swell of 1100 during summer dwindles to only about 200 souls spread out among 30 scientific stations during winter in the Antarctic.

Living where there is no hope of departure for 6 months, in brutally cold and windy conditions, in darkness as the sun disappears below the horizon, with only a few dozen people around you…is something that only a few are allowed to experience.

Screen shot from “Antarctica: A Year On Ice”. Aurora Australis

Interestingly most of the people who “winter over” in the Antarctic love it. The landscape under the moon has a stark and glowing beauty. There is an astounding resplendence in the sky that only a few people are privileged ever to see. The stars, planets, Milky Way, moon, and of course the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) dance across the sky in majestic processions, all the time, for there is no sun to hide their glories.

Now here comes the Romans 1 passage lived out among a Gentile. One of the workers described her experience seeing all this for the first time. Here is what she said:

I was out on the sea ice, and all of a sudden comes rolling these waves and waves of green like fairy dust. Giant curtains of fairy dust, just kind of undulating over me. It filled the whole sky and moved in waves across the sky. And I thought this is either what it looks like when aliens are about to abduct you…lol, because this is the green stuff coming down and you feel like you can reach up and touch it. Or if you are a person who believes in heaven, maybe this is what you see in heaven. I’m not sure.

But it was really an emotional, life-changing experience for me. I found myself, not believing I’d done it, when I’d figured out where my body position was, I was actually on my knees crying. That’s how beautiful it was to me.

She sounds like every other person who had an encounter with the Living God. She didn’t directly meet the Living God like John, Paul, Isaiah, or Ezekiel did, but she experienced His power through His creation. When you do, you grope for words. You fall on your face. She had a mental reaction and a physical reaction.

First, you notice she described her experience in supernatural terms. It was either aliens, and in context it was clear she was joking, or it was God (“heaven”). Here she was more serious. The blinded mind does see and know of the Living God when they perceive His qualities through His creation, and her description was exhibit A in this process.
 
She lives and works with scientists in a place that only exists to perpetuate science and to discover scientific reasons for the way the planet is and how it works. All her conversations with people on McMurdo are founded from that basis. That is why they are there in the first place. Yet when she encountered the creation power of the Living God, her first thought was heaven. She did not say “Wow the Big Bang all those billions of years ago manifested itself in perfectly organized ions that traveled over millions of miles in a beautiful display!” She said “heaven” … and who lives in heaven? God.

Secondly, you notice her physical reaction. She was so overwhelmed with glory of His creative power she became insensate. She didn’t know if she was ‘in the body or out of her body’. She had to ‘come to’ and when she did, noticed she had fallen to her knees. Do we fall on our knees when we detect a scientific principle at work? Are we so awed by the process of pasteurization that we cry tears of joy on our knees? Maybe Louis Pasteur did, but anyone else? No.

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.  (2 Corinthians 12:2)

Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. (Ezekiel 1:28b)

screen shot from the documentary. McMurdo station under southern lights

In the Bible men and women fell down when they experienced the direct glory and power of the LORD. Peter fell to his knees when Jesus brought all the fish to the boat, for example. Isaiah fell down in his vision seeing the heavenly throne room. However, people also fell down when they encountered the near-glory of God, experiencing the things sent from heaven. John fell down at the angel’s feet. Cornelius fell down at Peter’s feet. Saul Saul, he fell down when the light from heaven shone around him. The difference as the Romans verse reminds us, is that we are not to worship the creation, not angels nor light nor other men, which are all created. We are not to worship southern lights or the sun or birds of the air nor creeping things.

But those who encounter a direct power from God through the creation react. This reaction is from a conscience which knows what they are seeing is from God and that He exists. This is what the Romans verses mean.

When Apostle Paul witnessed, he always began in the synagogue when giving the Gospel to Jews, reasoning from the scriptures. (Acts 17:2-3). With the Gentiles though, he always started with creation. He did this with the Lycaonians (Acts 14:6, 15) and the Greeks (Acts 17:22–31). Paul started with Creation and God’s attribute as Creator, and he exhorted Gentile listeners to see what can be seen in nature as the evidence for this.

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry. (Romans 11:13)

That is because they know the truth. They know God has created all, but they suppress it. Knowing but suppressing, understanding but denying, is an ongoing mental and emotional struggle inside each and every Gentile. It takes energy to suppress the truth that manifests itself in unwanted forms, such as falling to one’s knees, becoming insensate, or crying. The question is, what will they do with the information afterwards?

That’s where we as Christians can bring some more pressure to bear on their internal emotional and physical tension. We are witnesses to the God of creation. Before I was saved I lived unplugged close to the land and on the sea, experiencing the natural world in many ways. It became obvious to me that there IS a God. Nothing of what I was seeing in His creation could have come about through haphazard bangs and solar wind and evolution. So, I knew God is real because I was seeing His invisible attributes. But that is where I became stuck. What now? What does it mean? Who is this God and what does He want from me?

That is where we can be effective in sharing the next step for the questioning pagan. That next step is sharing knowledge of Jesus, sin, and judgment. Paul used but switched their concept of the God of creation to the God of intimate, loving involvement in their lives, a God who demands holiness but provided the way to achieve what we could not.

Posted in encouragement, God, praise, secret

Does God Keep Secrets?

He is God and He does have secrets.

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut 29:29.)

However, God also reveals things to us. Sometimes all at once, (creation) sometimes way before the time, (Daniel’s 70 weeks) and sometimes incrementally (Adam’s protoevangelium of the Messiah’s coming).

He is God and He does have secrets. Here are at least 4 things known only secretly to God (according to Gill’s Exposition of Deuteronomy 29:29)

1. Gill: particularly the times and seasons of their accomplishment, which he retains in his own power, Acts 1:6.

1a. Amos 3:7 says, “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” So by this we know that He keeps His own counsel until the time He decides to reveal His plans to us.

2. Gill: “There are many secret things in nature, which cannot be found out and accounted for by men, which the Lord only knows;”

2a. As anyone who follows physics knows, the more that men search for the secret to the universe and believe they have found it, (quarks! neutrinos! Bosons!) the more they know that the secret to His creation is unknowable. God has revealed his creation to us.

Romans 1:20a says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” So we can see His attributes revealed in creation but we cannot know fully the Mind that created it.

3. Gill: and there are many things in Providence, which are unsearchable, and past finding out by finite minds, especially the true causes and reasons of them;

3a. God will reveal Himself by making known His purposes and intentions for us if we diligently seek Him:

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice. (Deuteronomy 4:29-30)

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)

He is a treasure and you have to seek, dig, find treasure. It does take some work on our behalf to open the secrets of the Bible He has revealed to us. Fortunately, He has sent a Helper to illuminate these to us when we do seek!

Alternately, Parables were open secrets designed to illuminate insights about God and His kingdom to those who have the mind of God and remain hidden in plain sight from those at enmity with Him. In addition, Job searched for a purpose to the things happening to him, but as Gill said, there are many things in Providence which are unsearchable. Yet, though His purpose for troubling Job was never revealed to Job, God revealed His purpose for Job’s trial to us.

4. Gill: and there are many things relating to God himself, which remain secret with him; But those things which are revealed to us are revealed forever.

4a. Amen!

Some thoughts about God, our precious Jesus who came to seek and save the lost, make Himself known to us, and to bring us to His abode when the (secret) time is ready. Here is praise for our knowable/unknowable God:

O Lord My God, You Are Very Great
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire. (Psalm 104:1-4)