Monday, November 26, 2012
I made this photo large because I really like it! During our trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in September, we rode through this tunnel of glorious golden Aspen trees and at the end, the view opened up to a beautiful valley of colorful trees, a red barn and soaring mountains all around. It was breathtaking!
As we travel through the highways and byways and various paths of life, we're never quite sure what lies beyond the bend or over the hill ahead of us. It could be something good, or it could be something quite the opposite. I'm so thankful that God knows it all and He's in control of every breath I take.
Here's a thought I had one day: God has already written the book of the world – past, present and future. Along the way He has blessed people with clues and promises and pictures and foreshadowing of what is yet to come for them, but has already been completed by Him. The script for our future was written by God in His past. How exciting and extraordinary!
Over and over in the Old Testament and New Testament as well, God prophesies about things to come -- many of them things that have already passed in our lifetime. One example are the promises God made to Abraham. I like what Galatians 3:8 says about those promises: "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed.'"
Rather than find such a truth in any way daunting, I find it comforting. As Job said, "He knows the way that I take....) 23:10. All I have to do is acknowledge Him in all my ways and He has promised to direct my paths (from Proverbs 3:6).
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Even though I'm mostly pretending to be afraid of this bronze scorpion (by Nick Bakker) on Main Street in the little town of Marble Falls, Texas, the life-like sculpture gave me chills. First of all, scorpions are horrifying creatures to my way of thinking. And secondly, it reminds me of the deadly, giant insects in the most recent King Kong movie -- something I can still have nightmares about.
As soon as I saw this scorpion sculpture, I considered the spiritual message wrapped around it's heartless destructive instinct and poisonous tail. It reminds of Satan and his heartless destructiveness and poisonous ways.
Here are some interesting facts about scorpions, according to Wikipedia: they are nocturnal, preferring darkness to hunt and feed; they are opportunistic predators; they either crush their prey or inject it with venom. In some cultures the scorpion is perceived as an embodiment of evil.
Satan IS the embodiment of evil. His wickedness and intent to destroy mankind is without a shred of mercy. At least in the case of the scorpion, his destructive nature is totally instinctive -- no thought involved. Not so with Satan. Every move he makes is calculated to kill and maim and cause unutterable pain, with the ultimate intent of usurping God's power.
Like the scorpion, Satan prefers to hunt and feed in darkness. The darker side of human nature creates easy pickings for he and his henchman to crush his prey and inject them with the venom of hatred, lust, murder, and a long list of sinful pursuits.
Satan and his demons are opportunistic as well. As soon as we take our eyes off God in a situation, they are ready to pounce, pinchers ready to snatch away our peace and joy and trust in the great Almighty.
We can be thankful that there are no giant scorpions on the loose out there, but beware of the greater danger. Satan and his host of demons are invisible scorpions eager to inflict eternal harm. I'm so thankful that God is always greater. Jesus told His disciples, "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you" Luke 10:19.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Just before Halloween, my daughter, two grandchildren and I went out into the countryside for some outdoor fun at the Dairy Farm. We rode in a wagon, bouncing over ruts in the field as a tractor pulled us to a vast cornfield containing an intricate maze.
We let four-year old Marisa and two-year old Declan walk ahead of us so we could observe their reaction to their first time in a cornfield.
At times, Marisa ran ahead - unafraid, reveling in the adventure and confident she could blaze a trail. We had to run to keep up (not easy on uneven ground of a cornfield) and call to her to wait and let us catch up. If she rounded a corner before we could get to her, I was fearful she might get lost.
Although he was leery of losing sight of his Mother, little Declan tried to keep up with his bigger cousin, falling more than once in his efforts. We managed to get through the maze after a number of wrong turns and dead ends -- and had fun in the process.
As I watched these two little ones roaming the uneven path together, it made me think of how they are just starting out on the journey of life. They'll be walking, stumbling, sometimes running along muddy or smooth or rutted paths all through their childhood, adolescents, into adulthood and eventually old age. The convoluted maze of life stretches before them and they have no idea what lies around the bend.
If it were not for the Lord watching over each step they take, it would be a fearful thing. I am so thankful that God loves these precious little ones and He says in Exodus 23:20: "See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared."
We do our part in leading them in the right direction by teaching them as Proverbs says, "Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil" (4:26-27).
As Marisa and Declan walk hand in hand down the corn path, I pray that they and each of my precious grandchildren, will walk hand in hand with our Lord and Savior along this path we call Life.
Friday, November 16, 2012
These beautifully beaded moccasins from the Lakota Indian tribe are part of a display at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora, North Dakota. They remind me of an important life lesson.
In the last couple decades of my life, I have discovered a great truth -- one that is well-known by many, but is taken to heart by only a few. It's this: until you've gone through "a thing" yourself, you never really know how it feels, or to quote an old Indian saying, "To understand a man, you've got to walk a mile in his moccasins."
The Biblical directive to put this truth into action is "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" Matthew 7:1-2.
The thing is, we tend to look at another person's behavior and think, "That's not the way she should act about that difficulty," or "He is way out of line with his behavior in this situation." Granted, there are times when people do not behave appropriately and they are way out of line, but too often what we consider to be poor behavior might be the best way that person knows how to cope with the situation. James said, "...But you - who are you to judge your neighbor?" (3:12).
Sometimes we're able to handle things better than we think we would when a situation arises, and other times, we fall apart and are later surprised at our own reaction to the event. The great thing is that God understands all of our reactions and motives and feelings -- and He loves us no matter how we react. I love another verse in James that is, I believe, not only how God looks at us, but how we should look at one another, "...Mercy triumphs over judgment!" (2:13). Praise God for Mercy!
Thursday, November 15, 2012
As we were driving through a small town in Montana, I spotted this magnificent tree standing above a junk vehicle. The majestic tree with its brilliant color and wide-spreading branches creates a startling contrast on one hand and, with a dash of irony -- a pleasing picture on the other. God is the amazing Author of both.
God offers the most startling contrast between Himself and man by way of how infinitely above us He is in every way. As we all know, the heavens are so vast that even planets are light years away from our earth -- and, we've never even mapped the entire universe (and I don't believe we ever will). He is so much more than we can ever be that we cannot even comprehend the vast gulf between our ways and His ways. When God spoke to Isaiah in 55:9, He pointed out: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
A pleasing picture is seen in the way the vibrant beauty of the tree overshadows the ugliness of the poor vehicle. This reminds me of how God is able to make something beautiful out of even the most ugly. I love the verses in Isaiah 61 where He promises "To give them beauty for ashes," and further also "the garment of praise." And going along with our beautiful tree theme, He says, "That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."
In every aspect, these things are to produce glory to God -- and that is indeed our greatest purpose. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Saturday, November 3, 2012
I was intrigued by this jar of ashes in the Spanish Mission Espada in San Antonio, Texas. There was a corresponding jar in another window with the English translation, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return" [from a verse in Genesis 3:19]
Without being morbid, we nevertheless need to remain aware that we are indeed mortal and will not live forever. That being said, we must ask ourselves - "Where will I be when I cease to be on this earth?" This is the most important question each person must answer. If your answer is one of uncertainty, then please, make your answer sure before another day passes in your life - because, we never know when we'll be returning to that "dust" state.
Here's how you can be sure that when your life here is ended and you step from this earth, that your next step will be into heaven -- and not the to-be-avoided-at-all-cost other destination of hell (and yes, I'm afraid that it is very real):
Three things we need to know: we have all sinned; we cannot save ourselves from the punishment of this sin; and "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" John 3:16.
If you believe these three statements to be true (and they're true whether you believe them or not), then your next step is to confess your sin to God and accept His free gift of salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am he way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me" John 14:6.
In is also important to know that we can never ever work our way to heaven by our own goodness or good works - "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast" Ephesians 2:8-9.
I love what happens when you accept Christ as your Savior, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new!"
Someday, when I become dust (and it will happen), I'll be stepping into that glorious land with my Savior and it will be amazing and wonderful! I sure hope you'll join me there someday.
“Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, you have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before you; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Surely every man walks about like a shadow…My hope is in you” Psalm 39:4-7.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
This photo of Mama Elephant and her baby from Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona, is an example of God's amazing span of creative diversity.
Our God is a God of great variety and, I'm pretty sure, a sense of humor. I mean, why else create an anteater, a fish, an elephant, and a giraffe -- and don't forget the monkey and his antics. The famed scientist Louis Pasteur once said, "The more I study nature, the more amazed I am at the Creator."
When I look out my back window at all the various trees, bushes and flowers, I notice the many different colors of green God has created in that one small view of nature. I also notice texture and shape differences. Why, God could just as easily (or probably, more easily) have created a world that was black and white, with an occasional touch of gray. Instead, He enriches His world with beauty and wonder and variety and color and so much depth of meaning that we will never comprehend it all. "I have made the earth, and created man on it. I - My hands - stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded" Isaiah 45:12.
Ah, how true and how amazing! I say with the Psalmist: "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well" (139:14). Indeed, He has created marvelous works in not only nature, but our bodies and minds and hearts as well. And, I might add: "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it" Psalm 139:6.
Therefore, I will glorify this great God, my gracious Father, by echoing David's words: "I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High" Psalm 9:1-2.