Friday, January 15, 2021

Omnipotent God


 OMNIPOTENT GOD

I love this stain glass window that sits above the doorway of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fredericksburg, Texas.  This vibrant glass portrait depicts our Lord as the Almighty King of kings – His rightful title.

We might say that Jesus’ first entry onto earth came “not with a bang, but a whimper.”  His second coming will be the polar opposite.
            The first time He came as a helpless baby, born in a dirty stable of humble parents.  The second time He will come as King of kings, Creator of the universe and ready to assume His throne.  This time He will arrive, not with the whimper of a newborn baby, but with the bang of the eternal Creator who has arrived to set His creation straight.

            We look at the world around us and wonder at the direction it’s headed.  Yet even when it looks like evil has won, believers need not fear.  It often appears to be darkest the hour before dawn.
            The world doesn’t realize it, but it’s marching to the beat of the Master Drummer.  God created time when He created our universe.  His timeline was set before the first tick of the clock at the beginning of it all.  Do we really think there hasn’t been a single minute when this awesome God wasn’t totally in control of His creation?

 Let’s look at some of God’s statements that give us a glimpse into Who He is:
       “’For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done,’ saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’” Isaiah 46:9-10.
       “Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool,’” Isaiah 66:1.
       “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?...who shut in the sea with doors?...Can you send out lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are!’?...Everything under heaven is Mine,’” Job 38, 41.
              
             The next time we become fearful and confused as we look at the chaos in the world around us, remember Who is in control.  The book of Proverbs reminds us, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,…He turns it wherever He wishes,” 21:1.
            God is in control of presidents, countries, elections, etc., etc., etc.  There is no “random” and there are no accidents.  Every thread God pulls through the tapestry of this world’s timeline is specific to His plan.  God works with perfect precision.  Everything has a purpose.  We can rest in the assurance of that truth.

            The more we acknowledge the omnipotent grandeur of Holy God, the more we’ll know that He is the Power Who will bring all things to the final, perfected conclusion contained in His Master plan.  And even as we kneel before Him in utter amazement and worshipful humility, He reaches out and lifts us, His beloved children, into His loving arms and says to us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you,” Jeremiah 31:3.
            Oh, the wonder of amazing grace, that the Almighty God of all time and space should reach down and tenderly love little ole you and me!
            “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1.
             We are blessed indeed!

  
---Note:  I’ve used a number of familiar clichés in this post - for the fun of it, and also because they actually fit.  Here are their origins:
    -“Not with a bang, but a whimper,” written by T.S. Eliot (1925) in his poem, The Hollow Man.
    -a quote about being darkest the hour before dawn, written by Thomas Fuller (1650) in his religious travelogue.
    -a quote about marching to the beat of his own drummer was written by Henry David Thoreau (1854) in his book, Walden.


Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Red Balloon


THE RED BALLOON
 
A few weeks ago, when I was eating breakfast and looking out the window, I spotted a small splash of red among the bare limbs high in the trees behind my house.  

  I soon determined it was a red balloon stuck among the skeletal treetops.  For several days, I watched the balloon wave in the wind, its metallic surface catching the sunlight and shining like a red lightbulb attached to the limb.  It was nice to see this bit of color in an otherwise gray landscape.

  Then, one day, the red balloon was gone.  My eyes searched the treetops, thinking perhaps it had floated to a different spot and I’d see it in another tree.  It was one of those cloudy, dreary winter days and the nice splash of red was nowhere to be seen.  I felt disappointed to see it go.

 Two days later, a flash of red caught my eye.  Ha!  The balloon was still there.  It had been there all the time – I just hadn’t been able to see it because it was cloudy and apparently the balloon had laid still against the far side of the tree limb.

  Immediately, I felt like God was showing me an illustration of a truth I'd just read.  God works in such mysterious ways and He will use the most mundane things to show us a bit more about Himself and His relationship to us. 

 At the time, I’d been reading my morning devotional, “Jesus Calling,” by Sarah Young.  The author writes as if Jesus is speaking to us, saying, “…your awareness of My Presence falters and flickers…When your focus is broad enough to include Me in your thoughts, you feel safe and complete.  When your perception narrows so that problems or details fill your consciousness, you feel empty and incomplete…Learn to look steadily at Me in all your moments and all your circumstances…Fix your gaze on what is unseen, even as the visible world parades before your eyes.”

  Sometimes we feel God’s presence wrapped around us, like a warm blanket on a cold day.  Like a balloon, flashing its red light as if to say, “Good morning!  I’m here to cheer your day!”  Other times, God seems so far away we wonder if He still knows we exist.  For some reason, we can’t see Him or feel His presence, so we think maybe He’s not there – like the day the red balloon was not visible.

  Just like the red balloon was there all the time, God is always right here with us.  He has promised never to leave us or forsake us – never, ever.  James reminds us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” 4:8.  Because God is always near us, I believe that verse means that we need to draw near to God so that we will feel His nearness, because it’s our awareness of His Presence that falters and flickers.  He is always here.

 We love Him because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19.

By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit,” 1 John 4:13.


 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Demon of Lethargy


THE DEMON OF LETHARGY

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling the demon of lethargy wielding his pervasive influence on me far too often lately.  During this pandemic when we’ve been stuck inside our homes, away from friends and family and Christian fellowship, the enemy finds ways to creep in and steal our joy and strength.

 The picture above shows a bronze dragon slinking down a bronze tree limb in the Conservatory at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.  The slinky curve of its scaly body and the sly expression on its face is how I imagine the demon of lethargy might look.  In fact, the Bible refers to Satan as a dragon numerous times in the book of Revelation (20:2).

 The definition of lethargy is, the state of being drowsy and dull; apathetic or sluggish inactivity.  How often during the past nine months of pandemic can we say these words describe our state of being?

  It’s time to rise up in the power of our Lord and fling that old dragon out the window and into the ditch where he belongs.  By the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer, we pray that You, O Lord, will “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,” Psalm 51:12; and help us to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might…that I might be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” Ephesians 6:10-11.

 The greatest tool in this battle against the enemy and sin is to keep our eyes focused on Jesus.  Keeping our eyes on Jesus requires staying close to Him.  As soon as we drift away from Jesus, we become easier prey for the world, the flesh, self, the dark side.  There is a magnetic pull of the world exerted on us daily.  In our own strength, it’s far easier to stray than it is to stay.  But, don't forget, we have an "all-surpassing power" living within us as children of God that offers us supernatural strength to stay the course.

 My daughter Sara said she prayed and asked God how she should be living in these challenging days in which we live.  She said He answered her with the words of a hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

 Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you…As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you: abide in My love…These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full,” John 15.  

 As we leave this year that began with so much promise (2020 sounded like a winning number), we look ahead to the new year of 2021 and wonder what lies within its boundaries.  Since we can’t see into the future beyond the end of our nose, we must trust the Creator who knows the end from the beginning and everything in between.  I’m thankful for the wonderful promise our Father gave us in Jeremiah 29:11NIV: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.”

That’s a promise that makes me smile - 😍

   


 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Joy


 JOY

The word Joy makes me smile -- and so it should as reflected in its definition.  As a noun, Joy means "a feeling of great pleasure and happiness," and as a verb, Joy means "rejoice."  This picture of "Joy to the world" hangs on the wall of my den.  I like to surround myself with the word as a reminder of all we have to be thankful for and rejoice about.

At Christmas, we sing "Joy to the World, the Lord has come, let earth receive her king..."  There was much joy surrounding the shepherds on that first Christmas day.  I think the angels were so excited about the long-awaited birth of Jesus, they could hardly contain themselves.  When the Father gave the okay for the angels to make the announcement of His Son's entry into the world of man, a multitude of the heavenly hosts burst forth from heaven with lights and singing such as the world had never before heard.  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"  The sight and sound of it would have been amazing!

We sure could use a hefty dose of Joy during these crazy times we're living in.  The wonderful thing is that God still offers joy to anyone who invites His Son Jesus into their lives.  "In Your presence is fullness of joy..." is an assurance written by David in Psalm 16:11.  David lived in uncertain times, just as we do, yet David was able to rejoice in the God who became love in human flesh.

When Jesus walked on the earth and taught His followers, He said, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full" John 15:11.


Joy is not just something we sing about and look for at Christmas.  Joy is what Jesus offers His followers in abundance -- in fullness.  To be full of something good is to be satisfied and at peace with the world around you.  Let's accept the gift of Joy offered to us by our loving Father.  Let's hold it in our hands and our hearts as the priceless treasure that was paid for by Baby Jesus - who became our Savior.  

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit," Romans 15:13.


Friday, December 4, 2020

Perspective


 PERSPECTIVE

Henry David's interesting quote is all about how we look at things in life.  Do you see the glass half-full or half-empty.  Our perspective on our circumstances, the tone of our lives, and the people and world around us makes a huge difference on our quality of life and even our effectiveness for God.  I like the words of Paul in the book of Romans, when he wrote, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit," 15:13.  Sounds like that glass is full to the brim!

I usually use my own photography in this blog, but I wanted to share some great quotes that are worthy of pondering and they came with some nice photos.  Those who know me well, know that I love intriguing pathways.  The first three photos are from the calendar I've been using this year, called Pathways by Dayspring.  I love these pictures and the truth written on them.

A reminder from that great man of God, George Muller, about the importance of spending 
much time in God's Holy Word -- His amazing love letter to His children.
Don't you just love this bamboo forest!!

I looked at this amazing picture through the month of November and wondered where 
this pathway is located.  I want to go there and walk that beautiful stone staircase!!
As for the quote -- I love it too!  Sola gratia - by grace alone.

We all know Dwight Moody was a wise man of the Lord.  These words are sobering and
remind me of the verses in Matthew:  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where
moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves 
treasures in heaven...for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," 6:19-21
The scene looks like it might be in the Colorado mountains - so beautiful!

This is the front of a greeting card by Christian author, Max Lucado.  The inside
reads:  "Every year is another chapter God fills with the plans He has written just 
for you."  And the verse in Psalms:  "And in Your book they all were written, 
the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them," 139:16.
God created each of us for a special purpose - a purpose filled with love.


"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous 
are Your works, and that my soul knows very well," Psalm 139:14
Amen!!







Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thankful


THANKFUL

    Pastor David Jeremiah said, "The Bible tells us that whenever we come before God, whatever our purpose or prayer request, we are always to come with a thankful heart."

    The Holy Bible is full of verses speaking of the importance of giving thanks to our Creator.  Psalm 100 is a classic:  "Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!  Serve the Lord with gladness...Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.  For the Lord is good..."  

    We should be thankful every single day of the year, but this special day we call Thanksgiving Day has been handed down to us through the generations -- and that too is something to be thankful for.  The history of Thanksgiving in America is believed to have begun in the early 1600s.  Several days of thanks were celebrated by the Pilgrims in early New England history that have been identified as the "First Thanksgiving," in 1621, but there was also a well-recorded Thanksgiving event held in 1619 in Virginia.  While we may not know the official origin of the holiday, we do know that George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”

    Amen to George's proclamation!  The Psalmist also echoes these sentiments, writing, "Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.  For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods," 95:2-3.

     The picture I chose for this post comes from a recent visit to the Bennett Farm in Durham, NC, where a Union and a Confederate General got together in April 26,1865, and negotiated a peace settlement that completely ended the Civil War (this was after Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9).  The picture shows a peaceful corner of the Bennett's simple farmhouse.  No doubt, there was much to be thankful for on that day when these two men signed papers that finally ended a horrible time in the history of our nation.

    We have much to be thankful for!  I like the old hymn written in 1897 by Johnson Oatman, Jr., that says, "Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done...count your many blessings see what God has done."

    Henry Ward Beecher was a preacher in the 1800s.  He wrote: “The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” 

    A.W. Tozer was a pastor and a writer in the 1900s.  He wrote:  "Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it," 

    We end with words of the apostle Paul who was a preacher way back in the first century.  He wrote:  "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

    Throughout history, we are reminded how important it is to be thankful.  What are you thankful for today?





 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Climbing the Wall


CLIMBING THE WALL

Have you ever felt like climbing the wall?  In the photos above and below, two of my grandchildren are enjoying a bit of "wall play."  In the first, they only achieved a one-foot-up, but the second photo features rounded walls at a museum and they were able to run up the side of the wall in a semi-climb- the-wall experience. 



Then, in the picture below, we have a full-on climbing-the-wall-and-proud-of-it moment.


While these glimpses of wall-climbing by my grandkids are fun, true climbing-the-wall situations are far from funny.  How about the past eight months?  Does anyone feel like climbing the wall over wearing masks, social distancing, and cramped lifestyles -- among other things?!?!


Here's my husband, my sister and her husband - all masked up and trying to play it safe with only ourselves as company in the Outer Banks this summer.  Who is sick of wearing masks?  Yes, I'm sure we all are, but since it's the only way to gather together and stay safe, we just gotta do it!  As Jesus said, "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise," Luke 6:31.  

Now and then, we probably all feel like we could climb the walls, but rather than trying to do so and falling flat on our faces, let's take a deep breath and trust God to get us through this thing.  We don't understand why all these things are happening, but thankfully, we know the One who is in control of it all - and has a purpose for everything.  I love the verse in Proverbs, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" 3:4, 5.  He will not only direct your path, but He will help you smile through the struggle as you follow that path (:  There's an old saying that brings comfort in times of trouble:  "This too shall pass."

And as for climbing walls, the Psalmist said, "With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall," 18:29 NIV.  And the prophet Joel wrote, "...they scale walls like soldiers," 2:7.  So - yes, when necessary, we can even climb a wall!