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Archive for the ‘God Thoughts’ Category

One sunny day not long ago I was resting and reading for a short period of time. After I completed the passage, a deep essay on theology, I looked up and called my wife’s name. The house sounded empty. I cruised through the rooms and she was not to be found. Then I looked out the window and there she was wandering around in the yard with her head down. I went out and made a comment about the beautiful day and asked her what she was doing. She raised up a hand grasping small flowers, most people would call weeds, and said, “They cover the yard, and they are so beautiful.” She had three different flowers. I began the search, and we found seven different types of flowers, some hardly as big as the head of a pin, but covering the yard with blues, yellows, violets, and wee little whites. All the detail for male and female flower parts and nectar production and beautiful little petals. How much of God’s beauty goes unnoticed because we are looking but not perceiving, looking inward and not around us, looking to find fault rather than encouragement, or looking to show off rather than being shown to? So small, frequently unnoticed, but declaring God’s glory anyway, quietly turning heavenward.

Many years ago I watched a program about the exploration and mapping of the cave Lechuguilla that is in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. At the very back of the cave is a room with intricate gypsum stalactites, one 20 feet long. The majority of the cave was not discovered until 1986 when cavers broke through an extensive breakdown blocking the main passage. The Cave of the Crystals in northern Mexico features selenite crystals up to 37 feet long and 4 feet in diameter. The conditions are harsh in terms of temperature, humidity, and vaporous sulfuric acid. The cave was discovered in 2000 by two miners after extensive pumping cleared the room of water.

Many other examples of once hidden beauties and wonders could be paraded before you, but these several examples demonstrate to me that God has many hidden beauties in His Creation, quietly giving glory to Him, and how many may never be discovered? Secondly, I believe it gives new meaning to why we explore at all. We don’t just climb a mountain because it is there, we seek something, something wonderful or beautiful or hidden. Our desire to discover and explore reveals God’s glory. Many explorers and exploration societies give glory to the explorers or the less than scientific explanations of what is found, but pieces of God’s character in power and design and goodness and wisdom are revealed in what we find. That is a worthy reason to explore and discover, reveal and describe.

The seventh type of flower is hidden around back and several are facing away, but they decorated our window sill for few days.

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I found the following reflection from 2011 that I never published. It still the way my wife and I do life.

One of the choices our family has made over the years is to live materially conservative lives. Obviously, if a family has financial limitations then their life must be lived frugally to maintain stability. That has been our allotment for which we are thankful to God. As I have said in times past, “Though we don’t always know how, the bills are always paid.” However, it is possible even within this forced frugality framework to choose convenience overr conservation. For instance, three of our babies wore exclusively cloth diapers and the fourth wore them until continuous diaper rash persuaded us otherwise. It began as a clear way to save money but continued as a mindset on how to conserve resources.

          Another attempt at conserving resources is the compost pile. We began our marriage with two gardens and continued maintaining one for most of our first fifteen years of marriage. We miss our gardens but our present plot is very poorly drained with very heavy soil that doesn’t grow garden vegetables well. But even now without a garden we deliver our ‘wet’ garbage to a covered compost bin that is about 3’ x 5’ x 2 ½ ‘ high. The compost pile helps return nutrients to the ground, reduces the number of times a month trash must be delivered by the rural resident to the dump, and reduces the amount of landfill usage.

          For me personally the compost has had another benefit. Though life is busy and I send one of the children out or my wife frequently took it out in times past, I actually enjoy taking out the small bucket full of scraps. In winter I most often carry it out after dark in anything but the hardest rain and never minding the cold. The smell of the air may suggest a coming snow or rain. The wind chills the nose and ears and shoulders and tells of fast changes to warmer or colder. But the best times are the clear, quiet cold nights when the stars are at full brightness. That is a time to reflect on the celestial light peering down through the bare twigs onto the detrital refuse of Earth below, and everything in between- a quiet moment to consider God and His most excellent Creation.

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As I listened to the pastor preaching on the parable of the Lamp in Luke 8, my heart was stirred to further consider the truths of the passage. In the Gospels, Jesus is constantly urging His listeners to hear Him or else affirming the value of doing so. Following are two examples where He does the latter, revealing the relationship to God and blessing that comes from listening to His Word.

“But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:21

“But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:28

What does Jesus mean by hearing? Certainly He does not mean merely receiving vibrations of air into one’s ears or even registering their reception or even focus on the communication. Jesus warns against this type of hearing in the preceding parable in Luke 8. “His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, ‘so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. [Isaiah 6:9]'”” (Luke 8:9-10) Jesus is defining ‘hearing’ as understanding and acting on what you understand. In the continuation of Isaiah call in chapter 6 of that book, God continues with what Jesus has quoted above (v.10):

“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull, and their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

‘Return’ is an action of faith. Jesus makes a hard connection between hearing and heeding in the Word, His Word, God’s Word. You “hear…and do it” (Luke 8:21) and you “hear… and observe it.” (Luke 11:28) When you hear and heed, then you will highlight the goodness and power of God to change your life. You will be His “mother” and “brother” and “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) In John 15:7-9, Jesus calls this hearing, heeding “abid[ing”, which then results in highlighting the Father (glorified by this”) by “bear[ing] much fruit”.

Of course, this brings much blessing (Proverbs 4:4, John 14:21) to the one who truly hears, faithfully heeds, and graciously highlights the goodness of God.

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Partial obedience precipitates lasting consequences.

Do you remember Saul’s debacle with Amalek (1)? In First Samuel 15:1-3 the Lord spoke to Saul through His prophet: “Then Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

He did not kill all the people of Amalek nor their livestock. It came back to haunt him and all Israel.

My pastor was teaching from I Samuel 30 and 31. Amalekites burned Ziklag and took David’s and his men’s possessions and women and children. David attempted to kill every Amalekite (2), for it says he fought from twilight until dusk of the next day. But 400 young men escaped on camels. Now there must have been at least some Amalek women and children at home and other men, too, but this band of young men could certainly repopulate Amalek in time.

Then comes I Samuel 31 and II Samuel 1. Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle by horrible means and their bodies hung from the walls of Beth-shan. When a messenger tells David what has happened, David has him cut down for killing God’s Anointed, Saul (3). The messenger, euthanizer was an Amalekite. So, Saul’s failure to fully obey God in the beginning came back to cause him problem in the end.

And the difficulty did not end there. One Amalekite, Haman the Agagite (4) set out to destroy all Jews in the time of Esther. His designs were foiled by Mordecai and Esther (Esther 9), but he came close to succeeding.

Partial obedience seems like full obedience to the half-hearted disciple. This word is hard. Sinner that I am, I have been there working my half-hearted obedience. And God says, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.” (I Samuel 15:22-23) Oh, God give me a whole heart like David’s, so that I may be as him, a man after God’s heart. (Acts 13:22)

  1. Amalek was the grandson of Esau, so Amalekites were Edomites. (I Chronicles 1:36)
  2. Amalek was stubborn in resistance to God and His people. God hardened their hearts and, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”” (Exodus 17:14-16) When Balaam prophesied the final time before Balak, he repeated the idea of Moses’ prophecy, “And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, “Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.”” (Numbers 24:20)
  3. Neither the Philistines’ arrows nor Saul’s own sword, but the Amalekite at Saul’s request killed him.
  4. Agagites were descendants of Agag, king of Amalek, at the time of Samuel and Saul. Saul foolishly spared him but Samuel cut him down. (I Samuel 15:8,33)

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My pastor’s teaching is sound biblically and practical. He was teaching from Philippians 4:20-23: “Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Packed into these closing words are a doxology, a greeting, and a benediction. He pointed out that we should make use of these words to affect how we live in the following ways. The doxology focuses us to “live for God’s glory”. The greeting encourages us to “love people”, especially the saints. The benediction blesses us to “remember the grace of Christ.” He encouraged us to pray these three things before we arise in the morning. Now I had thought at the time that this was good instruction but that the third word, “remember”, was weak. This morning upon rising I was looking for a different word or phrase. In synch with preacher language I decided upon “lay hold of the grace of Christ.” I think that I thought to pray when I awoke because he asked what we should pray before we arose. In my then present frame of mind, I suggested “In the difficulties of this day…” So, I composed my thoughts before God and hope that He will work these truths into my life this day and for many to come:

“Dear Lord, in the midst of today’s joys and difficulties, help me to live for Your glory, love people, and lay hold of the grace of Christ.”

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Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

Reading in the Proverbs lately, the sanctifying role of God’s Word to bring understanding and wisdom has captured my notice.

The confused understand; the despondent move toward hope; the fearful find security; the naive accept knowledge; the conflicted settle into peace; the foolish walk in wisdom; the sad perk up with joy; the timid boldly tell of the Savior; the persecuted receive comfort; the sinners dodge wrath and bask in blessing; the righteous are clothed in discernment and eternal riches.

Our God through communicating to man imparts life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11) “I wait for the Lord, my sol does wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

May you discover more of His grace and glory, and may His blessing overtake you in His light and protection that surround you, as you seek to walk uprightly before Him in 2022.

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I process my greatest joys and deepest trials and conflicts by writing. I don’t always communicate those on my blog, but here goes.

I was reading as the young couple entered the doctor’s office. Both tall and slender, dressed in black and gray, he walked with a bit of a swagger. I glanced up from my reading and offered for one of them to take a seat as I cleared my personal effects from the chair beside me, mumbling an apology for all my stuff. She bade him to sit down, which he did and turned to me and said, “Hi brother, my name is …”, extending his hand. I returned in kind and we began talking about his first visit to the office. I made a comment about his girlfriend’s (as it turned out) accent, to which he rejoined that she is a citizen of Kazakhstan, later showing me her passport with the Cyrillic lettering. We discussed her native Russian language, homeland, Tartar heritage, and travels.

In the course of the conversation I offered for him to read the first sentence of the book I was reading, published in 1833 but written in 1562, with the warning that the one sentence goes on for a page and a half. Seeing that the sentence was an introduction and authorization by counselors of Queen Elizabeth I under her authority to read the following sermons in the churches in the absence of a proper sermon, it precipitated a spiritual conversation. He commented that he took his girlfriend to church recently, seeming to imply that she had not been before as she thought it was curious. I asked him if he was a believer in Jesus to which he replied yes, and continued by describing his church attendance and regular reading of God’s Word. Now his girlfriend got involved in the conversation. As that progressed she ascertained me that she has a relationship with God. Pressed as to what kind, it quickly became evident that she thought herself god and communed with God and that any sincere belief in God was a path to God. I quoted John 14:6, which says, “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by Me.'” She rebutted that it was a very exclusive claim. “Yes, it is,” I replied. There were many more rejoinders, so I am giving the essence, most intense parts, and highlights only. “So, then you are saying that a Muslim (remember that she is from Kazakhstan) who has never heard of Jesus is doomed to hell.” I replied that many churches are springing up in Muslim and tribal and isolated places all over the world. “You are saying that I am going to hell.” I explained that is what the Bible is saying, for anyone who does not trust Jesus. Jesus is claiming to be the only way to God. “That is a very arrogant statement,” she said, looking me straight in the face. I replied, “I would agree with you if it were just me saying it, but that is what Jesus is saying. I am only the messenger.” She continued with the skeptic’s angle, saying that anyone could know that their way was right, and that there were many ways to God. I rejoined with evidence of the resurrection. “People don’t just rise from the dead.” The boyfriend ended the conversation by interjecting a possible way out, that Jesus was only referring to His immediate audience. I tried to reply with Scripture, but they both lost interest and the moment was ended. He and I trailed off into polite conversation about our mutual love of nature and exchanged contact information for a possible hike together in the future.

Had not several of the workers in the office been close by to hear most of the conversation, it might have ended with that. But I had seen the receptionist glare at me several times during the conversation and leave quite quickly as the conversation died down. In a few minutes the doctor called me aside, instructing me to not ever talk about religion or politics in his office again. What amazed me most was his previous claim that he is a Christian.* The conversation had not been loud, and though we vehemently disagreed, it did not end in ugly words. Had the doctor asked me to be careful about overheard conversations or to take care in how I talk to the people I meet in his office, I could have understood, but for him, claiming to be a Christian, to require me to not talk about God because it would upset some people who were there for healing was shocking to me. Have we become Christians in name only, fearing and revolting at the possibility of confronting people with the truth? He was trying to be forceful to get me to agree to not talk about these subjects. I was just replying “OK”, intending only to acknowledge his words. I may need to go back and clarify that I can not agree to not sharing Christ if the subject should come up. I wish that at that moment I had remembered the reply Peter and John had given to the rulers and elders: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)

Several hours later I was assisting my wife and saw the young woman sitting in a nearby therapy chair. She smiled at me and gave what appeared to be a bit of a wave. I smiled back. After I had helped my wife, I went over and spoke to her, both of us agreeing that we enjoyed meeting each other. She gave no sign of awkwardness or disapproval. Given her total rejection of our discussion about salvation earlier, at least outwardly, I wondered who the conversation had been for: her, her boyfriend, the receptionist, the nurse, the patient assistant, or all of the above.

*I had a friend read this article before I published it, asking if I was out of line or missed something. He cautioned that I needed to see the situation from the doctor’s point of view. Perhaps he had a bad day, or maybe he just wanted to calm his employee who had just complained to him. I then realized that he had gotten the conversation secondhand and not accurately at that.

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When the pastor preached from 1 Samuel 1 yesterday morning, I was particularly struck by Hannah’s response to Eli, the High Priest: “Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord. Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.”” (I Samuel 1:14-16) She uses drinking wine as a metaphor for how she is presenting her request to God. As I contemplated this turn of words, I considered how we so often get it backwards.

We pour comfort into ourselves that results in pain when we should pour out our pain before God that results in comfort from Him.

The comforts we seek are drink, drugs, food, sex, attention, things, excitement, accomplishments, money, relationships. Some are bad in and of themselves, but others are not inherently bad, but we sour them by our selfish pursuit of them. Instead, you should be “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) And “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) As the pastor pointed out, what we need most is God. He is our source of peace, even when there is no resolution of the problem, not our comfort food or drink, not a psych evaluation.

The result in Hannah was as follows: “So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” (I Samuel 1:18) Did she just pretend that she was not distraught? Did her troubles vanish in a moment? No, her faith in God that caused her to pour out her spirit to God, had resulted in the comfort from God. She did not even know at that moment if God would answer her request for a child in the affirmative, but she trusted God to do what was best. As pastor pointed out, she was a type for Mary, who had a strange and stressful pregnancy and birth, but trusted God through it all. And when she visited her cousin Elizabeth in Luke chapter 1, Mary quotes or alludes to much of what Hannah prayed in praise to God in 1 Samuel 2, both speaking boldly of God’s salvation.

In my times of stress and strain, I need to pour out my spirit to God concerning my troubles and trials. As Corrie Ten Boom said at the end of the “Hiding Place” that she and Betsy learned from concentration camp to tell others, “However deep our suffering, God is deeper.”

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While the Papists and Heathen celebrate All Hallows Eve, many believers across the world remember Reformation Day when a struggling monk was seeking the truth and setoff a firestorm of changed hearts and minds.

We must all as believers relive times of revival and reformation, for as the nailing of the Ninety-five Theses to the Wittenberg Church door was only a beginning, so our day of salvation and moments of rededication are only beginnings. It is usually at this moment that we quote II Chronicles 7:14 about the the people of God humbling themselves and calling on God’s name or Hosea 6:1 in which we are admonished to return to God. These are worthy of deepest consideration, as we are so often self-deceived about the depth of our walk before God.

But today I call to your attention the words of Daniel 9:3-5: “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.” The church in America and our church specifically has seen a period of barrenness and declension in numbers and depth of spiritual life. We need revival. We need restoration. We need reformation.

It is appropriate that we should sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther on this day. Not only is it appropriate to remember the work of God through a humble monk, but even more so to recall that God can and will overcome the forces of Satan, the world system, and our sinfulness. We need to call on Him to be gracious to work it powerfully in us now, in this day, in our church, in our country, in our hearts.

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“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8

Consequently, don’t be surprised when God accomplishes His will in what seems like to you a totally novel and unexpected way. Consider the following description of what God accomplished through Paul:

“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” Philippians 1:12-18

So, you see, a seeming hindrance to the Gospel God used as an advancement of the Gospel. And Paul “want[s] them to know” (v.12), not because He is bragging, but always because he wants them to be encouraged about God’s glory in His character and works (provision, guidance, enabling, etc). The result for the hearers would be faith rather than fear.

Paul’s “circumstances turned out” (v.12) is not an admission of fortune (luck) or coincidence but a declaration of providence, which is “divine guidance or care” (Merriam-Webster). God carries out what He designs to do according to His Word (Isaiah 55:8-11) and for His people: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

The enemies of God tried to silence Paul by false accusations concerning desecrating the temple by bring Gentiles inside and inciting riots (Acts 24:5-9: Tertullus before Felix). The result for Paul when he wrote Philippians was house arrest in Rome for two years, always chained to a Roman soldier. The result that God brought about for the Gospel and the people of God was two-fold. Firstly, Paul had a captive audience with the chained soldiers and others who could come and go. This situation exposed the Praetorian Guard assigned to guard him and Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22) to the Gospel which may not have happened otherwise. Secondly, believers who heard of God’s protection of Paul, Paul’s boldness, and people being saved, were encouraged and emboldened to share the Gospel in the face of difficulty. Paul later said in 2 Timothy 2:8-9, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.” The Gospel cannot be stopped, even if Christians are silenced, imprisoned, or killed.

We think that God saves in a certain way, but He is sovereign in salvation and may accomplish an individual’s salvation by many, varied, and frequently unexpected means. “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife” (v.15). What these people meant as a distressing situation for Paul, he instead saw as assistance in spreading the Gospel. It reminds me of the Proverbs: “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” (16:1), “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (16:9), and “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.” (19:21) God’s counsel overcomes men’s plans in order to accomplish His will. Jesus confirmed a similar situation to His disciples: “John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” Even the best of preaching is a form of foolishness for Paul says, “ For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (I Corinthians 1:21) That does not mean that well-studied, well-intentioned, and well-delivered preaching of the Gospel is not valuable and not used of God, but only that man’s best is far short of God’s glory.

I glean two encouragements from this passage: 1) Even when everything seems to not go well and even appears to be a failure, God is not hindered from accomplishing His purposes, and 2) I am humbled because God is gracious to use me and pleased when I obey, but He does not need me and my best efforts do not impress Him.

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My oldest brother sent out a family email with a link (Major DW Whittle) and a “hope they will encourage you…” concerning the last words penned by D.W. Whittle, who wrote some 200 hymns. Well they did indeed encourage me for reasons of knowing at present a minor bit of the pain from which he must have written these faith filled words and his focus on heaven and God’s presence then and now. But I was also challenged by the words, “The last words he wrote have never been set to music.” I determined the meter to be 6, 6, 8, 6. I looked in one of my hymnbooks and did not find a tune that fit the words. There was not an exact match of the meter to this this poem, but even if there had been, tunes don’t always fit the syllable emphases. So, foolish neophyte songwriter that I am, I wrote my own tune. Singing it through, I realized that the first line needed an eighth note couplet for differing phrasing in different verses. Then I realized that in three of the lines Mr. Whittle had not been so exact in his number of syllables. In one of these the eighth note couplet took care of it, but in verse 4 I could find no other way to fit the words to the tune than to eliminate two words and add two tied eighth notes that are used in this verse. The deletions I made don’t significantly change the meaning and are shown in parentheses below. Still, line 3 has 9 syllables so “cre-a” in “creation’s” is divided into the two eighth notes.

“Not every night is thus;
Some nights with pain are drear.
(Then) I join my moan with creation’s groan
(And) the chimes I do not hear.”

If somehow my tune might introduce this encouraging poem to singing it for some number of Christians, it would have been well worth the effort. It was worth it anyway as I reflected on God’s goodness to me communicated through the words and sang about it.

My Lord Draws Nigh tune is a link to the melody written and a short mp3 file of me singing the second verse. Enjoy and be encouraged by considering the goodness and nearness of our God.

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On this Labor Day, after chores were done and the moderate heat of afternoon had come, I decided to take a walk. Having focused too much on circumstances and societal ills recently, I was reminded by hymns and prayer and preaching of the Word and reading of the Scriptures and fellowship with brothers and sisters yesterday that I needed to once again renew my perspective in things that are “true, …honorable, …right, …pure, …lovely, …of good repute, …any excellence and …worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). As I began my walk, parts of my body aching, the sun heating*, and my thoughts melancholy, I told God that I wanted His peace and joy. In fact, I pleaded, “I need Your peace; I need Your joy.” As I thought about why, the following words began to come:

I need Your peace; I need Your joy
Though trials come and storms destroy
Forever on this hope depend
That I am Yours; You will defend**

This world with sorrows ever bent
To rob our joy to full extent
Broken relationships and plans
Beg for a healing from Your hand

Your purposes are hard to see
Sense of security can flee
I on this confidence rely
My soul will to You upward fly

My health and body will decay
Unless suddenly in a day
And some loved ones before me go
We saints ever with You, I know

So frequently with sin beset
With worries frequently I fret
Temptations against me array
Through Your Word and Spirit I pray

And by these means I overcome
And more like Jesus I become
More victory through You I win
And peace and joy in You begin

I am so apt to be drawn to the difficulties of any situation and must constantly place before my mind, my eyes, my ears, and my heart the eternal truths of God’s grace in salvation, past, present, and future. I am thankful that “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14) And even more so that “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3) My hope, our hope, is in Him.

A writing note about the order of the verses. If you number the verses as seen, 1 – 6, the original order as written was 1,2,,3,5,6,4. I cannot decide if the beginning of peace and joy should be the end or if the order would better be 1,2,4,5,3,6 so that heaven is last. If you care to think about it, I would appreciate some feedback.

.

*for which I had come out for a “therapeutic sweat”

**”I am Yours whom You will defend” was how I originally wrote the line, and I think it may more clearly communicate the intent, but “That I am Yours; You will defend” seems to fit the meter and flow better.

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Beauty in Science.
The American Physicist Richard Feynman wrote, “You can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity.” But what is a serious scientist doing writing about cold, objective facts and emotionally compelling beauty in the same sentence? Is there beauty beyond sight, sound and smell? Is there beauty in a simple mathematical equation or a profound idea? And if so, does that beauty communicate anything deeper? At the end of his video essay, “Change”, MIT Physicist Phillip Morrison is discussing the significance of Einstein’s equation E = mc2. He asks what it means and then becomes animated and declares, “What it means is wonderful.” He goes on to explain what it means and because the equation is so simple and profound he marvels at its beauty. So wonder at beauty comes in many ways and at many levels.

More Questions That Beauty Raises.
But what is beauty? Is it “in the eye of the beholder”, that is, subjective, or is it an objective fact about an object or process? Does it have any purpose or is it only random? What is the source of beauty?

Beauty Defined.
In his book “The Evidential Power of Beauty”, Thomas Dubay writes, “The objective evidence for the truth of the tulip flows from its form and not simply from the fact it satisfies a person’s needs or desires.” The tulip is beautiful whether anyone is there to see it or not and even if anyone who sees it is incapable of recognizing its beauty. The eye of the beholder neither makes the tulip beautiful nor denies it of its beauty. Beauty is objective.

Beauty Elicits Response.
But I do not want to rob the beholder of beauty or of his or her pleasure in beholding it. Beauty is compelling; it “elicits a response.” It affects us. Why? John Piper responds to the question this way, “Why do we get near bigness and beauty and magnificence and excellence? It’s because that is what we were made for. We were not made for mirrors. We were made for standing in front of what is infinitely beautiful and having it so satisfy us…” Hans Urs von Balthasar says, that in fact, “every experience of beauty points to infinity.” King David knew this, for he said, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” Psalm 27:4.

Answer to the skeptic.
As a student of science have I not jumped to conclusions by attributing beauty to God as implied by these quotes? Could not beauty be merely the product of a happy convergence of random processes as demanded by the Naturalist’s evolution? Dubay points out that we know better. “People know that chance can explain neither beauty nor intricate complexity.” Chance and time result in chaos. Therefore, “beauty is a powerful pointer to truth because common sense immediately perceives design and intellect.” So then, God has made His creation so that “The heavens are telling of the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1) and in every detail there was beauty for “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

Beautiful Conclusion.
So the purpose of beauty is to point us to God and His work. For that reason I will not be embarrassed to tell you that one of my favorite moments of relaxation is to lie under a tree and observe all of the various ways that it exhibits beautiful form. My knowledge of xylem and phloem, photosynthesis, forces and equilibrium, symmetry, wood grain and heat content of firewood only increase my enjoyment of tree beauty. On the part of the tree, its beauty points to heaven in a greater way than by the simple fact of standing upright with upturned branches. And Creation is only a dim reflection compared to the sight every believer will see one day. They “will see the King in His beauty” (Isaiah 33:17), and “splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary” (Psalm 96:6), because He is there.

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Merciful Heavenly Father, prepare us for worship by calling to mind those sins of the past week that we need to confess and give us repentant hearts in this moment. Prepare us for worship by focusing our minds on Your glorious character and excellent provision. Prepare us for worship by giving us attention to the truth of Your Word with a desire to heed its life-giving counsel. Prepare us for worship by opening our hearts to true fellowship and unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Prepare us for worship by raising our voices in praise of our good and glorious God and His all sufficient grace toward us. We pray for the sake of Your praise and the furtherance of Your Kingdom in the world and in our hearts. Amen.

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Following is the fourth in a series of Scriptural Science Segues. You can find the others at “GUT”, “Sustainer”, and “Made of”.

Human Designed Information System.
Computers operate off of a binary (base 2) number system which we designate as 0 and 1. The actual workings within the computer chip are tiny transistor junctions (switches) that are either on, 1, or off, 0. This one piece of information is called a bit. Eight bits constitute a byte which is the amount of information used to code for numbers, letters, and symbols on the keyboard (example: 00111010 = Z). The computer binary system is a simple information system that can control complex operations. This information system and functioning code requires much intelligence to design.

Biological Information.
The biological world has a more complex quaternary (base 4) information system of four molecules within the large molecule, DNA. We designate these four options for coding by the first letter of the molecules’ names: A, T, G, and C. Any combination of three of these letters constitute a triplet which codes for an amino acid. In the human body, specific combinations of anywhere from 234 up to 34,350 amino acids in very specific orders make up the thousands of functioning proteins which do the work of the cell. The DNA molecule stores information, is copied, read, and self-correcting for the purpose of directing all biological processes. The biochemical mechanisms within the cell that accomplish all of these functions are more complicated than a computer and frequently likened to the workings of a large city, though far more complex.

Intelligence Is Behind Information.
Since a computer needs an intelligent designer to program it and maintain it, the far more complex biological systems must also have had an Intelligent Designer. We know of no information system that exists that does not have its origin in intelligence. That God is the Intelligent Designer is not only a reasonable scientific hypothesis, it is the only idea that fits the evidence.

Continuity of Information.
David said about his own origin, “For You created my innermost parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, because I am awesomely and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and skillfully formed in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my formless substance; and in Your book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16) God had already created the DNA code system from which He formed David and all living things. “God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them’; and it was so” [day 3], “God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind” [day 5], and “God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind” [day 6] (Genesis 1:11,21,25). Take note of the fact that these did not progress from one to another in any evolutionary scenario. God created them within their kind to then reproduce according to the DNA code of their kind.

Derived from the Source.
“Who has put wisdom in the innermost being or given understanding to the mind?” (Job 38:36) Our systems of information are all derived from existing systems. We did not create binary code or language, but discovered and used them. They are gifts of God from “Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3) Language came from the fact of “God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26). There must be an intelligent source of information, making it hard to logically deny that He is the Source of all things.

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We are made of stardust. It is a hugely popular saying in our culture. In one form or another it has been repeated numerous times in recent years by such people as singer Joni Mitchell (August, 1969), Carl Sagan (book, 1973; “Cosmos”, 1980), and most recently and sophisticatedly by physicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson (2017). It is not a new idea, showing up in an ancient Serbian Proverb and probably being first stated in modern times in a speech by Albert Durrant Watson, then president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: “Our bodies are made of star stuff.”

What are we to make of it?
As Christians we evaluate all truth claims in the light of Scripture. The Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), and not until day four that “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens’” (1:14). Since “the Lord God formed man of the dust from the ground” (2:7), the dust out of which man was made existed before the stars were created. It is reasonable that we have many of the same elements as we measure to be present in stars through spectral light analysis. Those elements were present in both the heavens and earth formed in the beginning. But a straightforward reading of the text gives no indication that earth was derived from this substance and there were certainly no stars. Therefore, we are not made of stardust.

The Substance behind the Material.
Earth, and therefore people, derived from stardust is a construct to fit Big Bang cosmology, and it fits well with our self-importance in God-denying Humanism. As Bible believing Christians, we must be very careful not to be drawn in by seemingly innocuous ideas that are false and dangerous.


The Real Source.
Our real value and source is not derived from “stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out” (Tyson), but from God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” (2:7) Man is impressed by the dust because it is self-glorifying, but the believer is impressed by the breath of life because it and the dust are God-glorifying. Our value comes from being made in God’s image. (1:27)

Implications.
This greater value of man means capital punishment is right(Genesis 9:6) and abortion is wrong (Exodus 21:22-25), children are a blessing (Psalm 127:3-5), and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39, Romans 13:9).

And we have known this value and source of mankind since ancient times as well: ““The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4) These ideas are not just about theological or scientific perspectives. It is about who receives glory and praise and allegiance:

“Thus says God the Lord,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread out the earth and its offspring,
Who gives breath to the people on it
And spirit to those who walk in it,
“I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you,
And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations, To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.
I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
Now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” Isaiah 42:5-9

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It’s not enough that you know
Or have had a Jesus moment
Life in Him will make you grow
Sanctifying development

If you are not really sure
Receive the gift He does proffer
Then you will surely endure
No better or lasting offer

I would fall away from Him
By doubt or outright rebellion
Going out upon a limb
Cast away to oblivion

Nothing can me separate
Or plunge me headlong into hell
Nor peace with God confiscate
Of these with joy I do tell

I may walk by the Spirit
And not according to the flesh
Trust His words in Holy Writ
My joy and resolve intermesh

After the trials of this life
One day I will look on His face
When forgotten all the strife
With success completed the race

Some of my poetry is straight up how I feel and what I believe. Other parts are aspiration based on what I believe can be and should be and will be. This poem is a combination. Life is complicated and messy, but God is faithful and enables me more as the years go along and I submit to Him more. May He and the the grace He provides be glorified in my turning to Him in every difficulty and disappointment.

Also see “Response to Troubles and Trials

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Adorable may be defined as

“1: extremely charming or appealing” [examples:] an adorable child, an adorable cottage
2: worthy of adoration or veneration” (1,2)

Notice that the charming definition comes before the adoration one. I assume that this preference is based on the amount of usage in the English language. Interestingly, the etymology (3) of adorable and its base word, adore, is based entirely in worship of God. To find one’s spouse or child or anything adorable is secondary and found arising in language 3 centuries later. So, it makes sense that the definition of adore reflects this origin:

“1: to worship or honor as a deity or as divine
2: to regard with loving admiration and devotion [example:] He adored his wife.
3: to be very fond of [example:] adores pecan pie” (4)

More than likely this order of definition is also based on usage. In present culture, I dare say that you have heard the word adorable in its primary use more than adore in its primary use. With this in mind, consider that it is reasonable that I was struck anew with the following phrase from the hymn, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”:

“Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,

Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight.”

Now you may wonder what the purpose of my introduction is. Obviously, this sentence is talking about God. But I didn’t have the definitions and preferences of use in mind at the time, just the cultural tendency to think of adorable, for example, adorable grandchildren (5).

But then I thought, “Wait, these angels believe God is adorable, that is, lovable, beautiful, worthy of veneration and devotion.” And they do not worship Him out of compulsion or duty, afterall 1/3 refused to and became demons (6). No, they veil their sight, for though they are powerful and beautiful and pure beings among whom humans faint and tremble, their power and beauty and purity is trivial compared to God’s. Are they ashamed to look upon Him? Probably not, since they are pure. But He is so holy, so other, and so glorious, so heavy, and so pure, so full of light. They adore Him because He is worthy and they want to, are privileged to. That will be heaven, worshiping before Him because He has enabled me to and with a pure heart I will want to and it will be blissful.

  1. Adorable | Definition of Adorable by Merriam-Webster
  2. It may surprise you to know it is an adjective only. In the sentence, “The puppy is adorable.” it is still an adjective.
  3. Etymology- the history of a word or linguistic form
  4. Adore | Definition of Adore by Merriam-Webster
  5. I have eight grandchildren, so it is natural for that to come to mind immediately.
  6. Revelation 12:3-4

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We need hope, but from whence does it come?

Certainly a sense of purpose or destiny or family and friends bring hope, but what about when these fail or seem distant? Hear what source of hope the Scriptures give us:

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:4-6

Given that this was written before any of the four Gospels and the book of Acts, it must refer to the Old Testament from which Jesus had “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”” Luke 24:45-47 Now, I am not excluding the great encouragement and instruction given by the New Testament, but I magnify the value of reading and studying the Old, especially for those many of you who don’t spend much time there or see much value in it, thinking I’m “not under law but under grace” Romans 6:14 (1) It was written for our instruction, so read the instruction manual before assembly.

Now we get to the meat of our source of hope. The passage reveals a two-fold instruction on hope from God with an ancillary instruction on hope from fellow believers.

Those who are blood bought, Holy Spirit sealed believers (2) increase in hope of their relationship to God and future rescue through persisting in faith in the midst of difficulty- perseverance. In fact, the teaching of perseverance of the saints is pointing out how believers persist in belief to the end while “the Spirit explicitly says” of those who do not truly belonging to God through belief in Jesus “that in later times some will fall away from the faith.” I Timothy 4:1

How does this strange occurrence of hardship increasing trust in God work? As the believer comes to understand that he or she does not deserve anything and yet God is carrying him or her through difficulty and revealing Himself in the process, the believer trusts more. The unbeliever begins to doubt that God cares and pulls further away. Many a believer will also struggle with doubts and be estranged, but it will not persist. In the end faith will persist. The believer perseveres.

The greatest help to perseverance is the Word of God. For this reason, Open Doors, a ministry to persecuted believers all over the world, frequently reports how believers ask for Scriptures over security, food, or shelter. The Bible brings hope and especially when we are paying attention during difficulty. The passage says “the encouragement of the Scriptures”. As we read of others who struggled but found God’s grace to persevere, we find strength. Promises of God impart strength. Ultimately, the excellency of the character of God imparts strength. Strength comes in the form of hope. When we are hopeless, then we are weak. When we are full of hope, then we are strong, strong in the Lord.

But God gives yet another avenue for increasing hope- fellowship. The passage speaks of “same mind”, that is, unity of belief and purpose. Then it says “with one voice glorify”, which is unified worship. When we worship together in unity and convey how God has increased our faith in difficulty and have comforted others in their difficulty with the hope of God and shared Scriptures of encouragement and instruction, then true fellowship and encouragement has occurred and hope is increased. For this reason “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

The other disciplines of the faith like prayer, witness, fasting, service, and so forth, are all a part of this perseverance-Scripture-fellowship encouragement that strengthens faith leading to hope. What a good God we have who for His glory and our good by “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3

And one day we will be removed from all difficulty and spend eternity in His presence. That will be glory!

  1. In context, this verse has nothing to do with the value or truth of the Old Testament. Rather, it refers to the source and power for overcoming sin, grace applied by the Holy Spirit and not striving to fulfill the requirement of the law. Why? Well it is because “a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 2:16
  2. These are not a special breed or dispensation of believers, just plain believers. I use these adjectives to exclude those who have mental assent to the things of God and are spectators in the church, but not saved.

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I was in need of going over the mountain a couple of days ago. I have done the trip so, so many times. I decided that I needed to stop on the way back to take a little hike and break up the trip. I appreciate scenes I have already seen and return to many frequently. I especially enjoy showing others little wonders of nature that I have seen. But I was alone and I longed to see something new, and it did not have to be big or impressive. I found what I suspect to be an underappreciated little jewel off the far end of the Linville Falls Access Parking Lot. Old growth forests are few in the Eastern United States. I content myself with enjoying the occasional lone larger tree. This Eastern White Pine is a healthy example.

The trail is very short. By the time you walk to the far end of the parking lot, you are half way there. The trail goes up over a little hump past several large trees and then down into a narrow notch where the park service has a bridge just right for viewing and walking up between the boulders.

In the middle of the bridge, voila’, Dugger’s Creek Falls.

On the far side of the bridge the steps go up between the boulders in such an inviting way.

Always desirous of a little adventure and a better picture, I got off trail just at the base of these stairs. Inviting though they be, they were a bit too civilized for my present frame of mind. Instead, I battled a bit of rhododendron and some small drop offs. The falls, in the 12 to 15 feet wide notch and cloaked in rhodo’s was not having it.

So, I went to the top of the falls in order to check out how and where the water squirms between the cracks and voids of the notch. If you look closely, you can see the bridge. If it were summer, I would probably wade up the stream to the base of the falls, but I don’t have a waterproof camera, so that would not be recorded.

Above the falls the creek comes rushing down into the notch, still a steep pitch with more broken boulders along the sides.

The scene is green with Galax and fern and moss.

The rock form is definitely foliated metamorphic, the layers curiously formed in waves.

The trail exits the woods onto the road just out of sight of the bridge or falls, but just before it does you get one more good view.

Not quite satisfied until I have explored every little turn and divot, I crossed the creek and worked my way under the bridge and edged up along the small cliffs. It was no use. The likelihood of wet feet or more (e.g. wet cellphone) stopped me short of completing every inch. I was satisfied with one more picture and a rock scramble back up to the trail.

On the beyond the bridge side of the trail are several plagues with quotes. The following was apt to my present situation.

The author does not say why we are in need of these things, and it is certainly true that many never consider that they are. But when I muse upon why this quote is true, it seems to me to point to the beauty of God as the why we seek the beauty in nature. We cannot now see Him, though Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) We want to see His beauty and seek it in nature. But “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:9) But no one is able apart from the righteousness that Christ imparts, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:230 As He told those questioning Him about the work of God, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29) Therefore, I look forward, not based on my merit, but His in which I trust, to seeing His beautiful, awesome visage one day, just as I seeks its tarnished and veiled reflection in His Creation I so enjoy experiencing.

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