Monday, November 30, 2020

So much in one Psalm . . .

I've been drawn to the twenty-second psalm this week, and as I read and re-read it, I was at once in tears and also humbled. There is no way that I am adequate to explain or clarify or teach this psalm. 

This is a Mega-Psalm.
I can't overstate its significance to our faith. 
It prophetically describes our Savior's crucifixion.
It proves the accuracy and inspiration of the Bible.
It encapsulates the gospel and tells us to spread the word.
And it's coming to us at the start of the Advent season, when we anticipate our celebrations of Christ's birth. 
Please, please bear me up in prayer as I post. I've been so blessed by my studies; I want to pass some things along to all of you.

Because of the length of the psalm, I'm going to ask you to open your Bibles and read it. I will post verses as we go, but today I will simply introduce our passage and ask you to read it in your quiet times. This passage is holy ground, ladies; please pray and let's begin.

Have you ever seen the movie, The Time Machine? I mean the 1960 version with Rod Taylor; I'm a classic film buff, so no "new" stuff for me. (Grin) It's based on the H. G. Wells novella, written in 1895. The premise of the film is that George, the main character, can travel backward or forward in the time device that he has invented. In the movie, George travels to war times and peace times, and even millennia into the future. His worldview is changed, and he chooses to join a community far in the future and live his life there. 
It's an interesting concept, no? Are there any times or places that you would want to travel to, if you had the chance?
Me? Well, I'm torn. I think first of traveling to Bethlehem on a quiet night to see a babe in a stable. I also think I'd like to attend the ascension of Christ into heaven - how inspiring! Or perhaps to change the lives of those I pray for, to take them with me to Gethsemane or Golgotha . . . 
But here's a thought - what if one could travel back to a time when some of the deep things of our faith were explained?
Maybe a Sunday many years ago. Where? A dusty road between Jerusalem and a tiny village named Emmaus. I'd like to tag along as two men walk that road, and then watch and listen as a risen Savior appears and talks to them. Oh, I'd be prostrate on that dusty road, but then I would race to keep up with them -- because they didn't understand all the events of the previous days -- and because Jesus then began with Moses and all the prophets and "explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." (Luke 24)

Seriously. Wouldn't that be awesome?
He explained all that was said in the Scriptures concerning Himself. 
And I bet, I just bet that He would have included this psalm, number 22.
Because in this psalm, David talks about Christ's suffering and then he talks about Christ's glory.

Now, yes, at some point someone will remind us that this refers (on one level) to some period of the life of David. On a bird's eye view of the psalm, we could say that. It could be when he was being pursued by Paul. It could be the anguish he felt as his own son, Absolom, threatened his throne and his life. But in actuality, there is no situation recorded in our Bible where David went through the trials that are described here in excruciating details. Not to the degree that this psalm describes for us. It's apparent that David is looking far beyond himself -- he is speaking prophetically about Jesus Christ. 

So, in order to study the psalm, we need to focus on how it applies to our Lord. It describes a death by crucifixion hundreds of years before that mode of torturous execution was known.  Each of the details in Psalm 22 were fulfilled by the Lamb of God, the Messiah, around a thousand years after this was written.
Again, I feel completely inadequate to post on this text, but we are going to study here what our salvation cost our precious Savior. His sufferings were far beyond what we can comprehend; in this psalm we get a glimpse of the agony he endured for each one of us. Surely our response to Psalm 22 must be to bow in worship and gratitude, and to submit ourselves again to do His will. 
He loved us.
He gave Himself for us.
Please read this psalm and we will endeavor to study it this week.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Responding to our Creator


Last week, we studied about how God revealed Himself in His world that He created. All this week, we have been thinking about how God has spoken to us, revealed Himself, in His Word. 

What's our response?
Our God is awesome.
He is mighty.
He is our Creator.
His Word is authoritative.
Does this make us want to "turn tail" and run? 
Perhaps the thought of this almighty God fills us with dread.

But let's read the ending of the Psalm:
 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
Notice that in spite of the three types of sins that we studied yesterday, David now responds to God as a "rock" and "redeemer" -- David did NOT say accuser or "judge." 
A rock refers to a place of refuge, a hiding place where a sinner can run for protection and rest.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)
"Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock. (Isaiah 26:4)
A redeemer refers to one who has protected or rescued another person from bondage and slavery, someone who has paid the necessary price.
knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (I Peter 1:18-19)
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28)
And look at the word "my" in that verse in Psalm 19 . . . David is testifying here to a personal relationship. He has, himself, been protected and redeemed by almighty God.

Dear reader, God wants to be your rock of refuge and your redeemer; He wants to rescue you from the bondage of sin and death. He paid the price to rescue us from slavery to sin by sending His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. 
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17)
Jesus died in our place, each of us, so that God's judgment for our sins falls upon Christ. God is now able to forgive and accept us if we will simply accept that pardon that He offers in His Son. 
Instead of being the God Who accuses us, and Who condemns us, He can now be the God Who forgives us and welcomes us to take refuge in Him.

God's world shows us in beautiful, easy-to-see ways that God is awesome and powerful. God's Word shows us how we can be right with Him and lead a truly blessed and peaceful life. Our response to these revelations should be to face our sin and accept His gift of salvation, to submit to the living and faithful God.

He is faithful.
And He loves us.

Praise Him!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!


Happy Thanksgiving!

What's that?

I see that look you gave me. . . . 

Yes, the world is broken. And it's messy. Sin is running amok, terrorism is real, and evil has a really good foothold in our world. It's understandable for peeps to be discouraged nowadays.


As Christians, we have much to be thankful for. God sent His Son so that the world won't always be broken and messy and hurting. We have an unfailing and unfathomable source of hope that reminds us each day: our life on this earth is not the end, but the beginning.

Today in the United States, we celebrate the annual holiday of Thanksgiving. We may gather with family or with friends, or we may be alone. But in spite of the fact that life can be tough and the world is messed up, God is every bit as faithful as He has been through the ages. He can be counted on. We can be thankful for that!

In "The Valley of Vision," a wonderful collection of prayers from the times of the Puritans, I found this prayer, and I hope it will bless you as it did me:

O My God, Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, my heart admires, adores, loves thee, for my little vessel is as full as it can be, and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with thee ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up, ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created, for adorning it, for sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;

for the body thou hast given me, for preserving its strength and vigour, for providing senses to enjoy delights, for the ease and freedom of my limbs, for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;

for thy royal bounty providing my daily support, for a full table and overflowing cup, for appetite, taste, sweetness, for social joys of relatives and friends, for ability to serve others, for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities, for a mind to care for my fellow-men, for opportunities of spreading happiness around, for loved ones in the joys of heaven, for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express, for what thou art to thy creatures. Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.


Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Responding to God's Word


As God reveals Himself to us in the natural world, and then reveals more about Himself in His Word, what is our response to Him?

Who can discern his errorsAcquit me of hidden faults. 
 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14, NASB)

David tells us that our response should be to face our sin and ask God to help us overcome it. The Bible that we hold in our hands is not a book that we should speculate about; instead, it is one that we should apply to our lives!

David notes three types of sin here - the first is hidden sins. We humans sometimes don't even realize many of our own sins. God has to reveal them to us, and then with His grace, we can turn away from them.

"Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment. (Leviticus 5:17)

One who conceals his wrongdoings will not prosper,
But one who confesses and abandons them will find compassion. (Proverbs 28:13)

Then, David mentions willful sins. Just plain ole, garden-variety disobedience.  Times when you know exactly what God would have you do, and you sit perfectly still and don't do it. Or you shake your head "no" and run in the opposite direction. What is translated "presumptuous" up there is also translated "willful" in the book of Hebrews, and the scholars' books that I consulted said that it was the idea of a "high handed" or arrogant attitude of sin. Just total rebellion against God. 

If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God. If you will not listen to the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the command of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers. (I Samuel 12:14-15)

David didn't want this kind of sin in his life, either, so he prayed for God to deliver him.

Lastly, David was aware that sin lies much deeper than our outward actions. He prayed that the words he spoke and the meditations of his heart would both be acceptable to God. God reveals Himself in His Word and that Word searches our innermost beings. It shows us wrong thoughts that can turn into wrong words and then morph into wrong deeds.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

David called himself God's servant . . . . God called David a man after His own heart . . .if he knew he was so inclined to sin as to pray this psalm, what does that say about each of us? Should we not try to confront our sin with God's Word? Should we not call out to Him and pray for purity? We must let God's revelation, His Word, shine into our hearts and wash away the sin we often try to hide or to ignore.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, so I will join you again on Friday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

An effective prayer list, continued


Last week on the day we focus on prayer, we started our discussions on maintaining a prayer list. I'm hoping that as we come back to this each week, we will be motivated to keep a list and to utilize it for an effective and joyous prayer life.

In last week's "installment," we mentioned thanksgiving and personal godliness - striving to be more like our Savior.

I think the next part of our prayer list should probably be our families. We can pray for each member of our immediate family every day. What, specifically? Well, living their love for the Lord is a good start, if they are believers. If not, we can pray for repentance and for the Spirit to call to them. I think that an important part of my prayers for them is that I pray for my role in their lives. As a wife, a mom, a sister, a grandmother, or an aunt . . . . I need to remember to ask God's help in being an example to my family. It's important that I ask for opportunities to influence their lives. They need the Lord to work in them, but I can make certain to be an example of what it means to love the Lord and to love them, too.  Other members of our families that we don't see as often can be remembered, as well, and sometimes when we know of circumstances that they are dealing with, we can pray for specific needs.

The next category on my prayer list is leaders. This encompasses church leaders like pastors, mission leaders, and more. It's easy for us humans to criticize leaders, because after all, they are humans like us. We are all sinners. We need to pray for our leaders and ask the Lord to give them wisdom and protection. We can pray for them to grow in the knowledge of His Word, and we can pray for His blessings on their marriages and families. We can also include local and national leaders in our list, as many of us have done in these tumultuous times. In this category, as in others, it's important to remember our responsibilities to our leaders. How we respond to them, how we talk about them, and how we respect them are things that can bring joy (or sorrow) to them as they do the Lord's work.

Friends and acquaintances can go on our list. Many times this will be as needs are brought to our attention. Sometimes circumstances will affect a larger group of people, and we can pray both for them, and for any role we have in their lives.

The last thing on my own prayer list is whatever is on the slate for my day. I try to start with the Lord's faithfulness to me, and my efforts to live a godly life in Him; then I work my way outward to family, leaders, and friends. At the end, I try to come back to my day. My activities and my work are all subject to the Lord's leading and His blessing. Whether mundane or extraordinary, my tasks all could use the touch of His hand, and my days go much better when I have asked Him to bless my efforts. I pray for specific things that will happen that day, and I ask Him to teach me, so that I can be more like Him.

Next time, we will focus on some practical ways to implement a list like this. I hope it will be helpful.

If you have a prayer request or praise, I hope that you will let us know in the comment section.

Monday, November 23, 2020

God has also revealed Himself in His Word (Ps. 19)

In last week's studies, we noted that God has revealed Himself in the world He created. There are many evidences for us to see, and it doesn't take a specialized education, either! 

This week, we will see from Psalm 19 that He has revealed Himself in His Word, too:

The law of the LORD is perfectrestoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is suremaking wise the simple
The precepts of the LORD are rightrejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pureenlightening the eyes
The fear of the LORD is cleanenduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine goldSweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward. (v. 7-11)
This is such a beautiful section of Hebrew poetry . . . the scholars tell us that David made use of parallelism here, but I just call it beautiful and inspiring. (Grin)
But it is kind of neat to look at the verses and pick out the parallels . . . see how in the verses we are focused on, there are six synonyms for God's Word?
Law, testimony, precepts, commandment, fear (the response of a reverent heart), and judgement. What do they all have in common?
God doesn't come up quietly behind us and tap us lightly on the shoulder, "Excuse me, but I'd like to suggest that you incorporate my point of view into your own?" And He doesn't whisper when He tells us how we are to live. 
And bless your heart, if you think that He actually gave us the "Ten Suggestions on How to Become a Better You and Live Your Best, Most Prosperous Life Now."   I know, I know, right? We hear that from some leaders, who shell out a get-rich-and-never-be-sick-but-always-be-happy, turn-on-the-spigot-of-blessings shallow gospel to their listeners. 
I'm here to tell you: God doesn't mumble, and He doesn't mince words - and we had better listen to what He says! He HAS redeemed us. He WILL bless us. He WILL protect us. But it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that it's gonna be easy! 

OK. I will climb down off my soapbox now. Back to the fact that all of those words mean "authority." We do live in a culture that abhors authority. Do you own thing, do what feels good . . . these are more fun than surrendering to Christ, they say.  And some believers will try to excuse their sin by saying, "We are not under the Law anymore!"   
Excuse me?
Have y'all read your New Testament? (Grin) Each of the commandments is repeated there, with the one exception being the Sabbath. And there are some punishments listed, too. Just check out Matthew 7 and Galatians 5 when you have a chance, OK? God's Word is authoritative.

It's also able to meet our needs - abundantly. See up there where it says "perfect, restoring the soul"? Paul says in II Timothy 3 that the Word will make us thoroughly equipped (perfectly ready) for every good work. David also says it will "make wise the simple." For us to receive God's wisdom, we must humble ourselves. If we set aside our pride and our human wisdom, we can receive the wisdom of God's Word. 
"Rejoicing the heart." God doesn't want to burden us with solemnity; He doesn't want to suck all the fun out of our lives.  His Word will bless us with real joy in every situation of life, if we will follow it. 
It "enlightens the eyes." We won't stumble and fall into every trap that Satan has set for us. 
God's Word is better than gold or honey -- better than money or good eats -- since it has real value in this life and the life to come.
God's Word is able. It can meet every need of human hearts, no matter how or why they are hurting. Kinda makes ya sad to see the Christians in this world chasing after modern psychology, when we have such an abundant source of wisdom and comfort in the Word . . . 

Now, let's look at the adjectives that David uses in these verses. I remember Mrs. Markham in school, drilling us that "adjectives are words that describe other words." So, here is our list: perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true. If there seem to be any errors in His Word, it's because we don't yet fully understand - not because the Word is inaccurate! We can trust God and trust His Word to guide our lives rightly. 

David also says that God's Word "endures forever." It applies to every culture, in every era, and to every person. No shifting sands, here! We won't be tossed around by every wind of new doctrines that humans come up with, if we immerse ourselves in God's Word.
Lastly, in verse eleven, David says that we "are warned" by God's Word. Sometimes when we read our Bible, the Spirit uses the Word just like a piece of sandpaper on a piece of unfinished wood! It's abrasive, is what it is! Instead of saying, "good kid," the Word says, "you are wrong and you need to change!" God's Word will confront us with our mistakes and sins. But it's all for our benefit.  David says there is great "reward." 

Let's study more on this next time!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Clear applications


                                                    (A mimosa tree, more on that later)

Today, it's time to draw out some applications from our studies of this past week.

First, God's creation should certainly "do a number" on our pride. The natural outgrowth of considering His creation is that we will be humble in His presence. The Bible tells us that the human race is both fallen and arrogant - we all have a tendency to exalt ourselves, to be proud, to ignore the reality of our existence depending upon God. 
The truth (if we will admit it) is that we are not like God. He alone is the almighty and all powerful Creator. We can't speak ANYTHING into existence! He spoke, and our universe was created!  This also means that we can't use God for our own selfish purposes. He doesn't exist to make us happy as we trundle down the path of our own selfish, sinful goals. He is sovereign, and we need to humble ourselves and submit to our awesome Creator and Redeemer.

Secondly, we must be careful that we don't allow modern evolutionary theories to infect our thinking. I realize that some who read here may not like this, but I believe the Spirit wants me to post it. 
Evolution is actually not scientific. It's a religious faith that enables proud humans to act as their own gods. It's almost always presented as fact, not theory, and those who point out its failings are ridiculed. But evolutionists cannot explain how the complexities of the natural world came to be - except through chance, random selection, and incredible odds over billions of years. They also are forced to attribute exceptional intelligence to lower forms of life, or to fall back on the quaint concept of "Mother Nature," who they say mystically equipped our world with amazing creatures.
We are talking about huge leaps of faith, here.
But in reality, there is no such thing as Mother Nature. There is Father God, the Creator!

There are as many examples of this foolishness as there are classrooms across the earth. Tales of tadpoles who "wanted" to move about on dry land and altered their anatomy and much more. Well known academics are just as susceptible (or perhaps more so) as kids in classrooms.
I read of one example in a sermon by Stephen Cole (thank you for the synopsis!) about Dr. Lewis Thomas, a scientist, physician and author who was hailed at his death as one who "clarified the mysteries of biology" (New York Times). His pompously named "Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony" gave this ludicrous example. . . . Thomas told about an amazing beetle which depends upon the mimosa tree for reproducing its kind. (See, I told you we'd get back to that photo of the mimosa tree!) 
Thomas described this momma beetle as having three consecutive "thoughts" that were consistently in the correct order. First, she searches for a mimosa tree, for no other tree will do. Then she crawls out on a limb, cuts a slit, and deposits her eggs. Then, since the larvae won't survive in live wood, she climbs back up the limb and chews a nice, neat girdle through the bark, making a circle all around the limb. This may take about eight hours to accomplish. But it effectively kills the limb, and when it falls off, her young beetles will survive.
Are you impressed yet, with the reasoning powers of this beetle? (Grin)
Well, here's the kicker: momma beetle is also an awfully smart horticulturalist. If the mimosa tree is left unpruned, it has a life of about thirty years. If it is pruned by the beetles, the tree will live for a hundred years or so, and provide nurseries for more baby beetles.
In Thomas's writings, he asks rhetorically how those three thoughts emerged in the beetle's "mind." And how did the mimosa tree enter the equation.....His conclusion is both humorous and myopic: "It is good for us to have around such creatures as this insect and its partner tree, for they keep reminding us how little we know about nature."
Hmmmm, Dr. Thomas? A word with you, please? (Not really, he passed away some years ago.)
The actual take-away from this story is not how little we know about nature. It's how little we know about and appreciate the Creator!
It's awe-inspiring to consider His work in designing and creating the complex and intricate partnerships of His creation. The world He made is full of examples of creatures who exist together in beneficial relationships. Some of the symbiosis stories are down to the molecular level. 
Amazing? Yes.
Humbling? Yes indeed. 
Both amazing and humbling if we will consider with open minds and recall that evolution is a theory. Just a theory. There is no way to apply the scientific method (that we learned in school) to evolution! That method requires that we first observe, then form a hypothesis and finally through repeated experiments show that the hypothesis works - to be able to experiment again and again with the same results. We cannot do that with evolution; it is a theory which has become a religious faith for those who avoid the truth of a Creator.

I'll climb down off my soapbox now, and close with our last application. The many amazing things in this world that God created should direct our hearts and minds to worship Him. The God Who designed it all, and spoke things into being, is worthy of our worship. As we walk, run, or drive around in this beautiful world, let's look beyond ourselves to the loving Father Who made it all, and made us, too, in His image. Our hearts will overflow in praise to Him.

Next week, we will move on from knowing God through His creation, to knowing God more fully through His Word.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The evidence is conclusive


We studied yesterday that God has revealed Himself in the world He created. Like David said in Psalm 19, we can see His handiwork in the skies and down here below.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (v. 1)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

Peter tells us, too, in his second letter that "by the word of God the....heavens existed ....and the earth was formed...." (II Peter 3:5) 

There's all kinds of evidence of God's glory in His creation! 
The peeps with more knowledge of the Hebrew language than I, say that the word "glory" in verse one comes from a word meaning "weight" or "worth." Well, the evidence is abundant, telling us of God's weight or worth when we look at His creation. The sun in its splendor and the stars sparkling at night tell about the God Who simply spoke them into existence.

And yet, some humans ignore the revelation of God they can see. It's not because of a lack of evidence wherever they happen to be: verses three and four tell us that even though His creation cannot speak and doesn't use words, the word has gone out across our world. The message extends everywhere! 
No, the reason why people don't see the evidence is a moral one, not intellectual, and not a lack of education. Paul put it this way: they "suppress the truth in their wickedness." (Romans 1:18, NIV)

Later in that chapter, he writes:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, (Romans 1:20-22, NASB)
I guess we can say that the unbelieving hearts do not want to ADmit that there is a God; nor do they want to SUBmit to Him and let Him be Lord of their lives. Here's what I mean: the evidence is there, and it matters not in the least if we are highly educated or not. We don't have to be able to even read to understand God's revelation in our world. The skies and the earth speak with unwritten words to everyone! In fact, it may be that the more we are educated in the theories of proud and unbelieving man, the harder it is to see God in creation. Anybody can look at the awesomeness and complexity of creation and conclude there is a creator -- that's the ADmit part. But then, if you ADmit there is an almighty Creator, it follows that we must SUBmit to His leading of our lives. And that is where many people just don't want to go.
That is why people cling to their theories of "Big Bang" and the millions of years of evolution. It's more palatable to them to string together ideas that strain the bounds of credulity, than to bow the knee to our Father God, Who only wants to bless them with eternal life and love.

Yes, God is love. And David's psalm tells us more about our loving God.  
"The heavens declare" His glory . . . they certainly do point to the infinite power of God! One of my favorite things to do on clear evenings is to go outside and stargaze. From a quilt in the back of our pickup truck, we can see countless stars and, when we are lucky, we see planets, comets, and even the international space station. (Grin) The scientists tell us that our galaxy contains more than one hundred billion stars - I can't even begin to imagine. The numbers on the size of our galaxy are also challenging to understand. Since God simply spoke all of this into existence, that tells us about His amazing power!

The sun "rises....and makes its circuit" each and every day since God told it to. God is consistent and faithful, just like the sun. It rises in the east every morning and sets in the west every evening. God is to be counted on to keep His Word - He never fails.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
God is radiant just as the sun is; David compares the sun first to a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, full of expectation, exuberance, and joy. The sun rising in the eastern sky, painting the heavens with an infinite array of color, is just a picture of the splendor of our God. He dwells in unapproachable light and we cannot look on His splendor yet.
David next compares the sun to a "champion." An athlete ready and waiting, "rejoicing" to run. An athlete who has prepared and grown swift and strong. The sun "runs" its course every day, giving life-sustaining warmth and light to our world. Our Father is consistently strong in our behalf.
Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation. (Isaiah 12:2)
Lastly, just as the sun's rays shine everywhere upon the earth and nothing is hidden from its light and heat, so God is everywhere, too. He is omnipresent (He declares to us "I will be with you." No matter where, and no matter when) and omniscient (He has infinite awareness, understanding, and insight). He will search for us and He knows all there is to know about us. There is no "getting away from" God!
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
 If I take up the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will take hold of me. (Psalm 139:7-10)

We humans can choose not to see it, but the evidence is everywhere - in the skies, here on the earth - that God is a God of glory, power, and love.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

We CAN see God

Have I got your attention? (Grin)

We are focused today on the first six verses of Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;

no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.

It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,

like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

It rises at one end of the heavens

and makes its circuit to the other;

nothing is deprived of its warmth. (Psalm 19:1-6)

I expect we have all experienced the awe-inspiring spread of the heavens as we look at the stars and the planets, or as we gaze at the full moon. Truly the skies DO reveal the work of God's hands and pour forth knowledge for anyone who will take notice.

The created things down here on earth "speak" of Him, as well. If we look about us, we see examples of His handiwork; there are so many it seems an inexhaustible supply!  Bear with me if I get a trifle long-winded, here, as this is one of my fav topics! 

Do you remember studying symbiosis in school? Let's look at the crocodile up there . . . he is plagued with parasites on his skin and even in his mouth. He also is a meateater, has short arms and has a difficult time purchasing dental floss. (Just checking to see if you are awake.)  The croc will climb out of the water and lie on the riverbank, with his mouth open. The little plover bird will walk right up and straight into the mouth of the predator! Then the teeth cleaning and parasite removal begins. Sounds kinda gross to us, but the plover gets a meal and the crocodile never has to worry about the health of his teeth and gums! 

Another symbiotic relationship that I love to point out is that of the Goby fish and his local shrimp friend. Shrimp are not blessed with much in the way of eyesight, and as far as we know, there are no shrimp optometrists to fit them with glasses. So the shrimp happily bumbles along and digs a burrow in the sand to live in. Hey, why is he digging it bigger than needed? Well, he digs and continually cleans his burrow so that his friend the Goby fish can move in, too. The shrimp's lack of eyesight leaves him vulnerable to predators. The Goby fish touches the shrimp with its tail to warn of impending danger - both creatures then quickly retreat into the burrow. 

God CREATED these organisms to live and work together. Excuse me if I rankle your sensibilities, but I don't believe that they evolved into these complex relationships! God set these up. Both creatures benefit from the ways their lives intertwine.

This is true even on a much smaller scale . . . tiny, in fact. Tiny like ants. Scientists tell us that they are one of the most abundant creatures on earth: perhaps sixteen million of them for every man, woman, and child. There's all kinds of 'em . . . carpenter ants, fire ants, pea ants (as we Southerners call them), and many more. Within each species, there are divisions as far as the labor they perform. Leafcutter ants are really cool (at least I think so). There are the large soldiers with incredible mandibles that can even slice into human skin. The worker ants are divided into three groups: the largest ones cut leaves and bring them back to the colony, where they pass the pieces to slightly smaller ants. Like an assembly line! The next group of workers chew them up to make a fertilizer for the "gardens" of a specific kind of fungus that they grow in their colony underground. The next group of workers tends the fluffy, white fungi which produce protein and sugar - food for the ants! Then, the tiniest ants actually "weed" the garden and keep a second fungus at bay.

What? Ants weeding a garden? Yup.
If un-contained, the second fungus would quickly take over. The ants release an antibiotic and smear it on the bad fungus, to keep it controlled.
Okayyyyyyyy, where do they get the antibiotic? A tiny CVS store that caters to ants?
Well, no. But I'm glad you asked.
There are tiny cavities in the ants' bodies where a bacteria produces the antibiotic. 
And we humans thought that WE discovered antibiotics! Ha!

Anyway, this partnership between ants, fungi, and bacteria is a form of symbiosis and it was set up by our awesome creator God. The ant colony would perish without this system of cooperation.
We find reminders of the Creator all around us and even under our feet. We see His handiwork in the skies. 
I have rambled on and probably bored you, but this is fascinating to me!
God has revealed Himself generally in His world, as David wrote. 
We will study this more tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Prayer requests and lists


The days that we set aside for prayer requests are some of my favorite days on this study blog. It's so inspiring to me to learn of answered prayer, and to rejoice along with prayer warriors who have seen God's working in their lives, or in the lives of those they've prayed for.

It's a somber time, as well, as I learn of new needs that are posted, and I ache for ones who are experiencing the need for God's touch. It's humbling to be able to post when God has answered my own prayers -- and how uplifting to be able to give Him the glory!

I'd like to talk about something practical today, something that may help us with our prayer life. 

Are we committed to prayer?

Do we keep a prayer list?

It's great to "talk the talk" and make a commitment to prayer. It's difficult, though, to keep that commitment without some structure to our approach. If we want to be reliable and faithful in prayer, we will want to keep focused. A prayer list can help with that. Now, I'm talking about more than a superficial type of thing. In the Christian school that I attended, it was sometimes an offhand remark, "I'll add that to my prayer list." And if I'm honest, sometimes I plain, out and out forgot -- other times, that issue or person dropped off my list fairly quickly. I didn't stay focused. And to tell you the truth, I didn't actually have a list, as in here's-a-sheet-of-paper or here's-my-notebook kind of list.

And another thing - it's one thing to create a long list; it's still another to actually utilize the list and not let it overwhelm us. It's a real temptation to start listing everyone that we know we need to pray for. But I'm here to tell you, it's a whole different ballgame when we use some categories!

What do I mean?

I'd like to give some examples. I'm not setting myself up as a paragon here, just letting you know what works for me. Your categories may be totally different from mine!

For me, the first category is thanksgiving. What are we thankful for? It's easy to jot down the basics, like family, health, and even material blessings from God. Let's dig deeper. What are some ways that God has provided for us over the long haul? Do we belong to a church that values the Word? Has God led us to friends that sharpen our commitment to Him? Has He provided for us emotionally, by sending people our way who love Him? Are there financial needs for which He has abundantly blessed us? If we raise our head and look around us, do we see evidence of His purpose and His love? All of these help us to realize that even the circumstances we find ourselves in are ordered by the Lord. Of course, I also praise Him for my salvation!

My next category is godliness - personal godliness. I know (oh, boy, do I know!) I have several areas that I sorely need to grow in. As I walk here on this earth and try to be more like Him, I totally get that I'm lacking in personal godliness. I have a lot on my plate: so I pray for focus, for self-discipline, and for an increase in energy. I have a lot of character work to do: so I pray for compassion, for humility, and for gentleness in my relationships. I also pray that I'll be sensitive and molded by the Word. Finally, I ask God to help me identify ways that I need to change -- I want to walk with His Spirit and bring glory to Him.

This is just a start today. I hope to revisit this topic each week and provide practical tips for a prayer list that will help us be faithful prayer warriors.

If you have a prayer request or a praise, won't you let us know in the comments?