The Sea’s Garment

“Do you know how the clouds are balanced, Those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?” Job 37:16

Do you remember as a child, “seeing” things (animals especially) with an imagining eye, in the clouds? As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with clouds. I often go outside to watch them move about the sky—some swirling about like children at play; others separating from a larger mass to float on alone. I like to view them when they are bright white in a calm sky, gray in a disturbed sky, and when they appear to be every color on God’s palette with the rising and setting of the sun.

While doing some research, I visited National Geographic’s website where an interesting article had been written about them. Under the simple title: “Clouds” read its subtitle: “Atmospheric Decoration.” I smiled when I read that phrase because I believe the statement is ironic. National Geographic is by no means a religious organization, yet they fully ascribe to clouds being “decoration.” In order to have decoration, someone must have done the decorating, right? Yet, atheists, naturalists and other non-religious people try to convince others that the clouds decorate themselves—apparently. :/

What does the Bible say about clouds? While the Bible has many prepositional phrase references (metaphorical and literal) to clouds: God appearing in the clouds, Jesus returning in/on the clouds, etc., the only place in the Bible where clouds are spoken of in a literal—structural way is in the poetical book of Job. It is in the book that we learn about clouds, His “wondrous works” (Job 37:16).

As a result of my extreme fascination with them, I have learned all the Latin classifications for clouds, labeled in 1803 by English scientist, Luke Howard. Although there many types of clouds, the four general roots are: cumulus, meaning heap; stratus, meaning layer; cirrus, meaning curl of hair; and nimbus, meaning rain. In a general sense, the classifications simply place clouds into nice little ”artsy” categories, unattached to the Artist; but the way the clouds are described in the book of Job expose the Artist—the One who heaps up, layers, curls, and expands the clouds:

Job 37:11-12: “With moisture He saturatesthe thick clouds; He scatters His bright clouds. And they swirl about, being turned by His guidance, That they may do whatever He commands them on the face of the whole earth.”

Job 38:8-9: “Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band.”

So, someone at National Geographic got it right; clouds do decorate the sky. But they certainly don’t just appear there by chance; rather, God saturates, scatters, turns, commands, and clothes the seas with them. He is the one who is moving them—whether fast or slow. He is the one who allows them to break off from a mass and go their own way. He fills them with water; and He releases the water—when and where He wishes. He is the Painter, the Artist, and the very best “Decorator” of the firmament!

We have an amazing privilege each and every day to look upon God’s “wondrous works.” The next time you walk outside, look up in the sky and remember that God decorated the sky this day just for you! xo

Staying Home!

Anyone who has felt the joy of being near the Lord never wants to leave His presence. To stay near  God is the prayer of every believer. But how do we stay near Him? The verbal expression of the action may have sadly become cliche, but as an important reminder, here are six necessary actions:

  1. Pray – in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, it is written: “pray without ceasing.”
  • Why pray without ceasing? Because if we stop we get in trouble. Think about a time you fell into sin. Had you ceased from praying? Often we become caught in the clutches of sin when prayer is neglected. Also, pray with others—Matthew 18:20, and ask godly people to pray for you—James 5:16!

2.   Read the Bible often 

  • The Hebrew writer tells us that the word of God is “Living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (4:12). The Bible is alive. The Bible is powerful. The Bible is relevant. The Bible is “A lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path (Psalm 199:105). The Bible is our guide; our help. We need to read it in order to get to heaven! We must, must, must read it—and often!

3.   Take captive every thought 

  • Sin starts in the mind/heart, so we must stop it there. (James 1:14). The apostle Paul said that he brought “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This step cannot be stressed enough. Sin starts with a single thought. If we do not control that one thought, it can (and will) lead to our death.

4.   Meditate on His word – Psalm 119:15.

  • King David, a “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) said to God: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Four verses later he also penned: “I will meditate on Your precepts and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word” (119:15-16). We must think about God and His word. We must ponder His precepts, His ways, His love, His mercy, His Justice, HIs power . . .

5.   Fellowship with Christians

  • The Hebrew writer exhorted Christians to not give up meeting together when he wrote: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching” (10:24-25). Laugh together. Cry together. Pray together. A bond with like-minded Christians is a source of great strength; God planned it that way!

6.   Avoid immoral company 

  • Remember what God told us about our friends: “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). We need to be spending time with people of like mind if we want to please God and stay close to Him.

AWESOME!

It has become a colloquial word; one that is habitually used throughout each day among Christians and non-Christians alike. It is used to describe anything from the behavior of children, and weekend garage sale finds, to food eaten at our favorite restaurant. But however the word is used, Christians must be reminded that the adjective “awesome possesses meaning more profound than our modern society gives it; for our God, the Creator of the world bears the expression in His very own description!

Two example verses are: Deuteronomy 10:17: “For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward.” and Psalm 47:2: “For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.” The King James Version (KJV), Revised Standard Version (RSV), and American Standard Version (ASV) use the word “terrible” when describing Jehovah God, while the New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), and New American Standard Version (NASB), use the word “awesome” to describe the Great I AM. So, “terrible” and “awesome” bear a synonymous meaning which is, “to fear; morally to revere; causatively to frighten:- affright, be (make) afraid, dreadful” (Strong’s Concordance). And this word is not used sporadically, for “terrible” occurs an astounding 314 times in 305 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the KJV (blueletterbible.org). The Great God of heaven is to be feared, revered, and dreaded—it’s no frivolous matter.

If such a profound word is used to describe the Creator of the world, how is it that  Christians use the word in a flippant and trivial manner? Is it simply overlooked? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first use of the word in “trivial use, as an enthusiastic term of commendation” was as late as 1980. It would be my guess that few people would even be aware that the word’s insignificant use is still in its infancy. Why has the word become so misused over the past 30 years? Could its flippant application be compared to our modern tragic abuse of God’s Holy name? While its use may appear innocent, we must remember that Christians have been told to “Test all things…” (1 Thessalonians 5:21); that means the words we use. If we put the trivial use of the word awesome to the test, does it pass? Should we be describing anything trivial and temporary that has been used to describe the eternal Almighty? Dear sisters I think not.

We, as Christian women, need to make sure that we are not becoming one with the world; we need to make sure that we are “test[ing] all things; hold[ing] fast what is good. Abstain[ing] from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). If God is described as awesome, then He is the only one who can bear that description; for none can compare to Him!

The Judges!

The judged, The “judges” &  The Judge —John 8:1-12    

In only eleven verses, the apostle John recorded a brief, but powerful account involving Jesus, a woman and certain scribes and Pharisees. From his account, we learn that a woman was brought to Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees after she was caught in adultery. From our prior knowledge of them, we understand that the scribes and Pharisees were clearly not as concerned about the woman as they were about testing Jesus (in order that they might have something of which to accuse Him). According to Jewish law, she was to be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10).

This account can be observed from three angles—that of the judged, the ‘judges’ and the Judge. Today, we will observe the ‘judges.’

They threw the guilty one onto a filthy stage of condemnation, in full view of a robust crowd. Their hate still visibly fresh on her skin. Her eyes, surely cast downward in humiliation, would rely on her ears to communicate the dark sentence to her trepid mind. She was quiet among the noise of abhorrence.

The ‘prosecution’s opening argument was simple and brief: according to the law of Moses, the sinner should be stoned. Then, they waited. No, not in love or concern; they waited with trickery coursing through their veins.

Oh, but instead of granting them their wicked fulfillment, Jesus humbly stooped down and, as if not hearing them, placed his finger into the dirt and began to write. This action must have confused—and frustrated them, so they continued to ask. Over and over they queried Him until finally He raised Himself up and simply, yet wisely spoke: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (8:7b). In under twenty words, or about ten seconds time, He completely dissolved the prosecution’s case. In fact, within that same time frame, the team evolved from the prosecution to the defense! In an attempt to humiliate Christ through the humiliation of a sinner, they only humiliated themselves. With their sentence handed down, they walked away; each convicted by their own sin (whew, at least they still had a conscience).

So, you may be asking, “What does that have to do with me?” Well, although we (thankfully) can’t say that we have (literally) stood in front of the Savior of the world and attempted to trick Him with Himself (after all, He IS the Word! 1 John 1:14), have we ever been quick to judge? See, the ultimate problem with the ‘judges’ was (among many things), a lack of humility, love and true wisdom. They were so caught up in their ‘righteousness’ that they were blind. Total blindness that compelled them to come before the Judge, Savior, Word, eternal Creator of the world and (attempt to) make a case!? The absence of humility, love and true wisdom in their lives tricked them; condemned them.

Are we immune? True, we’re not Jews living under the law. We know the truth that sets us free, John 8:32. But do we forget the commandments/law that we’re under—the law of love, John 13:34? Do we ever struggle with pride, Proverbs 16:18? Are we ever quick to judge? Matthew 7:1-2. Do we ever forget who and where the Judge is? 2 Timothy 4:1; James 5:9.

Remember:

  • In the absence of humility there is pride
  • In the absence of love there is hate
  • In the absence of wisdom there is ignorance

And . . .

  • Because of His humility, our Savior didn’t retaliate —and strike the guilty dead.
  • Because of His love, our Messiah gave them another chance—to change.
  • Because of His wisdom, our Friend knew how to react—and silence ignorance

 

 

Mountains and Valleys!

Most are familiar with the ups and downs of life being figuratively described as “mountains and valleys.” Walk with me, for a moment, inside these figures.

We like it up on the mountain, but consider: The air is fresh–and thin; breathing unassisted will become difficult. We cannot stay here long. The high view is unobstructed. We become comfortable—maybe too comfortable. We neglect to see the threats. The peaceful mountain sounds are calming. We may not be aware of how relaxed we are. We sit; we recline. The rest is nice here, but for our own good, we must move on.

The air is polluted down in the valley, which means we cannot stay here long either. The tainted air is hard to breathe in—hurtful. We loathe the air. The view is obstructed. Darkness envelopes. We are frightened by the unknown. The sounds are loud—deafening. We wish they would stop; they won’t. We despise the noise. We cannot rest here.

Although we loath, are frightened, and despise being in the valley, it’s here—where we are weakest, that Christ’s strength is best manifest in us.

• Jesus said to Paul: ““My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”” (2 Corinthians 12:9) after Paul pleaded with Him to take away his physical infirmity. We know Paul “learned in whatever state . . . to be content” (Phil. 4:11). He learned from the valleys he treaded through. It was only after such experiences that he could truly proclaim, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

• Elijah, being pursued by wicked Jezebel, was certainly in a valley. He went and hid in a cave. He wanted to die. God met Elijah there, among the pollution, noise, and obstructions. God met him there and strengthened him. Re-read the cherished account in 1 Kings 19.

• The Israelites were in an exceedingly deep valley when Zephaniah prophesied (approx. 20 years before the Babylonian captivity) about God’s faithfulness toward the returning captive Jews, saying: “The LORD God in your midst, The Mighty One will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (3:17).

• After Moses died, Joshua obtained the great task of leading the Israelites into the promised land. He certainly may have felt like he was in a valley; Moses, their great leader, was gone and he was given the enormous task of taking on the responsibility—talk about large shoes to fill! But in the midst of it all, God was there, encouraging Joshua (more than once) saying: ““Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go”” (Joshua 1:9).

• In addition to the encouraging examples already mentioned, Jesus, who conquered the greatest valley, gives us more encouragement by saying: ““In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”” (John 16:33).

*Of course no one wants to reside in the valley; we all want to be up on the mountain, but after further examination, we observe:

Up on the mountain, where the air is cleaner, the view is unobstructed and the sounds are peaceful, we relax; we rest. But it’s up here where we may put our guard down and rely less on God.

In the valley, where the air is foul, the view is hindered and the sounds are deafening, we fall to our knees. In weakness, we cry out to God. It is here where we “grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; “” (Acts 17:27). As the Lord met Paul, Elijah, the Jewish remnant, and Joshua in the valley, so He will meet us too.

Remember: It is only after spending time in the valley that we truly can learn, then proclaim, like Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

2 Matthew 28:20

The mountaintops rest. The valleys test

The Wise Father

In his play, “The Merchant of Venice,” William Shakespeare wrote, “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” Mr. Shakespeare’s keen observation was correct, for it is a “wise” earthly father indeed who takes the time to “know” his child(ren). But, even the best earthly fathers can never compare to our heavenly Father, the Creator of all, who perfectly knows us! Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7; Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13.

From up on a mountain, with multitudes of people and His disciples nearby, Jesus verbalized just how much our omniscient heavenly Father knows us. In His teachings, He used the five letter word twice: first, when instructing on how to pray; second, when instructing against worry.

When instructing on how to pray, our Messiah taught:

“You, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:6-8).

He knows what we need even before we ask, but He still wants us to make the effort to do exactly as He has instructed. When instructing on worry, our Savior taught:

Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall  we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ . . . For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”  (Matthew 6:31-33). Our Creator certainly knows what we need; therefore we have no reason to worry! Why do we?

In addition to knowing, we also observe the word need in Matthew 6:8;32. God knows—and gives us what we need! Unlike our earthly fathers who are limited in their ability, our heavenly Father’s knowledge is perfect! Needing something means we require it; it is essential; our survival depends on it. And wanting something means just that—we want it, but our survival is not dependent upon its acquisition. In fact, sometimes our survival is jeopardized by wanting. Think of Eve. God gave her (more than) what she needed, but she wanted the one thing she couldn’t have. Hypnotized by her desire, she neglected to heed God’s warning. We know what happened; we’ve all been affected by her wanting. We are so blessed that God knows—and gives us what we need! May we always listen to and trust in His omniscience.

Further observation of Jesus’ instructions: praying alone, away from the gazing eyes of men, and without the use of repetition and wordiness, reveals a child who truly trusts God; a child who desires not to be pleasing to men—by presenting a prayer to God before them; but rather, one who knows God, who “sees in secret” (6:6b), hears. And, knowing that He hears, also knows that He is aware of individual needs, so does not carry on with many words. Additionally, the same trusting child does not worry about objects necessary to earthly life, for this child literally (and figuratively) sees that God feeds and clothes the seemingly most insignificant of His creation.

While the best and “wisest” earthly fathers take time to “know” their children, their “knowing” is restricted. Only the great Weaver, who “formed [our] inward parts; [and] covered [us] in [our] mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13) knows us, and knows what we need! Trust Him!

The Same Mind!

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”

WHO :

Let’s go back to the (willing) action of letting our minds . . . Strong’s Concordance defines the action as ‘exercising the mind.’ What have we been instructed to exercise our minds to do? Possess the same mindset as Jesus and:

 

Empty ourselves: We cannot begin to imagine what Jesus emptied Himself of. This Jesus, who is God (John 1:1), and whom “Heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain” (2 Chronicles 2:6) CHOSE to become a servant! We humans cannot uncover the ‘mystery’ of how our flesh is formed in our mother’s womb, but yet we struggle with pride? Jesus chose to take on flesh and bone; was humbly born of woman—in a stable; and embraced a life of plainness! Why? He could have come down in a chariot, demanding obedience and showing His glory, but He chose to empty Himself in order that “we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2Cor. 5:21). We must empty ourselves in order to become the righteousness of God!

Humble ourselves: We certainly have lost all rights to be anything but humble. Jesus, who is God, humbled Himself to walk among sinners. How much more should we, sinners, humble ourselves to walk with Him? The Apostle Paul showed a correct attitude when he stated: “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Jesus came from the splendor of heaven to lay in a filthy manger, wash the filthy feet of sinners, learn the filthy trade of carpentry, be submissive to His human parents—whom He formed! He left perfection to walk with sinners, dine with criminals, endure fools, feel hunger, fatigue, pain, agony, sadness . . . He humbled Himself for the love He has for us; we humble ourselves for the love we have for Him!

Be submissive, even to death, as Jesus was submissive: Jesus, who is God—and whom the heavens cannot contain—allowed men to frustrate, ridicule, humiliate, batter, and slay Him! We sing in a song: “He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free . . . but He died alone for you and me.” Yes, He has the power to have ended His suffering: physical & spiritual, but He went through with the plan, so that God, in Christ would reconcile the world to Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. Consider His spiritual suffering—His Father turned His back on Him as He became sin (2 Cor.5:21) for us. He, who created everything, owns everything—controls everything, became obedient to death because of His great love for us! We must exercise ourselves to submit!

Jesus, who is God—and whom the heavens cannot contain, came to this earth of sin and emptied Himself of His glory. Becoming a servant to all, and allowing Himself to be abused by His own creation, he humbled Himself and became obedient to, not just any death, but the most humiliating death. He became sin for the world—allowing Himself, for the FIRST, and only time—ever to be separated from His beloved Father for YOU and for ME. Knowing these things, how can we neglect to empty and humble ourselves of ourselves, submitting ourselves to Christ?

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”

The Partiality Predicament

Mankind faces a partiality dilemma! Partiality is a biased attitude or behavior: an unfair preference for one person or thing over another. Such a problem is not new: Isaac was partial to Esau for his cooking abilities (Gen. 25:28); Jacob preferred Joseph because of his birth order (Gen. 37:3) and Rebekah for her beauty (Gen. 29:17-18).  We like to think that it is society as a whole that dictates bias, but in reality, it is individual bias that leads to the larger societal ‘issues.’ Strong’s Concordance defines partiality as: The fault of one who when called on to give judgment has respect of the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits.

Judging a person based on their outward “circumstance” is indeed a “fault,” and one that every Christian must individually tackle. As we labor to see others’ “intrinsic merits” may we be encouraged as we remember that, while we may struggle, “There is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). Whew, that’s good to remember! 🙂

Below are a few examples from scripture (emphasis added):

  • 2 Chronicles 19:7: King Jehoshaphat stated: “There is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.” The KJV uses the phrase “respect of persons” in place of “partiality”
  • Galatians 2:6, spoken by Paul: “God shows personal favoritism to no man” The KJV reads: “God accepts no man’s person.” Person in this context is defined as the front, face, appearance.
  • Acts 10:34-35: Peter proclaimed: “”In Truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”” *Notice that fearing God and working righteousness are matters of the heart.
  • 1 Samuel 16:7, spoken by the LORD to the prophet Samuel, regarding the anointing of David:

“Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him [Eliab, David’s brother]. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for a man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.””

Aren’t you glad that God does not judge us on our outward circumstance, but on our intrinsic (core) merits (virtues)? God’s concern is on the eternal part of us. Will we or won’t we use our free will to nourish the eternal entity inside of us? Such is our challenge. I don’t know about you, but I am happy that the thing I need to most work on is something I can work on. I cannot work on many physical, temporary things that are out of my control, but I can work on the one thing that is spiritual, eternal and fully in my control.

Remember:

  • Partiality is a human dilemma; God shows partiality to NO man.
  • We, Christians, must labor diligently to avoid the temptation to give preference to someone based on their outward circumstance; rather, we must always strive to “see” through to the core value of each person—not assessing their value through our subjective lens—full of bias, but assessing their value through God’s objective lens—free of bias.
  • Although external conditions may not always have the ability to be controlled, the heart is something we do have the ability to control. God told the Israelites in Ezekiel’s day to get “A new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31). In stating such, God laid responsibility on the Israelites. But the words also reveal a feasible responsibility we have to the condition of our own hearts as well.

The Creator’s Counsel

It is difficult to imagine a created being directly counseled by the Creator, but amazingly such encounters have occurred. One is found in Genesis 4, where we learn that Cain, “A keeper of sheep” and Abel, “A tiller of the ground”(4:2) each brought an offering to the LORD. Not many details surrounding the offerings are revealed to us, but what is disclosed is, “The LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering.”(Genesis 4:4-5).  It isn’t until we get to the New Testament book of Hebrews that we learn, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4, emp. mine). So, we can decipher that, because of his faith, Abel’s offering was more substantial—he did, after all, offer the “Firstborn of his flock and of their fat” (4:4); whereas Cain is said to just have offered “The fruit of the ground” (4:3)—not necessarily the “firstfruits” of the ground. So, how did Cain react to the LORD not respecting his offering? He was “Very angry and his countenance fell” (4:5b).

In verse 5 Cain is angry; in verse 7 he slays his brother, but in the two verses in between, the LORD directly counsels—intervenes by asking the angry one a rhetorical question, then giving practical advice: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (4:7).

Did you see the way God personified sin as lying at the door—to our heart, perhaps. He didn’t give sin an object that we could picture in our minds; just an image of sin itself lying there, begging us to open the door and indulge in it. Romans 7:13-25 runs through my mind as I think about sin and its control in our lives. God tells us to “do well” to be accepted, but in our sinful nature, we “do not do well” —that is sin dwell[ing] in [us]” (Romans 7:17;20). BUT, I love the end of that section, where Paul, after bearing himself, exclaims his wretched state, asks for help (in the who)—and reminds/encourages with truth: “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:25a). 

Cain killed his brother because he gave in to sin “lying” at the door to his heart. If he entertained the Creator’s plea at all, it didn’t last long. Like Cain—and Paul, we too are weak. BUT, “Thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord” that we can be “Delivered  . . . from this body of death” (Romans 7:24).