Thursday, April 16, 2020

TRUE TO CHARACTER


Throughout my working years everything I did involved my being creative - from designing and sewing  fashion, to creating window coverings and home decor to putting together show suites. 
I really enjoyed setting up show suites.  Just letting my imagination have free expression with someone else's money !  😊 
 I realized  that I had a certain style that was becoming recognizable and so I decided that the next show suite I was asked to do I was really going to step out of my box and be really different!
And so I did !  When it was finished I stood and looked at it and thought ... no one will know I did this one !  
Not long after I got a phone call from someone I had never met.  She introduced herself and then asked .. ."Did you do the show suite at ____________ ?"    Hesitantly I answered in the affirmative and asked how she knew?  She snickered and said .. "It looked like your work!"  
My heart plummeted and I was so disappointed,  feeling I had totally failed in what I was so sure I had accomplished. 
 
In thinking about it I realized that there is something at the core of who we are that we cannot change. No matter what we do, it will put its stamp on it..  It is as recognizable and unchangeable as our fingerprint. 
 We see this so clearly pictured (no pun intended) in artists.  A famous artist work has value because it has his fingerprint on it.  No matter how different the subject matter painted is ,  the painting is as recognizable as the artist himself.  

We use the words 'in character' or 'out of character' to signify whether or not someone is acting true to his character.    When we get to know someone we quickly know what to expect or not to expect in our relationship with them. 

God is invisible to our earthly eyes  -- but God longs for us to know Him.  Jer. 9:23 ".... let him that glories , glory in this, that he knows and understands Me..." 
And God made it as easy as possible for us to know Him ... He put His character - His fingerprint -   everywhere in His creation.  Therefore, we can know the Artist by studying His handiwork. 

I remember several sermons I heard as a child where the speaker would use something from nature as an example to support what he was saying about God .. and while I thought it sounded wonderful  , I wondered if God was okay with that -  If the example proved anything about God , if it was really true ... 
Then years later , as an adult, Roman's 1:20 jumped off the page of my bible ...  "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead."

 Seeing is believing !  Nature is a true and visual way for us to understand God -- seeing His character and attributes displayed in the things He created. 
   
Today I want to share a few  photos that reveal something of God's character.  
I ask that you not scroll through them quickly but meditate on each one, as though you are literally looking into the face of God and let the attribute or character trait of God that is depicted  strengthen your trust in Him.   

 GOD'S COMMITMENT TO US IS TRUSTWORTHY
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Since the earth began , the seasons have followed one after the other.  We never question if the cycle will continue.   No matter how 'dead'  winter looks, we have full confidence that spring will come and that which is dead will come back to life again. 

When God made a promise to Noah, he gave 'proof' from His creation as to how trustworthy His commitment and promises  to Noah were. 

 ... Gen. 8:22 "while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest and cold and heat and winter and summer and day and night shall not cease !"  
 As long as we see the seasons come and go and day and night follow one another -- we know that God is still there ...  His commitment is still strong  ---  His promises still stand.  

In winter, the storms come and the nights are long and dark - in fall the trees shutter, their leaves fall to the ground leaving their branches bare -  the summer heat may be unbearable and the soil cry out for water. . 
Yet, we also know the beauty of each season -- the softly falling snow, the glorious blaze of fall colours, the beauty of summer flowers , the buds and blossoms of spring.  

So also in our lives we can easily relate to the changing seasons, 
We experience  the times it seems dark, discouraging or depressing... 
or the times where we feel lonely, lost or left-out ...  
We also experience  the times when we are content, cheerful, comforted and cared-for.... 
 or the times when the sun is shining and we feel safe and secure. 

Why is it always easier to be full of faith when times are good and then when life is hard, the doubts come.   
 God understands our weakness and He gently assures us ...  
"Do you want to be sure I am always with you and I am as trustworthy in the difficult times of your life as well as the good times?
Then look at my seasons ...  
there is good and beauty to be found in each one ,... 
 and peace always follows a storm... 
day always follows the night ...  
spring always follows winter.   

 Our God-given assurance - as long as the seasons remain , so also remains God's steadfast commitment to us . ... 

Duet. 31:8   "And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you, do not fear nor be dismayed"

Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." .

Romans 8:38-39  "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."


GOD IS ETERNAL, NO BEGINNING OR END
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We oft find it hard to imagine how Someone , even if He is God, to be without beginning and end,  but here too God put proof in His creation.   .   
We look up into the night sky and see stars , many  bigger than our sun, that appear as tiny diamonds in the sky.  Light years and light years away from our earth. .  
 Yet beyond the stars we can see, we know there many more we cannot see.  The bigger the telescope man builds the farther he can see and yet the end of our universe  is not is sight ..
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Is there an end to space?  How could there be?  What could possibly be at the end of it? 
 A wall ?  A  Barrier of some kind?   but then .. what would be on the other side of the barrier?   No, it is easier to accept the fact that space is endless .. that it stretches out forever.   Hard to grasp, but we know that it does, science proves it.  

So if we have it portrayed in created nature, is it so hard to believe it was created by a God who also has no beginning or end?   
What security that speaks of.  There is nothing outside of God's 'knowing' or 'being'. There are no surprises that could change or upset God's plans or purposes. Nothing ever happened outside of His all-knowing awareness. 

Isaiah 44:6  "Thus days the Lord, the King of Israel.and His Redeemer, the Lord of hosts... 'I am the First and the Last, beside Me there is no God!"  

Isaiah 40:28   "Do you not know? Have you not heard?   The everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary of tired, His understanding is inscrutable!"

 Psalm  90:2 "...from everlasting to everlasting, you are God!"

I Timothy 1:17 "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever!"   

Having a God who is eternal, we can rest assured that His promise to give us eternal life is true.  We shall indeed live with Him forever and ever , time without end ! 


GOD IS FAITHFUL 
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My husband's and my favorite vacation destination is Long Beach on Vancouver Island. 
I can sit for hours and just watch the ocean. There is something so soothing about the rhythm of the tide and the lullaby of the waves lapping over the sandy shore. 
 
It takes only a few minutes and I can feel the tension in my body ease and a deep sense of awe and peace fill my soul.
 I think about how day after day, year after year,  and yes millennium after millennium  the waves have not ceased.  They may be gentle or they may crash  violently in wind or storm, but  the tide is constant ... in and out  -  Portraying the faithfulness of God, generation after generation. 

Duet. 7:9 speaks of God's faithful keeping of His covenant of love ... to "a thousand generations of those who love Him...."  

As I sit and watch the ocean, I find it fascinating how the waves always come this far and no farther, before retreating back again.  

Psalm 104:5-9 speaks of the one time in history where the water covered the earth and then in verse 9 we are told ... "You (God) have set a boundary that they many not pass over, that they may not return to cover the earth."

And then Jeremiah 5:22 God Himself speaks to the strength of the boundary He has set..
"Do you not fear Me? says the Lord. Will you not tremble at My presence, who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree that it cannot pass beyond it?  And though its waves toss to and fro, Yet they cannot prevail, Though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it."

If God has set the boundaries of the seas , controlling how far the waves are allowed to sweep over the shore --- this far and no farther --   then we  know that He also controls the boundaries in our life ... 
 We know that He will be faithful to watch over us to protect the boundaries that keep us safe from the things that would come against us...  

this far and no farther --   can we be tempted  ...  I Corinthians 10:13 
this far and no farther --   the evil one cannot harm us ..  II Thess. 3:3 
this far and no farther --   troubles of life cannot overwhelm us    Psalm 34:19 , Psalm 57:1 , II Cor.4:8,9
this far and no farther --   what can man do against us when the Lord is our helper Heb. 13:6


GOD IS TRUTH 
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Mathematics was my favorite subject in school.  I loved it because there was always only ONE correct answer.   No private interpretation was allowed,  no "your truth or my truth" ,   no evolving adjustment dictated  by time or changing opinion.   Numbers cannot lie.   And because God's creation is built on numbers - it is always true.  Science - true science- can have only one right answer because 1 + 1 is always 2. in God's creation. 

One fascinating example of numbers in God's nature is what is called Fibonacci ... If you don't know what it is check out this site  https://compassclassroom.com/fibonacci-numbers/  
The Shasta Daisy has a Fibonacci number of petals -- always 21.  Spiral plants have a predicable number sequence. 

In His creation God is specific,  Truth,   not opinion.   He is  consistent and definable and provable..  Man's opinions, no matter how firmly held, change,   What man believes one day may not be what he believes the next... and what one man holds to be true may not be what another holds to be true. But when Jesus said of Himself .. "I am the Truth"   we know it is unchanging. We can trust it at face value, exactly as we see the unchanging laws of His creation..  
God's truth is as precise  as 1 + 1 = 2  No other truth need apply. 

John 14:6 "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' " 

Psalm 119:160 "All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal."

 John 17:17 "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."

I Timothy 6:20 " O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and vain babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge."


GOD'S FREELY GIVES WISDOM 
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  God says if we ask for wisdom, He will give it , liberally ....  James 1:5 
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it WILL BE given to you!"
Do we believe it ? 

How often we lack wisdom to understand something or to know what to do or what decision to make.  Do we believe God will really give us the wisdom we need when we ask for it ?  
Why do we try to do everything in our own strength and then ask God for help as a last resort?

I think the Lyre Bird is one picture-proof of God's generous sharing of His wisdom. 
 The Lyre bird can mimic any sound they hear from the call of any other bird or a chain saw or other construction tools or children's toys.  Google the name and it will put a smile on your face.  How can they do this ?   Can you?  can I?  No .. and yet they do it quite easily - only God could give them the wisdom to do this. 
What about the ants God tells us to observe and learn  their wisdom.  Their brain is so tiny yet their wisdom is amazing . I have always found ants fascinating in how they set up their social colonies  -- from GPS ability,   to knowing how to protect their queen and nurture their young, to having an army to attack or defend..  I read about one detail of the ants how the soldier ants will attack another colony and kill the ants , then take their eggs back to their colony and when they hatch make them their 'slaves' ... They work night and day, every ant has his job to do. 

 Only a God of wisdom could reveal His wisdom in so many ways in His creation. 

And if God so liberally gives wisdom to the smallest in His creation, then how much more is He eager to give us wisdom if we ask ... And why does he oft wait until we ask?   So we know and acknowledge that the wisdom is from Him .. and it is Him that we then give the praise and 
credit !  

Psalm 92:5 "How great are your works, O Lord.  Your thoughts are very deep!"
see also -- I Cor. 1:30 , Col. 2:2-3,   I Cor. 1:28 ,  

Ephesians 1:17, "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom ...... "

Proverbs 2:6 "For the Lord gives wisdom......"

Psalm 32:8 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go' I will counsel you with my loving eye on you." 

 
GOD IS A GOD OF DETAIL 
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I don't think I have ever been more impressed with God's attention to detail than  when we hiked up a mountain in the spring time when God's gardens were blooming ..   
I always felt sorry that so few people could enjoy it because it is not easy to climb to the heights were they grow..   And I wondered that God would go to so much trouble for so few, if any, would see to enjoy it.  Yet God still causes this profusion of colour and bloom to cover the mountain slopes that a few short  weeks before were still covered in snow. 

God wants us to 'see' how important the details of our life are to Him -- whether they are noticed by anyone else or not !!  
  
"If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is thrown into the oven , will He not much more clothe you, I you of little faith ?"  Matt. 6:30
..  and in the next verse, He says ... "therefore do not worry"  about things we need -- He knows we need them !! and WILL supply - over and above what we need.   

If He pays attention to a blade of grass, or a mountain flower, or the death of a swallow ... will He not also pay attention to the DETAILS of our life,  no matter how small we feel or how lost in significance we believe ourselves to be. 
 We ARE important to Him.  Tell me, is there anyone so important to you that you care to count the hair on their head every morning ? 

No detail is too small to gain God's attention, nor is anything too big for God to take care of.  

I know we can find 'proof' of every character or attribute of God portrayed in His creation.  He cannot be other than true to Himself, and His fingerprint will be revealed in everything He has created.   When we spend time outside in nature, we are surrounded by visible proof -- sweet messages -- of who God is.   When I gaze at the details of creation around me, I always look for the 'message' God wrote into a flower, or a tree or a bird or a butterfly or a cloud etc, etc.  and my heart warms with the knowing that God loves me and knows me and I know Him. 

ONLY GOD CAN MAKE A TREE 
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I could go on and on with examples of God's character revealed in His creation ...  but I will end  with what is always a personal 'message' to me .. 

My kids like to tease me about my love of trees ... but is isn't that I just love trees ! 
In the years that I  walked far away from God and considered myself an agnostic, I could never ignore the message of a tree.
 I remember driving home from work and I  had to pass a particularly majestic tree and the words always come into my mind ... "Only God can make a tree!"     And then I would wonder ... "If God made the tree, He must be real... and what is that to me?" 

Fifteen years ago, when we made the decision to move to Chilliwack and downsize.  I asked the Lord, "Please could I still have trees ?"   The photo above is the view from my computer window - photo taken yesterday, coniferous trees just beginning to let out.  .. .Actually all my favorite places in my home look out at trees.   A constant reminder to me that a God who can grow a tree from a tiny seed must surely care about me, and surely I can trust Him to also watch over me and cause me to grow into the plans He has for me.  
"He shall be like a tree planted by the river of waters.
That brings forth its fruit in its season, 
whose leaf also shall not wither 
and whatever he does shall prosper."   Psalm 1:3

A CHALLENGE
Remember how when you first fell in love, you could not get your 'loved one' out of your mind and how everyone around you got sick of you talking about nothing else?   
God longs for that kind of attention,  because He knows the more we think and talk about Him the more real He becomes to us and the deeper our relationship will grow. 

This is my challenge to you .  As you look at God's creation around you the next time you are outside for a walk ,  ask God to point out a special 'message' just for you.that speaks to you of God's character.     
And then share it with us in the comments ... Enclose a photo if you like, but you don't have to.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Darkest Before the Dawn

Cross, Christ, Faith, God, Jesus, Clouds

This week-end we are remembering the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.   .

THE DARKEST DAY 
Two thousand years ago, the Jews of Israel prepared for the Passover Feast , as they did every year.  Little did they realize this was not to be a normal Passover.  
It was, in fact,   the pivotal day all history would hang on. 

From the beginning God has decreed this day to be the day  when every sin ever committed was declared due and payable in full . 
There would be no more credit, no more partial payments, no more loans, no more winking at  debt owing.  It had to be paid, there was no more mercy. 
 Every sin stood before God's judgement and nothing less that  full payment would be accepted. .     
But the question was .... Would the sacrifice be enough?  Would the debt be wiped out - stamped PAID IN FULL ?  Would the final sacrifice offered  satisfy a Holy God?   
 If not, every man, women and child would stand  eternally condemned before God. What happened on this day would change everything.   

As Jesus hung dying on the cross ! 
Heaven held its breath !   
Nature  itself trembled .. the earth shook....and the sun covered its face and  ceased to give its light.  
It was suddenly dark, very dark - as dark as dark can be. 
Matthew 27:45, "Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land."
It was the darkest day in history ... both literally and figuratively.    

Then ...came  the words ... "IT IS FINISHED!"   --  the temple veil separating God from His people was rent --   
 Yes...PAID IN FULL  was stamped on the invoice owing ......   and it was confirmed on  Resurrection Sunday --   the darkness of sin and death was vanquished by the Light.  

WHAT NOW?
We, this year, are in an unprecedented position to understand the disciples who  experienced that horrific Crucifixion Friday.   
The disciples had expected nothing different than the normal traditions of another Passover Feast.  As well,  they looked forward to a promising  future   Jesus , the long-awaited Messiah , had come and He would free them  from the bondage they suffered under Rome.   Any time now  Jesus would rise up showing Himself to be a powerful conqueror who would subdue all Israel's enemies and rule over the known world.    Couldn't be better than that, could it ? 

But the events of that dark Friday destroyed all their expectations, crushed all their hopes and dreams leaving them bewildered and grief stricken. . 
 Jesus was dead !  DEAD!  How could they wrap their heads around that ??  
What now?     
They tried to resume life -- tried to re-establish 'normal-before-Jesus'  ... What could they do ?  Go fishing?  it was all they knew. 

We too have never been where we are today. Our churches are closed, our calendars swept clean,  food items rationed, face masks, social distancing,  self-isolation, shops, businesses and  offices all closed  ---   things we could never have imagined a few short months ago.     
We have no idea if 'normal' will ever be what it was before Covid 19.   What will our life, our world look like when this is over?    Where do we go from here ?   
What now?
Those are the same thoughts , questions that  faced the disciples that Passover  2000 years ago.

DARKEST BEFORE DAWN 
The phrase "It's always darkest just before dawn" is not really scientifically true but the meaning is commonly understood.   It expresses the sentiment that it is when hope is gone, when things cannot get any worse , that  the answer finally comes! 
Psalm 46:5  echoes this thought ... ."God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved. God shall help her, JUST AT THE BREAK OF DAWN."

Never was this phrase more true than on that long-ago Friday.  It was dark, as dark as it could be both physically and metaphorically ...   and yet ...  then came the  dawn  and with it a glorious breaking forth of new life,   a new Kingdom, a new reality of l freedom from the ordinances of the law ,  fulfilled promises, and  a new covenant - God's spiritual Kingdom in the hearts of men. .  
When all seemed hopeless,  God appeared "at the break of dawn."

WHY DIDN'T THEY GET IT?
For 3 1/2 years Jesus had taught the people. He taught in the synagogues,  His disciples walked with Him, lived with Him.  He taught them who He was, why He had come, what they were to expect and even the fact that He would die. He taught from the scriptures and showed how they spoke of Him. 
But ... 
The religious leaders,  didn't get it ..  They had one thought,  get rid of this man! He is troubling our status quo.   He is interfering with how we want to do things .  He is undermining our authority over the people. 

The crowds didn't get it ... They were fickle, easily swayed one way or the other and were easily induced to desire the release of Barabbas, the criminal ,  rather than Jesus, who had healed their sick and raised their dead and fed them. 

Sadly, the disciples  didn't get it either, even though Jesus so carefully taught them privately and explained everything to them.  

We have their mind set in their own words... 
Luke 24:13-27 ..  The couple walking on the road to Emmaus in answer to the 'stranger' questioning them said .. "Jesus of Nazareth was a Prophet , mighty in word and deed but He was put to death by our priests and rulers... We were hoping that He was the one we have been waiting for .. the one who would redeem all of Israel!, but now he is dead." 

Really ?   Jesus was only a 'prophet'  who turned out not to be the one they hoped he was?  

Jesus calls them on their ignorance.   He calls them "foolish ones" and tells them they are "slow of heart" .     I cringe at the thought that Jesus would call me 'foolish' or 'slow of heart' but we can learn something from  this couple's response.  They  do not seem to notice that they were 'insulted' .     
Why?   Because it wasn't an insult.   It was the truth.  Jesus never belittles or insults.   He sees the heart and speaks the truth.  Not to hurt but to heal.  He puts His finger on the fault or sin that is keeping us from seeing the truth of who He is.   
If our hearts are tender before Him, we welcome the truth from His mouth and respond as the Emmaus couple did.    They listened eagerly to Jesus showing them all that they missed .   Then when they realized that it was Jesus Himself speaking to them ... 
 They got it then, and of course, one by one the rest of the disciples 'got it' too as they were convinced by the evidence.   

But on that Friday --  how it must have hurt Jesus to realize that no one 'got it' .  No one recognized Him as God -- no one recognized that His death was the sacrifice for their sin that would save them from eternal death.  No one recognized that HE was the Passover Lamb.  No one could see past their own expectations and their own preconceived ideas. 

Well ...  Pilot and his wife ALMOST got it ...  Pilot's wife, through her dreams realized Jesus was more than what the crowds or religious leaders were claiming.   And Pilot declared "I find no fault in him!"    In the end he was forced to yield, but in one defying act he ordered the inscription over the cross to say .. "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS"   
(I like to think that Pilate and his wife maybe became believers ... but of course we don't know.)  

There was, however,  ONE  who  'got it' - only one ......  And that was the thief suffering on his own cross beside Jesus.  He acknowledged his own sin guilt and proclaimed the Jesus had done nothing wrong.   But it was more than that .   He alone believed that even though Jesus was dying on a cross, that it was not the end.  He believed that Jesus  would claim His Kingdom and that Jesus had the authority / power to save him!   (Luke 23:39-43)

I think God gave Jesus this blessing as He hung in agonizing pain,  

His own disciples had disowned Him, fled from Him...  the crowds shouted for His death, the religious leaders condemned Him.  The emotional pain  added to the excruciating physical pain of the cross.  Jesus felt 'forsaken' by those He can come to save .. and then later felt forsaken even by His Father.   (Matt. 27:46)
 What joy must have pierced through His pain ... a sinner repenting and believing in Him in the last hours of his life.   A soul passing from death to life ! With great gladness Jesus must have proclaimed the words ... "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."  (Luke 23:43)    
I don't know who would have had the greater joy in Paradise when they met ....  Jesus? or the thief? 

DO WE GET IT? 
Where is God in this world pandemic?   Is God trying to get our attention?  
Is He calling us to 'return' to Him ? 
Is it time to let go of the things of this world, and seek first the things of HIS Kingdom?  
Is it time to seek His ways, His truth,  His fellowship to the point where nothing matters more than His will ?   
Are we willing to lay down our life for Him as He laid down His life for us?   
It is easy to acknowledge a  willing heart BUT ...  we have often used the excuse ...  we don't have time,  we are too busy. 
God has now given us time ...  He has cleared our calendars.  We are no longer too busy.  
So then how will we use this time?  
I have heard a lot of neat stories of how people have used this opportunity to become creative in  reaching out to others ... and spending more time in the word and in prayer .

I love the passage in Isaiah 60?1-3 --   

Arise, shine, for your light has come ! 
And the glory of the Lord
is risen upon you 
For behold the darkness shall cover the earth 
and deep darkness the people, 
but the Lord will arise over you 
And His glory will be seen upon you,
The Gentiles shall come to your light 
and kings to the brightness of your rising !!