Catching God’s Glory

spider web

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1).

JoAnn is a dear friend, and one of the most godly women I know.

The other evening at Bible study we were reading from Matthew 10:16, where Jesus told His twelve apostles to be wise as serpents as they went about preaching to the Jewish people. This led to a discussion of snakes … and spiders … and sharks … and how the images of these creatures bring fear to the western mind.

JoAnn interjected that a few days earlier she’d found a brown spider in her apartment. She was concerned that it could be of the poisonous variety and determined to get rid of it the next morning.

In the morning she found that the spider had created a beautiful spiral web in the corner of her home and the spider was sitting in the middle of the web waiting for her. “It was like she made the web just for me, to tell me that she was the good kind of spider, and to remind me of the glory of God.”

Me, I’d have squished that spider at the first appearance of it’s spindly little body. I wouldn’t have waited; and I still wouldn’t wait. Dear JoAnn is a woman of grace, even to creepy-crawlies.

Most of the unsaved are waiting for God to show Himself with an earth-shattering miracle to convince them of His existence. Many Christians I know are waiting to hear God’s voice in a shout of new revelation because His Holy Word isn’t sufficient. But some few believers are awed by the glory of His presence in the simple things all around them.

Behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12).

Given Wings

 

given wings cd

Don’t compare yourself to other Christians. They are not your measure.

Instead ask if you are using to the fullest, the abilities God has given you.

I met Gena Bradford in Spokane, Washington in mid-June. She was visiting a church the same Sunday morning I was visiting. It was Father’s Day, and two of Gena’s granddaughters sang a song she had written, “Where Can I Go From Your Spirit?”.

Gena has a God-given gift for music, but always felt inadequate. She wasn’t young, didn’t know the music industry, and who was she to make music?

When Gena was in her 60s, her mother encouraged her that she’d better put her gift to use. She took some of the songs she’d written, found a recording studio which happened to be in a young man’s house, and cut a CD (Given Wings). Since then God has opened all kinds of doors and windows for her to minister through music and introduce her songs of praise to be sung by others around the world.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them (Romans 12:6).

Noah Found Grace

noah found grace

 

As God looked upon the people of Earth, He saw nothing that brought Him pleasure. The wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence (Genesis 6:11). And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart (Genesis 6:6).

We have a serious blind spot. We don’t see sin as God sees it. Oh yes, we are aware of the growing violence and ungodliness around us, but we still don’t see the sin within each of us for what it truly is: the violation of the very nature and character of God.

Genesis 6 records the announcement of God to destroy mankind from the face of the earth because of sin. He was going to destroy the earth with a great flood of water. This serves as a reminder to us that God punishes sin and no one can escape His wrath – not animals or birds, men or women, or even children.

Yet in the middle of this prelude to the Flood, we find the amazing statement: But Noah found grace [favor] in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8). Why did Noah find God’s favor? Was Noah better than everyone else? No, he was a sinner like everyone else. God showed Noah grace before he ever built the ark or did anything else for God. Good works didn’t bring favor. He found found the favor of God for the same reason you receive His favor if you are one of His chosen ones:

to the praise of the glory of His grace … to the praise of His glory … to the praise of His glory … (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).

If you are of His elect, He’s given to you His grace – apart from who you are or what you’ve done – for the pleasure of His own will and glory of His name.

Betrayed by Love

first love

My 15-year old son has his first girlfriend. Casey is the sweetest girl a father could want for his son. I have no problem with Casey … it’s Casey’s mother who is the problem! She made dinner for my son: pancakes – a food he absolutely hates – but he ate and loved her pancakes! Imagine the shock and horror of being me. I am the most miserably despondent father now, betrayed by my own son to the pancakes of his girlfriend’s mother. Woe is me!

All kidding aside (if humor were at all possible under such a burden of shame), it’s a normal expression of growing up for children to create distance from their parents. The distance is not only physical, but emotional. It’s a part of becoming an independent adult.

Daniel and I have an excellent relationship. He knows he can talk to me about anything, and I freely speak to him about everything. But there are also aspects of life he needs to question and answer for himself without my meddling. He knows he can come to me for advice, but his life is for him to discover and live.

Godly marriage is between one man and one woman. In sixty years, when Daniel moves away and gets married, I will separate myself from him so he can bond with his wife without me in the middle of his relationship. This is God’s way of establishing a new family that stands on its own with God as the foundation – not a parent as the foundation.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).

Son, I will always keep a watchful eye over you. I will help you and guide you as you ask, but I will leave you to live your life. Why? Because I love you. And don’t forget, I’m the best pancake maker!!!

The Quiet Guy

shy

You probably know the “Quiet Guy” who always does his job yet goes unnoticed.  He sits toward the back of a room and barely makes a sound, deflecting attention to make someone else noticed.

I grew up in a religious tradition that placed an extraordinary emphasis on the Holy Spirit and certain aspects of His work. There was a “Holy Ghost Rally”, people got “Holy Ghost Goosebumps”, the “dove” was plastered on church walls and banners, every strange idea or thing – real or imagined – was attributed to the “moving of the Spirit.”

People claimed to have visions or messages from the Lord which were often nothing more than repetitions of Biblical ideas or cockamamie signs of self-worship. We boasted in being “Spirit-filled” rather than simple and humble followers of Christ.

Please don’t misunderstand me. The Christian life is impossible without the abiding presence of the Spirit. Redemption becomes a reality in the sinner only by the Spirit’s work. He illuminates our mind to understand and apply the Word of God. He distributes spiritual gifts to the Church as He wills. He is the Third Person of the Godhead and worthy of all honor, praise, worship, and adoration.

However, Jesus said of Him, When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will tell you all things to come.  He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you  (John 16:13-14).

The Holy Spirit is the “Quiet Guy” of the Trinity. Yes, upon His arrival in the Church He came with the sound of a mighty, rushing wind (Acts 2:2), filling those believers so that they began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4), but all of those tongues declared the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11) in the Person of Jesus.

Jesus is the one before every knee shall bow and every tongue confess (Philippians 2:11). If the spirit points to anything or anyone other than Jesus, it’s not the “Holy” Spirit doing the pointing.

The Hole in My Pocket

pocket hole

Sorting though some clothes in my closet the other day, I discovered a pair of shorts I’d forgotten about. I put them on, filled the pockets with my keys, cell phone, a Kleenex, and my regular handful of change and paperclips and set out for my day.

I reached the grocery store and found all the change in my pocket was gone.  I convinced myself that it had fallen out while in the car.  When I was done shopping, I put my hand in my pocket to get my car keys and discovered the keys were gone. I knew I’d put them in my right pocket. I put my hand in my pocket again and discovered a hole. Everything I’d put into that pocket had fallen out. Then I remembered the reason I’d put those shorts away in the closet … I needed to mend the hole.

Making this discovery, how wise would I be tomorrow to put on the very same pair of shorts, fill my pockets with my essentials, and head out for the day?

The Apostle John wrote to believers that The world is passing away, and the desires of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:17).

Knowing that this world, and the things of this world, are soon coming to an end, don’t continue putting everything in your holey pocket.

Building a Church

building a church

The goal of most pastors is to build their churches. It’s more than just “the more the merrier” feeling, but a belief that a bigger congregation equals either spiritual or material success. They’re convinced that God is most glorified and pleased with a lot of people in one place at one time.

Jesus said that growing the Church was His prerogative (Matthew 16:18). “Well, as a pastor, don’t you want to see more people in your church?” No, I want to see more people in the Kingdom of God. Once they’re saved, I want them in a Bible preaching and teaching church where Jesus is exalted and worship of the Father in spirit and truth occurs. It doesn’t need to be my church.

If you truly believe that the Church belongs to Christ Jesus, that He builds it according to His will and way, and that He is the Lord of the harvest, stop determining success by numbers. Instead, focus on your faithfulness to His call upon your life.

And if you are attending a church: it’s not about how many people are there, but how faithful that church is to honoring the Lord with the truth of the Scripture.

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).

Waiting to Hear from You

waiting to hear

I’ve never thought of myself as a very interesting person.  I’d much rather sit and listen to someone else tell his story than to tell my own.  While I don’t think I’m an enthralling individual, I’ve never thought of myself as a bore either.  Until this week.

I was chatting with a friend on the computer via Skype when suddenly my friend went silent. I assumed something had happened and my friend had to step away for a moment. I waited.

Maybe I said something to offend my pal.  I waited more.

Thirty minutes passed and my friend had still not returned. Then the computer connection announced that my friend had gone “offline.” Still I waited ….

I waited a bit more and suddenly my friend returned.  “Are you okay?  Is everything all right?” I asked.

I don’t know what happened.  How long was I gone?”  my friend queried.

About 30 minutes.  Is everything okay?” I wondered.

I guess I dozed off, but I didn’t think it was for that long. I woke up and my fingers were still on the keyboard but the screen was blank.”

I understood.  I wasn’t boring, my friend had just been very busy over a long, exhausting day. God, however, never gets tired.  He never falls asleep (Psalm 121:4).  He never gets bored with us.  He never thinks we’re uninteresting.  In fact, right now, He not only thinks you’re fascinating, He’s waiting to hear from you.

A Song in My Heart

Song in my heart

When the alarm sounds in the morning, there is almost always a song in my heart. It stays with me throughout the day in unending melody. This morning it was the hymn ‘Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus.

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

This afternoon I received some devastating news, not only for myself, but for my family and my church congregation. At the very moment I was receiving the news and being told, “I hope this doesn’t cause any bitterness between our churches,” my phone was ringing non-stop. I literally received a dozen phone calls and 52 text messages in less than 10 minutes from 3 different people, one was my son. There was an emotional meltdown of nuclear proportions occurring that I spent the next 2 hours trying to settle.

Then to top it all off, I fell down a flight of stairs while carrying a heavy box and my laptop. I landed on my knees at the bottom of the steps, broken laptop still in my hands, severely twisting my ankle with an audible “snap”!

What a day! I recalled the saying that when God shuts one door He always opens a window. And that’s exactly what He’s doing … in an unmistakable way! I don’t know what He’s doing, or what happens next, but I trust Him, having proven Him o’er and o’er.

He’s promised never to leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). I obey His word to thank Him for all things (Ephesians 5:20) and in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I know that He is my Almighty God, sovereign King over my life, and that He not only means all things – but He works all things together for my good and for His glory because I love Him and am the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

In all, it’s been a difficult but good day. The song in my heart when I awoke is now my grateful prayer of praise as I lay myself down to sleep.

I don’t know what the song will be tomorrow morning, but I’ll still be praying, Oh, for grace to trust You more.

A Teenager in Love

texting

Our summer vacation started out very well. Everyone was happy motoring along 6 to 9 hours a day in the car. We talked. We looked. We walked. We sang. We played license plate bingo. We worked crossword puzzles. And every now-and-then I’d hear the tapping of keys on the cell phone from the backseat; Daniel was texting his girlfriend back home. It was so sweet.

Then one day something went wrong … something went horribly wrong … with the phone and he was no longer able to send or receive text messages. I reset the phone, did a software update, banged it on the wall a few times, but nothing would make the phone work properly. That was also the day the vacation stopped working properly.

Daniel no longer wanted to be in the car. He complained that we were driving too long or too far, or getting out too many times to take pictures, or walking too slow. Everything we did and everywhere we went resulted in nothing but conflict.

Amazingly, as soon as we’d arrive at our hotel and Daniel connected his laptop to the hotel internet, his entire mood changed. The flip of an electronic switch turned him back into a gentleman. Actually, it wasn’t the electronic switch, but being able to communicate with his girlfriend that softened and brightened his mood. He is a teenager in love for the first time.

This is how we ought to be when it comes to communicating with our Father in Heaven. Not that we should be grouchy and complaining whiners, but that prayer becomes so high a priority that nothing else truly matters until we spend time with our God. We ought to be so in-love that we can’t wait to tell Him of our day and let Him know of our love for Him.

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, Jesus went out and departed to a solitary place, and there He prayed (Mark 1:35).