“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”Psalms 57:5
Father God, as I go about my day help me to see the world in a new light. A world that was created by you for your glory. A world so intricate and beautiful and diverse that only you, God, could’ve designed. Amen
As my dog Tucker ran along the path unencumbered with the complicated thoughts of us humans I had to stop and laugh at his simple life. Simple, in comparison to mine, but still an integral part of God’s creation.
We were on our usual trek through a local, suburban canyon which features homes on either top of the divide. Through the middle are varieties of plant life too numerous to count hiding all manner of birds, lizards, bunnies, and probably a rattlesnake or two. It even features a tiny spring welling up mysteriously somewhere along the way. And it struck me how no human on earth could create such a diverse and self-sustaining environment. We try, oh we certainly try.
There’ve been numerous attempts to create our own human-based “Eden.” In the 60s and 70s communes could be found throughout the United States, based loosely on China’s Mao Zedong’s plan for communal living. But time after time they have failed.
Although American communards worked to raise food, shared parenting and household tasks, shared financial responsibility and upkeep, the rules and organization were often lax, leading many to fail simply because there was no governing body, not enough discipline or consequence when someone did not do their part. Also, for some, drugs and sex were more important than work.
Russell Flannery, Forbes Magazine
You’ve probably heard the Romans 8 verse many times where Paul reminds us that God works for the good of all those who love Him. I can’t help but notice in so many reviews of man’s attempt to re-create what God has already made perfect that what is basically missing is God Himself.
God has already made the perfect commune for us. It’s a world that, if we were to disappear tomorrow, would continue on growing, dying, rebuilding, burning, pro-creating, flooding, blooming, blizzarding, and shining. But for what purpose? That my friends, is the ultimate pinnacle of God’s plan. In the beginning He made it for you. It’s not something we need to re-make; that would pale in comparison to the original! But it is something to appreciate in its intricately woven creation and sustainability. For that we can give Glory to God all our lives.
Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; Proverbs 27:23
I am certainly thankful that the Lord sent His Holy Spirit to be with us always – to comfort, guide, and even giving us those taps on the shoulders when we are about to say or do something we shouldn’t. Sometimes, however, we need an earthly comfort. A warm and fuzzy hug or a big sloppy kiss. And that’s why I’m so very thankful God gifted us with pets.
There’s no clear answer as to when we humans started domesticating animals. Some say the beginning of the 5th millennium BC, while others think it was a bit later in that millennium. But no matter, we can know it was a long time ago we became shepherds and farmers. It’s thought that dogs became our companions around 27,000 years ago! The oldest known dog remains were found in the Americas and are dated to approximately 17,000 years ago. We’ve certainly have had a long term love affair with our pets!
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 2 Samuel 12:1-3
Now, while this verse is a rebuking lesson for David from the prophet Nathan, it also shows us a glimpse into the everyday life of the people – ones who loved their pet companions. I can also imagine the shepherds who received the message of Jesus’ birth with their faithful sheep dogs by their sides that fateful night.
I’ve been blessed with two dogs, a few cats, some fish and even a few hermit crabs. My dog right now, Tucker, brings me so much laughter and joy. Don’t we all need someone in our lives that, when we come home after a long day, jumps for joy and begs to cuddle with them? I thank God for this companionship and the love so many of us throughout the ages have received from our furry friends.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26
It’s a sad state we find ourselves in where you can get more sympathy for killing cows than human babies. According to the American Life League more than 61.8 million children have been aborted since 1973. The elevation of animals over humans sees countless protests for using animals for food as “good” yet protests in front of an abortion clinic as “bad.” Any Christian who has submitted themselves to the Word of God can easily read God’s directives in Genesis where He has given man, not only caretaking responsibility but also the use of animals and plants as sustenance.
To be placed in this position by God required making humans unique. Not only did He give us the concepts of right and wrong along with various emotions but also higher brain power. While I dearly love my dog Tucker, he will only ever reach a certain level of intelligence. He’s pretty smart — kinda like a two year old child. Which makes him smart and dopey at the same time!
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15
Even someone who we might consider to be the least intelligent among us or someone with a mental disability excels in mental capacity from the beasts of the earth. As humans we can be ever thankful for God giving us brains that create and understand justice, morality, empathy, love, anger, sadness, our mortality and beauty. Our ability to not just dream of the future but to create a path to that future, be it a new building, a new method for delivering products, designing a rocket, or figuring out how to explore the depths of the sea, sets us on top of the list of the living things on this planet. God created a brain so unique in this world that it even knows how to analyze itself!
What a great gift He has given us humans! I’m so thankful for the responsibility He has given us because with it comes the tools to be great stewards of His creation.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
When you hear people argue about God being a man-made construct I always wonder what they think about the concept of hope. Hope, in general, is experienced by other animals in simplistic forms. My dog hopes that a piece of my dinner will fall off my plate in to his mouth. And given his level of whining and drooling his hopefulness can get pretty intense. But if my dog were to say, get cancer, would he understand the hopefulness of being cured? When my previous dog, Molly was old and ill we called in a woman who does home euthanasia. As the drugs were administered into Molly’s body we gave her a feast of her favorite treats. She resisted succumbing in her desire for one more treat. But was she able to hope to not die? To hope that something better awaited her after death?
It seems throughout God’s animal kingdom creatures were gifted with just enough mental capacity to meet their basic needs. It’s obviously so or else we’d see them building super computers and skyscrapers. The animal kingdom doesn’t concern themselves with their fellow animals’ living conditions in far off lands, much less those in the house next door. As humans, God instill in us something that no man can truly explain. A sense of the past, the present, and a hope for the future.
It’s that hope, that “looking forward to God’s good work” in our situation that is so uniquely human. And I praise God for it.
Like love, hope is found in many forms. We can hope it doesn’t rain out the baseball game. We hope we get the job. We hope our vacation turns out the way we dream. We can hope for a better life. Hope for a cure. Hope for a child. But the hope God really wants us to rely on is the hope based on trusting that what He has in store for you and I is for good.
We can have hope that the trials we currently are going through will teach us something important and will leave us with something good. We can have hope that God has a good plan for not only ourselves but for our families who believe in him. We can place our hope in a future beyond this place more glorious than we can imagine.
I’m so thankful God gifted us with this unique brand of hope. Without it we have hopelessness and despair. We would be left only with anger and disappointment and confusion.
When I look around these days, I can see the destructiveness from lacking in God’s hope. The aching and yearning for answers. It leads people to depression, violence, and self- harm. But that’s because deep in each of us is the knowledge that brokenness is not the state God wants for us. Its foreign in our bodies and therefore makes us uncomfortable and unhappy with life. We desire to be hopeful. Some of us just haven’t accepted the prescribed method – God.
Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.
Today’s Fresh Fire is our last in this series. It’s been a great adventure finding and studying verses that have helped me bolster my faith. I hope these verses have helped your faith journey as well!
The idea of hearing the voice of God makes me think of my dog, Tucker. When he was just a puppy, I made a commitment to train him much differently than our previous dog. When my other dog was a puppy, I also had two small children to train. And the dog was the last to get my attention! So, with Tucker I’ve made it a point to make him into a good walking dog. At this point in his training, he walks with a e-collar rather than a leash.
There were a few training goals which my husband poo-poo’d at the time. One, that Tucker be trained to only chase rabbits when I allowed it. And two, to only cross the street when he received our approval. When my friends walk with me and Tucker they know that at each street corner we must stop, look both ways and proceed. Tucker, even while walking slightly ahead of me, will sit at each corner and wait for me. A training feat accomplished!
But what does this have to do with the voice of God? You see, my real goal with Tucker was to help him not get hit by a car if say, he were to be in the front yard with me while off leash. So, when we approached a corner and a car was passing by, even if it was going parallel to us, I made him wait. I associated not only the changing texture of the surface he was on but also the sound of cars with his need to wait.
And I can almost swear he now looks both ways, looking and listening for cars. He has learned to listen to something outside his little doggie mind before he can proceed safely.
Isn’t that what God wants from us? To be so well trained to listen for Him that we don’t proceed until we hear what He wants of us?
And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
Throughout this series through verse after verse we have heard that to stay close to God we must pray, read His Word and listen through silent mediation. And the Bible shows us so many ways which God will speak to us – dreams, visions (like with Ezekiel), burning bushes, through others, signs, and the written word. If we aren’t listening to all His ways then how can we ever expect to cross the street safely? To move forward in our lives along His preferred path?
When Jesus made the statement in our verse today, He is telling us to listen up! To pay close attention! He tells us that a time is coming where when we hear His voice again it’s resurrection time. For those who hear His Word and turn to Him for the first time, that resurrection might mean tomorrow. Their dead souls come to live in new life. For others it will be when the believers are raised from the dead and enter into God’s glorious eternity. While still others will be resurrected and judged harshly.
But if we aren’t listening for Him, what will we miss out on? We miss the opportunity to be made righteous. We miss the opportunities to enjoy peace and grace and forgiveness right now.
This thing I know, that when I have neither heard nor read, I have yet felt the voice of God within me, and the Spirit has, himself, revealed some dark mystery, opened some secret, guided me into some truth, given me some direction, led me in some path, or in some other way has immediately spoken to me himself; and I believe it is so with every man at conversion;
Charles Spurgeon, The Majestic Voice
I was at my first women’s Bible retreat and we were challenged to go find a quiet place to talk with God. I found myself at a rustic, outdoor chapel of sorts. As I sat in prayer, I laid my heavy heart out for God. My constant prayer at the time was to help me find peace and a lightness of spirit. I felt so heavy with burdens. As I finished my prayer a flock of tiny birds flew directly in front of me from one side of the chapel to another. As they raced each other along their path they chirped loudly at each other – a flock of children laughing and squealing in some unseen game. The landed in a tree just above me and kept up their heavenly laughter. And I laughed along with them.
I realized immediately it was God snapping His fingers at me to say, “Wake up! There is joy to be had all around you! You see, even my tiny birds, who have only themselves, this tree and this moment are filled with laughter. You have so much more that I have given you!”
The voice of God is everywhere. It’s in us. He fills our dreams. He thunders with each storm and crashing wave. He gently rocks us to sleep with the croaking frogs. He loves us with the cooing of a baby. He runs laughing with us while getting that kite up in the air. To truly hear Him, to listen to what He has to say today, we just need a bit of practice and some well-planned training. The next time you find yourself needing to cross a proverbial street in your life take a moment to listen. He will guide you safely across.
Do not repay evil with evil
or insult with insult. On the
contrary, repay evil with blessing,
because to this you were called
so that you may inherit a
blessing.1 Peter 3:9
A prayer to be a blessing to those around me and my community
Holy Spirit I get so wrapped up in my everyday problems and to-do lists I forget to pause and look at the world around me. I rush out in my car and don’t stop to say “hi” to my elderly neighbor. I see the trash someone has left behind at the nearby lunch table and I assume someone else will pick it up. I watch the mother with two kids struggling to get her groceries in the car and I think, “thank goodness that isn’t me.” Oh, how I know you keep whispering to me to stop and do your work. But I prioritize my list and sometimes you aren’t on it. LORD, I say I want to be a blessing to others and yet I let so many opportunities pass me by. Today, I will be that blessing. Today I will recognize the need to slow down, reach out, and do your work. I will be your mustard seed and help build your Kingdom into all it’s glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
One of my neighbors is a quiet, older gentlemen. He lives by himself in the largest house in our development. He and his old dog, Scooter, are fixtures in our community. And yet, most people probably don’t know that he supplies all the doggie poop bags for a dispenser in our neighborhood. For Christmas, he always gives me and my dog, Tucker, a box of our own doggie bags. You could say he’s in the dog poop ministry! An unlikely blessing to so many of us.
In the same way, let your
light shine before others,
that they may see your good
deeds and glorify your Father
in heaven.Matthew 5:16
No matter how many Bible study groups I’ve been a part of or how many churches I have attended, the one thing about “ministry” people seem to fear is being called to give up all their possessions and move to the outback of Africa. And yet, Christ calls us to be a blessing starting in our own homes and neighborhoods. If all of us would just start there, imagine the transformation that would take place!
If you really keep the royal
law found in Scripture,
“Love your neighbor as yourself,”
you are doing right.James 2:8
At the beginning of the Covid pandemic I was called to start what became The Joy Challenge. I invited my friends, family, Bible study groups, and neighbors to take part in a variation of Max Lucado’s effort to raise the joy level of 100 people over 40 days. About 20 people said, “yes!” It was fascinating to hear people struggle with the idea of being that tiny mustard seed who could affect others. Some said, “How can I do anything if I’m locked away in my house?” Others said, “But I don’t really know anyone.” While even others said, “I can’t afford to buy things.”
But the ideas began rolling in. Some started writing little notes to friends and neighbors. One lady painted smiley faces of all sorts on rocks and placed them in her yard. My walking buddy just started waving and yelling “hello” and “have a great day” to an endless supply of UPS, FedEx and Amazon drivers. Some had their kids write chalk notes out in front of people’s houses.
And me? I thought I had a great “in” on some toilet paper from China. When it arrived, the rolls were tiny travel rolls about 3” in diameter. After a good laugh I decided God wanted me to give these little rolls way so, I tied a note to all of them with a funny quote and randomly dropped them off at people’s doors along my walking route.
Months later one of those neighbors stopped me and said, “Aren’t you the lady that gave us that toilet paper roll? We saw you on our security camera! Thank you so much – we thought it was hilarious!”
It shouldn’t take a world-wide pandemic for us Christians to seek out ways to spread joy and be a blessing to our neighbors and our community. I’m re-committing myself, no matter the busyness of the day, to be on the lookout for ways to be someone’s blessing. It might mean I take an extra minute to roll my neighbor’s trash can in or I stop and pick up that plastic bag that’s rolling down the sidewalk. It’s a mustard seed. And I know each one I plant will help build His Kingdom.
If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!