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His Sacrifice

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15

Gracious God this morning I rose thinking of the Son you sent to save us.  I remembered the pain He endured to show His everlasting and deep love for us.  You created this plan and He completed it.  In remembrance of that day I sit in awe and wonder at your glorious ways.  Amen

Over the course of 30 years a survey was undertaken asking high school and college students if they would first try to save their dog or a stranger.  I’m disturbed to report that 2/3 have always voted against saving the person.  In newer studies, adults now vote similarly.  How would you vote if asked the same question?

This study was posted online awhile back and I went to the comments section to see what people had to say.  I shouldn’t have.  It was more disturbing.  People condemning others for being “evil,” “cruel,” and “vile.”  Strangely enough, they didn’t put themselves in those categories!  The folks that would pick an animal over a human (now certainly there would be instances we all might do the same.  Say a person has just attacked you and your dog) fail to see their decision makes them complicit in devaluing human life.

What the surveyors have surmised is the lack of Judeo-Christian values in a person’s life or the watering down of those teachings increases making moral decisions based on our feelings.  In addition, a belief in God elevates human worth over that of animals.  Without that, we see the image of God brought down to having no more value than a squid.

“9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

Throughout the Bible we are reminded that humans were God’s special creation.  So special that He gave us dominion over the earth.  The earth serves us, not the other way around as some would say.  When this understanding of the world’s creation is thrown out the window it’s no wonder the people of this world have turned everything upside down!

A number of my Christians friends have struggled with the fact that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son.  We either secretly or out loud say we hope God never asks us to do something so difficult.  Yet every day parents see their children in the military risk their lives for us.  Police officers, firefighters, lifeguards and others put their lives on the line for strangers.  Because they believe we are worth saving.

The Bible is one of the most tested and proved documents in all history.  And God’s work is all around us to see proof of His ways.  There is little to no dispute that Jesus walked this earth.  Or even that He died a horrible death on the cross.  And whether or not a person believes He rose and ascended into heaven everyone should understand that He went to the cross that day for us.  He spoke over and over about the plan ahead for Him.  He didn’t die because He wanted fame.  He didn’t die to save the whales.  He didn’t die because of some terrible crime He committed.  The Father sent His Son to die to save us.  Because, thank God, He believes we are valuable. And just as our first verse reminds us, we aren’t saved just to be saved, but to spread the Word so that yes, even strangers are saved.

Friend, God in His glorious ways made us special.  I love my dog, Tucker, but he won’t seek justice for me and he won’t take up arms to protect me.  God made us in such a way that we can even ponder these moral thoughts.  He made us so when faced with difficult decisions we can decide on A, B or even A and B.  It depends on if you love God’s creation as much as He does.

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Intricate Creation

“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.

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Father of Steadfastness

Then the Lord said, “My spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” Genesis 6:3

Most people today are familiar with the Wright Brothers – credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane.  But unless you are an aero-enthusiast you may not know of Karl Wilhelm Otto Lilienthal (died August 1896).  He was known far and wide as the “flying man” for his attempts to make successful glider flights.  Because of his repeated and public attempts, newspapers and magazines influenced the public and scientific communities into believing flying machines were truly possible.

But imagine walking by his artificially made hill he built near Berlin and seeing this man running and leaping forward into nothingness with a wing on his back.  You’d think he was crazy.  You’d probably say he was going to break his neck one of these days – which he did.  But until that fateful day when his glider took a nose dive, he influenced and educated many who would go on to create our modern “flying machines.”  

History is replete with inventors and entrepreneurs who have been mocked, dismissed, and even jailed.  Many failed in their endeavors while others succeeded – sometimes only after their deaths.  But what they all had in common was their steadfastness.  That commitment to the dream which was placed on their mind by some unseen force.  In my series, “30 Days of Thankfulness,” I thanked God for placing that desire to create, to invent, to improve our world, on our hearts and minds.  And when we look back through the history of the world one man can be described as the Father of Steadfastness to an idea, to a goal of a new beginning placed firmly on his mind – Noah.

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. Genesis 6:13-14

What makes this steadfast commitment to following God’s command even more amazing is that scholars believe the world had never seen rain.  And here, a man is building a giant boat because something called “rain” or a “flood” was going to inundate the earth.  Oh, how the mocking must have been endless!  With each day spent placing yet another board on this 350 cubit (510 feet) long ship, Noah was like Mr. Lilienthal on his hill making another attempt at flight while the onlookers snickered.  

But Noah wasn’t the only steadfast player in this scene of the world’s eminent demise.  His not-named wife, sons and their wives must surely have been the subject of constant ridicule.  Each day at the well or in the fields the slurs and evil behavior towards them must have been almost overwhelming.  How many of us could say we would’ve remained true to God’s command?

The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Genesis 7:1

As Christians we so often have been asked what we would do or say when we approach the gates of heaven.  Imagine, however, being told before we leave this earth that God has found us among the few righteous!  Would God say that to you right now?

During the last few years our world has been put to a test.  We, as Christians, have been put to a test.  A flood of sort began to overtake the earth.  Some have fallen away out of the fear of that mocking.  Out of fear of being set apart.  Many have drawn closer, like Noah, in obedience and steadfastness.  And their reward?  A new beginning – a renewal of faith.  A rainbow placed in front of them reminding us that God always delivers on his promises.

Like Noah, each day we commit to be steadfast in our faith we are renewed with His love and His presence.  Noah toiled away for 120 years building that ark, not knowing what the fruit of his labor would produce.  He had no idea what his new beginning would be. He just had a dream of a boat.  And a promise from God of a new beginning.  He put his head down and started building it, as God commanded.  He let the mockers and scoffers slide off his back day after day after day.  His family toiled alongside him, set apart from the world.  And his new beginning was our new beginning.  A chance to make the world a better place.

In our modern world we so often overlook the everyday obedience God asks of us as banal.  Yet the steadfastness of say, Christian parenting, produces so much good fruit and beautiful new beginnings.  When our children become successful, healthy adults we get told it is “luck.”  But Noah didn’t go about his work with a rabbit’s foot in his pocket.  He was diligent, sticking with God’s plan.

Each day it seems the work of Christian steadfastness gets harder and harder.  I’d bet as Noah’s massive ship grew closer to completion and stood out taller than the trees more and more people threw insults at his family.  God’s path to our new beginning is rarely easy.  In fact, during the Christmas season I kept hearing the same Bible passage over and over:

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. Luke 12:51-52

This message from Jesus makes many uncomfortable.  During the last 50 years or so the prevalent message painted of Jesus is as a kindly, gentle god.  One who just wanted everyone to get along.  But that rejects so much of Jesus’ teachings and life here on earth.  It rejects the idea that there will be mockers and scoffers while we seek to be steadfast in obedience to God.  The apostles, whom many were surely educated about the steadfastness of Noah, themselves were faced with the same challenge. And while we are called to be peacemakers where possible, when we “go along to get along” we join the audience watching Noah build his ark.  But the flood will come – not as water but in the ways as described in Revelation.  

Friend, it’s time for your new beginning.  It’s time for you to make a commitment to steadfastness.  The world, in general, may never know how your heart has changed but God will.  Your family will know, your friends will know.  Be ready for the mocking, but also be ready to help others board your boat. 

What is God asking you to do today that might set you apart?  Your steadfast commitment to it may just be your new beginning!

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Stars

The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 1 Corinthians 15:41

I have always been fascinated by the stars.  In fact, for many years I longed to be an astronaut so I could travel beyond our atmosphere and see the stars from a different vantage point.  It’s strange to realize that the average person probably knows little to nothing about the beautiful lights that grace our heavens each and every night.

When we got our current dog, Tucker, I insisted that my husband and I walk him each night.  It’s become a wonderful time for us to recap our day and spend time together.  We have a route that takes us around our block and through a local park.  And as we approach an open space area we stop and marvel at the heavens.  Orion’s belt, the Big Dipper, Venus, Mars, the moon all wink back at us, along with thousands of other beautiful pinpoint lights.

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  Matthew 2:10

Of course, this time of year stargazing takes on a special meaning.  It’s a reminder of God’s sign to the world that something amazing, His long-given promise, was about to unfold.  It was a perfect way to announce our Lord’s birth.  A unique bright light from the heavens for all to see.  Some would accept it as a miracle while others still today consider it a threat to all they hold dear.

I thank God for those millions of tiny lights in the sky.  When I turn my face upward I know I’m looking right at God’s wonder, glory and authority.  It’s His way of telling us there’s more to this plan than just the Earth.  The heavens and its stars are endless, just like our Almighty God.

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Natural Resources

Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone. Zechariah 10:1

It rained at my house the other day.  You might read that and shrug, “big deal!”  But where I live it is a big deal.  I prayed that it would keep raining and raining for a week. Unfortunately, after a day the beautiful rain stopped.   While it fell, I sat mesmerized by the beauty of it.  Knowing it was filling reservoirs and streams, washing our streets, and filling birdbaths.  God is so good!

It made me think about all the natural resources we have been gifted from God.  With the most “controversial” being crude oil or petroleum.  I think so many people forget that crude oil, which could arguably be one of the greatest natural resource gifts, streams out naturally in places under the sea and from the ground.  More than 4,000 years ago asphalt (made from crude oil) was supposedly used in the construction of the walls of Babylon!   Persians found crude oil along the Euphrates and used it medicinally and for lighting.  It’s crude oil that has made so much of our modern world possible.  And when you think about it, other than uses for human needs, it serves no other purpose!

The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them. Psalm 89:11

God has gifted man with billions of trees, coal, natural gas, water, fertile soil, all manner of minerals and more. What an amazing God we have that He would create resources for us to “discover” along the way to improve our lives!  As appointed stewards of this world, given to Adam in the garden, let’s give thanks for this bountiful land and remember who it all belongs to.

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The Everlasting God

Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8

I don’t know about you but as a “baby Christian” I would go entire days if not weeks without thinking about God.  Without making any decision based on what God wanted of me.  As my journey has progressed that “forgetting about God” can be counted in minutes and hours.  And with that I have seen so many changes in my life.

The verse today takes place as the end times draw near.  Creatures in heaven praising God “day and night” simply because of his everlasting holiness. As I’ve studied the Bible, I’ve seen so often how God wants a close relationship with us.  Here in this verse the creatures never forget about God.  But you’ll notice that God is also a constant.  He was and is and is to come. 

Since the 1970s, one group or another has played “chicken little” screaming from the rooftops about the world ending due to either overpopulation, nuclear war, economic collapse, global warming, etc.  At one point a politician even posted a countdown to Earth’s destruction — which ran out about 8 years ago.  And according to a current politician we have about 10 years left before the Earth implodes apparently.  

But here’s the thing, when you study the Book of Revelation it’s not the Earth or God that is destroyed, it’s sin.  God is the Alpha and Omega.  He created the beginning and will be with us throughout eternity.

Today I praise the everlasting God.  We cannot destroy God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  We can only, through our sin-filled, unrepentant lives destroy ourselves.  My earthly goal is to serve God as best I can with Jesus as my guidebook and the Holy Spirit as my tour guide.  That way I can join with the creatures in heaven continuously praising His name.