Vast Expanses of the Earth

 

 

 

I learned an interesting bit of information today.

While reading some facts in a book about insects called cicadas, I learned that they hatch from an egg on a tree, fall to the ground and then burrow deep into the soil.

There, they feed on juices from the roots of the tree—for seventeen years.

After seventeen years, they come to the surface and begin to live out where we, as humans, can see them and hear them "sing."

The author clearly stated that "no one knows" how the cicada determines that it has lived for seventeen years underground and thus, time to dig out into the world.

My immediate thought upon reading this was, of course, that God tells them.

He knows all about the passage of time in our realm.

When seventeen years is up for a new generation of cicadas, He lets them know it’s time to come outside.

In the book of Job in the Old Testament, God asked him about some of the things He does:

"Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this.

 “What is the way to the abode of light?
    And where does darkness reside?
 Can you take them to their places?
    Do you know the paths to their dwellings?"

—Job 38:18-20

 

Of course, we can do none of these things, yet God is capable.

In the vast expanses of the earth, God even tells the cicadas to come out–at exactly seventeen years.

God is talking to us, too.

Are we listening?

 

 

 

 

Your Great Compassion

 

 

Is God a forgiving God?

Is He gracious and compassionate?

Is He slow to anger?

Is He abounding in love?

Can God provide for you?

Can He sustain you, even when you are in an physical, emotional or spiritual desert?

 

“But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands.  They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,  even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.

 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.  You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst.  For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.

–Nehemiah 9:16-21

 

Yes, I Am The Vine

 

 

 

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.  Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.  But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!  When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

—John 15:4-8

 

 

 

 

Snow Like Wool

 

 

 

Can we make snow?

Well, sort of, but not really.

Not the kind of snow that weighs tons and tons and covers the mountains.

God does that.

Can we make rain?

Well, sort of, but not the kind of rain that waters miles and miles of thirsty land.

God does that.

Can we make air flow?

Well, sort of, but not the kind of air that we call breeze that travels the earth in currents. 

God does that.

Can we take care of ourselves?

Well, sort of, but not the kind of care that guides us through life situations, protects us from evil or cleanses us from our sin.

 

Only God does that.

 

 

He spreads the snow like wool
    and scatters the frost like ashes.
 He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
    Who can withstand his icy blast?
 He sends his word and melts them;
    he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.

—Psalm 147:16,17,18

 

Great Are The Works

 

 

 

When I was a child, my mother had Nandina bushes in our yard.

Slender, pointed leaves with bright red berries.

Visiting a neighborhood community a few days ago, I came across a Nandina bush.

It was just as I had remembered it.

Getting in close, I photographed the berries.

Rich in color, perfectly round.

Everything that God has made is magnificent.

Wouldn’t you agree?

 

Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them.

—Psalm 111:2

 

 

 

 

Some Fell On Rock

 

Walking along underneath the wooden bridge, I noticed the rocks that were beneath my feet.

Interspersed among the stones were small pieces of plants–dead plants.

Brown and lifeless, they were scattered about in a random array.

Were they blown by the wind from a nearby tree or bush, coming to rest on the rocks?

Did they spring up between the rocks, only to die from lack of water?

Jesus told a parable about a sower:

 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.  Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

 

–Luke 8:4-8

 

What is my heart like?

Is it too distracted to recognize God’s leading?

Is it dry, hard and rocky?

Are there thorns of fear or worry that choke it out?

I want my heart to be like good soil, yielding the crop that God desires.

 

 

 

 

A Time for Everything

 

 

 

Almost two million Christmas lights…..

Tonight I attended the annual simultaneous lighting of Christmas decorations in a nearby city park.

Entertainers were singing and dancing onstage, vendors were selling pizza, donuts and hot cocoa.

The crowd was thick and it was somewhat difficult to move about.

That was tonight.

Yesterday was the day after Thanksgiving.

Photographing the auburn hues of trees beside mirroring waters, autumn had finally arrived.

Thanksgiving and autumn on one day, winter and Christmastime on the next.

I’m not complaining.

Being thankful and celebrating the birth of Jesus go hand in hand.

One season and then, another.

God is the author of change.

 

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under heaven:

Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

 

 

But I Trust

 

 

 

It was life lesson time—for me.

Opening the refrigerator, I found that one of our sons had eaten about half of a slice of pizza and simply placed the remaining part inside.

Unwrapped.

Feeling really sure that the partial slice of pizza was very hard and dried out by this time, I decided that I would remove it from the refrigerator and give it to our dog.

Our sweet bassett hound normally eats dog at each meal.

This would be a treat.

Reaching down to give it to her, she took it into her mouth and trotted happily away.

Suddenly, I had a thought—could there be an unusual topping on the pizza that might be harmful to dogs?

I hurried to catch up with her before she had a chance to eat her delightful delicacy.

Speaking to her kindly, I reached down, once again.

This time, I placed my hand on the pizza protruding from her clenched jaws.

As I spoke, she realized that I wanted the pizza back.

Her special treat.

REAL pizza, not some pizza flavored dog food.

So what did she do?

Growl at me?

Bite me?

Run away?

No.

She immediately let go of her prized possession once she understood that I was taking it back.

Looking quickly at the slice, I saw that it only had cheese and a small amount of meat.

Nothing there to hurt a dog.

Convinced of its safety, I placed it back in front of her mouth with my hand.

She took it once again and this time, she ate it.

My faithful dog trusted me.

She trusted me even when I was taking back what I had given her.

She didn’t even complain.

Somehow, she believed that I had her best interest at heart.

Do we obey God, even when we don’t understand?

Do we complain when we are disappointed?

Do we trust that He has our best interest in mind, even when we are confused at what’s going on?

 

But I trust in your faithful love, Lord. –Psalm 13:5a

 


 

 

Whoever Sows Generously

 

 

 

What do you have to give?

That’s not a trick question; the answer is simple, really–

you can only give of what you have.

Think about it…..

Can someone give time that is not their own?

Can someone give love when there is none within their own heart?

Can someone offer prayer for another when they themselves do not believe?

Many, many people have the desire to give to others, but they can only give what is theirs to give.

Let’s fill our bags with those things that truly matter in life, so that we can give what is most important when the opportunity is before us.

 

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  —2 Corinthians 9:6

 

   

 

 

To Let Salvation Grow

 

 

 

Jesus died on the cross to provide salvation for our souls.

His gift of eternal life is there for all of us, but we must accept it.

Is your heart open today to let salvation grow?

 

May the clouds in the skies

above pour goodness on the earth like rain.

May the earth open up to let salvation grow.

And may goodness grow with that salvation,

which I, the LORD, created.

—Isaiah 45:8

 

Founded on the Rock

 

 

Dry erase markers.

They’re wonderful, aren’t they?

If you need to make information available on a board for a short amount of time and then update it or get rid of it, dry erase markers are perfect.

Perfect, but not permanent.

If you need something to last, a permanent marker will have to be used.

Let’s suppose that you work in a restaurant–

Imagine spending a morning meticulously writing and drawing the basic menu on a very large board that will be hanging above the order counter. 

Stepping back to admire your masterpiece, a coworker casually walks by and accidentally brushes against the board.

To your horror, you see that a large section of your precious creation has been erased or smudged.

Looking more closely at the markers, in great disappointment, you realize they were dry erase, not permanent.

We can spend our entire lives–not just a morning at work–building for our future, planning here, going there.

Attending school, getting married, having children, advancing in a career, excelling at a hobby—those are noble endeavors.

But if we are not doing these things with God as our foundation, they will not have any permanent significance.

It will be as though they were created with dry erase markers—their essence will be brushed away.

If God is the foundation as we build our lives, what is truly important in His eyes will remain, perhaps not physically, but with eternal significance.

Jesus said,

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

–Matthew 7:24-27

 

Until We All Reach Unity

 

 

 

 

 On this particular plant, there were open blooms as well as buds readying themselves to do the same.

Coexisting, they were each on their own time frame, blooming in beautiful unfurled color or remaining tightly wrapped in preparation for doing so at the appointed time.

Without buds, there would be no bloom.

As Christians, we are all on an individual journey of faith as our relationship with God grows and matures.

We each have gifts and talents that have been given to us in order to minister to each other and to the world.

Together, we can form a resplendent creation of blooms and buds, working alongside each other with encouragement and love.

 

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,  to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up  until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

—Ephesians 4:11-13

 

He Guides The Humble

 

 

 

I saw the sailboat out on the water.

Where were they going?

How does someone navigate such a craft to go to a specific place with only the wind to drive them?

The waves surely kept them swaying from side to side as they would rise and fall with every roll.

Invisible gusts could fill the tarps as they billowed out from their frames.

How do we, as believers, navigate our lives?

Each of us must face the rising waves of trouble from time to time.

Sudden storms may quicken the wind to an unsettling speed.

What then?

God is there to give us direction:

He guides the humble in what is right
    and teaches them his way.

–Psalm 25:9

The wind is His; so, too, are the waves.

He is able to guide us through the journey.

 

 

 

What Love Is

 

 

Could we think about something together for a moment?

Consider this past week.

Consider today.

Were there times that you showed love by your actions?

Sitting here, just now, I had to take an inventory of my own actions.

Could I find someone that could truthfully say that I had shown love to them through my actions in these last few days?

Tomorrow, and in the days following, I truly do want to show love.

Jesus loves us and He wants us to love others…..

in action and in truth.

 

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence  whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

 

1 John 3:16-20

 

Lamp

 

 

 

If you’ve ever been out at night when it was so dark you couldn’t see your feet, then you will certainly agree that a flashlight during those moments would have been highly appreciated.

It’s an unsettling thing, really.

Without knowing for sure where your foot is going to land, you keep moving—hoping that a snake won’t be in your path or even a ditch.

When there is light, decisions can be made about where to step.

Without it, many mistakes are quite possible.

God’s word is like a light for us.

It lights the path for our feet, showing us danger that can be avoided.

If you have never read the Bible, I encourage you to do so.

Why not begin today?

After all, wouldn’t you rather have a lamp to guide you through your life?

 

 

 

Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light for my path.

—Psalm 119:105

 

To His Own Interests

 

 

 

I realized something today.

It was an "ah-hah" moment when I figured out what had been going on.

I witnessed someone being very unselfish at a time when they were in great personal need.

Not understanding at first what was really happening, it did not occur to me until later how this person had set aside their need in order to give to another’s—-my own.

When the true realization of it came to me, I felt love and compassion for them.

When people set their own needs aside in order to minister to others’ needs, doesn’t it bring forth an abundance of gratefulness and tender emotions?

Today, it actually made me want to give to them in their need, even more.

Like beautiful flowers springing up in vivid colors, those who give of themselves unselfishly brighten the world with the light of God’s love.

 

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

–Philippians 2:4

 

 

 

Thanksgiving

 

 

 

There really are so many things to be thankful about.

There are so many things to be grateful for.

There are so many blessings that we could not possibly count them.

The greatest of these is knowing that God loves us and that He offers us life eternal through Jesus.

May we forever praise Him!

 

 

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.

–Psalm 100:4

 

The Man Called

 

 

Do you ever wonder what Adam named the animals?

Have you ever thought about what the original names were for each one?

Can you imagine God creating something for the very first time and allowing YOU to give it a name?

Do you ever wonder what animals will be called in Heaven?

 

Our God is a truly awesome God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

  —Genesis 2:19-20

 

 

 

 

We Have Continued Praying

 

 

 

In our prayers we always thank God for you.

He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We thank him because we have heard about the faith you have in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all of God’s people.

Your faith and love continue because you know what is waiting for you in heaven—

the hope you have had since you first heard the true message, the Good News  that was told to you.

Throughout the world, this Good News is bringing blessings and is spreading.

And that’s what has been happening among you since the first time you heard it and understood the truth about God’s grace.

You heard it from Epaphras, our dear friend and co-worker.

He is a faithful servant of Christ for us.

He also told us about the love you have from the Spirit.

Since the day we heard these things about you,

we have continued praying for you.

This is what we pray:

that God will make you completely sure of what he wants by giving you all the wisdom and spiritual understanding you need;

Colossians 1:3-9

 

A Thousand Years

 

 

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to say no.

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to stop saying yes.

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to stop giving my time to things that aren’t what I need to be giving my time to.

It is totally possible to become so busy that there is no time for reflection on how time is spent.

Lately, I have been reconsidering my choices.

This afternoon, I decided to stay home rather than go out.

Sitting in my back yard, I quietly looked at my surroundings, just taking it all in.

The sun was beginning to set.

Birds were flying overhead, scurrying to find a tree to spend the night in.

One flew in close by and selected a tree only a few feet from me.

The metal wind chimes hanging near my bedroom window were creating a simple serenade as an accompaniment for the day’s ending.

As I looked up at the fluffy clouds moving straight above me, I began to pray.

Suddenly, I noticed a speck of light in their midst—a star in the twilight blue sky.

Curious to know the name of the star, I found that it was Vega, which is 25.30 light years away.

One light year is 5.8 trillion miles.

God heard my prayer instantly as soon as my mind formed the words to say.

Vega is so far away I can hardly begin to comprehend it, yet its light reaches earth and God is sustaining both at the same time AND He listens to me–and you– when we pray.

I’m glad I took the time to just be outside and…..

think,

feel,

listen,

pray.

Is it sometimes hard for you, too?

 

To you, a thousand years is like yesterday,
    like a few hours in the night.

–Psalm 90:4

 

 

 

 

Vega

 

 

 

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to say no.

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to stop saying yes.

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to stop giving my time to things that aren’t what I need to be giving my time to.

It is totally possible to become so busy that there is no time for reflection on how time is spent.

Lately, I have been reconsidering my choices.

This afternoon, I decided to stay home rather than go out.

Sitting in my back yard, I quietly looked at my surroundings, just taking it all in.

The sun was beginning to set.

Birds were flying overhead, scurrying to find a tree to spend the night in.

One flew in close by and selected a tree only a few feet from me.

 

Peacefully

 

 

 

 

I want to enjoy life.

I want to have many happy days.

What should I do?

 

 

Do you want to enjoy life?
    Do you want to have many happy days?
 Then avoid saying anything hurtful,
    and never let a lie come out of your mouth.
 Stop doing anything evil, and do good.
    Look for peace, and do all you can to help people live peacefully.
The Lord watches over those who do what is right,
    and he hears their prayers.

–Psalm 34:12-15

Dark As Red Dye

 

 

 

If we were to list all the things we had ever done that were wrong—displeasing to God—wouldn’t we have a long list?

No one is immune from sin.

The good news is, it doesn’t matter what we’ve done.

God is ready to forgive, if we will seek His forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaiah 1:18–

“I, the Lord, am the one speaking to you. Come, let’s discuss this. Even if your sins are as dark as red dye, that stain can be removed and you will be as pure as wool that is as white as snow.

For the Earth Will Be Full

 

 

What will it be like when the earth is full of the knowledge of the LORD?

 

 

The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
    and a little child will lead them.
 The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
    and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
 They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

–Isaiah 11:6-9

 

 

 

Nothing In All the World

 

 

 

 

When I walked into the windowless room at work, I saw him immediately.

A small, Mediterranean gecko was frantically moving about.

Capturing him in a small container, I let him go outside in the grass near the sidewalk.

Mediterranean geckos are incredibly interesting to me.

Colorful, yet almost transparent, it is possible to see its internal parts when looking underneath.

I thought about that quality of his—you could almost see right through him.

In a spiritual sense, how transparent am I?

The answer is two-fold, really.

On one hand, we cannot hide anything from God.

We cannot hide words.

We cannot hide thoughts.

We cannot hide actions.

We cannot hide attitudes.

He sees it all, just as if we were transparent.

On the other hand, we try to conceal ourselves.

The decision to hide who we really are from God leaves us cloaked and guarded.

We feel that we have covered our transparency, but, in reality, we have not.

We may hide ourselves from other people.

Our words.

Our thoughts.

Our actions.

Our attitudes.

We may be successful in doing so, but God will still be aware.

We should live in such a way as to please Him in all that we do, asking forgiveness when we do not.

God’s word is alive and working. It is sharper than the sharpest sword and cuts all the way into us. It cuts deep to the place where the soul and the spirit are joined. God’s word cuts to the center of our joints and our bones. It judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts.  Nothing in all the world can be hidden from God. He can clearly see all things. Everything is open before him. And to him we must explain the way we have lived.

—Hebrews 4:12-13

 

The Kingdom of God

 

 

 

Where is the kingdom of God?

Is it within you today?

 

 

 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation,  nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” —Luke 17:20-21

 

Just As You Are in Me

 

 

 

Just last week, someone spoke to me of this prayer of Jesus as recorded in John 17:

 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

–verses 20-26

Four days later, I saw a book online that looked interesting.

I purchased it and began reading.

Today—only two days after my purchase—I came to a part in the book where it talked about Jesus’ prayer, quoting verses 20-23.

Hearing about these words of Jesus twice in six days makes me think that God is bringing them to my attention at this specific time.

Feeling sure of this, it also makes me remember, once again, that God is with me constantly.

He wants me to understand, to learn, and to grow.

 

Train Children

 

 

 

 

How long does it take to raise a child?

How long?

How much teaching does it take to impart wisdom?

How much?

How much love does it take to nurture a child?

How much?

How long does it take for a child to grow in faith?

How long?

Just as much as is needed for as long as God allows.

 

Train children to live the right way,
       and when they are old, they will not stray from it.

–Proverbs 22:6

 

Don’t Store Up Treasures

 

 

What is it that you treasure?

What means the most to you?

The things of Earth are temporary;

the things of Heaven are eternal.

 

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be."

—Matthew 6:19-21

 

That You May Declare

 

 

 

 

If I am a believer in Jesus Christ, I am God’s special possession.

I am to declare His praises for He called me out of darkness and into His wonderful light.

There was a time when I did not know His forgiveness and I had not accepted His gift of eternal life–

but now, I know.

I have received mercy and I am His.

Please look at the sentences above and replace "I" with your name:

 

If ________ is a believer in Jesus Christ, (he/she) is God’s special possession.

__________is to declare His praises for He called (him/her) out of darkness and into His wonderful light.

There was a time when _______ did not know His forgiveness and _________ had not accepted His gift of eternal life–

but now, (he/she) knows.

______ has received mercy and (he/she) is His.

 

If this is not true for you, please know that it can be.

It is not too late.

You need a savior.

Believe that He is the Son of God and that He gave His life on the cross for you.

Tell him you are sorry for all that you’ve done that was wrong.

Ask Him to come into your life and guide you.

Tell Him that you will live your life for Him.

 

 

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. —I Peter 2:9-10