This morning I found my way to a gravel road that winds through about two miles of thick woods, with prominent hunt club signage nailed to numerous trees. A few of the trees had an extra warning in red: "UNDER VIDEO SECURITY". I found it a little startling to consider that someone was sitting in a booth somewhere in the woods watching me crunch across the unpaved, although public, road as I sought some quiet time with the Lord. Later, as I was reading the prophet Jeremiah the last verse of Chapter 13 stood out to me:
27 I have seen your adulteries
And your lustful neighings,
The lewdness of your harlotry,
Your abominations on the hills in the fields.
Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
Will you still not be made clean?"
I realized that the people of Jerusalem seemed to forget that God saw everything they did...good and bad. This was despite the many great works God had done for them. It was good to be reminded today that, even though I may find myself deep in the woods, there is more than video security watching my every move. (But I think that's a good thing!)
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Recently I've enjoyed driving around the various "peninsulas" in our area to find views of the rivers that create those peninsulas. We have the James, York, Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Chickahominy, Rappahanock rivers (among others) all in close proximity. There is a sense of excitement when you take a chance and turn down an unknown gravel road near one of these rivers and then follow that road to a riverbank with a glorious view of the water. Something in us is drawn to water. I thought about how the Lord is like a river. When you look out at a river, from almost anywhere along its banks, you often can't see the source or the mouth of the river. The water flows by almost like time passes, from eternity and to eternity. There is beauty from almost any view of the river, from the bank. And there is wonder as we view the Lord from our individual spots along eternity's shore...as we look on Him. When you look at some rivers the beauty entices you to jump in. However, there are many dangers to consider before taking the plunge from currents to rocks to possible cold water. But the river of the Lord beckons us all to jump in. His currents are peaceful and the destination is trustworthy. At some point we need to move past appreciating the view of His river and become a part of it. Summer is probably the best time to jump into a river. Why not take the plunge today!
Psalm 46:4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I've been doing a lot of historical reading lately (biography of Alexander Hamilton and memoirs of Winston Churchill) and have been appreciating the great freedoms of our country and our unique relationship with Great Britain over the past several centuries. It seems that England is largely responsible for our birth and early development. Like a child becoming a teen and then young adult, we craved a separate identify and broke free. Of course the breaches have been healed, largely, and we have no closer ally than Britain today. It seems to me that our form of government, which grew out of England's roots (minus the monarchy) has been strong and enduring because it acknowledges the weaknesses of human nature. Our system of "checks and balances" wisely prevents power from becoming concentrated in one person or agency. You might say that America has created a government and a culture that "harnesses" human nature, with all its flaws, to benefit from a more equitable distribution of power and opportunity. It occurs to me that Christ goes beyond "harnessing" human nature and liberates us from the darker side of that nature so that we might truly find our identity in Him. The unique result is the highest form of independence and freedom that leads to the highest form of dependence (on Him) and service to all men. There is no denying the positive and negative aspects of our human and sin natures. We are blessed to live in a place where that nature is harnessed and, ultimately, can be liberated that we might find our highest expression of life.
1 Peter 2:15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
Monday, July 27, 2009
This morning as I gazed around and up while standing adjacent to two cornfields under a sleepy-eyed morning sky I was filled with wonder at the natural beauty (with supernatural origin). Behind the cornfields stood forests of trees like guardian soldiers protecting the king's court. From one corner of a field rose a mist as the ground began to give back to the sky from the heavy rains of last night. The corn, itself, stood quietly in patience awaiting the time of reaping...confident it would soon yield its fruit but uncertain as to when. The total scene filled my heart with wonder as I considered our Lord, the artist of all this. And this wonder led to peace...and this peace leads to a closer walk with Him.
Psalm 85:10 Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed.
11 Truth shall spring out of the earth,
And righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
We're all familiar with the expression "dirt poor". If someone is as "poor as dirt" you picture them without basic needs like food, shelter and clothing, or at best scrambling daily to find these things. People who grow up and out of humble beginnings seem to be indelibly marked by those difficult times. Often, being "dirt poor" helps them later to remain "down to earth" kinds of people, who are "grounded" in humility and wisdom. I've been thinking about "dirt rich" we are. To begin with, we are all formed from dust and dirt and our bodies will be "recycled" ultimately back to those beginnings when we finish our earthly journey. It does amaze me that God organizes the basic minerals, elements and gases that surround us into complex life forms. We now know that God uses a code called DNA to pull together these elements into unique individual lives...so unique that we can individually be identified by our personal DNA codes. It is interesting to consider how we come into this world and then we live for a while and then we depart...but the dirt of this world remains to be used over and over again. We actually need to move on at a certain point to make way for the next "crop" of people to have their days under the sun and their opportunities to find the Son during those days. Of course the dirt is rich also because it can be converted to so many things like the summer treats of "corn on the cob", strawberries and a juicy steak. So I think it may be more true that we are all more "dirt rich" than "dirt poor". What a miracle that God would fashion something that starts as dirt and ends in heaven.
Daniel 10:9-10 "I heard his voice. At the sound of it I fainted, fell flat on the ground, face in the dirt. A hand touched me and pulled me to my hands and knees.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
My work calls for interaction with folks as they prepare to retire. One of the encouragements I generally make is that they do all the travelling they want in the first part of the retirement, while they enjoy good health as a couple. Many, if not most, of us have a list somewhere inside our minds of some spots in our own country, as well as abroad, that we'd like to visit during our lives. This morning it occurred to me that there is one journey that provides a great deal of opportunity that each of us is taking and that doesn't have to wait for retirement. I was thinking of "time travel". In a sense we are travelling to a new location with each day. Having never been to "tomorrow" there can be a sense of adventure in the unknown before tomorrow becomes today. Trusting, as we do, in a sovereign God we know that there are plans for our lives that will unfold through a fascinating blend of circumstance, relationship and experience. Many of us have found that there is more excitement in observing the Lord's action in our lives than in our efforts to "make our lives a happening". As the seasons of life progress we find joy and fresh perspective that can only come with age and maturity. I am looking forward to going to some beautiful places on earth while I can, but I'm especially glad that we are "living the adventure" even as we journey from one day to the next.
Daniel 2:21 And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
It's remarkable how clear the thoughts come as the new day begins, uncluttered yet with the issues of a busy day. Surrounded by natural beauty on a quiet morning walk it is possible to focus on the few essential things that matter most. This morning the thought occurred that our highest calling is to please God. The focus of making every thought and action pleasing to Him crystallizes our purpose. It's almost as if we can turn our lives into daily "thank you" statements to our Maker and Savior. He who has given us physical life and caused us to be born anew spiritually is worthy of our gratitude. Apart from the "rightness" of living this way, I am grateful for the focus it can bring my life. Certainly one of the great questions of life is: "What am I here for?" Just as surely it is satisfying and peace-giving to realize "I am here to live a life of gratefulness". This, then, becomes the test of our thoughts and actions: "Do they please the Lord?"
Proverbs 16:2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
But the LORD weighs the spirits.
3 Commit your works to the LORD,
And your thoughts will be established.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Leave the basket of your worries at the door as you depart,
Look up into the heavens to give your day the proper start,
Take some time to walk, don't drive, down a quiet country road,
Shed the troubles and the stresses...dump all the heavy load,
Drink in the honeysuckle sweet and the scent of corn stalks high,
Think no thoughts that have their start in you, let them come from heaven's sky,
Let cares not overwhelm you, or the concerns that people bring,
Remember Whose house you dwell in and let your spirit sing,
Do not be discouraged and don't dig a shallow well,
Wrap your heart in God's own presence...for
All is well, all is well
Matthew 6:6 "Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace."
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Matthew 14:28 And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."
29 So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
This morning I visited a nearby pond...so peaceful in the new day. A heron flapped gracefully over the water to a new fishing perch. The water was mirror-like, except for a surprising fish that broke the surface with a sudden noise and telltale ripples that followed. I thought about that day, long ago, when Peter asked the Lord to invite him out on the water. It doesn't seem remarkable to me that Jesus was strolling on top of the water...after all, He is God. But how amazing that a man, like me, could do so... And then I realized that walking on the water isn't just a one-time miracle. It is necessary for each of us to come to Jesus on the water. When Peter stepped out of the boat, He was walking on faith more than on water. Faith is trust. When we step out of our homes and into our day we also must walk in total trust that Jesus is there, as well. We can sink, also, like Peter when we doubt and when we rely on our own ability alone. I think I'll join Peter on the water today and keep my head up, with eyes of trust on Jesus. He's not far away.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
A large area of wooded land surrounding our development is owned by a Hunt Club. On a number of the trees they have nailed small signs that say "Posted: No Trespassing" and they name the particular Hunt Club as well. If the signs weren't there I suppose some hunters who didn't belong to the club might venture onto this property. I doubt that there would be great interest to the general public to stroll through the remote and rugged terrain. I've always thought it interesting that a sign nailed to a tree also has to say "Posted"...that seems pretty self-evident but I guess legal language surfaces everywhere. I was struck with the thought this morning, as I passed a number of these signs walking on the adjoining street, that I am not trespassing in my morning walk with the Lord. In fact, He encourages you and me to come through His gates and walk His land. He even wants to accompany us as we step along. In contrast to the Hunt Club members, He beckons others to enter His Kingdom. The word "trespass" comes from two old French words that mean "to pass beyond or across". It later took on a legal meaning used to identify barriers. I'm glad that because of Jesus' life and His perfect obedience even to death I am able to "pass beyond and across" the sin barrier of my own nature. So we are able, and encouraged, to cross into His land. All this because one day, long ago, Jesus was posted on a tree that is lifted up for all to see: a sign that we may trespass with Him.
Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses
Monday, July 6, 2009
This past Friday my sisters and I took our mother to stroll through a lovely resort that my parents had briefly escaped to as young parents over 50 years ago. As we walked the grounds we spotted a lovely rose garden. My older sister was drawn to the flowers and noticed their wonderful fragrance. I also sampled the glorious aroma and marvelled at this magnificent plant that combined stunning visual and olfactory beauty in one package. A little research found that it takes about 2,000 crushed roses to make one gram of rose oil. Perfume is then produced from the rose oil. Another fact I came across is that rose's don't have thorns...they have "prickles". Thorns are a form of stem but prickles are special growths that grow out of the surface of the stem. The purpose of the prickles is to allow the rose plant to "attach" to other plants it is growing around to climb so that the flowers can get the five hours of light they need every day in the summer. The thought occurs that we are like roses to our Lord. He has formed us to drink in light and produce beauty that is expressed in different dimensions. We are precious to Him and the crushing impact of life's difficulty produces glorious perfume manifest directly from our lives.
2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
Hosea 14:6 His branches shall spread;
His beauty shall be like an olive tree,
And his fragrance like Lebanon.
7 Those who dwell under his shadow shall return;
They shall be revived like grain,
And grow like a vine.
Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.