Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Great Minnesota Grasshopper Miracle



Assumption Chapel, on a bluff above Cold Spring, Minnesota.
 
I am currently reading “Partners in Prayer” by John Maxwell. In it, he describes a very interesting event in Minnesota history that I was not aware of.

From 1873 to 1876, hordes of grasshoppers (They were actually Rocky Mountain Locusts but everyone called them grasshoppers at the time) descended on Minnesota crops and caused major agricultural and economic devastation. As the growing season of 1877 approached, State entomologists studying the situation found billions and billions of grasshopper eggs were just waiting to hatch. Over 50,000 of the state’s 80,000 square miles were affected. The entomologists warned that the previous four years of infestations would be considered minor once the new hoppers hatched.

This was taking place less than 20 years after Minnesota had become a State. Most farmers were truly still pioneers, living in log cabins or rough plank houses. They were by no means wealthy. There were no pesticides, no insecticides and no effective way to control the bugs that often stripped whole fields bare overnight. The most effective method of controlling the pests was the “hopperdozer”—a sheet of metal coated with coal tar dragged through the field like a large piece of fly paper. Even though certain counties paid bounties per bushel of dead hoppers, nothing could control the ravaging plague.

In 1877, the Governor of Minnesota was John S. Pillsbury. There were no farm programs or crop insurance at the time to help farmers recover from their losses. Most were deeply in debt from the previous four years of grasshopper plague.

Governor Pillsbury proclaimed April 26, 1877 as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer and urged every man, woman, and child to ask God to prevent the impending scourge

Pillsbury even donated $10,000 out of his own pocket to build a chapel. (That’s over $222,000 in today’s dollars.)

Even though we think of society being much more godly 137 years ago, history records that Governor Pillsbury’s plan and his generosity were mocked by some. They called the idea “Pillsbury’s Best”—a spoof on the motto of his family’s baking flour. The Liberal League of Minneapolis issued a statement: "We hold that the belief in the power of prayer is palpably untrue, its influence pernicious, and in this day, a marked discredit to the intelligence of Minnesotans..." Then they finished off their comments with the statement "From the beginning down to this day, outside of so-called Sacred History, there is not one well-authorized instance of such prayer having been answered, not one."

Reporters from all over or young nation descended on Minnesota to report the latest in the controversial idea of praying for deliverance.

Nonetheless, on April 26, 1877 all schools, shops, stores, and offices in Minnesota were closed. An article in the Nov. 9, 1975 Milwaukee Journal recounts the day by saying, “Saloons and theaters seemed strangely silent. Streets were deserted except for the steady streams of churchgoers moving slowly and silently to and from their places of worship.”

April 26, 1877, was also unusual in that it was a warm, sunny, spring day. In fact, it was unseasonably warm—perfect for grasshopper eggs to hatch and the little larvae to come wiggling to life.

Then, late that night, another unusual thing happened. A cold rain began to fall. The wind shifted from south to north. Rain changed to freezing rain, to sleet, and then to snow. The snow and freezing temperatures continued for two full days and then, on the third day (a Sunday) a full-fledged blizzard swept down out of Canada and hit the state.

When the storm cleared and the sun came out again, the same entomologists who had predicted an impending disaster found that billions of little grasshoppers had been frozen to death shortly after hatching.

Farmers harvested a record crop of wheat, corn, and small grain that year. Entomologists scouring the fields that autumn failed to find even one new grasshopper egg in the entire state.

There is no recorded response to these events by the Liberal League.

The chapel Gov. Pillsbury helped build was destroyed by a tornado some years ago, but residents of Cold Spring rebuilt a beautiful granite chapel in its place. A stone carving featuring grasshoppers, originally made for the altar shortly after the miracle, now rests above the entrance.

There has been no serious grasshopper infestation in Minnesota since 1876.

Today’s Praise

And the LORD turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. (Exodus 10:19 ESV)

 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Socks


 
Having read the title and realizing that you are on a website that is supposed to be about the Kingdom of God, you are probably wondering what socks, (specifically my socks) have to do with that.

Allow me to explain:

Sometimes, when I sit down to write a blog for you, I have a certain topic and all the details all figured out in my head. 

This is not one of those times.

Other times, I have a plan and the Holy Spirit radically changes where I had originally intended to go with it and we both end up learning something.

This is not one of those times, either.

All I know is that for some reason I feel compelled to write to you about my socks. I readily confess that at the very moment I am typing this, I have very little idea where this is going to end up when I’m finished. We will both have to trust the Holy Spirit that it all works out. So, here we go:

Some years ago, I came up with the Genius Sock Plan.

See, I am an inherently lazy person and I hated using all that time on laundry day sorting my socks into pairs. (Yes, I am male and I wash my own socks. Long story for another blog.)

Ever since the invention of the sock, humanity has dealt with the seemingly unanswerable question of why there is always one sock missing from any given load of laundry. Philosophers and sages have conjectured that there is another dimension in time and space or an other-worldly black hole which draws odd socks into it, never to be seen again. This has caused immeasurable consternation and frustration for generations of human beings.

I didn’t solve that deep question of where those missing socks go, but I did find a way to deal with it.

I gathered up every sock I owned (aside from one pair of navy blue socks reserved only for funerals and my heavy wool ice-fishing socks) and threw them all in the rag bag.

Then, I went out and bought two-dozen pair of identical, plain white socks.

Now, (provided I had not gone ice fishing or to a funeral) every sock I owned matched ever other sock I owned.

What this means is that I am absolutely free of ever sorting socks again! I can take all my socks out of the dryer and simply throw them in a bin and any sock I grab on any given morning will match any other sock I grab. If there are 13 socks in the bin, it doesn’t matter.  I have successfully banished sock-consternation and the associated wasted time from my life forever!

Plus, when the socks began to wear out and another batch of brand-new matching socks replaces them, the supply of rags for my shop is automatically replenished!

Mwuahhahahahha! (Yes, that is the laugh of the mad scientist in the 1950’s sci-fi movies right after he says, “And then, I will take over the world!”)

Okay, back to the kingdom of God and a seemingly unrelated event:

About a month ago, I was asked to preach in my church while the pastor was on vacation. For someone who never attended seminary and had drifted away from God like I had years ago, being asked to preach was something I wanted to do and even looked forward to doing. I wanted to bring glory to God not just for all He has done for me, but because He is so worthy of all our praise and of my very best effort.

As such, I “kind of” obsessed over doing a good job.

I admit I was a pain to my family as I tried to get every part of the service and the sermon just right.

And, praise the Lord, it did turn out quite well. Many members of the congregation thanked me and congratulated me. And, not one person complained!!

Later that day, while enjoying a restful Sabbath among my loving relatives, I looked down at my feet and found… (Yes, you guessed it.)

My socks did not match.

One was a plain white sock from my last mass sock purchase and the other was white with a gray toe with the word “Hanes” on it—from a previous  sock purchase! Clearly, this old, worn-out and discarded “Hanes” sock had somehow escaped the confines of the rag bag, avoided being used to wipe up an oil spill, and made its way under its own power into the current stock of “acceptable” socks just waiting to cause the perfection of the Genius Sock Plan to come crashing down all around me.

And, all the time I had been standing before the congregation preaching about the glory of God and His grand plan to restore the infinite into the lives of finite human beings, I had been standing before the people of God on feet robed in mismatched socks.

Okay, I get it God. It’s a lesson in humility. Yes, Lord, got it. Thank you.

Then, last Sunday as I dressed for church, I pulled a sock onto my right foot only to discover that the entire toe area had been cut off.

As I wiggled my naked toes in the air, all I could do was chuckle.

Today’s Praise

Oh, how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! Romans 11:33 (NLT)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

That Bug-Eating Guy



 
John the Baptist confuses me.

He himself baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and saw the Holy Spirit descending on Him like a dove. He heard the very voice of God proclaiming “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17. Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22)

He announced Jesus as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Only the Messiah would fit that description.

Even from before birth, John the Baptist knew who Jesus was and he knew who he was. (Luke 1:41)

Jesus called him the greatest of prophets and, if we are willing to accept it, the Elijah who would announce His coming and call people to repentance in preparation for the kingdom of God. (Matthew 11: 11-14)

And yet, when John is asked point blank if he is Elijah, he denies it. (John 1:21)

Furthermore, when John is in prison, he sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He really is the Messiah. (Matthew 11:2-3)

What gives here?  Was John conflicted? Did he wallow in doubt in prison and question God? Did he not know who he was in God’s plan? Did he lie about being Elijah?

Or are there other answers?

No, John was not conflicted or lying when he said he was not Elijah. The confusion arises because prophecy that foretells the coming of Elijah is a dual prophecy. (Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 4:5-6)

The first coming of Elijah would be a coming of the spirit of Elijah at the first coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah, not the actual person of Elijah. The second appearance of Elijah will be his physical return at the second coming of the Messiah in “the great and terrible Day of the Lord” which is described in Revelation.

So, John the Baptist was telling the truth. He was not Elijah. It was the people asking the question who were confused and had the prophecy wrong.

And, when John the Baptist sends his disciples out to ask Jesus if He truly is the Messiah, he is not asking for himself. He is sending his disciples out to see Jesus in action for their benefit, not his. He said it himself: “I must decrease. He must increase.” (John 3:30) John probably knew he would be executed in prison and his disciples needed to become Christ’s disciples.

I didn’t figure any of that stuff out myself. People smarter than me have spent lifetimes looking into things like this and I am grateful for them. The answers are easy to find via an internet search, or in the notes of a good study Bible.

The amazing part is the Bible is deeper, more real, more significant, and more miraculous when you dig into with a shovel than when you skim over it with a spoon.

It’s almost as if the Bible was designed to be studied.

Today’s Praise

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Christianity Quiz


Several years ago, (Okay, maybe it was a decade or two ago.) it was common to see those magazines at the checkout in supermarkets featuring quizzes of various sorts:

Are you a supermom?

Are you obsessive-compulsive?

Do you have a great sense of humor?

Are you a real man?

I was never very fond of those. They were always multiple choice and, invariably, none of the answers I would pick were even available. For example:

An alligator suddenly appears in your swimming pool. Do you:

     A.      Gather the children together for a lesson on the wonders of nature.

B.      Call the pool man because who KNOWS where that filthy animal has been?

C.      Get out your video camera because you just KNOW something hilarious is about to happen.

D.      Get out your gun and start shooting while your wife heats up the cooking oil.

First of all, I don’t have a swimming pool. Second, I live in Minnesota.  If an alligator suddenly showed up in my non-existent swimming pool, the logical course of action would be to call the authorities because they would probably be aware of the zoo from which this animal escaped and I’m probably in need of some treatment for the hallucinations I am having.

Nonetheless, they were very popular, so they must strike some kind of chord with people. In that spirit, I have developed a Christianity Quiz for you, my loyal readers.  Yes, all 13 of you.  

Disclaimer: The Christianity Quiz is not a scientific test. There are no passing or failing grades.  Grading is based entirely on the honor system. Your answers are between you and the Holy Spirit only. Passing the Christianity Quiz is NOT a “Get Out of Hell FREE” card nor is it a ticket into heaven.

1.       As you walk to the checkout at the store with a single carton of milk in your hand, a woman with two screaming kids and a full cart of items darts in front of you.  Do you:

A.      Look around to see if another checkout line is open

B.      Loudly sigh in disgust, place your hand on your hip, and say, “WELL!”

C.      Offer to help any way you can, give a calming and reassuring smile to her children, and maybe even pitch in a few bucks to help her afford what’s obviously stretching her budget.

D.      Go to the manager of the store and complain in no uncertain terms that you have never, in all your life, seen such a poorly run store.

 

2.       You and your spouse are watching the evening news on television. Yet another story is airing about someone involved in murder, greed, lust, corruption or all of the above at once. Do you:

A.      Change the channel.

B.      Sigh while muttering the words, “End times, end times.”

C.      Pray that the individual involved would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, be saved, and spend eternity in heaven with all the believers praising Him and rejoicing. Then, get involved in a ministry that actually helps them do just that.

D.      Complain loudly, “Why don’t they just take people like that out and shoot ‘em?”

 

3.       You find out a co-worker has been telling lies about you, seriously harming your reputation with your other co-workers and your boss. Do you:

A.      Start looking for another job.

B.      Just put up with it.

C.      Take your co-worker aside privately, try to find out what is hurting them inside, and reach out to them with the love of Jesus.

D.      Go to the boss, complain loudly, and insist that the offender be punished.

You’ll notice that no answer key is provided, as we all know what we should do in those situations.

And yes, I failed it too.

Today’s Praise

Three things will last forever--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love. -- 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Freedom and Common Sense


Thomas Paine
 

It’s common these days for the media and popular culture to discount the effect of Christianity on the formation of this country. 

The Declaration of Independence, signed by 56 men who risked their lives and all their property with those signatures, clearly has Biblical influence from beginning to end.

Joseph Mattera, in an article about the Declaration last year, wrote, “The Declaration of Independence, which is the foundation of our nation’s Constitution, is so imbued with a biblical worldview that it would be controversial to read it aloud in many public schools, as well as other venues, because of the current secular movement toward removing Christianity from the public square.”

It’s also not generally taught in public schools that the idea of complete separation from Britain was shocking to many colonists prior to 1776. But, when King George hired 20,000 German troops to fight the colonists, he angered many Americans and public opinion began to turn.

Then, in February of 1776, Thomas Paine, an English printer who had come to America, wrote a stirring pamphlet called “Common Sense.”

The pamphlet sold by the tens of thousands. Almost everyone read it and talked about it. George Washington had it read to his soldiers.

Common Sense galvanized public opinion and is justly credited as being a major force in the formation of this country.  It’s not unreasonable to say that Common Sense made the Declaration of Independence possible.

While space prohibits reprinting the entire document here, I would like to share an excerpt of one of Paine’s major points from it:

Near three thousand years passed away, from the Mosaic account of the creation, till the Jews under a national delusion requested a king. Till then their form of government (except in extraordinary cases where the Almighty interposed) was a kind of Republic, administered by a judge and the elders of the tribes. Kings they had none, and it was held sinful to acknowledge any being under that title but the Lord of Hosts. And when a man seriously reflects on the idolatrous homage which is paid to the persons of kings, he need not wonder that the Almighty, ever jealous of his honour, should disapprove a form of government which so impiously invades the prerogative of Heaven.

Monarchy is ranked in scripture as one of the sins of the Jews, for which a curse in reserve is denounced against them. The history of that transaction is worth attending to.

The children of Israel being oppressed by the Midianites, Gideon marched against them with a small army, and victory thro' the divine interposition decided in his favour. The Jews, elate with success, and attributing it to the generalship of Gideon, proposed making him a king, saying, "Rule thou over us, thou and thy son, and thy son's son." Here was temptation in its fullest extent; not a kingdom only, but an hereditary one; but Gideon in the piety of his soul replied, "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you. THE LORD SHALL RULE OVER YOU." Words need not be more explicit: Gideon doth not decline the honour, but denieth their right to give it; neither doth he compliment them with invented declarations of his thanks, but in the positive style of a prophet charges them with disaffection to their proper Sovereign, the King of Heaven.”

Paine is referencing Judges 8 to make his point that we should not be ruled by kings, but by the LORD. He goes on, in subsequent lengthy paragraphs, to reference 1 Samuel 8, and the Biblical admonitions against having a king rule over a people.

Near the end of the document, Paine writes:

“For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe that it is the will of the Almighty that there should be a diversity of religious opinions among us. It affords a larger field for our Christian kindness; were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle I look on the various denominations among us to be like children of the same family, differing only in what is called their Christian names.”

Today’s Praise

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter (2:16 ESV)  

 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Laughter


 
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22 ESV)

Laughter is good medicine. A regular feature in Reader’s Digest for generations was “Laughter, the Best Medicine.” And now, thousands of years after it was written in the Bible, medical science is using laughter to treat cancer and a host of other illnesses.

That’s right, scientific studies have shown that laughter can: boost the immune and circulatory systems, enhance oxygen intake, stimulate the heart and lungs, relax muscles throughout the body, trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers), benefit digestion, relieve pain, balance blood pressure, improve mental abilities, improve attitude (duh), reduce stress and tension, promote relaxation, strengthen social bonds and relationships, and produce a general sense of well-being.

So, it is clearly my duty and obligation as your blog-writer to present to you a variety of jokes I have carefully sifted from the World Wide Web after an extensive and exhaustive search, solely for the benefit of your physical and mental well-being. (You’re welcome.)

-o-

A collector of rare books ran into an acquaintance who told him he had just thrown away an old Bible that he found in a dusty, old box. He happened to mention that Guten-somebody-or-other had printed it.
"Not Gutenberg?" gasped the collector.
"Yes, that was it!"
"You idiot! You've thrown away one of the first books ever printed. A copy recently sold at auction for half a million dollars!"
"Oh, I don't think this book would have been worth anything close to that much," replied the man. "It was scribbled all over in the margins by some guy named Martin Luther."

-o-

A little boy opened the big and old family Bible with fascination, and looked at the old pages as he turned them. Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible, and he picked it up and looked at it closely. It was an old leaf from a tree that had been pressed in between the pages.
"Momma, look what I found," the boy called out.
"What have you got there, dear?" his mother asked.
With astonishment in the young boy's voice, he answered: "I think it's Adam's suit!"

-o-

Terri asked her Sunday School class to draw pictures of their favorite Bible stories. She was puzzled by Kyle's picture, which showed four people on an airplane, so she asked him which story it was meant to represent.
"The flight to Egypt," said Kyle.
"I see ... And that must be Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus," Ms. Terri said. "But who's the fourth person?"
"Oh, that's Pontius-the Pilot.”

-o-

A friend was in front of me coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside.
The Pastor said to him, "You need to join the Army of the Lord!"
My friend replied, "I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor."

"Well, how come I only see you at Christmas and Easter?" asked the Pastor.
He whispered back, "I'm in the secret service."

-o-

A boy was sitting on a park bench with one hand resting on an open Bible. He was loudly exclaiming his praise to God. "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! God is great!" he yelled without worrying whether anyone heard him or not.
Shortly after, along came a man who had recently completed some studies at a local university. Feeling himself very enlightened in the ways of truth and very eager to show this enlightenment, he asked the boy about the source of his joy.
"Hey" asked the boy in return with a bright laugh, "Don't you have any idea what God is able to do? I just read that God opened up the waves of the Red Sea and led the whole nation of Israel right through the middle."
The enlightened man laughed lightly, sat down next to the boy and began to try to open his eyes to the "realities" of the miracles of the Bible. "That can all be very easily explained. Modern scholarship has shown that the Red Sea in that area was only 10-inches deep at that time. It was no problem for the Israelites to wade across."
The boy was stumped. His eyes wandered from the man back to the Bible laying open in his lap. The man, content that he had enlightened a poor, naive young person to the finer points of scientific insight, turned to go. Scarcely had he taken two steps when the boy began to rejoice and praise louder than before. The man turned to ask the reason for this resumed jubilation.
"Wow!" exclaimed the boy happily, "God is greater than I thought! Not only did He lead the whole nation of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground, He topped it off by drowning the whole Egyptian army in 10 inches of water!"

Today’s Praise

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

(Psalm 32:11, ESV)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Work




For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

Some time ago, a young Christian friend asked me the “Big Question.”

You know: “Why? What’s our purpose in this life?”

Could it be the answer is just as simple as that verse above? That we are indeed put here to do good works?

When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus answered:

 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 ESV)

If we love God, and we love our fellow human beings, wouldn’t our life’s work naturally be to serve Him and those He loves?

I’m not saying that works save us. The verses that precede Ephesians 2:10 make that absolutely clear.

But, it sure seems that even Jesus’ death on the cross was not only the ultimate sacrifice, but the ultimate example to live by. He tells us to take up that cross daily. He tells us to value others more highly than ourselves. And, He sends us on the ultimate mission—to preach the Gospel to the very ends of the earth.

The gospels are filled with Jesus feeding the hungry, healing the sick and the lame, bringing sight to the blind, casting out demons, and even washing the very feet of those who were there to serve Him.

The epistles are full of exhortations not only to lead a holy life, but to care for the widows and orphans, to visit those in prison, to work with our hands, to rejoice with those who rejoice, to weep with those who weep—to be His hands and feet.

As I have written before, the more I read the Bible, the more I come to inescapable conclusion that this life is not all about me.  The two greatest commandments don’t even mention me.

Yes, we live in an age where it’s common to hear, “God wants me to be happy.”  And, “You can’t love others unless you love yourself.” But, to my way of thinking, true happiness and a true understanding of who I am in God’s eyes seems a lot closer when my relationship with Him is not something I try to grasp, but something that is put into my hand when I hold it out to Him and those He loves.


Today’s Praise

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 ESV)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Glory


 

Kinship Christian Radio announcer Beth Crosby recently began one of her programs by saying: “God created everything with His voice. He spoke and the universe came into existence. That is grandeur, power, and glory. David tells us that God’s glory fills the heavens. The word “glory” itself means “majesty.” It describes Gods stateliness, His impressiveness in scale and proportion, His greatness. Creation doesn’t exist simply to provide us a home or a place for us to enjoy. The universe exists to show forth Gods immeasurable, unquantifiable, indescribable, and awesome characteristics. The celestial realm’s great expanse magnifies God’s enormity and reminds us that God is worthy of worship.

Amen, Beth!

When I sat down to write this, and told my family I intended to write about God’s glory, and they said, “You do that a lot.”

True. I have no defense for that accusation.

And, as I pondered why that was so, I came to the conclusion that I keep doing it over and over again because I feel I never quite get it right. It’s like the words on the page always fall way, way short of the glory due God.

It’s no wonder.

Because God’s kingdom and His power are infinite, so is His glory. How could I describe the infinite glory of an infinite God? As Beth said, God’s awesome characteristics are immeasurable, unquantifiable, and indescribable.

The Bible tells us that God’s glory is so great that, when it takes on visible properties, it is downright frightening.

In 2 Chronicles 7, after Solomon had consecrated the temple he had built for the LORD, the glory of the God filled it and the priests could not enter it. When all the people of Israel saw the glory of the LORD filling the temple, they fell down on their faces and worshiped and praised the LORD.

The shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night had a similar reaction when the angel announced the birth of Jesus:

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. (Luke 2:9)

Indeed, fear and trembling, praise and worship are the only responses left to us when we are in the presence of the glory of God.

While I will never be able to adequately describe the incredible glory of God, the Bible does describe what it was like when God’s glory withdrew from the Earth:

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed. (Luke 23:44, 45a ESV)

In that moment when Jesus was dying and the love of God and His glory retreated from all the earth, complete darkness fell over us.

There was a great earthquake, the temple of the curtain was torn in two, and the very rocks split. It seemed as if the whole earth would crumble to pieces without the presence of the glory of God.

And, I am convinced it would have, had He not withdrawn from us temporarily that His glory would be all the greater when he arose from the dead, clothed in majesty, with a way opened before us to be freed and forgiven, reunited and restored to Him.

The truth is, God’s glory is all around us every day. We do not live in darkness. All of this is a miracle, created by His voice. From the infinitely small perfection of the very molecules that make up everything around us to the infinite vastness of the universe, His infinite love is visible and tangible in the gifts He has placed before us.

But the greatest of all those gifts was His incredible plan to take on finite flesh and emerge victorious in the battle of the finite versus the infinite.

When we brought death into this world with our sin, we introduced the finite into what had been created and designed to be infinite. That’s why when Jesus rose from what had been the finality of death and brought everlasting life to all who believe, He was victorious in restoring the infinite. And this was not by any virtue of our own, but by the very nature of His infinite love for us and to the praise of His infinite glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

Today’s  Praise

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13 ESV)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

If this had a title, you probably wouldn't read it.



 

As I was sitting in church last Sunday morning and, while the pastor was reading from Revelation, I had an itch on my right shoulder blade.

I reached back there, but could not quite get to it.

Nonetheless it went away and, not wanting to fidget like a four year-old, I attempted to focus on what was being read.

Just a few seconds later, the itch came back.

And it was m-o-v-i-n-g. 

I made another attempt, again in vain. My wife, sitting next to me as always, was now casting a raised eyebrow in my direction.

The itch crawled onto my right shoulder and I plunged my left hand up my right sleeve and pinned the offending critter under the fingernail of my ring finger.

Now, it’s spring, I live in an oak woods, I had been outside just before church, so there was no doubt that the vermin up my sleeve was that most disgusting, hated, and revolting of all insect pests—the wood tick.

Of course, an alarm was now sounding in my head that I was attracting far too much attention than is proper in church. 

I withdrew my hand from my short sleeve as quickly as possible while simultaneously attempting to engage my thumb in a pincer move to capture, contain, dispatch, and ultimately dispose of the tiny arachnid. (That’s right, wood ticks are technically of the same family as spiders.)

I failed.

The tick escaped my grasp and was now on the floor of church, probably (okay, maybe) mortally wounded. Worse, the carpet in the church is beige with little wood-tick brown flecks and I had forgotten my glasses. There was no hope of finding it, and certainly not without becoming even more obvious than I already was and creating a mass wood tick hysteria throughout the entire congregation.

My lovely wife knew exactly what was going on.

“Did you get it?” she whispered in her best panic-stricken horrified church whisper.

“It’s on the floor,” I said.

“Are you sure it’s not on me?”

“No, it didn’t get on you. I’m pretty sure.”

Now, at this moment, I am absolutely sure my kind, caring, Bible-believing, saintly wife who loves me far, far more than I deserve wanted to scream at the top of her lungs,

“PRETTY SURE? WHAT DO YOU MEAN PRETTY SURE!?!?!?!?”

But she did not.

She collected herself and directed her attention to the pastor’s reading like a mature Christian.

So, while the pastor was reading to the congregation about the city of gold and the gates made of pearls and Lamb of God providing light for the heavenly city so there is never any night, and no evil or vile thing ever entering its gates, my entire family was trying desperately not to believe there were wood ticks crawling all over us.

Much, much later, it occurred to me that the whole situation was typical of how the enemy of my soul operates.

Even though I have been adopted as His own child by the God of the entire universe who created me in His own image, who loves me with an everlasting and undying love, who took on human flesh and died to take away all my sin, who rose again and prepares a place for me in His own kingdom, even though I believe and know all that to be true, one tiny irritation can divert all my attention from His glory and cause me and others around me to focus our attention on something other than where it should be focused.

And even after that irritation is gone, we continue to worry and fret about what is in the here and now of this world when we are guaranteed perfection in paradise forever.

All of us are human and bound to have things like this come upon us. I cannot truthfully say that I will not react in a similar fashion if I find a wood tick on me next Sunday in church.  But I can thank Him and praise Him and pray that I become more like Jesus each day.

And  maybe, just maybe,  someday I will have the peace and presence and calmness of mind to quietly excuse myself, walk serenely to the restroom, and deal with my little problem in a way that does not detract from others worship and praise.

Today’s Praise
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:4-8 NIV)

 

 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Prayer for the Times


 

Lord, mighty and everlasting God, we praise you. You are our Father. You have created us, redeemed us, and saved us by your grace. We thank you and bless your holy name.

Lord, in all things, let your will be done. You alone are worthy of our praise. Your will alone are righteous and perfect. Let it be that your kingdom would come, oh LORD! Let your will be done here on this earth just as it is already done in heaven.

Mighty God, we pray for the leaders of our world. We thank you for good and godly leaders and ask that you would guide them with wisdom and the resolve to do your will alone.  For those who have set their heart against you, Lord, we pray that the love of Jesus would wash over them like a mighty river and that they would come to have faith and trust in Him alone.

We ask your mercy on all the believers, on all your children all over the world who are persecuted, tortured, and killed. We ask that the leaders of the nations who allow this would come to faith in Jesus Christ. Lord, we ask that they would not be cursed, but that they would be blessed with your Holy Spirit softening their hearts that they would be saved. 

We pray that the Holy Spirit would move in power over the face of the whole earth, over great numbers of people from every tribe, every tongue, and every race and that a great time of repentance, awakening, and revival would come into being.

Thank you, Lord.

We thank you for our daily bread, given to us out of the abundance of your love.  We ask that this bread would be physical as well as spiritual—that we would be fed and blessed both to our bodies and our souls.  We pray that there would be a renewed interest in your Word, the Bible.

We ask that your people would generously and with joy take it upon themselves to share their daily bread to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, minister to those in any kind of need, and bless and comfort all who hunger and thirst—whether it be in their bodies or their souls.

Thank you, Lord.

We ask that you would forgive us when we sin, LORD, and help us to forgive others with the deep, amazing love Jesus showed us when He went to the cross. Help us, LORD, to love you with all our heart, souls, and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Father, Abba, LORD, please lead us on paths well-lit with the light of Jesus. Grant us eyes to see that path and ears that hear and recognize your voice. Lead us where you would have us go and grant us the courage to follow without being afraid of anything, even the valley of the shadow of death. Help us to remember to glorify you in all we do and say. Help us to remember your rod and your staff. Help us to trust in you above all things and grant us the faith to move mountains of unbelief, worry, and doubt.

We thank you for all forms of ministry Lord, which proclaim the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We ask that you would bless, guide, and protect all people and organizations involved in these missions, whether they be next door or on the other side of the world.

We ask that any who would preach to itching ears, Lord, would receive your loving rebuke and correction and that they would come to know and preach the truth.

We ask that this world would be turned around and delivered from the evil which seems bent on overcoming us, Father God. We earnestly pray that we would be granted hearts that seek to overcome evil with the good that is in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

For yours, Oh LORD is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Today’s Praise

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV)