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Archive for September, 2019

Interesting, isn’t it, how the slightest trigger can transport us back through time?

  • A song might remind us of that first date with our spouse
  • The fragrance of lilacs brings to mind a previous home
  • The first bite of a family recipe at Thanksgiving conjures up bittersweet memories of another table long ago

 

 

They say that the memory of everyone we’ve known, every place we’ve been, and everything that’s happened to us is submerged in our subconscious. And the slightest nudge—haphazard as it might be–can bring a memory bobbing to the surface with surprising force.

But there’s another kind of remembering—a deliberate quest to seek truth for our lives—to understand how the hurts, mistakes, and losses, the treasured times, precious people, and lessons learned, reveal God’s work within us and for us, bringing good from it all.

For example, looking back through our memories we see:

 

God has given us strength to persevere.

At times we thought we’d never make it. Friends proved unfriendly and while the sting smarted we struggled to understand why the relationship went wrong.

Circumstances turned our lives upside down and we couldn’t see how to make things right again.

Death claimed a loved one and the pain seemed unbearable, unending.

 

 

But here we are. We survived, because God brought us through each calamity.

 

God has taught us the value of his wisdom.

Most of us have made choices along the way that seemed right but proved wrong.

Perhaps it was a relationship with someone whose habits provided troubling warning signs, but we ignored them and later suffered heart-rending hurt.

Or, perhaps we pursued an appealing, self-serving dream, only to discover its fulfillment did not produce the satisfaction we expected.

Some of us had to learn the hard way: God’s wisdom in scripture is truth after all, including his warning against relationships with fools (Proverbs 13:20) and the emptiness of selfish gain (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).

 

 

But he also promised blessing for those who follow his all-wise guidance:

 

“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,

and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.”

–Proverbs 16:20

 

God has demonstrated his faithfulness in countless ways.

Consider the categories listed below and allow your memory to plumb the depths, bringing to the surface people, places, and events from the past that reflect God’s faithfulness:

 

 

  • Nurturing family members
  • Loyal, supportive friends
  • Secure places of contentment
  • Health issues resolved
  • Knots of circumstances untangled
  • Necessities miraculously provided
  • Blessings bestowed, not even asked for

 And what can we anticipate as the result of this kind of remembering?

Peace.

Because we realize for all our yesterdays, God has…

…enabled us to power through on his strength,

…provided his wisdom to guide us through murky circumstances,

…and been at work in our lives for our benefit—sometimes in the form of gifts, sometimes in the form of lessons.

 

 

Such reassurances can settle fear, doubt, and worry, allowing peace to flourish today and into all our tomorrows.

This kind of remembering intentionally entwines past and future so memories become woven into faith-filled expectation.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.needpix.com; dailyverses.net.)

 

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Generations ago, an ancestor of pastor Fred Craddock suggested that Sunday afternoons be spent on nature walks to find and admire God’s handiwork. He called it, “going marveling (1).”

That phrase brought to mind the old Christmas carol, “Here We Come A-Wassailing.”  ‘Remember the first few lines?

 

Here we come a-wassailing

Among the leaves so green,

Here we come a-wand’ring

So fair to be seen.

 

If we’d accompanied Pastor Craddock’s forbearers on one of those woodland hikes, perhaps we would have sung:

 

Here we go a-marveling

Among the leaves so green,

All around creation charms;

Such fairness to be seen.

 

Indeed, our God of wonders provides fairness (as a synonym for splendor) in countless ways:

 

from the majestic…

 

 

…to the minute,

 

 

From the firm…

 

 

…to the fragile,

 

 

From the colorful…

 

 

…to the camouflaged.

 

 

“Wows come in all shapes and sizes.”

–Anne Lamott

 

But there are many more sources of jaw-dropping awe that deserve our attention.

We can go a-marveling at the wonder of us.

Consider these wows:

  • Approximately sixty thousand miles of blood vessels course through the human body—enough to wrap the earth more than twice (2).
  • Blood travels 12,000 miles per day through the vascular system.  That’s equivalent to the distance from coast to coast across the U.S.—four times (3).
  • Human hemoglobin that makes our blood red is made up of extremely complex molecules. Each contains 9520 atoms of various elements, hooked together in a precise pattern (4).

 

 

Hemoglobin Molecule

 

Astounding, isn’t it?  And with King David we can certainly affirm:

 

 

We can go a-marveling through our memories. Perhaps you remember such delights as these: 

  • Coming in from the cold to be warmed by thick, hot soup and familial love around the table
  • Almost floating down the sidewalk on the first warm day of spring—with no coat or boots to weigh you down
  • A board game with friends—complete with popcorn and laughter

 

 

Even such ordinary events as these inspire wonder, because they point to a God who orchestrates satisfying moments into all our days.

We can also go a-marveling through the memories of miracles.

No doubt you’ve experienced spectacular moments such as these:

  • A new job provided just as the old one was terminated
  • The cost of a new refrigerator covered by a surprise check in the mail
  •  A baby born dangerously premature that not only survives but thrives

 

 

And while marveling at the miracles…

…We can go a-marveling at the wonder of prayer, which often precedes God’s astounding works.

First, our all-powerful God allows mere humans to come alongside him as he engineers events and accomplishes his good purposes.

Second, and even more marvelous, his Spirit comes alongside us as our partner in prayer, helping us pray as we should.

 

 

How wondrous is that?

Finally, we can go a-marveling through scripture.

The Bible was written by at least forty authors from different walks of life, over the span of 1500+ years, on three continents. No other book has come into existence out of such wide-reaching diversity. And yet the reader can’t help but notice the unity of its content.

Within the pages of scripture we find wisdom and inspiration for living, strength for difficulty, comfort for pain, and peace for unrest.

It’s true:  those who know their Bibles best, marvel at its truths the most. They notice “wonder after wonder, and every wonder true” (St. Brude).

 

 

And where might all this marveling lead?  To still more wonders:   stronger faith, deeper contentment, and greater joy.

 

*     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *     *

 

Who is like you, O God—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, continually working wonders? Our lives are FULL of marvels, O God!  May we be lost in wonder, love, and praise, just like the old hymn writer proclaimed. 

(Exodus 15:11; “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley)

 

What are you marveling in today?  Tell us in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Fred B. Craddock, Craddock Stories, ed. Mike Graves and Richard F. Ward, p. 65.
  2. https://my.cleveleandclinic.org>health>articles>17059
  3. https://iheartintelligence.com/35-incredible-facts-about-the-human-body-that-might-surprise-you/
  4. John Phillips, Exploring John’s First Epistle, Kregel Publications, 2003, p. 36.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.usafe.af.mil; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.needpix.com.

 

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Remember the in-crowd at your high school–the cool kids who wore the latest fashions, knew the latest songs, and seemed more attractive, confident, and important than everyone else?

‘Truth is, research has established “those who cared most about their social standing [as teenagers] often grow up to have difficulties with their interpersonal relationships years later.” Their fixation on status stays with them, and they are the ones most likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and problems with substance abuse (1).

Now I’m thankful to never have been a part of that group.

But another in-crowd beckons–one that everyone is invited to join–that offers satisfaction in life and purpose.

It’s God’s in-group.

 

 

And just what does he have to offer?

God’s in-crowd is in their right minds (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).

They strive to focus on the positive, and turn their attention toward God himself—His attributes and works. People in their right minds are Presence-focused, remembering the almighty, all-wise God is with them. They’re also promise-fortified, affirming that God WILL keep their minds calm because they trust in him.

Such trust requires effort, since we often lean toward the negative. But like a wrangler who captures and subdues a wild horse, the in-crowd takes their problematic thoughts captive, and tames them with the bridle of God’s truth (2).

They also pray—perhaps like Selwyn Hughes: Lord, “I give You my mind—so that You can give me Yours” (3).

 

 

God’s in-crowd is in balance.

The Apostle John wrote to Gaius: “I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 2).

That’s quite a compliment. If John had written such a greeting to me, he may very well have reversed his statement, praying that my soul might prosper as well as my physical health.

Of course, both are necessary for overall well being. So just as proper diet, exercise, and sufficient rest are necessary for the body, the in-crowd keeps their souls healthy through a steady diet of God’s Word, the exercise of obedience, and rest in him.

 

 

God’s in-crowd is held in his hands.

King David wrote about the phenomenon in a prayer song to God: “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15a). Those hands are powerful and mighty, open and generous, protective and secure—even when someone faces difficult challenges like the Apostle Paul.

While imprisoned in Rome and anticipating his execution, Paul affirmed the strength God provided him, the generosity of God to supply all needs, his contentment in spite of circumstances, and the security of knowing all would be well whether he lived or died (4).

The in-crowd faces their challenges with the same affirmations.

 

 

God’s in-crowd lives in God’s ways (Psalm 25:8-10).

Wisdom would have us know this: “Blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:32-33, 35).

Critics may say, “Oh, but the Bible is so out-of-date. Times change; morals shift. What was once considered wise has been replaced by post-modern sensibilities.”

They need to observe God’s in-crowd, who delight in his Word because they find instruction for a life of purpose and meaning, preservation of life in his encouragement, and peace of mind in his truth—things post-modern sensibilities do not offer (5).

 

 

God’s in-crowd is in unity with one another, just as he desires (Ephesians 4:3; Colossians 3:13-14).

They remember: all God’s people belong to each other (Romans 12:5). So they focus on common ground and find ways to support one another rather than fuss over non-essential differences.

And as a unified group, God’s in-crowd is a force to be reckoned with.

Like snowflakes:

 

 

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things.

But just look at what they can do when they stick together.”

–Vesta M. Kelly

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Heavenly Father, that as we trust in your Son Jesus for eternal life, you also provide in-crowd status with all its privileges and spiritual blessings—to every believer. You are the God of surpassing goodness to your people!

(John 3:16; Ephesians 1:3-8; Psalm 84:11)

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cracking-the-popularity-code/
  2. Philippians 4:8; Romans 12:2; Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 26:3; 2 Corinthians 10:5.
  3. Every Day Light, Broadman and Holman, 1997, p. 121.
  4. Psalm 118:15-16; 145:13b-21; John 10:29; Philippians 4:13,19, 11-12, and 1:21-24.
  5. Psalm 119:24, Philippians 2:13; John 10:10; Psalm 119:50 MSG, 93, 165.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pxhere.com (2), http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pexels.com.

 

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Did you catch last week’s post, “There’s No Such Thing as a Christian Genius?”

That title came from a blog-responder some years ago who didn’t realize evidence refuted his opinion. Intelligence is to be found among believers in Jesus—in the sciences (as we discovered last week), and in the humanities, as presented below:

ART 

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)—considered by many as the greatest Renaissance artist of northern Europe. His career began at the dawn of the Reformation under Martin Luther, whom Durer supported.

One of his prayers penned five hundred years ago is just as applicable today. Included here are excerpts:

 

O God in heaven, have mercy on us!

Preserve in us the true genuine Christian faith,

Help us recognize your voice,

Help us not to be allured by the madness of the world,

So that we may never fall away from you,

O Lord Jesus Christ (1).

 

Self-portrait of Durer

 

Casper David Friedrich (1774-1840) produced more than 500 works. He is best known for his landscapes, all of which possessed a spiritual quality and meaning.

Friedrich expressed his convictions in poetry as well:

 

Through the gloomy clouds break

Blue sky, sunshine,

On the heights and in the valley

Sing the lark and the nightingale.

God, I thank you that I live

Not forever in this world

Strengthen me that my soul rise

Upward toward your firmament (2).

 

Two Men Contemplating the Moon by Friedrich, ca. 1824

 

Thomas Cole (1801-1848) was one of several who led the Hudson River School, a group of painters known for their realistic landscapes.

They desired to portray the presence of God in his creation. One technique was to include small human figures surrounded by mammoth trees and vast meadows.

Cole saw “the mission of the artist as a spiritual one, to spread the Word of God through art devoted to nature” (3). To that end, Cole prayed before he painted.

 

Dream of Arcadia by Cole, ca. 1838

 

MUSIC

George Frideric Handel produced numerous works in at least seven genres. His most remarkable effort is perhaps his most famous composition, Messiah, which he accomplished in just twenty-four days.

In 1759, while receiving an ovation after his last performance, Handel cried out: “Not from me…but from Heaven…comes all” (4).

He hoped to die on Easter, hoping to “meet his good God, his sweet Lord and Savior, on the day of his Resurrection” (5). Handel arrived in heaven the day before, in 1759.

 

George Frideric Handel

 

Johann Sebastian Bach, another prolific composer, is considered one of the greatest Western composers of all time.

While serving as a church organist and teacher, he set an impossible goal: write a different cantata for every Sunday, for three years. Not only did Bach create the music, but made sure his singers and instrumentalists had copies, and time to rehearse with him before each Sunday’s service.

Even on his secular works, Bach often wrote “I.N.J.” for “in the name of Jesus.” Finished manuscripts were frequently initialed, “S.D.G.”—Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone, the glory) (6).

 

“Soli Deo Gloria” in Bach’s own hand, bottom right

 

Felix Mendelssohn excelled in numerous fields: philosophy, linguistics, watercolor painting, poetry, gymnastics, and of course, music. During his brief life of only thirty-eight years, Mendelssohn produced approximately 750 musical works in nearly every genre.

He gained great popularity and prestige as a musician, yet maintained a humble and devout faith in Christ.  In one of his letters, Mendelssohn wrote: “Pray to God that He may create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us” (7).

 

 

LITERATURE 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) had no equal in the literary history of any country, according to the Edinburg Review (8). Her literary works reflected keen intelligence and deep faith. As a teenager, she taught herself Hebrew so she could read the Old Testament with greater understanding.

Browning’s writings often explored Christian themes:

 

“Earth is crammed with heaven,

and every common bush is afire with God.

And only those who see take off their shoes;

the rest sit around and pluck blackberries” (9).

–from Aurora Leigh

 

And from the poem, “Comfort”:

 

“SPEAK low to me, my Saviour, low and sweet
From out the hallelujahs, sweet and low
Lest I should fear and fall, and miss Thee so
Who art not missed by any that entreat” (10).

 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) distinguished himself as an essayist, columnist, humorist, poet, and novelist. About him, one evangelical scholar wrote : “There has not been a more articulate champion of classic Christianity, virtue, and decency.”

Articulate, indeed:

“Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car”—original source unknown (11).

“These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”—from the Illustrated News, 8-11-1928 (12).

 

G. K. Chesterton

 

Clive Staples Lewis (1898–1963), professor at Oxford and then Cambridge, is considered one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century. He authored more than thirty books; many are popular to this day.

Lewis came to Christian faith out of atheism, through the reading of such authors as George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, and others. Also influential, other intellectuals of faith associated with Oxford, including J. R. R. Tolkien.

C. S. Lewis came to understand:

“Look for yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you find Him, and with Him, everything else thrown in”from Mere Christianity (13).

 

C. S. Lewis, ca. 1940

______________________________

 

As noted last week, it is a fact many acclaimed geniuses have chosen not to become Christians.

But it cannot be said there is no such thing as a Christian genius.

Again, who would you add to the list?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. historyofpainters.com/durer/
  2. As quoted and translated by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, 1978, p. 48.
  3. https://www.equip.org/article/what-has-art-to-do-with-evangelism/
  4. christianheritageedinburgh.uk
  5. https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/musiciansartistsandwriters/george-frideric-handel.html
  6. christianheritageedinburgh.uk
  7. thirdmill.org/paul/impact_mendelssohn.asp
  8. poetryfoundation.org/poets/elizabeth-barrett-browning
  9. https://www.bartleby.com/236/86.html
  10. https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/comfort/
  11. http://famousquotefrom.com/g-k-chesterton/
  12. https://www.chesterton.org/quotations-of-g-k-chesterton/
  13. http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/cslewisonauthenticdiscipleshippage4

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.flickr.com.

 

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