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Archive for the ‘God’s Power’ Category

Pretend you’re on an ocean liner headed from New York City to England.   You and several thousand other passengers enjoy your days at sea, free to choose from dozens of activities—games, shopping, shows, sports, crafts, and more.

You can eat anytime you like, sleep whenever you feel drowsy, make friends among the other passengers or remain solitary. In other words, you make many choices during the voyage, but all the while the ship is headed towards its predetermined destination.

A.W. Tozer gave us this ocean-voyage illustration in his classic, The Knowledge of the Holy, to help us understand God’s sovereignty:

  • Our all-powerful God wields total authority in the universe, just as the shipping authorities exercise sovereignty over the course of a ship.
  • We’ve been given much freedom within the confines of God’s sovereignty to move about and make choices.

Now some folks take issue with God’s control. They want to direct the course of their life-ships.  I for one find great comfort in the numerous, reassuring scriptures about God’s sovereignty.

For example, everything in heaven and earth belongs to Him. He is the glorious head over all, the ruler of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). That includes us–those who know Jesus and belong to the family of God.

As our Heavenly Father, he provides for our needs, guides us through decisions, bestows many blessings, and more. What encouraging truth! The Almighty God of the universe is in charge of our lives as we submit to him. We don’t have to navigate alone.

The key, however, is submission. God is a gentleman and will not force himself upon us. He’s chosen to limit his sovereignty, to allow humans free choice.

Another reassuring truth: God is totally competent. We’ve all known inept leaders who couldn’t fulfill their responsibilities.

But our Ruler is supremely capable. Nothing is too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17).  As we focus on his complete sufficiency, our worries shrink in significance.

In addition, no plan of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2).   What God says, happens.

His sovereign plan is efficient and goal-oriented. He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his perfect plan (Isaiah 25:1).

God’s sovereignty is also employed with infinite wisdom (Job 12:13).  No foolish decisions come from God’s throne!

And contrary to appearances, he does maintain over-arching rule on humankind (Daniel 4:35).

Consider how circumstances must have seemed to the people of Judah as the barbaric Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B. C., murdered all the nobles, and took thousands of Jewish captives to Babylon.

That wasn’t an isolated case of oppression either. Good people have suffered at the hands of the wicked for eons, and it breaks our hearts. It breaks God’s heart too (Isaiah 63:10). 

Our question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people doesn’t always get answered. We’re not privy to everything God knows or all the reasons behind his decisions (Romans 11:33-36).

What we do know is this: evil never wins in the end. Every evil empire of history that rose in prominence and power eventually fell in ruin. Our sovereign God knows what he’s doing.

And he will have the last word.

So when the squeaky wheels of worry, doubt, or fear begin to spin in your head, and you wonder, Who’s in Charge Here?, apply the oil of gladness, delighting in who God is—your all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, and yes, in-control God!

Take joy in the knowledge that “if God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?

And rest in thIs affirmation: “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36, emphasis added).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Sovereign Lord of the universe, I bow in worshipful wonder of your magnificence. Your greatness shatters all boundaries! I stand in awe of your vast power and infinite wisdom, always at work in the world.

But for those times when I cannot understand your plan or your ways, help me stand in the truth of who you are.

(Revised and reblogged from February 26, 2015, while we enjoy the company of out-of-town family.)

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In April of this year I shared an idea borrowed from blogger Michele Morin, about journaling through hymns and praise songs. Such an exercise allows us to meditate on the lyrics, discovering more meaning than when we quickly sing through the words.

In that post I shared from my thoughts on “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” (Here’s a link to that post, Opening Up New Spaces.)

Today, let’s look more closely at another hymn rich with implications, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.”

If you don’t know this hymn, you can listen to a contemporary version here,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6S97XYCkJhY, then soak with me in the first verse:

“Immortal, invisible, God only wise”

I praise You, O God, for your immortality. There is much comfort in the fact that you–in all your sovereignty, power, and wisdom–have always existed and always will.

I praise You for your invisibility, which allows you to reside within the spirits of all your children. We marvel at the wonder of such a phenomenon–such a privilege–to enjoy intimacy with you, the King of the universe!

I praise you for your incomparable wisdom. Nothing is ever a mystery to you. You’re never puzzled, confused, or uncertain.[1] You always know the best course of action that will best serve everyone involved—even those who are part of the ripple effect, perhaps years later.

How amazing that you make your wisdom available to us–including an ordinary person like me.[2]

“In light inaccessible hid from our eyes”

You are light.  Your radiance is like sunlight, and rays flash from your hands! No one can physically look upon such brilliance.

But your light also symbolizes the purity of your character. Just as sunlight brightens our world, your multi-beamed goodness brightens my soul with grace, strength, blessings, and more.

You also illuminate truth in my life, through the light of your Word. And by the power of your Spirit I can walk daily in the guiding, cheering light of your presence.[3] 

“Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days”

I praise You that you are most blessed. That is, you are fully satisfied within yourself. (Of course this is true–you’re perfect!)

You’re also most blessed because of your holiness–transcendent and “totally other” from anything else in the universe.

In addition, you’re “most glorious.” Your breath-taking attributes astound us, including your:

  • omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence
  • infinity, changelessness, and self-sufficiency
  • faithfulness, goodness, and justice
  • mercy, grace, and love
  • holiness, righteousness, and immanence

I praise you for demonstrating all these traits with acts of power. You perform wonders that cannot be fathomed, and miracles that cannot be counted![4]

Our family has witnessed numerous wonders and miracles. “We are filled with the good things of your house” (Psalm 65:46), many of which are recorded in my God -Is-Faithful journal.

I also praise you for being our Ancient of Days—a name that speaks of your regality, endurance, and sound judgment.  You have reigned in supremacy through eons past and will continue to reign into eternity yet to come.

Again, what sweet comfort and joyful wonder to contemplate that you, such an incredible God, are with me and within me, wielding your attributes for my benefit.

“Almighty, victorious—Thy great name we praise.”

King David wrote, “How majestic is your name in all the earth” (Psalm 8:1)! Perhaps he had in mind the multiplicity of your names, each one highlighting different facets of your character. You are:

  • Elohim, God of supreme power and might
  • El Roi, the God Who Sees, who watches over all
  • Jehovah Jireh, our God who provides
  • Jehovah Rapha, our God who heals
  • Yaweh Shalom, our God of peace

And that’s just a few out of many. I thank you that as each one reveals more truth about you, we grow to know you better. I also praise you for the hope and encouragement we find in your glorious names.

You, O God, are most worthy of praise because of your infinite excellencies. I praise you for your greatness–beyond human comprehension!


[1] Lloyd Stilley, https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/sermon-wisdom-god-romans-16-1-corinthians-1

[2] James 1:5; Psalm 19:7 CEV

[3] 1 John 1:5; Habakkuk 3:4; 1 John 3:3; Psalm 12:6; 119:105; Psalm 89:15; John 8:12

[4] Psalm 150:2; Job 5:9

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Thomas Jefferson gave us this bit of wisdom:

 https://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/brevity.html

Note how the following authors demonstrate this most valuable of all talents:

  • “It is good people who make good places.”—Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
  • “Trials come to prove and improve us.”—St. Augustine
  • “Change always comes bearing gifts.”—Price Pritchett

Conciseness contributes to effectiveness, agreed?

In Romans 15:13, the Apostle Paul wrote a magnificent but concise blessing for the Christians in Rome. He brought together five key concepts of our faith—hope, joy, peace, trust, and power—in just thirty words or so, depending on the translation:

Whole books have been written to expound on each concept. But since this is a blog post, not a treatise, I’ll try to keep it short—and concise!

HOPE

Our Christian hope is not wishful thinking; it is confident reliance on the sacred certainties of our Heavenly Father.

Paul calls him our God of hope because of his glorious attributes manifested in our lives—his omnipotent power, gracious mercy, continual patience, lavish kindness, and absolute reliability—to name a few.

And with statements of faith we can bolster our hope—statements such as these:

  • “God is kind and good, wise and powerful. All his attributes are always at work for my benefit.”
  • “God is accomplishing purpose in these circumstances, just as he always does.”
  • “He will bring me through this situation, and I’ll be a better person for it.”

JOY

Joy is not the absence of all misery and the presence of every whim; joy is found in the presence of God.

Sound silly? Talk to an old saint who has walked with Jesus many years—who’s felt the Lord’s presence surrounding him, heard God’s whispers in his heart, and experienced his guidance and provision again and again. 

This saint will tell you: the pleasures of this life don’t begin to compare to the soul-delight of intimacy with God.

PEACE

Peace is not found in circumstances; it’s found in a Person, the Prince of Peace. The better we know him, the better we know peace.

Tension decreases as we affirm:

  • He is completely trustworthy.
  • He knows everything; he’s in control of everything.
  • He takes pleasure in blessing us with all that we need.
  • He is with us to comfort, strengthen, and encourage.
  • Even in the midst of difficulty, we can experience his peace. In fact, it’s a promise.

TRUST

It’s God’s part to work all things for good; it’s our part to trust.

The question becomes, What can I do to grow in trust?

The answer: express gratitude. “The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness”[1]

So thank God, even in the midst of frustration, disappointment, heartache, and pain. “There’s a good God leading, working all things into good. It is safe to trust”[2]!

POWER

The power to thrive does not come from within ourselves; it comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do circumstances appear impossible to rectify? Think on the power of God. He scatters the stars in space. He breathes life into every creature. He provides everything necessary to sustain our little planet.

It’s that kind of absolute, unlimited power that will see each of us through every crisis until we’re home with him.

And so, in one concise verse Paul majestically highlights five pillars of the abundant life.

When we embrace the hope, joy, and peace that God offers, when we trust in him with expectancy and resolve, when we pray for his power to be released in and through us, our lives and outlook will become radiant and alive[3]!

Doesn’t that sound like a glorious way to live?

Scriptures for further reflection:

Hope–Psalm 145:8-9; Daniel 2:20; John 5:17; Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4

Joy–Psalm 16:11; Psalm 71:5-8

Peace–Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 John 3:20b; Jeremiah 31:3; Philippians 4:19; Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 40:29-31; Philippians 4:6-7

Trust–Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 9:10; 28:7; 112:7; Colossians 2:7; Psalm 110:4-5; 1 Peter 1:6-7

Power of the Holy Spirit–1 Corinthians 8:6; Psalm 8:3; Job 12:10; Psalm 46:1

Notes


[1] Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 24.

[2] Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts, 155.

[3] The last clause is based on Touchstone’s revised version (1995) of the J. B. Phillips’ translation for Romans 15:13.

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Because God says we’re forgiven (Psalm 103:8-12), let’s refuse to dwell on past sins.

Sins are so remitted, as if they had never been committed.

Thomas Adams

Because God proclaims us righteous (1 Corinthians 1:30), let’s refuse to be haunted by past failures.

Do you know what you imply when you say that you are a Christian? It is that you are as guiltless in God’s sight as Christ Himself.

G. V. Wigram

Because God has already asserted his 100% approval of us (Ephesians 1:4-5), let’s stop pursuing perfection.*

Because God has made clear his love for us (Romans 5:8), let’s not tarnish that love with disbelief.

All shall be well, all shall be well . . . For there is a force of love moving through the universe that will hold us fast and never let us go.

Julian of Norwich

Because God pronounces each of us his masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10 ISV), let’s not berate his workmanship.

All who are in Christ form the highest, finest, and most beautiful expression of [God’s] thought and purpose. They are masterpieces upon whom he bestowed his best.

Herbert Lockyer, Seasons of the Lord, 330

Because God says, “Fear not” (Isaiah 41:13), let’s not doubt his unlimited power to help.

Because God affirms he’s our unfailing source of strength (Isaiah 40:29-31), let’s refuse to say we’re weak.

It is impossible for that man to despair who remembers that his Helper is omnipotent.”

Jeremy Taylor

Because God declares he’ll instruct us and watch over us (Psalm 32:8), let’s not strike out foolishly on our own.

With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack?

A. W. Tozer

Because God promises to work for our good (Romans 8:28), let’s not fret about the what-if’s.

Because God provides the way for victorious living (1 John 5:4-5), let’s not live in defeat.

Daily living by faith in Christ is what makes the difference between the sickly and the healthy Christian, between the defeated and the victorious saint.

A. W. Pink

This means, my friends, we can live each day guilt-free, grace-imbued, love-wrapped, purpose-filled, worry-free, strength-infused, fully-equipped, highly blessed, and victory-assured—because God Almighty says so!

*We don’t have to earn God’s love and acceptance. Neither do we have to pursue perfection, as if it’s necessary in order to please God or be accepted by him.

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Imagine tagging along with the disciples during Christ’s ministry, listening to his teaching, watching his encounters, witnessing his miracles. 

One day your group encounters two blind men along the roadside in Capernaum.  The sightless men cry out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus touches their eyes, and instantly the two men can see (Matthew 9:27-31). After a collective gasp, everyone bursts into cheers and joyful laughter.

On a second occasion outside the town of Bethsaida, some people bring another sightless man to Jesus.  Perhaps he’s heard what happened to the two blind men of Capernaum, because he too begs Jesus to touch him and heal his blindness.  But that’s not what Jesus does.  Instead, he spits on the man’s eyes and then puts his hands on him. 

Even a second touch is added to restore this man to full sight (Mark 8:22-26). Amidst the celebrating for this miracle you wonder, Why did Jesus spit on this man’s eyes when one touch healed the blind man in Capernaum?

On a third occasion as Jesus and your entourage leave Jericho, you encounter yet another blind man, Bartimaeus.  Will Jesus touch him and/or spit on the man’s eyes to heal him?  Neither. Jesus simply speaks to the beggar and his sight is restored (Mark 10:46-52). Your bewilderment grows deeper still.

And then while in Jerusalem, Jesus heals a fifth blind man.  By now you’ve given up trying to predict what the Master might do.  Even so you blink in surprise as Jesus spits on the ground, makes a bit of mud, spreads it on the blind man’s eyes, and instructs him to go wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:1-9). You catch yourself before throwing your hands up in disbelief as Jesus demonstrates one more way to heal sightless eyes.

You’ve now witnessed five men healed of blindness by four different methods.  The evidence speaks for itself:   

The Son of God is unpredictable.

The Old Testament provides proof that God the Father also acts in unexpected ways.  You may remember when he:

  • Raised up two humble shepherds to positions of leadership[1]
  • Spoke to one of his prophets through a donkey[2]
  • Made the sun stand still[3]
  • Used a blind slave to kill thousands of Israel’s archenemies[4]
  • Allowed another prophet to be swallowed by a big fish[5]

Numerous other examples from scripture could be cited to prove:

Our God is unconventional.

Even today he proves his penchant for the unexpected.

A few weeks ago our daughter H., a school psychologist, relayed to us a story about a student she worked with last year. We’ll call her Emma.  After frequent interactions, H. and Emma developed an easy rapport, the girl was making good progress, and H. grew to care deeply for her.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is images-2.jpeg

But this fall as school resumed, she learned Emma had moved to Florida.  Not wanting the girl to lose momentum, H. called the new school and asked to speak to the psychologist there.  She hoped to offer some helpful background about Emma and set the tone for continued progress.

Imagine her surprise when the gentleman who answered the phone turned out to be Andrew __________, a colleague who’d been part of the same master’s program as H. at Florida State University.  Out of just twelve students in that program, Andrew just happened to be the one to oversee this little girl who’d won our daughter’s heart.  And Andrew assured H. he’d take good care of Emma.

Time and again our God has proven . . .

. . . He is full of surprises.

I for one take great delight in a Heavenly Father who mystifies me by his unpredictability, wows me with his unconventionality, and takes my breath away with his surprises. 

How about you?

Please share in the comment section below an example from your own experience of “a wonder that cannot be fathomed.” Let’s . . .


[1] Moses, Exodus 3; David, 1 Samuel 16

[2] Balaam, Numbers 22

[3] Joshua 10

[4] Samson, Judges 16

[5] Jonah, Jonah 1

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You’re going to be so glad you stopped by today.  I’ve prepared a pop quiz for you—a little trivia challenge!  But don’t worry–it’s multiple-choice and short.

 

How many stars do astronomers estimate occupy the universe?

A. 500 trillion

B. 750 quadrillion

C. 1 septillion

What are the objects in the above photograph?

A. Virus microbes

B. Husks

C. Starfish babies

What is the average weight of a cumulous cloud?

A. Over 10,000 pounds

B. Over 100,000 pounds

C. Over 1,000,000 pounds

Number one is a freebie, because an accurate count is impossible.  But there are those astronomers who would agree with Answer C—1 septillion. That’s a one with 24 zeroes after it![1]

For the second question the answer is B—husks.  In a few select areas of the Western Pacific Ocean, live tiny organisms called Foraminifera.  When they die, the tide carries their husks—millions of them–to beaches on the coasts of Japan and Okinawa.[2]  Visit those places and you can walk on the stars.

Look close! Can you see a few stars that are still intact?

The answer for #3 is C. Holding up even the largest of cumulous clouds is the air beneath them, which weighs even more.[3]

I’m guessing you know a few amazing trivia facts too.  Isn’t it astounding that the body of information about the universe continues to grow, even after centuries of study?

See Endnote #4.

The short sampling of creation’s wonders mentioned above gives us a glimpse of God’s glorious capacities at work:  his inventiveness, engineering skill, power and more.  But we also see evidence of his magnificence in:

  • The Bible.  No other book matches its wisdom.  And when put into practice, it transforms a person’s life.
  • God’s attributes at work in the world—his love, grace, faithfulness, and mercy—to mention a few.
  • Miracles—happening around us every day.  The problem is we’re so used to them we call them ordinary.[5]
  • The gracious actions and glowing faces of his saints–miracles in themselves.

Truly, God reveals his glory TO us every day in countless ways.

But perhaps even more astounding: God—in all his magnificence—chooses to reside IN us when we say yes to his Son, Jesus.

Imagine.  The fullness of God—all his glorious attributes—within us.  And over time, as his Spirit instructs and trains us, we become more and more like Christ—more joyful, hopeful, and contented; less self-centered, dissatisfied, and distressed.  Such a glorious reality![6]

“God is mercifully shaping our lives

into what is useful and beautiful.”

–Eugene Peterson[7]

And then God chooses to make us channels of his glory, working THROUGH us to impact others.

How?

Every time we choose to be generous instead of selfish, patient instead of peevish, mindful instead of thoughtless, or merciful instead of intolerant, we’re demonstrating the attributes of God to others.

And as we make ourselves available for him to work through us, we may very well become the answer to someone else’s prayer.

“To become the answer to someone else’s prayer

is to live a life of rich purpose.”

–Maggie Wallem Rowe[8]

*      *       *      *      *      *

O God, thank you for revealing yourself TO us in numerous ways, producing joy in our spirits as we earnestly seek you.  I praise you for dwelling IN us, providing all we need (and then some!) for the abundant life Jesus promised.  And I thank you for working THROUGH us to positively impact others and give us satisfying  purpose.  There is no one like you!


[1] https://www.space.com/26078-how-many-stars-are-there.html

[2] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2085f_Japon_Hatoma.jpg  

[3]https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/how-much-does-a-cloud-weigh?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

[4] The heavens don’t only include the stars, other planets, and moons.  Our planet occupies a tiny corner of the universe, and everything in it also tells of the wonders of God.

[5] Hans Christian Anderson

[6] Ephesians 3:21; 2 Corinthians 3:18

[7] Run with the Horses, 79.

[8] This Life We Share, 242.

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As far as I know, the apostle Paul was not one to create surprises. It’s possible he arranged a surprise birthday party for Barnabas, or gave a gift-for-no-reason to Timothy, or secured a bouquet of flowers for Lydia in appreciation for her hospitality, but there’s no record of such deeds.

However, when he prayed for the believers at Ephesus, he did include a startling statement:

Note that Paul asked God to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, not so they would make judicious choices or recognize and follow God’s plan.  For me, those two requests would more closely fit what I’d expect.  Instead, Paul desired the Ephesians to know God better.

Centuries later, author/pastor A. W. Tozer brilliantly summed up why that would be uppermost in Paul’s mind:

Paul knew from his own experience that developing intimacy with the Heavenly Father would provide more pleasure, meaning, and satisfaction in this life–beyond what earth can offer. In fact, life’s journey can become a wonder-filled treasure hunt as we study the scriptures and look for evidence of God’s glorious Presence all around us, because:

God’s richest gift . . . this side of eternity

is the revelation of himself.

F. Elaine Olsen (1)

As we seek to know God better, we’ll discover delightful facets of his shimmering Personhood—facets such as these:

  • Grace.  Even though he knew every act we’d commit that would break his heart, God the Son willingly died for us anyway.  Nothing can separate us from his fierce love.
  • Goodness.  Even when trouble overtakes us there is good, because there is always God—with his empowering strength, his sweet comfort, and his unfathomable peace.
  • Power to transform. “All we are is by Christ, all we have is from Christ, and all we will be is through Christ” (2).  He alone can transform us, creating beauty out of ashes. 
  • Power to produce.  What we offer him may be as insignificant as five loaves and two fish, but when we put them in God’s hands, he produces more than we can imagine.
  • Love.  “Every door that opens into a treasury of love shows another door into another treasury beyond.  We need not fear that we shall ever come to the end of God’s goodness, or any experience for which he will have no blessing ready” (3).

That’s because our God is a “way-making, promise-keeping, battle-winning, water-walking, storm-stilling, faithful Friend and Savior” (4).  What treasure could possibly surpass such magnificence?


  1. F. Elaine Olsen, Beyond the Scars, 27.
  2. Herbert Lockyer, Seasons of the Lord, 206.
  3. J. R. Miller, quoted in Seasons of the Lord, 199.
  4. Kaitlyn Bouchillon, Take Heart, 210.

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Eight-year old Jennifer Wiseman tagged along behind her parents down the road in front of their farm, just as she did every evening on their habitual walk.  No matter how many times the family of three and various pets set out under the dark sky, Jennifer always ended up trailing them, her head craned backward to study the stars.

With no city lights within miles, the countryside of her Ozark Mountain home offered a spectacular heavenly view.  Jennifer shuffled along, mesmerized. 

It seemed as if heaven’s glory itself shone through thousands of pinpricks in the black canopy of sky.  Jennifer knew about heaven from her parents and their church community where she saw lived out what was being taught.

Her interest in stars grew as she watched Carl Sagan’s television program, Cosmos.

(Carl Sagan)

 What would it be like to explore space, she wondered, to stand on a far-distant planet amidst its craters and mountains? To make new discoveries about the universe? Maybe one day I can be a part of space exploration.

That interest remained with Jennifer.  But whether to become an astronaut, astronomer, scientist or engineer building space probes—Jennifer didn’t know. So she majored in physics at MIT, since that basic science could be applied in many areas of study.

A few months before graduation in 1987, Jennifer traveled with other students to the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.  On photographic plates taken by astronomer Brian Skiff, she discovered a new comet that became known as the Wiseman/Skiff Comet.

(An unidentified comet)

Jennifer continued her education at Harvard, receiving a Ph. D. in astronomy in 1995.  From Massachusetts she moved to Virginia as a Jansky Fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory to research star formation.  Her childhood dream had finally become reality [1].

(Galaxy Grand star forming, photo from Hubble Space Telescope)

Currently she is the Senior Project Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope.

(Dr. Jennifer Wiseman)
(Jennifer teaching a seminar)

Dr. Wiseman is a sought after speaker because not only is she articulate and passionate about her subject of outer space, but as a believer in Christ she’s a strong defender of exploration as a divinely Christian activity.  She sees no conflict between science and her faith, sharing often a quote from John Calvin [2]:

As Jennifer considers the billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, she recognizes God is responsible for it all, and has been supporting and sustaining this ever-changing universe over billions of years, long before life existed.

(a star forming, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope)

For some, that realization fosters a feeling of insignificance, but not for her.  Jennifer senses a reverent fear and gratefulness that God engineered the universe to mature over eons of time until at least one planet can support abundant life.

“And I get to be a part of that for just a little while,” she says. “So I’m grateful. It also makes me a little fearful:  am I using my time well [3]?”

Jennifer allows her awe to impact her worship as she contemplates her Savior, the one who sustains the universe (Hebrews 1:3).  “He’s the one responsible for galaxies, black holes, planets, oceans, and porcupines!” she says.

(NASA photo of a dwarf galaxy)

“When we say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ we must mean that Jesus is Lord of all time and space.  Who was the Lord at the Big Bang when Time began?  Jesus.

“Who was Lord when the first galaxies coalesced and the first stars turned on?  Jesus.

(Colliding galaxies. Photo credit: ESA, Hubble, & NASA)

“Who was Lord as our own solar system came into being?  Jesus.

“Who was Lord during all the epochs of life on Earth—the Cambrian, the Pleistocene, the era of [early humans]?  Jesus.

“And who will be Lord as long as time exists, and forever outside of time as well?  Jesus [4].”

(The Omega Nebula or Swan Nebula)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We do praise you, O God, for the wonders of your universe. Thank you for giving us the capability to study and understand its marvels at least in part, providing opportunity to gain insight into your greatness.

(Planetary Nebula)

We also praise you for working at the infinitesimal level—in our individual lives. How glorious we can never come to the end of your attentive loving kindness any more than we can reach the end of your universe.

(Psalm 19:1; Genesis 1:27; 1 Chronicles 29:11;

Matthew 10:29-31; Psalm 57:10)

 Notes


(NASA’s Power Couple, Jennifer Wiseman and Mark Shelhamer)

[1] Meanwhile she married fellow NASA scientist Mark Shelhamer in 1997.  They met at MIT when she was an undergrad and he was pursuing his master’s degree.

[2] https://news.belmont.edu/dr-jennifer-wiseman-speaks

[3] https://blog.emergingscholars.org/2013/07/interview-with-jennifer-wiseman-part-2/

[4] www.letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/how-science-can-inspire-can-inform-worship-jennifer-wiseman/

Other Sources:

www.technologyreview.com

www.testoffaith.com

https://biologos.org/podcast-episodes/jennifer-wiseman-light-in-space

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com;www.pixabay.com; http://www.stockvault.net; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

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On January 25, 1905, diamond mine superintendent Frederick Wells inspected the walls of the Premier Diamond Mine in South Africa—as usual.  Suddenly his practiced eye caught a telltale glimmer in the rock.  

Workmen cut free the luminous stone that very day, then took it to be weighed in the office of mine owner Thomas Cullinan.

The miners knew the fist-sized gem was a stellar find, but no one expected what the scale revealed.  Before them lay the largest diamond ever found—3,106 carats worth, and a perfectly clear specimen except for one black spot in the middle.

Frederick Wells with the Cullinan Diamond

Named for the mine owner, the Cullinan Diamond was sold to the Transvaal provincial government and eventually presented as a birthday present to England’s King Edward VII in 1907. 

King Edward hired master-lapidary I. J. Asscher of Amsterdam to divide the stone.  Asscher studied the Cullinan for six months before making the first cut, and subsequently created nine major stones along with ninety-six smaller ones.

Opened in 1854; still in business.

The largest diamond is called the “Star of Africa I” or “Cullinan I” and sits atop the British royal scepter; Star of Africa II is part of the Imperial State Crown.[1]

Star of Africa I is the pear-shaped embellishment atop the scepter.
Star of Africa II, front and center of the crown, just above the band of ermine.

Why did God create diamonds?  For the same reason he created everything in the universe:  to display his glory.[2]

Diamonds offer a magnificent example of God’s creative power, as he applied heat and pressure to simple black carbon and created mesmerizing stones.

Of course, it takes tremendous pressure (50,000 times more than that at the earth’s surface) and severe heat (2000 degrees Farenheit) for the transformation to take place.  Such extreme conditions only occur deep in the ground—at least 90 miles below the surface.

Humans have only been able to drill a little over seven miles into the earth.  So how were diamonds even discovered?  Because of another spectacular display of God’s power:  volcanoes, which spew them up to the surface.

And though raw diamonds do glimmer, their full magnificence is not released until the lapidary cuts the stones on all sides, to maximize the refraction and reflection of light. Today’s popular brilliant cut requires 58 facets. The process takes up to two weeks.

The ancient Greeks believed that a diamond was a chip of star that had fallen to earth.  We smile at their naiveté until we learn astronomers discovered a star in 2009 that has cooled and compressed into a massive diamond—10 billion trillion trillion carats worth!

Imagine the smile on God’s face as the scientists proved lyricist Jane Taylor closer to truth than she knew: “Twinkle, twinkle, little star . . . like a diamond in the sky” (1806).

With Job, we can affirm:

In addition to displaying God’s glory, diamonds also provide valuable lessons—much as he’s used trees, sheep, and ants to teach us.[3]  At least two lessons have been encapsulated in memorable quotes. 

Lesson #1: 

You know what else makes God smile?  Transforming black-carbon lives into radiant diamond-people.  Think of those like Kirk Cameron, George W. Bush, and Franklin Graham, all of whom once lived in dark rebellion and now reflect the light of Christ.

Such transformations require a lengthy process, and most often the heat and pressure of difficult circumstances, but the results are quite spectacular.[4]

Lesson #2:

    

A lapidary reminds us of our Heavenly Father.  He chips away at our self-centeredness and pride until we’re Stars of Heaven, fit for his crown and radiating his glory in brilliant perfection.[5]

So, my fellow stars-in-process, “let faith and patience have their perfect work, for in the day when the crown will be set on the head of the King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, one ray of glory will stream from you”—Charles Spurgeon.


Notes

[1] https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/worlds-largest-diamond-found# and https://www.capetowndiamondmuseum.org/blog/2017/01/worlds-largest-diamond-the-cullinan/

[2] Psalm 19:1

[3] Jeremiah 17:7-8; Psalm 23; Proverbs 6:6-8

[4] Hebrews 12:5-11

[5] Zechariah 9:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18

Photo images: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.org.

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In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus included eight statements called beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). Each one highlighted a virtue that results in the highest kind of happiness: sweet contentment not based on circumstances but on joyful faith in God and his provision for all we need.

In addition to the beatitudes of Matthew 5, the Bible offers dozens of blessing-statements—each one an encouraging slice of truth about God and his ways for us. They just aren’t constructed in typical beatitude style.

For example, consider Psalm 37:4:

 

 

Written as a beatitude:

 

Blessed are those who delight in God

for they shall receive the desires of their hearts.

 

Of course, the desires of our hearts often reflect child-sized plans, while God may have designed a “hugely dimensional destiny” that will surprise everyone.[1]

Kara’s* story illustrates. She fully expected to attend university and then enter the world of business. But even with a straight-A average, no scholarship materialized, and her parents earned too much money to qualify for sufficient financial aid.

Unless she took out a large student loan, Kara’s only option was community college. Highly disappointed—embarrassed even—she applied. Meanwhile a letter happened to arrive from that local college, describing a new course of study in TV production.

 

 

Kara had just completed a high school course in multimedia programming and loved it, so she applied for this new program and was accepted. Better yet, God provided full tuition as she earned that degree. And best of all, he molded Kara’s desire to coincide with the delightful and satisfying plan he’d designed for her.

Now years later, Kara and her husband make their living in the entertainment industry. No doubt the two of them marvel how God brought them together to work in a medium they love.

Kara is a miracle.

Romans 5:3-4 offers another beatitude truth:

 

 

As a beatitude it might read like this:

 

Blessed are those who embrace their challenges,

for they shall be changed for the better.

 

Anne wanted to support her husband’s dream of a free counseling service in their community and began making pretzels to sell at the local farmer’s market.

Through long effort and a number of failures, Anne was able to grow the business into hundreds of franchises across the country. You’ve probably eaten one of Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels at a mall or airport.

 

 

Anne’s personal life also included struggles, failures, and even the death of one of her children. Yet she says, “I am now thrilled to live this life, feeling that each day is one to be enjoyed. God’s grace and forgiveness are what got me through it all.”[2]

Anne is a miracle.

Our third new beatitude is based on Mark 10:27b:

 

 

Beatitude style?

 

Blessed are those who care less about their limitations

and care more how limitless God is.

 

The bio on the backs of Jennifer Rothschild’s books informs the reader she is a wife, mother, and recording artist. Jennifer also travels the country as a speaker, and cofounded WomensMinistry.NET.

What the bio does not reveal is that Jennifer has been blind since age fifteen. In her book, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, she wrote: “God often wraps difficult gifts with His grace—and then uses them to display His glory.”[3] Jennifer’s productive and joyful life perfectly illustrates that statement.

Jennifer is a miracle.

All three women exemplify what Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) wrote long ago:

 

 

Kara, Ann, Jennifer, and countless other believers demonstrate: When we embrace God’s be-attitudes, we not only experience the highest kind of happiness; we become miracles.

 

*Name changed.

 

Notes:

[1] Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, pp. 160-161.

[2] Karol Ladd, Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive, pp. 147-148.

[3]  Jennifer Rothschild, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, p. 84.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.stocksnap.io; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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