I enjoy pictures of beautiful landscapes. Microsoft puts up a new landscape photo on my screen almost daily from various places around the world. There are so many around this globe. We have a hymn in our hymnal entitled For The Beauty Of The Earth which highlights all of the joy and beauty our Lord gives us in life. “For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies…..for the joy of ear and eye, for the hearts and minds delight….for the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child, friends on earth and friends above….For thyself, best gift divine! To our race so freely given, for that great, great love of thine….” and each verse ends with, “Christ our God, to thee we raise this our sacrifice of praise” . It is easy to see all that is wrong in our fallen world sometimes making it heard to see the beauty. But our God has not and will not abandon us. “For the beauty of each hour, of the day and of the night….” God provides us something to give hope, and helps us look ahead to all the joy and beauty He yet has for us. Lift up your eyes and see what our Lord provides for this day, and offer that “sacrifice of praise”.
The Book of Psalms gives us wonderful expressions of lives lived in relationship to the Lord. Whether they are Psalms of praise, or cries for help, they address a Lord known to be near at hand and caring about individual concerns. They speak of a relationship where God is absolutely sovereign, where His will is to be sought and obeyed, yet recognizing that that path is the one leading to the best life for the Psalmists. The person “whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither– whatever they do prospers.”(Ps.1:2-3)The Psalms speak of the affairs of individuals and of nations, of the God who made us and we are His. (Ps.100) Nations today are in such a rush to create secular societies, something that would have made no sense to the Psalmists. Fair treatment and justice are important in the Psalms, but never separated from a life lived with the Lord. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.”(Ps.89:14-15) Yes, blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You.
It is interesting to observe the changes we’ve experienced over many years. We love our cell phones, smart phones, and iPads that keep us in touch with others wherever we are. If we are without it for a day we feel lost. It was only a few years ago that we would ride through a town looking for a corner phone booth if we needed to make a call. Show a young person a dial telephone and he’ll wonder what it is. Many years ago people would go on a journey and be out of touch for months at a time. Our world has certainly changed. I’m not convinced it has all of been for good. How do we measure change? Or a deeper question, what is our purpose in life? According to the the Westminster Catechism, our purpose is to love God and enjoy Him forever. If that is true, then change is measured by how it supports this purpose, or perhaps detracts from it. People before mass communication learned to love God deeply and share His love with many others. We won’t give up our cell phones, but we should keep our focus on the true purpose for which God has given us life.
Psalm 84 is a marvelous passage speaking about our hunger to be near the Lord. I remember the time when my wife and I were engaged. I was living with my parents. I would get home from work, have some supper, and then go over to Audrey’s house. One time my mother remarked, “You don’t have to go over every night.” But I did. That is where I wanted to be. I was in love with her and wanted to be near her. That is the point of Psalm 84. “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; … O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. … Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;…” God is not a duty to be fulfilled. He is not a judge we need a appease with our good works. He is not a doctor who is the last resort in our troubles. God is our lover who has reached out to us before we ever thought of reaching out to Him. He is our redeemer demonstrating His love in the greatest of personal sacrifices. He is near at hand in good times and in bad. This is our God for whom our soul’s yearn to draw ever nearer.
In our hurry up world we want to see everything accomplished yesterday. Computers do computations at speeds of gigahertz per second, but this often feel too slow in getting the information we want. In our Christian life we would like to see things happening faster. We get frustrated if we don’t see answers to our prayers when we hoped. Changes in our own lives don’t seem to happen quickly enough. I think we have learned from Scripture and from life that God doesn’t work in our time frame. He works according to His divine purpose for each of us, and like any project, must do things in the proper order. Peter wrote in his epistle, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”(2 Pt.3:9) Sometimes God acts sovereignly for change. Most often He works step by step, His Spirit knowing what we need at the time, and dealing with first things first. He is always working for our good according to His perfect will. He asks us to trust Him, and give Him glory in all things.
If you ask a child to clean their room or make their bed, they will often respond with, “Why? It is only going to get messed up again.” That’s true, but it is not a reason for not cleaning. Many parts of life have their way of getting messed up again, but we keep cleaning, repairing, and improving. When things are neat and clean it effects our attitude. We feel better, and appreciate our surrounding. It is one of the reasons for uniforms for school kids. When they are dressed neatly, they often behave better, and take more pride in themselves. This is true spiritually as well as physically. Repentance before God and hearing His forgiveness is the way He has graciously given to cleanse our lives. We know that it is wrong to ignore sin, and keep on sinning. We can’t use the excuse that it’s just the way we are, and we are going to get messed up again anyway. Genesis 1:31 tells us that, “God saw all that He had made and it was very good.” Whether in our personal space, the world around us, or our own hearts, we seek to keep all that God has given us very good.
What does it mean to trust, especially to trust God? We say it all the time, but we usually have a back up plan in case God doesn’t come through the way we think He should. This is especially true in our affluent world. We solve many of our problems with money. We really don’t know what it means to have to pray for our next meal, as some Christian workers have had to do. Or pray for safety from hostile peoples. Truly trusting God is to be out on a limb with no way back. If God doesn’t help, we are lost. It is not a question that we have to be in poverty or danger to learn to trust God. Rather, we need to see Him as our single source of provision, strength, and hope in all situations of life. God is trustworthy. He has proven it time and again.
Jesus speaking of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity said, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” I am presently in the midst of a church conference with about twelve congregations of the eastern region of our church body. I planned the schedule and invited the speakers, but I didn’t choose an overall theme. Yet God, in His grace, brought a unity to the presentations from the brief morning devotion through the main speakers giving us a message that we all needed to hear. Don’t ever discount the Holy Spirit. When you look at your life, those seeming coincidences, those small opportunities, the sudden even that comes, even those difficult trials you face at times – God is working. You are a child of God. He loves you. He is working in your life in small and not so small ways. He desires to draw you more deeply into His love. Don’t ever discount the work of His Spirit. His wind is blowing in your life.
Jeremiah was charged to bring words of correction from the Lord to the people of Judah. They didn’t like it and sought to kill him, as they had done with other prophets the Lord had sent. At one point a few wiser heads prevailed and they spared his life. The comment that seemed to turn the situation around at that time was like this. “If we do this we are committing a great evil against ourselves.”(26:19) That is the point of sin. It is not that God takes pleasure in bringing judgment upon those who reject His will. It is that they hurt themselves, and separate themselves from the good God desires for them. The point of all God’s commands is not to restrict us, denying us pleasure, but to guide us in finding the best life possible. There are God given absolutes established for life. They are meant to give us blessing and joy. Sin, ignoring God’s absolutes, only blocks that good from us and we hurts ourselves. Our Lord is always calling us to repentance, receiving His forgiveness, and finding our good life in Jesus.
Having just had a hip replacement and dealing with a couple of other things I’ve been through quite a number of tests in the past months. Medical science has developed numerous ways to look inside the human body. There are CT scans, MRIs, xrays, echograms, scopes and probes to show what is going on inside of us, but there is a most important part that is far deeper. All of Scripture speaks of the hearts of people being in harmony with God or not. It is God who sees the heart. Parts of the body being well or ill effects how we feel physically. Jesus healed a lot of people, but He always looked at this deeper part of our being which effects our behavior for good or ill. The Bible is a very human book because it shows people in all manner of life, both virtues and sins. It is because of this we can call the Bible a book about the human heart. The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews wrote, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”(12:4) Our physical tests are needed to help doctors deal with our diseases and restore our health. But it is far more important for our spiritual health that we allow the truth of God’s Word to cleanse and restore our hearts.
[category Good Morning]