A Revealing Creation

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, - Romans 1:20 NKJV

Have you ever thought what you could know about God from just observing His creation?   When was the last time you took the time to just sit in a park or anywhere outside where you could look at something other than man-made structures and marvel over the magnificence of it all?   Some of my most intimate times with God come during the times where I am out in a park and take time to just soak it all in.

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing some bible study homework in a local office park where one of the questions was similar to one I just posed here.  As I sat on a park bench looking through some trees at a pond on a perfect, sunny late summer day, I took note of what I saw.  Here is what I wrote down in my journal as I sat there:

  • water & water fountains
  • slight breeze - feeling it on my face and hearing it through the trees
  • color all around - amber/brown of the dying grass, green of the flourishing grass, brilliant flowers in the landscaping, azur blue sky and water, white clouds, bright green moss on the rocks at the water's edge
  • sun glistens on the water
  • warmth of the sun and the coolness of the shade
  • spider web in the distance with a leaf suspended in it
  • scampering squirrels gathering nuts for winter
  • a blue heron about 30 yards from me looking for a late afternoon snack
  • another bird flying low over the water looking for food
  • sounds of water fountain, breeze through the trees, and the buggy creatures in the woods all around
  • a stray yellow leaf floating to the ground from a tree
  • How many types of shapes, textures and colors are really here in this "picture", seen or unseen?

Can you picture some of my scene?  In really looking at the diversity and detail of the world we as human beings did not create, how can we not believe that a divine being exists that created it all?  Now, translating this into what I can see about God's attributes, I wrote down the following:

  • God is infinitely intelligent - Who else could have imagined all that He has created from the massive universe to the unnumerable species of plants, animals and crawly things?  Think of the lines, the curves, the textures, the different types of matter.
  • God is creative.  That goes without saying, given the previous statement.
  • God is crafty.  How else could He create things so well that each piece of physical creation pictures some type of spiritual principle?
  • God is ruler of all.
  • God is powerful.
  • God is merciful. 
  • God is a provider.  Every living thing has to eat something!
  • God loves beauty.
  • God loves us by even the simple act of providing us beauty.
  • God is orderly.
  • God is.

I could go on and on here, couldn't I?  As the bible says, because our world itself shows evidence of God and His character qualities, we are without excuse in knowing He exists.  From God's creation - even the little piece of it we can see - we are able to discern quite a bit about God. As created little people in a massive creation, who are we to think that we know it all? Do our measly mechanical inventions even compare to what God has created?  Anything we create is merely a cheap copy of what God has already perfected.  Does God need gears or motors or artificial power to make things move?  I think not.   I am speechless when I realize how small I am in the whole scheme of things, but I am glad that my God is the Creator of all and still is mindful of me.

For further thought/discussion:

1) What can you add to my list of God's attributes from your view of creation? 

2) How does thinking about such things affect how you might live your life today?

3) What can the world know about you from your "creation"?


Nonconformity...God's Way

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:2 NKJV)

I've heard all of my life from a variety of people how they refused to "conform" to various fashion trends or social norms.  In fact, while I've usually been one who tries to do what society expects of me and typically have no problem submitting to authority, I have on occasion been determined not to get swept up by the latest fad or craze.

People who say they are nonconformists, are typically viewed as rebels, aren't they?  What would you say then, if I told you that according to the Bible, God wants us to be such?  Of course, as usual, God's definition is quite different than man's definition.  Here is the difference:  Our definition of nonconformity is "me"-focused, God's definition is God-focused.  In other words, when God says not to conform, He really means to conform ... to His way, forsaking all else.  We and the "me" are left out of the equation.

Why should we forsake the world's thinking and conform to God's ways?  First of all, as Christians, we do owe God for the price He paid for our sins in order to allow us to attain eternal life in heaven with Him.  The previous chapters of Paul's letter to the Romans attests to this debt.  Secondly, if we seek God rather than the things of this world, we will eventually figure out just what exactly God put us here for.  Each of us was created with our own unique talents and abilities for a specific role to be carried out on this earth for God's Kingdom.  If we don't transform our minds to God's way of thinking, we will miss out on the very purpose of our lives. 

How can we transform our minds to learn God's will? Maintaining a daily relationship with God through prayer, Bible reading, and attempt to apply God's word to our lives is the only way.  All of these things combined with attending a church and being connected to a group of like-minded believers is the only way.  Singing praise songs won't do it.  Attending church once a week won't cut it.  Prayer and "sensing" God's presence can't do it.  Bible reading cannot be left out.  Unfortunately, I believe that statistics say most Christians do neglect this most important part of their relationship with God.

So now, what do you say?  Are you up for the challenge to be a nonconformist to this world but be a conformer to God's ways, as the Bible asks us to do as a mere "reasonable"  service (Romans 12:1 KVJ) for God? 

  1. To what are you conforming your life to?  Be honest in your evaluation.
  2. How is your prayer life? your bible study?  Are you renewing your mind daily?
  3. What are you doing in your local church to accomplish God's plan in your life?
  4. What would that good, acceptable and perfect will of God look like for your specific passions and skillset?
  5. What step are you going to take today?


Sword vs. Pocket Knife

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  1 Cor 1:25 NKJV

If you were in a battle and given a choice of weapon with which to fight, would you choose a pocket knife or a sword to slay your enemy?  While I think the answer to this question is obvious, I am shocked to see that a lot of Christians and even those in leadership are choosing to "fight" with a pocket knife.  I'm saddened by preachers and "bible" teachers who teach their congregations and students more from what they've learned through other men's writings than from their own study of God's word.  I don't understand how the riches of what God has to say can be replaced by watered down explanations of the Bible from other men, quoted to the "flock" as if their words were just as important as God's Word.  Please don't misunderstand.  I am not against all use of scholarly quotations.  A good quote from time to time is an effective tool.  However, I still hold on to the belief that the most powerful and life-changing quotes will come from the pages of The Book, God's Word, not just any book.

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  1 Cor 1:20 NKJV

Knowing this, I would rather have God's foolishness any day than man's wisdom.  I would rather learn through the God-breathed/inspired writings of Paul of how God intertwined all of human history so that I as a non-Jew (gentile) could also partake in the rich inheritance of eternal life, than hear through a contemporary author why all of this is so.  I want the undiluted, untainted, get-right-to-the-point words of God to fill my ears, heart and mind.  The depth of God's wisdom is unending, but we can unearth it directly for ourselves if we work hard at searching for truth.  I want to fight in this battle for the souls of men with a double-edged sword, not a pocket knife.

Basic Training...

1.  What weapon are you taking into the battle each day? 

2.  How adept are you at wielding the double-edged sword of God's Word?

3.  What steps can you take today to get skilled in the use of your "weapon", the Bible?

NOTE:  I will gladly point anyone in the direction to getting to know God's Word better if they sincerely want to learn.  Please don't hesitate to contact me regarding your next steps in applying God's word to your life.


Tug of War

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. - Ro 7:19 NASB

We can all relate to the apostle Paul's statement above, can't we?  How often do you find yourself slipping back into old habits or attitudes that you thought you had slain for good?  How often do you fight yourself with that current habit or thought pattern you are trying to break?  Yes, the good that we want to do, we don't do, but the bad we want not to do, that we do.  It is a tug of war, indeed, caused by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and receiving the Holy Spirit of God inside of us.  The Holy Spirit is what causes us to be "torn" on the inside by the battle between our old and new selves. 

Yes, we are new creations (2 Cor 5:17) at the time of salvation, but we don't get spiritually strong overnight.  We must purposefully access the power of the Holy Spirit through reading of God's Word, prayer, scripture memorization, and fellowship with other mature believers.  We must renew our minds to God's way of thinking and not our own.  This process takes time, but it is possible because the same power that raised Christ from the dead to everlasting life and reign at God's right hand is ours for the taking.  God wants to empower us to do all that He has asked us to do.   Here is what the Holy Spirit can help us accomplish in our lives:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

The fruit - those good character qualities described above - is ours for plucking off of the tree.  God can help us to do the things we couldn't before and be the person we weren't before.  The tug of war inside of us may rage on, but our good nature will get stronger and eventually win out as we grow in our faith day by day.  We can win the game.  We can get the fruit.

To tug at your heart:

How is your tug of war game going?  If you feel that you are losing the battle, how often are you in God's Word to gather strength and nourishment?  What are you going to do today about your lack of strength?

   


Abounding in Hope

Now may the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13 NKJV)

Does anyone else get tired of hoping?   When we have something in our lives that stays the same, or appears that it stays the same because positive changes are taking place at a snail's pace, it is easy for our hope to fade.  At least that is the way it works for me.  However, God's word says that we can abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

abound 1 to be plentiful; exist in large numbers or amounts 2 to have plenty; be filled; be wealthy (in) or teem (with)

So we can have plenty of hope.  By ourselves?  No.  That is where the power of the Holy Spirit comes in.   We will lose hope in our circumstances if we are relying on our own strength; if we forget that God is there waiting for us to ask Him for help.  Let's take another look at the last part of our verse in Romans 15:13:

...that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hmm...see, it does say that we abound or have abundant hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.  But how do we tap into the power of the Holy Spirit?  The answer is always the same: through prayer and reading God's word.  I was feeling hopeless about something this week and through a bible study I've been working on God gave me a measure of renewed hope through His word.  As I was studying about the prophet Jeremiah and his prophetic words about the destruction of Israel due to their sin, God gave me the following:

Jeremiah 32:17 'Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm.  There is nothing too hard for You.'

Isn't it funny how words of hope were just not what I was wanting at the time of my study - I was having a pity party - but yet God saw fit to work His way into my private time!  What a good Lord we serve.  Here is another:

Jeremiah 32:27 "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh.  Is there anything too hard for Me?"

Then another...

Jeremiah 32:39 "then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them."

God is in the heart changing business.  He can change mine.  He can change yours.  He can change those around us.  He can change them and us to fear Him and love Him.  Believe it.   We can abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit if we just seek Him through His word and prayer and do what He asks of us.  He will give us the hope.  We don't have to manufacture it ourselves.

Questions to ponder:

1) What is the one thing that I need the most hope for?

2) Have I given it over to God so He can provide me with hope?  Do I need to talk to God again about the situation?


Split Personality

Do you have a split personality when it comes to spiritual things?  I think we all do, to a certain extent.  I can totally relate to Paul in Romans 7:15-25.  To me, it is probably one of the most memorable passages of Paul's writings, not necessarily because of the content, but because of its "tongue twister" nature.   Paul is describing how he wrestles with how his mind wants to do what is right, but his body wants to do what is wrong.  Aren't we all there?

Romans 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Although this battle of the mind versus flesh seems impossible to win sometimes, we do have the power to overcome our bad thoughts through God's Word.  Because Jesus died for our sins and left the Holy Spirit behind inside each of us, we have the means to let the good personality inside of us win.

1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

We have the power, but we also must cooperate with God by renewing our mind each day through His Words to us. Only a daily personal time with God will keep us consistently growing in our faith so that we can overcome our bad selves.  Without the daily time, it is too easy to revert back to our old ways.  Who is winning in you?


My Strength

Romans 5:1-6

1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

Isn't it interesting how God works through our lives?  There are so many incredible truths in the bible, the one above being one of the most difficult because we can only learn it by experience - and that experience is not always fun.  Do you thank God for your hard times?  Until the last few years, I don't think I thanked Him, but I do now because it is only through the trials that our faith will grow.  No pain, no gain!

A dear friend and I were discussing this very thing last night. How interesting that the verse came up in my reading today.  God is good.  Without Him, I am truly nothing.  He is my light, my strength , my song.   I can't believe that it has taken me 38 years to really grasp the concept.  Oh, the dangers of being a self-sufficient, educated individual!

I'm going to leave with this today because I'm running out of time and will be away from the computer all day.  I decided last night (or maybe it was this morning at 12:15am) that my "theme" for the year - I've never done this but I know others that do - is going to be "In Christ Alone".  One of my favorite contemporary Christian bands, Phillips Craig & Dean, includes these verses in a medley of "In Christ Alone" and they will be my focus this year:

In Christ alone I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross
In every victory let it be said of me
My source of strength, my source of hope
Is Christ alone.

Have a blessed day!


Rationalization

This morning I read through a few chapters of Romans, and have to admit that I am struggling what to write here.  Admittedly, when I started this whole blogging idea, I really didn't think it was something that I would be praying over, but I do.  It seems that every verse could be expanded upon!  So, here I am again, faithful readers, to share what I hope is what God would have me put down in this space.

Romans 3. I really get a kick out of Paul when he starts talking in questions to logically explain his point.  He does such a good job of getting to the real issue - usually that of the heart.  In this chapter, Paul is defending God's honor.  He is defending that age old question "If God is a such a loving God, why would He send people to hell?".  Okay, actually, I don't think that Paul is defending that EXACT question, but He does make a good argument that can help us answer that question for a skeptic.

Look at the following passage from the NKJV (Ro 3:5-7):

5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say?  Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not!  For then how will God judge the world?

7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?  8 And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come? - as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say.  Their condemnation is just.

Do you see what Paul is doing here? I contend that Paul has a pretty good grasp on how humanity thinks.  We try to take any circumstance where we are probably wrong and outwardly try to fool others (and ourselves) into thinking we are okay with our thoughts or actions.  In this case, Paul is shooting down the argument that it is okay to sin -and therefore not be called a sinner- because our sin only shows how good and perfect God really is. As a result, we should not be judged because we are indirectly showing God's glory in contrast to our pitiful nature.   Did you get that?  If not, read it again.  I know I've thrown in a lot of words here.

To me, I feel that the bottom line is this: If I have to concoct a lengthy explanation for why an action or thought is okay, perhaps I need to examine my heart and re-evaluate my "plan".  Usually, things that are right are easily explained, aren't they?