Art Bows to God

“Let those who have felt this double effect of the Spirit’s teaching bear witness to the marvelous result. The Bible becomes a transformed book. It was before the best of all books, but it is now the Book of God—a chamber of disclosed mysteries—a house of many mansions, in which new doors constantly open into new apartments, massive and magnificent, God’s art galleries, museums of curious things, treasuries of celestial gems. The devout student is filled with wonder, transported with delight. Words open with new meanings until we look through them into depths and heights, breadths and lengths, that are infinite. We are looking at a firmament which was before clouded—but the clouds are parting and heavenly constellations are visible. Meanwhile the eye has become telescopic, and where before we saw a few scattered stars, and an indistinct nebulous cloud, everything is ablaze with the glories of countless and many colored lights.” – Arthur T. Pierson, Lessons in The School of Prayer

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I went to an art gallery for the first time early last year at the Dallas Museum of Art. I was just amazed by the beauty of each piece. It was a special showing on French Boutiques and featured such artists work as Vincent Von Gogh, Henri Fantin-Latour, Édouard Manet, and Paul Cézanne. I’m not an art critic but you really did not need to be one in order to recognize and appreciate greatness. Their work itself made them known.  It was amazing. The detail in each piece, the more you looked, the more there was to be seen. No matter how hard you starred, you couldn’t take it all in. The perfection of each piece, not one stroke seemed to be out of place. Each line was perfectly executed on top of another and side by side in a rhythm and smoothness that could only be carried out by a master of the art.Continue Reading

Speaking from the Shadows

I really enjoyed this short  devotional from Streams in the Desert this morning. It’s a real encouragement to write and to share our testimonies and stories with others of God’s presence and providence in our hand daily but especially during dark times in our lives. Perhaps when we do it often enough, others will learn to take a closer  look at their own lives and begin to publically acknowledge His providence and presence daily also.

Streams in the Desert, April 11

What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.(Matthew 10:27)

Our Lord is constantly taking us into the dark in order to tell us something. It may be the darkness of a home where bereavement has drawn the blinds; the darkness of a lonely and desolate life, in which some illness has cut us off from the light and the activity of life; or the darkness of some crushing sorrow and disappointment.Continue Reading

Benefits of Meditating on Hell

There has been a lot of discussion in social media about hell recently. I admit, don’t like to meditate on the reality of death and dying much. However, the reality of our own mortality cannot be avoided and should not be avoided for it provides context to our short lives. It encourages us to prioritize, to be selective with our time, our resources, adding value to every moment because of it’s brevity. Death is the dark border surrounding our life like a frame placed around our image in a portrait. It shows completion. Nothing can be added, nothing can be taken away once that final frame is placed around us.  Our entire vapor of a life is a captured moment in eternities gallery.

Hell is even more unpleasant of a reality to meditate on then death. If meditating on death and dying is morbid, then meditating on the reality of hell is extremely socially unacceptable in  our culture. It is a concept that in the majority’s view is to be put out of our mind altogether and blocked from ever returning. It is disturbing and insensitive to even mention. However, there are spiritual benefits to meditating on the reality of hell for those who are willing and brave.

First, the acceptance of the reality of hell reveals our level of trust and submission to God’s truths. We are tempted to pick and choose the doctrines of Christianity we like best, those that benefit us now, those which make sense to us and are found to be agreeable in our eyes and culture.

However, there are some doctrines taught in the bible that completely go against our nature and challenge us to trust God anyway. Hell is only one of those doctrines. The existence of hell is a reality to be reckoned with as much as the hope of the glories of heaven. Jesus clearly taught the reality of both.  If we truly believe the teachings of the Jesus, then we cannot be selective in what we believe. God calls us to submit to this truth as much as any other.  Not all God’s ways and truths are easy for us to understand or embrace. They challenge us. They humble us to bow before them and to trust him.

 Hell is a truth I submit to but I cannot in good conscience embrace nor do I want to.  There is no comfort in the reality of hell now or in eternity.  Just think: if the dark shadow of hell is unsettling now to us so that we would attempt to avoid it even with our thoughts; can you imagine how miserable the reality of hell will be that will not let us escape? No, genuine Christian finds comfort in the reality of hell or the thought of anyone suffering in it.  God himself finds no pleasure in the punishment of the wicked. The truth  of hell is repulsive but that does not alter it from being true regardless of how it appeals to us or makes sense to us. I don’t believe in hell because it makes sense, or because I particularly like it or understand it. I believe in hell simply because God teaches it and warns us of it and I trust God and believe his word to be true even if I wish it weren’t.

Second, meditating on the reality of hell stirs us to take sin and it’s consequences seriously. The bible promises that sin will not go unpunished. Death itself is a consequence and result of sin. Christ died for our sins, yes? Yes, but Christ did not die to enable us to sin boldly without fear of consequences which is an abuse of grace and to be punished even more severely. (Romans 2:4-5,6:14-15)

1 John 3 tells us that Jesus appeared to take away sins and to destroy the works of the devil. The false belief that we are able to sin freely without judgement is itself of the devil and encourages his work of lawlessness.

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who -are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. -1 John 3:7-10

Hell is a place prepared for the devil and his angels. The danger is the man or woman who spend their short lives working alongside the devil and his angels.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. – Matthew 25:41

We know angels are ministering spirits. Angels of God are sent to strengthen, comfort, encourage, guide and counsel man in ways that are righteous and benefit their life. In contrast, angels of the devil are sent to weaken, discourage, misguide and mislead men into ways that are wrong and often lead to emotional, spiritual and physical harm of an individual and others. Anytime, we are unloving towards another, slandering, gossiping,murdering, we are about the devils work and we will receive the devils reward: hell. God’s grace has limits and many times it is limited by the very grace and mercy we show others.

“For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Matthew 42:46

We all need grace because no man is perfect. However, if we willingly choose to continue in sin without hindrance and without repentance then we are not truly even seeking the grace of God, nor have we come to the cross of Christ to have ourselves crucified with him.

Finally contemplating the reality of hell compels us up to pray in intercession and to overcome our fears in sharing the gospel with the lost.  There is something more frightening then rejection and humiliation in sharing the gospel with a stranger, friend or loved one, that is the idea of them being in hell.  How can we not pray? How can we not speak up? As far as it depends on us, let us labor to see them in heaven beside us while we still have breath in us.  It is a fire that touches our own spirits and tongues with urgency.

These are three simple benefits of contemplating on the reality of hell. What are the dangers of not doing so? Sin has no consequence. There is no judgement. God’s word is not true.

Sometimes the most beneficial medicine is most bitter to drink.  The truth of hell is one of of those medicines.  The reality of heaven brings us much comfort and much benefit when facing grief. It is sweet to the soul. In contrast, the reality of hell is very bitter to swallow and does make us want to gag and swear it off forever. However, there are benefits to be gained by accepting it.

It’s Not Fair

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A year and a half ago, on March 23rd, 2014 my cousin Tessa, age 27, was killed in a head-on collision by a drunk driver as she was on her way home. She died instantly leaving behind 4 surviving children. The criminal case for it ended just last week.

Her death has impacted our entire family greatly, and still impacts us every day with the loss of her laugh, the loss of her voice, the loss of her opinion, the loss of her touch, her hugs. Every day, it still feels like there is something new to be missed and freshly grieved. Every day is full of her absence, in the big things and in the small things.

My husband  and I relocated to Dallas 16 years ago not knowing we had any family in the area.  Approximately 5 years after our move, I was excited to learn I had an Aunt and three young cousins who lived nearby. They were as hungry for family as we were and soon joined our weekly Sunday lunches after church.

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When You Don’t Recognize God

North Wind
At the Back of the North Wind

“If you can’t see His way past the tears, trust His heart.” – Charles Spurgeon

It is one thing to have wounds inflicted by an enemy, another by your closest friend. At times I felt betrayed by God in grief.  Why God? Why did you allow it?

The enemy laughs. He uses my own heart to taunt me, “Is this your God? Your friend? Your high counselor? Is this who you serve? Is this who you have committed your life to?

Yes” I quietly respond to the assaults. “Though He afflicts me, yet will I trust Him.”

I admit, I am in the dark. I cannot see. I don’t understand why. I don’t know why He allowed somethings this tragedy to happen. Time has passed but I still can’t understand why. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it all.

I try to concentrate and hold on to what I do know. I do know that my God is sovereign.  He is aware. He allowed it. He filtered it. He is all good and all loving. He is perfect in all His ways. He could have prevented the accident, He could have spared her life. Just a few weeks prior he had saved and spared her life from another accident. But not this time. This time for reasons I don’t understand, He took her in an instant, in a twinkling of an eye she was taken and we were left. Her place knew her no more, her home knew her no more, her children knew her no more, her husband knew her no more, her mother knew her no more, her sisters knew her no more, her friends knew her no more and I knew her no more. Her life was gone and we did all we could to gather what was left behind of her, to salvage every precious memory and token unless they would somehow disappear too.  Yet will I trust Him though I do not understand Him or recognize Him in allowing this.

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How to Pray for an Hour

Oil LampPraying for an hour may sound daunting at first, but it can actually go by faster than you think. Many times when we spend an hour with a close friend, we look up surprised to see the time has passed so quickly and it’s time to part. This is the way to pray and to enjoy prayer, to see it as time spent with a dear friend, Jesus, who we have all to ourselves in sweet private conversation in our personal hour of prayer.

First, you must set aside a specific time to meet, knowing that God will be waiting for you. Make sure you eliminate all distractions by selecting a private place where you can talk in freedom and without being interrupted by phones and other distractions.

All you need is a quiet place and an eager heart, however you may find other supplies useful for prayer aids. Items such as your bible, a pen, paper for scribbling notes or thoughts that come to mind, a journal for writing your prayer if you prefer, a hymnbook, a favorite devotional book, soft instrumental music or soft scriptural lullaby music, a box of Kleenex, a cup of coffee, tea or other favorite drink, a candle or even an old fashioned oil lamp if you prefer.

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What’s Wrong with the World

This great world in all its beauty and glory was created for the glory of God and for our pleasure and enjoyment. We were placed in it to enjoy it and to have the riches of God surround us, astound us and mystify us. All of the world’s beauty and benefits were to be poured out on us as objects of God’s affection for us. The environment of the world was to protect us, provide for us and nurture us. The wind would caress us, the swaying trees would soothe us, the rivers would refresh us, the stars and the oceans would confound us, the ground would feed us, the fruit would delight us, the animals would amuse us. God Himself would delight us and His presence would always be with us and surround us.

We were to be forever fed by the Tree of Life, daily fed by the life of God who surrounded us as a fortress. We never would have possessed knowledge of evil; we would never comprehended its existence in the universe,  we would have never been aware of its presence. The goodness and presence of God is all we would have ever known all the days of our lives. Our joy would only have known increase and never known decrease. Our peace would have been a constant environment like a room temperature. Our contentment would have been unchanged because nothing would have been or could have been ever taken away from us, ever. Such is the life God designed for us to enjoy in the perfect world He created for us. What a blessed life was prepared for us!

As a result of The Fall, man now knows not only good, but also evil after feeding from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  It is by God’s grace that we still know and enjoy much good in this fallen world. However it is no longer a perfect, holy good that we know. We know good only in it’s disfigured form. We find it difficult and unfathomable to comprehend the idea of pure good. To us, genuine, perfect goodness does not exist, not in our world. There are rumors that it once existed, but these rumors are more like fairy tales.

All we have known is a fallen world, disfigured by evil all around us. The remains of good are still there. The skies are often blue above us and boast of a world outside this place. We dream of other worlds out there which would provide for us. We know we can’t trust this one entirely; it is often against us. It is dying all around us. We know it, but we can’t do anything about it. Despite our best environmental programs, it is still wearing out like an old garment. We are dying, our lives are cut short and sometimes even shorter than what we anticipate. It doesn’t seem fair.

We fight and attempt to prevent death, deterioration and disease with all our strength, all our knowledge, all our resources and all our medicines but they still overtake us in the end. We win some battles but we have yet to win the war. Mankind despite our best efforts to defeat death, still dies. Wars and rumors of wars surround us.

There is something wrong with the world. We know it deep in our hearts.  This is not the way things are supposed to be. Death even though it is quite normal around us, is not normal.  Illness even though it surrounds us, we know is wrong. Injustice too, even though it continually rules us, we can never accept or submit too it.  We continually cry, it’s not fair! We know the world was intended to be fair but we also know it’s not.

It is not what is wrong with the world, but what is wrong with man? Why does man even need the law in order to make him behave? We wouldn’t need so many laws to regulate man’s behavior if nothing was wrong with man. The presence and need for external laws to govern us point to something being absent and broken within us, an internal governing authority.  Why does it take the law to tell us we must do good? Why does it take the law to tell us we should not steal from another? Why does it take the law to make us love one another?

The presence of the law points to something being wrong because if the world was not broken, we would not need so many laws to try and regulate our behavior.  We would not need a law to tell us to love others. We would not need a law to tell us not to murder.  We would not need a law to tell us not to commit adultery.  If we were only ruled by love we would not need a law to rule us.

But we are not ruled by love and so we need a loving law to rule us, to convict us and to confront us with our failure to love others.

What is loving? We do not love others because we do not know how to love. This is the core problem of man, our hearts. That is why we struggle with all of our relationships, in all our relationships. We struggle to love.  We love too much that which we should not love and we love too little that which we should love.  The truth is we don’t know what true love is so how can we make good loving laws based on love to guide us and rule over us?

What is wrong with the world? What is wrong with man? Everyone knows that something is wrong with the world and with man but no one knows what it is or how to fix it. Psychiatrists want to medicate man.   Psychologists want to try to reason and talk to man. Schools & Universities want to educate man. The military wants to train man for war and protection against other men.   Environmentalists want to regulate man. Government wants to try to rule over man.  The church alone speaks of saving man.

What’s wrong with the world? It’s as G.K. Chesterton responded to that old newspaper column The Times when they asked that age old question. He simply said:

             “I am”

I would take this even further and say it is the absence of the great “I AM”, the ultimate governing authority, the ultimate source of all love, for He himself is Love, that is wrong with the world.

 

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