Artistic Wonder

Artistic Wonder

By Pat Knight

Flourishing, cursive handwriting, such as the art of calligraphy, fascinates those of us with barely decipherable penmanship. Consider how God created the world, its inhabitants, and its surroundings with the flourish of His spoken words. Creation was not merely an isolated week of exuberant creativity; perpetual artistic evidence of God’s miracles have continued for centuries; rampant affirmation that our sovereign Lord is a miracle-worker. Expect the unexpected from an extravagant, extraordinary God! Open your eyes to experience awe-inspiring wonder, initiating commitment to promote God’s glory; to place hope and trust in His unfailing, flourishing love and grace.

Daily sunsets splash the expanse of the western sky with flaming hues of orange, purple, red, yellow, and pink, swirling and swishing across the blue backdrop in a variety of configurations, blending into a blazing neon curtain pulled down at the close of the day. “I am the Lord and there is no other; apart from me there is no God … from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me” (Isaiah 45:5-6).

The headlong crash of a waterfall from magnificent heights originating on mountain ledge smashes into limpid pools of water below, illuminating sparkling rainbow prisms as the sun reflects off water droplets to expose glittering diamonds suspended in mid-air.

Because deciduous trees are seasonally stripped of leaves, the branches that were starkly exposed during winter usher in springtime with barely discernable green growth. Each leaf will mature to the perfect size and shape for specific species, affording sheltered nurseries for the avian population, with millions of minuscule flapping fans to cool the environment, providing shade for all life.

A perfect, crescent rainbow with equal bands of the color spectrum arches across the sky in a convex semi-circle, astonishing observers as we bow to the supreme architect and painter of world wonders.  “I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. “All the stars are at my command” (Isaiah 45:12, NLT).

Millions of twinkling stars illuminate an endless ebony sky, confirming our perceived individual insignificance in a magnificently vast universe filled with awesome creations engineered by a loving God.  Unsurpassed dazzling beauty highlights His greatness, announcing God’s glory in the cosmos. “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power” (Psalm 147:4-5).

The unrivaled marvel of a newborn infant expands its lungs for the first time, cooing and slurping nourishment, flailing its limbs and punching air with clenched fists. The baby is perfect in form, its skin as soft and as squeezable as marshmallows. The miniature person is God’s unique handiwork, a gift from the Creator of all life. King David admitted: “‘You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it’” (Psalm 139:13-14, NLT).

God created humans with free wills, allowing Adam and Eve the freedom to make the consequential decision to disobey Him. From that moment God prioritized forgiveness, dispensing mercy and grace to His human masterpiece. God probes deeply, searching a person’s heart for thoughts, intents, and desires. “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God explores inner character traits that reveal our desire to communicate and fellowship with Him.

Our heavenly Father is intentionally and intimately involved in the lives of believers. As children of the King, we are royalty, enlisted as citizens of the kingdom of God, empowered with His strength, and enabled to possess the attributes of Jesus. There is no limit to the gifts with which our Lord infuses our hearts and minds, entitling us to live in spiritual victory regardless of physical circumstances.

God’s Son, incarnated on earth, experienced the entire realm of human relationships, challenges, temptations, and suffering. The sinless, holy life of the Son of God was crucified on a cross reserved for the most depraved Roman criminals. During that heinous event, God’s perfect prophecies for His Son and the world were fulfilled. The Messiah’s death and resurrection accomplished redemption of sin for all believers. “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (Romans 5:6, NLT). Acknowledging God’s perfect plan for His Son’s sacrifice and His ultimate triumph, why would we doubt God’s astonishing design for each of our lives?

The Lord of the universe desires to maintain an intimate relationship with His creatures. Personally undeserved, God’s grace requires a commitment of faith. Frustration ensues when human efforts fail to earn His grace by good works, for it is a free gift, revealing God’s overwhelming love and mercy. “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). His pouring action depicts an unrestrained, copious flow, a deluge of love, compassion, and spiritual victory surrounding us at all times. Obedience is our worshipful expression of gratitude to God for His incredible gift of life itself.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!
—1 John 3:1

Whatever God creates, promises, or performs is marvelous, deserving of glorious praise offered for His characteristics of power, faithfulness, forgiveness, and majesty. “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3-4).

God’s creations are a testament to His monumental creativity and beauty. As His disciples, may we glorify His sovereignty, righteousness, and His infinite love and grace by worshipping the splendor of His majesty. Let us glorify our Creator with excessive joy and praise. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:3).

Astounding wonder and heartfelt obedience
are manifestations of love for Almighty God!

Billy Graham: Made for God’s Purpose, Not Your Own

Sharing today from the July-August 2019 issue of Decision Magazine. This sermon was originally preached in 1956.

Billy Graham:
Made for God’s Purpose,
Not Your Own

By Billy Graham

“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. … Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand” (Jeremiah 18:3-4, 6).

What an accurate portrayal of men and women this is! The Prophet Jeremiah portrays God as the divine Potter and a man or woman as the clay that the Master Artist seeks to make into a vessel of usefulness. But in the process, the vessel becomes marred—a flaw appears in the work—and tenderly the skilled Craftsman of life refashions it to His own liking.

Three ideas stand out boldly in this parable of the potter: made, marred and made again.

We humans, in our vaunted pride and self-styled wisdom, would claim that we are self-created. We would wrest ourselves from the skillful hands of the Potter, and cry, “I evolved, and I am the product of natural law; I am self-created!”

But the only true record and the only true evidence indicates that it was otherwise.

The Bible states that God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. … So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him. … Then God blessed them” (Genesis 1:26-28).

Notice, He did not make men and women haphazardly, but with an infinite plan and purpose. He made us in His own image and likeness: creatures with whom He could commune, companion and fellowship. You were made for God’s fellowship, and to fulfill any other purpose is to fail to fulfill your destiny.

That heart of yours, despite its waywardness and evil, in its serious moments reaches out for the stars and cries out for fellowship with the infinite God. That mind of yours, so fraught with evil imaginations, sensual images and earthly aspirations, longs for communion and affinity with the divine Potter—God. That body of yours, tired of its labors and wanderings, aching with loneliness, hungers for companionship with the One for whom you were created.

Race, ethnic background and language make no difference—all hearts repeat the words of David: “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2).

There are thousands of people who admit that they are unhappy. Economic security, recreation, pleasure and a good community in which to live have not brought them the peace and happiness they expected. The reason is that we were created in the image of God, and we can find no complete rest, happiness, joy and peace until we come back to God.

You were not only made for a purpose, you were made with a will of your own. This will of yours is capable of obeying or disobeying, of choosing life or death, darkness or light, Heaven or hell, sin or the Savior.

If there is no will, there can be no true love. God wanted us to love Him willingly, with a free heart, by choice. This was a calculated risk on God’s part, but it was the only way true love and fellowship could be achieved.

Read the rest here.

Anyway

The poem below was reportedly written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta. 

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;

forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, some could destroy overnight;

build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;

it was never between you and them anyway.

—Mother Teresa

Is God Ever Unjust?

Today I’m sharing from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Is God Ever Unjust?

by John MacArthur

Have you ever considered the stark contrast between Judas Iscariot and the thief on the cross? One was a close disciple of Jesus Christ and gave three years of his life to the best, most intensive religious instruction available anywhere. But he lost his soul forever. The other was a hardened, lifelong criminal who was still mocking everything holy while being put to death for his crimes. But he went straight to paradise forever.

The difference in the two men could hardly be more pronounced—nor could the endings to their respective life stories be more surprising. Judas was a disciple in Christ’s closest circle of twelve. He preached, evangelized, ministered, and was even given power “over all the demons and to heal diseases” (Luke 9:1). He seemed like a model disciple. When Jesus predicted that one of the twelve would betray Him, no one pointed the finger of suspicion at Judas. He was so thoroughly trusted by the other disciples that they had made him their treasurer (John 13:29). They evidently saw nothing in his character or attitude that seemed questionable, much less diabolical. But he betrayed Christ, ended his own miserable life by suicide, and entered into eternal damnation laden with horrific guilt. Christ’s words about him in Mark 14:21 are chilling: “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

The thief on the cross, on the other hand, was a career criminal—a serious enough villain that he had been sentenced to die by the slowest, most painful form of capital punishment known to man. He’s called a robber in Matthew 27:38—the Greek word there speaks of a brigand or a highwayman. He was crucified with a partner—both had been slated to be executed along with Barabbas, an insurrectionist and killer (Luke 23:18–19). All of that indicates that the thief on the cross was part of a gang of cutthroat ruffians who stole by violence and lived by no law but their own passions. He was clearly vicious, mean-spirited, and aggressive because in the early hours of the crucifixion, both he and his cohort in crime were taunting and reviling Jesus along with the mocking crowd (Matthew 27:44).

But as that thief watched Jesus die silently—“oppressed . . . afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7)—the hardened criminal had a remarkable last-minute change of heart. Literally in the dying moments of his wretched earthly life, he confessed his sin (Luke 23:41), uttered a simple prayer: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42)—and was ushered that very day into paradise (Luke 23:43), clothed in perfect righteousness, all his guilt borne and paid for in full by Christ.

Apparent Injustice

Those who think heaven is a reward for doing good might protest that this was throwing justice out the window. The thief had done nothing whatsoever to merit heaven. If it’s possible to forgive such a man so completely in the dying moments of a wretched life filled with gross sin, wouldn’t it also be proper for Judas’s one act of treachery to be canceled (or mitigated) on the basis of whatever good works he had done while following Christ for three years? People do occasionally raise questions like that. The Internet is dotted with comments and articles suggesting Judas was dealt with unfairly or judged too harshly.

Judas himself seemed to be the type of person who kept score on such matters. He protested, for example, when Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with a costly fragrance. He knew the precise value of the ointment (equal to a year’s wages), and he complained, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” (John 12:5). He no doubt would have thought that the grace Jesus showed the thief was inappropriately extravagant as well.

People who have devoted their lives to religion do sometimes seem to resent it when God reaches out and graciously redeems someone whom they deem unworthy of divine favor.

Justice vs. Grace?

What we have to bear in mind is that all people are totally unworthy. No one deserves God’s favor. We are all guilty sinners who deserve nothing less than damnation. No one who has sinned has any rightful claim on the kindness of God.

Read the rest here.

Heads Roll

Heads Roll

By Pat Knight

When I was a little girl, playing with my dolls was a favorite pastime. Imagine the trauma I suffered when my doll’s head fell off! My Daddy was always willing and able to pop that doll’s head right back onto her shoulders again. I would go running to greet him at the end of his workday, hanging onto the two doll parts. He instinctively knew what would make a little girl’s heart happy, performing repairable doll surgery right before my eyes.

One day the three of us siblings were creating a loud verbal commotion inside our house. Our mother announced in measured tones, “I have a headache, and if you children don’t quiet down, my head is going to fall off.” Instantly, I envisioned a frightening mental picture of my mother’s head detached from her shoulders, just like my doll. So I was quick to assure her, “That’s all right, Mom, Daddy will put your head back on when he gets home tonight.” I remember confusion reigned when she broke into peals of laughter. This was not at all funny to me, but if she found humor in my remarks, maybe her headache would go away and we wouldn’t have to witness her head helplessly rolling off her shoulders.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
─1 Corinthians 1:3-4

Lessons the broken doll taught me prepared me for tragedies that would strike in my future lifetime, directing me where to turn for relief. Trusting my heavenly Father as the source of all help is the ultimate relationship the God desires all of us to enjoy with Him. He is the one “who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 1:4), the knowledge necessary to navigate this world and its trials. There is no problem too immense for our Lord to solve, no affliction too overpowering for Him to reverse, no grief too staggering for Him to comfort. God is our sufficiency, our answer to all of life’s difficulties.

Job was a broken man, but not defeated. He was declared “Blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1b). Yet one day he suddenly lost all of his livestock, wealth, and family. He was struck with a skin disease of overwhelming proportions. However, he persisted in trusting God. Job knew that “All things are possible with God” (Mark10:27). He was not into the mode of blaming God for his calamities. Job rationalized his steadfast hope: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”(Job 2:10). Job decided to choose victory, as God promised. He took the high road of deep faith that would not shatter during a personal crisis.

I didn’t understand how my Daddy fixed my doll, but I trusted that he would. More importantly, he took responsibility for his little girl’s happiness. Isn’t this the reaction God wants from us, that we trust Him for our delight and joy?

God loves us and wants us to put our confidence in Him as the source for all of our help and protection. “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save, He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

Jesus taught His disciples in parables, using common objects to convey extraordinary lessons. He will also find the best way to reach out to us with His truths, even if it involves a simple object like a toy. Nothing in this world escapes God’s service.

Trapped in My Own Mind – Three Lies Depression Loves

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

Trapped in My Own Mind –
Three Lies Depression Loves

By

I can’t live like this anymore!” I cried through sobs. “I just want to die!”

I sat on my bed and tried to make sense of what was going on inside. I was tired of the chronic pain, the frequent bouts of illness, and the weariness of dealing with my kids’ struggles. But what broke me was the torture of being a prisoner in my own mind. It took everything in me just to keep breathing, while part of me wished my breathing would just stop.

Oh, how I longed to be with Jesus — free from my aching body and broken mind. But I knew deep within me that my life was not my own and that the Lord must have a purpose for these days.

Constant Cloud

Zack Eswine captured my own inner reality — the constant cloud of depression — in his book Spurgeon’s Sorrows,

Painful circumstances . . . put on their muddy boots and stand thick, full weighted and heavy upon our tired chests. It is almost like anxiety tying rope around the ankles and hands of our breath. Tied to a chair, with the lights out, we sit swallowing in panic the dark air.

These kinds of circumstances . . . steal the gifts of divine love too, as if all of God’s love letters and picture albums are burning up in a fire just outside the door, a fire which we are helpless to stop. We sit there, helpless in the dark of divine absence, tied to this chair, present only to ash and wheeze, while all we hold dear seems lost forever. We even wonder if we’ve brought this all on ourselves. It’s our fault. God is against us. (18)

Depression can cloud our view of God, weigh down our spirits, distort reality, and tempt us to question all that we’ve known to be true. Sometimes, our depression is due to circumstances that have pounded us, wave upon wave, until we can no longer hold our heads above the water. Other times, it comes as a result of illness, as Charles Spurgeon writes, “You may be without any real reason for grief, and yet may be among the most unhappy of men because, for the time, your body has conquered your soul” (“The Saddest Cry from the Cross”).

In Good Company

If you have experienced this kind of darkness, you are in good company. Job, after initially responding with faith in the immediate aftermath of his loss, suddenly found himself walking in the valley of despair as his suffering continued:

“When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” (Job 7:13–16)

I thank God that he gives us a glimpse into the darkest days of Job’s life. Job’s story assures us that we aren’t alone in our battle with despair, and it offers us perspective when we struggle to feel God’s presence on our darkest days. Whether we are battling depression or trying to encourage someone who is, we must remember three truths in the face of depression’s lies.

1. Depression does not mean God is punishing you.

It’s easy to believe that our despair is a sign of God’s displeasure. Though at times we may feel the heavy hand of God upon us in order to draw us into repentance (Psalm 32:3–4), depression often fills our minds with lies, tempting us to believe that our feelings are an accurate reflection of our relationship with Christ.

Read the rest here.

True Happiness Begins with Knowing God

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

True Happiness Begins with Knowing God

By Randy Alcorn

Human history is the story of our desperate search for true and lasting happiness. Even those people who appear to “have it all” long for something more, and sadly, they often give up hope of ever finding contentment and joy.

In the midst of hopelessness, God offers the good news of his transforming grace, mercy, love, and eternal happiness: “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge” (Revelation 22:17, NET).

It’s the Lord Who Truly Satisfies

Our greatest needs and longings can be fulfilled only in God, the “fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Despairing people everywhere thirst for gladness, trying to derive it from sources that cannot ultimately satisfy. They eagerly drink from contaminated water surrounded by huge signs with neon letters flashing, “Fun and Happiness!”

Sometimes there’s no fun at all, and usually what little happiness there is quickly evaporates, leaving shame and regret. If the signs were accurate, they would warn, “Deadly Poison,” with the caveat underneath: “May taste good before it kills you.”

God laments the poor choices we make when searching for happiness: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

When we’re thirsty, we don’t look up “water” on Wikipedia. We don’t go to social media to find out what others say about water. We don’t drink out of the nearest puddle. Personally, I go to the faucet and satisfy my thirst by drinking some of the world’s best water from the Bull Run water system here in Oregon.

Similarly, in the spiritual realm, I find God to be pure, refreshing, and satisfying. My happiest days are when I drink most deeply of him. I also know that if I don’t drink of him, whatever else I drink from will leave me thirsty, dissatisfied, and sick.

George Whitefield wrote, “I drank of God’s pleasure as out of a river. Oh that all were made partakers of this living water.”

Most Offers of Happiness Are Fraudulent

Jonestown was a socialist community and cult in South America. In 1978, after murdering a US congressman and four others, Jim Jones gathered his cult members, who had relocated from the United States to Guyana, and served them a grape-flavored drink laced with cyanide. He killed himself and 912 of his followers.

Read the rest here.