Have You Praised God Today?

Sunflowers SunsetPraise God for a beautiful day.
Praise God for creating family.
Praise God for my health and ability.
Praise God for His awesome creation.
Praise God for protection and sustenance.
Praise God for my gifts and talents.
Praise God for opportunities to serve.

And MORE THAN THAT…

Praise God for turning away His anger from me!
Praise God for forgiving my sins.
Praise God for comforting me.
Praise God for His mercy through Jesus’ blood.
Praise God for His guidance through His word.
Praise God for the joy set before me.
Praise God for the peace which passes understanding.
Praise God for the love and unity among my brethren.
Praise God for the hope of eternal life.

Gorgeous LandscapeYou will say in that day:

“I will give thanks to You, O LORD,
for though You were angry with me,
Your anger turned away,
that You might comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
and He has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the LORD,
call upon His name,
make known His deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that His name is exalted.
Sing praises to the LORD, for He has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy,
O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

(Isaiah 12)

Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

Don’t you love it when you discover an outstanding Bible passage you just didn’t remember studying before? Last week I stumbled upon Job 28. May I share some thoughts from that chapter?

Gold MineJob has been debating with his three friends in chapters 3-27, and 28 is a continuation of Job’s reasoning. The main question of the chapter arrives in verses 12 and 20, but watch how Job builds up to the question in verses 1-11:

1     “Surely there is a mine for silver, And a place where gold is refined.
2      Iron is taken from the earth,
And copper is smelted from ore.
3      Man puts an end to darkness,
And searches every recess
For ore in the darkness and the shadow of death.
4      He breaks open a shaft away from people;
In places forgotten by feet
They hang far away from men;
They swing to and fro.
5      As for the earth, from it comes bread,
But underneath it is turned up as by fire;
6      Its stones are the source of sapphires,
And it contains gold dust.
7      That path no bird knows,
Nor has the falcon’s eye seen it.
8      The proud lions have not trodden it,
Nor has the fierce lion passed over it.
9      He puts his hand on the flint;
He overturns the mountains at the roots.
10   He cuts out channels in the rocks,
And his eye sees every precious thing.
11   He dams up the streams from trickling;
What is hidden he brings forth to light.

Ancient PathsBy gorgeous imagery, Job transports us into the recesses of the earth, into the mines, into the center of the rock. What does man find hidden there in the darkness? He finds precious things, gold, silver, iron, glittering jewels, sparkling dust.

What’s the point, Job? We read on…

12    “But where can wisdom be found?
        And where is the place of understanding?
13    Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.
14    The deep says, ‘It is not in me’;
And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15    It cannot be purchased for gold,
Nor can silver be weighed for its price.
16    It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
In precious onyx or sapphire.
17    Neither gold nor crystal can equal it,
Nor can it be exchanged for jewelry of fine gold.
18    No mention shall be made of coral or quartz,
For the price of wisdom is above rubies.
19    The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
Nor can it be valued in pure gold.
20    “From where then does wisdom come?
        And where is the place of understanding?

WisdomVerses 12 and 20 create an inclusio, which is a section bracketed by two nearly identical statements. The twin statements expose the main point of the section: “Where can wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?”

We brilliant humans can search and find so many wonderful, valuable, precious items hidden in the earth…but can we find wisdom in all those places? Man doesn’t even know the value of wisdom–it cannot be measured like gold or silver. You cannot find wisdom in the ocean, you cannot purchase wisdom from a merchant, and you cannot measure wisdom’s value using any earthly economic system.

So, Job reiterates, from where does wisdom come? The answer challenges many:

21    It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
And concealed from the birds of the air.
22    Destruction and Death say,
‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’
23    God understands its way,
        And He knows its place.
24    For He looks to the ends of the earth,
And sees under the whole heavens,
25    To establish a weight for the wind,
And apportion the waters by measure.
26    When He made a law for the rain,
And a path for the thunderbolt,
27    Then He saw wisdom and declared it;
He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out.
28    And to man He said,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
        And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”

Wisdom is hidden from mankind. There is a wisdom which comes with age and experience, but not the wisdom which Job seeks: the wisdom of the ages, the rock-solid truth, the understanding of life. That wisdom is hidden from all the living. In fact, those irresistible forces of nature, Destruction and Death, have only heard rumors about wisdom!

God's PaintingGod understands wisdom. Of course He does! Being the Creator of this life, He surely knows how this life operates! He sees and establishes everything. He’s the one who created the physical laws in the first place. Even wisdom He spoke into being.

But God not only understands wisdom, He gracefully reveals wisdom to us! He says to man, “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.”

Apart from God’s revelation, man cannot be truly wise. The most learned scientist, the most widely-traveled archaeologist, the most introspective guru among men still has not found wisdom until he opens up the word of God and examines what God has actually revealed about man and about Himself. In His word we find truth and wisdom, those things which are hidden from mankind.

Does that fill you with excitement? Isn’t that brilliant? Doesn’t that make you want to dig into God’s book and share it with your children? That’s the way I feel, too!

Let us fear the Lord, our Maker. Let us depart from evil. Therein lies wisdom.

God and State-of-Being Verbs

In my homeschool group we recently discussed a simple sentence:

“He is in the car.”

First, we remove prepositional phrases before we figure out the main sentence pattern, and in this case we removed “in the car” which left “He is.” Someone insisted that couldn’t be right–how can “He is” stand alone as a sentence? It didn’t seem to make good sense.

Divine CreationMy mind immediately jumped back to Exodus 3.6 where God introduced Himself: “I am the God of Abraham…” A little later in Moses’ fearful discussion with God, he asked God how He would like to be introduced to Israel. God responded with, “I AM WHO I AM…Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exod. 3.13-14).

I would never say “Nathan is” without a greater context. Maybe if someone asked, “Who is hungry?” I might answer, “Nathan is,” or in the first person, “I am.” But you understand I’m saying “Nathan is hungry,” “I am hungry.” There would be a qualification after the state-of-being verb to tell you just what I am.

A well-known maxim goes thus: “I think, therefore I am,” expressing in a cute, philosophical way our existence. But we know there was I time when we were not, and there is coming a time when we will not be on this earth and in this body.

In the BeginningGod is (of course) totally unique and different from us! We CAN say simply “He is.” He just is. He exists. The state-of-being verb simply says God exists, and that’s all there is to it. Is there a greater context? There is NO greater context than Him!

This is why the Jews became so upset with Jesus in John 8.57-59 when they asked Jesus, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus responded, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” In this way, Jesus identified Himself with God, nay, as God. Understandably, the Jews attempted to stone Him for that, not stopping to really ponder the ramifications of His words or His mighty deeds.

God is. Jesus is. The Holy Spirit is. Together, they are the One “who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev. 1.4, 8; 4.8), “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1.8), “the first and the last” (Rev. 1.17; 2.8), “the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22.13), “the living God, enduring forever” (Dan. 6.26), “the Ancient of Days” (Dan. 7.9), who has always been from “in the beginning” (John 1.1; Gen. 1.1).

We began. God instigated our beginning. He had no beginning and will have no end. He is the great singular cause of all things.

He is!

Holy Child–Awesome God!

Shepherds wonder at the sceneThe Holy Child, both God and man even in His infancy. A song our church loves to sing contains the line: “Hands that lighted the evening stars reach out for comfort in Mary’s arms.” Who can comprehend God’s awesome condescension to His people–how the Divine became flesh?

Against that thought, this passage in Isaiah struck me with extra force today, as I pondered my Lord Jesus lying in the manger. Isaiah 40.10-31 speaks of who He IS and how silly it is to compare Him to impotent and ridiculous idols.

May this passage bless you today. Make sure you read the ending!

10      Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him.
11      He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.

12      Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
Measured heaven with a span
And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?
Weighed the mountains in scales
And the hills in a balance?
13      Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has taught Him?
14      With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him,
And taught Him in the path of justice?
Who taught Him knowledge,
And showed Him the way of understanding?

15      Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
16      And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,
Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.
17      All nations before Him are as nothing,
And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.

18      To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare to Him?
19      The workman molds an image,
The goldsmith overspreads it with gold,
And the silversmith casts silver chains.
20      Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution
Chooses a tree that will not rot;
He seeks for himself a skillful workman
To prepare a carved image that will not totter.

21      Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22      It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
23      He brings the princes to nothing;
He makes the judges of the earth useless.

24      Scarcely shall they be planted,
Scarcely shall they be sown,
Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth,
When He will also blow on them,
And they will wither,
And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble.

25      “To whom then will you liken Me,
Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.
26      Lift up your eyes on high,
And see who has created these things,
Who brings out their host by number;
He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power;
Not one is missing.

27      Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
28      Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29      He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30      Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31      But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Fearing God Isn’t Common Sense

Marker FaceWhy should my three-year-old not use the permanent markers to illustrate his room, his bed, and himself? Isn’t it common sense?!

Why should my nine-year-old not ram her bicycle into the back of the toddler’s tricycle in order to push him along? Isn’t it common sense?

Why should my older boys take baths more than twice a month? Isn’t it common sense?

Why shouldn’t that teenage driver blow through the stop sign in front of my house? You’d think it would be common sense.

How could anybody with a brain vote for [you fill in the blank]? It should be common sense, right?

Perhaps what I think is common isn’t so common after all. When the country is divided in half over which candidate is best, where does common sense leave us? I have a sense and you have a sense about what is right, and if our senses don’t agree, can we really follow the rule of common sense?

Just Believe in Your DreamsThe spirit of the age is “follow your heart,” “do what feels right,” and “go with your gut.” As Luke Skywalker flew his X-Wing over the Death Star towards his tiny target, he heard the ghost of Obi Wan urge, “Trust your feelings, Luke.”

New Age religions are not really new. They are based on ancient philosophies. Buddha taught that divinity is within, and you find true enlightenment through your own experiences. Truth is found within yourself.

The Bible teaches the opposite. Truth is external and must be taught, coming from the Supreme and Sovereign God, Creator, Sustainer, Savior. God created us, and we are not Him. He speaks to us through His word, through His Son Jesus.

Wisdom is not something that just comes through experience, but true wisdom comes from fearing God. Notice the following from Proverbs:

1.29      Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the LORD,
1.30      They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.

8.13      The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverse mouth I hate.

9.10      The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

15.33    The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom,
And before honor is humility.

Read the BibleWhat is fearing the Lord? It’s listening to and obeying Him! It’s setting aside your common sense and relying on God’s sense, which may sometimes not make sense to you. It’s relying on something outside yourself–God’s word–to determine your destiny, your path, your goals.

Man’s “common sense” can become his way of following his own authority and rejecting God’s. I must teach my children not to rely on their common sense but to constantly ask, “What would God have me do? How does God discern this situation?”

The Jews in Thessalonica were called NOBLE because “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17.11). They didn’t blindly accept Paul’s preaching; they verified it through studying God’s word, which was their ultimate and final guide. It didn’t matter that Paul’s preaching made sense to them or not; they double checked. If they determined the teaching to be from God, they followed it.

Man’s philosophies often make sense to us, and sometimes we accept them because they sound reasonable. But that doesn’t mean they are right. God declares what is right and wrong, and we don’t really have a say in the matter! He’s the one who rules; we don’t.

Fearing God isn’t common sense these days. But it’s still the way to true wisdom.

Lindie’s Last Resort

Tired WomanLindie’s marriage had been crumbling slowly over the past three years, ever since her husband Charles had decided to take a high-profile and demanding position at a local law firm. Slowly, their time for walking in the neighborhood, holding hands, and reading together in the evenings evaporated. She had suspected for a while that he’d been unfaithful, but she couldn’t prove it.

Her job was wearing her thin, as her boss continued to pile on extra responsibility with little extra pay. No longer did she covet the corporate life; now she just wanted to stay home and rest for a while, but Charles insisted she hold out for just a little while longer until they were financially sound. When will that be? she wondered. When will he be ready to have the kids we talked about before we married?

One weekend the perfect storm seemed to be brewing, as her overbearing boss demanded she finish a project over the weekend, her husband texted that he’d be flying to Chicago for a weekend work thing, and a sore throat was coming on. Life was the pits.

Lindie decided to call Sally, a spiritually-minded friend from church, and ask her to meet at a nearby Starbucks. Sally arrived to find Lindie almost in tears.

“What’s going on?” she asked, concern ringing in her tone.

Starbucks meetingLindie proceeded to unload her worries, concerns, and headaches right out on that little Starbucks table. As she unpacked each one, Sally felt more and more deeply the weight of Lindie’s life situation. Finally, Lindie took a breath.

“How long have you been keeping all this bottled up?” Sally asked. Lindie managed a small shrug. “Lindie, you don’t need to carry all this yourself!”

“I know. But Charlie–”

“I’m not talking about Charlie right now; I’m talking about me and the church! That’s what we’re here for, Lindie. And I’m talking about God. Have you shared any of this with Him?”

That question startled Lindie. In fact, she was surprised at herself. She had not even thought to pray about this for quite some time. Maybe she didn’t want to bother God with her situation. Maybe she felt it would reveal her weakness, her failure as a wife and a woman, to have to ask God for help in this. She felt like it was her duty to deal with all of it because it was her life.

“No,” she finally admitted, “I haven’t. But I now see I should. I suppose my life has finally come to the point where all I can do is pray.”

Sally smiled at her friend, but her head was gently shaking from side to side. “No, Lindie, I want to show you something.” She opened her purse and pulled out a small Bible, flipping to the middle. “Here it is. Psalm 103. I just read it this morning:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

After a pause, Sally asked, “Does it sound to you like David’s prayer here was a prayer of last resort?”

Bible and Pen“What do you mean?”

“You just said it seems like all you have left is prayer–like it’s your last resort. Does it sound like David prayed that way?”

“I guess not,” Lindie admitted. “But what’s your point?”

Sally looked into Lindie’s eyes. “I think you haven’t been talking to God about your life at all, Lindie. You are walking this life as if you have the power to figure everything out all by yourself and bear the whole load all by yourself…and God never intended for you to live like that! If you read the rest of Psalm 103, you find out that God loves His people very much.” Sally began scanning the chapter again. “He does not deal with us according to our sins. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust.

“Doesn’t that make you swell up with just little bit of pride in God? Doesn’t that make you want to love Him?”

Lindie had to admit those ancient words did cause a certain swelling of joy in her heart. As she listened to her friend read, she began to realize how small she was…and how BIG God is.

There would be much more conversation between the two friends, but that moment served as a catalyst to begin changing her thinking. She shouldn’t just pray to God when things seemed the worst, when the night was darkest, when she had no alternative. She had been walking a lonely and (she had to admit) sinful walk by keeping her Creator at arms length. She began to see how much she needed God every single day, every step of the way, in both the bad times and the good. And God really did care about her. Her! Not because she was so special, but because God is so awesomely kind and merciful!

Indeed, bless His holy name! she thought to herself, feeling hope.

This World’s Greatest Problem

Carbon EmissionsBill Gates recently gave out his annual letter in which he and his wife focus on the superpowers they would like to have. Bill would like the power to grant the world more energy, and Melinda would like to grant the world more time.

Quotes Bill:

If I could have just one wish to help the poorest people, it would be to find a cheap, clean source of energy to power our world.

I actually love most of what he writes in this letter; it certainly touches my heart as he describes poverty-stricken countries. But something about the letter leaves me with an empty feeling–maybe it’s just me? As I read through, a gaping hole presents itself.

How does Mr. Gates solve problems? He explains:

Whenever I’m confronted with a big problem I turn to my favorite subject: math. It’s one subject that always came naturally to me, even in middle school when my grades weren’t that great. Math cuts out the noise and helps me distill a problem down to its basic elements.

Earth SunsetThe problem is here exposed: the Achilles heel of our modern-day, solutions-oriented scientist. He leaves a major factor out of the equation because it’s a factor which math cannot contain or describe. He leaves out the infinite power and creative ability of the Creator and God who continues to work with this planet and its pathetic people!

God, the designer of mathematics and order, has the unique ability to turn mathematics on its head, which, perhaps, explains why many “reasonable” people refuse to accept Him. He exists outside the bounds of our test tubes and micrometers and advanced calculus. And He can change things!

Gates insists “we need an energy miracle” and

When I say “miracle,” I don’t mean something that’s impossible. I’ve seen miracles happen before. The personal computer. The Internet. The polio vaccine.

There is such a thing as a miracle, but none of those things is it!

The great moral question of our day seems to address how we eradicate poverty. Tellingly, God never poses that question to us. He presents, as the world’s most destructive and pressing problem, man’s sinful heart. “Follow Me,” God says, “and I will bless you. Follow your own paths, and I will curse you.” The world will not burn up because we made poor energy choices. The world is damned because we refuse to acknowledge the Creator of all things!

Earth from SpaceGod gave us dominion over this earth, but we must recognize Him as the Creator of all things! This is His world; we are but stewards, trustees.

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1.29)

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8.3-9)

Let us exercise our dominion appropriately, and let us not forget the God who gave us dominion in the first place! Praise the Creator, for He is awesome and good! Only then we will be blessed indeed.