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It Didn’t Stop Then

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Photo by Rakib Hasan from Pexels

 

One of the stories that has captivated us for thousands of years is the creation story. We mull over how it builds from the opening lines in Genesis when God speaks light into existence. That alone boggles the mind − in the midst of vast darkness, He spoke and light was born. But of course he didn’t stop there. One thing after another that we take for granted and barely notice is spoken into existence. His final creation was to “make” man and set him in the midst of the wonders He spoke into existence.

 

Most of us know how that story continues with his creation of Eve and all they are blessed to experience and do. How staggering the privilege of naming the animals. Did the naming process include naming the trees, flowers, and other vegetation?

 

apple-apple-tree-branch-52517After the upending of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they disobey God about eating from just one tree in the center of the garden, we tend to think the creation story ends. Perhaps it is a bit like the “fade out” a director creates in a movie.

 

But it didn’t stop back then.

 

How could this be a truth we miss?

 

While reading a commentary by Douglas K. Stuart on the book of Exodus, my attention was arrested with these words:

 

“The common but incorrect notion that the creation story is to be found only in the first chapters of Genesis misses the fact that the biblical picture of creation is one of ongoing creation, starting with Adam and Eve, continuing with human society in general, continuing further with Noah and the patriarchs, then with the nation Israel and many of its institutions, and culminating in the new creation (Isa. 65:17) in which all who truly place faith in Christ are recreated.”

 

After reading this I can be tempted to say that of course that makes sense, but somehow it never resonated even if it crossed my mind at some point.

 

But don’t we miss it in so many ways along the way to that day Isaiah speaks of?

 

In the northern hemisphere autumn is approaching and harvesting of many of the latest crops is taking place. When those seeds and plants were placed in the ground months ago and began to spring into life, did we miss that it was creation in action?

 

Did we miss it in the spring when the robin’s eggs cracked open with new life?animal-animal-photography-avian-2400030

 

You may be thinking that nothing new has been created, but consider that each human being is a unique creation. Each litter of puppies or kittens is a collection of mixed new creatures. Identical twins are still unique even though sharing the same DNA.

 

Add to that the truth that when God works through any human He created and some new thing is discovered that He left for us to stumble upon, it’s an expansion of creation. His imagination is evident every time a new star is discovered, a new cure is developed, or a new musical composition is written.

 

He designed us to be creative because He made us in his own image and He is arguably the Creative Genius behind all of creation.

 

We do not speak worlds into existence, but every time we speak our words bring life or death.

 

What are we creating?

 

Imagine all that lies ahead until God’s final masterpiece:

 

17 “See, I will create
 new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
 nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
 in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
 and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
 and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
 will be heard in it no more.

20 “Never again will there be in it
 an infant who lives but a few days,
 or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred
 will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach a hundred
 will be considered accursed.
21 They will build houses and dwell in them;
 they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
 or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
 so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
 the work of their hands.
23 They will not labor in vain,
 nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the Lord,
 they and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
 while they are still speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
 and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
 and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
 on all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord.

Isaiah 65:17-25 (NIV)

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Photo by Cosmic Timetraveler on Unsplash

Divine Delays

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Twice this week I was delayed on my way to meet someone. Traffic, construction, getting lost and missing a turn, and once leaving a few minutes after my plan of action were the reasons. But I really don’t know if there was something else at work that was for my good even though I really hate being late.

 

Sometimes a delay is just what life hands me, but sometimes there is a purpose I may discover later because that has happened to me. More often I don’t find out the cause. Delays and waiting reveal my frustration about the lack of control I have over so many things. They can also expose a bit of demandingness I really don’t want to see.

 

This week as I was reading in Exodus I was reminded once again of the delays the Israelites experienced on their way out of Egypt. After 430 years they were leaving behind the only culture they had ever known. Joseph was long dead and the favor these people had known during his lifetime had disappeared into torturous conditions of slavery. A careful reading of the early chapters of Exodus gave me a glimpse of how cautious they might have been to risk trusting this Moses who showed up promising God was going to deliver them.

 

Many of these people would likely have lost a sense of the identity they had before Egypt offered them safety through Joseph’s favor with Pharaoh. Even in the worst conditions, Egypt was home.

 

The plagues had decimated the Egyptians and the wariness of what response might come against them, I would think they were thinking it was time to get on the road to the land Moses said was promised to them. Little did they realize how long the trek would be − 40 years − or why God would take the long route to get there.

 

Most would not have considered it a divine delay, but it was.

 

The Israelites had a great deal to learn. Not only was their identity tied to the Egyptian culture, but also their thinking. These people undoubtedly saw themselves as victims to the tyranny of what was then the greatest political-military-economic power of that time. They were also heading into the wilderness where those people groups already inhabiting the land would oppose them and knew how to fight and had experience in battle against other cultures. As oppressed people, the Israelites had no experience with weapons nor did they own them.

 

After the plagues the Israelites would think (or assume) that God would not only go before them, but also make a smooth trek of it. If He was good and powerful and had demonstrated that during the plagues, those ideas would not be surprising. Fair enough, but they didn’t really know Him or what his plan was.

 

Douglas K. Stuart in a commentary on Exodus notes this:

 

“God was at work to bring his people to a right relationship with him and to teach them dependence on his provision for them. He was shaping and educating them, allowing them to learn (frequently the hard way since that is all too often the only way people really learn a lesson) what it meant to trust him in all sorts of situations.

In addition he was treating them in a way that has always been difficult for people to accept: he was not telling them everything they wanted to know. He told them what they needed to know in order to receive his salvation.”

 

Yikes! Here we are all these years later and those are still lessons most of us are trying to learn.

 

We want to know where and He tells us He will go with us. We want to know when and He says “in due season.” We want to know what and He says “I am with you always.”

 

The delays are still one of the ways God is educating us, shaping us, teaching us about Him and also ourselves along the way. He has told us what we need to know, but He wants us to learn to trust Him in all sorts of situations, to discover his goodness and provision, his faithfulness, and our dependence on Him.

 

The Bible is rich with promises to remind us of those truths:

 

“His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you.
You can run under his covering of majesty and hide.
His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm.”

Psalm 91:4 (TPT)

 

“We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust him more, for along with every trial God has provided for you a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously.”

1 Corinthians 10:13 (TPT)

 

“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. 39 There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!”

Romans 8:38-39 (TPT)

 

God’s delays have a purpose.

 

He is not random.

 

He is utterly consistent, but He didn’t promise us a short easy route after we accepted Him any more than He did the Israelites as they were leaving Egypt for a better land.

 

He did promise to never leave us or forsake us, to lean into Him and trust Him, to come to know Him more intimately, and to grow our character to look more like Christ.

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Photo by Gabriela Palai from Pexels

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temptation That Often Captures Us

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Photo by Chevanon Photography from Pexels

 

It can happen so easily and so routinely that we rarely consider how it is a temptation that erodes God’s truth to us about ourselves. We may even know it is something we should not fall prey to yet again, but often we do. And I sometimes think it is one that is especially designed for each of us by the enemy of our souls.

 

What is the temptation of all the choices that might be running through your mind?

 

Comparison.

 

I am not sure if it comes with our DNA or if it develops before we are more than a few hours old following birth.

 

All those developmental marks the hospital looks for and then all the milestones of those first few years result in comparisons being made. Sometimes it happens in the doctor’s office where we learn this precious child of ours is “below average” or “above average” in height or weight. Maybe they creep earlier or later and on and on it goes. The doctor’s office is giving information that is important to have, but it does result in a comparison and that comparison then shows up in conversations between other moms and dads and grandparents as they share the news.

 

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Pixabay

It’s funny how the comparison starts from something called “average,” a word that is supposed to be neutral and yet automatically sounds like it is “less than” we want or hope if that is where the child or we fall. It happens more easily now than it may have at one time because being “the best” or “above average” is what most of us hope for or want.

 

That gets reinforced over and over again as we start school, begin a new sport or musical instrument, or watch or listen to any commercial or ad on any device we may have or hear while sitting in an office somewhere.

 

Those comparisons start being used to estimate worth or value and that results in us internalizing them. Even when we are very young, we don’t need people to tell us what we have already told ourselves about where we stand in any given assessment.

 

And what are we really comparing ourselves to?

 

What does average really mean and when did it seem like not enough?

 

Wherever the standard comes from, it becomes a part of our self-assessment. It can be easy to decide we are either “less than” or “better than” someone else (or even a group) for some skill or characteristic.

 

The result isn’t very pretty. We can become proud and see ourselves as better than someone or others or we can go to the opposite side of that dreaded word “average” and believe we are deficient and of little worth, so we are tempted to stop trying.

 

When we stop trying, we don’t bother to study as much as we can or should because we don’t think we can pass the tests anyway. We don’t try out for the team or musical because we don’t think we will be chosen. We don’t start exercising or watching what we eat to lose the extra weight because we will fail again. And the list goes on and on.

 

The temptation is significant, and it is unlikely any of us (no matter what our age, gender, education, or socioeconomic status) have not succumbed to this.

 

Paul addresses this very thing in 2 Corinthians 10;12 (ESV):

 

“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”

 

The Passion Translation (TPT) of that same verse reads this way:

 

“Of course, we wouldn’t dare to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with those who rate themselves so highly. They compare themselves to one another and make up their own standards to measure themselves by, and then they judge themselves by their own standards. What self-delusion!”

 

The truth is that the One who created us is the only good judge to determine our worth.

 

It is He and He alone who has designed us for a purpose and a place. He and He alone is qualified to determine how we are doing what He has called us to be and do.

 

If you question that it might be good to revisit Psalm 139:13-17 (TPT):

 

“You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside
and my intricate outside,
and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.
14 I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking.
It simply amazes me to think about it!
How thoroughly you know me, Lord!
15 You even formed every bone in my body
when you created me in the secret place,
carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something.
16 You saw who you created me to be before I became me!
Before I’d ever seen the light of day,
the number of days you planned for me
were already recorded in your book.
17 Every single moment you are thinking of me!
How precious and wonderful to consider
that you cherish me constantly in your every thought!”

 

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Creation Through Rob’s Lens

 

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So, it’s been said a picture is worth a thousand words. That is perhaps never truer than when we are trying to describe God’s creation. Words at their finest barely scratch the surface of what we see in every area of creation. If you doubted before the first manned spacecraft orbited the earth, you didn’t doubt as the beauty of the earth turning in space was captured by a camera lens for us to view for the first time.

 

One of the blessings in my life is a friend, Rob Blair, who is a professional photographer as well as a worship leader in his church. He took the photo and designed the cover of the book I wrote, Bring Me A Vision.

 

When I see through his camera lens the beauty God allows him to capture there, I am sometimes transfixed by the awesomeness of our God.

 

After seeing several of his recent shots, I asked him if I could share them here with you. Enjoy this feast for your eyes and as you do, take time to linger with each one and don’t be surprised if you begin to worship the one who painted the scene you see through Rob’s lens.

 

Remember: No photos can be used or copied without Rob’s permission and if you want to learn more about his gift, go to: http://www.robertblairphotography.com

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“Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” Genesis 9:16 (NIV)

 

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“He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4 (NIV)

 

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By your words I can see where I’m going;
    they throw a beam of light on my dark path.” Psalm 119:105 (MSG)

 

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In the roar of Your waterfalls,
    ancient depths surge, calling out to the deep.” Psalm 42:7 (VOICE)

 

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“I know every bird in the mountains,
    and the insects in the fields are mine.” Psalm 50:11 (NIV)

 

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“He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.” Psalm 23:2-3 (NKJV)

 

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“As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1 (NIV)

 

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From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised. Psalm 113:3 (NIV)

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What’s Love Got to Do With It?

 

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In 1984 Tina Turner recorded the song, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”, and it soon reached the top of the music charts in the U.S. The lyrics of the pop hit linked the word ‘love’ as being only a “physical, second hand emotion” and added “who needs a heart when a heart can be broken”.

 

Somehow it seems for too many of us, we made the decision the lyrics were right and it was better to close off our hearts to prevent them from being broken or broken again. Long before a first opposite sex relationship, many of us had already experienced our hearts being broken when the love we hoped for never happened or was shattered by neglect or abuse. As life went along, more experiences happened that convinced some of us to build the walls around our hearts even higher.

 

But there was a problem.

 

We were designed and created by a loving God who placed within us a capacity for and a desire for love that is as essential to us as breathing.

 

The design was first for our relationship with Him since we were created in His likeness. It was also designed to share and experience with others. The absence of it and the accompanying emptiness was a pain we did not tolerate well, so we looked for other things to fill it or blunt the pain. Those choices ultimately led us in paths that took us into greater difficulty.

 

I love the words J. Kevin Butcher used to describe that in Choose and Choose Again:

 

In days gone by, industrial site cleanup experts tried to deal with toxic water waste by putting dangerous chemicals and materials in steel drums and burying them deep beneath the surface of the ground. That was fine until twenty or thirty years down the road when the drums began to leak and spilled the deadly waste into the ground water, poisoning everyone and everything within its reach. The same is true for our pain. We might be able to store it away or hide it in a secret place in our hearts for a while. But eventually our hearts begin to leak, and our un-grieved pain and loss spills out into our lives and relationships, poisoning everyone and everything that matters to us. And that pain continues to poison us—and the shaming voices attached to the pain continue to shout—until the wound is grieved, lamented, and released into the hands of a caring, healing God.”

 

Too often we have believed the lie that God could not possibly love us when we have messed up yet again and we move away from Him rather than toward Him because we fear He may reject us. Sometimes that happens even though we know in our heads what the Word says about His love for us. Our hearts have sometimes been so closed off for so long we don’t even recognize it as the central issue.

 

I love what John Eldredge writes about that in Waking the Dead:

 

 “Without your heart you cannot hope to find God, for the heart is his dwelling place. If you ignore your heart, it’s like looking for him everywhere but home.”

 

 Because He is love and He resides in our hearts, love has everything to do with it!!! It is that very love we have turned aside from or never risked pursuing that is there to walk with us into the shattered places of our lives and heart to bring the healing we need. It is only when we risk doing that and turn toward Him and choose Him or choose Him again that we can begin to experience His love. And that is what equips us to be able to love others.

 

We need to confront the fear of God’s rejection of us when we turn toward Him. Unless we do, it will push us farther and farther away from Him.

 

J. Kevin Butcher describes what we need to understand about turning toward Him:

 

We run toward the kind of love that always comes for us because we know that kind of love is to at long last be secure enough to begin the healing process…”

 

Jesus would have us set aside the superficial and too often fake love of the songs that we hear on our devices that can never satisfy us or fill our hearts to overflowing no matter how perfect they sound. His love is so much beyond our imaginations to even fathom, but He wants us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” as the psalmist writes.

 

When we experience His love beyond believing it, everything changes.

 

“If we fall in love with Jesus, not only will nothing on this earth attract us, nothing on this earth will intimidate us.” (Ken Gire)

 

 What’s love got to do with it?

 

Everything.

 

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