Monday, April 30, 2012

God's Creation

Four year old Zoey is fascinated by caterpillars. She has to stop and pet every one she sees, which makes a walk down the driveway a safari. She likes ladybugs too. And she stops to listen when she hears a rooster crow. She knows who made the caterpillars, lady bugs and roosters and she knows He made her too. Zoey loves God’s creation. His name fills her world and when I look, I see it too: in the ducks on the pond, the deer prints in the mud, the bear crossing the road, the sun shining through the trees, the red sunset, the surf on the beach.

I have my own little part of that creation to care for. I get to plant flowers and watch them bloom. I get to watch the hummingbirds hover around my feeder. His glory and majesty grow in my yard. 

The sky has always been one of my favorite parts of creation, especially the night sky when I can see the millions of stars. I love it on a clear day too, when it’s the bluest blue and goes on forever. When I was a teen, my friends thought I was pretty self-centered when I told them that God made the sky for me. What I tried to make them understand is that He made it for them too. What made me stand in awe was that the creator of all that beauty thinks of me.

But He’s not just here in the earth. His glory is higher than the heavens. It fills the earth and goes beyond it; it’s bigger than creation. I marvel at the part of the earth I see, but He’s beyond that. I can only try to imagine Him. 

So how can He even care about little me? Why should I matter to Him? I’m just one small part of His huge creation. Yet He made me in His image.

When I forget how much He loves me and start to feel sorry for myself, I can go outside and take in the beauty of His creation. Then I’ll forget myself and say with the Psalmist:

 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Honor of His Name

One of my favorite parts of teaching is the small group presentation I assign halfway through the semester. By then the students have gotten to know each other a little, so they are comfortable working together. I give each group an assignment and time to work on it in class. The energy in the room is high, but it is focused on the tasks I’ve given them. Their conversation has a purpose. I walk around observing the groups, and although I don’t take notes of what is happening, I’m aware of the group dynamics.

I think God observes us like that. When we get together for fellowship, He watches and listens. Jesus said that when two or three of us gather in His name, He’s there with us (Matthew 18:20). I think He likes watching us. He takes notes of who fears Him and who’s thinking about the honor of His name.

The energy in a room of Christians is a lot more exciting than the energy I see in my student groups. Not only is Jesus present, but the Holy Spirit is dwelling in each of us. As we talk about God, the Spirit works in us to produce nothing less than worship. We usually start by talking about ourselves.

“How are you?” “Okay, but I could use prayer about . . .” “Miss … isn’t here because she’s hurting. Let’s pray for her.” 

And then we move on to tell how God has answered our prayers and all the awesome things He’s done for us.

“I saw the doctor last week and that problem had just disappeared.” “Praise the Lord, the loved one I’ve been praying for is coming around.”

So we thank Him and end by praising Him for who He is, not just for what He’s done. And that honors Him. It pleases Him when we think about the honor of His name. Our conversations, when they are Spirit filled, are about His name - who He is. He is loving, just, patient, kind and righteous.
That’s what we should talk about.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Truth, Justice, Righteousness

When Jeremiah prophesied to Judah, the country was prosperous but the people had turned away from God. Sound familiar? But God wasn’t ready to give up on them so He spoke through Jeremiah to warn them of the destruction that was coming and to beg them to repent and turn back to Him.

I don’t think America is in any way God’s chosen nation and I don’t think God’s warnings or promises to Israel apply to our country. But this scripture reveals what matters to God and that applies to all God’s people all the time. So these verses tell me something about what God wants from me (and all His people in America).

First, I can repent if I want to. I can throw away my detestable idols and return to God. This message starts with a call to deep soul searching and honest acknowledgement of the things I love more than I love God. Then I need to throw them out of my heart and return to Him, my first and only love.

Then God calls His people to swear by His name with truth, justice and righteousness. “As surely as the Lord lives,” is an acknowledgement that God exists. We are the people who tell the world that there is a God and that He is alive. He arose and lives in our hearts. But we also have to proclaim the message with truth, justice and righteousness.

Truth – When I say He is God, I mean it. He is my creator, my savior and my sovereign. He rules all of my life; I submit it all to Him.
Justice – When I say He is God, I accept His judgment. What He does is good and right, even when I don’t understand. Even when I’m impatient. Even when I feel abandoned.
Righteousness – When I say He is God, I accept His holiness. He is perfect and spotless. He is the standard I measure myself against. I worship Him for His holiness and tremble in His presence because of it.
If they did these things, God promised Judah that they would be a blessing to the world and all people would praise His name. Jesus is Israel’s blessing to the world. I know He will bless my little world with Jesus when I’m faithful to Him too. And the ones I love in that world will praise His name.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dear Readers,
After taking some time off, I'm once again sharing my meditations on God's Word with you. But I have realized that I'm not able to keep up with daily posts, so I plan to only post three days a week. As always, I pray that God will use my thoughts to bless you.
Love, Phee

Free From Controversy

In my mind, a hymn is a traditional song I sang in church when I was a kid. Choruses are songs I sang during Sunday School, chapel or devotions. Anything newer than that is contemporary Christian music – some of it popular, some of it worship. I know my definitions aren’t accurate and they date me, but they undergird my attitudes about Christian music.

That’s not always a good thing. It shames me to think back to my responses whenever the music style in church has been changed. At times I feel like that grumpy old woman who complains about change. There are plenty of new songs that I love. But, in general, I don’t like contemporary Christian music, probably because I don’t like the style of most popular music. The older I get, the more I love the music of my childhood.

The shameful thing about it is that I take my attitude toward music into church with me. I’m critical of the music I don’t like and if I don’t submit that attitude to the Lord, I become critical of the people who choose it, lead it and love it. And then I find myself talking about it and them. It taints my worship.

Prayer should be free from anger and controversy.

Prayer is talking to God. When I’m in His house I should remember I’m talking to Him and worshipping Him. It’s not about the style of worship or the people who have different tastes from me. It’s us talking to Him together. My part is to set it all aside and join them in prayer – even if the way they pray annoys me. 

Music is only one of the things that happens in church. There are so many things that we Christians can find to dislike about it. The order of service, the sermon, the offering, the leadership, the Sunday School, the curtains, the bathrooms . . . Criticize it and you’ll find yourself getting upset, even angry. Talk about it and you’ll stir up controversy.

Instead, we should pray. Raise our holy (redeemed, forgiven, sanctified) hands to God and remember we’re standing with His people, in His house, worshipping Him.