Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thirty Birds Made Me See

Thirty Birds Made Me See
By Brenda Black

I never saw them until they bolted from behind a hedge row. Some of the wild turkeys escaped on speeding and spindly legs while others took to flight. Where seconds earlier there was silence along my gravel road, now there were thumping wings and chattering cries of turkey warning. I walked within 10 feet of thirty large birds and didn't know they were there until they were leaving. I thanked God as I caught glimpses of their rapid retreat and soaring escape.

Though I only saw them briefly, it was none-the-less impressive and exciting. It really doesn't take much to impress me, but God sure goes out of His way without my asking. Last night He painted a steel blue sky before the storm and boldly striped it's exit with an enormous rainbow as He ushered the clouds on their southbound trek. The grass today is one hundred shades of green from ample showers and sun-soaked days. A spider web glistens with dew and clings to barbed wire with remarkable tenacity under the damp load. Humming birds darted and hovered and dove in acrobatic maneuvers during the heavy downpours and I wondered how they were not dashed to the ground. No artist ever captures the penetrating colors from heaven. No seamstress has made a silk garment as equally fragile and resilient as the spider's web. Engineers feign to imitate the humming bird's incredible prowess with their man-made, modern aircraft. And these backyard observations are infinitesimal samples of God's far-reaching and fantastic works in nature.

More of His majestic artistry is detailed in Job 38-41 where God clearly distinguishes His supreme authority over all the earth. He makes it perfectly clear that man can take credit for none of it – the measurement of the sky, the limits of the seas, the warehouse where storms are kept or any of the magnificent creatures that roam this earth. One read through this list of the Lord's astounding feats of creation or a visit back to Genesis where it all began, will help us keep perspective that the place where we live is wholly a gift from God.

“Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were it's footing set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7) The answer: God and God alone.

So why is God mindful of mere mortals among all that He has made? It's for fellowship. “...our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3b) “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

I almost missed seeing the handiwork of God this morning on my walk. I took that as a wake-up call to not miss Him the rest of the day and a reminder that I need to look for Him every step of my life. Because, my Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ is also my big brother looking out for me as well as blessing me with this great big, fabulous world.

“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

“It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:

“'What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.'

“In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the Grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (Hebrews 2:1-11)

Like turkeys who stick together and flee danger, I want to cling to my Brother Christ and live under his protection and authority. What a beautiful walk it can be when we open our eyes to see the incredible plan God has for us on earth and in eternity!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Too Big for His Britches

Too Big for His Britches
By Brenda Black

Taylor Swift, at 19, swept the 2009 CMA awards with wins in every category for which she was nominated, including Female Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year for Fearless and Music Video of the Year for Love Story. Sure, she has a huge fan base from teeny boppers to grown men, even though most of her music is narrowly targeted. Sure, she got superstar endorsement from legendary George Strait or used the name of fellow country celebrity Tim McGraw in her lyrics to make a name for herself. But another country music icon, Wynonna Judd, dared to point out the obvious concerning the starlet's meteoric rise to success. Every entertainment blog, rag or gossip clutched Judd's newsy quote, first expressed in USA Today, and turned it into headlines around the world.

Judd told the reporter: "You want my honest comment? It's too much too soon. Time is God's way of keeping everything from happening at once. It's just too much of a good thing too soon. My thing is, being a home-school mum, I want kids to earn it, and I think some time...

"Now it's over coffee breaks, the success, almost. You have to play catch up... It's like the girl who wins an Oscar and she's under 20. What do you do from here?"

Maybe Wy espoused some wisdom – the kind of counsel a young King of Judah could have used a few thousand years ago.

“Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king...As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” (2 Chronicles 26:1,5)

Inexperienced Uzziah went to war, broke down walls, rebuilt and fortified towns. He built towers in the desert, dug cisterns for his extensive livestock herds. He enlisted the masses to work his fields and vineyards and was an affluent farmer. A massive and well-trained army backed him with the shields, spears, helmets, coats of armor, bows and sling stones provided by Uzziah himself. He designed machines for battle that could shoot arrows or hurl large stones. “His fame spread as far as the border of Egypt, because he had become very powerful.” (vs. 8b) “His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became too powerful.” (vs. 15b)

It was going superbly until...Uzziah got to big for his britches! “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the Lord followed him in. They confronted him and said, 'It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord God.'

“Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord's temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead...King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house – leprous, and excluded from the temple of the Lord.” (2 Chron. 26:16-26 selected)

Big price to pay for big britches don't you think! What is most alarming is the arrogant audacity to rage at the priests in the Lord's temple! Uzziah had placed himself haughtily above both man and GOD. He forgot it was the Lord who elevated him to royal standing, who enlarged his territory and strengthened his hands. It was God who gave him military intelligence and farming knowhow.

It took 80 brave, godly men to stand up to one pompous, out-of-control king. Uzziah gravely erred when he forgot it was the true King who grants success and He can take it away just as fast! Yep, wailing Wynonna could have saved unruly Uzziah a whole lot of trouble, if he had listened to her council to take it slow and stay humble. The only true success that will last is granted by God in His time to those who glorify the Lord instead of themselves.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Real Remedy for What Ails You

From an infomercial the syncopated rise and fall of a smooth talking spokesmodel begins her spiel. “Are you tired? Stressed? Feel like the world is falling apart all around you? Do you go to sleep worried and wake up even more weary?” The droning turns to drumming. “INTRODUCING A REVOLUTIONARY REMEDY TO GIVE YOU PEACE OF MIND AND NO MORE WORRY! TRY DR. SPOZ' LIQUID MAGIC. JUST TWO DROPS A DAY DRIVES THE CARES AWAY!” Then a speed reader spews the following: “Side affects may include quickening of the pulse, loss of hair, urinary tract infection, ulcers, bleeding gums, loss of friends and money. Call today for a free sample of Dr. Spoz' Liquid Magic.” Yeah, Right!

We're looking for answers in all the wrong places and losing more than we gain when we believe that happy pills, government, economy, friends, celebrities and their wacky cults have the remedy. It's time to put our stock in God.

“Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,...” (Psalm 77:13-15a)

Yes, the One who parted seas and planted a nation centuries ago is the God who is still active and able to intervene in the hearts and minds and lives of today's people. So why don't we depend on Him more? Government can never replace God. Money will never amount to as much as the Almighty. No friend will ever be as faithful. And false religions are death traps of slavery. Until we realize God alone is our strength and our refuge, we will forever search for a rescuer. In so doing, we enslave ourselves to cruel worldly masters – but often do not see the deception until we're in too deep.

That was the case for the author of Gullibility Revisited – an essay penned by an anonymous ex-Scientologist.

“When I first came into scientology I simply hadn't developed much ability to identify and challenge basic assumptions. I hadn't learned well that a hypothesis can sound like a stroke of genius, but still turn out to be dead wrong when subjected to a test of proof, and that this applies to social and philosophical as well as 'physical' hypotheses. These things weren't taught well where I went to school. They still aren't taught that well as far as I know, despite the nominal move toward 'critical thinking.' Maybe it would cause too much pain and turmoil by threatening too many cherished ideologies to teach these things well to kids, but it would have helped me to avoid the scientology trap.

“Instead of identifying and challenging, I, like many others, made a horrific mistake. It seemed to make sense and to work for others, so I accepted it tentatively and decided to see if it would work for me. After all, this was the basic line being given out by the people promoting scientology to me at the time: 'You need it. It's the only thing that can solve your problems. Give it a try. See if it works for you!' At the time I sensed no danger. I didn't know that people could promote something false with such verve. I didn't know that some people could wildly exaggerate and falsify their experiences with such wholesome sincerity. I didn't see that I had anything to lose. After all, I thought, what's so bad about giving something a try and seeing if it works? If it doesn't work, won't I soon realize it and leave? But there are several reasons why this DOES NOT hold true in ultra-manipulative, genuinely evil groups like Scientology...

“Reason one: Scientology doesn't LET you 'see if it works.' Scientology needs people who will give it plenty of money or it won't survive. If you can't give money, scientology needs you as a slave, someone who will work for little more than room and board... Scientology lives on the money-givers and the slaves. Once you have agreed to 'try it,' you can't be allowed to wander away. Operatives in the group skillfully go to work on extracting a powerful commitment of unreasoning loyalty.”

The Truth won't scream empty promises and shroud dangerous side effects. The Truth doesn't enslave you to false religious hopes. The Truth sheds light in a dark world. The Truth protects us from blind ignorance. The Truth sets us free.

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25:4-5)

The Way, The Truth and the Life is the complete remedy for what ails you.

The Scam of Scientology

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Speck God Sees

The Speck God Sees
By Brenda Black

I'm just a speck. No, I'm a speck on a speck! We're all just itty bitty, teeny, tiny flecks of humanity in the big picture. If ever we begin to think too highly of ourselves, consider a down-to-earth illustration that lends perspective to the vastness of our universe. It comes from former head of NASA's Goddard Center, Robert Jastrow, who attempts to explain the great distance in space that demands description in light years.

"An analogy," he says, "will help to clarify the meaning of these enormous distances. Let the sun be the size of an orange; on that scale of sizes the earth is a grain of sand circling in orbit around the sun at a distance of 30 feet; the giant planet Jupiter, 11 times larger than the earth, is a cherry pit revolving at a distance of one city block; Saturn is another cherry pit two blocks from the sun; and Pluto, the outermost planet, is still another sand grain at a distance of ten city blocks from the sun.

"On the same scale the average distance between the stars is 2,000 miles. The sun's nearest neighbor, a star called Alpha Centauri, is 1,300 miles away. In the space between the sun and its neighbors there is nothing but a thin distribution of hydrogen atoms, forming a vacuum far better than any ever achieved on earth. The galaxy, on this scale, is a cluster of oranges separated by an average distance of 2,000 miles, the entire cluster being 20 million miles in diameter.

"An orange, a few grains of sand some feet away, and then some cherry pits circling slowly around the orange at a distance of a city block. Two thousand miles away is another orange, perhaps with a few specks of planetary matter circling around it. That is the void of space”.

Yet to God, the entire universe is just “Home, Sweet Home,” decorated by the Deity. He says he stretches the entire heavens "like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in" (Isaiah 40:22). So as vast as the universe appears to be, it's not nearly as awesome as our great God, who created it for his own pleasure and purpose. And all of us specks are of special interest!

God sees, God sends and God supplies for the sake of us specks. Take the miniscule Moses for example. In the middle of a rugged desert, among a herd of stinky sheep, God saw Moses and God saw the pains of his people.

“The Lord said, 'I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them...'” (Exodus 3:7-8a)

God saw and he had a plan, but the scheme required a speck of a man to be obedient. “'So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.'” (vs. 10)

Who, me? Debated the speck with the Supreme. God saw. God had a plan to use mere man. And God supplied all that fleck of flesh would need to carry out the duty. “'I will be with you.'” (vs. 12b)

If ever we begin to think too lowly of ourselves, consider a heavenly illustration that lends perspective to the vastness of God's ever-present help in this universe.

“'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.'” (John 3:16-21)

At the speed of Light, God sees our sin, sends his Son, and supplies salvation to specks on planet earth. His love is vast, his mercy enormous and his judgment solid. Thank God for dwelling among the specks and in their tiny, fickle hearts. O, how he must love us to constrain himself so.