Nature’s Way

via Instinct

When you hear, “Once upon a time…,” what immediately comes to mind?  Fairy Tells? Mythology? A television show?  Children’s stories?  What about this phrase, “In the beginning…”?  So often I’ve heard people say the origins of our earth and universe were creations of chance, without logic or reason, or a Creator… it was just a Big Bang.  Yet there is this document that having stood the test of time continues to be one of the best selling books of all time.  In it is found the narrative of creation, including the universe, the atmosphere surrounding the earth, the water and the mountains, all plant life, the fish and the birds, and every living animal or creature, including the human species. While there are those who continue to proclaim this document’s narrative is no truer than the average fairy tale, children’s story, or epic mythological account of time, what exactly determines the veracity of this story over the others?  There is no other tale, story, or myth that goes on to explain the meaning of life in such vivid detail, with such historical accuracy, or with such future promise as does the Bible. In fact, in the Bible is found the explanation for all the other narratives.

Romans 1:18-23
For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them.For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.

So here’s the thing.  You can’t ask a tree if the tree believes in the Creator, because the only “voice” the tree has is it’s instinctive knowledge of the seasonal changes the Creator instituted, and the tree’s own presence to demonstrate this truth.  So every season the tree’s leaves change color, the tree goes to sleep, then bears new leaves or fruit in it’s time of new life.  It’s wired this way.  It’s instinctive.  But if the trees, or the rivers, or the mountains and the hills did have a voice…

Isaiah 55:12
You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

All of nature makes its way to glorify the Creator within itself.  Animals, birds, fish, plants, trees, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars of the universe, all point to the Creator and say, “what a great God we serve!”  They all act on instinct – that innate, fixed pattern of behavior with which they were created to act.  But NOT the human species.  We are different.  While the Roman’s passage above tells us that we are capable of recognizing God’s handiwork, in the sense that we “instinctively” know God exists, we humans get to choose to worship and bring Him glory.  Or not.  Choice, that’s the difference.  We are not hard-wired in our DNA to specific actions or reactions based on certain stimuli, without reason or deduction.  Our minds think, then choose, then act.  It’s nature’s way.  It’s how the Creator made us different from every other creature on earth.

animals

If we understand this difference between choice and instinct, we are better equipped then to accept that humans are responsible for their own choices.  No animal raises its eyes to heaven and says, “Why did you make me this way?”  Yet, it might be the very question more people should be asking their Creator.  His answer will be simple.  I believe the Creator would say to every person that asks (honestly – without a preconceived answer), “You are you, so you can know how much I love you, and how I want to show My glory through you.”  You get to choose whether this answer rings true to you or not.  Let these last verses guide you in that process.

John 3:16
For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Psalm 115:1
Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your faithful love, because of Your truth.

Psalm 33:6-12
The heavens were made by the word of the LORD, and all the stars, by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into a heap; He puts the depths into storehouses. Let the whole earth tremble before the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it came into being; He commanded, and it came into existence. The LORD frustrates the counsel of the nations; He thwarts the plans of the peoples.  The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.  Happy is the nation whose God is Yahweh– the people He has chosen to be His own possession!


 

 

 

 

 

Man, I’m glad I’m not a cow!

via Ruminate

cow

You might need to chew on that title for awhile, while you mull over what I meant by it.  My good buddy, Dr. John Scott Herrington, made this statement (the title) while we were on a trip as he looked out over a field where a herd of cows were grazing.  It was hysterical at the time, but I guess you had to be there.  It got me thinking though.  As cows stand there in the field, chewing their cud, they give the false impression of being deep thinkers. They have this goofy look on their face, as their jaws just chew and chew.  When in reality, we all know cows aren’t the brightest animals on the farm.

Looks can be deceiving.  I agreed with my good friend, that indeed, it would be better to be a human than a cow.  But why?  Where is God more glorified?  Is God more glorified in a creature made with two stomachs, and any time the creature wants to can just cough up a cud of food to ruminate on again?  Or is God more glorified in a higher thinking creature who constantly argues with the Creator about what is best for them in life?  Hmmmm.  It’s a puzzle right?

It also made me think of animals in general, and birds in particular.  Sparrows, in fact, came to mind as I pondered what I might learn from this simple observation.  This took me to a story some may remember from Sunday school, where Jesus was teaching His student followers the principles of discipleship.  Specifically Jesus was helping them understand the cure for anxiety.  Why would Jesus need to teach his disciples this lesson?  Because what human creatures do is argue with the Creator about what’s best for them in life, and when they don’t get the answer they want, they tend to worry and become anxious.  The disciples suffered from this malady just as the rest of us do.

Matthew 10:29-31
Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

Matthew 6:25-27
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

We do well to realize that Jesus speaks directly to us today in these commands.  Do you see the specific commands here?  “So do not fear… do not be worried about your life.”  Well, that’s easy to do right?  Humans seem to have this innate capability to pretend they are cows.  We spiritually and emotionally cough up into our hearts and minds those things we like to worry about or anxiously try to fix about our lives.  We ruminate over and over about the “what-ifs” of life, trying to work out a response to every possible permutation, never comprehending that we aren’t wired for this knowledge.  Only God knows every possible permutation, and He has each of them covered.

Jesus says lilies in the field give God more glory than people do sometime.

Matthew 6:28-33
And why are you worried about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?  You of little faith!  Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’  For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Humans were created to think on a level far above flowers, birds, and cows.  We are capable of recognizing just how much God loves us on a personal level, and how He engineered a way for us to be in relationship with Him personally.  God gave us the highest thinking brain available among all the species of the planet.  Yet, we abuse this great gift by ruminating about ourselves, rather than contemplating how better to walk with God and bring Him glory.

I’m glad I’m not a cow, a bird, or a flower.  However, I want to come to the place where I, as God’s highest creation, bring Him greater glory than all the animals or vegetation of the planet.  They do so by instinct.  I bring Him greater glory when I choose to trust in His provision and direction, and live for Him instead of myself.  Verse 33 speaks for itself.

 

Trendy

via Swarm

What we called “fads” when I was growing up (think bell-bottom jeans, chia pets, and disco dancing), are more likely today called trends.  However, it might just as easily be called “mob mentality” as people swarm to what’s hot at the moment.  Some easy examples might be: the stock market, fashion apparel, automobiles, music, and yes… religion.  Let me be clear.  I said religion, not Christianity.  Not many people today rush to join the movement of TRUE Christianity.

world-religions

Pundits like to lump all faith models together in a box, and call them “religion,” and in so doing deny there is ever really any difference in any of them.  Whether it’s Islam, Baha’i, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Sikhism, Unitarianism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Native Spirituality, Judaism, … or Christianity… pundits say they are all the same.  They say it’s a swarm mentality that draws us to these flames.  I contend that the religions of the world have only one thing in common.  Humans are created with an awareness of God, and have tried since the world began to worship the Creator, but in twisted man-invented ways.  Humans in their core DNA are hard-wired to worship something, or someone, so in the absence of wealth, fashion, cars, and music… they create deities of their own design.

Within the construct of each world-religious system, there are variations and themes which spread their influence in thousands of different directions.  Following the trends of ancient peoples, in the 21st century it is often “fashionable” (I call it swarmy) to announce your inclusion into one of the “newer” or “more ancient” religious systems like Scientology (newer) or Satanism (ancient).  People swarm to a widely-shared but short-lived enthusiasm for something new.  Until the next “new” thing comes along.  Or until the fallacy of the bandwagon they hopped onto fails to satisfy their need for new.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus had thousands of followers swarming into every tiny village and town He wandered through.  They all sought to catch a glimpse of the miracle-working carpenter who taught the Torah and read the Prophets with authority.  The swarming, teeming crowds became so strong at one point that He had to get into a boat and push off shore just a bit to keep from getting trampled under foot. [Matthew 13:2]  Most of the crowds from His first year had abandoned Him by the third year, and were no where to be found in the end.  Thousands cheered and celebrated as He entered Jerusalem on Sunday before Passover.  Thousands yelled and cursed Him, as He carried His own cross through the streets to Golgotha.  Do you see the “swarm” mentality in this historically accurate narrative?

It takes more commitment than a “fad” mentality to be in relationship with the Creator of the universe.  Jesus told one woman, “But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.  Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” [John 4:23-24]  These words apply today, at least as much as when they were spoken, perhaps even more.  Combine this thought with what Jesus said that night he was arrested, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” [John 14:6]

These two foundational truths compel us to seek more than a fad, more than a trendy spiritual answer.  We find it only in the ultimate reality of Jesus’ words to one of the Jewish leaders named Nicodemus.  John 3:16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and ONLY Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”   Jesus died for the swarming mass of humanity.  When Jesus said “everyone,” everyone means me.  Everyone means you.  It requires more than just being part of the swarm.  Stepping over the line of faith, and believing these three verses, receiving the grace offered in Christ, is a personal commitment.  It is how a person fulfills their created purpose.  Living in this grace and extending God’s glory, is what true worship means.  It requires more than just being part of the swarm.

The Glittering Life

via Daily Post Glitter

The simple definition: to shine with a bright, shimmering, reflected light.  From sequins on a dress, to crystal that dances in the dark radiance of the moon, the origin of the shimmering light is neither the sequin or the crystal.  From a child’s artwork filled with glitter, to the ballroom dancer’s gown, the light shining brilliant and arresting is only reflected from these elements.

There are no sources of reflected light streaming in my office this morning.  It’s overcast, and although the sun is shining on the world, it isn’t in my little office, or out in my yard, or anywhere else I can see with the naked eye.  This doesn’t prove the sun isn’t shining, it just means I can’t see it through the filter of the clouds.  Life is like that sometimes.  I wouldn’t describe this as a dark day, nor would I say it’s gloomy, although that comes closer.  It just is what it is; overcast.

It’s as though The Creator just covered this part of my personal world with a curtain which allowed light to pass through and bring sight, but not beaming in full force, or being reflected off of every shiny surface.  My mind races with the symbolic inferences of my daily life.  Jesus said, [John 8:12] “”I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”  Then Matthew records another time when Jesus said, [Matthew 5:14] “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Jesus is The LIGHT, we are the glitter.  I know this because He also went on to say [Matthew 5:16]” Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  The Dr. Jim version of Jesus’ statement is: “Reflect My light through what you do in a way that God get’s the praise.”  We do this best when we comprehend, then live in the understanding, that we are not the original source of the light we reflect.  When God found us, we were a lump of coal.  When God delivers us from the darkness, we become multifaceted diamonds designed to reflect the Glory of God’s radiance.

So does your life glitter this way?  What about days when the sky is overcast, spiritually?  When you’ve had a late night, it’s a little difficult to get out of bed, it’s a Monday and all that work is still waiting for you?  When storm clouds roll in and it gets really dark, is there enough Son still shining into your life, that you glitter, shine and sparkle God’s love and light to everyone around?

According to Jesus, that’s why we’re here.

sparklecross