“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:3
Oh how it should enlarge our affections and appreciation for God when we notice all that He has made! One of the tragedies of this life on earth is that we don’t always notice the things God has made. Even when we do notice the surrounding handiwork of our Creator God, we often take His work for granted. We forget the miracle and the wisdom which creation truly is. So it would be great if we were reminded that what’s here was made by God, and that it has a purpose. Actually nothing would be here (including you and me) except for God’s making. And, it’s important too that we understand that even if we don’t appreciate it, nor even like what He made, God never makes any junk.
We may try to make a mountain out of a molehill, but God makes crooked places straight. Lots of times we can’t even make up our minds and most of us probably don’t even make up our beds every day. Christians know the Bible says we are to be still and know our God. Yet, we are not very good “stillers.” If we could only slow our minds down a little bit, we would be able to listen to our hearts. The heart of a born again believer is the seat and seal of The Holy Spirit. And The Holy Spirit within us is just itching to leap with enthusiastic joy when Jesus gets close by. You may have a quilt or a piece of furniture or an item a loved one has made in your home or possession. When you notice it, you think lovingly about them don’t you? Well, in a similar way, when we see what Jesus has made we love Him more.
“And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.” Luke 1:41
The milestones and benchmarks in life which mean something to a believer are called sacred moments. And really, life is not measured in years, months, or even days, but in moments. A glimpse of grace through a tear of repentance, an arm full of love holding a newborn baby, the awe of a mountain waterfall coupled with the smell of spruce all fill the soul with gratitude and purpose. We are not only saved by grace, we live in grace twenty four seven. I wonder if there is a possibility of a Christian being saved by grace and not living in grace.
In his 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College, “This is Water,” author David Foster Wallace highlights the difficulty of giving attention and care to the most obvious, matter of fact, unmistakable aspects of our lives. He begins this address with a parable about two fish. There were two fish swimming along in the ocean when a wise old fish swims by and shouts, “morning boys, how’s the water?” The two young fish swim on for a distance, and then one of them looks at the other and says, “What the heck is water?” The point of the story, the challenging point raised by the two little fish, is how do people gain the awareness, the attention to see and really notice that most obvious and essential of things — the water in which we are immersed. Grace is like that water. A fish can’t live without water nor can a Christian live without grace. And just as you don’t have to teach a fish how to swim, neither do you have to teach a Christian that he or she is a sinner and in need of grace. Now, we all know we need grace but we don’t always notice the grace. Just like the fish in the ocean swimming in water, we are surrounded by and are living in grace. Every part of us, even the parts that are painful and frustrating — is a gift of God’s grace. To notice and open that gift is to welcome God Himself. Really, God’s fingerprints are everywhere. We are literally swimming in an ocean of grace!
Everything is beautiful when you look through the eyes of grace. Sacred moments are inspiring and keep us wearing grace new every day. The momentous milestones are not planned but surprise us with a heart full of God’s glory. They are not complicated nor sophisticated but are simple, easy to see and accessible. They also come in all shapes, forms and sizes — even butterflies, Redbirds, and kittens.
A few weeks ago Penny and I, along with two of our grandchildren, Emory Grace and Jackson Wesley (2 1/2 and 1 year olds), took a routine ride in my truck to “see the cows” (That’s what Emory Grace loves to do). What I remember most about that venture was not the cows, but the butterflies, Redbirds and kittens. Have you noticed that often when you are doing something for someone else with the attitude of being a blessing to them, you end up getting the most out of the trip and being blessed your- self. Actually, I’m not sure anyone else noticed the butterflies, Redbirds, or kittens though I pointed them out. Every Christian should be a tour guide, pointing out God’s goodness, along the road of daily walks of faith. I think we all would enjoy God even glorify Him more, if we shook off religion and started looking for butterflies, Redbirds and kittens.
Our first stop was the garden. I planted several rows of Zinnias in our vegetable garden this year. I really don’t know why I planted them, but we have really enjoyed the flowers and the butterflies the flowers attracted. Although the flowers were fading, the butterflies were floating. Butterflies don’t seem to ever be in a hurry. They just float from flower to flower. You don’t see butterflies squirming and frantically fluttering as they go. That’s because they are looking at life from above. Butterflies come in different colors, shapes and sizes. They are all peaceful though and a butterfly’s beauty is “wing deep.”
A butterfly is a wonderful example of God’s redeeming grace because a butterfly was once a caterpillar. But there was a change, a metamorphosis, whereby something beyond the creature’s ability or power brought about a miraculous, radical transformation from ugly self centeredness to beautiful self-sacrifice. For a bornagain Christian, it’s known as irresistible grace and it’s effects are just as profound.
Caterpillars see the world from the ground up. They feed on leaves and will destroy the garden with their greedy appetites. Caterpillars are self -centered, snobby and are out to satisfy themselves without considering others. Butterflies though, see the world from above and they feed on the nectar of the flowers. They are beneficial to the garden because they aid in pollination of the plants. Butterflies really see the world with new eyes and are examples of God’s glorious handiwork.
What’s amazing about butterflies and should remind us of how amazing God’s grace is, is that the butterfly and the caterpillar come from the same egg. To make a Christian, God, in His mercy, strips away our old nature (We all came from the same egg too.), and gives us a new one. And like the metamorphosis of a butterfly where the exoskeleton and most of the internal organs dissolve, the child of God dies to self and places his/ her future form and life in God’s hands.
You know butterflies only live a short time. So, let’s be mindful also of how short our lives on earth really are. Not only should we take time to smell the flowers, but also to watch a butterfly. Remember, only God can make a butterfly, and only God can make a Christian.
Now proceeding from the pasture, traveling on Page road (A fitting name for a road that is part of the route of a guided tour on God’s “making grace,” since each day is a new page to view God’s fingerprints.), I see a Redbird sitting on the fence alongside the road. Birds are such a wonderful part of God’s creation and are used all over the Bible to illustrate hope and divine care. Redbirds are particularly comforting to me. Maybe it’s their brilliant red color that reminds us of the shed blood of our Savior that paid all our sin debts and gave us new life. It could be too that the Redbird brings hope that our greatest enemy, death, has been conquered by the Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection. The Redbird, or Summer Tanager, actually attacks and feeds on wasps. Doesn’t that fit pretty well with what Jesus did on Calvary?
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15: 55-57
When Penny and I were told that our son, John Emory would not live any longer than two years, I remember feeling a heavy weight of darkness and hopelessness. One afternoon, Penny, John Emory and I drove down that same road, just to get out of the house for a moment.
God surely shows up in the most unexpected places and at unsuspecting times. As we passed a patch of Cypress trees, there was a Redbird sitting on a Cypress limb. I stopped for a moment and it turned into a sacred moment! To this day, when I think of that encounter with a Redbird, and how it brought a peace and comfort to me, I rejoice and praise my Heavenly Father.
In the sermon on the mount, our Lord Jesus illustrates “being without anxiety” by telling us to behold the fouls of the air and the lilies of the field as examples of the sort of life He would have us live. As the birds rejoice in the care of their God and are fed, and as the lilies grow in His sunlight, so must we, without anxiety and without fear. Let’s let the Sparrows (and Redbirds speak to us).
I am only a tiny sparrow
A bird of low degree,
My life is of little value
But the dear Lord cares for me.
I have no barn nor storehouse
I neither sow nor reap
God gives me a sparrow’s portion,
But never a seed to keep.
I know there are many sparrows
All over the world they are found;
But our Heavenly Father knoweth
When one of us falls to the ground.
Though small, we are never forgotten;
Though weak, we are never afraid;
For we know the dear Lord keepeth
The life of the creatures He made.
I fly through the thickest forest.
I light on many a spray;
I have no chart nor compass,
But I never lose my way.
And I fold my wing at twilight
Wherever I happen to be;
For the Father is always watching
And no harm will come to me.
I am only a little sparrow
A bird of low degree,
But I know the Father loves me;
Have you less faith than we?
Hannah Whitall Smith
A little farther down the road we made a turn at the intersection and just off the road under a live oak tree were three tiny kittens along with their mother. I guess they were residents of the farm household which stood on the opposite side of the road. What made the kittens even more special was the fact that we were not looking for them. God is good all the time, even when we are not looking for Him. I was really glad we saw those kittens, especially since Emory Grace and Jackson Wesley were there and could see them too. Kittens promote joy even though they are not “purrfect!” While traveling on life’s roadway, to find the joy we all crave, we may have to go a little further too. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and it is an all season fruit. Joy is virus free and does not need a mask. And, as we follow Jesus we should not be surprised to see joy in the most unexpected places and sources. The whole Bible is a roadmap to joy!
“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” 1 John 1:4
It seems that joy just appears right around the corner. Notice too that joy is spontaneous and shows up when we are doing what we’re supposed to be doing, helping others, and not trying to manipulate things and times to achieve it. We feel joy most fervently when we focus on heavenly things and not on earthly ones. There is no way you can look at a kitten and worry about your problems at the same time.
This may be a stretch, but the fact that there were three kittens reminds me that Jesus was resurrected on the third day and that it was the third day of creation in which God made life appear on earth. But the mystery of it all was magnified in the three kittens’ diversity in color yet at times as a ball of one, shows a glimpse of the Trinity; the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus Christ is described in Revelation chapter five and verse five as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He came though as a little kitten, the babe of Bethlehem. That little one lying in the manger would be the manager of our eternal destiny and the bridge to our Heavenly Father and Heaven. But He doesn’t require us to understand predestination or election, rather, He sat down and held a little child in his lap and showed us what’s important.
“And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2,3
I’ll bet there were some kittens around there somewhere when Jesus did that. Really, if butterflies, Redbirds, and kittens won’t convert you, a preacher doesn’t have a chance.
“SET UP or UPSET?
"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Colossians 3:2
It’s another facet of His amazing grace when our hearts can hurt and yet be happy at the same time. It is true that we often see Heaven most clearly through the prism of tears. We have seen things happen in the world lately which we would never have dreamed would or could happen. Are we really living in America today? Many of the things and privileges of our great country are being shaken. Fear seems to have overridden faith! People are afraid of the virus, afraid of the rioters and afraid to say anything that might imply racism, even afraid of each other. Yet, the most frequently given command from our Lord Jesus is “Fear not.” Now, if we look at the outside, or external things of this world, then we will surely have much reason to fear. But, if we can focus on the unseen treasures of Heaven and immortal glory, not only will our “spirit man” be strengthened; our Christian common sense will kick in too. Christian common sense, or maybe I should call it Christian uncommon sense, is the ability because of the new birth, to realize, accept, and submit contently to the fact that this world is quickly becoming less of a treasure to our hearts and the stronger attraction to heavenly things fills us with joy when the world around us is caving in. So, instead of being upset, the genuine Christian is “set up.” It is God’s Holy Spirit that sets us up to receive the benefits and bounty of the eternal life we have been given by Christ our Lord and Saviour. Instead of letting the world make us miserable, a born again Christian has a merry heart because he or she knows that this world does not provide lasting hope and happiness.
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” I Corinthians 15:19
Actually, when we face tough times in this life and have hurt and heartbreak to bear, it usually means that God is setting us up for greater things. You might say that calamities and problems we deal with here on earth stretches our hearts so that we can hold more blessings. One thing for sure; our God is a blessing God. He doesn’t bless us because we earn nor deserve a blessing. He blesses us in spite of ourselves. You know, God gets glory whether we give it to Him or not. You remember that Jesus said the rocks and trees would give Him glory if He wanted them to when the people didn’t. Every set back is only God’s set up to enable us to reach by faith the godly lifestyle He has called us and equipped us to live here on earth. This pandemic has the potential to be a wonderful way to appreciate God more as we loose our grip on earthly treasures and hold tighter to the things which really are important, are better for us and last longer.
When my calves are about seven months old, I place them in a lot, separated from their mothers. In livestock language, it’s the process of weaning. The calves don’t like it one bit, neither do their mamas. The objective though is to get the calves feeding on a feed that will be better for them and one that will enable them to mature and fulfill their purpose. It usually takes about seven days for the calves to settle down and focus on the nutrients before them instead of whining for their mothers. After a couple of weeks, the calves are happier than they were in the field freely find- ing what they thought was a fulfilling meal. The calves will not wean themselves. I have to separate them and keep them away from their previous source of sustenance. God’s people do not normally wean themselves from the world either. Our fallen nature still has a hankering (at least a little) for the things of the
world. So God may send a pandemic or some problem to force His worldly minded children to get what they really need — His Holy Word. I really believe that more Christians are into the word now than have
ever been before. And, many have been weaned from going places and doing things they once thought they could not live without. The Coronavirus has some horrific effects, has taken many lives and interrupted family and friendships with quarantines, although none of which are not under God’s watch. Many today have realized they really don’t have to do so much, be so much and go so much to enjoy life and God. You might say that we have been weaned from much the world has to offer. And if we stay in the Word and keep our crosses up in our yards, we’ll be strengthened by the Bread of Life so that we will bear fruit for God’s glory and be witnesses of His grace and mercy. The world will have to notice Christians who can live through pandemics and still be persuaded that God is able to protect and keep them until the cows come home or hell freezes over.
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” II Timothy 1:12.
Really, life on earth for the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a set up to keep up until we go up. When we are down to nothing, we can be assured that God is up to something. He is setting us up to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Great Potter of the universe knows what He is doing and not one vessel He shapes and molds through the wheel of adversity or the furnace of afflictions will be cracked or marred, or not balanced to set upright. We ought not to be upset because of what the world is saying. Rather, let’s “set up” and see Jesus calm the storm and feed the multitude with just a little bit! After all is “set” and done, we ought to obey God rather than men the Word says.
Let Down Your Anchor.
The hymn “My Anchor Holds,” written by W. C. Martin is a good way to tune the soul when the sea of life is raging. The third verse and chorus of that wonderful hymn should set us in the heavenly direction when the world is taking us out on a rough sea of strife and un- certainty. Notice the third verse and chorus:
I can feel the anchor fast, As I meet each sudden blast,
And the cable, though unseen, Bears the heavy strain between; Thro’ the storm I safely ride, Till the turning of the tide.
And it holds, my anchor holds; Blow your wildest, then, O gale, On my bark so small and frail, By His grace I shall not fail, For my anchor holds, My anchor holds.
The cable, though unseen is faith. When times are tough and our lifeboat is rocking from the winds, the unseen, underneath influences are what’s going to get us through the trouble. It’s what is in your heart that matters most! Life can be upsetting when we look at it from the outside. The devil always works from the outside in. He tries to get us to doubt God’s Word and faithfulness, and he puts evil before our eyes so that we want or fear what we see. Our Heavenly Father though works from the inside out. He gives us His Spirit and His Spirit gives us faith, the hidden cable that steadies our boat when we tie into Jesus. Rather than coming unglued in the gloom and feeling flattened out in the ruckus, we can set up by grace and hold our place with hope and joy.
When we let down our anchor, it’s like putting our foot down and refusing to be tossed to and fro by worldly events. No matter how hard the going gets, hope can hold us because Jesus Christ is our hope. He will provide a steady hand and sure word that can calm any stormy gale that comes. So, when you are afraid, use your anchor.
“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Psalm 56:3
Stay In Your Place
God’s word plainly tells us to “set” our affections on heavenly things, or on godliness and spiritual things and truthful things. That
means we are going to have to be deliberate and intentional with our feelings. And our Lord Jesus Christ said that “As a man thinketh in his
heart, so is he” which means we better be careful of what we love. Since perfect love can cast out fear, there is no need for a Christian to stay upset for any length of time. Although the toils and turmoil of life experiences may overwhelm our emotions, even turn us upside down, God’s perfect, everlasting love holds us in the very palms of His almighty merciful hands.
Often, Christians may struggle with trying to figure out God’s will for their lives. There is no reason to be upset with wondering if you are doing what God wants you to do or not. Jesus makes it simple.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Matthew 22:37
Salvation is what God uses as the means to set us up to love Him. The number one greatest commandment from the creator and ruler of the uni- verse would be impossible unless God loved us first. But because He did, we should not be upset with our failures and lack of holy zeal, rather, we should stay in our place in the shade of His grace and be satisfied with the pace He gives us. What should set us up with encouragement is knowing that we can love God right where we are. We do not have to go anywhere or doing anything nor be anybody else. The peace which is the result of doing what our Lord wants us to do wipes away the tears and tales of trying to serve two masters. There is nothing more up- setting for the redeemed children of God than disobeying the one who died on the cross for them. Maybe when we’re upset, we should try con- fessing our sins. Conviction and guilt could be a set up to remind us of how much God loves us. The Lord can forgive us right where we are too, we don’t have to go anywhere but to Jesus.
If we break a bone, most likely the doctor will set the bone back in place and then put a cast around the area to keep it in place. Sometimes we all have our hearts broken. Tragedies and loss can shake us out of place and put us on a roller coaster of fear and pain. When that happens, the great physician takes us in His arms and holds us and keeps us from shaking. Remembering that our God is sovereign and that He loves us unconditionally is like a cast on a broken bone. The thing about it though is that we have to stay in place, that is believing on purpose that God is who He says He is, that He did what He said He did, and that He will do what He says He will do. If we can think about the goodness and power of God long enough, our broken hearts can be healed. Most likely there will be scars, but there will be no infection to upset us.
There is some truth to the adage that you are as happy as you make up your mind to be. Setting our love and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ must be emphatic and projected. Every morning when we arise we must decide if we are going to serve the Lord or not. It should be as the Christian song says, “In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.” We ought to give Jesus our all, given He has given His all for us on the cross of Calvary. Although we can give Him our money, our time, and our service, yet, if we don’t give Him our mind we can easily be upset when things don’t work out the way we planned or wanted them to. Christianity is a thinking religion and God’s amazing grace through the new birth has caused us to be spiritually minded so that we can follow the Lord’s prescription for peril by having the mind of Christ. When our Lord Jesus was on the cross, His mind was on the Father, on heavenly things!
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Hebrews 12:2,3
Jesus was not upset when He hung on the cross because His mind was on heavenly things. He knew that being on the cross was the only way that you and I could be in Heaven with Him. Jesus’ mind was on a better place, and so should ours be. If our mind is in the gutter, we’ll most likely be up- set by the trash. Even the Christian martyrs faced their deaths with peace and joy as they were tortured and burned at the stake by making up their minds to follow the Lord.
Spiritual warfare is very real and its battleground is the mind. Worldly things and heavenly things are contrary one to the other. We can’t set our minds on the world and heaven at the same time. It should be a “no brainer” because we can’t depend on worldly things. We can though de- pend on God and heavenly things. We often expect too much from the world and too little from God and that can be upsetting. Really, as Christians, we have renounced the world as our means of happiness, so it would be absurd for us to set our minds upon it and seek it. Actually, we should have a “single mindedness” which should help us to be unaffected by worldly things. Think about it; our life really lives in another world, hidden with Christ in God. This is our security set up! The world passes away, changes, lusts and fails, but our life is in Christ who lives forever.
“Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” John 14:19
Life on earth can be besetting and upsetting. But our Lord Jesus is not The Prince of Peace for nothing. Above all, He has promised to keep us in perfect peace when our minds are set on Him. As the elect family of God, we can set up because He is set down on the right side of the Father to make intersession for us. May the Lord help us to lift up Christ so that what we and the world may mess up, will be in reality a set up for His glory and not upsetting for our witness of His grace.
“Because I live, ye shall live also.” John 14:19