"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1
One of the great blessings of the Corona pandemic lock up and shut in mode is that Penny and I have had the opportunity to look at sunsets on purpose. I think we all have noticed God’s pure artistic attributes from time to time, but often the view of the Creator’s splendor has been accidental at best. Most evenings after supper, Penny and I will take a ride through the flatwoods and farms, specifically to see the sunset. Often though, we see other things as well; like a pair of Eastern Kingbirds, (which I found out migrate here from the South American rainforest) a wild turkey, a brown rabbit, deer feeding in a field and even an opossum. When on the dirt roads, I usually roll my window down to listen to the sounds of the evening and smell the aroma of a fresh cut hayfield. The whistle of a Bobwhite quail gives the pitch tone for the evening song bird’s chorus, and makes for a perfect prelude for the opening of the gates of Heaven. If there is anything to the term “quality time,” then looking for sunsets should be the measuring stick for it. This time is valuable, even precious because Penny and I are together. It’s quality time also because we leave our problems at home, and I leave the dirty dishes in the sink until we return from our spiritual journey. (I have also learned to be a better dish washer and the importance of a mechanical dishwasher during the sheltering in place process). Mostly though, what makes this time so precious is that we are seeking God. A sunset is made by God. Only God can make a sunset! Someone has said that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action. And it’s God action that creates such beauty. And His grace is magnified too because we go looking with the mindset that He is about to declare His glory in the sunset just for us. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a heavenly video is priceless.
Isn’t it just like God to show us and give us more than we ask Him for, or seek Him about? Really all the creatures and other aspects of creation Penny and I see on our evening journeys, including the sunsets, are all seen because we are really looking for God. He is the reason we see anything. Actually, if we are not looking for God we are “blessing” blind. And, the very moment we start seeking Him, we find Him. We can be assured that if we make it our goal to glorify God in whatever we do, he will surely open the windows of heaven and pour out so many blessings that we’ll have to put on spiritual waders to keep from getting soaked. So if your objective is to have a good marriage, raise your children right, have a great church, or enjoy your work, you probably won’t attain it unless God’s glory is the motive behind the scenes. But, if it is God we want to please and find in all of the above, most likely, we’ll get there.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
Sunsets cause us to look up. Especially in the world today with all the viruses and violence we must remind ourselves that we are not of this world and we should set our affections on things above and not on the things of the world. Now looking for sunset is a way we set our minds on things above. Mankind cannot do a sunset justice. God though is the master artist and we should appreciate His allowing the heavens to declare His Glory.
He wasn’t necessarily talking about sunsets, but he had the right mood about them when Albert Einstein said: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Sometimes what we see pleases God! You cannot look at a sunset and think about yourself or your problems when you see a sunset and know it is from the Lord God, you know there is a solution to every problem, a light for every dark place, relief for every burden and a plan for the days ahead. Every sunset reminds us that God’s love cannot be measured nor can His faithfulness falter.
Seeing a sunset is a lot like experiencing God; you have to see it yourself. Most days we look for sunsets when we see one just at the right time and angle and we take a picture of it. Those pictures are making a real beautiful album, but a box full of albums cannot match being there. It’s like me trying to describe a flower or telling you what goes on in my garden, but you have to be there to really get it. And there is a timing to it all as well. Sunsets do not wait for anyone. They are kind of like a lighthouse, you have to adjust your course to the lighthouse, because the lighthouse
doesn’t move for your path.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: ... He hath made everything beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:1,11
Yes, there is time for sunsets too. Let’s be thankful that God has given us one more sunset, one more glance at His almighty wisdom and grace. Every sunset is God painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty. Oh may we adore in awe both the beauty of holiness He painted on a cross, and the beauty of His wisdom and power He paints every evening in the sky. Take time to be holy and also take time to seek God. You can do both when you see a sunset.
Sunsets Praise God.
God is truly the master artist. Did you know that what makes sunsets most beautiful are the clouds. Scientists tell us that the essence of a beautiful sunset is in the cloud layer— specifically the clouds at the upper and lower levels. The brilliant colors that are reflected in the clouds take on the red and orange hues of the setting sun. Our lives too have many clouds. It seems there is almost a cloud on the horizon of every day. But what if that cloudy fear, or foggy doubt is there just to praise God? We may want clear sailing in life and sing of “an unclouded day,” but God knows we need the clouds to have a beautiful sunset of praise.
We ought to praise God for everything really. God knows we are weak and of our feeble efforts to praise His holy name. So, God sends us a sunset to “reset” our lives and jump start our faith.
“From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised.” Psalm 113:3
Sunsets Bring Peace.
Sunset is a most peaceful time of day. The delight of dusk is realizing that God has given us a day, and no matter what that day has brought, He ends it by saying, “It’s going to be alright.” A sunset reminds us that God always writes the last chapter. A sunset not only declares God’s glory, it also shouts of His sovereignty. Every sunset brings with it peace and shows us who to thank. And no matter how much ugliness may have invaded the day, sunsets prove that no matter what happens, every day ends beautifully.
One of God’s greatest gifts is peace. Peace though is not the absence of trouble, peace is the presence of God. When you see a sunset, you know there is a God, and not just a God to worship, but also a God who loves us, forgives us, and promises never to leave us. Every sunset sends the message that God is with us and no matter who’s against us, His powerful plan will ultimately end peacefully. God always has some- thing for us, He is truly the great giver. At sunset, God closes our day with the gift of peace. Our Lord and Savior, The Prince of Peace, fol- lowed suit. At the close of His earthly ministry, when the sunset of His time on earth came, just before He ascended to the Father, He left us His peace.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
Sunsets Promote Promise.
The world will drag you down, but God will lift you up. Looking at a sunset is like taking our eyes off the world and looking “unto the hills from whence cometh our help.” A sunset is really a promise of a new beginning. A sunset is actually not the ending of a day, it’s the begin- ning of a new day. In the creation story recorded in Genesis, the Lord establishes the order for a new day by a sunset.
“And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morn- ing were the first day.” Genesis 1:5
So, a sunset, not a sunrise, is the biblical transition into a new day. Every sunset promotes the promise of a bright and light-filled new daytime.
It is true, “Red sky at night is a sailor’s delight.”
In the Bible, all days begin with a sunset and are followed by a time of darkness. This supports the fact that God’s ways are not our ways. Since God knows the end from the beginning, we should let God have His way and surrender to every sunset knowing that His every promise shall be fulfilled. God does some of His best work at night too. Going through a dark time is often preparation for a new phase of life, of renewal, healing, and rest. The darkness after a sunset is sort of like a good night’s sleep which can be refreshing and invigorating, giving us strength for the activity of the new day. In our lives, times of personal darkness, loss or problems can make for a seemingly long night. We know the dawn is coming, but it just won’t get here fast enough. That’s when it’s important to remember the promise of the sunset that brought the night. Remember, the night is a part of the promise of every sunset. If we can learn to appreciate the rich darkness, the deep quiet that can empower and prepare us for what’s ahead, we will be better witnesses of God’s grace and be promise promoters instead of constant complainers.
Sunsets Shape Priority.
game. My wife and I are not world travelers although we have been to Israel together and the Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky, but nothing we have seen together can hold a light to a flatwoods sunset. Every sunset teaches us that if God is all you have then you have all you need.
The red hue of a sunset shows the emphasis God has for the shed blood of His only begotten Son. Maybe we need a sunset every day to re- mind us that Jesus Christ took our place on the cross and died for us there and that His shed, red blood is the only way we can be forgiven and not go to hell when we die. Did you know that the passover sacrifice in The Old Testament was a sunset priority?
“But at the place which the Lord Thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 16:6
Don’t be so hard on yourself or on others. After all, life is not set in stone, life is a setting sun. Jesus is our “Setting Son!” Right now He is sitting on the right hand of the throne of God praying for us. I know one of His prayers for us is forgiveness for not having our priorities right. We can start today, at sunset!
“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Ephesians 4:26
The Gates of Grace
"Stand in the gate of the Lords house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, the enter in at these gates to worship the Lord." Jeremiah 7:2
Imagine your inner life as a sanctuary where your eternal being, your soul, lives and acts and reacts to life’s circumstances. Believers are temples so to speak of the Holy Spirit. Housing the indwelling God is certainly an awe inspiring and service motivating environment that deserves our utmost attention and care. When God saves us, he does not take us directly to Heaven. I don’t know why He doesn’t because I would not have committed near the number of sins as I have had I already entered immortal glory. It does however make me appreciate God’s amazing grace and mercy and it surely magnifies, even glorifies what Jesus did for me on the cross of Calvary. I think you all are with on this since only one person has ever lived or ever will on Earth that hasn’t sinned and He was God incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ. Actually, I wonder why so many people seem to have a problem with predestination and election. It is so; if God had not chosen and saved us before we were born, he surely would not have done so afterwards.
“Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” II Timothy 1:9
It is also true that once God opens our heart and puts His eternal Word and Spirit there, we are His and cannot ever lose our eternal salvation. That makes me real happy because if that were not the case I would have lost mine many years ago. This sanctuary of eternal life in Christ is most miraculous, but it can be neglected and even taken for granted. And even though, according to first John chapter three and verse nine, the child of God cannot sin, in other words commit a sin unto eternal death. The only unpardonable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and that would be impossible for a person who has the spirit indwelling. Every born again believer has that indwelling spirit. Pretending Christians are just faking it and time, testing and the final harvest will reveal that when God begins a work of grace in rebellious, spiritually dead sinners, He finishes with a justified, conformed in the image of Christ follower of the one true and living God, Jehovah.
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Romans 8:9
Don’t be discouraged though, we can have His spirit and still sin, it’s just not a sin that would result in eternal death. Jesus Christ took care of all our sins on Calvary over 2000 years ago. So, our position in Christ, and as far as God is concerned is perfectly pure and righteous. Remember, Jesus gave us His own righteousness in the great grace exchange (our sins for his righteousness). Our dilemma is that this sanctuary of eternal life is housed in unredeemed flesh. Sometimes we don’t practice our position. Although our sanctuary soul life is sealed by the Holy Spirit, our weak unredeemed flesh has lots of leaks. We have a natural tendency to let good things leak out and to let bad things leak in.
Now, as we think about our inner being soul life as a sanctuary or haven of grace, it also means it is our fortress where the most vital and valuable part of us is kept. This sanctuary is really our stronghold and only the power of the Spirit keeps us from folding under the spiritual warfare we are bombarded often with.
“Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:5
This stronghold is a fortified dwelling place encamping around our belief system. When bad things leak into our stronghold, they become obstacles to our fellowship with Jesus Christ. Things such as fear, doubt, negativity, a performance based mentality and a victimized mindset are examples of evil influences that if left unchecked, can become strongholds that hold us back from fellowship and service to God. These evil influences take root easily in our hearts because our natural heart is wicked and deceitful. They are always contrary to God’s word of truth and they will distant our perception of God, His grace, and cause us to doubt His promises. We must remember, even when we are weak and struggling with sin, who we are in Christ and the authority that we have through Him. The Holy Spirit within us is greater than the spirit of satan which is in the world and can seep into our sacred lives. This should cause us grave concern. If the great Apostle Paul feared he would become a castaway and prepared for the battle, checking the boundaries of the precious life in Christ Jesus, then surely you and I ought to be diligent about keeping the city of God within us.
The gates of the ancient cities probably are not as we imagine today’s gates but were massive gates made of stone, iron, brass, or heavy wood. The “Beautiful Gate” in Herod’s temple required twenty men to open and close it. Gates are and were important because whoever controlled the gates controlled the city. Gates are so important! How we handle the gates is really about how we grow in grace. The ancient people of God knew well the significance of gates. Gates were where the enemy attacked. The gates were where the judges and people with authority sat. And, the Word of God was often read at the gates as was done in Nehemiah’s day. One of the most important reasons to protect and maintain gates though was they were the points of entry for worship as our text verse says. Since God has made it clear in the new testament that His people are to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, it goes without saying that adoring and reverent worship to the one true and living God is to be done in more than the church building, rather also, and most importantly, in our holy building, our bodily temples—every day of our lives. We would enjoy God more, have greater peace and fewer doubts, sin less, and bear more spiritual fruit during our lives on earth if we paid more attention to the entry and exit points of our inner soul sanctuary. When the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, the reconstruction started at the gates.
“Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.” Nehemiah 3:1
Jerusalem was and always will be a precious sanctuary city of God. Anything of value and godly should be protected and bounded. Our inner person, our redeemed self was purchased by the most costly and valuable price, the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Besides the peace that God gives us by forgiving and strengthening us, our very influence and usefulness in His kingdom is also affected by what goes in and comes out of our hearts and minds. We ought to thank God for the wall of salvation which surrounds us and strive to keep the Gates of grace for His glory. Here are three thoughts which may enable us to be better gate keepers.
Remember that Gates are made by Grace.
When a home or building is planned or a fence or enclosure designed, one of the first decisions is where the door or gates will be located. God’s plan of salvation also included a gate. It is truly amazing that a Holy God would have anything to do at all with sinners like us. But because of His love, mercy and pity when He laid out the blueprints for His predestinating, powerful, purposeful plan to transform some sinners into saints, He started with the Gate. The gate to God is Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. God’s quickening, irresistible grace causes a rebirth of our souls, thus changing our life principles, and making us feel guilty and ashamed that we have sinned against our Heavenly Father. Then, because he loved us first we feel a strange, longing love for Him. The only satisfaction our thirsty, sinful souls can find is getting to God, so we go by the faith He provides. But then we realize there is only one way to get to God. Jesus Christ is the door of hope and this door is hinged on justification and sanctification for easy opening and closing.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
We don’t go prancing up to the gate parading our good works and Christian credentials. Since this gate is made of grace means it’s made of the same stuff we are saved by; God’s undeserved favor. Jesus gives us the proper gate etiquette for entering the Kingdom of God.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13,14
So, we should leave our stuff at the gate. Take it all off; our burdens, our fears, our trophies too. We are not ashamed to be beggars when it comes to entering a precious fellowship with God Almighty and serving Him and His people. God hates pride and so the gate of grace is not only narrow, it’s also low. (Some of us may have to crawl to enter). It takes grace to walk with God and that is what the gate is for.
Guard the Gate.
The entry points into important places are the heaviest guarded. The Fort Stewart Military Base has gated check points to monitor who and what goes in the fort. Your soul is a real important place which calls for an ongoing garrison of examining who and what is allowed to take up space and have influence. You have heard it said “Sweep around your own door first” haven’t you? Well, it can also be said, “Guard your own gate first.” We probably spend more time trying to judge and assess what someone else is allowing in their lives than we do examining our own selves. Being good gate keepers means being responsible as well as determined and committed. God’s Word says that we are to be good soldiers of the Lord and every good soldier has guard duty.
There is a wonderful protocol for Christian guard duty found in Proverbs the fourth chapter verses twenty through twenty-two.
“My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.” Proverbs 4:20-22
Here, the Bible cites three gates to our inner life soul sanctuary — the ears, the eyes and the heart. Guarding the ear gate, the eye gate, and the heart gate is not for sissies nor for carnal Christians. Gate guarding is only done by the Spirit. A redeemed child of God though is really a manifestation of the Holy Spirit with working britches on.
Guarding our doors and gates is extremely important. How we take in information and process it is how things enter through the doors and gates of our souls. We must feed the Spirit not the flesh if we are going to guard our borders and keep our gates. Our ears and brains go together. That means what we hear influences how we think. The music we listen to can slip dangerous thoughts into our minds if it’s not God honoring. And, it’s not only what we hear, but how we hear it that should be guarded. Gossip should be confiscated at the ear gate! Researchers say that ninety percent of vision is mental. If that is right, then it proves that the mind is connected to the eyes too. In order to guard our minds them, we must guard our eyes. Looking at the wrong things can fill our hearts with darkness. Good gate keepers are good eye keepers.
“I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” Job 31:1
There is a children’s Bible song that applies to all ages. The lyrics of “O Be Careful Little Eyes” include:
“O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see.”
Of course the song and our lives also involve being careful with our ears, hearts, lips, and steps.
Both the ear gate and the eye gate certainly have a great impact on the heart gate. We live in a world where it is almost impossible not to see or hear something that is not pure. We have enough spiritual warfare to fight without allowing more to enter our hearts and minds. Remember the strong influence our hearts have on our inner life. God’s word says that “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” That should prompt us to keep up our guard! Guarding our gates means we decide what influences us and those we love. Guarding our gates also means we do not allow anything through which diminishes wholeness nor dilutes holiness in us. And, guarding our gates has to be led by the Holy Spirit; it’s called discernment.
Close the Gate
One last thought on gate keeping that I learned the hard way. Over the last month or so, during the COVID 19 shut down and sheltering in, I have had the opportunity to spend more time at home and around my place than normal. I found myself spending time doing yard work or garden work or checking on the cows in the pasture (Though I did study the Bible and tried to help Penny some of the time). My yard looks the best it has ever looked and the garden is pretty good too. But would you believe that the cows got out of the pasture twice during the pandemic panic? It’s true, and it’s even harder to believe that they didn’t find a hole in the fence. They walked out the gates. It’s hard for me to admit this but I left the gate open. I just forgot to close it, else thought I had shut it. I’m not sure what’s worse, having your soul on fire and out of fellowship with God or driving into your driveway and seeing your cows in the garden or in your neighbor’s field? Either creates more panic than a pandemic.
Always remember to close the gate. Don’t let your mind wander back into sinful thoughts. Shut the door on doubt. Forgive yourself and others by forgetting about those failures and offenses. Remove the bitterness and resentment that has wedged
the gate from being shut completely. If you give the devil an inch, he will take a mile. Cows will get out if you leave the gate open. I know that for sure. And the gate they so easily walked out of seems to be the very last place they want to go back through. We are a lot like cows sometime in that we forget that we have protection and sustenance within the boundaries of the Almighty’s providential hand and care and so when we get out in the world or the world gets in us, we lose all sense of direction. Running cows will make a man forget he is a preacher, just ask my family. I think Christians who don’t close their gates grieve their Heavenly Father a lot too.
These gates are grace gates though. Remember the springs that screen doors had on them. When you went outside, the door would shut because of the tension in the spring pulling the door closed. Closing the door helped keep the flies out of the house. In a similar way, God’s restraining grace keeps pulling us back to Him. He won’t let us go, and He loves us so much he will close a gate if He has too. However, God never closes a gate without opening a window.