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Here Be Giants!

 

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Deuteronomy 31:8, NLT

There is an ancient map in London, England dated from 1525, that has some interesting notations written on it. At one edge someone wrote, “From this point there are fiery scorpions.’  And also written, was “Here be dragons.” On the other margin somebody else noted, ‘Here be giants.” But a believer named Sir John Franklin wrote on this same map, “Here is God.”

Certainly cartographical scorpions, dragons and giants seem to be bit quaint. We certainly don’t really believe in such things anymore. Yet the presence of God is true and quite real. He is present, and is quite active in the lives of everyone who has ever used a map of any sort.

35 “As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Mark 4:25-41, NLT

The Sea of Galilee actually has four names, and it actually isn’t a sea, but a lake with sweet and good water. The lake is over 13 miles long and 7 miles at its widest point. The way the hills surround the lake can produce waves over 20 feet, due to unique weather pattern that exists today.

The disciples were seasoned fishermen. They had each seen tough times, but what is going to be unleashed on them is far and above anything they have ever seen. They were frightened.

Jesus was pretty much exhausted. He had been ministering for several days. This was a stretch. A trip across the lake would give Him a definite break. He is so tired, He falls asleep, using a “boat cushion” as a pillow. He is soon sound asleep.

The disciples seem to respect Jesus’ need for rest. But it all gets chaotic and confused quite quickly. None of them had experienced such a terrible storm. They woke Jesus up, and strongly suggested that He do something decisive. Otherwise, they would all be lost.

Jesus was awakened to another need. My guess is that He needed more sleep, but the present moment He needed to speak boldly into this ugly storm. The waves are quite nasty, but at His Word spoken, everything becomes quite serene.

His disciples are undone. They simply draw different conclusions. What they have just seen strips them down to a basic level. The deep presence of Him takes apart of all they understand. God takes them apart, and they end up in a very interesting position.

Our perceptions shouldn’t alter the presence of God. He is our steady rock in our ‘quicksand world.’ He shuts down our storms. You can truly rest with Him in your boat, controlling the storms.

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The Voice

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“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

John 10:27, NLT

Do you hear him? He is always speaking to his own; with many things, some pertaining to guidance, and other issues. He delights in teaching us– through words of wisdom that encourage us to follow, or how to really love your neighbor.

He desires to point out things as we encounter them; your curiosity in the natural is meant to be spiritual as well. His soul is that of a teaching shepherd, and he delights in his ministry to us. And we need his instruction.

Regular time with him can not be separated from our daily routine. I have learned that he accommodates himself to us, the ‘grist’ of life is his blackboard. The events that I encounter are his ‘lessons.’ As I move through my life I ‘hear’ his voice. I begin to sense the need of those who I encounter.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Matthew 9:36

I have learned the joy of praying in the moment with 10 second prayers. Praying continually as I see the needs. I pray for the man who bags my groceries; and lift up the young mother pushing a stroller. I believe his voice prompts me to lift each need I encounter. When the Bible tells us to ‘pray continually’ this is what Paul has in mind.

He becomes my teacher– compassionate and kind to those I meet.

He ‘tunes me’ to see people from his viewpoint. He shows me of their struggles, hopes, and aspirations. I try to never judge what I’m shown; actually the opposite is true– I’m learning to love like he loves. I’m seeing what he sees.

I’m a work in progress. Very often my cares, sins, and disobedience nullify the voice of Jesus, Sometimes my personal issues hijack me and I swirl down into depression or paranoia. I am intensely flawed, but the Holy Spirit is gracious. He always meets me where I am. Slowly, I’m learning to hear his voice.

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All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Prayer

“Before they call I will answer;
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.” 

Isaiah 65:24

In my thinking, there has to be terribly cataclysmic going on if you see me resort to prayer.  Praying not an automatic response for me.  It seems like it is the final, last thing I will do, just before the walls crumble and the enemy threatens annihilation.  Only then I start praying.  At that moment, it will seem I am very devout.  But that is a lie, I am not.

All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergartenby Robert Fulghum. (That is a great title, and the book was pretty good too.)  Making that connection at that age implies a lot of native ability.  There is so much, so very much we are expected to learn at such a young age.  But I have to tell you this, and it’s a well-guarded secret of sorts.  Christians need to learn how to pray when they are in their spiritual kindergarten.

The curriculum is basic.  There needs to be a reality and a definite sense of effectiveness in our prayer.  Prayer seems to require an awareness of something substantial, as if it were really making a difference after all.  And to make matters more intense, it’s all to be done on completely by faith.  When fighter pilots start flying for real their F-16s, the instructors will block off their vision, forcing the students to fly by instruments only–that is all they can see.  Now that seems very scary to me.

By faith we fly “…not by sight.”  And this process is quite intimidating, many wash-up and can’t continue.   It really is a trust issue, and at times it’s all we can do to muddle through it.  The basics of prayer are given at a young age, but there seems an exponential growth in our spirits over the things we accomplish through him.  It seems to me (the ultimate 98 lb. spiritual weakling, mind you) is that it is not so much as duration but in frequency.  Pray short! But pray a lot.  Pray about everything.  Ten second prayers should be a regular part of your life.

Prayer is a class we must attend to get our wings.  I don’t think that it can be done poorly.  (It is just done!)  It seems the best kind of prayer is the desperate kind.  People learn to pray when things are very, very bad.  When they fall into a deep well, or when they find out their young daughter is pregnant.  People who have terrible illnesses (physical or mental) are often the best prayer warriors. The Father has given them a precious gift.

Pray short! But pray a lot.  Pray about everything.

Learning prayer is a basic 101 course.  But if we take good notes we will keep coming back to our basic lessons.  It seems that things are received but never obtained.  We are his students, and we must truly believe he loves to teach us.  Praying seems to be a way of giving him joy.  And if I can do that, I want to.

“All the troubles of life come upon us because we refuse to sit quietly for a while each day in our rooms.”

Blaise Pascal

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Fire or Blackberries?

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In some odd way, our lives seem to be always getting interrupted by God. And it can happen a lot. We need to see the invisible. When we can, it can be quite amazing. Our night sky here in Alaska is wonderful. (And I’m a “sky guy”, it means I’m always looking up.) But the most phenomenal night skies were in Mexico, while camping on the beach. As I laid there I looked and the Milky Way was on full display. It really was as good as it could be. It seemed there was 10x more stars than ever before.

Once as I gazed up, a weird sort of fear gripped me, it was almost a panic. I started to tremble and shake. I got up and ran to our tent. I just couldn’t handle the incredible universe with no buffer. I was completely undone, and reduced a quivering speck of dust. I tried to tell my wife Lynn what had just happened to me, but I couldn’t. I was too scrambled. I couldn’t speak.

Reflecting on this, I realize now what I had experienced was “awe.” It was something much more common a few generations ago. There is a kind of existential crisis which we side-step in these more modern times. We rarely contemplate the night sky. We seldom, if ever, have seen fire in a bush.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It seems we have traded our awareness of an Almighty God, and in turn we get to pick all blackberries we can haul. We reason it out, and we feel that we have made a better bargain. But when we extricate this from our souls, don’t be surprised if we suddenly find that we have become spiritual paupers.

Maybe we should learn to see through things; each of us have the opportunity now to see the spiritual world that swirls around us. Why wait for heaven? Ask our Father to reveal His glory now in this present moment. Learn to see that which can’t be seen, but by faith.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made.”

Psalms 19:1, NCV

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Crane Song and Common Grace

They sing to God

“And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.  The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.” 

Hebrews 1:2-3, NLT

There is an idea of an existance of a ‘common grace’ that touches every person on this rock called Earth.  What is suggested with this, is that every person has access to grace; at least on a basic level, such as nature, government, medical, education and judicial.  We all are sharing in common grace whether we are saved or not.

Common grace explains a great deal, He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45) They both benefit from His care, whether they believe or disbelieve.

On the other pole, lies ‘special grace.’  It is different.  It is grace that is given to those who put their trust in the promises for salvation, deliverance and healing.  These promises can only be enjoyed by a Christian believer.  Special grace is grace that God gives to each one who is in a covenant relationship with Himself.

I got up early the other morning, with a cup of coffee in hand and went to sit out on my steps.  I have to tell you that mornings are truly delightful here in Alaska.  As I sat looking at the trees and watching the clouds,  the sun was caught by the trees and they began to glow.  (I always think of the burning bush of Moses and secretly wonder if trees don’t remember and try to emulate their ancestor so long ago.)  I hear the cranes from the lake.  And all of this touches me.

Just as I physically awoke 20 minutes ago, I now awaken spiritually. Common grace makes this all possible.  When I first became a believing Christian, I was quite amazed at how blue the sky was. The grass seemed greener. I remember feeling amazed that I hadn’t noticed these things before. I guess I was full of joy over the special grace that I had just been given.crane1

Common grace curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.”

–Louis Berkof, Christian theologian

I love common grace.  It makes it possible to enjoy my coffee in the sunshine on the deck.  Common grace allows me to hear the crane’s special song.  People everywhere are drawing from the common well of common grace. “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” (John 1:4)

 

 

 

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The Intensity of God’s Glory

When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it.16 The glory of the Lord came down on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from inside the cloud.17 To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a fire burning on top of the mountain.18 Then Moses went into the cloud and went higher up the mountain. He was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Exodus 24:15-18

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When we think real hard about ‘glory’ we end up gravitating to something that is invisible.  We work it out and it becomes something like honor, prestige, fame or respect.  This is a good start for us, and we do benefit from this sort of mental gymnastics.

Moses gets an invite from God to join Him on top of Sinai.  I can see Moses trembling with excitement as he climbs up into the Glory of God.  I’m willing to guess that the concept of just mere ‘invisible’ attributes was about to go through a major overhaul.  Moses entered the glory.  And nothing would ever be the same again.

Glory is a repeated experience that touched the children of Israel. 

  • First of all, during the Exodus they were led by a pillar of cloud and fire.  It protected and provided all that they needed.  All they had to do is look up.
  • Secondly, God’s glory took residence on Mt. Sinai.  There was much to do.  The Israelites commented that this glory altered the mountain top to ‘a consuming fire’.  I have been in a forest fire and it was quite intimidating; frightening is a very good description.
  • Thirdly, we see the glory of God is at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple.  We are told that the presence of God was so powerful that it temporary incapacitated the priests that were present.  It totally undid them and it laid them out on the floor (1 Kings 8:11).
  • The fourth time we see the Glory of God was at the Transfiguration in Luke 9:29-31.  Three disciples were present, and inexplicably Moses and Elijah.  But it was Jesus that took center-stage.  He seems to be the ‘focal point’ of lots and lots of glory.

I’m coming to see that glory is a whole lot more than esteem or honor.  Glory has a bolder and more intense quality about it.  Yes, it is respect and honor.  But it goes beyond this–it seems to be turbocharged with the supernatural.  I have been in revival meetings that were quite glorious. Perhaps we need to seriously look for or anticipate more of these “disturbances of glory.” (I’ve been saving this verse for the end.)

Our faces, then, are not covered. We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Cor. 3:18, NCV

We are simply ‘display cases’ that take in His glory and magnify it through our humanity.  It changes us to become more Christlike, and this verse seems to suggest that this keeps increasing, it doesn’t fizzle out.  And I’m thinking that this is tremendous!

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God of Wonders

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“Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.

Genesis 1:16

“Wonder is retained by wise pondering.” –Ravi Zacharias

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” —Unknown

“We wake, if ever at all, to mystery. ”  –Annie Dillard

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It strikes me this morning that we live in a ‘coarse’ age. I meet so many who don’t seem to enjoy life at all. They seem to view things without ‘seeing’ them. There is mystery all around, and yet we seem to lack the faculties to perceive it. We probably would rather play X-box than write a poem, paint a portrait, or gaze through a telescope.

The older I get, the more life astonishes me. There is so much mystery saturating my life: nature, the night sky, a tiny baby, and my hands– all just ‘skimming the surface.’ When I consider the multi-layered complexity of life, I tend to ‘short-out.’

“We wake, if ever at all, to mystery.” –Annie Dillard

God reveals Himself as, ‘the God of wonders.’ When I consider our phenomenal universe with more than a million, billion galaxies I start to lose it. Once I camped on a remote beach in Mexico. There wasn’t any electrical, so at night it really got dark. Lying on my back I saw the ‘Milky Way’ for perhaps the first time. It was magnificent! But I also got somewhat scared as I looked into it’s depths. I actually ran back to my tent terrified. I guess I got ‘overloaded.’

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?”

Psalm 8:3-4, NKJV

For the freshly awakened believer, it is almost beyond belief to see so many people ‘sleepwalking’ through life. The somnambulistic masses move through life with nary an inkling of what it is all about. They are completely oblivious it would seem; they are unable to see the wonders of creation, much less the Creator. The enemy blinds so many to God’s presence and His redemption. The darkness is almost palpable.

“Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.”

Psalm 96:3

“I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.” — Harry Emerson Fosdick

“You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.”

Psalm 77:14

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