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“Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.” Psalm 142:4

DSC_0032Our duck, Chuck, cannot fairly be considered our duck. Chuck lives with us or, more accurately, around us. He was delivered to our home by some friends needing to relocate Chuck. Chuck needed to exist at a new home or he was soon to cease existing.

My wife, who has a soft spot for ducks, agreed to take in Chuck.

Chuck is a Muscovy duck. Muscovians can fly and perch in trees. They are a very hardy duck. Even so, we originally enclosed Chuck in our chicken coop at night. Coyotes roam our vicinity and we have lost several chickens in the night’s darkness to a local pack. We did not want Chuck to become “foie gras” for a coyote, so each night we herded him into the refuge of the coop.

DSC_0040However, Chuck is a large, male, bird. This means he eats a lot, without producing any eggs. We noticed a steep increase in the consumption of chicken feed after Chuck took up residence in our coop. The chicken food consumed by Chuck was proving to be expensive amusement of watching him waddle across our lawn. Our friends told us that they had never put Chuck in their chicken coop and he had survived.  So, Chuck has been deprived of the refuge of the coop.

I was awakened at 3 AM last week to the yipping of several coyotes. I groggily remembered that I had forgotten to close the gate to the chicken coop. I pulled myself out of bed, slipped into rubber boots, and headed outside with flashlight in hand. The sounds of the coyotes immediately cease as I closed the door behind me. They were close.

I went into the coop and counted my chickens. They were all silently and safely roosting. I looked for Chuck as I closed the coop gate behind me. He was nowhere to be seen so I headed back to the house. I wished Chuck good luck as I went back to bed.

DSC_0022The following morning, there was Chuck waddling across the lawn. He had made it. “Good for you, Chuck”, I thought as I ate my oatmeal.

We don’t really provide care to Chuck. We give him inexpensive corn and water, but as far as security, Chuck is on his own.  I look for Chuck each morning, half expecting to see a strewn patch of feathers signifying the demise of Chuck the duck. Yet, I am pleased to see him make it through the night…”good for you Chuck”.

winter treeI know that many people feel that God has the same attitude toward them, as I have for Chuck.  I have heard too many times the adage, “God helps those who help themselves”. It is an unspoken belief that God sleeps through our dark nights, coming to our aid only when we have shown enough resilience to survive to the dawn.

Those who are in Christ are not Chucks. We are the precious children of our Heavenly Father, for whom He provides care.

He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own knows me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:12-15)

fall treeOur God cares not only enough to get out of bed when He hears the threatening sounds of wolves, He cared enough to send His own Son as the good shepherd to lay down His life for the sheep – you who know His voice.

You are cared for, Beloved of God, even when you feel like you are without refuge. “Good for you, JD” is not the affirmation I receive from God as I emerge from a trial or temptation. He is the good shepherd who watches over me through my long nights. He is our refuge who closes the gate of our soul to the wolves of darkness. He is the one who cares for us as we are silently sleeping in the security of our faith.

Therefore, we need to remember the love of our Father and learn to cry out to Him as the Psalmist when dark thoughts threaten our security:

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings. (Psalm 61:1-4)

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being my refuge.  Thank you for caring for me.  Thank you for your Son – who layed down his life for me.  Thank you for sustaining me through every trial and temptation.  Thank you for leading me to the rock that is higher than I.  Thank you for being my strong tower against the enemy even when I am unaware of the danger around me.  Lord, let me take refuge in the shelter of your wings.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

johann“Rise up, faithful soul, and love that highest Good, in whom every good thing exists, without which there is nothing that is truly good. No creature is able to satisfy our will because no creature maintains perfect goodness, but rather has only shared in such. A sort of stream of good is transmitted to them from the Divine, but the source always remains in God. Why then do we want to eagerly pursue a stream that has been abandoned by the source? Any good in the creature is a kind of image of that perfect good that is in God, yes indeed, that is God himself. Why then do we who have been laid hold of by the image want to desert the very thing itself? The dove sent out of Noah’s ark was not able find a place where its foot could rest in the turning of the waters (Genesis 8:8). So also, our soul is not able to find in any of the numerous things under the moon anything that completely satisfies our desires because all of these things are unreliable and fragile.”
~Johann Gerhard

In honor of Johann Gerhard, German Lutheran theologian, who was born on this day in 1582.

Resources:
October 17 – Today in Christian History
Sacred Meditations

 

 

Standing With The Trees

Originally posted on Run and Be Still:

Maybe it’s because 13 years ago today I woke up never knowing what the week had in store, never knowing that in just 5 days we would be burying our son.  Ignorance is bliss.

Maybe it’s because this season is marred by so many anniversaries.  Anniversaries marking the passage of time from “the before.” Before we knew “that” grief, before we knew “that” fear.

Maybe it’s because I can identify with the tree, but I read this and I can’t get it out of my head. Beating like a drum…

All through the woods, the trees are letting go.

I told the Farmer on the way home from Sunday chapel—when we came up to the top of Bobbie Johnson’s corner, and just before he turned, where you could look long to the northwest and out across Gingerich’s cornfield to their woodlot with the embers of maple — that it was…

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“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.” 1 Kings 4:29-30

What is the function of a conjunction?

Volumes surround me; books standing in perpetual attention upon my shelves, clothed in dusty neglect. Familiar titles call out to me:

Process Geomorphology
Organic Chemistry
Applied Numerical Methods
Differential Equations
Probability and Statistics
Corporate Finance
Cost Accounting

 

 

The intellect of generations and genius are contained within these tombs of knowledge. I once communed among their concepts. I excavated their principles and deciphered their puzzles. I cursed the forced regurgitation of their laws and theories, consumed in short bursts of intellectual gluttony. Yet, I proved to be competent as an educated man.

I have the diplomas to prove it.

However, each text has found a forsaken place on my office shelf; set aside in a head-long pursuit of a profession. Years have swept aside those inquisitive days of study.

Theory replaced by practice;
Integration and derivation yielding to empirical;
Schedule triumphing over intellectual indulgence.

These books have become more decoration than source. They are a reassurance to visitors that the diplomas and licenses that hang on my wall have a foundation. I have learned my profession through years of practice. Yet, I have lost something through the years. Specific knowledge has faded to general in many subjects; conceptual understanding has replaced hard achieved competence.

Knowledge is not perpetual…at least not in my mind.

I do not have the mind of Solomon but neither does anyone else. God gave Solomon a wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and a breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore. The limits of my wisdom and understanding are easily delineated in a game of “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader”, and the scarceness of my mind is more like the occasional sand dollar on the seashore than the sand.

The typical mind has a very limited capacity for the specific. Time erodes away a mind’s competence, when study is neglected, leaving a hollowed relic to the practical. The scores of educated adults who prove that they are not “smarter than a 5th grader” is testimony to our mind’s inability to retain knowledge absence the reinforcing power of study.

The surrender of the knowledge of a conjunction’s function may be a reasonable acquiescence to the pressures of a busy life.

What about the gospel?
Are you willing to surrender the knowledge of the gospel to the pressures of a busy life.

What is the function of the gospel?
Can you clearly present the gospel to someone who has no knowledge of it?

 The ability to clearly explain a principle is demonstration of competent, specific, knowledge of that principle. If you can only generally explain the gospel, it demonstrates a general knowledge.

We have been called to more.

God has revealed Himself through His Bible. We can know our Lord and Savior more and more through the study of His Word. This is why David delighted in God’s commandments and law. It is why David studied.

 Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. (Psalm 111:2)

 How are you doing studying the Bible?
Are you demonstrating your delight in God by studying His great works?

We must remember the minds we have been created with. We must remember that every moment that we spend away from the Word of God, time is eroding the razor edge of specific knowledge down to a blunt instrument of a general understanding. We must not acquiescence our time in God’s Word to the pressures of a busy life. We must not forget His Word.

 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:16)

 

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your Word.  Thank you for speaking to us perfectly even though we are imperfect.  Thank you for giving us everything that we need to follow you today.  Help me to glorify you from the place where I am today. Forgive me for thinking I need a special word from you. Teach me obedience in the everyday. Help me to live upon the nurturiousment of your Word, the Bible.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

English: Theodor Zahn, Professor of Theology, ...

“When we look around, we see many who never seem to fight, but who follow their natural inclinations, the customs of the world, without any perceptible resistance; and yet they are baptized Christians, for whom, so it seems, Christ has lived, fought, and conquered in vain. We see others, again, who confess the same Lord with us, and who have, as a matter of principle, renounced the Evil One, and yet we must close our eyes very tightly if we are not to see with sorrow that they never withstand the very simplest trial. We have also known other Christians who seemed to be brave fighters; we have seen them standing firm when others wavered; we have rejoiced over them; we have encouraged ourselves by their courage and strength. But in decisive moments we have seen them bend the knee to the Evil One who has power in the world.

It is very saddening, even discouraging. It might almost tempt us to unbelief in the victorious power of truth, and to superstition as to the impossibility of conquering sin.

But for this very reason, I say: “God be praised, that He sent His Son to us, that He might be tempted like as we are, and yet remain free from sin.” Let everyone who is tempted to despair in the midst of the battle, look, not on himself or his own strength or weakness; not on the thousands who fall on his left, and the ten thousands who fall on his right hand, but let him look at Jesus. “Behold the Man.” …They know also that it is not the destiny of man to live on in sinful weakness, and to die conquered by sin, but first of all to fight, and then to conquer under the Captain of salvation.”

~Theodor Zahn

In honor of Theodor Zahn, a German biblical scholar and author of the 3-volume “Introduction to the New Testament”, who was born on this day in 1838.

Resources:
October 10 – Today in Christian History
Christ’s Temptation and Ours – A Sermon By Theodor Zahn

 

HEARING GOD – Oct 8

“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said ‘Do not be afraid Paul, you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.” Acts 27:23-25

DSC_0846There is a mysteriously special spot in the US Capital Hall of Statues. We stood upon this spot as our guide crossed the crowded Hall. Tourists meandered about the Hall producing a din of assorted languages that made even close conversations difficult to hear. As our guide stood facing us from across the Hall, we could see the mouth of our guide moving but only the reverberating sound of indistinguishable voices came to our ears. Our guide moved slightly and we could see him speaking but did not hear his voice. He moved yet again and suddenly a quiet, single voice became perceptible above all the noise in our immediate vicinity.

DSC_0850We had found the acoustic sweet spot of John Quincy Adams. It is upon the historic spot where John Quincy Adams sat when this Hall was the floor of the House of Representatives that the perfect acoustical conditions have aligned to allow a voice to be heard from across the Hall. It is a fascinating anomaly of coincidence.

I am tempted to compare the voice of God to that quiet voice we heard in the Hall of Statues. I desperately desire to hear God’s voice above the din of everyday life. I am inclined to believe that I might be missing a special message because I am not in that mysteriously special spot to hear Him.

Maybe, I am not spiritual enough.
Maybe, I am not praying enough.
Maybe, I am not obedient enough.
Maybe, I am not where God wants me.

How foolish is it to believe that God’s purpose can be frustrated by our not being in the mysteriously perfect spot where all the circumstances of sanctification align for His voice to be heard?

That belief is not supported by scripture. When God wants to be heard, He will be heard.

He has made His voice heard by the obedient.
The disobedient have heard His voice.

He has made His voice heard by the redeemed.
The lost have heard His voice.

His voice has been in a whisper.
His voice has rolled with the thunder.

He has spoken through a burning bush.
He has spoken through visible angels.

Visions have carried His words.
Dreams have communicated His intent.

Scriptures teach us that God will be heard when He wants to be heard. The God of the Universe does not need the perfect alignment of circumstances or the will of man for His voice to be heard above the competing noise of this world.

Therefore, we can be assured that we are not missing anything when a special word has not come to our awareness. Equally, we can be assured that we have all that He has given us all we need for today in the Word that He has already spoke to us – the Bible..

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your Word.  Thank you for speaking to us perfectly even though we are imperfect.  That you for giving us everything that we need to follow you today.  Help me to glorify you from the place where I am today. Forgive me for thinking that I need a special word from you. Teach me obedience in the everyday. Help me to live upon the nurturiousment of your Word, the Bible.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

VACATION FRUIT- Oct 6

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-9

 There is nothing like a good vacation to make you want to go home.

My family and I have just returned from a vacation to the east coast of the United States. We spent two weeks continuously touring sites from New York through Virginia. Our heads are still spinning comprehending all we saw and the soles of our feet still aching from the miles trekked.

Every day, our vacation produced fascination and enjoyment as we explored places I had only known in books.

We saw the birthplace of English North American colonization at Jamestown.

We saw the birthplace of English North American colonization at Jamestown.

We walked the streets of colonial Williamsburg, the capital of colonial Virginia.

We walked the streets of colonial Williamsburg, the capital of colonial Virginia.

We visited George Washington's home at Mount Vernon.

We visited George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon.

We visited Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello.

We visited Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.

We walk the first halls of power at Independence Hall

We walk the first halls of power at Independence Hall

We were guided through the modern halls of power at the US Congress...

We were guided through the modern halls of power at the US Congress…

...White House...

…White House…

...and the Supreme Court

…and the Supreme Court

We joined a prayer walk for Pastor Saeed in front of the White House.

We joined a prayer walk for Pastor Saeed in front of the White House.

We contemplated the cost of freedom at the Lincoln...

We contemplated the cost of freedom at the Lincoln…

WWII, Korean, and Vietnam memorials

…WWII, Korean, and Vietnam memorials

We were overwhelmed by the collections of the Smithsonian...

We were overwhelmed by the collections of the Smithsonian…

...and Botanical Gardens.

…Botanical Gardens.

We pondered the destruction of the civil war at the flashpoint of Harpers Ferry.

We pondered the destruction of the civil war at the flashpoint of Harper’s Ferry.

We were assaulted by New York City’s time square.

We were assaulted by New York City’s time square.

We applauded the talent display on Broadway (The Lion King).

We applauded the talent displayed on Broadway (The Lion King).

We wept the loss captured at the 911 Memorial.

We wept the loss captured at the 911 Memorial.

We drank in the hope promised by the Statue of Liberty.

We drank in the hope promised by the Statue of Liberty.

Our east coast conceptions crumbled under the landscapes of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey.

We had a fabulously full vacation. Yet, the allure of home was universally felt as our vacation drew to a close. A desire for the familiar overwhelmed our affection for continued exploration. We had toured for two weeks through a land that was not our own. We created memories that will last our lifetime and enhanced a love for home.

A desire for home may be the greatest fruit of our east coast vacation.

I am reminded of a quote by C.S. Lewis:

I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death.

Most of us have lives filled with wonderful busyness. We have so many blessings to experience and enjoy; so many opportunities to explore and fulfill. I assert that the average person in North America and Europe are living what historically would be a life of wonderful vacation. Yet, there runs through our culture dissatisfaction with this prosperity. We live  fabulously full lives. Yet, there is an allure felt by most for something more.

It is the call of our true country. It is the unsatiated desire for our heavenly home. A home we were created for.

A desire for our heavenly home may be the greatest fruit of the dissatisfied prosperous. We need to redeem our incessant dissatisfaction with the wonderful and amazing. Rather than letting dissatisfaction turn to contempt or thanklessness, we need to be reminded that our tendency is to look to earthly pleasures to satisfy something that they were never created to fulfill.

The blessings of this earth are “only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage” to enhance our love for our heavenly home and Father. Our longing for something more is the reminder that we are not home. A reminder that should give us courage and direct our efforts toward pleasing our Lord and Savior who has created for us an everlasting home with Him.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the blessing of a wonderful vacation.  Thank you for the opportunity to travel with my family and see so many wonderful sites.  Thank you for my home.  Thank you for the reminder that you have created for me an everlasting home with you.  Forgive me for being dissatisfied in the earthly blessings you have given me.  Forgive me for forgetting that this is not my home.  Create in me a desire for my true country with you.  Help me to be of good courage and to desire to please you in all that I do.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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