I spent the afternoon blowing leaves. I highly recommend it if you are into watching patches of reds and yellows swirling about decorating your life. I felt like I was Jackson Pollock splashing about getting ready for an exhibition. Truly nothing he ever did comes close to what I was doing. My art was living for there was a breeze coming out of the north. Obviously I was bright enough to blow the leaves southward. Even still there were moments of futility if one’s purpose was to clear the yard. But I had the reward of just watching them blow. Everything we do in life doesn’t have to be practical. Sometimes the reward is beauty. And that is enough.
I watched my dog sitting with her face to the wind staring at our mountain. What was she thinking? Was she merely enjoying the pleasure of the wind in her face or did she also see the beauty on the mountain? Are we the only creatures to enjoy aesthetics? I think she is beautiful. What does she think of me?
The enjoyment of beauty is a wonderful gift from God. Philosophers for millennia have sought to define it. How is it that something beautiful to one is not so to another? It is obvious that we see with our brains and not with our eyes. Surely anyone who has ever been rescued from death thinks his or her rescuer is beautiful. Thus Jesus, who rescued us from an eternity of death, is by far the most beautiful being in the Universe. We will never tire of thinking of new ways to praise Him and new names we can call Him.
“How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of him that brings glad tidings.” Isaiah 52:7
It’s debate time in America. Political parties are verbally battling for control of our lives. We the people have to listen and decide who we can trust to tell us the truth. Who is really doing this for us and not for their own ego satisfaction?
There is an interesting passage in Revelation 12:7 and 8. It says, “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” Obviously this was a war of words and not physical combat. Who could war against omnipotence?
This was a war for the hearts and minds of the universe. God, the omnipotent one, tolerated dissent because He knows His dream government is one where love and free will are the fundamentals. If at any time before all the issues (accusations against Him) were openly understood by all His created beings His dream could never be. Lucifer was allowed access to Earth and unfortunately we failed. But God in His great love and for the sake of all the universe sent Jesus into the fray in the weakened form of humanity.
Satan had accused God of being a tyrant who demanded obedience and death. God needed to show that the only thing He wants for His children is the abundant life. Death is the ultimate NATURAL fruit of disobedience. For thousands of years Lucifer toted his lies about what God wanted. The universe listened to the debate. God was not winning until Calvary. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross and Lucifer lost. His lies were exposed. His character was exposed. Our heavenly Father won and with that win comes our victory over death.
When my mother was 85 she asked her doctor to do a cholesterol test. I love what he told her. He said, “Mrs. Felty, you’re 85 years old. You won! Go home and eat anything you want.” I wonder what is the magic number. At what age can I wake up and head for the supermarket to get anything I want to eat?
I salivate when I walk down the cake mix aisle. Not because I want to eat cake. I want to eat one of those cans of icing. There are so many enticing flavors. I fantasize what it would be like to take a can of chocolate frosting, pick up a spoon, sit down for a Patriot’s football game and empty that can. In reality I know I would end up throwing up, but it might be worth it. I fear if I wait too long I might lose the desire. See Ecclesiastics 12:5.
Life is an interesting journey. We are born with incredible potential. If one is to maximize their potential one has to take good care of oneself. That encompasses the total realm of what we are. We are physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual beings. We cannot neglect or abuse any one of these areas and reach our potential. It is so important for us to educate our children to understand that everything that is good for us should be done in moderation. The things God declares to be sin are those things that would keep us from being all we can be. Therefore the only things that are sinful are things that harm us and others. God is a wonderful Father who wants the best for us. He is so proud when we do well.
Surely it did not come as a surprise to Jesus when James and John’s mother approached Him with the request for her sons to have privileged positions in Jesus’ kingdom. Also He could not have been surprised at the anger of the other disciples when they heard about the request. He knew human nature. He understood the challenge of teaching people that the main principle of His new kingdom was service. If one obtains position and power it is given that one might be of greater service.
Having been a pastor enables me to understand how difficult it is to remember the principles of humility and service when one is fawned over by one’s congregation. One is greatly tempted to believe the nice things people say to one’s face and to be thankful not to hear what they say behind one’s back. The greatest sin of pastors is jealousy. It is human to want to be the best, thus it is difficult to hear how wonderful another pastor is. Everyday a pastor needs to remind himself/herself why God gave him/her a congregation.
I am puzzled about heaven and eternal life. If service is the law of God’s kingdom, what kind of service will be needed in a universe that has no sin and no rebellion? If every being has everything they need what is there to give that would be meaningful? Also I am puzzled while here we speak of our need to be unselfish and yet most of the time when we speak of heaven we speak of all the things WE are going to get, such as mansions, health, etc. Surely there are amazing challenges and tasks awaiting us. But what could they be?
Today we drove north from New York City to the west of Boston. It was one of the top ten most beautiful trips I have ever made. Someone had splashed the landscape with a trillion cans of orange, red, yellow and bronze paint. When the sun shone on walls of color the atmosphere itself glowed. At one point as we neared a tunnel we were swallowed by color not only on both sides but also on the mountain in front of us.
As our leaves are rapidly coming to their end I wondered why is it as we near our end that we could not go out in a blaze of glory. Instead we grow pale. Our hair, if we have any left, goes mousey gray. I know only two people with really white hair. Our skin wrinkles. It is difficult to stand up straight. We shuffle. Do you remember the song, “Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.”? I’m fading. I find myself wishing I were a leaf.
I found myself smiling this morning at a lady who must have spent a fortune on a complete reconstruction of her face but she forgot to do her hands. It looked strange to see a sixty face with twenty hair sporting a pair of eighty-five hands.
Fortunately, unlike the leaves which end in glory, we will begin again in glory and retain it. When we are a thousand with a thirty face and thirty hands (I’m guessing thirty is prime.) we have no need of the plastic man. We will never need the plastic man because we will always have Jesus, the resurrection and the life and the sustainer of life evermore. John 3:16 promises, “shall have everlasting life.” How grand!
His name is Jonathan Goldsmith and he has been called, “The most interesting man in the world.” He is a pitchman for a product I best not mention. But I call attention to him because of how he closes his commercials. His ruggedly handsome bearded face looks into the camera and he says to us, “Stay thirsty, my friends.”
Jesus said in John 4, “”Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” And in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
And in Revelation 7 we read about the redeemed standing before God being described as follows, “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sits on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
There is an irony here. In order for us to be led to the living fountains, in order for us to drink the water springing up to eternal life requires us to be thirsty. We must want it. We must never be satisfied until we drink it. Each day we must drink. And so in the words of Jonathan Goldsmith, “Stay thirsty, my friends” and Jesus will satisfy.
In the last 24 hours I have received several responses to yesterday’s message regarding Fels-Naptha soap. Most of them were about having had their parents use it to wash out their mouths because of lies and bad language. No longer do I feel like I was abused. My mother used Ivory soap. It’s 99.44% pure. Pure what?
Jesus is an interesting study in purity. Hebrews 4:15 says, “ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” And yet we read of Him being angry. “And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he said unto the man, ‘Stretch forth your hand.’ And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.”
Obviously anger for the right reason is not sin. Not to be angry would be allowing wrong to rule when righteous people do nothing. In Matthew 23 He lashed out at the religious leaders by calling them names. In the following verses He is anything but being politically correct. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like unto whitened sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
Jesus was purer than Ivory soap. He was 100%. But that did not mean He did not take action when He saw the poor and the powerless being abused by the 1% who had all the wealth and power.
I find it fascinating that I could have lived with something for all the time I can remember and know almost nothing about it. Fels-Naptha is such a thing for me. This afternoon I was in the laundry room and picked up a bar of such and was surprised to read that it was ideal for pre-treating stains. It’s been around since 1893 and was formatted by Lazarus Fels. Naptha is a petroleum product similar to gasoline, kerosene or a variety of things depending where you are in the world. Obviously one should not use it for personal bathing.
As I held it I realized Jesus had pre-treated me for my stains. Since the cross was 2000 years ago that does predate me by quite a bit. God was ready to deal with my faults. Actually God was ready even before the cross. Psalm 51 written 1000 years before Calvary says, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; According to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”
Blots leave stains and so verse seven adds, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” This is better than blotting. This is purging until no stain is left. The end product here is looking like there was no sin, no stain, no blot and so forever after God will not treat us as forgiven. It is better than that. He will treat us as if we had never sinned at all. We will always remember that we were redeemed. But He will never rub it in. We are stainless.
I embarrassed my son this weekend. We stopped at his usual Starbucks and I ordered a medium hot chocolate. I was informed by the guy at the cash register that they did not have anything medium. I needed to order a Grande. And the next time I needed to remember was the guy at the cash register was a barista. I thought this was America! For a moment I wanted to be Steve Martin so I could properly say, “Well, excussseee me!”
As I sat waiting for my hot chocolate to cool enough so I could drink it without scalding off a layer of skin inside my mouth, I got to wondering about the difference between the words “forgive” and “excuse.” What I discerned was “excuse” could imply one had an explanation for an offense making it appear more acceptable. “Forgive” was to pardon or to release someone from punishment. Therefore my sins cannot be excused but must be forgiven. However, I might add my sins often occur because I have a sinful nature which is an explanation. But, with God’s enlisted help I am not a slave to my sinful nature and can be an overcomer.
Jesus was an overcomer and so can we be. “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:23. “Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” I John 5:5
That is great news.
By the way. How come a Starbucks Venti is bigger than a Grande, which means big, large or great?
There is a flat toad on the street in front of my home. I checked our begonia basket to see if it is “our” toad. All summer we have had a toad hide in our begonia basket each day. In the evening it jumps out to forage for whatever. It wasn’t in the basket this afternoon. Could Mr. Flattoad be ours?
I am concerned and remembered something Jesus said about His Father and birds. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Did God care about the toad? Would He care about it more if it was “our” toad? Does loving someone add value to them?
Several years ago I had a graveside service for someone. I mean “someone” because we did not know his name. We were burying him in the anonymous section of the cemetery. It was a very plain section off to the back edge of the cemetery. There were no flowers or shrubs, only numbers. The only people there were the undertaker, me and two grave diggers waiting for me to finish. Did he have less value because there wasn’t anyone there that cared? You might ask, “Didn’t you care?” Sorta. I needed to because no one else did? I wondered if he had a child or grandchildren somewhere? Would they care if they knew?
If loving someone gives added value then he had a lot of value because the most important being in the universe cared. Just in case you have ever wondered about your worth, just ask what price was paid for you. For God so loved the world that He gave His only son for you. Talk about added value. You are something wonderful.