Do We Clearly See?

Sun sets on the Hawaiian Islands, and the crowds stand along the shoreline with their cameras aimed westward while frothy surf tickles bare feet. Hundreds of eyes—young and old, round and almond-shaped, brown and blue—glued to the grandeur of a huge orb of fire, slipping serenely into an aqua sea. The sky is ablaze in hues of pink, lavender, and orange.

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I want to shout, “To God be the glory!”

But I’m a silent observer. My heart heavy with the weight of a world who pauses to experience a breathtaking sunset while often ignoring, if not denying, the Creator who made this very moment possible.

The people see, but can they hear the heaven’s declaring God’s glory?

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

I’m not passing judgement on a band of international tourists on holiday. Who knows what eternal thoughts (if any) came into their minds as they witnessed the daily miracle unfolding. Most people don’t wear a T-shirt proclaiming their faith. But imagine the eyebrows I might have raised, if I’d kneeled in the cool sand and raised my hands towards the sky, praising God’s name. Would anyone have joined me? Whispered, “Amen!”

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I’m not a bold witness when I’m alone among strangers. And yet, I’m convicted. How can I not proclaim the gospel that is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes in Christ Jesus?

A Japanese couple takes a selfie with the sun peeking over their shoulders. When they gaze at the sun, are they privately worshipping Amaterasu—the sun goddess—who is a major deity in the Shinto religion? According to the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in Japanese mythology, the Emperors of Japan are considered to be direct descendants of Amaterasu.

Curious, I search the internet for “sun gods” and a long list of names from cultures around the world reveals mankind’s desire to define and worship the sun, or link the sun to a god or goddess. When the Apostle Paul wrote the Christians living in Rome, the culture worshipped the sun god, Apollo.

Does it matter what we call the god who created and controls the sun? Does it matter if there’s a god? 

According to Acts 17:23-31 . . . it matters very much.

That’s why Paul talked to the religious people of Athens about their statue to “an unknown god.” Paul stood in a crowd and assured them, they could know “the God who made the world—the Lord of heaven and earth.” He explained….

  • God does not live in temples built by hands.
  • God is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything because he gives all men life and breath.
  • God desires that men would seek him and reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

I wonder if Paul and the crowds paused that day to watch the sun set on Athens?

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What were they thinking when the sun seemed to brush the earth with a goodnight kiss? Did they credit Apollo with another sunset, dismissing Paul’s words as foolishness? Or, were their eyes opened to clearly see their Creator’s invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature so they could believe and worship the One, True God.

Something to consider even in this . . . glorious God-ordained sunset that happens everyday!

 

 

 

 

Can We See the Icing on the Cake?

IMG_6106In a banquet room lit with floating candles, white Christmas lights, and sparkling silver decor, there was a small round table draped in white cloth. And on that table, there stood a one-tier wedding cake with no topper.

She made it from scratch.

 A double, eight-inch round chocolate cake covered in white fondant, trimmed in sugar pearls and pink miniature roses.

She made it from a labor of love.

“God laid it on my heart to bake your daughter a cake for her wedding. If you want it, I can drop it off…”

And so she did, while the guests were at the ceremony.

Attracting attention, receiving money and thanks, was not her intention. She was obedient and followed her heart.

There was nothing ornate about the cake table. No bling or glitter to draw one’s eye. It was upstaged by a larger two-tiered cake, surrounded by a wreath of white lights and roses, on another table.

But some guests noticed the little cake, and asked, “Why do you have two cakes?”

Each time I explained the story, my eyes became wet.

Because a woman I met once, who makes cakes in her kitchen, felt compelled to bake my daughter a cake. She called the morning of the wedding, not knowing we’d bought a cake. And still she chose to give us the cake at her own expense.

Accepting her love gift was like eating humble pie. I’d done nothing to deserve this favor.

 But then again, I’d witnessed many acts of kindness during the wedding preparations. This gift from a stranger’s hands was another example of God working through His saints. This undeserved favor, this grace, was the “icing on the cake!”

As a formality, the wedding couple cut the larger cake during the reception. There was little fanfare.

Three days later, the returning honeymoon couple sliced the sweet love gift during our Christmas feast. And while family members enjoyed dessert, I shared the story of the little wedding cake which had become symbolic of grace.

 Even now the empty cake plate makes me smile, thankful for the never-ending grace in my life.

Who can earn God’s grace, yet He chooses to pour out His grace without measure.

Who knows how many people I have offended who turn the other cheek and show me grace.

I only know, whether it’s the surety of my soul’s salvation or a one-tiered wedding cake, GRACE ABOUNDS.

Regardless of my circumstances, if I have eyes to see, I will find grace even in this…..

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

Where have you noticed God’s recent grace in your life?

Grace Amazing

Our summer meal was light: Chicken Caesar Salads. A sharp contrast to our heavy dinner conversation…..

“Do you mean to say that if Hitler had asked God’s forgiveness and received Christ, he’d go to heaven?”

I nodded. The expression on my guest’s face told me If that’s true, life’s not fair.

It’s True, based on scripture: “By grace, we are saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). If we can earn our way to heaven, then why the Cross?

But I agree, it’s not fair if a man who exterminated people like cockroaches can be forgiven and receive eternal salvation. Who in his right mind would want to absolve Hitler or his henchmen? May they rot in hell….wouldn’t that be justice?

As we washed salad bowls, I thought about God’s grace — the power to save a human soul. Yes, even the souls of leading Nazis who were the most hated men of their time.

The Cross and the Swastika by F.T. Grossmith (Pacific Press Publishing Assoc.,1989) tells what happened to Hitler’s men during their last months in Nuremberg.

US Army Chaplain, Major Henry Gerecke was assigned to them as their spiritual adviser. Dealing with Hess and Goring wasn’t easy, but the chaplain prayed for the ability to love Hitler’s gang and share the hope of Christ. “He saw several of his ‘congregation’ come to Christ before he accompanied them to the gallows.”

This testimony of God’s all encompassing grace reminded me of a television documentary. Prison inmates dressed in starched white uniforms, clean-shaven, with cropped haircuts, stood onstage. Their voices rose in unison as they sang the Christian hymn Amazing Grace. 

What hideous crimes had they committed to become society’s prisoners? And yet, by God’s grace, these men’s hearts were transformed from criminals to saints.

Nazis, Convicts, Myself….all guilty, to some degree, of breaking God’s law.

Trusting Christ as our Savior…..all pardoned and cleansed, by the blood of Jesus. And His finished work on the cross.

No one is beyond God’s redeeming grace.  And that is amazing!

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” Psalm 51:7

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9

Remember When

Miles and miles of asphalt stretch like black ribbon across the arid land of southern Arizona.

As my vehicle transports me westward through Tucson, memory carries me backwards when I called this city home. Its mountain range was the scenic backdrop during the bulk of my childhood. I dream about it still.

If time wasn’t a factor, I’d spend the day searching for landmarks, hoping my memories remained reality. Is the rope swing still hanging from the tree? Are the neighbors the same? Would Buttons, our black and white cat, be sitting on the backyard fence?

Remembrance brings tears.  Wishing I could travel back in time. Knowing I can’t.

Sweet memories rise like creme to the surface, negating any bad remembrances. But is anything gained by looking at yesterday? Lessons learned? Friendships made? Turning points …

My heart flutters. Jesus Christ became my Lord and Savior when I lived in Tucson. It was here I received my first Bible: a white leather, King James Version, with my name engraved on the front cover. I remember the desire He planted in my twelve-year-old heart to follow Him, know Him.

Not remember?

How could I walk this earthly journey “by faith and not by sight” if I didn’t recall God’s faithfulness during my life?

His Word repeatedly says, “Remember”…

  • The deeds of the LORD and His miracles of long ago” (Psalm 77:11).
  • God is our Rock; that God Most High is our Redeemer” (Psalm 78:35).
  • Life is fleeting” (Psalm 89:47).
  • To obey God’s commands” (Numbers 15:40).
  • Words the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive‘ ” (Acts 20:35).
  • Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel…” (2 Tim. 2:8).
  • The poor” (Galatians 2:10).
  • Each other in prayer” (2 Tim. 1:3).
  • Those in prison” (Hebrews 13:3).
  • Your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you...” (Heb. 13:7).

Plus the multitude of scripture which saysGod remembers.” He remembers His people, His covenant, His promises.

A highway patrol car passes on my left, pulling thoughts back to the moment. New homes and freeway overpasses show the city is expanding. In my mid-teens, I moved away. But Tucson isn’t a ghost town or stuck in the past. It’s progressing, thriving like me after all these years.

And God, the Redeemer who sought a twelve-year-old girl in Tucson, is still leading me on the highway of life.

Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end. 

That’s something to remember every day.

Remembering Him, even in this……

Still the One

Open Bible. Read His Word. Pray.

I’ve got the routine down. But this morning I’m only going through the motions.

Check my spiritual pulse. It’s as though I’m flat line_____.

No inspiration. No spark.

Need the Holy Spirit to jump start my heart.

Driving to jail for Bible study, I pray, “Lord, restore to me the joy of Thy salvation.” How do I show others Your power when I feel the lack?

Can’t trust my feelings. Hold onto the facts.

Twenty women dressed in red, with faces hard as the concrete walls. Television blares. Inmates engrossed in board games ignore me. Loathe who I am.

I wait until one adventurous soul brings her Bible and joins me at the table. And then another. We are three women gathered in His name. Take turns reading Scripture aloud because God’s word “will not return to Him empty, Without accomplishing what He desires…” (Isaiah 55:11).

One time a paralyzed man came to Jesus for healing, but first Jesus forgave the man’s sins. “Which is easier,” Jesus said, “to say to the paralytic ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘arise and take up your pallet and walk?’ But in order that you may know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins –He said to the paralytic-– ‘I say to you rise, take up your pallet, and go home’ ” (Mark 2:9-11).

And he did. More important, his sins were forgiven. Just like myself and two inmates.

His Spirit lives within us. But the goal is to let His Spirit reign.

We read, discuss, and pray. Three lit candles shining in the dark. Not knowing someone watches and waits to come to the table, drawn by the light.

“Will you pray for me?” the woman asks when the other two have left.

Like the paralytic, she wants the tangible rather than eternal. Prefers a prayer request instead of a personal relationship. Still I pray, hoping she’ll seek Jesus who rescues sinners and then answers prayers.

I leave the room. Hurry down a long hallway, listening to my heels click on the cement floor. Watch the video cameras watching me.

Metal doors snap unlock so I can open and close. One door after another until at last I’m on the outside.  I soak up the sun’s warmth as a fresh breeze brushes my face.

I feel His pleasure, the joy of His salvation.

Because Jesus is the Living God. Still healing. Still forgiving.

Telling me, “Arise.”