Super Moon!

All my family (that’s right, ALL of us – it’s been really good to have my daughter Hazel home from college) spent time out on our deck last night looking at the beautiful moon.  You see, last night, May 5, 2012, the moon was full.  Any full moon is beautiful, but last night’s moon was the biggest full moon of the year.  Because the moon travels an elliptical orbit, its distance from earth varies.  Last night’s full moon peaked just as it was passing its perigree, or closest point to earth in its orbit.  The moon was 221,802 miles from earth, approximately 15,300 miles closer than normal.  This makes the moon appear to be approximately fourteen percent larger and sixteen percent brighter than when at its furthest distance.  Astronomers have nicknamed this a “supermoon.”  Truly a beautiful sight!

As we gazed at the night sky and watched the moon travel higher and higher, we were all amazed by the beauty of the moon.  But without a doubt, what impressed me most was the creative power of God.

“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And 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. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day” (Genesis 1:14-19).

The scriptures teach that the heavens were brought about by the breath of God’s mouth.  “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.  He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.  Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.  For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalms 33:6-9).

How should we respond to God’s handiwork?  The psalmist gives us the answer – we are to fear the Lord and stand in awe of him.  In creating the world, God measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, meted out heaven with the span, comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance (Isaiah 40:12).

I serve an awesome God!  A powerful God!  A God who is deserving of every measure of reverence, adoration, and worship I can give him!  How do you respond to God’s handiwork?

Here I Raise My Ebenezer

Most of us are familiar with the song, “O Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The second verse of the song includes the words, “Here I raise my Ebenezer: Hither by Thy help I’ve come:”  But do we understand the significance of the word, “Ebenezer?”

In the seventeenth chapter of First Samuel, Samuel told the Israelites that, if they would abandon their foreign gods, prepare their hearts for the Lord and serve him only, the Lord would deliver them from the hands of the Philistines. When the Israelites did so, Samuel told them to gather at Mizpah and he would pray for them. Once they gathered at Mizpah, they confessed that they had sinned against God.

Once the Philistines heard of the Israelites’ whereabouts, the Philistines decided to attack the Israelites. The Israelites, fearing for their lives, pleaded with Samuel to continue to pray for them, that they would be delivered from the hand of the Philistines. Samuel then sacrificed a lamb to God and prayed for the Israelites. As Samuel was offering the sacrifice, the Philistines drew near, anxious to attack.

I love what the Bible tells us next! The Lord thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome (I Samuel 7:10). The Israelites were successful in driving the Philistines away. The Philistines, subdued and defeated, did not come into the Israelites territory anymore.

Samuel then took a stone, set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called the stone Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” Samuel erected Ebenezer, the “stone of help,” as a memorial in order to ensure the Israelites would not forget the victory God had given them over the Philistines.

As I sing the song, “O Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” I am reminded of the help God has given me in the past. I am reminded that every good thing I have ever received was a blessing from God (James 1:17). To God be the glory, great things He has done!

God Is Still On His Throne

One needs to look neither hard nor far to hear of bad news.  All it takes is a few minutes of listening to the radio, a quick glimpse at the television news, or a brief glance at a newspaper.  It would be easy to give in to the temptation to think that the world is falling apart.  Today alone, I read of a New York Congressman who posted lewd pictures to his Twitter account, five U. S. soldiers were killed in an attack in central Iraq, a mother in New York was sentenced to seventeen years behind bars for burning her six year old daughter during a voodoo ritual, three women in New Jersey were arrested for stealing markers from three hundred and eighty veterans’ graves, Japan has admitted to a full meltdown at three of its nuclear reactors, the deadliest E coli outbreak in modern history is spreading throughout Europe and, if that weren’t enough, thieves in West Roxbury, MA stole a disabled dog’s wheelchair! 

How should a Christian respond to such news?  Sadly, many have hearts filled with anxiety and minds full of worry.  Their outward appearance portrays inner thoughts of doom and gloom.  Have they forgotten that God is still on His throne?  Have they failed to remember that God is still ruling in men’s affairs? 

 There is not one thing that happened today without God allowing it to take place!  God has not taken his eyes off us nor has he become indifferent to our troubles. “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” Daniel 4:17 (King James Version).

Let not your heart be troubled!  God is still on His throne and in control!

Better Than I Deserve!

I once had a friend greet me with the commonly heard phrase, “How are you doing.”  I responded, “Much better than I deserve.”  My friend gave me a rather odd look and said, “Well, that may be; only you know what you’ve been doing.”  It seemed that he took my words, “Much better than I deserve,” as an admission of some sort of wrong-doing.  Not at all!  When a Christian considers how he is doing, he realizes that he really is doing much better than he deserves.

 First, who among us deserves God’s love?  Yet, God loves us anyway!   Men often persist in sin in spite of God’s clear warning against its consequences.  Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Men often continue in their rebellion despite God giving them ample opportunity to repent.  “The Lord is not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).

Even when we turn our backs on God and stubbornly ignore His will, God still loves us.  When we persist in a life of rebellion against Him, God still loves us.  God loves us with a love that cannot be measured, a love that has no borders (Ephesians 3:18-19).  Most of us are familiar with the parable of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15:11-32.  The younger son went to a far country and wasted what his father had given him. He wasted his substance with riotous living, no doubt a reference to a lack of self restraint and involvement in those practices which went against what his father had taught him. Later, the son repented and returned to his father.  But how did the father, who represents God in the parable, react?  He was filled with compassion, ran, fell on his neck, and kissed him.  He lovingly welcomed him home!  When we stray from God and live in rebellion, God is still full of compassion toward us.  He is still longing for the time when he can welcome us home.

Why then, if man is often so rebellious, does God continue to love?  Because anything else would be contrary to His nature!  John wrote, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (I John 4:8).  God’s love for us was manifested, or made known, when He sent His only begotten Son into the world.    It is through his Son that we have the hope of eternal life.  “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (I John 4:9).

Second, who among us deserves our salvation?  Yet, God saves us anyway!  Can we do anything that would make God indebted to us?  Not at all!  Can we do anything to save ourselves without God’s gift of His son?  Not at all!  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  We are saved by God’s grace; most simply defined as God’s unmerited favor toward man.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Could we possibly save ourselves apart from the blood of Christ?  Not at all!  “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).  God sacrificed his son for a sinful people who lacked the strength, the power or ability, to save themselves.

Third, who among us deserves heaven?  Yet, God has promised it to us anyway.  The Bible describes heaven as a place where God will wipe away all tears, where there will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, and no more pain.  All these things will have passed away (Revelation 21:4).  Yet what we deserve is the exact opposite of all this.  That’s why death is referred to as the wages of sin, but eternal life is referred to as a gift (Romans 6:23).

God has truly been good to us.  How are you doing?