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Sunrise and Sunset

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.

This verse, and others like it, have often been interpreted in a way that brings disdain for  our world. Everything about it. In certain circles of Christianity, it breeds a false paradigm that is sort of reminiscent of a scorched earth policy- lets get out of here, its all bad and nothing good, its going to be replaced, let it all burn.

But this verse, and others like it, are talking about the sin of this world, systemic and personal. It’s referencing the fallenness of humanity and the results, and our need to rise out if it and not love it any longer. But in no way are these verses saying all is bad, nothing is good, nothing to enjoy here, let’s scorch it and get out. Remember, God made this world and called it good, and there is much good about it. He teaches us to pray on earth as it is in heaven, right here, right now.

This is something that has been reinforced in me through the last few months. I found that I am not in a hurry to get out of here. I know to be present with the Lord is ultimately better. I believe in the great hope, the resurrection of the dead and all things being made new in finality. But I found again that God made this world as a place of enjoyment for us. And even though it is fallen, there is much good to be found. Family, friends, relationships. Things that bring smiles and laughter. The enjoyment of the earth itself, the wonder and beauty of nature. I believe this perspective is from God himself. He is currently, right now, making all things new. In that, seeing that, we can see the wonder of life, though not perfect, though still being redeemed, in this earth right now. God is making all things new and we are a part of that if we choose. In us. Through us. Around us. I didn’t need to experience that last eight months to realize this, but the last eight months were a strong reminder. I capped off the events of the last eight months by spending time in the woods, relaxing with my family, and going on a hike with family and friends. All things I enjoy. All things that are good. None of which am I in a hurry to get rid of. I believe God was glad that I enjoyed those things. He wasn’t angry because I have a love for these things. These kind of things are in this world, but not of the sin of this world.

For me, all of this finds a home in the sunrise and the sunset. A moment in experiencing – stopping, pausing, taking in – a sunrise or a sunset is a constant reminder of the goodness of life as it is right now. As a bowhunter I’ve experienced countless sunrises and sunsets. Even when not in the tree stand I am often awake at the sunrise and often take notice of the sunset. I make it a point to take a moment, if possible, to ponder the sunrise and sunset each day. Stop. Pause. Take in. The tree stand I hunt from the most faces west. The sun rises in the east. But as the sun comes up, all it takes is a look around the tree to experience the sunrise breaking through the trees. There is something profound about the light as it breaks over the horizon and begins to enlighten the woods. In the evening, as the sun sets in the west, I am facing directly to it. Seeing the sun go down and slowly hide behind the horizon brings a certain peace. Whether a sunrise or a sunset, I am always struck with wonder. A wonder that God is a masterful creator.  I’m reminded of His love for us, that He is the sustainer of life. For tomorrow, even if it is cloudy and you cannot see it, the sun will rise and the sun will set. A reminder at the sunrise that each day is new, life is progressing, and His mercies are new every morning. A reminder at the sunset that each day does end, that if there are struggles they will eventually cease, that God certainly will bring a close to the fallenness of all things, and we will find rest.

Psalm 113:3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.

 

 

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New Every Morning

Jerusalem and the Temple destroyed. Inhabitants exiled to a foreign land. God has acted. Lamentations.

We can feel this way at times. Things seem destroyed. We feel exiled from God himself, lost in a foreign place. Not necessarily because God has acted, but because life has overwhelmed us. The author of Lamentations writes honestly, crying out, but hinging on the turning point of who he knows God to be. This writer tries to write honestly, crying out, and hopefully hinging on the turning point of who I know God to be.

Lamentations 3:19-20
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.

Dear God,
I cry out to you.
This is my lament,
of anguish and shame.
Do you know my name?
Do you still know my name?

:21-26
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

This is my psalm, 
of crying out to God;
my God responds, the ending of lament.
No more sorrow and shame.
He knows my name,
He still knows my name.

And everything He is, is new every morning.

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(Check out Erik Stensland on Facebook and Twitter, his pics of RMNP are incredible)

Questions

What are you doing each day to connect with God? Are you are person of Scripture, of prayer, of worship?

Are you living your life in evidence of praying, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?

Are you pressing on towards the upward call of Christ? Are you searching to really know Him more?

Are you living your life in the full belief in the life to come?

Are you living each day as today may be the return of Christ?

Are you living in the wonder and sacredness of the Creator God?

Are you loving your family? Are you loving your friends? Are you loving your neighbors? Are you loving your enemies? Are you growing in love?

Are you growing in assurance of who you are in Christ?

Do you have joy and peace? Are you expressing those to others?

Are you smiling and laughing?

Are you doing the things that God created you to enjoy?

What bothers you about this world? What can you do about it?

Are you praying for the persecuted Church?

Are you a shining light on a hill? Are you subversive to the fallen systems of sin in this world?

Do you believe there is always hope?

 

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Pictures

Armed with my iphone, the following are a handful of my favorite pictures from the last year or so of my wanderings.

Psalm 8:3-4
When I consider the heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

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Fall

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Gem Lake

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Mountain hiking in the snow and clouds

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Never-ending pines

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The mountains are calling…

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Sunrise in the stand

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Kentucky sunset

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Moonville Tunnel

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Spring and Summer

 

Sacred

Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

God is Creator. God is holy. God is THE God. He is the I Am.

The wonderful thing about the creator God is that he desires that we, his creation, draw near to him. As it says in 1 John, “We love because he first loved us” (4:19). But in our drawing near we must not lose our wonder and awe of him, because simply put, he is God. He is creator and we are creation. We cannot make him into something else or something less. Or as Annie Dillard plainly put, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke?”

Psalm 147:5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power

When we lose our wonder and awe of the God we say we serve, we lose the sacredness of our meetings with him. Our time in his presence is sacred. Our times of prayer are sacred. Our times of fasting are sacred. Our times of worship are sacred. Our times of meeting together in his name are sacred. The public reading of Scripture is sacred. The partaking of communion is sacred. The act of water baptism is sacred. To see these things as anything less is to begin to see God as less than God. Sacred time. Sacred place. Sacred space. Meetings with God. Connections to God. There is before us the reminder of the difference between the sacred and the secular.

The loss of the sacred causes the essence of our interactions with him, especially our worship, to be shallow. At worse, the loss of the sacred turns our interaction with him into self serving actions. We begin to see God as simply a means to benefit ‘me’ in some manner. We begin to judge our interaction with God based on what we get out of it- whether emotional or tangible. Though God does respond to us and forgive us and bless us and at times touch our emotion and so much more, we cannot completely reduce it to these kind of things. He is God. We worship and follow him because he is that, whether or not there is emotional feeling or a tangible result. He is God and our meeting with him stands on its own. It is sacred. He is not the great genie of the sky simply there to grant our wishes. Our interactions with him (whether worship or prayer or fasting, etc) are not the ways in which we rub the lamp to get the genie to come out in order to have our wishes granted. We worship God because he is God. We serve God because he is God.

God met with Moses through a burning bush. He called Moses to do great things. The meeting with God was ‘take off your sandals sacred’. It was as if to say, “I am God. Don’t forget who I am. Once you get past yourself and do these things, no matter how great they are, remember, I am God. And our interaction is sacred.” This sacredness did not lose it’s edge even when Moses met with God “face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)

Jesus addressed this in an underlying way in Matthew chapter 6. In talking about prayer and fasting he made it clear that God rewards what we do in secret. In other words, these kind of things are between you and God. They are sacred. They are not to be used to showboat or try to get praise from man- to seem spiritual in front of others. If so, that is the reward you get, but you receive no reward from God. When you go to God in secret, that sacredness of time with him, there the reward is found. That is not to say there should be no public prayer or times of public calls to fasting, but what it is saying is do not remove the sacredness of the acts because of pride.

This shows up in our public and private worship. The range of worship shown in Scripture goes from “Clap your hands, all you nations, shout to God with cries of joy” (Psalm 47:1) to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It is not that the loudest draw the nearest to God (lest we try to be very loud to be seen or heard- to God and to others), nor is it the quietest that draw the nearest to God (lest we try to be very quiet to be ‘seen’ or ‘heard’- to God and to others). It is the heart born expression of our ever growing love for God that, in both of these, is found a sacred place of worship. If it is a heart born expression, whether it loud or very loud, quiet or very quiet, the expression of worship is sacred. The heart born expression comes from a secret place. When the psalmist cried, “Oh God, you are my God”, the full weight of that was genuine.

Does this mean we are to be ultra super serious all the time when it comes to God? No. Actually, joy is as much an expression of the sacred as solemness. Does God desire for us to draw near to him as a father to a child? Yes. But we cannot take these times lightly nor allow them to become what they are not, and in that, treat God as something less that what he is (God) and lose perspective on what we are (creation).

I want to sit at the table of fellowship with God. To draw near to him. To know him. All within the wonder and awe that he is God the Creator.

As we used to sing at the close of every Sunday service at the church I attended as a child:
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen.

Revelation 4:8  Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.”

 

 

 

 

As you carry on in life…

As you carry on in life…

Navigating relationships. Making a way in this world. Facing struggles. Celebrating triumphs. Dealing with pain. Laughter. Mourning. Clarity. Confusion. Changing seasons. Making plans. Chasing dreams. Suddenly getting older. Simply facing the workday.

Remember,

God is with you.

God is for you.

God is working for your good.

All things are possible to the one who believes.