Beauty for Ashes

DSCN2359A few weeks ago, I noticed some very tiny flowers in an uncultivated flower bed—weeds, but very pretty. Later in another part of town, I spied a cheerful carpet of mauve flowers on a lawn. Alas, they too were weeds. These tiny flowering weeds got me thinking.

In many ways, the world in which we live is very dark. People are losing hope. An advertisement for a new book professing to solve all human probDSCN2535 (2)lems is a symptom of this malaise. No, it doesn’t ask us to “love God and love our neighbours as ourselves.” Evidently, forgetting the dismal record of the last 200 years, the solution proposed is scientific and biological. Vain hope. But at least its analysis of our condition is relatively accurate. We live in “a world facing complete breakdown from terrorism, refugee crises, corrupted economies, polarized politics, family disintegration, rampant mental illness and ecological devastation.”

DSCN1650No wonder doom and gloom occupy most writers these days. Yes, but what about God? “He makes all things beautiful in his time” (Eccl.3:11). As the One who is altogether lovely, whatever he touches becomes beautiful. David’s longing was “to gaze on the beauty of the Lord…all the days of my life” (Psalm 27:4). The antidote to ugliness and evil, is God.

Have we failed to notice indications of God’s glory scattered prodigiously throughout the earth? What do I mean? I mean those silent witnesses to the beauty of God and His salvation. Every beautiful thing in creation points to its Creator and whispers, hope. As Isaiah prophecies of Jesus; “The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:1,3).

DSCN2541The beauty of a baby’s smile. The fragrance of lilac. The beauty enshrined in a grain of sand or a snowflake. The rainbow reflected from a drop of dew. The infinite shape of clouds. The loveliness and variety of myriads of flowers. The shape of trees. The magnificence of mountains. The splendour of the sea. The magic of sunrise and twilight. What about butterflies and birds; diamonds and dandelions. Lord, the earth is full of your glory!

Have we failed to notice God’s beautifying touch? The refugees who shout hallelujah after being saved by Jesus Christ. The drug addict in Brooklyn totallyRainbow delivered from addiction. The abuser becoming gentle and loving. What about myriads of men and women from every tribe and nation who have seen their fear and despair replaced by joy and peace and hope?

DSCN2373 (2)Oh, yes, the cataclysm produced by the fall of mankind into sin, produced thorns and thistles, hatred and war; and probably mosquitoes, volcanoes, tornadoes and earthquakes. And yet, God has not left us without witness. If we would but look, we would find glimpses of beauty from the hands of the Creator at every turn. And that beauty bears witness to hope in seemingly hopeless situations; hope through bowing in faith to Jesus Christ, the Lord. Then we will revel in beauty and worship God in the “beauty of holiness”.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

What is life’s supreme goal? #4

What is the highest goal of mankind? Banishing hunger? Universal peace? Loving our neighbours? These are laudable goals which, however, can never be achieved without first reaching another goal. Philosophers talk about the summum bonum, “the highest good, especially as the ultimate goal according to which values and priorities are established in an ethical system.” Surely, that highest goal of mankind is coming to know him, that is, God, “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36).

But how can we know God; he is infinite, invisible, and incomprehensible? This is only possible if God takes the initiative and reveals himself. Fortunately, he has DSCN1326 (1)done so by revealing his character through comparison with things we see and know. One facet of this self-revelation is his use of members of the human body for purposes of comparison. Theologians call these metaphors, anthropomorphisms.

Ears: Since it is beyond our understanding how God could hear our thoughts even before we think them, (Psalm 139) listen to our prayers, hear our groans and whispered complaints; the Psalmist imagines God having an ear. ”His ears are attentive to their cry…the righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; and DSCN1727 delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted” (Psalm 34:15-18) “Hear O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer” (Psalm 17:1).

Arm: “The arm of the Lord is not too short to save….but your iniquities have separated you from your God [consider the spiritual state of our countries] “ (Isaiah 59:1,2). It is our sins, not God’s lack of ability to help us that hinder our national development and our individual salvation and growth in grace.

Hand: Imagine cupping your hand to hold a drink of water. Imagine holding the Great Lakes in the hollow of your hand. But more, imagine holding all the oceans and lakes! God “has measured the waters in the hollow of his haDSCN1641nd, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens” (Isaiah 40:12). Is God big enough to help us with our problems? Yes. “I foresaw the Lord always before me. He is at my right hand that I not be moved” (Ps. 16:8 ) “Some trust in chariots [and tanks and warplanes]…but we trust in the name of the Lord our God…the saving power of his right hand” (Psalm 20:7, 6). “Your right hand will seize your foes” (Psalm 21:8). Fearful? Trust in God’s almighty right hand.

Mouth: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven…watering the earth and making it bud and flourish…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire…you will go out with joy and be led forth in peace” (Isaiah 55:10-12). Not silent and indifferent, God is a Spirit who communicates through His revealed Word so that joy and peace may flower in our lives in the same way that snow and rain, water the earth, “making it bud and flourish”.

Eye: Since God’s ability to see everything in one moment throughout the whole universe is beyond our comprehension, the Psalmist makes it personal by imagining God‘s eyes are upon us. “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous” to see their troubles and deliver them. “A riDSCN1741 (2)ghteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:15, 19). [Remember, we will have troubles but we must trust God WHEN and HOW to deliver.] We are so precious to God, that David imagines God keeping us “as the apple of your eye,” that is, as close as the eye’s pupil. (Psalm 17:8).

Laughs: “The One enthroned in heaven laughs” (Psalm 2:4). Using human imagery, the Psalmist describes the utter foolishness—bordering on hilarity—of nations and rulers who conspire to destroy faith in “His Anointed One,” Jesus Christ, and the extension of His Kingdom, through their plots and conspiracies. (See Psalm 2:1-6) God has laughed at the conspiracies of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, and laughs today at ISIS, but with anger. Judgement will come.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we use our mouths to speak and laugh, as we see with our eyes and hear with our ears, as we hold things with our hands let us lift up our praise to our great Triune God. “To the King eternal, immortal, INVISIBLE, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever” (1 Tim. 1:17).

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Gilded morning

 

“When morning gilds the skies, my heart awaking cries;”
Beauty still prevails
Shining above the ugly and the evil
Above a world darkened by hatred and greed
“Yes, wrong will fail, the right prevail with peace on earth good will toward men.”
For around this spinning globe millions of little suns reflect the light of the Son upon the blighted lives of the persecuted, the hurting, the despondent, the careless, and the cruel.

DSCN2176 - CopyThese thoughts came to me one morning when I couldn’t sleep beyond 5:30. Instead of tossing and turning, I ventured down to the waterfront to watch the sun rise. I found the ducks and geese already up. As very gently, very slowly rainbow a kaleidoscope of light spread around, my mouth fell open in wonder. Such splendour. Such magnificence. Such pervasive loveliness.

The first words of a hymn came to mind, “When morning gilds the skies, my heart awakening cries, may Jesus Christ be praised.” But as the Christmas carol says, wrong seems to prevail.

The night before, as was my wont, I had watched the TV news.DSCN2184 (2) - Copy Such a depressing litany of human depravity and natural catastrophe. Theft. Murder. Road rage. Flooding Internet hacking. Exploitation. Earthquakes. More and more terrorist bombings and threats. Streams of refugees fleeing destruction and death. And through it all an election campaign
that makes one wonder whether sanity has abandoned our friends to the south—not that we in Canada would be much different if subjected to such a system.

BUT! The sunrise reminds us that beauty and goodness and purity still live on our darkened planet.

With the sunrise, I remember that Jesus Christ, the Lord is at work around the world. This sun of righteousness iDSCN2178 - Copys continuing to shed his light through his redeemed children. Little points of reflected light are comforting the bereaved, healing the sick, encouraging the discouraged, sharing good news with the despairing. Establishing schools. Manning
hospitals. Running orphanages. Teaching literacy. Translating the Word of life. Gathering God’s new covenant children. Distributing relief. Sowing seeds of kindness and gentleness and godly purpose. Challenging cruelty.

The sunrise brings a new day. Those who stumbled yesterday, can rise today with hope. DSCN2203 - CopyThose who sinned yesterday may find forgiveness today. There is wisdom for new challenges. There is strength for ongoing trials. There is love for the unlovely. There is a new batch of patience for those who blew it yesterday. There is release for the captives. There is deliverance for the addicted. Anything is possible!

God is the God of new days, of second chances, of grace and mercy and love. Believe it doubting soul!

 

 

Gone Home

See www.countrywindow.caOh, to be home! Although trite, the saying is true, there’s no place like home. Long trips or vacations away from home eventually create in most of us an overpowering longing to get home. Back where we can sit in our favourite chair, sleep in our own bed, make our own coffee.

I can’t imagine the trauma suffered by today’s refugees. Their homes destroyed. Their towns in ruins. Loved ones scattered or dead. They need to establish a new home. Fortunately, Canada and other countries offer some refuge…but to a limited number. Millions more scatter throughout Europe. Millions moulder in crowded camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Homeless.

We are extremely fortunate in the North America to have escaped the devastation of war. We take having a home for granted—for 20, for 60, for 90 years. But what about having a home forever?

A childhood friend died last week. Fortunately, his family and friends do not grieve as many do who believe that death is extinction—a dead-end. While this friend was alive he read and believed reports from beyond the grave.

He read Jesus words; “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26). He read Jesus promise, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a pace for you…that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3). He believed.

He read Paul’s testimony; “What I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve, after that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living” (1 Cor. 15:3-6). And this friend believed.

Though he suffered terribly through cancer, he trusted in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation, found peace…and now he has gone home. Really gone home. There is no home like heaven!

He has joined the throng around the throne who sing; “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns” (Rev. 19:6). He has joined uncounted multitudes who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb. (Rev. 19:9). He has gone to that astonishing place where “the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with DSCN1448them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.…No longer will there be any curse…there will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Rev 21:3,4; 22:3-5).

No wonder Paul cried out in jubilation; “O death where is thy sting” (1 Cor. 15:55)! Are we among those who have a heavenly home or will hell be our eternal dwelling place? And this not because we were more righteous or religious than others, but because we are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. We can look forward to a heavenly home, like my friend, because of Good Friday and Easter.

Worried? -Think God! #3

Climbing the highest mountain? No. Knowing God is the greatest human pursuit. But how is that possible when He is invisible and incomprehensible in His divinity?

Like discovering the qualities of an artist in his painting, or a sculptor in his sculpture, we discover much about the invisible God in his visible, created works. “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and January Sunsetdivine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men [you and I] are without excuse [if we ignore and fail to glorify God for his creation] (Romans 1:20).

Besides displaying his power and divinity in creation, God has given us, in the Bible, a host of understandable comparisons to use in learning about Him. These similes and metaphors unveil his invisible attributes in ways we can comprehend. Wonderfully, a host of them are aimed at dispelling our worries.

For example: “The Lord God is a sun…no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:11). Plants lift their leaves to drink in the sun’s energy transforming it through photosynthesis into food. Solar panels all over world draw energy from sunshine. We have coal and oil and natural gas because of the sun. Like our sun, God is the source of all the blessings—usually unnoticed—that pour into our lives. God’s goodness is unsearchable.

God is our shelter. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations” (Psalm 90:1). “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High…He is my refuge…If you make the Most High your dwelling…no disaster will come near Rockiesyour tent” (Psalm 91;1,2,9,10). We depend on buildings to shelter us from cold and ice blazing heat and torrential rain. God needs no shelter but invites us to find shelter and refuge from fear, discouragement, despair, and hopelessness in Him. In His arms we can find comfort and protection from evil.

God’s protection is impregnable. “My God is my rock” (Psalm 84:2) Threatened by enemies, David found in God the stability, protection and strength he needed to stave off despair and find courage. While the stock market falls, ISIS threatens, and our own health deteriorates we look around from something strong and stable, and find God to be our everlasting Rock.

God is our protector. Fleeing for his life from his murderous son, Absalom, David affirms, “you are a shield around me, O Lord” (Psalm 3:3) ”You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). Not just a shield on one side, but above and behind and beside, God can protect His children from all evil. And so we pray, “Deliver us from evil.”

God is our refuge. David cried, “I have no refuge” (Ps 142:4) but at least 23 times
Scripture responds, “The eternal God is your refuge” (Deut.33:27). God loves to care for and protect suffering people. Canada and others countries offer refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq the safety and security they need. We who follow Christ are involved in that effort. And we long to point them to eternal refuge from the consequences of evil through faith in the suffering Saviour.

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God is our unshakeable help. “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10) The eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Pompei; earthquakes shake the Himalayas and the Rockies. Although, the most stable things we know change, God’s love for His people never changes. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Thank You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for revealing your love in understandable ways!

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Hurry Up–I’m Impatient!

DSCN1834In our apartment we use the elevator often. When Mary Helen enters, she punches the button for our floor and waits patiently for the door to close and the elevator to ascend. Not me, when I enter, I punch the button for our floor and immediately the close-door button. I can’t wait a second or two for the door to close by itself.

I’m impatient. Not a good quality. Life goes better with patience. In fact, everything goes better when garnished with patience.

We live in a very impatient age; in politics, in relationships, in fast-food gratification, in driving, and certainly in our faith.

Patience is an essential quality in those who raise children. Our granddaughter00008_s_15amtvyymk0021 has been waiting a hour for a doctor to see her sick child. We know from experience she will have to show patience again and again over the years to see her son become a fine young man.

It takes a lot of patience to grow flowers and vegetables. Cultivation, fertilizing, planting, weeding, watering—all come months before the harvest.
Preparing a tasty curry requires patience. Since I enjoy the end result I’m forced to be patient—or buy a take-out.

It certainly takes patience to prepare a sermon or Bible lesson. Hours and hours
. Alternately, I can get up on a platform and wing it…and leave my hearers wondering what all that was about. As I’ve learned, it also takes enormous patience and perseverance to write a book.

Learning to be patient is a steep learning curve to which, so far, I see no end.
Christian character is sLupinscloseeriously flawed in anyone without patience. We naturally want to be blessed now, quickly. But, “for you have need of patience that after having done the will of God you might receive the promise”(Heb. 10:26). Becoming loving doesn’t just happen, and yet, “love is patient” (1 Cor. 13:4). Establishing a good marriage or a strong friendship doesn’t happen in a week or a month. We need to, ”be patient with everyone” ( 1Thess. 5:14) —our life-partner, friends, other drivers, colleagues at work, children, and yes, grumpy seniors.

Becoming a mature, Christ-centred Christian takes years. There’s no magic formula. It requires patient application of the means of grace; daily devotions which include Bible study and prayer, fellowship with other Christians in church and outside of church. We need time to learn about forgiveness, what real worship is all about, how to endure pain and sickness redemptively. We may not like it but, “the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:3, KJV).Monarch butterfly

God is not in a hurry. As the sovereign Lord of the universe, He knows how and when all things mesh together for our good and his glory. Those who know God echo David who said, “I waited patiently for the Lord,” even when he was in a slimy pit. (See Psalm 40:1.) Ah, yes, that’s why we should trust Romans 8:28 even when we’re in a serious jam. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Lord, please help me to be more patient!

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

What Is God Like? – #2

Our granddaughter expressed amazement that 50 years ago we traveled half-way around the world without Google or a cell phone. She illustrates how hard it is to understand something beyond our experience.

If you have never seen a tava, you will give me a blank look if I use it in a sentence. But when I describe it as a thick, rim-less frying pan used for cooking thin, whole-wheat nan over a fire in Pakistan, you may be able to picture it.DSCN1448
We learn of the unknown by comparison with the known. So it is with the invisible God. He reveals Himself by comparison with what we know.

How much does God know? “Look to the heavens…He calls them [stars] each by name” (Is. 40;26). Astronomers estimate that there are a billion trillion stars in the observable universe! He knows each hair on our heads and each bird. (Mat. 10:29,30) David exclaims; “You know me…my thoughts…all my ways…before a word is on my tongue you know it completely” (Psalm 139:1-4). God knows everything! Google isn’t even a kindergarten tool in God’s sight. “How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out” (Rom. 12:22). He knows how to solve your problems and mine!

Where is God? David cries, “Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there;…depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn,…DSCN1541far side of the sea even there your hand will guide me” (Psalm 139:7-10). God is in Toronto, in the depths of the sea, in the farthest reaches of the universe. He is everywhere, multi-tasking, at the same time listening to a prayer in Bangladesh, guiding a puzzled teen in Mumbai, comforting a bereaved mother in Mexico. Yet as a spirit, God has no dimensions. His real presence is wherever we call upon Him. He’s there beside us when we’re lonely and afraid.

How powerful is God? Look at sunrise and sunset. Look at the night stars. “His greatness no one can fathom…Praise him sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars…he commanded and they were created” (Psalm 145:3; 148:3,5). There was nothing and He spoke a word and instantly, all the stars were created. He is powerful enough to meet whatever our need is today.

How has God changed over the millennia? Everything in our universe changes over time. Most deteriorate; giant sequoia, mountains, even our sun and the expanding universe. But Moses saw a strange sight in the desert, a “bush was on fire but did not burn up.” From the fire, God gave Moses His name, “I am who I am” meaning many things, but first that God is not subject to combustion, change, or decay of any kind. (See Exodus 3) Since “I the Lord do not change,” therefore we can be assured that His promises and His faithfulness do not change. (Mal. 3:6) I can trust him as Abraham did.

Upon what is God dependent for existence? We depend on our parents for birth, on oxygen and food for existence; upon gravity for stability. Fish depend on water. Plants depend on sunlight. But God is self-existent, dependent only upon Himself, as His special name indicates; “I am who I am”. “God who made the world…is not served by human hands, as if he needed anythiDSCN1325ng, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else…in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:24,25,28). We depend upon Him for every
breath!

What a God! All-knowing, everywhere-present, all-powerful unchanging, and self-sufficient. And yet He says to us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love”. Can we do more than worship and serve Him with all of our energy?

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )