Monthly Archives: November 2012

Behind the clouds the Sun shines

Frowning Providence & God’s Smiling Face

I commented to a friend one day how welcome the sun was after so many cloudy and stormy days. An inveterate optimist who seems to always discover a silver lining in otherwise gloomy circumstances, she pointed out that the sun was always there, even when hidden from view. To ensure that I didn’t miss the spiritual application, she also reminded me that the Lord is always with us even when things look dark.

I don’t often appreciate people turning an innocent comment about the weather into a soapbox. But this particular friend is such a sunny Christian who faces challenging circumstances with laudable faith, that one can’t be annoyed with her. Don’t you wish there were more positive, hopeful Christians committed to spreading sunshine wherever they go? In my case, her comment has inspired me often to revel in the promised presence of our triune God—and led to this devotional.

The Bible is replete with reminders of this truth.   The Lord is my shepherd…He leads me…He restores my soul… He guides me…I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23)

It is hard to imagine someone facing more challenges and difficulties than David. And yet he was able to pen not only the twenty-third psalm but many other gems. The following verse from his pen, I’ve often claimed:  I have set the Lord always before me./Because he is at my right hand,/ I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)

Jesus warned his disciples three times about his coming death, an event that could have totally shaken their faith. To prepare them he explained; I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.…He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans. (John 14: 16-18)

Then just before his ascension, He gave them the Great Commission. Embedded in that command was his promise:   And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:20)

Knowing that our Lord is present beyond the veil of sight, will not deliver us from troubles. Economic challenges will sometimes stymie us. We must continue to remain vigilant in traffic. Illness may lay us low. Sorrow could dog our footsteps. Relationships may falter. Persecution might come. But we will never be alone.

Angels will be attending our pathway. Jesus Christ will be praying that our faith fail not. The Holy Spirit will be within us empowering us to resist the enticements of our own fallen nature. The Father will be operating behind the scenes so that all things in our lives will work out for our good and His glory. The Holy Spirit will be interceding for us with groans that words cannot express. All the resources of heaven will be bent on carrying us triumphantly to heaven.

We live in a fallen, chaotic world prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and wars. But as the hymn writer reminds us: Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

Although sometimes hidden, the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. (Psalm 84:11) (For other devotional readings bringing Scripture and nature together go to Eric’s web site, or purchase his book, Down A Country Road.)


The Banquet Invitation and the party crasher

A king prepared a wedding banquet for his son. When everything was ready, he sent his servants with a fleet of Cadillacs to pick up the invited guests. But the guests ignored the servants. One went off to check on his ranch. Another refused to leave his business. Several others heaped abuse on the servants, smashing the windshields of their limousines and fatally wounding several. The king was enraged. He called in his palace guard and sent them to destroy the ranch of one, the business of the other and cast the violent ones into the sea.

After pondering what to do with the magnificent banquet that was ready to be served, he sent more servants out into the city’s streets and alleyways to gather all the people they could find; the good, the bad, the downtrodden, the poor, the homeless, and the prostitutes. “The empty seats must be filled,” he said. “Provide them all with wedding garments.”

But when everything was ready, the king went in to begin the celebration. But he was astounded to see one man wearing only shorts and sneakers instead of the required suit and tie. “How did you get in here without wedding clothes?” he said. The man trembled but could not answer. The king then ordered that the man be cast outside.

King Jesus invites many to his salvation banquet but sadly many make excuses, despise his offer or live distracted self-centered lives. Often it is the weak and despised who celebrate the good news banquet. But some try to crash the happy party without putting on the robes of righteousness that Christ provides. Sad, that so few heed his words, “Come onto me.” (See Matthew 22:1-14.)

Wild Turkey Time

The turkeys that most interest me don’t grace our dinner tables but wander through our backyard. I’m not talking about a thanksgiving or Christmas turkey but about wild turkeys.

In the morning when I get up to put on the coffee, I invariably check the thermometer and then spend a few moments at the back window trying to gauge the day’s weather. So far this year, the wild turkeys have not appeared in our yard although we’ve seen them in the neighbourhood.

But one morning, a year or so ago, I saw a strange sight. High on the branches of our giant sugar maple, I could make out a scattering of dark blobs. As the light grew the blobs became a flock of nesting wild turkeys. Others were scattered in twos and threes high up in nearby oaks and pines.

I excitedly pointed them out to Mary Helen. Somehow we missed seeing them depart but that night I determined to lure them closer to the house by scattering bird seed. The next morning we again spotted them nesting for the night in our trees—safe from marauding coyotes.

For several days they came every night and departed every morning. Fortunately, this happened when the grandkids were around. So we all were delighted to keep a vigil each night for their arrival.

Then as suddenly as they had appeared, they vanished from our yard for the rest of the winter. On rare occasions we spied them crossing our road or feeding in the apple orchard nearby. They probably instinctively knew that they should vary their haunts to foil predators.

Wild turkeys, like many wild animals and birds, have to continually seek safety from their enemies. In this flock there were always some toms standing guard, turning their beady eyes in every direction.

Turkeys know that the price of safety is vigilance. As Christians we are very unwise to trust in our own strength, to be over confident, or to express unwarranted braggadocio. We should always remember, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe”(Prov. 18:10). Christ is our safety; his prayers our guard. No wonder throughout the Bible believers talk about the Lord being a fortress, a tower, and a rock. Let us be humble enough to often cry out to God for his aid and protection from the fiery darts of the wicked one. As we travel. Where we work. At home. During the day and for the night.

Spreading Sunshine not Gloom

These November mornings I find myself taking longer to wake up and shake off the aches and pains of arthritic joints. I hobble down the hall into the kitchen, fumble with the coffee maker then collapse on my overstuffed armchair content to ease into the day slowly—very slowly. It’s downright annoying and quite humiliating. Where did the vigor and energy go that had me jumping out of bed to embrace a new day while I sang the hallelujah chorus? Okay, maybe my memory is a bit cloudy here, especially when it comes to singing anything.

If I let myself, I could easily feel as gloomy as the yard outside the window looks. Leaves litter the grass. The flowers are shriveled husks. The deciduous trees are bare, except for some beech and oak whose leaves hang on longer. I face another day of November rain or early snow with four or five months of winter ahead. And I haven’t serviced the snow blower yet.

Everything reminds me of the verse, “outwardly we are wasting away”. Now, that’s the way I feel! And as I look out the window, that caption could be written beneath all the broad leaved trees. In late fall and winter, it takes a very discerning eye to separate the living trees from those that are dead. Sometimes a canker on the trunk of a tree betrays the inner rot. Among others woodpecker holes signal the presence of carpenter ants eating their way through the heartwood.

But inside, most of those trees are very much alive, just waiting for the spring. And what about us? Isn’t there more to that verse than a lament about our aging bodies? Ah, here it is. “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Daily, the Holy Spirit refreshes our spirits by reminding us that not only does God love us now, but He is preparing a bright future for us. “In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

Lord of heavenly glory and earthly help, enable me to see beyond the seen; beyond the temporary pains and problems into a future bright with glory; a future that is eternal. And help me to be a cheerful glory-spreader instead of a gloom dispenser. But, and this is a big but, help me to be real and not just plaster a smile on my face. For shiny, artificially happy Christians are insufferable.