Psalm 19:1 - "The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of his hands."
Ecclesiastes 11:7 - "Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun. For if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all."
"We can and should rejoice as we live the life God gives us. There is color, light, warmth and beauty in God's world. There are people who say and do kind things. Life brings many delightful moments." (Your Father Loves You by J.I. Packer, August 21 reading)
Articles have been written about the benefits of getting out in nature, for our health and emotional well-being. Personally, I have found that if I am in a bad mood or feeling unmotivated, a walk in the woods is the perfect remedy. My spirits are lifted and I have new energy and joy. When God created his world, he was pleased with his creation, pronouncing it good.
C.S. Lewis wrote: "Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are 'patches of Godlight' in the woods of our experience."
There are so many parks and preserves in south Jersey, right here tucked in and around our own neighborhoods, which provide many opportunities for us to enjoy God's creation. It's an adventure to explore them all, and I believe God is delighted when we delight in the beauty of what he has made.
So go take a hike!
Martin Luther wrote on this passage: "Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him and say, 'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness. I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You became what you were not, so that I might become what I was not'." What a great and wonderful exchange! Was there ever such love???
Volumes have been written by theologians and greater thinkers than I am, but isn't the love of God an amazing topic to consider. John in his gospel (chapter 21, verse 25) writes: "Jesus did many other things as well. If everyone of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."
The Love of God has a verse that sums it up:
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
Think about the people of Israel. Although they were rescued out of slavery in Egypt and saw God do amazing miracles, time and time again they strayed from God and went back to worshiping idols. God called their idolatry adultery. They forsook him over and over again. And God over and over again, rescued them. He never forsook them or stopped loving them. It is amazing to think about. I would have given them up after a second or third time. But God never gave them up. NEVER! Then how can we doubt his love for us, because we are as unfaithful as the Israelites were. We forget God, we live our lives as "functional atheists." BUT after Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice of his own blood for us, God tells us in Romans 8 (verse 39) that nothing - NOTHING - can separate us from his love. His love is powerful, eternal, faithful.
1 Corinthians 13:13 says, "These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." Love lasts forever. When we see our Lord face to face, we will no longer live by faith and our hope will be realized. But love will remain - stronger than ever.
J.I. Packer in Your Father Loves You, the September 7th reading, writes: "By giving his love to us, God has voluntarily bound up his own final happiness with ours. He has in effect resolved that henceforth for all eternity his happiness shall be conditional on ours. Thus God saves not only for his glory but also for his gladness!"
I'm intrigued with the paradoxes in Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul says, "When I am weak, then I am strong." How often have I experienced the strength of Christ enabling me when I am weak and inadequate!
Paul Tripp in New Morning Mercies writes: "Death is the doorway to life. Hopelessness is the entrance to hope. Weakness is the place to find strength. Injustice is where mercy flows. Life comes to those who deserve death. Defeat is actually a victory. The end is really a beginning. Out of sorrow comes eternal celebration. The tomb is where new life begins."
This is the paradox of grace!
As delighted as I am with the colors of fall, I also struggle with the nearness of winter. Autumn leaves fall...which leave the trees bare and dead looking. I tell myself I like the changing of the seasons. It brings variety to life, but in my heart, I can't wait for spring and the colors of the flowers and budding green on the trees again.
But here's the strangest paradox of all, I think. Death is necessary for fruit and a productive life. Consider what Jesus said to his disciples in John 12:24. "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." There is a purpose for death. It's not the end, but the beginning of something more. More than anything we can imagine.
Jesus died in order to conquer death. I love the picture Paul uses to describe the end of death in 2 Corinthians 5:4: "So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life..." which is exactly what happened when Jesus rose victorious from the dead.
I recently read Randy Alcorn's Happiness. It's amazing that as I've read about the happiness of God in his book, the same thought was reinforced by J.I. Packer Your Father Loves You. In Happiness, Alcorn quotes Jonathan Edwards who believed in "temperance with what's secondary but not what's primary. God is primary. We can't get too much of God; therefore, we can't be too happy in God." Then he goes on to ask: "What does my suffering do for me? It makes me see how implausible it is that I can find true happiness outside of God. When what I once leaned on for happiness crumbles to dust, the way is cleared for me to see that God still stands and is the one solid foundation on which to build my life and happiness. When we meet Jesus face to face, behold his nail scarred hands reaching out to us, see the look in his eyes when he says, 'Enter into your Master's happiness,' we will gain a new perspective on this life: the benefits of following Jesus always far outweighed the costs - each and every time."
Then J.I. Packer in the September 7th reading says:
"By giving his love to us, God has voluntarily bound up his own final happiness with ours. He has in effect resolved that henceforth for all eternity his happiness shall be conditional on ours. Thus God saves not only for his glory but also for his gladness!"
It's an amazing thought to think about: how happy we'll be forever in heaven. Now our happiness is incomplete because we still suffer, but then it will be eternal and complete in the presence of Jesus. O Happy Day!