Either Way-You Win

Darkeyed Junco WPOne of my favorite birds is not a flashy multicolored wonder. Gray, black and white are considered ordinary. It is not a large bird. It does not fly at blazing speeds. Its beak is not curved or hooked. It does not have talons on its feet either. One more thing, it does not sing a spectacular song.

You are wondering. Why is this bird a favorite? What is it?

Stretch the suspense, go farther with me before you know.

This bird has been classified in the genus of American sparrows. Genus, that’s biology talk for family. Yes, I said it is in the sparrow family. Sparrows are common. Its 5 ½ to 6 inches long. Its size does not make it a favorite. Its wing span is a slight 7-9 inches. It is a ground bird seeking its food on the ground. 75% of its diet is composed of seeds. During nesting it adds protein from insects. Even more, during nesting season it nests in coniferous forests. But not in the trees, look for its nest on the ground.

It would be true to say this little sparrow sort of disappears for the summer. We said it is not flashy, and it is absent during the summer, it nests in the north in forests.  How could anyone find this bird delightful?

But it is delightful. The gray and black with white bars on their tails is actually beautiful. No need to be a flashy flier, they flit. It’s wonderful. Their beaks have perfect symmetry, the claws on their feet match the color of their body. And their color coordination is superb. What about that song? It’s a trill a bit like a Chipping Sparrow and similar to the Pine Warbler. A great pleasure comes from seeing a small flock of them feeding on the ground or perched on a branch.

Why a favorite? I get to see them Some of them spend winter in our backyard. They bring anytime joy to my birdbrain with their soft calls and deep color contrast with snow. Oh, you want to know what it is?

A Dark-eyed Junco is our bird star. Junco hyemalis for the biologists who are reading.

But Dark-eyed Juncos are a favorite of mine for another reason. It could be because they are in the sparrow family. It could be their quiet but pleasurable songs. It is true, black, and shades of gray can be eye appealing. The main reason these birds are favorites is they show me God.

John 20:31 tells us about the words written about Jesus in the Bible. It reads, “But, these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The Bible gives us specific documentation about the life of Jesus. It identifies him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

The Dark-eyed Junco speaks of Jesus without words. The power of Jesus is seen in the Junco’s quiet life and how it lives through all seasons cold and warm. Jesus power is seen in this tiny 5-6-inch-long bird’s ability to safely locate a nest on the ground and know when to migrate northward safely. The fact that Jesus is divine, truly God, is heard when the Junco calls and when its black gray feathers contrast in exquisite beauty against white snow.

Want to see Jesus? There are two clear options, read the Bible, and watch the birds. Either way you win.

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Still Tending

Before leaving the Roman governor, he was flogged, and his skull was repeatedly pierced by thorns. He was in incalculable physical pain. He was mocked and struck repeatedly on the head…humiliation added to pain. Immeasurable sorrow filled his heart. He had always given love, patience, and healing. He loved them all.

 

They showed him hate. His heart was broken for them.

 
After leaving the Roman governor, the soldiers took over. They showed no sympathy. He said nothing. They put nails through his hands and feet. They dropped his cross in place. They had done these things many times. They were good at this job. Many others had been crucified at their hands.

 
There was one difference.

 
They had never crucified the Savior of the world before.

 
On the cross, incalculable pain unceasing He looked at his mother. He knew her pain, her future. He tended to her. He said, “Mother, see your new son.” To John he said, “This is your mother.”

 
Then he tended to our sins. He took care of them. He said, “It is finished.” He died.

 
But this was not the end.

 
He rose from the dead. He is taking care of us now. While you are reading, he is speaking with God about us. He is praying-for us. He is still tending our needs.

 
No one else can.

 

Therefore, he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. Hebrews 7:25

Which Way?

This may be one of life’s biggest questions. Here it is, “What is the way?” This question comes often, if not daily. Sometimes the question relates to major life decisions; to take a job, leave a job, to buy a home, or sell a home. Sometimes this question relates to interpersonal matters. Should I marry him? Should I divorce or keep trying? Which way? It is an unchanging aspect of life. From the time a child begins making choices to the time a gray head is laid to rest, humans are faced with decisions which begin with, “which way?”

You would be thrilled with me if in the next sentence you were given a formula, which if followed, would always provide the correct answer to “which way?” You know better. Life has taught you that there is no such thing. With a sigh, you resign yourself to living life knowing that in future days you will face the question, “which way?” You know that at least half the time you will choose the wrong way. Possibly some months you will find most of your “way” decisions were wrong.

There is no comfort in this. We often choose the wrong way. We suffer the consequences of our wrong way choices. Our wrong way choices bring pain to self and others. Wrong “way” choices bring regrets. Some of them last a life time. This is the opposite of comfort. It’s heartache.

But. There is a way. For the rest of your life you can walk in this way. You will still make bad choices. You will say wrong things. Mistakes you regret will still occur. However, there is a way. It is not a formula. It is not a 10-step plan to better life. It does not cost you, it is free. If it seems too easy, it’s not. This way cost someone their very life. The blood of this person spilled on the earth. No, making this way was not easy.

Isaiah, the prophet of the Bible wrote about this way. He said, “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”  Isaiah 30:21 (ESV) Long ago Isaiah said, “This is the way, walk in it.” Our logical question is, “What is this way you are referring to?”

The wonderful answer is found in the words of Jesus. He is the One who died for the sins of all. His blood was spilled for our sakes. Jesus plainly said, “I am the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father (God), except through me.” (John 14:6) The truth is, there is a way, a perfect way.  In all of our lives, there is a way…it’s Jesus. When you turn to the right, seek Jesus. If you turn to the left, seek Jesus. In big decisions, some this week-seek Jesus. Whether your job, personal relationships, or any other thing in life, the way for all of life is Jesus.DSC_0010_007sig

The sun has a “way.” As does the moon. Likewise, a river. Even a train has a way, the tracks. Humans have a perfect “way,” in Jesus. Consider these words what your ears hear behind you: Jesus is the way, walk with Him. When we choose the wrong way, Jesus calls to us, “Follow me.”  No comfort is more real for us today.DSC_0041edsigDSC_0094_028sig

The Best “Dessert”

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You can have dessert first… it’s the best.

Yesterday we brought up the subject of humans and faith. Candidly we recognized we put our faith in things that are temporary. An easy one is turning water into ice. Our faith is unwavering in the principle that water freezes-every time when the air temperature is below 32 degrees.

We acknowledged that faith in water freezing is faith in something temporary. We had a chance to think about faith in Someone everlasting, eternal. If we are honest, we realized that faith in God is unending, while all the things we put our trust on earth are temporary.

But, yesterday, I forgot something important. In my opinion it’s like saving the best for last, perhaps like dessert. You ask, “how could you?” My response, what do you expect from an imperfect human? Regardless of this, I DID forget the most important fact about faith in God. That is to remind both of us where faith comes from.

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What do you think? What is the source of faith? If we use simple logic (and my logic limit is simple) we conclude there are two answers. We generate faith in God-or-God gives us faith.

Examine these choices with me. If we generate faith in God ourselves, we know immediately there is a problem. For us to trust in God we must not want to be God ourselves. Have you ever gone just one day without trying to be a little god, solving your problems yourself? Sorry, but we are like toddlers in this respect. We daily say to God, “I’ll do it myself!” See the problem? How can we have faith in God if we are trusting ourselves? We cannot generate faith.DSC_0091_917sig

At this point we know the other answer is best. This truth should give us both great peace of mind. God gives us faith. Perhaps you wonder what does it cost? It was costly for Jesus, He painfully died for us on a cross to save us from our sin of making ourselves little Gods. Then He gives us faith-free. True faith is a gift from God. Jesus initiates and perfects our faith. He is our faith champion, and our Savior.

Would you want it any other way? We know our hearts. We’d rather not admit it but our default setting is to be a little god. This news, that Jesus gives us faith is eternally better than dessert.

Faith, it’s eternal dessert, better than all desserts. Served by an eternal loving Father God. It’s not fattening, but it is addicting. If you want more, ask God. He freely gives us faith and then, by his great love, he GROWS our faith. It’s called sanctification, God’s process of making us holy.

Why the photos with these words? They are evidence of God’s love. Examine them, the earth is full of the steadfast love of God-the same God who saves us and gives us faith far greater than all the earthly things we put our faith in. Faith is like the best dessert, but it is eternal, free, and life changing.DSC_0084_912sig

Humans and Faith

The first winter cold has fastened its grip on us. Snow is on the ground. Yes, it feels like winter. This cold day has me thinking about faith. Don’t shake your head.  Faith goes well with cold. One reason is heat. Stay with me, no head shaking. Northland dwellers rely on sources of heat to keep homes warm. When cold increases, it is wonderful, even life-saving, when we can touch the thermostat and raise the inside temperature. We have faith heat is on the way.

What is faith?  My choice of the best two words synonymous with faith are confidence and trust. But reliance, conviction and belief are excellent ways to comprehend faith. We put our faith in an enormous number of things each day. We have faith that water will come from the faucet when we thirst. We have faith that the lights will come on when we flip a switch. I thank my friend Rick who works for a power company for “keeping the lights on.” We even exhibit faith as we move to a chair to sit down. We even expect the chair to hold us. Daily we display faith just by living.

We exhibit everyday faith on a larger scale with nature. Actually, this would be an amazing exercise for all of us. How many things in nature do we “believe” and “trust” will happen? These are things we do nothing about. A few come to mind. We put water in our freezer and expect it to become ice. We awaken in the morning and breathe. There is never a question, “will there be enough oxygen?” Never do we debate if the sun will rise. It always peeks above the horizon at the time predicted. Yes, it is so regular we are able to make sunrise/sunset tables. Consider one more, your heart. No human ever has the ability to will their heart to beat. Yes, we can do things which affect heart rate, but the life-long beating of the human heart is both a gift and an act of everyday faith.sunrise matt hendricks2

Author and speaker, Ravi Zacharias has written the book The Grand Weaver. It is worth picking up a copy. In it Zacharias quotes essayist F.W. Boreham. Zacharias paraphrases Boreham’s words about faith with these words. “Faith is actually the mainspring of the universe, the sheet anchor of civilization.”

We put faith in so many things. Have you considered what is often the most difficult for us to have faith in? My small man submission, it’s God. Amazing, isn’t it, we trust that the sun will rise and set, we trust there will be oxygen to breath in, and our hearts to beat. We never have to think about it. But we waver when we consider faith in God who makes all of these possible. Zacharias’ words further clarify the significance of faith he states, “the loss of faith is a dreadful thing because it takes away hope and even threatens love.”DSC_0025_762sig

We are greatly loved. God loves every human alive on earth today, all of those once living, and all of those yet to live. Have you given thought to all of the temporary things you put faith in? Would you consider putting your faith in Someone who could provide you with the cure for death?

Consider these closing words from Ravi Zacharias, “The Bible is a book on life building, written for us as we sojourn on this planet. Interestingly, it also tells us that the rudder and sail remain in God’s control and that we enter the high seas with the understanding that we must trust him.”  (page 45)

What do you believe, have faith in? Where do you place your trust and confidence? To confirm your answer, watch the next sunrise, observe the clouds scudding over head on a northwest wind. Know that He is the One on which you may anchor your faith. He never fails, forever.DSC_0059_902sig

Thank you Matt Hendricks for your sunrise photos!