Creation & Faith

“By faith [that is, with an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God] we understand that the worlds (universe, ages) were framed and created [formed, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose] by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:3 (Amplified Version)

“For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through his workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense.” Romans 1:20 (Amp)

“If we stop believing that the Lord made the universe out of nothing, then we have failed to believe the God of the Bible.” Tabletalk (July 2020; p. 50)

Getting Back to Normal?

How many times have you heard, thought, or said the words, “When things get back to normal–“? Are you hoping things will change before you start a new project? Are you just sitting back and waiting for things to get back to normal before you make any new commitments? Though we may be living with limitations we’re not accustomed to, we could be waiting for some far-off (and possibly non-existent) future, and besides, what is normal anyway?

In 1939, when Britain was on the edge of war (a war that would soon change their lives dramatically), C. S. Lewis preached a sermon, “Learning in War-Time.” A professor at Oxford, Lewis wanted to assure his students that learning was always important, no matter the world situation, and we can never have any guarantees of “normalcy.”

“The war (or virus or riots or civil unrest) creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal llife’. Life has never been normal.”

If life has never been normal, then why does it seem so extraordinary now? And how are we live our lives?

Lewis told his students it is important to remember to do whatever God has given them to do, no matter what the circumstances. “The work of a Beethoven, and the work of a charwoman, become spiritual on precisely the same condition, that of being offered to God, of being done humbly ‘as to the Lord’ . . . A man’s upbringing, his talents, his circumstances, are usually a tolerable index of his vocation. If our parents have sent us to Oxford, if our country allows us to remain there, this is prima facie evidence that the life which we, at any rate, can best lead to the glory of God at present is the learned life.”

The Apostle Paul addressed a similar situation at the church at Thessalonica. When times are normal or not so normal, we should always: “Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (MSG)

We all need to be constant students of the Word. No need to wait for life to be “normal” to do what God has called us to do. I had decided this year to enter several writing contests with the various short stories and poems I have been working on. Sometimes this seems like a waste of time, but the words of Lewis and Paul remind me that I need to continue to do the works God has given me whether that means writing a blog post, sending out a story, studying His Word, praying for my children, or encouraging one of my sisters or brothers to carry on. Don’t wait for life to return to normal to do what God has called you to do. This is the time He has put you in to live for Him. Now, excuse me as I see a contest deadline looming ahead.

If God Had Chosen Quarantine by P.M. Gilmer

If God Had Chosen Quarantine

What if God had chosen to quarantine

Himself (as the agnostics would have us

believe)? To be isolated from

the virus of man, to keep a social

and moral and holy distance from

Heaven to earth, (six feet, six miles–it

may as well be a million of either),

then what would have happened to all mankind?     

 

For in the beginning we were

separated by a great gulf of sin–

by a rebellion caused by pride.

We listened to Another and

chose to believe we could be

wiser than our Creator and King.

 

What if God had chosen then to

quarantine Himself from us? To keep

His distance and His face covered and

His voice silenced and His heart closed?

 

How could our feet be cleansed that we

might stand on holy ground? And who

would wash our hands that we might

lift them to praise and worship

our Creator and our Savior

 

For we walk in this world where

communicable diseases of sin

brush up against us and cling to us.

They touch our eyes, our ears, our hands,

our feet, and our minds. How can we not

be touched daily by the virus of sin?                         

 

What if the Veil had not been torn?

If a mask still covered the face of God?

A mask that keeps the breath of God

from reaching us? A mask that keeps                                     

us from his mercy, his grace, his goodness?

 

But the God of the universe risked

contamination and broke the quarantine.

He came down to us and the Veil

was torn, the mask ripped away

to reveal the face of a merciful God.

 

He that would not be quarantined.

He did not keep himself apart from us,

but came down and bridged that sinful

distance, and cleanses us with his blood

and daily washes our feet and hands.

P.M. Gilmer

Soli Deo Gloria

 

National Poetry Month 2020

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month, and I hope you’ve spent some time reading poetry during this unusually stressful month. I have been dipping into several authors including: Malcolm Guite, Jeanne Murray Walker, Edward Clarke, George Herbert, and Luci Shaw. I have also been reading the book of Isaiah, taking more notice of the poetry in that book and comparing several translations.

From Isaiah 26–The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

In my reading, I came across a tradition of English poetry known as “the metrical psalms.” Starting during the Renaissance, many English poets began to put certain psalms of the Old Testament in the form of English poetry. These poems usually rhyme and have a way of making the reader see something familiar with a fresh eye. The first one I read was George Herbert’s The Twenty-Third Psalm. Herbert never published in his lifetime, keeping his work “private” because he wrote for God. Fortunately, The Temple (a book which contains most of his more well-known poetry) was published in 1633, the year of his death.

Though our language has changed since 1633, I hope you will enjoy Herbert’s “spin” (as one commentator put it) on psalm 23 and recognize how he, just as David did in the original some thousands of years ago, wrote this as worship and adoration to God.

The Twenty-Third Psalm

The God of Love my shepherd is, And he that doth me feed; While he is mine, and I am his, What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grass, Where I both feed and rest; Then to the streams that gently pass; In both I have the best.

Of if I stray, he doth convert And bring my mind in frame; And all this not for my desert, But for his holy name.

Yea, in death’s shady black abode Well may I walk, not fear; For thou art with me, and thy rod To guide, thy staff to bear.

Nay, thou dost make me sit and dine, Even in my enemies’ sight; My head with oil, my cup with wine Runs over day and night.

Surely thy sweet and wondrous love Shall measure all my days; And as it never shall remove, So neither shall my praise.

 

 

His Boundless Word

In these days of quarantine, social distancing, stay-at-home, and always wash your hands–we can feel stifled, closed in, and bound. Not bound by the laws of health only but by our fears and worries as well. In the midst of these concerns, how blessed I was to read these words:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  2 Timothy 2:8-10

Paul wrote many of his letters from prison. Sometimes, under house arrest (as many of us feel we are now), but he reminds his readers that though he may be in chains, the Word of God is never bound! Never in chains, never closed in, never kept at a distance, and never limited to “only two verses, please.” We are free to study the Word of God, share it, memorize it, and know that it will always be working. His Word is free and boundless.

 

 

Your Story Matters–Leslie Leyland Fields

 

I have often considered writing “my story,” my testimony, something to leave to my children. Several weeks ago, my pastor encouraged us as a congregation to do that very thing. Write down your story. Why? Because it is your testimony of God’s power in your life. No one can argue with your story, discount it, discredit it. It is yours and it is God’s gift to you. Why do we hestitate to share it?

In Your Story Matters, Fields leads you chapter by chapter in how to seek out, put together, and tell your story. Why? “And since the One Who is Running All Things, including galaxies, takes care to notice lost sheep, dying sparrows, and falling hair, we should notice as well. Writing helps us notice what God notices. So write your story because God attends to every moment of your life and you should too.”

Writing your story doesn’t mean writing about your life from birth until the present. It’s not about telling every childhood memory (whether good or bad); it’s not about spilling the beans on your personal or family secrets; and it’s definitely not about a chance for revenge. It should be about a significant moment of your life, a turning point, and–if you’re a Christian–a refining moment between you and God.

“The inner story is not the record of everything that has happened to you; rather, it focuses on a key theme and transformative event in your life.”

You may not believe yourself to be a writer and may have no interest in writing anything else, but this book is for everyone because everyone has a story. At the end of each chapter are writing prompts and assignments with practical steps for discovering and writing your story. I read through the book first, but I now plan to go back and do the assignments and write my own story. I can’t wait to see where God will take me in this adventure.

If you’ve been wanting to share your story, but not sure where to start, I highly recommend reading this book and following the writing exercises.

This book is now available for preorder wherever you buy your books.

*A pdf copy of this book was provided to me for an honest review.

On a previous post, I reviewed Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus Through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas. https://pmgilmer.com/2017/07/01/crossing-the-waters-by-leslie-leyland-fields/ 

Frances Ridley Havergal Her Death

Like a river glorious, is God’s perfect peace; Over all victorious, in its bright increase.

In a previous post, I wrote of the accomplishments of Frances Havergal and the way she sought to glorify the Lord in all she did. Now, I will recount some of the account concerning her death. Havergal suffered ill health for much of her life. At the age of 42, she went on holiday with her family to South Wales. While there, she developed a very severe cold which soon led to an inflammation of the lungs.

Perfect yet it floweth, Fuller every day, Perfect yet it groweth Deeper all the way.

When Havergal was told that her life was in danger, her response was: “If I am really going, it is too good to be true!” Should that not be the response of all Christians–no matter, their age, their goals, their plans? To learn that we may soon be with the One we claim to love? For this was Havergal’s ultimate desire–to be with the One for whom she wrote her poems and hymns.

Hidden in the hollow of his blessed hand–never foe can follow, never traitor stand.

Later she said, “Splendid! To be so near the gates of heaven.” Closer to the end, her sister reported that she sang one of her hymns, “Jesus, I will trust Thee, Trust Thee with my Soul.” Though she was weak and her voice faint, the words were clear to all.

Not a surge of worry, Not a shade of care, Not a blast of hurry, Touch the spirit there.

“She looked up steadfastly, as if she saw the Lord; and surely nothing less heavenly could have reflected such a glorious radiance upon her face. For ten minutes we watched that almost visible meeting with her king, and her countenance was so glad, as if she were already talking to Him! Then she tried to sing; but after one sweet high note, her voice failed, and as her brother commended her soul into the Redeemer’s hand, she passed away.”

Stayed upon Jehovah, Hearts are fully blest, finding as He promised, Perfect peace and rest.

“I should have liked my death to be like Samson’s doing more for God’s glory than by my life; but He wills it otherwise.” Though Havergal could not see it, I believe her death did give glory to God, not only to those who were with her as she went home, but also for those of us who continue to read her words years later.

 

Quotes taken from Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal by her sister, M. V. G. H. (Maria V. G. Havergal), April 1880

Frances Ridley Havergal–Her Life

 

I enjoy learning about the hymn writers of my favorite hymns because it makes them more meaningful and puts a face and a life to the words. It’s easy just to sing the words of a familiar song and forget that someone wrote them because of a particular event in their life or because of the way the Lord had been dealing in their life at the time.

Take my life and let it be–Consecrated, Lord, to thee. Take my moments and my days; Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Several months ago I heard a pastor speak about the life of Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879) before we sang, “Like a River Glorious.” Intrigued, I began to read more about her, as well as listen to more of her hymns and read some of her poetry. I was impressed in both the way she lived and the way she died. In this post, I will discuss how she lived, and I’ll have a follow up post on how she died.

Take my hands and let them move–At the impulse of thy love, Take my feet and let them be–Swift and beautiful for thee.

Born at the rectory in Astley, Worcestershire (England) where her father was the rector, Havergal accomplished much in her short life. From the time she was a young child, she always sought to serve and lift up Jesus. She was writing poetry at the age of seven and had verses published while still a teen in “Good Words.”

Take my voice and let me sing,–Always, only for my King, Take my lips and let them be–Filled with messages for Thee.

Receiving her education at both English and German boarding schools, she proved herself a natural linguist learning Latin, German, Italian, French, Hebrew, and Greek. She also played the piano and was said to be a beautiful singer.

Take my silver and my gold; Not a mite would I withhold; Take my intellect and use–Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Four years after writing the words: “take my silver and my gold,” she packed up and shipped a box of valuable jewelry to a church missionary house. Of the few pieces she kept: “I retain only a brooch or two for daily wear, which are memorials of my dear parents; also a locket with the only portrait I have of my niece, who is in heaven. But these I redeem that the whole value goes to the Church Missionary Society.”

Take my will and make it thine; It shall be no longer mine. Take my heart, it is thine own; It shall be thy royal throne.

Havergal told the story behind the writing of the hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” in Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal. “I went for a little visit of five days (to Areley House). There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for, some converted but not rejoicing Christians. He gave me the prayer ‘Lord, give me all in the house.’ And He just did. Before I left the house every one had got a blessing. The last night of my visit, after I had retired, the governess asked me to go to the two daughters. They were crying. Then and there both of them trusted and rejoiced. It was midnight. I was too happy to sleep and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration, and these little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart one after another, till they finished with ‘Ever, only, all for Thee.”

Take my love, my Lord, I pour–At thy feet its treasure store.Take myself, and I will be–Ever, only, all for Thee.

 

 

One Starry Night–A Christmas Poem (part 3)

One Starry Night (part 3)

A manger, they knew, would be found where the

animals were fed, so they made their way

behind the first inn and followed the sounds

(and smells) of animals whose nightly slumber

had been disturbed. Quietly, they approached

a cave carved into a small hill where the

soft, smoky glow of an oil lamp cast a

shadow. They stopped as one when they reached the

entrance, suddenly unsure of their next

move. Just as Reuben decided to go

forward, the cry of a baby broke the

stillness of the night. The shepherds gasped and

several of them surprised themselves with tears.

Going in together, they peered in awe

at the sight. A young woman (a girl to

their eyes) along with a man dressed in

garments plain, crouched over a manger where

a newborn infant lay wrapped in cloths just

as the Messenger had told them. They crept

as close as they dared, wondering at the

babe whose birth had been declared to them by

a heavenly being and even sung

about by a heavenly choir. “We

were told to come here,” the old shepherd broke

the silence. “By a . . .” He stopped, unable

to continue and unsure of how to

explain the phenomenon they had witnessed.

The young woman smiled at them. “An angel?”

she suggested. “Yes!” they all said at once.

Then, mindful of the sleeping babe, they told

their story in excited, though hushed whispers.

“Yes, yes! An angel, that’s what he was. A

messenger sent from God. He told us he

had good news.” “Good news for everyone. The

whole world.” “He said it was great joy.” “For

everyone.” “He said we would find a baby.”

“A baby wrapped in cloths.” “In a manger.”

They stopped for breath and gazed anew at the

sleeping babe. How could such a small, helpless

newborn baby be the cause of such a

revelation? Of a heavenly

announcement? The promise of good news for

all people? “He said,” the old shepherd, Asa,

cleared his throat. “He said, the Messenger, I

mean, that this baby is the Christ. Our

Messiah.” Tears filled his eyes. “I never

thought he’d come for me.” The plain-dressed

man, who seemed to be the baby’s guardian,

placed an arm around the old shepherd’s shoulders.

“We were as amazed as you when the

Messenger came to us and gave us the

same good news. This baby is God’s gift to

us and will do more for us than we can

ever imagine.” “We must go and tell

everyone what we have seen and heard,” Asa

declared. His companions, though mildly

amused at the old shepherd’s change of heart,

joyfully agreed. With a final look

at the Christ child and a farewell to the

young couple–whom they all knew would face times

of trouble and sorrow as they raised this

baby in this sin-struck world–they set out

to walk the streets of Bethlehem as morning

broke and people began to stir. They stopped

and told everyone they met of the

celestial announcement they had received

about the baby and the significance

of his arrival. Though some had no interest

in hearing news of any kind from lowly

shepherds, many others marveled at their

story and spread the word throughout their town

and still others carried the story to

their homes in places near and far throughout

Israel. “A baby has been born to you.”                  P.M. Gilmer     Soli Deo gloria