Category Archives: Thoughts on God

Free Seminar on Learning “God Speech”…Christian Prayer

Did you know that at its root, “theology” means “God speech”? I always thought theology meant “the study of God,” and that’s the common modern idea, but in the original Greek, “ology” is derived from “logos,”  meaning “word.”  Biology is the study of life, but it’s also “life words”…learning how to speak the language of life. Similarly, “theology” means learning to speak the language of God.

Do you know how to speak God words? To talk to God? To let him speak to you and respond back to him, the way I toddling child learns to speak to his father?

Starting today, Wednesday, February 27, 2017, my son Jonathan (who is now a professor at Moody Bible Institute) is beginning a series on prayer, and I wanted to let you know, just in case it might be interesting to you. For those of you who may not know, Jonathan’s great passion is to make Christian education available to anyone who wants it, regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to attend a traditional university for training. Moody has been wonderfully supportive in working on this vision with him. Here is the specific information:

 

 

 

Dear Friends of Aqueduct Project,

We are incredibly excited to invite you to a live lecture series on prayer that will take place on Wednesdays beginning this week, February 22, 2017! You can join in on this live event from anywhere in the world with a single click. Full details are available at the course landing page: http://aqueductproject.org/prayer-seminar/

We have assembled a teaching team of seven gifted and passionate students from Moody Bible Institute who will be delivering these lessons alongside me. Whether you are able to join us for only one lesson or whether you will be able to participate in the entire series, we hope that we will see you soon for this transformative experience!

No registration is required, and all lectures are free! If you have questions, please email Jack DePuy at jacob.depuy@moody.edu.

“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:17–18, ESV)

Yours,
Jonathan J. Armstrong, Ph.D.
President of Aqueduct Project

Thoughts on Love for Valentine’s Day

“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” Blaise Pascalroses-and-liliesReady for some beautiful thoughts on love? Or, like Joseph Fink, do you think: “Valentine’s Day is a disaster. Any day that is designed to perfectly encapsulate something as messy and personal as two people in a romantic relationship would have to be.” Well, whether the quotes I’ve found strike you as funny, true, or overly idealistic, I was touched by all of them, and I hope that—whether or not you’re in a romantic relationship with someone today—these thoughts will cheer your spirit. Because, in all of them I found a kernel of truth that also expresses the way I experience God’s love. His love for us is greater than any human love, and the power of His love is the greatest positive energy for transformation in the universe!

“I know of only one duty, and that is to love.” Albert Camus

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” A.A. Milne

“No matter how much time and space may come between us, I still feel you.” Ken Poirot

“Love is an afternoon of fishing when I’d sooner be at the ballet.
Love is eating burnt toast and lumpy gravy with a big smile.
Love is hearing the words ‘You’re beautiful’ as I fail to squeeze into my fat jeans.
Love is refusing to bring up the past, even if doing so would be a slam dunk to prove your point.
Love is your hand wiping away my tears, trying to erase streaks of mascara.
Love is the warm hug that extinguishes an argument.
Love is a humbly-uttered apology, even if not at fault.
Love is easy to recognize but so hard to define; however, I think it boils down to this…
Love is caring so much about the feelings of someone else, you sacrifice whatever it takes to help him or her feel better.
In other words, love is my heart being sensitive to yours.” Richelle E. Goodrich

“Where there is great love, there are always wishes.” Willa Cather (and for some of us, wishes turned to prayers)

“They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything.” Bill Keane

“We’re most alive when we’re in love.” John Updike

“Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey.” Lord Byron

“When you love someone all your saved up wishes start coming out.” Elizabeth Bowan

“Love is the ultimate no-calorie sweetener.” Richelle E. Goodrich

“Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move.
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.” William Shakespeare (…and God!)

“So fall asleep love, loved by me…for I know love, I am loved by thee.” Robert Browning

“For ye will know not love, if ye knoweth not your God.” Henrietta Newton Martin

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
1 John 4:9-11 pink-tipped-rose-africa-copy


Rise Up, My Love (222): How Can We Reciprocate God’s Love for Us?

bread-and-wine-and-candlesSong of Solomon 7:2 “Thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.” So many of the sacred lessons I’ve learned from this book came during quiet times of meditation during our chapel’s weekly communion service. These next thoughts came as I pondered our text during one of those communion services. There were two questions on my mind. #1. The Lord gave his body as bread and wine to be broken and poured out for us…not only for our salvation, but for daily spiritual food and drink that we might have a spiritually abundant life of “feasting” on and with him. In return, what exactly (if anything) can we bring to him for the love feast? #2. What is the significance of “liquor” rather than wine, and “heap of wheat” rather than bread? The answer to the first question, is, I think, a resounding and thrilling, “Yes!” challah-bread-and-candle-10-15-16We can offer to our Lord what he has given us—our body, open and available for his delight. As a woman cannot produce offspring by herself, but rather by joyfully receiving her husband’s seed and allowing it to penetrate her being, spark new life, take root in her womb, and grow to fruition…even so can we delight our Lord by receiving with joy his living seed…the Word of God, and allowing it to penetrate our being until it sparks new life, which we allow to incubate within us…receiving our life blood of time, love, and spiritual resources until it comes to birth as a spiritual babe…to be suckled and brought up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This is much harder than simply coming to the communion table each week and taking in all the Lord has provided for us, but if it is the longing of our heart to delight him as he delights us…this is the way, for he has told us the secret in this verse! To him, our navel is drink indeed, and our belly wheat. That in us which allows for spiritual reproduction is a spiritual feast for Christ. fresh-rolls-11-25-16Do you remember the account from the fourth chapter of John where the disciples leave a very weary Christ by the well and go into town to buy provisions? When they return and urge him to eat, what is his response? “I have meat to eat that ye know not of” (John 4:32). The disciples…always thinking in physical terms…wondered if someone had brought him lunch. But, notice his reply; it had nothing to do with physical food. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:34-35). What had Jesus feasted on in the disciples’ absence? The joy of one sinner coming to faith in Christ…the refreshment of imparting living water to one fainting heart. What was his aspiration for his disciples? That they see the multitudes of people in need of salvation. Would you like to provide a love feast for your master? Open up your navel to be filled with the wine of the Spirit. Feast on the Bread of Life until your belly is as round and lustrous as a “heap of wheat set about with lilies”…filled with the Word, fragrant, and protected by purity. Allow yourself to become fruitful in producing spiritual offspring for your Lord. In this way, you will become a “love feast” to refresh your bridegroom!

Blue Hawaiian Kauai by Helicopter: Learning a Lot Fast

kathi-at-blue-hawaiian-heliport-kauaiI can’t think of a faster way to learn a lot about an islandview-of-kauai-from-inside-blue-hawaiian-helicopterthan by taking a one-hour helicopter tour over it with a pilot who lives there!aerial-view-of-kauaiI can’t begin to repeat everything I learned,  sun-streaming-between-mountains-on-na-pali-coast-kauaibut I’d like to at least share a few of the breath-taking views I saw on my flight. na-pali-coast-kauai-hawaiiLast week I published many photos of the amazing Na Pali coast,  south-shore-of-kauaiand our tour did circumnavigate the island, so we saw all the major sites. lihue-kauaiLihue is the unincorporated county seat in this little paradise.
(Lihue’s population? Less than 7,000. Kauai’s? less that 70,000.) wailua-river-flowing-to-lihue-kauaiWe saw the Wailua River (popular for kayaking), and learned all about Kauai’s agricultural history, including the rise and fall of raising cane (sugar cane)
and pineapple. aeriel-view-of-kauis-lush-interiorWe also learned about taro, their staple crop, which is still grown today.
(Try it, but you might not like it; it’s very bland.)aerial-view-of-kauai-and-menhune-fish-pondWe gazed down on the ancient Menehune Fish Pond, menehune-fish-pond-kauaiconstructed to catch fish some 1000 years ago. Good work, Hawaiians! aerial-view-kokee-park-geophysical-observatoryWe enjoyed a bird’s eye view of  Kokee Park Geophysical Observatory, dolphins-and-whales-swimming-in-pacific-off-coast-of-kauaiand we peered down on pods of dolphins,
squinting our eyes to see whales swimming in the deep, blue sea.  waimea-canyonWe marveled at Waimea Canyon in all its red (oxidized iron) and green splendor.
(Kauai is nicknamed the Garden Island because it has such lush vegetation.)
waimea-canyon-hawaii-grand-canyon-of-the-paificMark Twain dubbed Waimea Valley “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

helicopter-along-nepali-coastHowever, the vast heart of Kauai is so rugged that it’s never been penetrated by roads. It remains a mystery to tourists unless they get permission to hike in (which takes days, and it’s privately owned), or else fly in by helicopter. Friday I hope to share what I saw in the heart of Hawaii, but today I just want to reflect on how God’s heart would always remain an impenetrable mystery to us as well, were it not for Jesus, who lives in paradise with his Father and can reveal Him to us if.

  helicopter-flying-in-kauai-mtsIf?? Yes.
If
we’re willing to “ride” with him and let Him teach us all about God.
Are you willing?

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

(Romans 11:33)

Rise Up, My Love (227): A Neck Like a Tower of Ivory

auguste-rodin-madame-roll-musee-rodin-parisSong of Solomon 7:4 “Thy neck is as a tower of ivory.” In the Song of Solomon, there is a wonderful progression in the character and praise of the wife’s neck. In chapter 1:3 the groom mentions how lovely the bride looks adorned with chains of gold around her neck, and in 4:4 he comments that her neck is like a tower built for an armory to display beautiful golden shields. However, in 7:4 what the husband notices is no longer the adornments he has given his bride, but her beautiful neck itself! What made the difference? marble-statue-of-a-woman-paris-musee-dorsayHow did the wife go from being praised for the husband’s beautiful gifts to being praised for what she was? How did her neck change such that it became so beautiful in its own right that it was more captivating than adornments…and more pleasing uncovered? The changes mentioned are in color and consistency: from a “black tent” to a tower…and then, to a tower of ivory.  auguste-rodin-eve-musee-rodin-parisThink back to the beginning the Song. The bride shrinks from view: “Look not upon be, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me”(Song 1:6). And, in the preceding verse, the bride likens herself to being as black “as the tents of Kedar.” A woman who is blackened by the sun is a perfect picture of the natural man…the Ecclesiastical sinner who toils “under the sun” and finds that all is “vanity and vexation of spirit”(Ecclesiastes 2:26). A woman “under the sun” is like the daughter of Zion described in Isaiah 1:5-6: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” Repulsive as this is, it is a true picture of what each of us looked like spiritually at the time the Lord called us to be His own.  musee-dorsay-paris-looks-like-a-woman-reading-her-bibleHere is another thought. The bride likens herself to the “tents of Kedar.” What were the tents of Kedar? They were the dwelling places of those nomads who were roving the arid wilderness areas of the Middle East. The tents were made out of the tanned hides of goats…leathery and weatherbeaten…blackened by the smoke of a thousand sooty fires where nightly meals were being prepared. The tents were tough and rugged, but still they could be blown over by a heavy wind and certainly could not provide protection from enemy invasion! A blackened tent is almost an antonym for an “ivory tower.” This bride was the original “red neck…” rough and tough, sunburned and uncared for…her neck as dark and leathery as a sun-baked tent, not upright and elegant, but all too oft bent down from the heavy labors of tending her brothers’ vineyards. Spiritually, this is the picture of one whose neck has been bowed under the yoke of Satan, the blackened soul enslaved by sin, the morally frail one who could be blown about by “every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness” (Ephesians 4:14). Think back to the Song of Solomon 1:4. “Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers.” The king draws us, we run after him, and he weds us to himself.  musee-dorsay-claude-monetAbsolutely incredible! We cannot resist running to him, and yet we are utterly amazed that he will take us in. We are as dark as the tents of Kedar. We are ashamed to be seen! Our hearts are black with sin and we cry out in brokenhearted anguish, “Don’t look at me!” Yet, our Lord loves us and takes us to himself. He washes our wounds, dresses us in robes of white, and places around our neck the golden chains of his ownership—his forgiveness, mercy, and grace. How they sparkle in the sunlight of his love! He cherishes us, praises our feeble attempts to please him, decks our cheeks with jewels and lavishes us with the gifts of his Spirit. He anoints us with perfumes and seats us at his banqueting table. “How lovely you look with those dazzling chains about your neck!” He praises. “How well you wear my graces and gifts!” We are not spiritually beautiful yet, but our heavenly lover encourages us by saying we appear lovely dressed in his robes of righteousness and adorned with his graciousness.  musee-dorsay-claude-monet-1866-femmes-au-jardinBy chapter 4, the bride has grown tremendously. No longer the young bride who is ashamed by her utter failure, now the bride has learned to walk uprightly. She has taken her place publicly as the queen and holds her head erect, walking with the demeanor fitting one who has become one of the nation of kings and priests.jardin-des-tuileries-paris She is walking in his steps and following in his ways. She has become a tower to display his graces and glories (4:4). Now, at last, by chapter 7, her neck is like a tower of ivory…erect, smooth, and lily white. Ivory speaks of purity, beauty, strength, costliness, stateliness…lustrous solidness. No longer suffering from overexposure to the deadly rays of this word’s sun and stooped from the weary round of her forced labor, the bride’s skin has taken on the prized sheen of ivory.  rebrandt-bugatti-chevaux-de-trait-musee-dorsayHer stance is statuesque; her neck is regal. Never again will her neck bow under the yoke of Satan or honor the idols or axioms of this world; it will bow only to honor her Lord and King! Her neck, which once drooped under the burden of shame, now supports her head like an ivory tower. auguste-rodin-diane-musee-rodin-parisShe has taken on not only the air but the essence of her royal husband, of whom it was said, “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad. kings’ daughters were among thy honourable women; upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir” (Psalm 45:8-9). This queen in gold is us—his beloved bride—no longer the backdrop for His treasures, but the treasure itself. At last the neck is like an ivory tower…needing no adornment…beautifully captivating in its own right.  henri-fantin-latour-charlotte-dubourg-musee-dorsay-parisTell me, dear wife, does your husband find more pleasure in you dressed or undressed? A beautiful neck needs no adornments to allure. And spiritually? The neck made straight… fashioned from the living sacrifice of Christ’s pure ivory…turning neither to the right or left, nor turning back…is a precious treasure to our Lord, and one He will delight in more than all the gold of Ophir!auguste-rodin-the-kiss-musee-rodin-paris

(All photos taken at Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin, and Jardin des Tuileries in Paris last spring.)

The Janus of January

fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japanThe Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates and time…
of beginnings, transitions, and endings.

janus-vatican-museum-by-loudon-dodd-wikiJanus was depicted as having two faces, one that looked back and one that looked forward, and it’s commonly thought that Janus was the god for whom the month of January was named by the Romans…a god who looked back over the past year and looked forward to the coming year. 2002_austria_100_euro_sculpture_wikiIt’s been a long time since I’ve really thought about the development of our present calendar, but I learned that the Roman calendar (which may be 2,700 years old) was updated in 46 BC. by Julius Caesar. However, that calendar—though an improvement over the 304-day Roman calendar—only had 355 days, and it wasn’t until 1582 that Pope Gregory X111 introduced the Gregorian calendar (our present calendar) which has 365.25 days (365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds to be precise). This calendar is the world’s most commonly used international civil calendar today. Sorry if this was too much detail, but the thing that really caught my attention was the description of Janus, because it made me think of the God of the Bible, who also declares himself to be the God of beginnings and endings. Revelation 22:13 proclaims: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”  fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-2      However, the God of the Bible says He is “God of gods and Lord of Lords
(Deuteronomy 10:17). fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-4He is the God of Janus and the God of all gods…not just the god of beginnings, and gates, and transitions and endings, but the Creator God, who made the sun and moon and stars and everything we see and every concept people try to worship. He is also the most worshiped God in the world today, did you know that? high-speed-train-on-way-to-fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japanThis God is my God, and I am thankful that through all the stages and transitions of life, I can rest in this ineffable God, who is not limited to sovereignty over certain aspects of life, but who is sovereign over all of life. kathi-at-fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japanEven more wonderful, the God of the Bible is a God of compassion and mercy. He was merciful in the past before we lived, He is merciful today while we live, and He will be merciful in the future. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). He’ll never change, and that gives me great hope and peace.  fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-mother-and-small-son“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-3Are you worried about what might lie ahead of you this year? Let’s not fret. Rather, let’s trust in the God of gates and passageways…the God who not only knows but is Himself the beginning and ending.

Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:5-8)

fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-5(These photos of the beautiful orange gates are of Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) near Kyoto, Japan, and were taken while Alan and I were visiting with our kids and grand kids.)

 

What’s Under the Mantle of White?

img_7265It’s snowing and 8° here in Michigan this morning.snowy-lake The sky looks almost foggy,img_7263 and everything is wrapped in a mantle of white as luxurious as ermine fur! img_7262Don’t you love how snow softens lines and covers over the deadness and defects img_7273of our landscapes after the cold has killed off everything green? img_7272-2It occurs to me that it’s almost impossible to guess what’s under the soft, glistening mounds of white unless you know the landscape well.
img_7270For instance, wouldn’t it be impossible to know what’s under the white mounds of snow in the preceding photos grill-buried-under-snowunless you’re able to back up and see the bigger picture?  (Outdoor grill)snowy-stack-of-wood(Not a bed, but a stack of firewood!) img_8471Makes me think of God, who covers over our sins with his grace and makes us clean, not only on the outside but on the inside too! (Kayak on our dock.) overturned-row-boat Thank you, Father, for a new year and the chance to be renewed again!  picnic-table-covered-in-snowPurge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow
” (Psalm 51:7).  huge-snowy-doghouseWhoever covers an offense seeks love” (Proverbs 17:9).