The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

Throughout the month of June 5 planets can be seen in the pre-dawn sky. This sky chart shows where these planets will be on Monday, June 13 at about 5:45 am. Mercury may be a little tricky and may require binoculars but it’s there. The fine tuning of the universe is such that these planets as well as all of the constellations seen in this chart can be pin-pointed on any day and at any time. Only an omniscient and omnipotent God is capable of the level of fine tuning necessary to design, create, and maintain a universe which stretches even beyond what we can see or even imagine.

~Job 26:7~ He stretches the northern skies over empty space; he hangs the earth on nothing.

~Job 9:4-9~ He makes the stars: the Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and the constellations of the southern sky.

~Psalm 8:3-4~ When I observe your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars suspended in space, what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?

~Colossians 1:16-17~ For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.

It’s also interesting to note that the gods for which these planets were named have long since been considered nothing more than the musings of mortals trying to make sense of their universe. In actuality, The God who hung these planets in space – the God Who created everything we see in the night sky – is the same God Who still moves in the hearts of those who will listen. The other gods have fallen silent, but the God of all creation speaks. The other gods have shown just how powerless they are while the power of the One True God is witnessed every day. The other gods have become the fodder of fairly tales and fantasy, while the Omnipotent and Omniscient God is attacked regularly – along with His followers – BECAUSE He alone is the One Who stands in the way of those who choose to pursue evil, selfishness, greed, and power. He’s not going to change. The universe in its constant, consistent march through the eons of time should be proof enough that He – the Creator – is worthy of total trust, worship, and praise. Hallelujah!

Pray!

Politicians can talk freely of what they will do to rebuild America — grand plans and designs, budget reforms and tax reforms, imports and exports, peace at home and peace abroad, safety and security. “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a  certain town and will stay there a year.   We will do  business there and make a profit.’   How do you know what your life will be like  tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a  little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are  boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)

Now is the time to trust God instead of the plans of those who do nothing but boast of what they will do.

The Decline of the Church

Photos by Roman Robroek

The link below will take you on an emotional journey through a reflective essay by Roman Robroek, a Netherlands-based urban exploration photographer. I found both the photos and Roberoek’s written reflections to be both disturbing and melancholic; interesting and depressing; beautiful and yet gut-wrenching.

Photographer Captures the Decline of the Church in Italy

However, the eye-opening moment came when I realized that this is a picture of our life in Christ and our bodies as a living temple in which dwells His very Spirit. In his conclusion Robroek writes:

Today, abandoned churches in Italy and elsewhere offer a unique glimpse into the past. A source of reflection, perhaps, as they prompt us to think about the future. If a church, once the most important haven in the community, can become a pile of ruins, what does that say about what we hold certain today? These are the traces of the past of many communities, and if we follow them, we can see where we all came from and perhaps where we’re going.” ~ Roman Robroek

Many, if not most, of the churches were abandoned due to the influence of socioeconomic influences as well geopolitical forces. However, no matter the cause, these buildings did not suddenly decay – it took years of lack of use and neglect for them to devolve to this state. And so it could be with the temple of the Lord. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

When we fail to glorify God in all we do and when we neglect our relationship with God, deterioration begins. It may not seem like much at first, but over time our lives can become spiritually empty and the worship of God a thing of the past. As we neglect the things that once brought us closer to God – things like Bible study, prayer, worship, and fellowship with other believers – our spiritual lives become empty shells left to fall to the natural forces of the world. What was once a person who was a shining beacon of the Truth of Jesus Christ in the community becomes a monument to the ineffectiveness of the gospel to stand up against the ravages of the society in which the Christian dwells.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” 2 Peter 1:3-7.

“Because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises” and we must “make every effort to respond to God’s promises.” We do these things not to gain salvation nor to gain favor with God, but rather because of the life we have in Jesus. We do these things, not in our own power, but by the power of the Spirit Who dwells within us. We do these things in response to His great love. We do these things so that others will see Jesus in us. We do these things so that God’s Temple – the body of the believer – will be a walking and talking testament to the Truth of the Gospel. And that testimony is not of what once was, but for what is and what ever more shall be – the living and vibrant love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

To Infinity and Beyond

Take a moment to consider the heavens – the work of God’s fingers; the moon and the stars which He has set set in place. With our most creative imaginations we cannot begin to comprehend the vastness of the universe which God created with nothing but a spoken word.

This NASA image was captured by the Webb telescope during its mirror alignment, known as “fine phasing.” The object of the photo, the bright star in the middle of the photo, is named 2MASS J17554042+6551277. I would have called it something a little more personal . . . like maybe, oh, I don’t know – Bob.

Bob is some 2,000 light years from earth and Bob is gorgeous – which is what we would expect from a star named Bob. However, the most amazing part of this photo is who is photobombing Bob’s glamour shot. Webb’s optics are so sensitive that the galaxies and stars seen in the background show up very clearly even though they are millions, if not billions of light years from the Earth. Look closely and you will see galaxies shaped much like our own Milky Way.

The universe is vast, but no more vast than the love the Creator has for us. He has not only created Bob and the wonders of space, but He has also created you. He has made you and loves you so much that He has made provision, though the death and resurrection of Jesus, for you to live eternally with Him. People often ponder what we will do for all eternity. I plan to wave to Bob as I sail by him on the way to visit all of those galaxies behind him and the ones we can’t see. Now that’s what I call a road trip. To Infinity and Beyond!

The First Resolution of the New Year

I read an article entitled “Top 10 Most Common New Year’s Resolutions (and How to Follow Through on Them)” by Brad Zomick in which he identified the most common New Year’s Resolutions and then laid out practical things that you can do to help you keep those resolutions. You can click on the title of the article or the link below to read for yourself his recommendations. He is very thorough and very realistic in laying out a plan of action to attain any resolution or any goal for that matter. Check it out and see for yourself.

However, I would like to propose a foundation on which to build a successful New Year no matter what New Year’s Resolutions you feel the need to set forth. It’s found in the Bible in Micah 6:8 – “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” When Jesus was asked what He believed to be the greatest commandment He responded, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) So, there it is – love God and love others. In the Old Testament and the New Testament this must be where it all begins.

Easier said than done? Yes! If you need help you can always go the plan given by Zimick in the article referenced above. After reading it I realized that anything you want to do to draw closer to God you can do following his steps. However, I would like to recommend the following steps for building the foundation you need to begin a year of loving God and loving others.

1. Set aside a time and place each day to spend time alone with God.

During that time, read the bible. (YouVersion – bible.com has some excellent reading plans if you want a systematic approach to reading the Bible.)

During that time, pray. Pray for yourself, your family, your friends and associates, and items of concern; and always pray for people you don’t get along with – people who rub you the wrong way – people who don’t like you.

2. Set aside a time and place weekly to spend time with fellow believers.

An obvious opportunity for this exists in Bible study and worship at a local church.

To supplement worship and Bible study attendance find a friend or neighbor that you can spend time with on a weekly basis to discuss life and pray together.


These two steps are NOT the fulfillment of the Christian life, but just a start. From there God will open opportunities to deepen your faith as well as opportunities to minister in His name. More importantly, as you do these things you will begin to gain the perspective to see which New Year’s Resolutions are worthy of your time and effort – those that will enable you to better advance the Kingdom of Christ.

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:31-34) Jesus said these things in the Sermon on the Mount. He was referring to the things people worry about – the things we need to physically exist in this world. However, He could just as well have said in verse 31, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?” or ‘What shall we do to improve ourselves in thee coming year?’” If we seek God first – His Kingdom and His righteousness – all these things will fall in line.

Happy New Year and Godspeed into the Future.

https://www.goskills.com/Soft-Skills/Resources/Top-10-new-years-resolutions

Naughty or Nice?

It hangs over us all year long, but the magnitude of “The List” grows as Christmas Day approaches. And so it has been for our entire lives. We joke about it as adults, but the meaning behind it remains firmly entrenched in our moral code – a moral code that seems to tap dance its way through and around the very Word of God. While the Bible is full of instances where justice reigned down on those who did evil in the sight of God (i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah, Ananias and Sapphira) and while the Bible admonishes us to choose good over evil, it seems that without careful thought we can step into a belief system where we determine our destiny by our own actions and, in so doing, ignore the way God loves those who are naughty AND nice.

In something of a playful way, we use the naughty and nice concept to control the behavior of children. In a much more serious sense, we use the naughty and nice concept to control our own behaviors and the behaviors of those in our society. Unfortunately, most religions rely heavily on the concept of naughty and nice to sustain their moral code – a practice that is ultimately futile since all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. No one can measure up but the belief system (religion) continues with the never-ending pursuit of perfection. If you will just do enough “do’s” and avoid enough “don’ts” then you will end up on the nice list and go to Heaven, but if you fail to do the do’s and you are very adept at doing the don’ts then it’s the naughty list for you and a one-way, expense paid trip to Hell. That’s the way religion works – always has and always will because we as humans want to control our own destiny and most religions provide just such a tool for us to do that. It’s a win-win. We get to control our lives and religion profits by helping us do it.

However, God laid out a different plan through His Son, Jesus. God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, Jesus, so that all who believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) For it is by grace we are saved and not because we are on the nice list. Otherwise, we would tend to boast about being on the nice list instead of rejoicing that we know the One Who put us there in the first place. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Naughty or Nice? God declares us righteous through the blood of Jesus. (Romans 5:9) God declares that we are on the Nice List because of Him. And not only that – He takes the list of the bad things we have done and drops them into the Sea of Forgetfulness and remembers them no more. (Micah 7:19) Again, it’s not because of what we have done or haven’t done, but it’s solely because of Who He Is.

I enjoy the fun of Santa and I don’t have a problem with teasing folks about the naughty or nice list. However, if you’re talking naughty or nice – you’re naughty. God said so and your actions back Him up. But because of Jesus you can be on the Nice List. How sweet is that? Sweeter than any Christmas candy or any sugar plum you can imagine.

The difference between Hell and Heaven is not Naughty or Nice. The difference between Hell and Heaven is a Savior – Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

One Solitary Life

I developed this version of the essay “One Solitary Life” by Dr James Allan Francis by using his words and other phrases that I have heard and used in stating the significance of Jesus Christ. It is a powerful statement that is true in its content and will strike true in the heart of anyone who considers it with an open mind and searching soul. In this video I added a visual hint of the nativity to help us focus our attention on the true meaning of Christmas.

For other From the Back Porch resources you can go to:

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org
Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast
Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Or email me at:
fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Beauty from Ashes

https://www.kentucky.com/news/state/kentucky/article256586146.html?utm_source=join1440&utm_medium=email&utm_placement=newsletter

I read this article and listened to this man play “Something About That Name’ and immediately thought of Isaiah 61:1-4. This message was given to the people of Israel but it is a Messianic prophecy that Jesus used as His first “sermon” so the proclamation is the same for all believers. Thank you, Jordan Baize, for reminding us of this truth.

1“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,Because the Lord has anointed MeTo preach good tidings to the poor;He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,To proclaim liberty to the captives,And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,And the day of vengeance of our God;To comfort all who mourn,

3To console those who mourn in Zion,To give them beauty for ashes,The oil of joy for mourning,The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;That they may be called trees of righteousness,The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

4And they shall rebuild the old ruins,They shall raise up the former desolations,And they shall repair the ruined cities,The desolations of many generations.”