Apr 20 2014

The Promise of Resurrection

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” –Martin Luther

_DSC3338I love Easter.  To me there is no more glorious day of the year.  Even more, I love the message of Easter.   It is good news—incredibly good news—every single day of the year.  I am thankful for Easter’s message that death does not have the final word.  That is important to me.  I am also thankful for Easter’s message that as the risen Lord Christ is able to be with me at all times and in all places.  That, too, is important to me.  There is yet another message of Easter that I love and treasure.  That is God’s ability to bring good out of the worst of situations.  I am convinced that this is God’s specialty.   What an amazing God it is who can take what happened on Good Friday and turn it into the most wonderful thing that has ever occurred!  God took what certainly looked like a great defeat to the world and made it become a victory like no other.  And the good news is God continues to do the same kind of thing in the lives of people like you and mine.

_DSC3334 flippwsTime and time again I have seen God take bad situations in my life or that of others and use those bad situations to bring good from them.  I’ve seen God do that when people have lost loved ones, when their marriages failed, when they lost jobs, when they sought to end their lives, when injuries were sustained, and when all hope was lost.  Easter reminds us that there is nothing that God cannot use to bring about good, if only we let Him and give Him time to do so. Countless times it has been my faith in God’s ability to do this which has enabled me to hang on.  It has been the hope I have encouraged others to hold on to on many an occasion.

_DSC1403What this hope is, of course, is nothing less than “the promise of resurrection.”  God’s resurrection power was not available to only Jesus.  The Bible makes it clear that this power is the possession of all of God’s children. (Philippians 3:10)  We just need to be reminded of this from time to time.  So perhaps that’s what spring is all about.  As Martin Luther indicated, “in every leaf in springtime” we find a reminder of the promise of resurrection.  I thought about that this morning when I drove into the church parking lot.  Earlier this winter I had photographed a dogwood bud encased in ice right next to our parking lot.  This morning that bud was a beautiful flower.  It had not only survived the cold dark winter, it was thriving.  It was alive.

On this Easter Sunday I encourage you to rejoice in and give thanks for the glorious resurrection of Christ our Lord.  I also ask you to keep in mind that the good news of Jesus’ resurrection is not ancient history.  It is as fresh as the blossoms you see around you today.


(I took the top two images this morning and the bottom one from the same tree in February.)

Feb 6 2013

My Mighty Rock

DT-vI usually read a few Psalms before going to bed each night.  Last night I happened to read Psalm 61 and 62.  It didn’t take long to find a common denominator in these two psalms.  In both David compares God to a rock.  In Psalm 61 he says, “lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.”  Vs. 2b-3)  In Psalm 62 he writes, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (vs. 1-2)  In this second psalm David repeatedly uses this image.  In v. 7 he says “My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.”

The imagery of God as a rock is a meaningful one.  Historically, high rocks have been viewed as places of refuge and even fortresses.  One might climb a rock for safety when the flood waters rise.  One might also find protection there from other dangers.  These days we may have other places we turn to for safety in floods or times of danger but we still understand the idea.  It is not hard to see how high rocks might be viewed as safe havens.

GT-Snake-River-OverlookNor is it hard to see how still today God might be compared to a rock.  God brings stability to our lives.  That is no small thing in the world in which we live!  God also is someone we can turn to when the floods of life come our way or when we find ourselves in times of trouble.  Martin Luther recognized.  One of the hymns he wrote begins with the words, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing, our present help amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”

Yosemite-reflection-759I am very thankful to have the rocklike presence of God in my life. In God I find the refuge I need in times of trial or sorrow.  In God I find a fortress or place of protection in life’s dangerous moments.  In more ways than one I would be lost were it not for “the rock that is higher than I.”  I happen to live in the mountains where there are a lot of high rocks.  I’ve also been privileged to travel to several places and photograph amazing rock formations and towers.  All of these serve as visual reminders to me of the true source of security and salvation in my life.  All of these remind me of the “solid rock” upon which I stand.

For these reminders, and the many others presented to us in Creation, I offer my gratitude.


(I took the top image at Devils Tower National Monument, the middle image at Grand Teton National Park, and the bottom image at Yosemite National Park.)

Sep 2 2012

Nature’s Humbling Power

Nature certainly has a way of keeping us humble.  I suspect God meant for it to be this way knowing that we humans have a tendency to be cocky and think that we are in control.  He also knows that such an attitude can get us into all kinds of trouble.  The Scriptures warn of the dangers of pride for good reason.  When we are prideful we tend not to give God His proper place in our lives.  Perhaps this is why many have suggested that pride is the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins. It is such a danger that God uses nature, and a number of other means, to keep us humble.


God uses nature in a lot of different ways to humble us.  In Sunday School this morning we looked at some of the writings of Martin Luther on prayer.  Luther was moved to become a monk when a bolt of lightning barely missed him.  This close call with nature’s fury definitely got his attention and humbled him.

Sometimes we are humbled by nature in less dramatic ways.  Perhaps we start to feel small after looking at the Milky Way on a clear cold night.  At other times we may be humbled by looking up at majestic mountains or beholding a beautiful sunset.   Both the vastness and beauty of Creation have a way of challenging our pride and humbling us.

On other occasions it can be the risks or dangers inherent in nature that humble us.  When hiking in grizzly bear country or while standing next to a raging torrent I rarely feel prideful.  Last night my wife found another copperhead on our driveway.  Just knowing that there are poisonous snakes living nearby humbles me and makes me think differently of myself.

No doubt those who have recently experienced the power of hurricanes, tornados, floods, drought and fires could, likewise, speak of nature’s ability to humble us.  As painful and frightening as nature’s humbling power can be it is also most beneficial.  The wise writer of Proverbs declared, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  (16:18)  By reminding us from time to time that we are not in control and that there are forces far more powerful than us nature can keep us humble and perhaps even help prevent “a fall.”  Nature has a way of reminding us to stay close to the God of Creation and to put our trust in Him.  If nature did nothing more than this, it would be an awesome thing!


(I photographed the coastal brown bear at Katmai National Park, the sunset in Glacier National Park, and the lightning strike at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.)


Apr 8 2012

Reminders of Easter

Happy Easter!  I hope you have had a wonderful and blessed day.  This morning, while scanning entries posted on Facebook, I found where someone shared the following quotation by Martin Luther: The promise of the resurrection is not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.”  In Luther’s words we see once again how God’s “other book”—Creation—complements the Scriptures.  It is, of course, primarily in the New Testament that we find the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  And what a story it is!  After all these years I am still amazed by the whole account of Jesus Passion and the empty tomb.  I am also so very thankful for what this story means.  This morning I preached on Paul’s words in First Corinthians 15: 17, “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”  It is my firm conviction that my faith is not futile and that my sins have, in fact, been forgiven.  Why?  Because Jesus lives!

The biblical message of resurrection is echoed in Creation.  For those with eyes to see it is everywhere.   Martin Luther was right; “every leaf in spring-time” proclaims resurrection.  Every flower that burst forth from the ground, likewise, shouts the good news of resurrection.  Even the light of dawn each morning reminds us of God’s resurrection power.

I am so very thankful for all of nature’s reminders because the implications of the resurrection are huge.  In the passage I noted above Paul says if Christ be not raised our faith is in vain, our sins are not forgiven, and he goes on to add, those “who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost” or no longer exists. (v. 18)  So much hinges on Jesus’ resurrection that first Easter long ago!  It is the “good news” that our Savior lives that brings us comfort and joy.  It is this same good news that is the source of our peace and hope.  For that reason I am grateful that God has placed within His Creation many visible reminders of His resurrection power.  These reminders can and should enrich our lives throughout the year.


(I took the picture of the trees above at Breaks Interstate Park yesterday afternoon.  I took the bottom image of a tulip here at my house earlier today.)

Mar 17 2010

Learning From Birds

raven 380“Look at the birds…”  (Matthew 6:26)

I’m not a birder.  I like looking at, feeding and photographing birds but I confess I have trouble remembering their names and distinguishing their calls.  That’s why it may surprise you to learn that the two books I’ve been reading this week are about birds.  I just finished reading Stacey O’Brien’s book, Wesley the Owl.  It’s a wonderful story about the barn owl she kept in her home for nineteen years.  The other book is Bernd Heinrich’s The Mind of the Raven.  Heinrich is an expert on ravens and explores the question of raven intelligence in this fascinating book.

Both writers spend considerable time talking about lessons they have learned by studying and observing the birds in their lives.  They believe that we have a lot to learn from birds.  The great Reformer, Martin Luther, apparently thought so too.  Back in the 16th century he wrote that he felt God “is making the birds our schoolmasters and teachers.”  He added, “We have as many teachers and preachers as there are little birds in the air.”

Burrowing OwlFrom Wesley Stacey O’Brien learned “the Way of the Owl.”  She also indicates that this incredible barn owl enabled her to connect with God again.  Bernd believes ravens are very intelligent creatures and that we can learn much from them.

John Stott, a highly respected Christian theologian,  once wrote, “Many Christians have a good doctrine of redemption, but need a better doctrine of creation.  We ought to pursue at least one aspect of natural history.”   Stott himself chose to focus on birds and has published a book called The Birds Our Teachers.  He, too, believes that there is much we can learn from the birds of the air.

I guess I need to start paying more attention to birds.  It would appear to be the wise thing to do.  Wise as an owl…


(The raven image above was taken in Yellowstone last month.  The burrowing owl was photographed in southern Florida.)