TRUST ME

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1) (1)

Can anyone look upon such a morning sky and not utter a simple exclamation at its beauty?  The photo was taken by a friend of mine at his fishing cabin in up-state New York on 22 June 2020.

 God’s word tells us how He loves his creation and takes great joy in sharing it with we who are also part of His creation.

Recently my grandchildren, accompanied by their mother and others were marveling at the vast number of toads and frogs which had inundated our pond. The first, the toads who remain in the woods come to the pond one time a year for the frenzy of procreation. Just about a week later the frogs who spend most of their lives on or in the pond have their turn to invade the shallow areas of the pond and take their turn at the creation cavalcade! Thousands of tiny amphibious critters were everywhere! I couldn’t help but think of what it must have been like in Egypt so many years ago! During the week, I removed the cushion off an outside chair before the rain came and found a tiny toad sleeping peacefully between the two sections of fabric. A few days later, after the rain, I unrolled my hammock planning for a mid-day nap. Rolled up inside was an adult size toad, also enjoying a mid-day nap! I’ll be the first to admit that the beauty of the sky pictured here is thousands of times more beautiful than either of those toads or any of the hundreds my grandchildren found!

However, the complexity of their instinct: when to leave the woods, where to go, what to do and then the ‘babies’ left to fend for themselves are to find their way back to the woods at the right time and at the right place. Intelligent design? A better descriptor is Divine Creator God.

The disciples were under a great deal of pressure and Jesus was working on preparing them for their ministry. He said to them in a passage recorded by Matthew, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”(2) Jesus went on to say, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”(3) For some of us that is a more daunting task than others, especially given the ravages of time!

Two sparrows sold for a cent

What Jesus was trying to get them to understand was how very deeply God, the divine Creator of the universe, loves us so much. He counts every star. He has named each one of them. (4) Can we even begin to grasp how many stars there are?

Hubble Telescope view of stars

Is it likely or is it even possible that all of the stress and the hard times you may be going through now, have gone through in the past, or are yet to go through are outside God’s caring reach and His love for you?

I know what some may be thinking. If He loves me so much or cares about my need for a job, my heartache over a failed relationship, my struggle with money that runs out before the month does, my children who are struggling so hard with life or about those little ones fighting cancer and seem to be all alone, why doesn’t He just fix it?

I’m in my sixties. I’ve had a full life with lots of experiences and I’ve seen things both in police work and in ministry that I simply cannot explain outside the divine nature, the miracles of God. I hold both a Master of Ministry degree and a Doctor of Ministry degree, that’s a lot of study and, with all that, I can now share with you the best theological answer I can offer. I don’t know.

That wasn’t a lot of help, was it?

Let me share with you what God said to Job when he asked God a similar question. Job was, I suspect, dealing with more bovine bullion than probably any person in history. Not only that, according to God’s Word, Job was a righteous man. He did what God expected of him and still everything, and I mean everything, came crashing down around him. Job’s wife was so hurt, she came at Job one day and here is what the Bible reports she said. “Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (5) That is a bit intense. But finally, it all got the best of Job and he let fly with his questions.

Here is what God said to Job. Let me set the stage because, I don’t know about all of you but, having God, the all-powerful, all knowing, eternal Master of the Universe speak to me one on one would be, on the average day, more than a little bit of tense! This was in what we call the Old Testament days, or the days before the Holy Spirit indwelt believers. We have much more the ability to confer with God daily as we talk to Him in prayer. No one I know, however, has had God answer back in a voice to be heard. So, what is the first thing that Job hears from God?

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?“Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! (6)

If Job was not previously fearful in hearing directly from God, these first two sentences should have put Job in, uh-oh mode! The question and statement by God in these verses put me in mind of being in military basic training and you mess up very badly! Suddenly the DI who strangely looks exactly like R. Lee Ermey is standing over you about to do the things to you he promised he would do on Day 1 if you messed up this bad.

R. Lee Ermey – http://www.theguardian.com

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you [a]have understanding, “Or who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; “Have you [c]ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, Or loose the cords of Orion?” (7)

All of these are designed to get Job to realize he really did not understand or have any power to control anything in his life and God is the only one in control. It was not to put it in Job’s face how small he was or how little control he had. God was trying to convince Job to trust Him. Job would eventually have so many wonderful things in his life. Those new things would not replace the family he lost or erase the pain of their deaths, but still God was in control and had great things in store for Job.

God tells us in one of my favorite verses, Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”(8)

The next time you see something truly amazing in God’s creation, know that it is God whispering to you, Trust Me.

(1) Psalm 119:1 (NASB)

[2] Matthew 12:29 (NASB)

[3] Matthew 12:30 (NASB)

[4] Psalm 147:4 (NASB)

(5) Job 2:9 (NASB)

[6] Job 38:2 (NASB)

(7) Job 38:31 (NASB)

[8] Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

SPACE EXPLORATION – Sinful?

Can you bind the chains of the Pleaides, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, and guide the Bear with her satellites? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens or fix their rule over the earth?”

Recently, I felt compelled to pen a letter to the editor of a Christian magazine after an article on India’s space exploration program. The letter is re-printed here for your consideration in part due to a conversation I had with a brother-in-Christ just this morning. We spoke of enjoying and encouraging the imagination of our young children and grandchildren. We reminded each other of times spent as children ourselves staring at a sky with white puffy clouds and calling out what animal or other images we saw the clouds forming. It is an amazing joy I share with my grandchildren as we sway lazily on our hammock under the shade of a sprawling oak tree. Imagining ourselves in the clouds ourselves must be on the mind of many future space explorers! With that in mind, I wrote the following to Mr. Arno Froese.

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D Min

Arno Froese, Executive Editor The Midnight Call P.O. Box 84309 Lexington, SC 29073

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I write to say how much I enjoy Midnight Call and to beg a question of you from the September 2019 Issue, under World Focus “Moon Landing”. You pose a question as to the purpose for India to be so involved in space exploration and putting a rover on the moon. You answer your question with, as you say, “one word: pride.” For those who set themselves a nest among the stars, Obadiah declares the Lord, those shall be brought down. Still, I could not settle myself on the idea of condemning the Indian exploration as sin, i.e. pride and leaving it go at that. I think of God who is the Creator magnificent who takes great joy in His creation, all of it, man, animals, earth and space. God, in putting Job into a correct understanding of God’s greatness, asks, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleaides, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, and guide the Bear with her satellites? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens or fix their rule over the earth?” (Job 38)

I believe God is quite pleased with his heavenly creation and given proper attitude of His human creation, He would welcome and has blessed our exploration of it. God proclaims in Genesis 1:14 of the heavens which sepearate the day and the night, “let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.” Men of Issachar could watch the heavens and thus understood the times (1 Chron.12

Can we begin to know, even in these last days what wondrous discoveries that might lead to cures of human maladies, stop the suffering of children or feed more poor than gleaning will be spun from a laboratory’s accelerator after exploration of space? More importantly, can we know another man’s heart? Can or should we ascribe guilt of sin to everyone attached to a nation’s space exploration program?

When considering the purposes of space exploration, we should also mention, the very real threats now looming like the Sword of Damacles across the globe for any maleficently minded country leader to shock our world with electronic pulses. Must we not know and have a command of space to stop such threats? I venture to say there are many noble purposes for space exploration. Although pride may be the Achille’s heel for some within such programs, still let us ask God to bless such work for learning more about our Creator and His creation as well as what boon to mankind it might bring.

I am reminded of the poem by Jahn Gillespie Magee Jr., the last lines which read, “while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod, the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God.” President Regan quoted this poem after the Shuttle disaster many years ago. When it comes to space exploration, the heavens are a creation which reveals the very nature of our God. We should relish every touch we can have with it.

Respectfully,

Dr. Ross Riggs  

When Your Faith Is Not Strong (and for good reason!)

“For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”

pocket watch quarter

 

Habakkuk 3:17-19

New King James Version (NKJV)

A Hymn of Faith

17 Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

19 The Lord God[a] is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills[i]

Don’t you wish you had Habakkuk’s faith?  He is so sure of himself. He is so confident. Well, maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. So often we look at “heroes of the faith” and we picture them with halos over their heads, going about in white robes, hands neatly folded, going around blessing people like a Franciscan Friar. The truth be told these were men who struggled with worry and doubt. They had friends turn on them; political trouble, headaches and stomach aches, sore feet and knees and sometimes they were just down-right crabby.

In this particular Bible story, actually in this particular account, when the doors first open and we meet Habakkuk in his prayer time, he is surveying the political and military mess that Israel is in. Habakkuk was making sure God understood the plight of Israel. They were completely surrounded with what seemed like every enemy Israel had and they were coming to annihilate them. It was not a good position to be in and Habakkuk was not entirely sure that God truly appreciated their predicament.

God had one a wonderful reply to Habakkuk, much similar to when He asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?[ii]God told Habakkuk, For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”[iii] And with that reply, Habakkuk declares that he will remind himself and others that God is on His throne and that he would watch and see what God would do.

Eventually, and I say eventually because it was not until Habakkuk had the opportunity that God gave him time to consider what God had said.

It is possible for us to need a little time to consider what He has said.

The title of the article says ‘for good reason’ because Habakkuk chapter 1 is Habakkuk explaining or more likely complaining to God that: 

O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgmet proceeds.[iv]

 

That may describe well the circumstances you find yourself in today. It seems like no matter what you do there is someone close-by that is there to tear you down, make your success seem like a failure, to make us feel like all our trying is for nothing. Allow me to ask you, the reader, a question. When was the last time you went out of your way to encourage a fellow believer along his or her journey? (That means not just conveniently mention it when it is ‘greet your neighbor’ time on Sunday Morning!) One of the toughest things that can happen to a believer is to face struggles that during his time passing through them he never hears from those he was closest, at least when you are up to your nostrils in deep water, if they won’t throw you a life-preserver; it would at least be nice to get a snorkel!

Recently, I had the opportunity to relate to someone an event that happened to some of us who were ministering in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Traveling one wintry night up the mountain that makes up Tuzla’s main residential area, we were in a van that was not designed for the winding, steep roads. We had finished or visit at the top but our van, unfortunately was facing the wrong direction and the chances of getting it turned around to come down the way we came up was nearly impossible. We opted to continue down the mountain by going ‘forward’ along the road in uncharted territory. When we came to an area that was quite steep and it was impossible to see on ahead, one of our party felt an uncanny sense of alarm, and asked he driver to stop immediately that they would walk out on foot to see what was ahead of our headlight beams, because, of course it being Bosnia, a fog had settled in!

After walking only twenty-five yards ahead, this one turned and came back to share that within 30 yards was a steep embankment where the road had stopped. May cultures would use the term: “cliff.” As we tried to ‘back-up’ and go  back, up the hill the van just spun its tires on the icy roads and at one point nearly struck one of the group as the van suddenly caught dry pavement and lurched to the side. He jumped out of the way into a ditch. That having happened I said a quick prayer under my breath, “Lord, we need help and we need help now!” There was scattered on the mountainside about four houses, al dark and quiet being late into the winter night. Suddenly, (and I mean suddenly) about six young men were there, (supposedly from the houses), and the pushed us up to an area where the van was able to turn and go the safe way up and then down the mountainside. Now, this next part is true and because the Bible says that we are not to swear upon stars etc., for vows; I promise you readers, it is true! I turned to thank   the young men; they were gone, nowhere to be seen!

Why share that story here? Well, as I mentioned, I just had a chance to share that event with a brother who was feeling very blue and without hope and the lesson we gleaned from it was that God is paying attention to our needs. He does hear our prayers and He responds to the cries of His children!

The author of Hebrews writes:  Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.[v]

Isaiah wrote:  “Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.”[vi]

 

Note: All Scripture references NKJV

Flying – by the seat of your pants

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D Min.   RIGGS MINISTRY MINUTE: When there’s only a minute for ministry  7 August 2012

When my son, Daniel, was still in preschool, during the short time we had between dropping off his sister at the elementary school and his class, he always wanted to go out to this small “airport” to see the planes. It didn’t matter that the planes were tiny private planes, sitting just off of a grass runway. It didn’t even matter to him if it were the middle of winter and snow covered everything. He just was happy to be among the airplanes. A few years later a friend and neighbor took him up in his private airplane and Daniel was literally swept up into the heavens in that small plane. A couple of summers ago, Daniel attended a Baptist camp and missionaries there from Missionary Aviation Fellowship took students up into the clouds to learn the basics of flying.  Daniel was immediately in his element and took to the air like a duck takes to water. As he began to consider serving his country in the U.S. Army, his long-range plans involved becoming a warrant officer and flying military helicopters. He is in the military now and still working his plan to someday fly. It is taking a great deal of fore-thought and planning. Classes he took at school, the way in which he maintained his grades and now, the specialty that he has chosen to keep him closer to his dream are all part of his preparation and planning.

As Daniel was flying high above the Baptist Ranch, where other ‘campers’ were all around the grounds involved in various activities, his instructors would have him climb high and then stall the engine, allowing the plane to drop in the air until they would restart the engine and again climb into the sky. It was a controlled way to know how the plane felt when it lost power, that it could ‘glide’ for a time’ because of the way the plane was designed. It was aerodynamically sound in the structure of the plane and was designed to fly. I believe that Daniel was created by God to be aerodynamic in his own inner-self; that God has designed him to fly. The result of that shows when Daniel does get behind the joy stick, he makes it look so easy. It is as natural to him as when he was swimming in competitions. It looked so effortless, yet I knew all of the training and preparation that went into his being able to swim so smoothly and naturally. I watched as he flew that small plane with confidence and joy as a sixteen year old teen. Observers might think that a veteran pilot was there behind that stick. The way in which Daniel slipped into that pilots seat, donned those headphones, cleared with the tower and slipped up into the sky; another person might have thought he was flying ‘by the seat of his pants’ when, in reality, he had been preparing for that time his entire life.

My daughter made the analogy just recently about the first place runners we were watching in the Olympics. They and the other top contenders made it look so smooth and effortless while those in the back of the pack were struggling to stay on their feet. Sometimes, perhaps, when someone seems to perform a task so smoothly and confidently, we might be quick to think they put little effort into the task that they too, are flying by the seat of their pants. More likely than not, God has been preparing them for quite a while and they have dedicated themselves to the task in which they take so much joy. Like a duck that seems to glide effortlessly across a pond, when in reality, under the water, out of sight two little webbed feet are flapping as fast as they can just to keep up!