Last Days…

July 2017
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“A Whale’s Tail”

For some reason, God has placed the ocean on my mind this morning… Probably
because I grew up by the ocean. As a young boy, I used to climb out on the rocky shore
and watch the ocean for hours on end. I never tired of this fascinating sight. I was
constantly intrigued by the ocean’s every changing nature, and the power it displayed as
the waves crashed against the massive rocks. The tidal pools held a special treat as they
were always teaming with some kind of sea life – the colorful sea urchins were my
favorite… Long before I accepted Christ in my life, I knew I was witnessing something
very profound.

Forgive me for using some sea-going metaphors here in the middle of beautiful Las
Cruces, but let’s proceed to have some fun with the ocean, along with some serious
considerations about what God is doing in our life. Here goes…

Ahoy Mate! Your crusty ole’ shipmate here! Such might be the greeting from the deck
this morning as you roll out of the sack and prepare to hoist sails – getting your ship
ready for the day’s journey. This is no small task if you’re are a crew of one!
Fortunately, God realizes that we need help preparing for the day, as we get underway
and make ready our plans for navigating through the busy day. Where will your journey
take you today?

No matter where your travels take you, you can be sure of one thing — God will be there
with you. God is omnipresent and all knowing, and His Spirit lives within those who
have accepted His Son. Even through the most perilous times, He will help to guide you
through even the narrowest of straights in life. You can count on the fact that God’s
Word reveals the Truth about the past, present, and the glory that is to come. God’s
Creation speaks of His divine nature, and without excuse, we are all witnesses to His
glory and wonder – His laws written in our hearts. God has created all things in heaven
and on earth, and knows each star by name. As if this were not enough, He sent His Son
Jesus as a living sacrifice for you and me, that through faith in Him, we as sinners might
be saved and have eternal life. Let us all consider all what God has done for us, and give
Him praise this morning.

What does God ask in return? Listen to what it says in Deuteronomy 10:12-13, “And
now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your
God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your
heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His
statutes which I command you today for your good?”

To be clear, God doesn’t force us do anything (although He could). Rather, in trust and
obedience, God desires us to do His will according to the free will He has given us. Just
as clear, if we go our own way, we must be prepared to accept the consequences. Do you
agree?

Let’s look at this in a different light. If we were to board a cruise ship, we immediately
place our blind trust in the ship’s captain – trusting in him to keep the ship on course and
to keep us safe. How is it that we so easily put our trust in the captain piloting the ship?
The truth is we exercise this worldly kind of trust every day in many of the things we do
in life.

By contrast, when we willingly give our life to Christ, we place our trust in God and
place Him at the helm of our lives – no longer carrying the burden of blind trust, for we
know the Truth and why we are saved. This represents a Christ-centered life. When we
trust in God, we are saying that we fear Him, that we desire to walk in His ways, that we
love Him, that we will observe His commands. In all this, God wants us to be a humble
servant as we wisely exercise our worldly trust, in full accordance with our Godly trust.
It’s true that sometimes we desire to do things our own way, ignoring God in our life (a
self-centered life – piloting our own ship). This may work for a “season”, but many
times it results in our being misguided into stormy weather – left with little hope except
to change our course, and turn back to God. Does this pattern sound familiar?
“Piloting your own ship” can be fun, and for a time, it can seem rewarding (although
sometimes deceiving). It sure feels great when we are in control and everything is going
well. But life can change in a heartbeat, and without God in the forefront of our lives, we
can easily sail off-course as we simply forgot about God!

Since our free will allows us such freedom, staying on-course in life can be a major
challenge. So ask yourself this question: “Who do I want to be at the helm of my life –
me or God?

Joshua 24:15 gives some perspective with regard to this question: “And if it seems evil to
you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the
gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the
Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the
LORD.”

Joshua had it right, for the Israelites had a massive challenge ahead of them. So we too
have a challenge in our life, but the difference is that we have a Redeemer, He lives —
and His name is Jesus! Hallelujah! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens
me.” Philippians 4: 13

Despite our knowledge of the Truth, many times we find ourselves in situations (usually
of our own making) that test our ability to discern which way to turn — to either “trust in
God” or “turn to our instincts”. Just as in Joshua’s time, we must decide whom we will
serve. The choices we make reflect our trust in God.

Since we have a Redeemer, we as Christians know that the Holy Spirit is alive and
working in our lives, helping to guide us through the “trials of life”. But the question is,
“Do we listen to the Holy Spirit?” How about you, does your heart listen to what the
Holy Spirit is telling you? Does the Holy Spirit help you to stay on-course as you
navigate the oceans of your life?

It’s interesting that much of our life is made up of events and experiences – our “sea
stories” as it were — our personal testimony. Equally interesting and unbeknown to us,
are the times in our life when we were guided out of harms way and made it safely back
to port by the shear Grace of God. Did you realize that God was there with you in those
circumstances? Contrast that with the times when you acknowledged that “God was
there with you”? Such is the gathering of events that make up our life’s story – our
testimony.

In reality, every life experience – past and present – has meaning and importance. Did
you know that who you are, and what you have done are important to God? It’s easy for
us to think that our testimony is just an ongoing current of life’s events – not much
different than anyone else’s. How wrong it is to think this way, for God created you
uniquely special – part of His perfect plan. Your life experiences are more than a
collection of ”sea stories or a whale’s tale” – they are a genuine reflection of who you
are, representing where you have been, what you have done, where you have arrived, and
the difference that God has made in your life. For all of us, our testimony is a powerful
story indeed… “I once was lost, but now am found.” God’s Amazing Grace!

Your personal story of salvation is a tale truly worth telling. Never underestimate the
power of your testimony, and the “life saving” influence it can have for others! Pray that
God will place you in the path of someone that needs to hear your story, so you may have
the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus.

In any case, there will come a judgment, and like it or not, we all must “each give our
testimony” someday before the Lord – everyone who ever lived! Romans 14:12, “So
then each of you shall give an account of himself to God.” Paul states this more strongly
in 2 Timothy 4:1, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will
judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom… ” It’s not too bold to
say to you, that these are the last days, and these are serious times we are living in. Walk
a straight path and prepare yourself for the coming of the Lord.

I recall a short testimony that was given at a Willow Creek Conference by Wayne
Cordeiro, Pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship Church in Hawaii. He tells of a time
when he went out surfing by himself, near the area called Diamond Head. As he put it,
he needed some quiet time alone.

He paddled out a few hundred yards beyond the breakers to wait for the “Big Surf” to
develop. As he was straddling his surfboard, soaking up the beautiful view looking back
toward Diamond Head, he suddenly became aware of something grazing his leg, and then
he saw it — a fin, breaking the surface of the water — circling around him. The glare off
the ocean was too bright to make out the shape of this “unwelcome guest”. All he could
think of was Shark! The reality started to sink in, and his mind was consumed by the
danger he was in.

As he tells it, immediate fright overtook him as he realized he was too far out to escape
what was sure to be a violent shark attack. All alone, he found himself face-to-face with
what he believed to be a Great White Shark – not uncommon in these waters. His heart
pounded as thoughts raced through his mind. How can I defend myself? What if I don’t
make it? What about my Family, my church? Anxiety and fear engulfed him as he
braced for the worse that was about to happen…

As the seconds passed, gripping fear began to overtake him, and he started to panic… At
the height of that very moment, as being caught by a snare, out of the water surfaced a
familiar looking sight, and he realized immediately that it was a porpoise – a friendly
mammal. He also knew from experience, that where there were porpoises, there were
typically no sharks. His senses still peaked… Slowly he began to calm down and collect
his thoughts…

Then it hit him… The fact that he didn’t do what he preached so well and effectively
every Sunday to the thousands of people that attended his mega-church: “In all
situations – no matter what – turn to God and put your trust in the Lord!” His head
dropped — he thought how quickly he had fallen back on his worldly instincts.
In those moments of panic and self-preservation, he realized he had failed to put his trust
in God. As he quickly paddled back to shore, calling it a day, he thought deeply about
how in his time of need, he withdrew into the world, and totally forgot about seeking
God. Safely on shore he said, “Next time I’ll turn to the Lord.” What an experience,
what a self-revelation – what a testimony!

Has anything that dramatic ever happened in your life? Have you ever displaced God
with your worldly instincts for survival? Although it may not have been a “shark”
encounter, I’m sure that for some of you, the answer is yes – I know that I have. Some
might say, “That’s part of the way God has wired us — for survival.” To some extent, but
the fact is, in everything we do, we are under God’s Grace and Mercy, and according to
His will, He will protect us and lift us out of the depths of the deepest despair in our
moment of our need. This applies to everyone that calls on the name of the Lord. “Ah
Lord GOD! behold, you have made the heaven and the earth by your great power and
stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for you:” Jeremiah 32:17

What do you think we can all learn from Wayne’s experience, and his testimony?
Although it goes against our worldly grain, Proverbs 3:5-6 gives us some answers, “Trust
in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your
ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

Back to our sea stories… Remember the story of Jonah and the whale, and how he came
to realize a need to turn to God. Jonah 2:7-9, “When my soul fainted within me, I
remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple. ‘Those
who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy. But I will sacrifice to You with the
voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.’ “
This is not just a “whale’s tale”, but a pertinent example of how turning to God, trusting
in God, seeking God, relying on God, and how being obedient to God can impact the
outcome of events and lives. Have you ever wondered how you may have impacted the
lives of those you encountered?

Without a doubt, your life has certainly impacted others! If you have the chance, I
encourage you to take the time to write your testimony (your story) down on paper. This
is a good way to organize your thoughts. When you do, not only will it be an inspiration
for others, but it will be an inspiration for you when you realize how far you have come.
Need some reinforcement? Be strengthened by what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has
come.” Indeed, your testimony is story for all to hear.


Before I close, can I tell you “A Whale’s Tale”? A “Cosmic Whale” that is… Take a
look at the close-up of this “sea-going creature” in the image below.

This image above shows what we might call an unusual galaxy in the vast depths of the
universe. In fact, astronomers have given this object the name “The Whale Galaxy”. This
diffused edge-on galaxy is technically named M108 and resides some 45 million light
years distant from our earth., in the Constellation of Ursa Major – better known as the
Big Dipper. I took this image a few weeks ago from our remote robotic JMSM
Observatory near Mayhill, NM.


Can you see the myriad of other galaxies in the background – look at the wide-field
image below. The prominent feature of this galaxy is the unique dust structure extending
across the galaxy formation.

Don’t expect this cosmic whale to surface anytime soon, as God has it placed exactly
where He wants it to be! It’s a joy to behold such wonder in God’s Creation – His Glory
on display for all to see. If you are interested, further below is a wide-field image of this
region.

Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord.”

As the week comes to a close, be safe, stay close to God, and have a great weekend!

Your brother in Christ,
Mike Sherick

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