Have you ever puffed on a dandelion and the white and grey seeds are sent into the air like tiny helicopters? With just one breath, the fluffy dandelion becomes a bare stem. A simple act of inhaling and exhaling, and the air becomes obvious, tangible and alive.
It is fire season where I live in the Rogue Valley in Southwest Oregon. During these smoke-filled days, the lack of clean air makes the simple act of breathing a bit laborious, and the air becomes noticeable and tangible in a not-so-magical way.
This past weekend my daughter and I were eager to get out of town in search of clearer skies. On July 25th we packed the car and started our road trip to Spokane, Washington to attend the Northwest Christian conference. Our first stop was Bend, Oregon where our friend, Kathy Daniel, graciously provided us with one of her bedrooms for our overnight stay. I’ll never forget that night and how glorious it was to breathe in the cool, sweet smelling air that streamed into the room through the open window.
Whether I’m blowing on a dandelion or inhaling smoky air, every breath I take is a gift from God who sustains my life moment by moment. Even the ground I walk on is a generous gift from God because as Colossians 1:17 says:
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
In Acts 17:24-28, the Bible records a speech the apostle Paul gave to the people of Athens, a city filled with man-made idols. In his message to them, Paul attempts to divert their attention away from the physical idols they created with their own hands and look to the God who made the world and everything in it.
Acts 17:24-28 (New International Version)
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.
In his speech, Paul describes God in a way the Athenians can understand by comparing the greatness of God to the smallness of their man-made idols that they so carefully placed in their man-made temples. The God whom Paul describes is the one who made the world and everything in it. He refers to God as “Lord” of heaven and earth and the one who is too big to live in a temple that was built by human hands. This God gives life and breath and everything else. This God has marked out the appointed times in history of when and where they should live. Finally, this God desires a personal relationship with them and invites them to seek Him and reach out for Him and find Him.
Oh how small and trivial their idols must have appeared to them after Paul expanded their minds to look to the creator of heaven and earth.
Paul’s message is timeless. I can imagine Paul speaking these same words in 2018 to a university crowd, or a church group, or a room full of young business professionals. When I read Paul’s speech, I am reminded of how great God is and how small and trivial our man-made idols are in our lives. We rush around worried and preoccupied about our situations and important plans and activities and forget that with each breath we take, we are being sustained by the creator of heaven and earth.
I love verse Acts 17:28 when it says:
For in him we live and move and have our being.
So much is revealed about our need for God is this short sentence!
I can’t live without God, I can’t move without God, and in him I have my very being or existence.
I am so grateful to be alive. To simply inhale and exhale. To be able to pick up the Bible and read amazing passages like the one in Acts 17 that lift my mind off worldly man-made things and help me imagine the greatness of my God who treats me as his own offspring.
Meditate on Acts 17:24-29. Then close your eyes and inhale and exhale for five minutes, and be grateful for every breath you take. Your grateful heart will allow you to see the greatness of God.