God's Love–Are You Connected?

—Keeping yourself in the love of God in a digital age—

                Our internet Wi-Fi reception at home isn’t always reliable and often times slow. Over time I discovered a few things to improve our connection. Doing this made me think of the connection we have with God (and some ways to improve it as well).

I’m thankful God provided a way for us to have unlimited access to Him through Christ Jesus as well as eternal life (John 14:6, 1 Tim. 2:5, Eph. 3:12, John 3:16). Unlike internet access where one has to pay a monthly or yearly fee, the fee to have unlimited access eternally to God has already been prepaid through Christ Jesus as a one-time-gift (Eph. 2:8, 13). One receives a new internal operating system that’s spiritual. It’s amazing what one will hear and learn as they operate out of the inner man (1 Cor. 2:9-16)!  Unlike much computer systems that become outdated, the new or inner-man is continually refreshed in knowledge after the image of God (Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:10). The old (natural) operating system isn’t capable of deciphering God’s data as it’s put into a code that only the spiritual system can understand (1 Cor. 2:14).

                God’s connection ultimately is with the heart of man/woman (1 Sam. 16:7). He’s a master of scanning all hearts and understanding the imaginations of the thoughts (1 Chron. 28:9, Ps. 7:9, Jer. 11:20, 17:10, 20:12). God’s transmissions come through clearest when the receiver’s heart is humble, broken, open, and teachable (Isa. 55:8-9, Ps. 25:9, 12, 34:18, 51:17, 2 Cor. 4:7). I experienced this truth first-hand many years ago when my Dad was dying of brain cancer. I was heart-broken, vulnerable, and needy—clinging to God’s Word like never before. My heart was open and in receiving-mode for Christ to dwell fully in my heart by faith. I felt rooted and grounded in His love—able to embrace the enormity of His incomprehensible love spoken of in Eph. 3:16-19. I truly experienced the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

                Heart health is important. Proverbs 4:23 gives this warning, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” If one is not careful, it’s easy to slip back into the old default settings, forgetting that “The heart (old nature of natural man) is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (sick unto death—incurable) (Jer. 17:9).

                As time passed and life moved on without my Dad, I learned to navigate around the hole that he left behind. Things were different. Time (in a sense) does heal (some) wounds, but leaves scars and parts of us that will forever be changed. I didn’t feel so helpless and needy. The uninterrupted connection I felt with God during my time of sorrow, sweetness, and brokenness slowly started to wane. It wasn’t God’s love that was faltering. It says in Romans 8:35-39, that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus—not death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, or things to come. No height, depth, or any other created thing will be able to separate us from God’s love. But sometimes, just like our internet connection, our connection to God can grow weak and fade out. When troubleshooting what’s causing this to happen, some questions to ask are: Are there factors that could be interfering with reception (things not in character with the new operating system)? Am I seeking the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind? Am I bringing every request to God in prayer? It’s the Armor of God that protects against worms that exploit holes in the system and malware that’s intentionally designed to cause damage (Eph. 4:27, 6:11-12, 16, 1 Pet. 5:8). When communication breaks down with God, so does His protection and the temptation to slip back into operating out of the old default settings. The firewall of pride only keeps righteousness out. It’s not advisable to be your own device manager instead of trusting in God. You’ll never run in safe mode and no amount of rebooting will save you from fatal system errors (or the blue screen of death) that causes your system to crash (Prov. 3:5, 16:18, Rom. 8:13). 

As believers our desire and main priority should be to have a strong, uninterrupted connection to God. So how can we make this happen? The answer can be found near the back of the Bible in the small epistle of Jude in verses 1:20-21. Jude was writing to Hebrew Christians regarding some serious evils that were happening by ungodly men (apostates). Not wanting them to stumble, he warned them and gave them three areas to focus on. Perhaps they can help us today:

· BUILD YOUR HOLY FAITH.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Feed on God’s Word daily. It’s a great heart tenderizer (Heb. 4:12). “Above all, take the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16).

· PRAY IN THE HOLY SPIRIT.  “Praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…” (Eph. 6:18). “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God and the peace of God, which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7).

· KEEP YOURSELF IN THE LOVE OF GOD.  This requires one to be strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in your heart by faith. If you’re rooted and grounded in love you may be able to comprehend the boundless, endless, fathomless, and measureless love of God in Christ—and to know this love which passes knowledge (Eph. 3:16-19).

                1 John 4:9 says the reason that the love of God was manifested toward us through Christ was so that we might live through Him. When we do we’ll be capable of transmitting His love to others around us (1 John 3:11, 4:11). 

Allow God full access to your heart.

Laura                                                                    

Better Things Ahead

“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” -C.S. Lewis-

                As the new year (& new decade) approaches, it’s time to shift into a new gear—a gear that propels us onward, as we set our sights upward. In the big picture of things better things are ahead. That outlook may be challenging though, especially if the new year is bringing forth new trying circumstances and/or the gap that losses of loved ones are leaving behind. God knows that it’s not always easy and effortless. His only begotten Son endured the cross, while focusing on the joy that was to come (Heb. 12:2, Phil. 2:6-11, Ps. 16:8-11).

Whether you’re stuck in traffic, taking an unexpected detour, or in the lane of grief and suffering, here are some travel tips to help you stay on your route in this journey called life:

· BE FAMILIAR WITH THE TRAVEL GUIDE AND KEEP IT HANDY.  Man cannot live (or travel) by bread alone (Deut. 8:3). God’s given all we need to help us navigate through our journey in this present fallen world in His Word, the Bible. We can only see part of the route at a time. God sees the whole route (hazards included), so reliance on His direction is imperative (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Heb. 4:12, Prov. 3:5-6, Ps. 18:30, 2 Cor. 4:18, 5:7).

· WEAR THE PROPER ROAD GEAR (including the helmet).  Our struggles along the way are spiritual so we need to wear the proper gear to stay safely on the road (Eph. 6:13-17, 4:24, Col. 3:10, 12-14, Rom. 13:14).

· TRAVEL LIGHTLY.  Don’t over-pack. The Travel Guide and a crate of fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) are necessary, but leave the extra ‘baggage’ behind.  It’s human nature to be tempted to hold tightly to things (people, past hurts, and disappointments). Releasing these and any other sin or weight that bogs us down is necessary to patiently persevere in the race that’s set before us (1 Tim. 6:7, Heb. 12:1, Matt. 6:19-21, 11:28-30, Ps. 55:22). And by the way, even though we still carry our ‘old nature’ with us, we need to remember to ‘leave it in the trunk’ as we’ll veer off-course when it’s in the driver’s seat (Rom. 13:14, Gal. 5:17, 24, Eph. 4:22).

· KEEP YOUR TANK FULL WITH GOD’S PURE, UNLIMITED SUPPLY OF INSEPARABLE LOVE (Rom. 8:31-39).

· LOW GEAR IS THE BEST WAY TO DRIVE. You’ll get more torque (which will get you through the rough roads) when you stay in ‘low’ by humbly allowing God to be the strength and power for your engine. Striving in your own strength will get you nowhere (Prov. 13:10, Phil. 4:13, 19, Eph. 6:10, 2 Cor. 4:7, 12:19-20, 1 Peter 5:5).

· STAY FOCUSED ON WHAT’S BEFORE YOU. Our mind should always be locked into “things above” so that the present things we may be facing are put into proper perspective and viewed in light of eternity (2 Cor. 4:17-18, Col. 3:1-3). That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be present to the things and people here. When we’re present in the moment and the task at hand rather than thinking of our problems, dreams, and desires, we avoid making careless mistakes such as going through a stop sign or rear-ending someone.

· FOLLOW THE RULES OF THE ROAD. God’s Word takes preeminence (Col. 1:18), but as we live in this world we must obey the earthly rules of the road (as long as they don’t contradict with God’s) (Matt. 22:17-21, 1 Tim. 1:8, Rom. 13:13).

· DON’T PARK IN THE PAST.  It’s hard to reach your destination when you’re stuck in ‘reverse’. It’s okay to visit the past to be reminded of lessons learned, special times with loved ones that we miss, and gratitude for God’s faithfulness along our way. Our mind, whether in the past or present, should focus on Paul’s words in Phil. 4:8, the things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy.

· DON’T GET SIDETRACKED OR STUCK IN NEUTRAL.  God has a plan for your life that He’s mapped out in advance. Don’t let lesser things (or discouraging travelers) take you away from the course He’s set before you (Phil. 2:13, Eph. 2:10, 1 John 2:15-17).

· TAKE TIME TO REST & REFUEL.  God’s creation is still beautiful even though it’s marred by the fall.  Make time to stop and smell the roses, bask in the sun, and enjoy the sunsets and sensory beauty of God’s handiwork.

· SELECT YOUR TRAVEL COMPANIONS WISELY. Follow those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart rather than those who will corrupt you. Steer clear of any travelers that give you bad directions (1 Cor. 15:33, 2 Tim. 2:22, 3:2-7).

· TREAT THOSE WHO ARE LOST ALONG THE WAY WITH CARE (2 Tim. 2:24-26, 1 Peter 3:15, Col. 4:5-6).

·  LIFE’S SHORT—MAKE THE MOST OF IT (Ps. 144:5, 1 Tim. 6:6, Eph. 5:16).

· STAY ON COURSE BY KEEPING YOUR SIGHTS ON THE FINISH LINE. This journey of life is hard and discouragement is par for the course. Don’t allow disappointments and setbacks keep you from ‘keepin on’. God’s grace is sufficient and His mercies are new each day (2 Cor. 12:9, Lam. 3:22-23). Stay on the route. Finish the race and keep the faith. You’ll be rewarded when you reach your final destination (Ps. 37:5, Phil. 1:6, 3:20, 1 Tim. 6:12, 2 Tim. 4:7-8).

Laura

Jesus: Light of the World

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shone” (Isa. 9:2, Matt. 4:14-16).             

                The opposite of light is dark.  Darkness is associated with ignorance, folly (or acting the fool), evil, and death (Ps. 82:5, 107:14, Eccl. 2:13-14, John 3:19, Prov. 2:13-15). There’s nothing scarier than trying to find your way around in pitch darkness.  I get a feeling of unease when I’m alone at night in a dark, unlit area. I usually try to make my way as quickly as I can to get into an area of light.  With light there’s protection.  One is more apt to be mugged in a dark alley or unlit parking lot at night than in an open, lit area.  My husband John also recommends that I carry a flashlight with me. He has a collection, or rather a ‘family’, of flashlights. Mind you, these aren’t cute, fun flashlights—they’re bright, high-lumen, powerful flashlights.  I know that I’ll never (physically) be in the dark when John’s around.

                Spiritually we require just one light.

God doesn’t just emanate light, He is light. In Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  His light is pure, absolute, genuine, and true. It’s underived, meaning it doesn’t come from some other power source—it is the source.  It doesn’t rely on batteries or electrical power and it’s the highest lumen of brightness. “Every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). God, Who is light, commanded light to shine out of darkness to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Jesus is the express image of God and the brightness of His glory (Heb. 1:3, Col. 1:15).  As the spoken word reveals the invisible thought, the living Word reveals the invisible God. Because of the Father’s great love for the world, He sent His only begotten son into it so that through His Son, the world might be saved (John 3:16). Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12, 12:46).

                “And this is the condemnation, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). It’s sinful man’s natural response to hide from God rather than come to Him (Gen. 3:8, Ps. 14:1-3, Rom. 3:10-18, 23).  Things hide in the dark—light exposes. Once they’re exposed to the light they can be seen (Eph. 5:13). I never think my house is as dirty as it is until my vacuum light exposes dust (and dog hair) where I didn’t see it hiding. Just like dust that’s exposed and sucked up in a vacuum, darkness and evil will be completely exposed and dealt with (1 Cor. 4:5, 1 John 3:8).

It’s the god of this age (the devil) who has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe so that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (who is the image of God) will not shine on them (2 Cor. 4:4). For believers, the struggle is against rulers of darkness, who masquerade as angels of light (Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 11:14). The believer doesn’t need to be fearful  or try to withstand these dark forces on their own because they have two powerful sources on their side: (1) the all-powerful Armor of Light (that darkness cannot overcome), and (2) the Word of God (that guides their feet & illuminates their path (Eph. 6:13, Rom. 13:12-14, John 1:5, Ps. 119:105).

                So come out of the darkness, into the Light.  Give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:12-14).

Let the Light of Christmas shine in your heart!

Laura

PLEASE PASS THE ‘P’S– GOD’S GOT IT COVERED!

“It is He that sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in” (Isa. 40:22).            

                The grasshopper can only see what’s in his immediate area. God has a 360°+ perspective.  He’s at work around us always, even when we don’t recognize it. His perspective and way of doing things is so beyond the capacity of our own thinking (Isa. 40:21-31).

                When God tested Abraham to offer up his only beloved son Isaac as a burnt offering, he did so as God directed.  When Isaac asked about the lamb for the burnt offering, Abraham replied (in faith), “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen. 22:8). Abraham called the name of that place “Jehovah-Jireh”, which in Hebrew means “Jehovah will provide” (Gen. 22:1-14). See also: Gen. 22:15-18, Heb. 11:17-19.

                Later in the Scriptures, in the book of Exodus (which in Greek means ‘the way out’), we read of the Israelites’ time in bondage under Egyptian rule. Their lives were hard as they toiled rigorously building the Egyptian’s storehouses and serving them in all manners of the field (Ex. 1:11-14). God was at work even though the Israelites couldn’t see it at the time.  The enemy of the Israelites was raising up and preparing the very man who God would use to set them free (Ex. 2:1-10, 3:1-22, 6:6-8, Heb. 11:23-27).  Through His servant Moses, the plagues, the institution of the Passover, and the parting of the Red sea, God displayed His great purpose, power and provision (Ex. 6:6-8).  The Israelites sang and praised God for what He had done (Ex. 15:1-21). But it was short-lived as they began murmuring against Moses and his brother. They complained how they were stuck in the wilderness wishing that God had let them die in Egypt where at least they didn’t thirst or hunger (Ex. 15:23-24, 16:1-3). But the Lord provided for them again with water and bread from heaven (manna) every morning and quail every evening (Ex. 15:25, 27, 16:4, 8, 13-15).

                We, like the Israelites, have been delivered from an enemy and no longer have to live in bondage to sin and the fear of death (Col. 1:13-14, Eph. 1:7, 2:1-3, 8-9, Hebrews 2:14-15). Yet many of us today, like the Israelites, grumble about our present circumstances or what we lack instead of what God has so graciously provided. We are hesitant to move in faith with our focus upward where God has provided all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14, 19-21, Eph. 1:3, 13-14, Col. 3:1-3). Believers today have access to Living Water (John 4:14), the Bread of Life (John 6:32-33, 35), and a protective spiritual wardrobe (Eph. 6:11-17). Everything that’s needed is found in Christ Jesus (Col. 2:10, 2 Cor. 12:9).  Our praise and thanksgiving to God should not depend on the success of our plans but on God’s nature, enduring love, and faithfulness.

Please Pass the ‘P’s. Though not a traditional Thanksgiving dish, you’ll want to keep this recipe handy.

                (A Prescription of Praise from the apostle Paul’s Perspective in Philippians chapter 4):

· PRAISE God Perpetually (v. 4).

· PRAY with PRAISE to God instead of being PLAGUED with PROBLEMS and you’ll find a PROTECTIVE PEACE from Him in Christ Jesus (v. 6-7).

· PONDER PERSISTENTLY the POSITIVE things that are: true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy (v. 8).

· Be PATIENT no matter your PROBLEMS and POSSESSIONS, for God has PROVIDED Christ to give you POWER to PRESS on (v. 11-13).

· God will PROVIDE all you need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (v. 19).

                God is our Jehovah Jireh!  PRAISE GOD for PROVIDING all you need to have PEACE in the midst of your life today and for His future PROMISE of a heavenly hope, PERPETUALLY with Him!

                Laura

IT’S ALL IN GOD’S TIME

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. For man also does not know his time: … Like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.” Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

Isn’t it funny how much of what goes on in the world is beyond our understanding and yet we think we can steer and control it?  I’m learning that doing so is a great waste of time. There’s so much going on ‘behind the scenes’ in the spiritual realm that would blow our minds if we were privy to it all. God’s only allowed us small glimpses of it. See Job 1:6-12, 2 Kings 6:16-17, Dan. 9:21, 10:11-13, 20-21, Eph. 6:12, Jude 9, and Rev. 12:7.

                THE ONE EVENT

It’s part of human nature to be fixated on self. Ironically, it doesn’t matter how rich, famous, beautiful, fit, skilled, talented, or wise one is, the one event that happens to everyone (regardless of status) is DEATH (Eccl. 9:11-12).  Man, like a bird caught in a snare, does not know when death will suddenly fall upon him (Eccl. 9:11-12).  All the tiresome toils and passing pleasures of this life can be traced back to the nature and fall of man.  One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the consequences of it were life changing as man and woman no longer had access to the Tree of Life.  Now bound in time—life subject to limitations—it advances toward the one event that brings them back to the dust that they came from (Gen. 2:7, 17, 3:19, Eccl. 12:7, 1 Cor. 15:47, Ps. 103:14).

                GOD’S TIME IS NOT OUR TIME

All’s not fair in this life. Often the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. The question, “Why would a loving God permit evil and suffering in the world?” is a common one. God’s allowed men and women to have freewill, giving each to choose to follow what’s good or what’s evil.  God’s already provided a remedy for sin and His mercy and longsuffering are beyond human comprehension (John 3:16, Rom. 5:8, Ps. 86:15, 2 Pet. 3:9). To us mere mortals, ensnared in a fallen world, it may seem like an eternity, but God’s timing is always perfect. His work goes beyond the scope and sphere of our work and His purpose dates back before time began, and continues on after it’s ended. We’re unable to ‘find out the work that God does from the beginning to the end’ (Eccl. 3:11, Rom. 11:33-36, Acts 1:7, Ps. 115:3, Isa. 40:28). So why do we think we can?

The endless cycle of human experience described in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a faint echo of the mighty purpose of the ages.  Whatever God does, it will be forever. Not a thing can be added to it or taken from it (Eccl. 3:14).  God works in the way He does ‘that men should fear before Him’ (Eccl. 3:14). This fear of the Lord (reverence) is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). It’s only the “beginning” as Job discovered (Job 42:5-6, James 5:11).  King Solomon found that the conclusion of all his searching and testing was to “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13).

                WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEN NO LONGER FEAR GOD?

When men no longer fear God they sin without hesitation. The fear of consequences isn’t a deterrent when the fear (reverence) of God is gone. Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many devices (schemes) in a man’s heart, yet the counsel of the Lord shall stand.”  Yet throughout the ages man has turned to the creature and not the Creator to seek counsel apart from God using everything from fortune tellers with crystal balls to tarot cards and horoscopes. Even turning to witches, enchanters, wizards—those who use spells, divination or consult with familiar (evil) spirits to seek the dead. These are of no real help and an abomination to the Lord (Rom. 1:25, Ps. 115:4-8, 146:3-4, Deut. 18:10-12, Lev. 19:26-31, 1 Tim. 4:1-3, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, Titus 1:10-16). This in the end led to King Saul’s demise (1 Chron. 10:13-14). 

                OBEDIENCE LEARNED THROUGH SUFFERING

Jesus’ death and resurrection has given the believer a hope and a purpose to wait patiently and endure this present evil age.  If the dead won’t rise then the “Let’s eat, drink for tomorrow we die” mentality would suffice. But that’s not the case. The counsel of the Lord will stand and all works will be brought into judgement (Eccl. 12:14, Ps. 37:1-2, Heb. 10:23). Sin came through disobedience while righteousness comes through obedience (Rom. 5:12, 19). “Though He were a son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8, 12:2, 1 Pet. 2:21-24).  Obedience is the cadence in which a believer must learn to walk in. One can’t bypass suffering in the chain of events that lead to hope (Rom. 5:3-4).  Being conformed to Christ’s likeness happens as the believer has faith through trying times, while keeping their eye on the prize (Rom. 8:29, Phil. 3:14, 20-21, 2 Tim. 4:7-8, 2: Cor. 4:8-10, 16-18). Though we may not understand it, God disciplines because He desires for us to be partakers of His holiness. It’s not always pleasant going through it but afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:5-11, Gal. 6:8-9, 2 Tim. 2:11, 2 Cor. 4:17-18).

FAITH IS MEASURED IN STEPS

Our finite minds can only see in part. It’s not for the created to question the Creator. God justifies man/woman when they come to Christ and receive Him as Savior, knowing that it’s not based on any merit of their own. The believer becomes a new creation and learns to live and walk by faith, not by sight (Eph. 2:8-10, 2 Cor. 5:17, 7, Gal. 2:20).   Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”  God sees the whole staircase.  He knows where it’s going. We need to trust and obey His direction and will in our lives. Even when we trip and fall, we need to get up and take the next step in faith, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began (Titus 1:2).

May the poem, “The Weaver”, by holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, inspire you to see with eyes of faith:

“My life is but a weaving
between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaves steadily.

Oft’ times He weaves sorrow;
and I in foolish pride
forget He sees the upper
and I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly
will God unroll the canvas
and reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
in the weaver’s skillful hand
as the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
who leave the choice to Him.”
 

Laura   

2 Sources of All Voices

Disinformation may be the most powerful form of deception.

VOICE CHOICE

By Laura Kestly

Cacophony of voices

dictating one’s choices

Babbling media

on overload

Itching ears fall for gurus

indulge selfish egos

Lies spun and believed

 bought and sold

God’s voice reigns supremely

spoke the world into being

It is powerful,

pure, tried and true

Hearing ears bring forth true faith

believing what God says

discerning the truth

and His will.

BEHIND ALL THE VOICES TODAY ARE JUST 2 SOURCES.

One is good. One is evil. One brings forth life. One brings forth death.  To be able to discern between the two one must know the character and attributes behind the voices— for they speak out of what they are.

The voice that tempts the flesh is not from God (James 1:13-15, 1 Jn. 2:16). Contrarily, God provides a way for one to escape temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). God provided a way for Adam and Eve as well. It’s not only important to hear God’s voice, but to also obey it. God told the first couple that they could freely eat of any tree in the garden except of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they did they would surely die (Gen. 2:17).

 Sadly they were ensnared in Satan’s web of deceit and ate of what God warned them not to. Their disobedience to His Word brought sin and death into the world (Rom. 5:12, 6:23).  Here’s how Eve was beguiled (Gen. 3:13, 2 Cor. 11:3, 1 Tim. 2:14):          

1) The first lie (Genesis 3:1) involved QUESTIONING God’s Word, “Did God actually say…”

2) The second lie (Genesis 3:4) was in CONTRADICTING God’s Word (Gen. 2:17), “You will not surely die”. 

                This lie has become the foundation of Spiritism and man’s traditional belief regarding death.

3) The third lie (Genesis 3:5) was in DELUDING Eve to believe, “…you will be like God”. 

                This claim led to Satan’s own downfall (Isaiah 14:12-15).

Now contrast this with Jesus Christ’s responses to the devil’s temptations in the wilderness.

To each temptation, Jesus used God’s WRITTEN WORD of truth to counteract Satan’s lies (Matt. 4:1-11):

                “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Deut. 8:3);

                “It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” (Deut. 6:16);

                “…For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” (Deut. 6:13).

                Is it any wonder then that the good Word of God is under such attack by the evil one in the world today?

The Bible is like no other book. No other book can make the great claim of its divine nature, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (literally God-breathed) (2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Pet. 1:20-21). 

The same voice Who spoke the world into being and upholds all things by the word of His power would condescend to communicate with humankind at all is quite amazing (Ps. 33:6,9, Gen. 1, Heb. 1:1-3, 11:3, Jer. 10:12). Unlike man’s predictions, the prophecies of Scripture have never been wrong.  Not one has failed and never will. Even archaeologic discoveries demonstrate that fact (not fantasy) supports the Old Testament narratives.  

                Since the Truth of God is spiritually discerned, in order to hear God’s voice, it must be approached with humility, reverence and a believing faith. (Rom. 10:17, Heb. 11:6, 1 Cor. 2:13-14). God’s Word is a living weapon sharper than any two-edged sword. It’s for the mature believer whose powers of discernment have been trained by constant practice, enabling them to distinguish good (the Spirit) from evil (the flesh) (Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12, 5:14, John 3:6).

The definition of deceit is concealment, or distortion of the truth for the purpose of misleading.

                Satan continues to use the same tactics of taking God’s Word and twisting it just so, by omitting words or adding them to pervert God’s truth and His original intent. We must know God’s Word for ourselves and not just receive it second hand (Acts 17:11). It must be rightly divided and not taken out of context. One must not read into it what’s not there (2 Tim. 2:15, Rom. 15:4).

One can only stand against the lies and wiles of the enemy in God’s strength and armor (Eph. 6:10-11). “For although we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

Be careful what your ears take in today. Discern the source behind what you hear. 

Ask yourself:

Does what I hear line up with God’s truth, attributes, and ways that are brought in love and promote the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)? Or

Does what I hear come from the enemy that entices the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21) ultimately bringing fear, confusion, and despair?

Do not be deceived with misinformation. Be ready to counteract it with, “But God says…”

                                                                                Laura

AN EYE ON DESIGN

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand; measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” Isaiah 40:12-

                Design is the purposeful arrangement of parts.  It’s the ordering of individual components to accomplish a purpose or achieve some end. Everything that exists has its origin in God. Its form and order rest upon God’s precise and complex design. From mathematics to music, to the laws of nature, etc.—all reveals God’s divine handiwork, which is the undergirding of every aspect of the created order. One only has to examine and consider (carefully as to learn from) what’s in natural creation to realize that an intelligent designer, a divine deity, a being with eternal power is behind it (Gen. 1-2, Jn. 1:1-3, Rom. 1:20, Col. 1:16-18, Heb. 1:3).

                Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most widely recognized and influential scientists of all time, suggested that the stability of the planetary system depended not only upon the regular action of universal gravitation, but also on the very precise initial positioning of the planets and comets in relation to the sun, concluding “…this most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.”   He also challenged, asking, “How came the bodies of animals to be contrived with so much art, and for what ends were their several parts? Was the eye contrived without skill in optics, and the ear without knowledge of sounds? …And these things being rightly dispatched, does it not appear from phenomena that there is a being incorporeal, living, intelligent, omnipresent? …”               

                Intelligent design is an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins that challenge strictly materialistic views of evolution. It’s not based on the Bible or deducted from religious authority. It’s an empirical way of observing nature and what’s known about the cause and effect structure of the world along with the patterns that generally indicate intelligent causes (In a sense what Romans 1:19-20, & Ps. 19 in the Bible, says). Even many atheistic scientists admit that there’s evidence of intelligent design in the DNA molecule. When digital information encoded along the spine of the DNA molecule was discovered by scientists, they concluded that the information-bearing properties of DNA provided strong evidence of a prior but unspecified designing intelligence.  Microsoft founder, Bill Gates even noted that, “DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.”

 As technological devices have advanced, the molecular foundation of life is getting exponentially more complex. As it does, the case for intelligent design, as well as the God of the Bible and His written word, are only further substantiated.

                A good friend of mine, Ken (who’s no longer gracing this earth) had a wonderful way of seeing things and often wrote down many of his observations. Here is one of my favorites: (I can almost hear him reading it with his expressive voice, pauses and inflections):

“Nerves, muscles, glands, eyes, ears, arms, legs, nose, mouth, hair, nails, skin, bones, brain.

In themselves are nothing.

They have no life, no purpose, no meaning without the blood that feeds them.

And even with blood, without the heart that sends the blood to each, all die and rot away.

But even with the heart, what does it beat for and does it have a brain to tell it when to beat?

Did we tell ourselves when to be born?

Did we have anything to do with our being alive?

Who told us when to cry?

We burst forth with the announcement:

“I’m here. I’m alive. I’m a resident—unique, unlike any other that ever lived.”

It is truly an awesome thing in which I played no part.

Only a fool would think differently.

If you are a fool, explain it all to me”

                The human body is truly unique, and the only living being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27, 2:7, 18-25, Ps. 139:13-16, Isa. 45:12, Eph. 2:10). Sadly, due to the fall, not all runs as smoothly as God originally intended. Especially when man/woman pervert God’s original design by not ‘using as directed’, resulting in the crazy, chaotic examples we see in our world today. So it’s important to view and observe our world through a spiritual lens, realizing that the God who spoke the world into being and created things in such a way that are beyond our comprehension can be trusted in all things (Isaiah 42:5, 45:12, 51:12-13, Job 38-41).

When we renew our mind with the knowledge of Him who spoke the world into existence and sustains it with the power of His word, we can consider the lilies and know that He cares for us even more than we can grasp (Col. 3:10, Eph. 3:19, Matt. 6:28-30, 10:29-31). “Lift up your eyes on high and see Who has created these things…” -Isaiah 40:26-

“I will praise you, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all your marvelous works.” -Ps. 9:1-     Laura

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

I remember as a young girl practicing scales on the piano. It wasn’t my favorite part of playing. I wanted to play the songs right away, but in order to play the songs well, practicing the scales and doing the drills were necessary.  It was the same when I played basketball in high school. Our team had to work on the drills and practice the plays so we’d have more success in game situations. Really any activity from golf to painting, cooking to sewing, or even training a puppy the basics of ‘sit’, ‘stay’, etc. requires patience, perseverance and practice to prepare for success down the road.

                When life is looked upon as a giant practice field where opportunities of discipline and training exist in preparation for the resurrection life that is to come, even disappointments, hardships and irritating situations will become purposeful.

                To be able to walk worthy as a believer is called to, one must first be familiar with God’s instructions. The only way to do this is to prioritize reading and studying the Bible each day and then prayerfully putting what it says into practice.

                As in mastering an instrument, one must be able to recognize the notes before you can play it. Or in basketball, memorizing the plays before you can run them—so it is with the Christian walk. How can one practice what God has instructed if they haven’t read what He’s written for them in His Word? 

                To have any success in knowing God’s Word and practicing it effectively, it takes more than scanning through some verses here and there. It requires diligence, work, and careful care—dividing the word of truth in a way that’s approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:16). The payoff will be a mind that’s renewed, as well as the ability to discern God’s good, acceptable and perfect will(Romans 12:2, Col. 3:10, 2 Tim. 3:16, Heb. 11:6, Jer. 29:13, Gal. 5:22-23).

                ‘Practice’ isn’t based on outward works displayed to impress others with false humility. It deals with the inner man. The Proverbs are full of wisdom re: the heart of the inner man (Prov. 2:2, 4:23-27, 14:30, Prov. 23:7, 12…). The apostle Paul, in his prayer for the Ephesian believers, asked God for them to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. A strong inner man/woman has their senses trained to discern both good and evil (Eph. 3:16, Heb. 5:14).

                How we respond when we’re tired, stressed, or don’t get our way matters. Do we display impatience, snap at others, raise our voices, complain, gossip, etc.?  All areas that incite our fleshly nature to act out in these ways are opportunities ‘to put into practice’ God’s ways, displaying the fruit of the Spirit instead (1 John 2:16-17, Gal. 5:16, 19-26).

                It’s not always easy and I fall short too often, but God’s grace is sufficient and His mercies are new every morning (2 Cor. 12:9, Lam. 3:22-23).  We all struggle in different areas of the flesh that we need extra ‘practice’ in. Some of mine are in the ‘verbal’ realm. Whether it’s dominating a conversation or trying to debate with those with differing ideas, opinions or beliefs than my own, I am convicted (sometimes afterwards) of God’s words of truth: “…be swift to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19); “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2:3); “Don’t be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart say anything hastily before God…Therefore let your words be few…a fool’s voice is known by his many words” (Eccl. 5:2-3); or lastly “…a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition…” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). These exercises, even as I fail at them, remind me that it’s back to the ‘practice field’ awaiting another opportunity to hopefully ‘nail it’ next time, while accepting God’s chastisement in humility as He corrects in love.  Although it may not seem pleasant at the time, afterward it’ll yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness when we allow ourselves to be trained by it (Heb. 12:5-11, Gal. 5:22-23).

                The key for success on the playing field is to become aware of our areas of weakness that need to be crucified and replaced by the Lord Jesus Christ, which makes no room for the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21, 24, 1 John 2:16-17, Rom. 13:14). This is crucial as well as taking more care to pray up when a situation arises that one may be more inclined to be tempted to sin in (Phil. 4:6). Don’t be too hard on yourself when you fail—if at first you don’t succeed, ‘try, try again’. You can be confident that He Which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).

So put forth your time exercising and practicing toward the things that will make a difference on ‘game day’ (1 Tim. 4:7-8, 2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Laura                                                                                    

He Took a Lowly Position


•Even though He had connections He didn’t use them to gain special advantage or privilege to become socially mobile or to impress the ruling class, but chose to make Himself of no reputation (Phil. 2:5-7).

•His first bed was a manger and His earthly family ordinary (Luke 2:12, Matt. 13:54-57).

•His own people did not receive Him (John 1:10-11, 5:43).

•His ministry was heralded in by a scruff, wild man who wore animal skins. (Mark 1:6, John 1:29-34).

•His disciples weren’t gathered from the most prestigious schools or curated from those who had the best resumes, but from the shores of Galilee, where there were fishermen (Matt. 4:18-22). 

•He was basically homeless as He traveled about (Matt. 8:20).

•He didn’t allow polls, ’fake news’, ‘what was trending’, or man’s opinions to affect the mission He was set out to accomplish. He didn’t give in to false praise, worldly temptations and taunting snares meant to entrap Him (John 2:24-25, 9:16, 10:20, Luke 4:1-12, 23, 11:53-54, 16:15).

•He made his triumphant entry, not on a noble steed, but on a donkey—a mark of lowliness (John 12:13-15, Matt. 21:1-22—prophesied in Zech. 9:9). 

•He was likened as a worm and not a man; a reproach of men, and despised of the People (Psalm 22:6).

I guess one could say that Jesus Christ was a PR nightmare.

                The only begotten Son of God humbled Himself, having no set agenda of His own, but obeyed only what His heavenly Father told Him to say and do, even to the point of death on a cross (John 5:30, 6:38-40, 8:28-29, 12:49, 14:10, 24, 17:8, 14, 19:30, Phil. 2:8).  Some have said of Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ” that it was excessive and went ‘over the top’—exaggerating Christ’s humiliation. The Scriptures say otherwise:

•“…His visage was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men…” (Isaiah 52:14)

Prophesied of the Messiah in Isaiah 53:

• (vs 3) Despised and rejected by men…a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief

• (vs 5) Wounded for our transgressions—bruised for our iniquities—chastised for our peace

                Matthew records its fulfillment, showing Christ was: seized (26:57), falsely accused (26:59-60), spit on, cuffed, slapped (vs 26:67), scourged, surrounded by a cohort of 600 men, while He was stripped & redressed in a scarlet robe with a crown of thorns on His head and a reed placed in His right hand while they ’bowed before’ and mocked Him, spit on and then beat Him on the head with the reed. After they were done mocking Him, they took off the robe & put His other clothes back on and led Him away to be crucified (27:26-35). 

                While all this was going on He said nothing (as prophesied in Isaiah 53): 

• (v 7) Oppressed and afflicted (yet He opened not His mouth)——Led as a lamb to the slaughter —Christ the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 4:7, John 1:29, 1 Pet. 1:18-19, Rev. 5:9). His innocence was affirmed by 6 witnesses: (1) Judas (Matt. 27:4), (2) Pilate (Matt. 27:24), (3) Pilate’s wife (Matt. 27:19), (4) Herod (Luke 23:15), (5) the malefactor (Luke 23:41), (6) the Roman centurion (Luke 23:47).

                The true, pure, unblemished Lamb of God remained silent and submitted to the Father’s will and ultimate purpose (Phil. 2:8).  This all was part of God’s greater plan. It was necessary, not only that the Scriptures be fulfilled (John 19:28, Luke 24:6-7, 44, Matt. 26:53, 56), but of the long standing prophecy that God made in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve disobeyed His Word, which allowed sin and death to enter the world (Gen. 3, Rom. 3:23, 5:12, 6:23). The 1st promise and prophecy of Genesis 3:15 foretold the temporary suffering of the Seed (Christ) and the complete destruction of Satan and his works (Heb. 2:14, 1 John 3:8). Until the promised Seed came and accomplished God’s will on the cross, the only way mankind could have peace with God was through the substitutionary sacrifice of a male, unblemished lamb who took their place to make atonement for their sins—for the life of flesh is in the blood (Lev. 17:11, Heb. 9:22, 26, 1 John 3:5, 1 Peter 2:22-23, 2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 3:24-25, 5:1, Eph. 2:13).

                 Re: Jesus’ burial, His enemies went to the governor, Pilate to make sure the tomb was sealed tightly and guarded so that Jesus’ disciples wouldn’t come in and steal His body and claim that He’d risen from the dead as Jesus proclaimed earlier in His ministry (John 2:19-22, Matt. 27:62-66, Luke 9:22).

                The stone was rolled away and Christ Jesus had risen, just as He’d foretold His disciples and it wasn’t by any trickery, but by the omnipotent power of God.  Only God’s almighty power could be worked in Christ to raise Him from the dead and then seat Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come (Matt. 16:21, 17:22-23, John 2:19-22, Eph. 1:20-21).                

                The bedrock of the Christian faith (and what sets it apart from other religions) is tied up with Christ Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. And there were many that were witnesses to it (1 Cor. 15:3-8). As Paul preached to the Corinthians in his first letter to them, ”And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive (1 Cor. 15:17-22).

                Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, but now crowned with glory and honor so that He, by the grace of God, would taste death for everyone.  “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:9-10).

                Philippians 2:9-11 says this, “…God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

                                                For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-19).

                                God loves us so much that even when we were dead in trespasses, He made us alive together with Christ Jesus, and raised us up to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in ages to come He might display the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  We are saved by grace through faith. There is nothing that we can do to earn it on our own—it is the gift of God. It’s not related to our works so that no one can boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:4-10).

 “O Death, where is your sting?”

“O Grave, where is your victory?”

…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).

“For our citizenship is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)

Laura