Waiting…

“The waiting is the hardest part” —Tom Petty—

                The waiting is the hardest part. Just ask our French bulldog pup, Walter—whether it’s for food, treats, to go outside, or to play… it’s not an easy thing. Waiting isn’t just hard for dogs; we humans also struggle with delayed gratification.  It may be waiting for the light to turn green at an intersection, waiting for our turn in line at a store, or for us Wisconsinites, waiting for springtime to come after a cold, snowy winter.

                We live in a world where access to just about anything we need or desire is at our fingertips and can be brought to our doorsteps via on-line shopping. Even the simplest of tasks in our homes can be performed via a virtual assistant, but God is not “virtual”—He is spiritual and He is real (John 4:24). 

Funny thing about God, even in our high-tech world today, we still have to wait on His timing and ways. God doesn’t operate with our ’prayers on demand’. We can’t just say, “God”, like “Siri” or “Alexa” and get a response (Isa. 55:8-9, 29:16). God does desire for us to continually bring our requests to Him in prayer regarding all things in our lives. We can have confidence that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us and will answer us in His perfect time (Phil. 4:6, 1 John 5:14-15).

That brings us to the kind of waiting that pleases God—patient waiting.  Patient waiting doesn’t tap toes, pace or fidget. Patient waiting doesn’t whine, worry or carry on in an angry rant. Patient waiting requires a demeanor of stillness. “Rest (be silent-wait or stand still) in the Lord and wait patiently for Him (Ps. 37:7).  Here’s how the rest of verse 7 and into verse 8 goes, “Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm.”  Our prayer should be as the Psalmist, “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day” (Ps. 25:4-5).  The Lord Himself exemplifies all longsuffering (patient waiting), not wanting any to perish, but all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth (2 Pet. 3:9, 1 Tim. 2:4).  It’s in knowing and trusting in God’s Word that will encourage us to patiently wait as these verses suggest: Ps. 39:7, 62:5, 130:5-6; Rom. 8:25; Phil. 3:20.

                There’s a lot to be learned in the wait

•Sometimes we find out that what we desire is not within God’s will for our lives. Many times as He closes one door, another one (that we may have been unaware of) is opened.

•Sometimes we learn that we have to accept the things God’s allowed us to have control of and let go of what we don’t (that includes other people & the choices they make).

•For whatever reasons, God only knows, some things we even patiently wait for never come in this lifetime. But God is faithful to those who patiently endure (Heb. 6:15, Lam. 3:25, James 5:10-11).

Waiting on the Lord (rather than ceasing to strive in our own flesh) enables our strength to be renewed and our hearts to be strengthened (Isa. 40:31, Ps. 27:14).

                So—“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Ps. 27:14).

Laura

FROM SINNERS TO SAINTS

            “Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.” —John Newton

                Accepted in the Beloved— The unqualified sinner has become a qualified saint, accepted by God. This came about not through any merits of their own, but through the all-sufficient, atoning blood of Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:12, 22, 2 Cor. 5:21, Eph. 1:6-7, 2:4-9, Col. 1:14, 2:13-14, Rom. 3:24-25, 6:23).

                “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent His only begotten Son into the world, THAT WE MIGHT LIVE THROUGH HIM” (1 John 4:9).  The ending of this verse is emphasized to point out that God has more in mind than eternal salvation. Eternal salvation is worked in & secured (a sealed deal) when one believes (Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30). As saints with a new position and citizenship on high, God has ordained works for the believer to work out and walk in the life they’re now living (Eph. 2:6, 10, Phil. 2:12-13, 3:20, 2 Tim. 1:9). This process is called sanctification with the end being, “to be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4). 

Will this mean sinless perfection in this life? No. If we, as believers, claim we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. If we claim we have not sinned, we make God a liar (1 John 1:5-10). It’s not by covering up our sin or imagining ourselves to become sinless that draws us near the presence of the Lord. It’s solely by the efficacy of the blood that cleanses that makes us “accepted in the Beloved. It’s only through God’s amazing grace that one is made qualified to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12). Apart from the risen Savior, all sanctification is of the flesh. Seeking to be made perfect according to the flesh means bondage (Gal. 3:2-3, 4:3-5, 9, 5:1-3, Rom. 8:7). This truth sets the believer free to stop trying to provide good moral character on their own, knowing it’s hopeless and just gets in the way of what God has willed and purposed for their life. 

The power to live unto God (sanctified) comes through believing (without question) the glorious fullness of the redemptive work of Christ and the believer’s completeness in Him (Col. 2:10). It’s not trying, but actually viewing with eyes of faith and acting accordingly. The saved sinner looks back to the cross and sees Christ dying in their place and says, “I died there too.” The saint then looks up to the right hand of God where Christ sits and says, “I’ve been raised together with Him” and so leaves the doctrines, commandments, restrictions, false practices and ways of men behind, knowing that being under grace means freedom and perfection in Christ alone (Eph. 2:6, Col. 2:8-23).  The believer’s position in Christ gives access to God, Whom they can come boldly, with confidence (Eph. 2:18, 3:12).  As the believer’s new nature is fed on the Word of God, the old nature is starved and pushed out. As the walk is by faith, in the power of the ‘new man’ (which is designed in true holiness), the ‘old man’ (with its deeds) is shed off (Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:8-14, 2 Tim. 3:15-17).

To grow in godliness, the saint needs to hold on to ‘the Head’ (Christ) and continue to renew the mind with the truth of their new position, which is safely hid with Christ in God. This regenerated thinking will enable their focus to be placed on the things above where the saint’s eternal home & future lies (Col. 2:10, 16-3:4, 3:1-3, Rom. 12:1-2).                 

So saints, claim the victory that’s already yours in Christ! As you do, the deadly regulations of man will fall and leave you standing to walk by faith, not by sight, looking for that blessed hope (of which, by grace, you were meant to seek). Walk as worthy saints, serving one another in love as you fulfill God’s will and purpose (1 Cor. 15:57, 2 Cor. 5:7, 1 John 5:4, Col. 1:9-11, Eph. 4:1-2, 2 Tim. 2:15).

Laura                                                        

HOPE–An Anchor for the Soul

img_4415It’s been said that people can live for up to 70 days without food, 10 days without water, and 6 minutes without air. But they can’t live without hope.

In order to stay afloat through the changing ocean tides of life, one needs an anchor for the soul that’s both sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19). That anchor for the Christian is hope.

The word hope defined by Noah Webster is: a desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable.

Where or what one places his or her hope in can make all the difference. Is one’s hope placed in fallible, unpredictable man’s ways or in some realm of this fallen world? Or is one’s hope placed in (what the Scriptures testify to) an immutable (unchanging) God, Who doesn’t have in His nature to lie (Heb. 6:18, Tit. 1:2)?

David’s hope (or expectation) was from God, “My soul, wait silently for God alone; For my expectation is from Him…Trust in Him at all times…Do not trust in oppression, nor vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:5, 8, 10). David’s confident trust in the Lord is reflected also in Psalm 56:3-4, “Whenever I’m afraid I will trust in You. In God I will praise His word, In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do to me…” Notice his use of “In God I have put my trust”.

Not surprisingly as America has distanced itself away from “in God we trust” as a nation and toward dependence on the ever-changing & unreliable ways of man, there’s been a rise in anxiety, depression, and related disorders resulting in a reliance on an array of prescription drugs (which sadly many times, in the long run only worsen things). Not trying to negate or minimize the truly devastating effects of life in a fallen world, and the legitimate need for some to be dependent on medication/s, but stress, hardships and troubles are a reality for all in this present life (albeit, some more than others). There’s a real need in society today for more encouragement toward its citizens to have a faith in a loving God, and our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, that transcends self. It’s only there that the believer will find an object of hope that’s glorious, eternal & will not disappoint (Titus 2:13, Rom. 5:5, Phil. 3:20).

FAITH IS THE NECESSARY LINK TO HAVING HOPE as it’s the outworking of trust in God and the proof of BELIEVING IN THINGS NOT SEEN. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…” (Hebrews 11:1); “…hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what it sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Rom. 8:24-25).

Faith is the crucial channel that leads to hope as one is saved through it (Eph. 2:8), and without it one cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). Having faith may seem easy at first (especially when times are good and the living is easy). Sadly the moment when challenging circumstances arise, it’s in human nature to dwell on the seen trials rather than on an unseen God. Even the disciple Peter began to (literally) sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and was thus rebuked, “O you of little faith” (Matt. 14:24-33).

Those who have faith (as those in chapter 11 of Hebrews) are prime examples of the Romans 5:25 chain that connects tribulations (afflictions) to perseverance (patience) and perseverance to character (experience) which leads to hope. Their hope made it possible to endure hardships as they focused and relied on the invisible God and His promises (Heb. 11:27). We too, today need to look for our blessed hope, not here on earth, but where it’s laid up for us in heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1-4, Phil. 3:20-21, Titus 2:13).

Nothing worthwhile is easy, but one must suffer evil as a good soldier (2 Tim. 2:4), especially in a world with its allures of instant fixes and gratification.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Laura

Good Tidings of Comfort & Joy

IMG_4261One of the earliest and most beloved Christmas carols, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” has appealed to many over the years due to its light, lively style and upbeat tempo. Not only does the music reflect the joy in the ‘good tidings’ (or good news) of the birth of Christ, but the lyrics as well. Christ’s birth, after all, is something to be celebrated and this enduring carol is a reminder of that. Interestingly the old English meaning of the word “rest” in the title of the song meant to “keep” or “make”, encouraging those of the time period it was written to allow God to “keep” or “make” them merry and then went on to tell the reasons why.

Even though the day we celebrate Christmas is not when Christ was actually born, it’s a day we set aside to celebrate God’s goodness & promises fulfilled of the coming Savior. God’s written prophecy is important. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever things were written before was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

Here are some of the prophecies fulfilled when Christ was born:                                 •He would be born of the offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15)—fulfilled: Luke 2:7, Gal. 4:4; •He would come from the tribe of Judah (Micah 5:2)—fulfilled: Matt. 1:1-3, Heb. 7:14, Rev. 5:5; •He would be born in the town of Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2-5) —fulfilled: Matt. 2:1-6; •He would be born a king of the line of David (Isaiah 9:6-7) —fulfilled: Matt. 1:1, Luke 1:32, Acts 13:22-23; •He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) —fulfilled: Matt. 1:18-23, Luke 1:26-35; •He would be a rod out of the stem of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-2) —fulfilled: Matt. 1:6, Acts 13:22-23; •He would have an eternal existence, “Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2) —confirmed: John 1:1-2, 8:58, Col. 1:15-19.

Christmas is about God’s faithfulness now and the hope (for those that believe in Christ) for what God has promised in His Word. This is what brings one comfort & joy in the midst of loss, trying times, and the hardships of living in this present fallen world.

As we understand and embrace these good tidings of joy, we’re also encouraged to share them with those around us—shining God’s love and hope to our dark world (Rom. 15:5, 2 Cor. 1:3-4, Phil. 2:1-2).

God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember, Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day.
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray,

O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

From God our Heav’nly Father a blessed Angel came,
And unto certain Shepherds brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by Name,

O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

“Fear not then, “said the Angel, “Let nothing you afright,
This day is born a Savior a blessed holy sight,
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s pow’r and might.”

O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Now to the Lord sing praises, all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This Holy Child of Christmas shall fill our hearts with grace:

O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Have a Merry Christmas with Good Tidings of Comfort and Joy!

Laura

RECIPE FOR A THANKFUL HEART

Peace of God
“Peace of God” by Laura Kestly

REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS!
IS THERE A RECIPE FOR A THANKFUL HEART?

With floods, fires, hurricanes—kidnappings, lawlessness, corruption—mail bombs, not so peaceful protests, and another election season of disunity and discord…it’s easy to become consumed with all that’s bad in the world.
The key to having a thankful heart lies in the things one chooses to fixate on.
A Christian’s citizenship is in heaven (not on this earth) and so that’s where the focus should be placed—looking for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20, Col. 3:1-3). That doesn’t mean that a Christian ignores all else going on in this earthly life, but that he/she filters it through a heavenly lens.
After all the blessings that Christians today can “count” are not terrestrial (of the earth) but every spiritual blessing (Divine in nature) found in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
We can be very thankful no matter our circumstances in this life today that we have a God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Who has made us accepted in the Beloved (Christ). And it’s in Him that we have:
•redemption (through His blood), the forgiveness of sins (according to the riches of His grace),
•an inheritance,
•eternal security (Eph. 1:6-7…14).
There’s always rejoicing when one puts their sights on the spiritual and embraces the riches of the glory of the inheritance of the saints in Him.
Try and grasp this:
There’s exceeding greatness of God’s power toward those who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated 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 (Eph. 1:19-21).
The apostle Paul encouraged the Philippians as he was concluding his epistle to them to:
—Rejoice in the Lord always,
—Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.
The benefit of doing this would be the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, would guard their hearts and minds through Jesus Christ (Phil. 4:4, 6-7).
Recall the recipe for a thankful heart?
It’s in what one chooses to fixate on.
So I close with the apostle Paul’s “Finally, brethren” (& my grandmother’s favorite verse): “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—MEDITATE ON THESE THINGS” (Phil. 4:8).
Do these things and not only will you have a thankful heart, but it’ll also be filled with a peace that won’t be shaken by the ‘things of this world’.

“…let the peace of God rule in your hearts…AND BE YE THANKFUL” (Col. 3:15).
Laura

Letting the World Define You?

Psalm 139 artFeeling like you don’t have it all together—-like you don’t measure up?
According to whom?
Sadly most of us continue to measure and compare ourselves by the world’s standard and other people (and most of the time merely by the outward appearance of things).
No matter the outer façade of ‘perfection’ (via social media posts or otherwise), the reality is that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23, Ps. 14:3, 53:2-3). We live in a world that’s becoming increasingly filled with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time (those quick to point out the flaws of others while harboring hatred in their own hearts) (Matt. 23:27-28).
It’s actually wise (and freeing) when one realizes that their own fallen heart (inborn sinful nature) is deceitful (crooked) above all things and desperately wicked (naturally bent on deception) (Jer. 17:9). It’s incurable and can’t just be made ‘better’ through good works and deeds (Rom. 8:7).

Thankfully God, our Creator, knows our substance, thoughts… ‘warts and all’ and still chose to die for us (while we were still sinners) (Psalm 139, Rom. 5:8). Ephesians 2:4-5 says this, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”  Salvation is a gift received through faith. It’s not based on anything we can do or work for. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:8-10). These good works are not from our own ideas generated from a mind that’s bent on doing things to glorify oneself in front of man. Rather these works have already been prepared by God beforehand and are only able to emanate from a mind that’s been transformed and renewed in knowledge according to the image of the Creator (Rom. 12:2, 1 Cor. 2:9-16, Eph. 4:23-24, Col 3:10). God’s in the business of substituting something new rather than mending what man has messed up. Some examples of this from God’s Word are: a new man/creation (2 Cor. 5:17-18, Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10); a new heart & covenant for Israel (Ezek. 36:24-29); a new spiritual body (John 3:6-8, 1 Cor. 15:45-49); and a new heaven & earth (2 Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:1,5).

What’s unseen is essential. God looks beyond appearances in His all-knowing, wise-beyond-our-comprehension, infinite-in-all-capacities nature (2 Cor. 4:18, 1 Sam. 16:7). He’s not looking for flawless robots but rather those with broken, contrite and obedient hearts (1 Sam. 16:7, Psalm 51:17, Phil. 2:3-8, Eph. 4:1-2). His light truly does shine brightest through this type of humble vessel, where the power is clearly of Him, not of man (2 Corinthians 4:6-7). Such examples from the Bible are: Rahab (Josh. 6:25, Matt. 11:5); Gideon (Judges 6:15); David (1 Sam. 16:7, 11-12); the disciples (Matt. 18-22); Paul (1 Tim. 1:15), as well as the list in Hebrews 11.

IT’S A GRAVE MISTAKE TO LET THE WORLD DEFINE US. Competing and comparing ourselves with others is a great distraction from the devil to divert us away from God’s divine purpose.
I’m amazed at how many deceptive thoughts continue to circulate around in my own mind—trying to trick me into believing things contrary to God’s truth (Eph. 4:22). I find when I allow God to search my heart & try me (because He knows all my anxieties & dark thoughts), I’m able to bring them into captivity where they can be cast down and put to death (Psalm 139:23-24, 2 Cor. 10:3-5).

It’s a waste of time and energy to keep striving to conform to the world’s deceptive way of thinking. Rather than trying to gauge our status and performance to fallen man’s vain, hollow and finite measuring stick, our thoughts should turn toward the One Who created us uniquely for His purposes (Col. 2:8, 3:1-3). His ways are perfect and it’s not in His nature to lie (Deut. 32:4, Ps. 18:30, Titus 1:2). It’s key for one to grasp how much God loves them apart from anything they can do and understand that they’re “complete in Him” through Christ’s great sacrifice and finished work on the cross (Col. 2:9-14, 1:10-12). To know that nothing can separate a believer from Christ’s love is the needed catalyst to compel him or her to walk in a worthy manner (2 Cor. 5:14-15, Eph. 3:18-19, 4:1-3, Rom. 8:35-39, 11:33-36, 2 Tim. 1:9).

Sara Groves in her song, “The Journey is My Own”, with verses like: “When I stand before the Lord, I’ll be standing alone, this journey is my own”, and “Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one”, encourages us to look to the One we live and move and have our being in (Acts 17:28).

Allow God to be your director, audience and gentle critic. Trust in the role He’s uniquely cast you in, along with the script that He’s written for you alone. As you do you’ll find your time spent focusing on His cues and direction rather than being misdirected by the world (Phil. 2:12-13, 3:20). So press on—you’re a work in progress! (Phil. 1:6, 3:12-14)
Laura

 

CONTENTMENT IN EVERY STATE

In whatever state be content us map

Are you satisfied or do you yearn for more?

As I get older and sift through ‘stuff’ I’ve purchased and slowly collected through the years (trying to decide whether to discard, give-a-way or repurpose) & also tend to the upkeep and needs of our aging 20 year old home, the thought of time spent on ‘stuff’ that doesn’t last permeates my mind (Matt. 6:19-20, 2 Cor. 4:16-18, Col. 3:1-3).
I truly desire to minimize managing my ‘stuff’ as I believe that this is one of the enemy’s most deceptive tactics to keep us derailed away from the purpose God has for our lives. The worldly mindset of staying current with the ever changing modern technology & social media—trending home décor—the latest fashions—beauty, health, exercise and diets to keep the illusion of youth & looking outwardly like we ‘have it all together’ can be time consuming and exhausting!
I aspire to be more like the apostle Paul who could truly testify to the statement that, “…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am…to be content” (Phil. 4:11). He, after all, was imprisoned numerous times, often brought near death with countless beatings. He was lashed 39 times, beaten with rods 3 times, even stoned once. He was shipwrecked 3 times including a night & day adrift at sea. On frequent journeys, in the city, wilderness and sea, he experienced danger from rivers, robbers, his own people, and Gentiles. Paul toiled in hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food and in cold and exposure. And if that wasn’t enough to bear, there was the daily pressure and anxiety on him for all the churches he was ministering to (2 Cor. 11:23-29). He had good reason to be discontent but instead boasted of things that showed his weakness and of those things that he was allowed to suffer with that kept him from becoming conceited. He truly knew and understood through experience that God’s grace was sufficient for him and contrary to the world’s ways, God’s power was made perfect in weakness, for when he was weak, then he was strong (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
King Solomon, on the other hand, although he’d been blessed with great wisdom, ‘played the fool’ as he amassed riches, property, treasures, wives (700), and concubines (300). He had the most & best of everything (1 Kings 10:23, 11:3, Eccl. 2:10). The 3 steps of his downfall were wealth, weapons, and women (1 Kings 10:14-29, 16-21, 11:1-40). If he’d only heeded the Lord’s instruction he would not have been led astray and turn toward idolatry (Deut. 17:16-17, 1 Kings 3:14, 9:4-9, 11:4-8). Thankfully at his life’s end he came to his senses, realizing that all of it was vanity and that only through “fearing God” and heeding God’s Word can one truly be satisfied (Eccl. 12:8, 13-14).
All of us, as well, when we veer from the Lord’s Word that instructs and guides us in the best way to live in our fallen world, slip out of contentment too (2 Timothy 3:16). Time after time, with example after example, from Adam & Eve to Abraham, David, Solomon, … whenever one leaned on his own (fallible) understanding and the world’s bent ways, the path that they veered on led to heartache and woe (Prov. 3:5-7).

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that “…godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it’s certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:6-10). Note he doesn’t say money in itself is bad, but the desire for it. It’s the ‘love of money’—always looking toward it to fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). Paul goes on to write for those who are rich to not be high-minded or trust in uncertain riches but instead in the living God, Who gives richly all things to enjoy. They should be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life (1 Tim. 6:17-19). When our conduct is without covetousness (the love of money), we can be content with what we presently have (Heb. 13:5).


So as you can see, contentment isn’t a ‘stop on the way’, it’s our gauge of where we are in relation to our trust in the Lord—at all times—in hardships, periods of struggle, grief, or pain to times of joy, bounty, and rest. Our aim should be to stay on an ‘even keel’ with life’s ups and downs and realize that when we’re feeling like we’re being ‘rocked out of the boat’; we most likely allowed fear of something to creep in.

As Paul encouraged the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” and the result of this will be, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

I know that when I feel like I’m heading toward ’going overboard’ or ’capsizing’ in my life, I pause to think about what I didn’t give over to the Lord in prayer and in what way I’m not trusting in Him, but leaning on my own understanding. I also remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). The power that God gives is so mighty that it can pull down any stronghold, as we cast down any thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God and bring them into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5, Eph. 6:10). If we meditate on God’s Word and the areas that He instructs us to focus on—the things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8), we’ll have less time to look to the things that are temporary and perishing– as all men and women’s lives end in death—returning to dust and the spirit to God the Giver (2 Cor. 4:16-18, Eccl. 3:18-20, 7:2, 12:7-8, Col. 3:1-3).
We can rejoice and be content as God supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus as we await our blessed hope and His appearing (Titus 2:13, Col. 3:4, Phil. 4:19, 2 Cor. 12:9)!
    Laura

God's Grace is Sufficient

ATTAINING THE PRIZE

Bird of Pray

BUCKLE UP it’s going to be a rough ride as you press toward the mark
There’s a prize to be won & a crown to be gained, but no man is crowned, unless he strives lawfully (Phil. 3:14, 2 Tim. 2:5, 1 Tim. 1:8).
Attaining the Prize of the High Calling is not for the faint of heart.
If you’re more familiar with the ways of the world & the words of men than the words & will of God, you may find yourself distracted, deceived & disqualified.
The entry fee (salvation) has already been paid by another & it can’t be revoked (It’s a gift that rests solely upon the finished work of Christ) (Eph. 1:13-14, 2:8-9, Col. 1:13-14, 22, 3:3-4). While eternal life is assured, the question of the added reward, the prize of a crown for faithful service is not. There is an inheritance for all believers that cannot be lost (Eph. 1:11-14, Col. 1:12-13, 22). There is also a reward that’s attached to that inheritance which is associated with the high calling of God which is in Christ Jesus for individual faithfulness & ‘perfecting’ (Phil. 3:12-14, Col. 1:28, 3:23-24, 4:12).
THE ARENA OF THE CONTEST
Many Christians have been deceived into thinking that the earth, not heaven is where the sphere of blessing is today. Our citizenship (seat of government) is not on the earth but in heaven, (Col. 1:13, Phil. 3:20, Col. 1:18, 2:19, Eph. 1:22-23). Sadly those who don’t act in accordance with their heavenly citizenship, minding earthly things, will be beguiled of their reward. They’re unaware that their warfare is not in the earthly realm (against flesh & blood) either, but against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age—against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the arena of heavenly places (Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 10:3). The irony is that our spiritual foe’s greatest scheme is to redirect focus toward the arena of the terrestrial (earthly things—flesh & blood—things of the world). It’s through these things that don’t last that disqualify the believer from receiving his reward (Col. 2:16-23, 2 Cor. 4:18, 1 John 2:15-17). Sadly, it was the Apostle Paul’s fellow worker, Demas that forsook him, because he “loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10, Phil. 1:24, Col. 4:14).
This winning strategy of the enemy becomes more easily understood when one grasps the meaning of Satan’s current titles: (1) ‘The Prince (ruler) of this World’: Christ (while on earth) called him this (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) & yet when tested, rejected & rebuked Satan & his offer of the “kingdoms of this world” (Matt. 4:8-10); (2) Another title he presently holds is ‘The Prince of the Power of Air’ (Eph. 2:2): the ruling spirit over “the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:3); and (3) ‘The god of this Present (evil) Age’ (2 Cor. 4:4). He’s the master mind controller over the world systems that are dominated by earthly passions through the corrupt, depraved nature of the flesh—enmity against God (Gal. 5:19-21, Rom. 8:7-8, James 4:4).
KNOW YOUR OPPONENT & HIS TACTICS
Satan is not only crafty & calculating; he most certainly doesn’t play by the rules. To learn more: Gen. 3:1, John 8:44, 2 Cor. 2:11, 11:3, 14, Eph. 6:11, 1 Tim. 3:7, 6:9, 2 Tim. 2:26, 1 Peter 5:8.
It’s in the area of the believer’s new nature, with its preordained walk & works (Eph. 2:10), that need to be ever guarded, as the old (corrupt) nature is still in residence and if not ‘put off’, will allow access & opportunity for Satan to operate & deceive. The enemy’s strategy is to redirect thinking from ‘things above’ (Col. 3:1-3, 2:7-8) & away from the fullness of Christ toward other ways & means that have no place in this present dispensation, such as: false humility & works, unscriptural mediators & false teachers, food & drink, rules & ordinances… (Col. 2:16-23, 3:5-10, Eph. 4:17-27, 2 Cor. 10:3-6).
ATTITUDE
Attitude is everything. The winning attitude for the race set before us would appear to worldly eyes as though the last man wins the prize, not the first. The apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “walk worthy” with “all humility of mind” (Eph. 4:1-2). He instructed the Philippians with this same mindset in Phil. 2:3-4, referring to the ultimate example being Christ Jesus, “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (vs. 5-8). Only in the realm of grace can the believer have this mindset, as this thinking is so contrary to worldly ways, where the nature of the race is to win at all costs—jostling for position, elbowing out the other competitors to get the upper hand and win. Fellow believers should ‘strive together’ for the faith, not with one another as we are members of the Church of the One Body (Phil. 1:27, 2:3 Eph. 4:3-6, 15-16).

GEAR UP
Since game day is already here (Eph. 5:16, Gal. 1:4) there’s no time to waste. The Christian must be ‘suited up’ in the gear God’s provided in Christ, the Armor of God, to protect against the wiles of his opponent & keep him standing on his feet (Eph. 6:10-18, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). He is “complete in Him” & so lacks nothing (Col. 2:10).
STUDY THE TRAINING MANUAL
In order to be thoroughly equipped for every good work and to stay ‘in the game’, one needs to diligently study the Training Manual (The Holy Scriptures) & rightly divide it so there’s no err in doctrine and practice (as some who fell out of contention for the prize) (2 Tim. 3:16, 2:15-19). The one who is an ‘approved vessel’, that’s useful for the Master, pursues righteousness, faith, love, & peace with like-minded believers. They shun profane & idle talk, depart from iniquity, flee youthful lusts, avoid foolish & ignorant disputes (knowing that they generate strife). They don’t quarrel, but are gentle to all & able to teach patiently, with humility, correcting those who are in opposition (as they once walked in their shoes) (Col. 1:21, Eph. 2:1-3, 2 Tim. 2: 14-26).
WORK OUT/TRAIN:
Exercise yourself toward godliness so you can be strong in the grace that’s in Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 4:8, 2 Tim. 2:1).
To work out (Eph. 2:10) what God has already worked in (Phil. 2:12-13) one needs to be willing to be trained (taught) by grace. The same grace that was active when one is saved & became a ’new creation’ (Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10) doesn’t depart from the believer, but continues to teach, as well as correct. The old nature must be considered ‘evicted from the game’, so grace can fully train the believer to be zealous for good works as they “live soberly in this present world—denying ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Tit. 2:11).
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE: LIVE LOOKING
Grace also teaches us that we should live looking (Titus 2:11-13). Looking isn’t so much a reference to ‘sight’ as it is to an expectation. “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God & Savior Jesus Christ” is a powerful incentive to walk worthy and so be in contention for the prize (Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:1-3, 10, Phil. 3:14-16, Tit. 2:13-14). So lay aside every weight (the things that come between you & the goal i.e.: James 3:15, 1 Cor. 15:40, Phil. 3:19) & run with endurance the race set before you (Heb. 12:1, Phil. 3:13). The paradox of faith can be seen in the faithful listed in Heb. 11 who died without receiving the fulfillment of the promises that were made to them, but as Moses did, looked to the reward, enduring as seeing Him who is invisible (Heb. 11:24-27).
FINISH STRONG
It’s the good soldier that endures hardness (suffers evil) and the hardworking farmer that gets first dibs on the fruits of his labor (2 Tim. 2:3, 6). As we allow grace to teach & correct us we can keep our eyes on the heavenly goal line, looking for the appearing of our great God and Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, living godly in the present age, so we as the apostle Paul can say, “…I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
SO PRESS ON!

Laura

STRONG IN THE LORD

He Can Do It Be strong in the LordWhen I was growing up in the 70’s/80’s, the “Women’s Lib” movement, which started in the late 60’s, was gaining momentum & starting to become enmeshed in our lives. Most kids don’t think too much or question their culture & environment, but it’s funny how certain things get imbedded in one’s mind without even realizing it at the time. I remember a commercial for the perfume Enjoli getting stuck in my head. In this ad a beautiful woman sauntered around and sang, “I can bring home the bacon—fry it up in a pan—and never, never, never let you forget you’re a man because I’m a woman—Enjoli.” The tag line for Enjoli was: “The new 8 hour perfume for the 24 hour woman”. I grew up with 3 brothers (& a sister too) in a highly competitive family where ‘sports ruled’, being that my Dad was head of the Phys. Ed. Dept. & head football coach at our high school so naturally I was drawn to scenarios where females getting the upper hand (in any form) was appealing. With these commercials and TV shows like Charlie’s Angels being popular as well, I bought into the lie that women could do anything men could do (& look great doing it)!
If we go back to the beginning, in the garden, it was the woman who was deceived by Satan’s 3 lies, not Adam (Gen. 3:1-7, 13, 1 Tim. 2:14, 2 Cor. 11:3). Adam knowingly disobeyed God by going along with Eve without objecting as he should have (Gen. 3:6, 12, 17, Rom. 5:12). This demonstrates that even being the weaker vessel, a wife has the power to influence her husband (and not always for good) (1 Pet. 3:7). A horrible example of this can be found in Jezebel and her evil influence on her husband Ahab (1 Kings 21:25). The pattern that’s needed for women to emulate is the one found in Proverbs 31:10-31, the Ideal Woman or “Virtuous Wife” (virtuous meaning “strong in moral qualities”). This ‘homemaker’ was no slacker. She took care of herself so that she was able to take care of what she was entrusted (vs. 17, 22, 30): tending to her husband (as a helpmate the way God originally designed) (vs. 10-12, 23, Gen. 2:18, 20-24); willingly working tirelessly with her hands to manage her household efficiently (vs. 13-21, 24-25, 27-28); and giving to others outside her household (vs. 20). Her outward appearance of strength & honor (vs. 25) emanated from her inner dependence on the Lord, knowing that the strength to accomplish all she did came from Him (vs. 30, Prov. 14:26, 1 Pet. 3:2-4).
As important as it is to take care of ourselves (by getting enough of the right exercise) so that we’ll be up to the physical tasks that we’re entrusted with in this life, it’s the spiritual life of the inner man/woman that’s most vital (1 Tim. 4:8). The apostle Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers would be strengthened in this area (Eph. 3:16). Thankfully we’re not left to live the Christian life in our own strength, just as salvation is not through our own efforts; rather a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-10). Our duty then is to reckon our flesh (the old sinful nature) as dead—much like a baseball that’s ‘out of play’ and instead alive unto God, through Christ. Only then can God’s resurrection power operate mightily through us to fulfil the good works He’s prepared in advance for us to walk in (Rom.6:6-11, Eph. 2:10). Daily feeding upon God’s Word continually along with diligently rightly dividing it, will renew our mind with His truth which will enable us to stand against the wiles of the devil and not get entangled with the affairs of this life (Rom. 12:2, 2 Tim. 2:15, 4, Eph. 6:10-11).
God’s ways are contrary to the world’s ways. It’s the humble who are lifted up (not the prideful) and the weak who are given strength (not the powerful) (1 Cor. 25, 27-31, James 4:6-7, 10, 1 Pet. 5:5-9, Phil. 2:5-11). It’s through the weak, earthen vessel that places their faith in God (not in self or man) where God’s mighty power is best displayed (2 Cor. 4:7). Those listed as faithful and commended in the book of Hebrews “out of weakness were made strong” (Heb. 11:30-34). Unique to the Christian life is a risen Savior Who can sympathize with our weaknesses, as he too was tempted according to all things, like we are, yet did not sin (Heb. 4:15, Phil. 2:5-11). The apostle Paul had no confidence in his flesh (Phil. 3:4). He knew that the Lord’s strength was made perfect only in weakness & that God’s grace was sufficient for him (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul was able to fight a good fight, finish the course God had entrusted him with, and keep his faith due to the strength he received through Christ (2 Tim. 4:7, Phil. 4:13, 2 Tim. 4:17). We can as well when we’re mindful of putting off the old nature, renewing the spirit of our mind, and putting on the new nature that’s equipped with the armor and strength of God (Eph. 4:22-24, 6:10-17).
So outsource your strength from One Who is Almighty and be strong in the power of His might (Ps. 24:10, Isa. 40:26, Eph. 6:10).

Laura

Live Risen!

Risen Birdcage“Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers: The snare is broken, & we are delivered” (Ps. 124:7).

God made us alive in Christ even when we were dead & encaged in our sins. We were raised with Christ through faith in the working of God (who raised Him from the dead) & made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Col. 2:12-15, Eph. 2:4-6). “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

So why do many of us choose to live with a mindset captive & encaged to the world instead?

It may have something to with a spiritual foe that’s a master of camouflage (disguise, concealment, blending in w/the surrounding). I remember watching a chilling scene in the Viet Nam war era film “Platoon” years ago. In the scene an American infantry platoon was walking though the dense jungle and unbeknownst to them were unseen assailants & booby traps. The enemy was so camouflaged as part of the jungle that only their eyes could be seen. It reminded me of the verse in 2 Cor. 11:14 that Satan himself transforms as an angel of light. The same disguise he donned in the garden as “the serpent” (Hebrew for Nachash, a shining one) when he beguiled Eve and Paul feared for the Corinthian believers that their minds could be corrupted in the same way from the simplicity in Christ to the crafty duplicity of those preaching another Jesus, with a different spirit, & a different gospel (Gen. 3:1, 2 Cor. 11:3-4).
The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19).
We, as believers, should not be ignorant of our enemy’s schemes & devices (2 Cor. 2:11). “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:6, 8). Satan’s expert use of subtlety (defined as: hard to notice or see; not obvious; clever & indirect; not showing one’s real purpose) should put all believers on alert.

Satan wants us to become distracted away from God, His Word & ways and focus instead on the ‘things of the world’ —the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life—that are not of the Father & that pass away (1 John 2:15-17). These were the same 3 areas that he used to tempt Eve in the garden with as well as Jesus in the wilderness after Jesus had been fasting 40 days & nights. The difference being, Eve succumbed where Jesus withstood by using the Word of God (“It is written…) which caused the devil to leave (Gen. 3:6, Matt. 4:1-11).
Some of the devil’s other snares include: the fear of man (rather than of God) & a desire to be rich (Prov. 29:25, 1 Tim. 3:9-10). That’s why the mandate in Col. 3:1, “IF THEN YOU WERE RAISED WITH CHRIST, SEEK THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE ABOVE, WHERE CHRIST IS, SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD” is crucial to living the risen life along with daily transforming & renewing the mind with God’s truth and way of thinking (Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:23, 1 Cor. 2:13-14).
We did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but we received the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15, Eph. 1:5).
Satan is a counterfeiter & substitutes God’s original purpose & intentions with his own corrupt, perverted version. He’s a liar at the core (father of lies) & a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Due to the coexistence of the 2 natures in the child of God, the old nature (which all are born with -Rom. 5:12) that leads to captivity & death and the new nature (which is a gift of God to be received-Eph. 2:8) that leads to life & peace, there is an opportunity for the devil to get a foothold if he can appeal and entice the flesh (the old fallen nature). If he’s effective he can keep them captive to sin & away from the victory & purpose they already have in Christ (Rom. 7:14-25, 8:7, Eph.2:10, 4:17-27, Col. 2:10).
Although the devil may be compared to a roaring lion, seeking about whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8), it’s far more likely that he’ll come under the guise of an angel of light, an as his other titles indicate, “Prince of this world” and “god of this age” (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 2 Cor. 4:4), it shouldn’t be surprising that his most potent sphere of activity will be most present in the realm of politics, world government and in the church with its doctrines and ministry. This is why Paul warned Timothy to not become entangled in the affairs in this life (2 Tim. 2:4).

God has provided the believer with everything needed to live a risen, victorious life. We can have faith, not fear as we stand against the wiles of the devil, with the mighty weapons of warfare in God (Eph. 6:13-17, 2 Tim. 1:7, 3:16-17). They are effective for pulling down strongholds, casting down imaginations and all the thoughts & lies that try to exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, as we bring them into captivity to the obedience of Christ (Eph. 6:11, 2 Cor. 10:4-5). For the word of God is living & powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul & spirit, joints & marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).
When we know, believe & act on God’s truth, in His strength, it sets us free and allows us to live the victorious, risen life in Him (John 8:32, 1 Cor. 15:57, 1 John 5:4, 2 Cor. 1:9-10, 2 Tim. 1:10).
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, & do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1).

Live Risen! Laura