Finding the Lesson in Adversity

Consider the work of God;
For who can make straight what He has made crooked?

 In the day of prosperity be joyful,
But in the day of adversity consider:
Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other,
So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.” 

Eccl. 7:13-14

                Ever since the fall of man in the garden, this world has been out of joint. The consequences of eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil did not make one wise like God. It caused sorrow (including viral and other outbreaks) and death (Gen. 2:16-17, 3:1-4, 16-19).

Prosperity (good) and adversity (evil) are made to balance one another, not always following one another as cause and effect. As Eccl. 9:11 says, ‘time and chance’ enter in and prevent calculation. No one can foresee what will be ‘after’.

God alone holds all things in His hands and works all things according to His purposes.

                He has allowed free will and uses the evil (that’s many times a by-product of it) to cause all things to work together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose (Gen. 50:20, Prov. 16:4, Luke 22:31-32, 2 Cor. 12:7-9, Rom. 8:28).

It’s easy in the day of prosperity (good) to be joyful and rejoice, but what can we consider and learn in times of adversity (or evil)? 

“You have heard of the patience of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—…” (1st part of James 5:11). Job was a perfect and upright man who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1). Satan was allowed access to Job to destroy all he had and afflict his health as well.  His aim was to have Job sin and curse God (Job 1:6-19, 22, 2:1-10). This didn’t happen, but God used what Satan meant for evil to teach Job a lesson. God demonstrated His omnipotence in contrast with man’s impotence (Job 38-40:2, 6, 41:34). Job learned that true wisdom justifies God and condemns self (Job 40:3-5, 42:1-6). Job also learned that “—the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (end of James 5:11, Job 42:12-17). In the New Testament, it was the tax collector who cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner” who was justified, not the hypocritical Pharisee with his outwardly righteous deeds (Luke 18:10-14).  It’s a broken heart and a contrite spirit that the Lord does not despise, not the proud of heart (Psalm 34:18, 51:17, Prov. 16:5, James 4:6). By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil (Prov. 16:6).

                It’s important to refresh our mind with these truths– especially in times of adversity, as it will help us keep our focus on the things above rather than on man’s limited, corrupt, and fallible wisdom (Col. 2:8, 3:1-3).

Take scientific knowledge for example, this type of knowledge has been a great help when used rightly in our society, but has limitations. It can’t deal with everything, nor provide the solution to every problem.  Science can only deal with that which is in some way observable and measurable in the physical universe.

· It can’t know the ultimate nature of things. It can know what things do by observing, but not what things are.

· It can’t know the origin of things, nor fathom past processes. It wasn’t present so it can only speculate about it.

· It can’t deal with values, purposes, and interpretations, nor predict the future with certainty. Unforeseen elements affect science’s models and numbers that it can’t factor in, so final, absolute answers can’t be given.

· It can’t control all possible forces or know the reason “Why”? It can only know a fraction of something of its nature by observing what it reveals through its activities.

· It can’t say what ought to be. In all its observations, science is really discovering what is, or what happens

Man’s wisdom, apart from Divine revelation is impotent (1 Cor. 2:14, Rom. 11:33-36, Heb. 4:12).

                Every limitation from above is not a limitation to God.  As the Originator and Designer, God knows the origin and ultimate nature of things (Gen. 1:1, Job 36:26, Ps. 90:2-3, Prov. 3:19, John 1:1-3, Col. 1:16, Rev. 4:11). He can fathom past processes as He’s omnipresent, not confined in the boundaries of time. He can (and does) predict the future with certainty.  He’s almighty and so can control all possible forces. God knows the reason “Why?” and is all-knowing and wise beyond our thinking (Job 34:21-22, 36:5, 22-23, 55:8-11, Isa. 46:11, Matt. 8:27, Rom. 11:33-36).

                There will always be a “new normal” in our fallen world as God’s absolute truth fades in the minds of men and they turn to man to dictate what is normal (2 Tim. 4:3-4). True wisdom is to know one’s rightful place before the Lord and lean on His understanding (Prov. 3:5-7, 2 Tim. 3:15-17, 1 Cor. 2:14, 16, Heb. 4:12).

                Death is the great equalizer of each human being no matter their deemed essentialness in society.  The Lord is very compassionate and merciful, as He provided a way for us ‘dust balls’ (by no merit of our own) to have eternal life with Him! God’s manifold wisdom and the abundant riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus will be displayed in the ages to come (Eph. 2:4-10, 3:10).  How can we not be in awe of such a God? How can we not stand in grace and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, knowing our adversities lead to hope? (Rom. 5:1-5) 

                Let’s not miss the lesson that God allows times of adversity to teach. Let go of self and Let God, knowing that His ultimate plan for goodness and justice will prevail. “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He will bring it to pass.” “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:5, 7).

Laura    

Showing Signs of the Virus?

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 4:23).

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).

                It’s in these times of uncertainty, where invisible viruses change our lives in tangible, physical ways, that one can become more susceptible to acknowledge one’s internal condition. 

One may look at him or herself in the mirror and appear fine, but outer appearances can be deceptive. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time appeared ‘clean’ and righteous outwardly, but their insides were defiled (Matt. 23:25, 28). The prophet Isaiah said in 64:6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

Each member of the human race has been infected with the SIN virus. It’s been passed from generation to generation ever since the first man contracted it in the Garden of Eden. No one is immune from the devastation and lethalness of it on their own (Gen. 3, Rom. 5:12, 18, 3:23, 6:23).

                God did not leave mankind helpless. He had a remedy. He sent His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to become the Suffering Servant and the Wounded Healer (Ex. 15:26, Isaiah 52:14, 53:5, Phil. 2:7, 3:10, Heb. 2:9, 9:14, 12:2). The panacea for the SIN virus comes in a serum of love. Jesus Christ’s precious blood was poured out on the cross to cleanse and save from sin all who believe and receive it (John 3:16, 10:9, 14:6, Rom. 5:8-9, Eph. 1:7, 2:4-5, Col. 1:14, 20, 2:14, 1 Tim. 2:3-5, Titus 3:4-7, 1 Peter 1:18-19).

                Once the transaction is complete, the believer’s eternal salvation is secure. Their citizenship is now in heaven, where their Savior is and their life is “hid in Christ with God”.  When Christ, Who is their life, shall appear, then they will appear with Him in glory— in glorious bodies that are like His—sin-free” (Eph. 1: 13-14, Phil. 3:20-21, Col. 3:3).  But in the meantime (in this fallen life), the SIN virus still lies dormant in the believer. In order to keep it inoperative and perform the good works that God wills the redeemed to fulfill, the sinful nature needs to be put to death (Col. 3:5, Rom. 13:12-14, Eph. 2:10, 2 Tim. 1:9-10, Titus 2:11-14, 3:8). Protective gear is a necessity and has been provided for the believer to wear in order to stand against all unseen attacks (Eph. 6:11-17). Experiences of pain and suffering in this world (as Jesus endured) will not be for nothing. The tribulations will work out patience and produce character that will lead to hope (Rom. 5:3-5)  One can endure being hard-pressed on every side, without being crushed; perplexed, without falling into despair; persecuted, without being forsaken; struck down, without being destroyed– all for the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:7-10).

                The prognosis is promising as one seeks the things above, where Christ is at the right hand of God, not on things on the earth. No need to get discouraged even though the outward body is perishing, because the inward self is being renewed day by day. For light afflictions, are but for a moment, and are working a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (Col. 3:1-3, 2 Cor. 4:16-18).  Endurance in this life is possible when one looks (as Moses did) to Him Who is invisible (Heb. 11:27).  Live life elevated in the risen hope He’s given us.                            Laura   

Fear & Panic are not Options

God’s Word is the best thing to turn to in times of trouble.  I remember when my youngest memorized Psalm 27:1 for a speech meet when he was in grade school. Since I helped him as he practiced, I memorized it too,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

This psalm was a prayer that David prayed in relation to Psalm 18, where he sang to the Lord words of praise in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul (a good psalm to read as well).

Take a look at Hebrews 11, where the examples of faith were met with all sorts of cruel and harsh temptations, trials, testing and suffering that included: being mocked, homeless, destitute, afflicted, tormented, tortured, stoned, scourged, imprisoned, sawn in two, slain by the sword, and more. In verse 35 it says, “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.”  How did they endure?  They looked to Him Who is invisible (vs. 27).  This was the precursor to chapter 12, which goes on to say, Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ endured the ultimate suffering so that all who believe in Him could ultimately live ‘pain free’.

Suffering, hardship and pain are by-products of our fallen world. The apostle Paul suffered through many trials of his own (2 Cor. 11:24-28, Phil. 3:12-14).

Many of us today have not, nor may not suffer and be tempted to the extent of the examples in the Bible (though some have &/or do on a daily basis).  It’s not so difficult to understand why then there has been so much fear and panic due to this current viral pandemic. The reason is found in Romans 5:3-4 where it says that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. If one has not gone through much suffering, then the things that lead to hope are lacking.

As Christians, fear and panic are not options. 2 Timothy 1:7, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” We know that “greater is He that is in us, then he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). We know that in the world we will have anguish: but we can be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We know that we can have peace amidst any storm that comes in this life. Jesus said to the disciples prior to his crucifixion, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27). We know that as the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippians, we too can be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to God. Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7). We, as those of faith in chapter 11 of Hebrews, must keep our focus upward where Christ sits on the right hand of God. That’s where our blessed hope is and where our strength to endure suffering patiently comes from (Col. 3:1-4, Titus 2:13, 2 Tim. 2:3, 10, 12, 4:5).

Psalm 27 ends with, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord.”                                Laura

Indebted

“What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own life?”  —Matthew 16:26—

Drowning in
inherited debt
Can't work off all this sin
Nolo contendere plea
There is no chance to win

Crazy thing
about our God
He placed the debt on Christ
Through His shed blood on the cross
His suffering did suffice

God's grace received
in faith believed
eternal life assured
Hidden assets,
growth potential
Instructions in His Word

Godliness,
a way of gain
and so is loss of self
Profits come as one invests
in Christ, the source of wealth

Bought with a price
with blood payment
a fresh new way to live
There's dividends
for some to come
the Righteous Judge to give

So grateful for
a high net worth
True wealth from God above
I am debt free
when I believe
He redeemed me
through His blood

Laura Kestly
Note: “nolo contendere” means ‘no contest’. Scripture references per stanza: (1) Rom. 3:23, 5:12, 7:24, John 6:63, Eph. 2:1-5,9; (2) Rom. 3:24-25, 2 Cor. 5:17-18, Eph. 2:13-16, Col. 1:19-21, 2:13-14, 1 Tim. 2:3-6; (3) Rom. 6:23, Eph. 1:14, 2:8, 3:8, Col. 3:3, 1 Pet. 3:4; (4) Rom. 11:33, Phil. 3:7-8, Eph. 1:7, 3:16, Col. 1:27, 2:2-3,  1 Tim. 4:8, 6:6; (5) Rom. 8:10-13, 1 Cor. 6:20, 7:23, Phil. 3:14, 2 Tim. 4:8, Heb. 11:6; (6) Eph. 1:7, 2:4-5

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