A Christian Manifesto

Christians today have become more conformers to the world rather than transformers renewed by God’s Word. The lies the serpent spun in the garden have been ‘repackaged’ throughout the ages, though the underlying perversion and ‘reimagining’ of God’s Truth has remained.  It’s even more so now than ever in our ‘sound bite’, ‘out of context’ society that’s too busy to research, study and think for oneself.   

The late Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer gave a moving call to Christians back in 1982 (2 years prior to his death) called: “A Christian Manifesto— America’s moral crisis and what Christians must do”.

This was his response to “The Communist Manifesto” of 1848 and “The Humanist Manifesto” documents of 1933 and 1973.  

Take a moment to listen to his well thought out talk explaining why morality and freedom have crumbled in our society–sadly even more relevant 38 years later.

It depends–Independence from what?

As the parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence was being signed, Samuel Adams declared: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”

                America may celebrate its emancipation from British rule this Independence day, but sadly America should mourn its independence from God.

Founding Father John Adams envisioned Independence Day to be celebrated by generations to come as the great anniversary festival. He said, “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”  And while we celebrate by doing many of these things, we’ve omitted, “solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty”.  Anything good, right, and true comes from above (James 1:17). JFK reminded Americans that, “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”  

                History allows us to learn from mistakes made in the past, but it can also help us remember what was done right and has worked.  One only has to read the book of Judges in the Old Testament of the Bible to see how things went when the Israelites turned away from God and “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”  General Douglas MacArthur said this, “History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline.”  America’s first president George Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”  Ronald Reagan, our 33rd president proclaimed, “Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience…without God there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure…If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” 

                Is it any wonder that our country today is in the mess it’s in?

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:13-18).

                Dependence on self or the flesh brings about these things: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like (Galatians 5:19-21).

                Dependence on God bears the fruit of the Spirit, which is: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). There is freedom where the Spirit of the Lord is (2 Cor. 3:17).

                Which would you rather be ruled by?

                God’s ways are superior because He is superior. He doesn’t judge people or show favoritism by outward appearances, but sees the inner man (1 Sam. 16:7, Job 34:18, Prov. 5:21, 15:3, 16:2, 21:2).  If we ever hope to go back to being one nation under God, we mustn’t show favoritism or partiality to any one group or people over another. Injustice is injustice— Evil is evil no matter your ethnicity, economic status, or station in life. Showing partiality is a sin (James 2:9, Prov. 24:23, 28:21, Mal. 2:9, 1 Tim. 5:21). Love rejoices in the truth, not in unrighteousness (1 Cor. 13:6). “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” (Prov. 29:25).

                Imperfect men and women can do great things for the glory of God when they put their trust in Him. As General Lee led his army of 76,000 men into Pennsylvania, panic took hold of Washington, DC. In the midst President Lincoln remained strangely confident. He later told a general wounded at Gettysburg, “When everyone seemed panic-stricken…I went to my room…and got down on my knees before Almighty God and prayed…soon a sweet comfort crept into my soul that God Almighty had taken the whole business into His own hands…”

                Christ Jesus made of himself no reputation and took on the form of a slave and came in the likeness of men. Although He was innocent, He suffered ridicule, humiliation, beatings, and was spit on. Still He humbled Himself and died on the cross, paying the penalty for the sin of mankind. After this, God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him to His rightful position. God offers life and liberty to all who believe and receive what Christ Jesus did on their behalf (Phil. 2:5-11, Mark 10:34, Isa. 53:3-7, Rom. 8:34, 1 Cor. 15:20, 2 Cor. 5:21, John 3:16).  Salvation is not for a select few, each man and woman has the opportunity to become emancipated from their bondage to sin. It requires no work on their part. It’s a gift from God to be received with gratitude (Rom. 6:22-23, Eph. 2:8-9).

                Freedom in Christ is not freedom to do whatever one wants. It’s freedom to live righteously—something that can’t be done when one is enslaved to sin (Rom. 7:15-24). This liberty enables one to serve one another in love, not to bite, devour, and consume one another (Gal. 5:13-15).

                After President Eisenhower signed the Congressional Act and Joint Resolution to add the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 he said, “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”     

We can only influence others, not control them. As an individual, choose to declare your dependence on the Lord.  Don’t fret because of those who bring wicked schemes to pass. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. As you commit your way to the Lord and trust in Him, He will bring it to pass (Ps. 37:7, 5). We’re only strangers passing through this life, our true citizenship is in heaven, from where we eagerly await the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20).

Laura

Love One Another Right Now

I loved the Youngblood’s song, “Get together” when I was growing up. I was inspired to create this piece, as the message is applicable today (in light of all that is going on in our world). “Love” defined by God is: longsuffering, and kind. It does not envy, nor parade itself. It’s not puffed up. It does not behave rudely, nor seek its own. It is not provoked and thinks no evil. It doesn’t rejoice in iniquity (unrighteousness), but rejoices with the truth (as it wins its way). .. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13).

Let this mindset be in us as we love one another.

Laura

Who’s Leading You?

I have an old picture of a shepherd tending his flock along with a word plaque hanging on my kitchen wall. It gives me comfort and encouragement to look at it as it reminds me that I can trust the Lord as my Shepherd to guide me throughout my day.

The first mention of sheep was in Genesis 4. We’re told that Abel was a keeper of sheep (a shepherd). He brought the firstling (and choicest) of his flock as an acceptable offering to the Lord (Gen. 4:2, 4). In Genesis 12:16, we find that Abraham also kept sheep (among other livestock). In Exodus, the Passover was instituted using a lamb (a male of the 1st year, without blemish) (Ex. 12:3-14). David was a shepherd boy and utilized his shepherd’s bag to store the stones he chose for his sling to kill the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 16:11, 19, 17:40).

“Lost and Found: Parable of the Prodigal Son” by Laura Kestly

                The nation of Israel is referred to as lost sheep (Jeremiah 50:6, Matt. 10:6, 15:24). Jesus tells the Parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15, challenging the Pharisees and the scribes by saying, “What man of you having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine to go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he rejoices. Likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance.”  This parable was a precursor to the Parable of the Lost Coin and then the Parable of the Lost Son (more popularly known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son). Both these parables also end in great rejoicing when the lost coin and son are “found” again.  God cares about the lost. Jesus says in Matthew 18:11, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”

                Jesus Christ is not only the True Shepherd, but He’s the Door for salvation, and the Lamb (Passover lamb) of God Who takes away the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:7, John 1:29, 36, 10:1-27, Acts 8:32, Revelation 5:1-8, 12, 7:17, 22:3). The 22nd Psalm portrays Messiah as the GOOD SHEPHERD on earth, in his suffering and death (See also John 10:11). The 23rd Psalm portrays Jesus Christ as the GREAT SHEPHERD, Who leads the sheep securely through resurrection life (See also John 10:27-30, Heb. 13:20).  In this Psalm, the Great Shepherd supplies:  Provision (vs. 1, 5), Rest (vs. 2), Restoration (vs. 3), Direction (vs. 3), Presence, Protection, and Comfort (vs. 4), Eternal Goodness, Grace and Security (vs. 6).  The 24th Psalm portrays Jesus Christ as the CHIEF SHEPHERD in glory (See also 1 Peter 5:4, Rev. 19).  Although these Psalms and the parables were directed to the nation of Israel, we can learn from them and receive comfort from them as well (Rom. 15:4).               

“Jehovah Shammah: The Lord is My Shepherd” by Laura Kestly

Like sheep, we each have gone astray and have turned to our own devices (Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23, Eph. 2:2-3). Our human tendency is to look inward (through our own perspective) and lead ourselves, but this is not wise (Prov. 3:5-7). Though we walk in the flesh, our enemies are not of the flesh, but of the spiritual realm. Who better to stand before us when unseen forces attack than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself! Only He is able to help us spiritually discern the ’wolves in sheep’s clothing’ and also provide the protection we need to stand strong against the wiles of the devil (1 Cor. 2:14, 16, 2 Cor. 10:3-5, Ephesians 6:10-13, Heb. 4:12). When we follow (as instructed in God’s Word) and keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, we’ll be able to walk in love, in the light and with wisdom (Eph. 5:1-2, 8-10, 15-17, 2 Tim. 3:15-17). So keep your eyes up on the Lord and He will lead you safely home (Col. 3:1-2, Ps. 121, Phil. 3:20-21).    Laura    

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