Discerning the Signs of the Times

                “It’s not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His power” (Acts 1:7). Not only does God have complete command over ‘times and seasons,’ but also over the specific ‘day and hour’ when the Son of Man will return. This knowledge is hid even from the angels (Mark 13:32, Matt. 24:36, 25:13).

                When we travel signs give us direction as well as forewarn us of things ahead. God through His Word gives us instructions to guide our life. He has given us prophecies or signs—many that have already come to pass.  Some signs point further out such as those of Matthew 24. They give information regarding the ‘beginning’ of the end as the prophetic clock’s alarm is positioning to go off to awaken Israel for their conversion, restoration, and blessing.

“You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you can’t discern the signs of the times” (Matt. 16:3).

                There are signs that believers today should discern (Matt. 16:2-3, 24:32-33). The word discernment in Greek is ‘diakrino’ and implies distinctions or differences.  It’s the exercise of judgment with special regard to ‘things that differ’ that balances pros and cons prior to reaching a conclusion (Phil. 1:10).  It’s sadly something we see very little of today where judgment is based on sound bites, partial information, emotions, and sensationalism.

Only through an all-knowing, infallible God can we have proper discernment. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all our heart and to not rely on our own understanding. In all our ways we should acknowledge Him, and He will direct (rightly divide) our paths. 

                Only through God’s Word will one know what is profitable for instruction, reproof, and correction so that he or she may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work that God has foreordained for them to walk in (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Eph. 2:10).

                Only God’s Word can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

                Only through God’s Word (not the world) can one’s mind be renewed to discern what the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God is (Rom. 12:2, 1 Cor. 2:13-16).

                The believer’s responsibility is to be diligent in not only studying and knowing God’s Word, but in rightly dividing it (2 Tim. 2:15).  This means that although everything in the Bible is written for our learning, it’s not all written specifically to us (Rom. 15:4). The times when God spoke to “the fathers” is distinguished from the time in which He has “spoken to us.” The time in which “He spoke by the prophets” stands in contrast with the time in which He spoke by His “Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). And the “time past” is obviously distinguished from “these last days”. In order to “rightly divide” the word of truth, it’s essential to regard the times in which the words were spoken, as well as the times to which they refer. 

                Questions a Bible student must always ask when they’re reading God’s Word are:

(1) WHAT is spoken or written?, (2) WHO is it spoken or written TO?, (3) WHO is it spoken or written ABOUT?, (4) At what TIME?, (5) With what INTENT?, (6) With what WORDS?, (7) With what CIRCUMSTANCES?, (8) WHERE? 

Always consider what goes before and what comes after—taking all things in the context they were written in.

TIMES AND SEASONS

                The ‘latter times’, which are the subject of the Spirit’s ‘express’ words in 1 Timothy 4:1, are signs we should be aware of. They are a precursor to the things that pertain to Israel at the time of the end.  The only prophecies that pertain within the realm of this present dispensation are found in Paul’s epistles written since Acts 28:28 (These include: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). The first great prophetic pronouncement is found in 1 Timothy chapter 4 which opens with the words, “Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some will depart from the faith.”  If we view this passage in light of the context, it will be found that the central core of Paul’s first letter to Timothy reveals two things that are set against each other: the apostasy of the later times with the mystery of godliness. The mystery of godliness is explained as “God manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).  The apostasy (forsaking) of faith of the last days of this dispensation is vitally connected with seducing spirits, doctrines of demons, the forbidding of marriage, the abstention from meats, old wives tales, and bodily exercise (1 Tim. 4:1-8). This departure from the faith will have immediate and future consequences. The immediate consequences are reflected in the state of affairs depicted in 2 Timothy 3 and 4.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come…” (2 Tim. 3:1).

This gives us a clue of the character that will be displayed during this time. The word perilous in Greek is Chalepos and is used of things that are hard to bear, severe, grievous, rough, rugged, and dangerous.  When used of persons, it indicates that they are hostile, angry, cruel, bad-tempered, nasty, and generally mean-spirited. This same Greek word is used to describe the mental condition of the men possessed with ’devils’, who were ‘exceeding fierce’ in Matthew 8:28.

“…For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:2-5)

At the same time this falling away from the faith will prepare the way for the greater apostasy that’s prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2 (belonging to the dispensation that follows after this one). Thus the apostasy of 1 Timothy 4 is the beginning opposition to the mystery of godliness, which resistance reaches its fullness in the manifestation of the man of sin. In order for the apostasy that’s foretold in 1 Timothy 4 to be carried out, two entities need to work together. One is spiritual and the other human. The spiritual entities’ responsibility is to seduce with their doctrines of demons, while the human agents, with their seared consciences, become ‘lie-speakers’. These pawns of the devil are similar to those that will be taken in and deceived in the future because they received not the love of the truth…and had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:9-11). Interesting to note that references to ‘The Truth’ and ‘the Word of God’ are positioned on either side of the departure in 1 Timothy 3:15 and 4:5. It’s ‘The Truth’ that sets the captive free (2 Tim. 2:25-26), and it’s away from ‘The Truth’ that the false teachers will redirect the ears of those who willingly become ensnared to do the devil’s bidding (2 Tim. 2:26, 3:6). 

                The darkness only deepens as the end of the ages draws near.  Mind you, these warnings are for believers. Just as ‘faith comes by hearing’ so does deception. Either the believer holds fast to the mystery of godliness (and the Head of the body), or they start upon a downward path that leads via the doctrine of myths to the mystery of iniquity (a ‘form of godliness’ that’s devoid of power).  This should be enough to warn the believer to be vigilant and to make sure all the armor of God is in place. It’s vital that the believer’s focus is on the Lord and His Word no matter how it becomes attacked or ignored (Eph. 6:10-18, 2 Tim. 4:2, Col. 2:8, 16-21).

                So hold fast to God’s faithful word and don’t be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17, Titus 1:9). And remember our true citizenship is in heaven where our blessed hope and our glorious and great God and Savior Jesus Christ await us (Phil. 3:20-21, Titus 2:13).

Laura

WHERE DO WARS AND FIGHTS COME FROM?

What stirs up strife, hatred, anger, wrath, and pride? (Prov. 10:12, 15:18, 28:25, 29:22, James 4:1-2, 4)               

GOD: THE LAWMAKER AND LAW ENFORCER

                God has provided an orderly world. (Gen. 1:14, Eccl. 1:4-7, 3:11, Job 38:31-33, Isa. 40:12). His creation has been designed and executed perfectly—displaying His power, holiness, and righteousness (Ps. 18:30, Ps. 19:7, Rom. 1:19-20).  “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). The universe obeys certain laws. These laws (ordinances of heaven and earth, Jer. 33:25) are precise and many of them are mathematical in nature (laws of physics, i.e. law of gravity…).  Natural laws are hierarchical in nature. Secondary laws of nature are based on primary laws of nature, which have to be just right in order for our universe to be possible. Laws are nothing in themselves. In all the works of God we find not only what we call “Law” and a “Law maker”, but we also discover a “Law enforcer”.  The most fundamental laws of nature exist only because God wills them to. He upholds and sustains them in the universe He’s created (Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:2-3). God created man and woman in His own image to have dominion over all the living creatures that He had created. God also allowed man and woman to have free will.

INSURRECTION IN THE GARDEN 

Anarchist: a person who rebels against any authority, established order, or ruling power.

                God placed man and woman in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it (Gen. 1:26-28). He had commanded them of which tree not to eat of, and told them what would happen if they did (Gen. 2:15-17). We’re not told how or when the anarchist got into the garden, but we do know a bit about his background.  He had previously challenged and revolted against God’s authority long before he ‘slithered’ into Eden.  He is known by different names: Lucifer, the Devil, Satan, and the great Dragon (Rev. 12:9). His past position was as God’s anointed cherub, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  His performance was first-rate in the role God placed him in from the day he was created until iniquity (perversity) was found in him. His heart grew prideful due to his beauty and so his wisdom became corrupted.  Lucifer wasn’t content with the high ranking post that God had given him. He wanted to be like God, the Most High. Instead God removed him from his position and cast him to the ground (and the angels that followed him) (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:13-18, Rev. 12:9). 

                We find him next persuading Eve in the garden to question what God had said. It didn’t take long to deceive her into breaking God’s command and convincing Adam to as well (Gen. 3:1-6). They were reprimanded and given the penalty for their disobedience and cast out of the garden. The chaos and calamities that befall mankind are a direct consequence of Adam and Eve’s rebellion from divine law and affect not only mankind but all of creation (Gen. 3:16-19, 23-24, Rom. 5:12, 8:20-22). 

KNOW JESUS. KNOW PEACE. 

There is one Lawgiver, Who is able to save and to destroy (James 4:12).

                The great pronouncement and prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that God gave to the serpent provided mankind with a glimmer of hope, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” See also 1 John 3:8. God, in His superior wisdom and foreknowledge had a plan already in motion. Due to His enormous mercy, He would send in an army of One Who would pay the ultimate price so that mankind could have access to eternal life as well as a new way to live in peace (in the midst of a fallen, chaotic world) (Rom. 5:12, 19, 2 Cor. 5:21, Gal. 1:4, Eph. 1:7, 2:8-9, Col. 1:4).

THE UNSEEN WAR

                “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war… Friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:1-2, 4).

                Even though the Christian’s eternal position in Christ is secure today, in order to walk in victory through the dark times on earth, a Christian must stay ‘hid in Christ’ where the enemy will have no power to tempt his flesh (Col. 3:3, Rom. 13:12, Eph. 6:10-13, 4:23-24). It’s an imperative to stay in God’s Word in order to wield His spiritual sword with discernment effectively (and not succumb to the wiles of the devil) (Heb. 4:12, 1 Cor. 2:12-14, 2 Cor. 2:11, Eph. 6:11, 17).                 

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:3).

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…” (Eph. 6:12).

The truth is we war against spiritual, unseen entities that are principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness of the age; spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Eph. 6:11).  As tempting as it is today to get caught up in worldly debates, remember that a Christian’s true citizenship is in heaven, not on earth (1 John 5:19, Phil. 3:20, Col. 3:1-2). Satan is an adversary, who waits around like a lion seeking who he can devour (1 Pet. 5:8). He’s a liar and deception is his mode of operating (John 8:44, Gen. 3:13, 2 Cor. 11:3, 14, 1 Tim. 2:14, Rev. 20:10).  His realm is in the corrupt fleshly nature, which all (believer or not) carry. That’s why for the believer (who has another option) is told to put off the old nature and put on the new. The old is the area that Satan has an opportunity to agitate and rile up emotions that generate envy, self-seeking, and prideful hearts. This often leads to anger, strife, and hatred, causing one to war against another. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there (Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 4:22-27, 5:11, 2:2, Rom. 6:6, James 3:14-16). 

NO JESUS. NO PEACE.

                God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Cor. 14:33).  God cannot lie, it’s not in His nature (Titus 1:2, Num. 23:19). His wisdom is from above and is peaceful, gentle, full of mercy, without partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17-18). God’s Spirit bears fruit (Gal. 5:22-23, Eph. 5:9). “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

                We shouldn’t turn our backs when injustices arise and we can be righteously angry. Our anger shouldn’t lead us to sin as this gives the devil an opportunity (Eph. 4:26-27). The way we conduct ourselves does matter. Our actions should be in love, as children of light, and with wisdom—redeeming the time because the days are evil (Eph. 5:2, 8, 15-16).

                Martin Luther King Jr., in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech said this, “…In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high place of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

STAY THE COURSE

                As the Bible tells us, the good guys win in the end (Rev. 20:10, 21:4, 22:3, 1 Cor. 15:26, 28, 1 John 3:8, 5:4-5). Be strong in God’s grace. It is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9, 2 Tim. 2:1). Don’t get caught up in the world’s ways and teachings that are ever changing, remembering they generate from the present ruler of the power of the air and demons (1 Tim. 4:1, 2 Tim. 2:4, Eph. 4:14). Speak the truth in love and preach God’s truth steadfastly and patiently (Eph. 4:15, 2 Tim. 4:2). Stay the course by fighting the good fight, keeping the faith and finishing the race (2 Tim. 4:7).

Laura

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