2 Sources of All Voices

Disinformation may be the most powerful form of deception.

VOICE CHOICE

By Laura Kestly

Cacophony of voices

dictating one’s choices

Babbling media

on overload

Itching ears fall for gurus

indulge selfish egos

Lies spun and believed

 bought and sold

God’s voice reigns supremely

spoke the world into being

It is powerful,

pure, tried and true

Hearing ears bring forth true faith

believing what God says

discerning the truth

and His will.

BEHIND ALL THE VOICES TODAY ARE JUST 2 SOURCES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask yourself:

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

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

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

                                                                                Laura

AN EYE ON DESIGN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In themselves are nothing.

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

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

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

Did we tell ourselves when to be born?

Did we have anything to do with our being alive?

Who told us when to cry?

We burst forth with the announcement:

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

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

Only a fool would think differently.

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

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

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

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

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura                                                                                    

He Took a Lowly Position


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prophesied of the Messiah in Isaiah 53:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “O Death, where is your sting?”

“O Grave, where is your victory?”

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

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

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

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

Laura

Waiting…

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

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

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

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

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

                There’s a lot to be learned in the wait

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

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

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

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

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

Laura

FROM SINNERS TO SAINTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura                                                        

HOPE–An Anchor for the Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura

Good Tidings of Comfort & Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura

RECIPE FOR A THANKFUL HEART

Peace of God
“Peace of God” by Laura Kestly

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

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

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

Letting the World Define You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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