BECOMING UPWARDLY MOBILE

Rock that is Higher
Rock that is Higher by Laura Kestly

The Christian life, like mountain climbing, is all about challenge and perseverance–not everyone will reach the summit. It’s akin to a mountaineering expedition that many are content with staying at a low altitude. It’s a wonderful (or as my Grandma would say, “Marvelous”) thing to be saved purely by grace from a loving & merciful God for all that receive it by faith. Thankfully, salvation does come by grace rather than by our works of any kind & we can feel secure that it won’t be taken away (It’s a sealed deal-Eph. 2:8-9, 1:13). Sadly many Christians stop here (at the base) and set up camp. They never desire ‘things above’ or to become “upwardly” mobile (Col. 3:1-2). Some seem content as the Israelites were with their captivity in Egypt. The hazards of “falling rocks” & “avalanches” in their lives keep them at base camp rather than ascending toward the summit.

                To know and be secure in one’s salvation is a glorious thing and it should propel the believer toward good works. After all we are God’s workmanship & He even prepared ahead of time what our good works will be. He’s just waiting for us to walk in them (Eph. 2:10). Even though God has equipped us with all the proper gear that’s needed for our climb, we need to be willing to ‘work out’ what He’s already ‘worked in’–doing so with fear & trembling as a prize awaits to be won & a crown to be gained–but no man is crowned unless he strives within the rules (Phil. 2:12-13, 1 Cor. 9:24-27, 2 Tim. 2:5). The outworking comes as the hideousness of sin is exposed and the mind is renewed & understands what the good, acceptable & perfect will of God is (Rom. 12:2). All these the Lord uses to influence those willing to ascend to a Rock that is Higher (Ps. 61:2).

            BEWARE: LET NO ONE CHEAT YOU OF YOUR REWARD

            It isn’t just the obvious hazards of the climb that keep believers camped out. Satan doesn’t need to waste his time & energy in trying to deprive the believer of his acceptance in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6) as his life is ‘hid with Christ in God’–in the shadow of His wings (Col. 3:3, Ps. 91:1-2, 4). So Satan invests his time in trying to deceive the believer to turn away from the fullness of Christ—causing him to release his grip from the ‘Head’ (like gear protection from falling). The enemy accomplishes this through diversion–tricking the believer to be occupied with the philosophy & empty deceit of men & the basic principles of the world. This includes deluding the believer to delight in false humility, the worship of angels & be brainwashed into obeying the regulations according to the commandments & doctrines of men. These are only a facade of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, & neglect of the body, but are worthless protection against the indulgence of the flesh. Thus the devil’s scheme has effectively dishonored the believer and cheated them out of their reward. Their prize is lost & above all the Savior robbed–for what is a crown to the believer but an added crown to Him?” (Col. 2:1-10, 16-23). It’s not surprising that many have fallen off course in a society where instant gratification is promulgated whereas the reward in God’s economy goes to those who patiently suffer (Phil. 3:19, Heb. 12:1-2).

FOCUS on Upward Mobility. Avoid falling back. Look to the Rock that is Higher than you–where your true citizenship is (Ps. 61:2, Col. 3:2-3, Phil. 3:20-21). Be like the apostle Paul who desired to know what it was like ‘to walk in Christ’s shoes’ which involved a deep, personal relationship that was willing to partake of Christ’s suffering & shame–a fellowship & conformity that knew that the prize, reward and crown were worth the steep climb! So forget those things which are behind & reach forward to those things which are ahead–Press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14)! If we endure, we will also reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12). You can do all things through Christ who will strengthen you (Phi. 4:13)–So Ascend!      Laura

O Come Let Us Adore Him!

o-come-let-us-adore-him-webFor most, it’s far easier to grasp God as the Creator of the majestic mountains, the delicate flowers and the patterned butterfly than as a baby in a lowly manger.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

A few years back when my husband & I took a trip to Arizona for our 25th wedding anniversary we road-tripped to the Grand Canyon. As we stood on the rim of the canyon and gazed first-hand at its majesty, it was awe-inspiring & breath-taking.

                All creation bears God’s handiwork and the imprint of His touch as His eternal power & divine nature are revealed (Rom. 1:19-20). Pattern and purpose are visible everywhere–from the intricate design of a flower and butterfly to the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning & reproduction of the human body, as well as the reliable & orchestrated rising & setting of the sun.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

Purposefully God revealed Himself in the likeness of man (Hebrews 1:1-4).

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

–The same Word that is the invisible God.

–The same Word that is before all things & in Him, all things hold together (Col. 1:15-17).

–The same Word that upholds the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).

–The same Word, who being in the form of God, made Himself of no reputation, taking on the form of a bondservant and came in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:6-7), being born in a lowly manger (Luke 2:7).

Why?

                God chose to take on the likeness of man and suffer to pay the penalty (wages) of sin for man, which was death (on the cross), so that man could be redeemed through His blood (saved/released from the power & fear of death) and be reconciled to enjoy eternal life with Him (Rom. 3:23, 6:23, Col. 1:19-22, Eph. 1:7, 2:13-19, Col. 2:13-15, Heb. 2:9).

                God revealed this great LOVE for man (even while man was dead in trespasses) because He so LOVED the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (Eph. 2:4, John 3:16). It’s by grace man has been saved through faith (not of man’s doing)—it’s the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). But to enjoy a gift, one must first receive it–and this one through faith. Faith receives the gift that is undeserved.

                When God came as a baby thousands of years ago, He wasn’t well received (except for some angels, shepherds and wise men)–But after Christ died & was raised from the dead, God highly exalted Him and gave 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 (Col. 2:12, Phil. 2:9-11).

 O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant–

O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

  Laura

God’s Faithfulness in a Fallen World

great-is-thy-faithfulness-without-border
by Laura Kestly

GOD

faith•ful: loyal, constant, steadfast, true, trustworthy

“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful & gracious, slow to anger, & abounding in steadfast love & faithfulness.” –Exodus 34:6

“For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.”           –2 Cor. 1:20

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful–for He cannot deny Himself.” -2 Tim. 2:13

————————————————————————

MAN

un•faith•ful: disloyal, wavering, adulterous, false, unreliable

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23

Throughout the history of mankind, mortal man’s unfaithfulness to God is recorded.

  •  Man’s allegiance to God failed in the garden resulting in man’s separation from God to live in a sin-stained world with death as his sentence (Gen. 3; Rom. 5:13, 6:23).
  • In the days of Noah, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
  • “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:21-23).
  • God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel, had a pattern of being unfaithful to God. “…for a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore” (Hosea 4:12). “How the faithful city has become a whore” (Isaiah 1:21).

God commissioned Jeremiah as His spokesman to prophesy to a nation gone astray. Jeremiah lamented bitterly as Israel went into captivity and Jerusalem was desolated.

It wasn’t until Lamentations 3:21, where Jeremiah’s tone changes, beginning with a pivotal word, “but”. All seemed without hope to Jeremiah until ”but this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness…“therefore I will hope in him” (Lam. 3:21-24).

————————————————————————–

BUT

but: except for the fact

In man’s failures of unfaithfulness to God above, all is not lost–there is a “but”…

                Mankind should be so very thankful that God’s great faithfulness is coupled with great love & mercy. The Psalmist declares, “Thy mercy O Lord, is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reaches unto the clouds.” -Ps. 36:5

  •  but Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8).
  • “for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
  • but God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:4-7).
  • but now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13).

                Alas, this fallen world continues to be filled with disappointment and sadness whether over the loss of loved ones, failing health, broken appliances, vehicles & relationships…or even disappointment with our very own short-comings, but we can be like Jeremiah and keep God’s Words of hope in the forefront of our mind as we cling to the Father of lights Who never changes as we hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; FOR HE IS FAITHFUL THAT PROMISED” (James 1:17, Heb. 10:23).

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” –Isaiah 40:8

 With a thankful heart, Laura

AFRAID OF SCARY THINGS IN THE DARK?

fear-not-armor-of-god
Fear Not: Armor of God by Laura Kestly

If we really believe in just what we see in our world today, we can be filled with fear.

One only has to look at the events going on in the news every night (not to mention the Presidential election) to realize we live in frightening times.

                The truth is that we do wrestle against some pretty scary things–things that we don’t actually see but are pretty mighty like: “principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age–spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). The enemy or bad guy in our scary movie, the devil, is a wily one with ‘tricks’ that may appear as ‘treats’ as his mode of operation (Matt. 13:39, Eph. 4:14, Gen. 3). The fact is that he was a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies (John 8:44). This prince of demons (Matt. 12:24) wants us to believe that it’s “flesh & blood” (the physical human person) that we wrestle with, instead of the very real, dark spiritual forces behind it. Satan is an incredible illusionist– a master of disguises. He is able to deceive many when he transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). That’s why God has provided us with a costume of sorts for our protection—it’s called the armor of God (aka the Lord Jesus Christ). When one chooses to put on this protection, they will become ‘hid in Him’ and able to stand in strength & mighty power against the devil’s tricks (Col. 3:3, Eph. 6:13-17).

Believers can take comfort that greater is He who is in their inner man than he who is in the world (1 Jn. 4:4, Eph. 3:16). When we ‘put on’ the Lord Jesus Christ, we also put on love (Col. 3:14, 1 John 4:7-12). God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. The one who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).

                When we’re fearful we rely on our own fallible understanding & ways rather than trust in an almighty infallible God, Who moves in mysterious ways that we do not always understand. It’s helpful to be constantly mindful that God’s purpose is never the same as man’s purpose (Isa. 55:8-9). A Christian believer is someone who trusts in the knowledge & the wisdom of God, not in his own abilities or in man’s wisdom (1 Cor. 1:20-21, 2:5, 3:19; 2 Cor. 1:12). If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the calm, relaxed pace which should be characteristic of a child of God.

                Who hasn’t given their all physically at a time or two (or three…) and become exhausted? But when one gives of themselves spiritually (relying on an almighty, powerful source) their strength is enhanced, not depleted (Isa. 40:29; Eph. 3:16 6:10). Fear & worry steal the strength that God freely has available for us to be utilizing each moment of our day.  

                As we look to the Author & Finisher of our faith, we can be motivated to move in love, not fear (Heb. 12:2).

I find it helpful to consistently ask myself, “Are my words and actions motivated by love or by fear?” If I find they are motivated by fear, I pray to cast down this false thinking & renew my mind in the right spirit (2 Cor. 10:3-5, Eph. 4:23, Rom. 12:2).   There is some truth in what the character Yoda, in the movie Star Wars said,

“Fear is the path to the dark side,

Fear leads to anger,

Anger leads to hate,

Hate leads to suffering.”

The suffering referred to is not the suffering that is patiently endured in the Christian faith (Col. 1:24, Phil. 3:10, 2 Tim. 1:8), rather it’s the suffering that’s rooted in fear and doesn’t lead to a peaceful resting in God.

                So let’s pursue love, not fear and cast off the works of the dark side, and put on the armor of light–the Lord Jesus Christ–making sure there’s not any room for the flesh (or fear) (Rom. 13:12, 14).                     Laura

FRUSTRATED? MISSING THIS?

nisi dominus frustra web print“Nisi Dominus Frustra”–three forgotten words that were brought back to memory after a recent cleaning of my art room. The small canvas that I had painted of this saying had fallen off a wall & was wedged in between cabinets. I picked it up & looked at it—remembering the Latin words meaning immediately: “Without the Lord—Frustration”. This forgotten truth had also fallen away from me–lost in certain areas of my life.

 The reality is that there is nothing (not one thing) that is good that dwells in any of us apart from God in Christ. Our fallen, fleshly nature is corrupt & should not be trusted (Rom. 7:18, 3:23). Truly, “To err is human”. We mere mortals are so easily deceived (as our earliest ancestors were in Gen. 3:5) in believing that we are God and so we go about our day in our own self-sufficiency (thinking we have it all figured out) as we make our plans excluding God from our thoughts and conversations (prayers). For those of us who have chosen to believe and receive the gracious gift of God in Christ we have another Divine option available that doesn’t have to rely on fallible wisdom (Rom. 8:9, 26, 15:13; Eph. 1:13, 3:16, 4:23).

 Without God one only has to look at Romans 1:18-32 & Eph. 2:12 (or at much of our world today).

We’ve seen how our country has deteriorated in the areas where God has been removed. When I catch myself striving in my flesh during projects, errands, household tasks—life’s circumstances, I know that I’ve forgotten to make God first, consulting Him through His Word and prayer.

 Frustration sets in

as a man sets his own course

without thoughts from God

 God seems to have an interesting way of upsetting the plans we’ve made when we don’t bring Him in on the initial stages of things. We may find ourselves in circumstances that weren’t chosen by Him and suddenly realize that we’ve been “leaning on our own understanding”, not trusting in Him with all our heart. Proverb 3:5-6 says, “In ALL your ways acknowledge Him (not just in what we consider the more important things) and He will direct your paths.”  The following verses show the benefits of including the Lord in every area of life—besides a lack of frustration, there will be direction, established plans, and a renewal that brings strength and health to our lives.

  •  “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established” -Proverb 16:3-
  • “Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in Him; and He will bring it to pass.” -Psalm 37:5-
  • “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” –Psalm 127:1-
  • “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” -Proverb 16:9-
  • “…those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength…they shall run & not be weary, they shall walk & not faint.” –Isaiah 40:31-
  • “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.”  -Proverb 3:5-7-

With God all things are possible—we have purpose, love, mercy, forgiveness of sins, hope, peace, protection, & escape from temptation (Matt. 19:26; Eph. 2:10, 2; Rom. 15:13, 5:1; Phil. 4:9; Eph. 6:10-17; 1 Cor. 10:13)…and a lack of frustration!

 

Laura

 

 

WHY WE CELEBRATE…

United States Patriotic License Plate ArtThe Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the

thirteen united States of America,

            When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

            We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

            He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

            He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of Immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

            He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

            He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

            He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

            He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

            He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

            He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

            He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

            He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

            He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

            He as affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

            He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

            For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

            For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

            For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

            For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

            For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

            For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

            For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

            For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

            For suspending our own Legislatures and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

            He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

            He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

            He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

           He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

           He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

           In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

            Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesces in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

           We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

 Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott;

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean;

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton;

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton;

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry;

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton;

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark;

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris;

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn;

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross;

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery;

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr. Arthur Middleton;

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

I SPY BEAUTY

Beauty noticed
“I Spy Beauty” by Laura Kestly

Mid spring in Wisconsin is a special time of the year that wonderfully delights the senses. The greens are the most vibrant–the cacophony of birds chattering & singing after a long winter is most evident and the smells of the earth coming to life are truly intoxicating. All are a welcome reminder to slow down, step outside, pause & savor God’s wonderful creation–for these moments are all too fleeting in our fallen, chaotic world.

                God gives us these glimpses of beauty, respite and repose to savor & later meditate on so that we can carry the anticipation of eternity in our hearts, giving us hope, especially when life is more difficult.

As a final encouragement to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul encouraged them to mediate on whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, praiseworthy, virtuous and of a good report (Phil. 4:8).

In Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible) verse 37 says, “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.”

As I go on my walks, I am reminded of the great beauty of God’s creation begging to be noticed (even amid the trash, car noises, & road kill along the way). Creation in all its forms appear from the ground up toward the sky, yet we often choose to keep our head down in our smart phone–plugged in to our playlist and spending time with ‘friends’ on Facebook rather than in person.

The artist Georgia O’Keeffe, known for her enlarged flower paintings, once said, “Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”

Spending time with God Himself, the epitome of beauty, should be our number one priority (Job 40:10).

David’s prayer in Psalm 27 included (in verse 4) his desire to seek the Lord & behold His beauty (pleasantness, delightfulness). I wrote the following poem about 6 years ago, but thought it was fitting to share again.

 The Beauty of a Moment Noticed

by Laura Kestly

The beauty of a moment noticed

requires a slower pace—

A purposeful derailment

from life’s busy- jam-packed race.

 It’s usually when, through times of trial

the earth seems to slow its spin—

Perception changes as we peer

from the outside looking in.

But God is ever present

in each moment of our days—

Waiting for us to quiet ourselves

to learn and trust His ways.

It takes a thoughtful pause to notice

the clouds, the birds, the trees—

To feel God’s loving Spirit

gently blowing as a breeze.

To look and really see someone

beyond the exterior side—

needs slow and thoughtful discernment

from the One Who longs to guide.

The beauty of a moment noticed

is for those who make the time—

And when we pause to feel His presence

It’s always so sublime.

Laura

 

CAGE FREE LIVING

      BE FREE     Remote control, cruise control, video controllers, weight control… Most people enjoy being in control or “thinking” they are in control because things turn out the way they want when they’re in control–pain, displeasure & unhappiness can therefore be avoided—Well, we know that’s not always the case.

                The reality is that in life there are things we can control and things we cannot. It’s a wise person who understands the difference because the more accurately we think about something, the healthier our lives will be and sadly the opposite will ring true as well.

So really what in this life can we control?  

            If you’re a parent you can try and protect your children by feeding them the right food, placing them in the proper schools, and making sure they get their regular checkups… but a deadly disease or a freak accident can still occur. Your children will also (most likely) not always make the smartest choices in life.

                If you’re a responsible citizen and work hard and pay your bills and taxes on time there is still a chance that you can have your identity stolen or be a victim of an economic collapse (like in 2008) where you can lose money that you’ve saved for years in your 401K. And, oh yea, let’s not forget about natural disasters–tornadoes, floods, fires and the list goes on.

In this life there really are no guarantees.

            God was the perfect parent and provided his children with the perfect environment, blessing them with access to everything in this paradise with the exception of partaking from one of the trees. He also allowed them this ‘little’ thing called ‘free will’ (the ability to make their own choices). God warned them if they ate of the forbidden tree they would die (Gen. 2:15-17). Sadly they chose to listen to ‘the deceiver’ rather than obeying what God had said and so sin & death came into the world for all mankind (Genesis 3). Thankfully God provided another way for those who receive what God has done through Christ. Believers do have absolute assurance of redemption & eternity with Him in the heavenly places (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 1:3-13, 2:1-9).

So really what in this life can we control?

            The things we have control of: Our own thoughts, choices and actions.

                The things we don’t have control of: Everyone and everything else (although we do have control over how we react to everyone & everything else).

We can be responsible and take appropriate ownership of what is ours to be in charge of and do whatever needs to be done. We can also influence others by our own words and actions.

                The following are some helpful tips from God’s Word to be mindful of. When practiced they will simplify your life and help equip you for ‘Cage Free’ living:

  • ACCEPT what is (what you don’t have any control over) and LAY ASIDE every weight & the sin which so easily & persistently troubles & afflicts you–the deceitful lusts & desires of the deceiver (Heb. 12:1-2, Eph. 4:22).
  • DON’T BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD & TAKE ON or get caught up in the philosophy & empty deceit according to the tradition and doctrines of men and the basic principles of the world instead of Christ. These things have the ‘appearance’ only of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility…but don’t really help guard against sin–these are the things that ensnare and take you captive to do the devil’s will instead of God’s (Rom. 12:2, Col. 2:18-23, 2 Tim. 2:26, 2 Cor. 4:4).
  • RELEASE what was (forget those things which are behind) (Phil. 3:13).
  • CAST DOWN anything that tries to rise above the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5).

There are some burdens that we are called to bear and so for those we need to remember to allow God to be our strength unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness (Col. 1:11, Phil. 4:13, Neh. 8:10, Matt. 11:30, 2 Cor. 4:17).

  • HANG ON & HOLD FAST to the Head which is Christ (in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; & you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power) where there is nourishment and growth (Col. 1:8-10, 2:19).
  • TRANSFORM & RENEW YOUR MIND so you’re in tune with what God’s good, acceptable and perfect will is (Rom. 12:23, Eph. 4:23-24, 1 Cor. 2:10-16). This will give you the peace of God and guard your heart & mind through Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).
  • GO FORTH and run with patience the race set before you, holding on to the Head, Jesus, the Author & Finisher of your faith (Heb. 12:-2). Reach forth to those things which are in front of you and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14). God has not given you a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7).

CHOOSE TO BE FREE!   If the Son sets you free you are free indeed! (John 8:36)

Laura

 

HURRY UP & BE STILL!

Be Still and Know I am God

Have you ever felt surrounded by life’s problems and demands–hard-pressed on all sides, encircled by stressful situations, chaos, noise & temptations–weak & defeated by a sickness, chronic health issue or watching a loved one suffer? Or perhaps you’re just tired of this fallen world and feeling a bit hopeless. Well, if any of these sounds familiar to you then you’re not alone and may be a candidate to join the BE STILL MOVEMENT.  I say that tongue-in-cheek, but seriously, Hurry up & Be Still because time in this present world is short!

Back in the 14th year of King Hezekiah’s reign, the Israelites were surrounded on all sides by a formidable enemy. Many may be familiar with the Scripture verse, “Be Still and know that I am God” from Psalm 46. But most (including myself prior to studying this Psalm in depth) may not be aware of the history behind it. You see this Psalm (& the closely connected 47 & 48) are a trilogy of praise for special deliverance of Jerusalem from a foreign invasion. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and started overtaking them (Isaiah 36-37, 2 Chron. 32, 2 Kings 18-19). He was on a campaign that had swept the land, city after city falling into his hands. Jerusalem seemed about to share the same fate, for the Assyrian armies were encamped around it. On approach of the Assyrian hosts, to fortify the city, Hezekiah, consulted with his leaders & commanders. It was decided to have weapons & shields made in abundance & set military captains over the people. They rebuilt the broken wall & raised it up to the towers and erected another wall outside and repaired Millo in the city of David (the Millo, or filling up: i.e. of the valley between Moriah & Jebus). They also went about concealing the external approach & outlets that transported the water from the only spring (the Gihon) in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem (See note below**). Lastly Hezekiah encouraged the people to be strong and courageous & not be afraid for the LORD their God was with them to help fight their battles (2 Chron. 32:3-8).

Sennacherib was not going to let up. He began a verbal & written campaign, by sending his henchmen to boast against the Lord which included loud speeches in the Hebrew language to scare and trouble the Jewish people that were on the wall. No relief or deliverance was to be expected or possible unless God should intervene. It wasn’t until King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah prayed and cried out to God (2 Kings 19:15-34, 2 Chron. 32:20-22, Isa. 37:15-20) that the Lord sent his angel into the camp of the Assyrians, killing 185,000. Sennacherib left and returned to his home, remaining at Nineveh where it came to pass that while he was worshiping in the temple of his god, his sons used a sword to slay him (2 Kings 19:35-37).

Psalm 46 begins with “God is our refuge (to where one flees) and strength, a very present (near) help in trouble.” It continues, “Therefore we will not fear” (even if all is falling away around us–even if the waters are roaring and are troubled–even if the mountains are shaking with its swelling) (Ps. 46:1-3). Then there is a “Selah” or a pause which is to point out to us the contrast between the rage of the enemy (which is compared to an overwhelming flood) and the silent, secret purposes of God (which were working to overthrow them– vs. 4-6). These secret purposes are compared to the silent, secret, underground rock-cut channels of water (See note below***), which were ministering comfort and joy to the besieged, while they were hidden (as God’s purposes were) from the besiegers outside the city. The promise which had been given by Jehovah through Isaiah came to pass that night (2 Kings 19:31-35, Isa. 37:35-36) and brings us to the next “Selah” or pause that comes between verses 7 & 8, connecting God’s promised deliverance (in v. 5) & the assured confidence in the promise (v.7), with its realization in the actual deliverance of Zion from the enemy.  This pause compels one to take notice that by means small, secret, and silent (as those rock-cut channels) God can still the roaring and ragings of the nations– even to the ends of the earth. The past deliverance has its lesson for the present and future–God is faithful to His promises (Ps. 33:11, Heb. 10:23). One can “Be Still” (Heb. “rapha”-cease your efforts) & know that He is God.

Whenever I feel anxious or even think of relying on my own strength, I turn to read chapters 38-39 of Job or Ps. 33, as these & other Scriptures help remind me that I can (& should) cease from my efforts, be still and trust in The One Who spoke the world into being, calmed the seas, and resurrected Jesus Christ to life (Gen. 1, Ps. 33:6, Matt. 8:26, Eph. 1:20). God works in ways that are mysterious & beyond our comprehension (Deut. 29:29, Isa. 55:8-9) but He IS the calm beneath the raging storm. He IS the refuge from the enemy that is surrounding (Eph. 6:10-17, Col. 3:3). Even though we are hard-pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted & struck down. We are not crushed, in despair, forsaken & destroyed and will not lose heart. Even though our outward is perishing, our inward is being renewed day by day (in His strength) and we will look to the things which are unseen & eternal rather than the raging storm & enemy that is seen (2 Cor. 4:7-10, 16-18). We have been delivered from the powers of darkness & seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus (Col. 1:13, Eph. 2:6). We can faithfully stand & withstand in the strength of His might when we are hid in the armor of Christ Jesus Himself with His shield ready to extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (Col. 3:3, Eph. 6:10-18).

So Hurry up & Be Still and join the Movement. You can have peace amidst the raging storm when your mind is fixed on Him (Isa. 26:3, 2 Tim. 1:7, Prov. 3:5-8, Eph. 6:15).   Love in Christ, Laura  

**Interesting side note: This was the same site where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed (Gen. 22:2) and where David overtook the Jebusites shortly after he was proclaimed king over Israel & thus called it the city of David (2 Sam. 5:6-9, 1 Chron. 11:5-8). This area was where the 1st/original temple was built by Solomon and the same wall continued by him, afterward by Hezekiah & extended by Manasseh (2 Chron. 3:1-17, 33:14; 1 Kings 9:15, 24, 11:27).

***Interesting side note: A slab of rock from the rock hewn water tunnel/conduit, with ancient Hebrew inscription that records the completion of the tunnel, was discovered by Sir Charles Warren in 1867 (& now dubbed “Warren’s Shaft”). The Altar of Burnt Offering is shown on the site of “The Sacred Stone” which is exactly under the center of the present Moslem Sanctuary over it, known as “The Dome of the Rock”. This is the traditional site of David’s altar on “the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”