For What Are You Thankful?

 

Among the myriad of things for which I’m thankful, at this moment, it’s the two movie reviews I just read on Crosswalk.com. Freelancer, Michael Foust, writes about Frozen II[1] and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.[2] Both should be wildly popular at the box office, but for different reasons, and with different messages. Frozen II, while appealing to our “baby” generation, promotes the elements of witchcraft, fire, water, wind, and earth. And, using animism, gives each a soul and a spirit body.

 

Although Frozen II teaches courage in the face of adversity, it also conveys an antichristian source for Elsa’s courage/power, and this puts me in a bit of a predicament. As a long-distance grandma, I promised my granddaughters. I would buy them tickets to see the movie. They saw the first Frozen, and yes, it does have a bit of animism—Olaf, the walking and talking snowman. But Foust says Frozen II is darker. I’m not surprised, and in my opinion, it’s deliberately darker, so they can slowly capture our children’s hearts and minds. I’m concerned this movie may push my granddaughters over the top. Their faith in God, who is the True power,[3] could be deactivated, defused like a stick of dynamite. This is Satan’s ultimate goal because the Gospel IS the power—the Greek word dunamis [dynamite]—of God.[4]

 

On the other hand, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a story in the life of ordained Presbyterian Pastor, Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame, focuses on the fruits of the Spirit,[5] according to Foust. The one preview I saw showed Mr. Rogers kneeling by his bed in prayer. These are the things I want my grandchildren to see and remember. However, I guarantee my granddaughters won’t ask to attend this movie. Their ages are 4, 8, and 10.

 

Our son, their dad, thinks I’m crazy for being concerned with what Frozen II communicates, and maybe some of you are with him. Nevertheless, I know the creators of these types of movies have agendas fueled by the prince of this world. So what’s a grandma to do?

 

PRAY! I’m so thankful I’m a child of the Living God[6] that He allows me to come boldly to His throne.[7] And because of this, you might think I’m writing about prayer today, but you would be wrong. It’s the season of Thanksgiving. Let’s talk about the word, thankful.

 

Did you know the majority of Bible words translated thank, thanks, thankful, or thanking are the Hebrew word yâdâh pronounced yaw-daw’?[8] It means literally to use (i.e. hold out) the hand…especially to revere or worship (with extended hands). There is a second word, tôwdâh, pronounced to-daw’, derived from yâdâh[9] and properly meaning, an extension of the hand…adoration, specifically a choir of worshippers, and translated as (sacrifice of) praise, thanks (-giving, offering).

 

I love these words! They remind me of author and speaker, Liz Curtis Higgs, stomping her foot, throwing her hands forward, and shouting, “Ta-da!!”[10]

 

I think King David expressed thankfulness with this same exuberance. When he finally brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, his joy was uncontainable. Earlier, David had written a psalm of thanksgiving to be sung as they traveled. It is documented in I Chronicles 16, but its influence is felt throughout Scripture.

 

“On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank [yâdâh] the Lord:  Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! …Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”[11]

 

Scripture uses a few other “thank” words, yet each is associated with yâdâh. And all, in some way, bear the meaning of a lifted hand, a choir, a shout, an acclamation, or a sacrifice of praise. No wonder David also wrote, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”[12]

 

Oh, that we would be so in love with our Savior, that like David, we’d lift our hands, shout and sing thanks—yâdâhtôwdâh—to God uninhibited. And then, teach our children and grandchildren to do the same. [13]

 

Have a thankful and blessed Thanksgiving!

 

[1] https://www.crosswalk.com/culture/features/things-parents-should-know-about-frozen-2.html

[2] https://www.crosswalk.com/culture/features/things-you-should-know-about-a-beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood.html

[3] Ephesians 1:17-21

[4] Romans 1:16

[5] Galatians 2:22-23

[6] John 1:12

[7] Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 10:19-22

[8] Strong’s #3034

[9] Strong’s #8426

[10] https://www.lizcurtishiggs.com/lets-all-say-ta-da/

[11] I Chronicles 16:7-10, 34

[12] Psalm 141:2

[13] Deuteronomy 11:19

His Work of Art

For the last three or four weeks, I’ve been renovating my bedroom, and I’m not done yet. My poor husband, all my bedroom furniture is in my dining room. I’ve scraped loose paint, patched cracks and holes in the plaster. I’ve primed the woodwork, painted it, the ceiling, and the walls. Scrubbed and vacuumed the carpet, and yesterday, my husband fixed the window, but not without some damage to my newly painted woodwork. Ugh! Today, I’ll do touchups, move the furniture back in, and decorate. My goal is to create a beautiful and peaceful environment—a masterpiece—my work of art.

 

Our house is old, so anything I do is cosmetic. I’m not an HGTV type of renovator. Still, all this work and planning has given me insight into a verse I’ve been stuck on for quite some time—Ephesians 2:10. Originally, I contemplated the word walk, but now workmanship.

 

In the two previous verses, God tells us it is by His grace we have been saved. I know, I know. This is elementary, but please stay with me. In Ephesians 2:8-9, God makes sure we understand salvation is not of ourselves. It’s a Gift. We can’t work for it because if we could, there would be boasting. Nevertheless, this Gift comes through faith.

 

Seriously? We’re talking about faith now?

 

Yes. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.[1] Substance and evidence are tangible. Hope and things unseen are intangible, like faith. How do we reconcile the two since it’s impossible to please God without faith[2] and, as Ephesians implies, receive salvation? Romans tells us God gave to each one a measure of faith.[3] So, we didn’t conjure up faith on our own. And before that, Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…”[4]

 

Seems like salvation is all of God. Right?

 

The Father draws us by whatever means, and our measure of faith responds. Our problem? Free will. Either we believe or disbelieve. When we choose to believe, intangible things happen. We are adopted as sons, possessing every spiritual blessing in Him.[5] The trials of life are easier because God leads us through.[6] He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world,[7] meaning He knew and loved us even in our sin,[8] yet elected to give something we do not deserve—the gift of salvation.

 

And now, we have work to do.[9]

 

Work? Why? We are God’s workmanship[10]. This word is why I’ve been stuck. Workmanship or handiwork in the Greek is pŏiēma pronounced poy’-ay-mah meaning a product, i.e., fabric (lit. or fig.).[11] The LifeChange Bible study book gives the meaning as “a work of art,” kinda like my bedroom.

 

We are a beautifully woven fabric, crafted by our Maker, and all we had to do was allow our measure of faith to believe. God did it all. But He didn’t give us a costume or a cosmetic covering. No, we are a new creation,[12] changed inside and out, like a tapestry of cunning work—woven through and through. And because Jesus, God the Son, loved us enough to shed His blood and die on the cross for our sin, we, as God’s workmanship, must “walk” in His work here on earth.

 

And how do we walk? If we have truly believed, we walk in God’s Holy Spirit.[13] Again, it’s all of God—it’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.[14]

 

So, on this day, when our country celebrates evil and death, let’s celebrate Jesus. He’s not a cosmetic covering or a costume! Christ in you is your faith and your hope of glory.[15] You, my friend, are His work of art.

 

[1] Hebrews 11:1

[2] Hebrews 11:6

[3] Romans 12:3

[4] John 6:44

[5] Ephesians 1:3

[6] Proverbs 3:5-6

[7] Ephesians 1:4

[8] Romans 5:8

[9] Ephesians 2:10

[10] Ephesians 2:10

[11] Strong’s Concordance

[12] II Corinthians 5:17

[13] Romans 8:1-4; Galatians 5:16-18

[14] Galatians 2:20

[15] Colossians 1:26-27

Run In Such A Way

 

Orlen_Warsaw_Marathon_2014_al._KEN
Orlan Warsaw Marathon 2014 – By Adrian Grycuk – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32152574

 

I’ve never thought much about marathons before today. Have you? Even with the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, I didn’t think about the race. I only thought about the tragedy. I guess my simple, nonathletic mind has trouble understanding what would drive someone to run such a distance. But, I truly admire those who do.

 

Did you know marathons originated around 490BC? According to www.justrunlah.com, the marathon came to be “at the time when the Persians were invading Greece.” This was four years prior to Xerxes ascending the Persian throne, seven years before his outlandish party, and about ten years before Esther became his choice for queen.[1]

 

Supposedly, a Greek messenger, Pheidippides, ran from the Battle of Marathon to proclaim to the people of Athens, that the Greeks defeated the Persians. Unfortunately, after running such a distance without stopping, Pheidippides fell to the ground and died of exhaustion.

 

Originally, the running distance of 40.8 kilometers was used for the first Olympic Games in 1896. JustRunLah.com indicated it’s the distance between the battle of Marathon and the city of Athens, or it could be the distance between Athens and Sparta as another source pointed out. Fittingly, a young Greek, Spyridon Louis, won the first Olympic marathon.[2] Since then, the race distance changed to 42.195km, or 26 miles, 385 yards.

 

Why do you need to know this information? First, it’s interesting, and you never know when the question will come up on Jeopardy [ha, ha]. But secondly, many times our Christian walk is compared to a race or marathon. For us, ordinary folk, running 26 plus miles is impossible, yet it is also impossible to live for Christ without the Holy Spirit, although countless people try every day.

 

Referring to Grecian or Isthmian races where many run, yet they produce only one winner, Paul writes, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? RUN,” he says to Christians,in such a way that you may obtain it.”[3] Obtain what? The prize of an imperishable crown from Jesus Christ our Lord.[4]

 

Still, with the Christian race, it’s different. ALL who RUN in “such a way” obtain the crown. No one loses. This is so unlike the races known to man. But, how do we run that we may obtain this crown from our Lord? King David explains, “For by You [O LORD] I can RUN against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall.”[5]

 

David knew he only did these by relying on God’s Holy Spirit. He says, the Lord our God saves, lights our lamp, and enlightens our darkness. His way is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. He is our Rock, and He arms us with strength. Almighty God makes our way perfect. In fact, when we truly believe God’s Word and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, He makes our feet like the feet of a deer – swift, steady, and sure, so our feet do not slip.[6]

 

Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t see it in my life.” Well, I feel for you. But, let me ask, have you had your spiritual eyes opened?

 

Job said, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now (through his trial and God speaking) my eye sees You.”[7] Jesus said, “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”[8]

 

If you know you are born again, and your eyes still do not see, something is wrong. Hold fast the Word of life.[9] Believe God and pray. Jesus will open your eyes that you may see His hand at work and RUN strong. Moreover, this is what he told the prophet Habakkuk, “Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may RUN who reads it.” [10]

 

Whether this passage means RUN strong or RUN away from the judgment to come, without the Word of God and the refreshing of His Spirit, oh, we can run, yet we will crumble, fall, and die in the end like Pheidippides. Nevertheless, by our Lord, by His Word, and through His Holy Spirit, we will read, RUN, and not be weary. We will not faint.[11] And we will finish our race with joy.[12]

[1] Esther 1 and 2

[2] https://www.britannica.com/sports/marathon-race

[3] I Corinthians 9:24

[4] I Corinthians 9:25

[5] Psalm 18:29

[6] Psalm 18:27-36

[7] Job 42:5

[8] John 3:3

[9] Philippians 2:16

[10] Habakkuk 2:2

[11] Isaiah 40:31

[12] Acts 20:24

Happy Endings

HAPPY ENDINGS

 

I love happy endings. Don’t you? More and more, I find myself staying away from disturbing movies, books, or TV programs, in favor of a lighter, sweeter, and pleasing finale. I guess that’s why I watch the Hallmark Channel and HGTV. Every movie on Hallmark has a happy ending. And, have you ever viewed a “fixer upper” type show where the family didn’t love their home?

 

Recently, the Lord gave me a happy ending when He taught me the deeper meaning to a passage of scripture I had wondered about for years. This happened during a prayer vigil at church. In preparation for our prayer time, each person would read two chapters of scripture. That day, I read John chapters one and two.

 

You see, I understood John 2:1-11 on the surface, yet I always felt it had significance beyond the words I read. From time to time, I would ask for clarification, but nothing. So, I’d set it aside and move on. Funny thing though, on the day God opened my eyes, I wasn’t asking for an explanation. Still, in the reading, my heart must have asked, even if my lips didn’t.

 

The passage recounts the first miracle of Jesus, and those of you who are Bible students will recognize it as the wedding at Cana. With His miracle of turning water into wine, Jesus saved the day. He kept the family from suffering great humiliation when their wine ran out. The couple in love, not only entered into wedded bliss, but they were able to serve the “bestwine almost three-quarters of the way through the wedding feast.

 

Did you realize this happy ending had a deeper meaning? And, does the deeper meaning even matter? For me, it does, and I bet it matters to you as well.

 

I get that a wedding is one of those normal, everyday occurrences, and I’m sure it wasn’t the only wedding Jesus attended, but this is God’s Word. God never does anything in Scripture without a good reason. So, let’s walk through it together.

 

In the very first verse, we see the miracle happened on the THIRD day. The third day or the number three in scripture is always important. Three is God’s number, and it refers to resurrection. Therefore everything that follows must, in some way, point to Jesus. Our job is to learn how.

 

Skipping to verse eleven, we also see it was the BEGINNING of SIGNS to manifest His glory. Wine, in scripture, often represents the Blood of Jesus, and it does in this passage. The question is why. And how does this symbolism fit with the fact that His friends ran out of wine at their wedding?

 

What God showed me blew my mind and made me burst into tears. He said it has to do with the BIG PICTURE and the words spoken by the master of the feast. “’…Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’” [1]

 

Believe it or not, this speaks of the old covenant versus the new. The inferior wine represented the OLD COVENANT – God’s Law with animal sacrifices, the blood of bulls and goats.[2] The good wine symbolized the NEW COVENANT in the precious blood Jesus spilled when He died for our sin and purchased our redemption.[3] God gave us His Law, the inferior first, and in the fullness of time, when we had well drunk, being saturated in our sin[4], He presented the Good Wine.

 

The good wine replaced the inferior. And as God helped me to understand this, everything else in the passage fell into place. My eyes saw the remaining symbolism, and trust me; there’s a ton more. Still, I’m humbled, and I feel very unworthy of such deep revelation.

 

If you would like to know what besides this is in the short passage of John 2:1-11, I’d like to say ask me, because I would love to share. However, the best person to ask is Almighty God. He’s just waiting to reveal His Word [5] and give you your own happy ending.

 

[1] John 2:10

[2] Isaiah 1:11; Hebrews 10:4

[3] Luke 22:20; I Peter 1:18-19

[4] Romans 5:8

[5] Jeremiah 33:3

Jesus Wept

Last Thursday, when our roads were snow-covered and a bit treacherous, I ventured out to the hairdressers. A New Year and time for a new me, right? It had been over two years since I sat in a beautician’s chair and conversed while she did my hair. I can’t say that I missed those types of superficial conversations. However, Thursday’s discussion was different. We talked about retirement, a so-called life of leisure, and social security. When I mentioned to her that she should not just depend on the money she will receive from social security, she said she would not rely on it because Social Security will probably be bankrupt by the time she is ready to retire.

 

I’ve heard people saying this for years, and maybe it’s a valid concern. Still, what shocked me was the thought that jetted through my mind, “We probably wouldn’t have to worry about SS bankruptcy if the 60 million plus babies aborted since Roe v. Wade in 1973 were working, tax-paying citizens.” Did I express my sentiments? No. It wasn’t the time for such a deep conversation, and she did have my hair in her hands (Lol).

 

That same day, I learned of a horrendous decision made by the state of New York, where abortion is now legal at any point in the pregnancy.[1] At first, I thought New York stood alone on this (I try not to watch the news, it’s way too depressing.), but today I saw a PragerU video where seven states plus Washington D.C. allow it.[2] NY is the eighth.

 

“Jesus wept,” was all I could think.[3]

 

Indeed, Jesus wept that day because he was caught up in the grief of Mary and Martha. I’ve had that happen to me when I’ve seen the tears of a friend. Not that I would ever compare myself to Jesus, but this shows his humanity. If Jesus wept at the death of His friend, Lazarus, when He full well knew the outcome, how much more does He weep over the hardened hearts who can happily kill an unborn baby and legislate laws so the evil will continue and spread?

 

Upon this thought, the Lord reminded me of Proverbs 6:16-19:  “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him:  A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”

 

According to God’s list, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and all the other Pro-death activists violated every one. They lied and deceived their state by calling it a Reproductive “Health” Act, declaring the baby is a blob of tissue even up to the point where it can live on its own outside the womb. How can their hearts be so cold? While one baby is dismembered in its mother’s womb, somewhere, another of the same gestational age, is carefully treated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and the parents pray for God’s mercy.

 

Haughty legislators devised this wicked plan, and their feet ran swiftly to evil. They urged women to proudly share their abortion stories, although, I’m sure, behind closed doors, these women are crying for the child they murdered. Legislators even smiled for the camera while they signed the bill. Pride doesn’t get much worse. The last thing these lawmakers have achieved is to cause discord. And, the gap grows wider every day – those who love God and His Word, who stand for right, and those who hate Him.

 

What really turned my stomach was when Gov. Cuomo ended his celebratory speech. Cuomo said, “God bless you.” An oxymoron if I ever heard one. How could he think so little of God and still expect Him to bless?

 

AND…Jesus wept.

 

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”[4]

 

[1] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/york-apos-landmark-abortion-rights-163022060.html

[2] http://l.prageru.com/2k9VQWw

[3] John 11:35

[4] Revelation 22:20

The WORD Became Flesh

THE WORD BECAME FLESH

     “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.[1]

 

The Word, as a double-edged sword,[2] pierced eternity, “Let there be light…”[3]

 

Thus began the infinite perfection of the eternal, triune God’s design. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had planned and would now bring it to pass. Six days creating something out of nothing, one day of rest, and then the unthinkable. God’s humans chose to disobey His command. Sin and death entered,[4] and the whole of creation groaned.[5] A cloud of darkness enveloped the people of earth like a shroud.[6] Sin had doomed man to death. Would they eventually cease to exist? Was there a way for man to be saved?

 

God was not surprised by man’s sin. He is all-knowing. His plan had many facets, and in time, all would be revealed.

 

Years passed. God spoke to one man in each generation. His Holy Spirit moved upon this chosen, so they penned God’s Word with meticulous care, perfect and infallible.[7] Yet mankind continued in vain thoughts, and their foolish hearts darkened.[8] Wickedness reigned. Only one family of eight, out of thousands upon thousands, remained pure, wholly dedicated to the Almighty. And God’s Holy Spirit grieved.

 

All, but these eight, perished in the necessary worldwide flood, and from them, the Lord repopulated the earth. God’s Word endured, increasing with His promise to never destroy the planet again with a flood.[9] In opposition and vice, man’s sin nature persisted. At the tower of Babel, God confounded their languages. Family members separated seeking others of like speech. With this, God stirred the gene pool and two generations later, in Peleg’s generation, He divided the earth into continents.[10] Where people had desired to stay together to make a name for themselves,[11] they were now scattered over the face of the whole earth reproducing their sinful ways.

 

Only Shem, one of the original eight, and his descendants remained devoted to the Lord God of creation. Decades later, God had grown one line of Shem’s family into a million, and out of them, He chose one man to lead. In a series of miraculous events, God brought these million out of Egyptian slavery and into a land He had promised. More of His plan unfolded.

 

But as fickle and sinful humans go, these would forget God and His miracles. They would discard His Word and turn to false gods. Due to their sin, through ups and downs, they suffered drought, famine, sword, and dispersion, even though God used His mouthpieces, the prophets, to pen, speak, and sometimes shout His Holy Word.

 

Across centuries of withering grass and fading flowers, the Word of God stood eternal in the heavens and true, everlasting, and unchangeable on earth.[12] Still, God had not fully revealed His plan. And although His Living and Infallible Word stated these mysteries, human eyes were not opened to complete understanding.

 

Since God’s Word must be fulfilled and His plan must come to fruition, He brought His chosen people back to His Promised Land. With the Jewish Scriptures, our Old Testament, complete, God waited. After four hundred years, He broke His silence by sending the angel, Gabriel, to speak to an elderly priest. Six months later, Gabriel spoke the Word of God to a teenage, virgin girl, named Mary.[13] And more of His plan was revealed.

 

Mary would miraculously become pregnant. She would conceive in her womb…bring forth a Son, and…call His name Jesus.[14] “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” Gabriel continued, “and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”[15]

 

In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of [this] woman.[16]

 

Jesus, Immanuel, Holy One, Son of God, are names by which we know Him. But He has another, more revealing name, The Word of God.[17] This Word, who was and is God, became flesh for us. It’s His birth we celebrate at Christmas. Fully God, fully Man, He knew no sin. Only a sinless human could pay sin’s penalty to save humanity. Jesus, God, the Son, was manifested to us so He could die on a cross for our sin, conquer death, and destroy the works of the devil.[18] This was God’s plan all along.[19]

 

The Word became flesh for you!

 

If you haven’t already, will you choose to turn from your sin and accept His precious Gift this Christmas? It’s free.[20] It will cost you nothing, because, it cost Him everything.

 

Have a Merry and very Blessed Christmas.

[1] John 1:1

[2] Hebrews 4:12

[3] Genesis 1:3

[4] Romans 5:12

[5] Romans 8:22

[6] Isaiah 25:7

[7] II Peter 1:21

[8] Romans 1:21

[9] Genesis 9:11

[10] Genesis 10:25; I Chronicles 1:19

[11] Genesis 11:4

[12] Isaiah 40:8

[13] Luke 1:5-38

[14] Luke 1:31

[15] Luke 1:35

[16] Galatians 4:4

[17] Revelation 19:13

[18] I John 3:5-8

[19] I Peter 1:18-20

[20] Romans 6:23

Are You Wholehearted?

Philip_Stanhope,_4th_Earl_of_Chesterfield
                                                             Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield By Allan Ramsay National Portrait Gallery:      NPG 533, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6356695

 

In March of 1746, the British statesman and 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Philip Stanhope, said, “Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.”[1]

All my life I’ve heard that quote or a variation of it. But what does this saying mean?

To me, it means doing things with your whole heart.

So, let me ask, do you do things with a whole heart? And if you do, what is it?

 

Some give their whole heart to doing Thanksgiving and Christmas right. And some, like me, barely squeak by. I’m sure there are things I do with my whole heart, yet at the moment, I can’t think of one.

 

So what does it mean to do something with a whole heart? As soon as I asked that question my fifth-grade training kicked in, “When in doubt, look it up!” I’m high-tech now. I don’t actually use a book, I use Google!  I typed in whole heart. Google gave me a replacement word, wholehearted, and only one definition:  “Showing or characterized by complete sincerity and commitment.”[2]

 

That makes sense, but my subpar mind needed a bit more. When I considered some of the synonyms I really started to understand: Committed, positive, devoted, unshakable, unswerving, without reservations, unconditional, complete, total, and absolute.

 

Wow! Strong words. I’m feeling pretty small right now. Nevertheless, after a few moments, I realized these synonyms remind me of my great and glorious God. No wonder I was feeling small. He is the totally committed, unshakable, unswerving, unconditional, complete, and absolute One. He has always been this way and always will be. Nothing; no outside influence can ever change Him.[3]

 

Outside influences, on the other hand, do change us. When faced with adversity can anyone be totally unshakable? I know I can’t, but I want to be. I desire to say with King David, “I will praise You, O Lord, with my WHOLE HEART; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.[4] …With my WHOLE HEART I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments![5] …Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my WHOLE HEART.”[6]

 

Yet, I’m not sure I do. At times, my sin nature hinders me and I pray I’m never like Judah, turning to God in pretense.[7] But in these moments of concern, I need to trust God more. “Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly…though I walk in the midst of trouble, You [O Lord] will revive me…Your right hand will save me.[8]

 

Of course, our Almighty, Triune God is the only wholehearted being in existence. And because we are true, forgiven believers, washed in the Blood of the Lamb, He lives in us. Every day His indwelling Holy Spirit is molding us into more Christ-like beings, generating wholehearted devotion. Thus we can seek, praise, and love God AND others with a WHOLE HEART.

 

The problem is there’s a world out there seeking what we have in Jesus, but they’re looking in the wrong places. With whole hearts, they strive to find and do things that can only be found and done in Him. Let’s be ready this Thanksgiving holiday to plant the seed of God’s Word in their hearts and pray Christmas waters it. That way, if they allow it, God will make it grow.[9] He can replace their stony heart with a new heart of flesh,[10] and say to them as to Israel, “I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their WHOLE HEART.”[11]

[1] https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Philip_Stanhope,_4th_Earl_of_Chesterfield

[2] www.google.com

[3] Malachi 3:6

[4] Psalm 9:1

[5] Psalm 119:10

[6] Psalm 119:34

[7] Jeremiah 3:10

[8] Psalm 138:6-7

[9] I Corinthians 3:6

[10] Ezekiel 36:26

[11] Jeremiah 24:7

Prayer Strategy From Football?

Justin pink football jersey October 2018
Honoring National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Photo by Bentley Photography

Each football season, my husband, Scott, and I look forward to watching our grandson, Justin, play football. It’s thrilling live action, as though you’re right in the game. You hear clashing of helmets; almost feel the hits. And for those, like Scott, who played high school football, you’re transported back in time, remembering the game, the plays, and what it took to win.

Scott amazes me. He understands and sees everything in the game, each move Justin makes, when he’s on the field and when he’s off. Me, I can barely keep track of the football. Most of the time I have to look for the pile of bodies to know where it is.

Our Justin plays defense. He’s a linebacker, I think. At least that’s what the newspaper called him when he intercepted a pass. Anyway, a football team’s defense doesn’t usually score points, although Justin’s defensive squad has scored several times this season and actually won a game for us.

Even though I’m not a super football enthusiast, recently when I was reading the book, Spiritual Warfare, by Dr. Karl Payne, Leadership Development & Discipleship Pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, WA, and Chaplain of the NFL Seattle Seahawks, I got excited. I came across his strategy for effective battle in the unseen realm. When he used the words offense and defense relating them to prayer, I naturally thought of Justin.Justin's football game 2017

In football, as in life, a strong and powerful defense is needed. Defense is designed to hold back the opponent and stop them from scoring. Defense reacts to what the adversary is doing. However, a tough and aggressive offense is just as important. For the offense to win the game, they need stratagem. They follow plays designed to cut through the enemy’s line, move the ball downfield into enemy territory, and score.

Dr. Payne says, “I encourage believers to call upon God not only to protect them from evil (defensive prayer), but also to expose and tear down those trying to destroy His Children (offensive prayer).” The enemy, he says, is “…no match for the One committed to protecting us.”[1]

I totally agree. Psalm 71:2-3, I believe, is a good example of defensive prayer:  “Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth.”[2]

Psalm 35 seems to be what Dr. Payne calls offensive prayer“Plead my cause, O LORD…fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler…stand up for my help…draw out the spear, and stop those who pursue me…Let those be put to shame…brought to dishonor…turned back and brought to confusion who plot my hurt…And let his net that he has hidden catch himself; in that very destruction let him fall.”[3]

So, if I understand correctly, defensive prayer is asking God to restrain the enemy and stop him from scoring points in our life, much like a football team’s defense. But offensive prayer seems forceful and forward moving. It’s asking God to go before us, tear down the enemy stronghold, cut through their defense, and create an opening for us to shoot through, cross the goal line, and win the victory.

Yet, a football field is lengthy, as is our trek. There are tackles along the way and sometimes we need our defense to play while we strategize. In those disheartened, wounded, and weak times, we must remember, God Almighty IS our defense and our offense. Our strategy / responsibility is to run behind Him, believe, PRAY, and ask. Sometimes God says, “…stand still and see the salvation of the Lord”[4] while enemies turn on themselves. And sometimes, He says FIGHT. We draw near to God, resist the enemy,[5] put on the armor and use the Sword of the Spirit.[6] God becomes our Blocker plowing a hole through the enemy’s line. We, then, run through, score, and WIN, because, He has already won.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[7]

[1] Spiritual Warfare, Dr. Karl Payne, Pg. 142

[2] Psalm 71:2-3

[3] Psalm 35:1-8

[4] Exodus 14:13; II Chronicles 20:17

[5] James 4:7

[6] Ephesians 6:10-18

[7] I Corinthians 15:57

FALLING PREY TO FALSE GODS

For the past year, my Sunday School Class has been doing a verse by verse study of the book of Hosea. It’s a short book, only 14 chapters, but there is much for us to learn. Next Sunday, we will begin Chapter 13 and in my opinion, this is the most important chapter. Why you ask? First, because the Gospel is clearly presented. Second, it shows the power and majesty of our Triune God. Third, the poignant fact that help for this doomed northern kingdom of Israel is found in no one else but the Lord their God. And lastly, because of the strong parallel to our nation.

 

God used Hosea to “act out” His love for His chosen people, the whole house of Israel. Yet since the Cross of Jesus Christ and the other sheep our Lord continues to bring into the fold,[1] the spiritual lessons of Hosea also apply to us.

 

So, what can we learn? Hosea 1:1 says, “The word of the Lord that came to Hosea…” This was Hosea’s calling as a prophet. The name Hosea, taken from the same Hebrew root as Joshua and Jesus, means salvation. No coincidence here.

 

During Hosea’s prophesy, Israel was in a period of economic growth. Yet, with prosperity, apathy most always follows, quickly leading to idolatry. In chapters 1 – 3, Hosea portrays God’s love for idolatrous Israel. God considered Israel His wife and their idolatry was akin to harlotry and adultery. Therefore, Hosea was to marry a prostitute. He chose Gomer, who bore him three children and then returned to her life as a prostitute.

 

The Lord said to Hosea, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel…”[2] So, Hosea purchased her from her owners and brought her back into his home almost as a captive. This illustrated God’s love, Israel’s future captivity, and eventual return.[3]

 

In chapters 4 through 12, God brings charges against Israel. They are tried, convicted of adultery, and sentenced to captivity by the Assyrian army. But in chapter 13, God again shows He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He prefers they turn from their evil ways.[4] Yet He knows they will not.

 

Caught up in idolatry, Israel forgot God. His Word was relegated to suggestions instead of Law. In turn, the world’s philosophy darkened their foolish hearts.[5] Sin increased daily because they did not seek first His kingdom and righteousness.[6]

 

I see the same in our nation. We’ve discounted the Christian principles on which we were founded and have sought the false gods of self, prosperity, and pleasure. We’ve discarded God’s Holy Word and turned a blind eye to His warnings to Israel.[7] Sadly, America is headed down the same path and we will suffer destruction unless the Lord extends mercy.

 

Yet, a nation does not fall prey to false gods without it first happening within the individual hardened heart. These rebellious ones foolishly think God’s Word is irrelevant for daily life and that the philosophies of this world have something to offer intellectually.[8] Then, seeking others of like mind, together they evangelize for the god of this world.[9]

 

Still, in the midst of sentencing Israel, our longsuffering[10] God gives a message of hope and salvation. “Yet I am the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt, and you shall know no God but Me; for there is no Savior besides Me. I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought…O Israel, you are destroyed, but your help is from MeI will be your King…I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death…”[11]

 

Shouldn’t we surrender and allow this God to search our heart,[12] to reveal what priority we place on Him and His Word, versus the things of this world? When we do, He will forgive our sin and lead us in the Way everlasting.[13]

[1] John 10:16

[2] Hosea 3:1

[3] Hosea 3:2-5

[4] Ezekiel 33:11

[5] Romans 1:21

[6] Matthew 6:33

[7] I Corinthians 10:11

[8] I Corinthians 3:19

[9] Matthew 12:30; II Corinthians 4:3-4

[10] Romans 2:4

[11] Hosea 13: 4-5, 9-10, 14; Mark 10:45; Titus 2:13-14

[12] Psalm 139:23

[13] Psalm 139:24

God IS Greater

Memories

Sometimes memories are marvelous and comforting. Remembering wonderful moments of our life – being hired for the job we dreamed of – love – marriage – the birth of our children – watching these children grow, experience life and love. Yet, sometimes memories aren’t so great. Sometimes mistakes we’ve made or things done to us flood our minds causing remorse, anxiety, depression, and feelings of worthlessness or blame.

 

Where do we go with these feelings? If we are true believers, we have repented, received forgiveness, and God’s Gift of salvation. So why do bad memories still plague us? Are they merely lies of the enemy filling our mind? Could they be something else, or maybe, a combination of the two? Good questions.

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