By Leora Bridgewater
The following story illustrates how we often miss God’s direction because we are set upon our own way.
My nephew’s 10 year old son came for a visit one hot, July weekend. I was enticing him to stay inside by joining him in a Nintendo game. After being mercilessly defeated by a more experienced player, I suggested that we relax awhile. I collapsed into my favorite recliner to let my neck muscles relax and my ego recover from such a beating. He had slipped out of the room and I was catching a few relished moments of peace and quiet.
"Look, Auntie," he said enthusiastically as he ran over to the chair where I was recovering.
"I found a kite. Could we go outside and fly it?"
I peeked through the slats in the venetian blinds to watch determination in action. Up and down the yard he ran, pulling the kite attached to a small length of string. The plastic kite, proudly displaying a picture of Batman, remained about shoulder level. He ran back and forth, as hard as his ten year old legs would carry him, looking back hopefully at the kite trailing behind. After about ten minutes of unsuccessful determination, he came back in.
I asked, "How did it go?"
As he walked past me to return the kite to the closet shelf, I heard him say under his breath, "I guess I’ll have to wait for the wind."
At that moment I heard another Voice speak to my heart. "Are you not sometimes just like that? You want to do it your way instead of waiting for the Wind."
And the voice was right. How easy it is to use our own efforts to accomplish what we want to do. We wait for the Wind only after we have done all we can and have exhausted our own strength. We must learn how to rely on Him in the first place! (Author unknown)
David, the shepherd boy who became the second king of Israel, learned to wait on God’s wind. Samuel had anointed David to be king years before he actually took the throne.
David’s life was one of continual struggle and trying to avoid his enemies who had determined to kill him. Perhaps you can identify with him, though you may not be continually fleeing from someone trying to kill you. The rare person whose life goes so smoothly there’s no struggle is non-existent. We all have troubles and trials to deal with.
The Psalms written by King David are some of the most encouraging words in scripture. Whatever your trials are today, there is a Psalm that gives hope. David totally relied on God, as evidenced by his words:
Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O Lord! Let them be ashamed and confounded who seek my life; let them be turned back and confused who desire my hurt. Let them be turned back because of their shame, who say, "Aha, aha!"
Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, "Let God be magnified!"
But I am poor and needy; make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay. (Psalm 70)
Our first response to trouble is usually worry. Not David’s. "In You, O Lord, I put my trust; let me never be put to shame. Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape, incline Your ear to me, and save me. Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress." (Psalm 71:1-3)
Even when David had opportunity to kill Saul, he refused because Saul was God’s anointed man. He chose to wait on God for deliverance.
We can either take matters in our own hands when faced with crisis, or we can turn to God and wait upon Him for our answers.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalm 46:1-3; 10-11)
By: Leora Bridgewater
Easter Sunday, the official day we observe Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was not always a day of celebration. In fact, the first Easter was characterized by unbelief.
The same people who had been with Jesus for three years and saw Him heal withered arms, cast out demons and restore dead to life didn’t believe He had risen from the grave.
"Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either."
These were Jesus’ followers while He was on earth. One would think of all people they would believe. Unfortunately humanity hasn’t changed much. Sometimes it is the least expected one who really believes, as this fictionalized story illustrates:
Cassius stood at rigid attention in front of the commanding officer of Jerusalem’s military cohort. "Centurion," the officer barked, "explain yourself! One of your squads was assigned to guard a tomb, a dead man. What could be so hard about that? Now I’m hearing rumors that the body is missing? Tell me this is all a mistake!"
"Sir, may I be frank, one old soldier to another?" asked the Centurion. He and the Tribune went back a long way, though the Tribune was of the equestrian class, and he a mere commoner.
"Please, Cassius," the Tribune said somewhat more gently, and motioned for the Centurion to take a seat.
"I must beg your indulgence, sir," Cassius began. "The story actually begins weeks ago."
"Take your time," the Tribune said, relaxing somewhat.
"Ever since this Jesus began preaching around Jerusalem, we thought he might be some kind of revolutionary bent on stirring up the populace with his talk of the Kingdom of God. But I went and listened to him, sir. He was no threat. Thousands would sit in rapt attention as he would talk about his Father, and loving your neighbor, forgiveness from past sins, and beginning a new life. It was fascinating, sir. Made you feel like he cared about you personally, he did."
"The next I saw him, we had been ordered to stand guard outside the Governor’s official residence. The crowd was getting ugly. Pontius Pilate was sitting up there on the judgment seat and Jesus stood before him. Someone had roughed him up a bit, sir.
"What did you expect, Centurion?"
Cassius continued, "Finally Pilate motioned for silence. ‘I find no crime in this man,’ he called out. Then he tried to set Jesus free. He asked them to choose between Barabbas—a known murderer and rebel—and Jesus."
"And now that criminal Barabbas is walking free again."
"Jews from the ruling Sanhedrin were shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ The rabble took up the cry. It was touch and go for a minute there, sir. Then Pilate called for a basin, and began to wash his prissy little hands ...."
"Centurion, I’ll allow no disrespect," the Tribune said sharply.
"Yes sir, but you know Jesus was innocent, pure and simple. He had just offended some powerful priests. But when Pilate saw how the wind was blowing he went along. I thought Rome was about law and justice, not expediency."
"Ruling is sometimes dirty business, Centurion," interjected the Tribune.
"So is soldiering, sir. On your orders one of my squad was picked to scourge the man."
"Oh, they enjoyed it well enough," said the Tribune. "That tall soldier ... Publius, wasn’t it? He flogged like a madman, as I recall, with the metal tips of the scourge biting into his back until the skin lay in tatters and blood ran free."
"I’ve crucified hundreds in my time," Cassius replied, "but this man was different. He didn’t curse. He didn’t whimper. He was half-dead already from the beating Publius gave him, and he fell on the way to Golgotha."
"He was just too weak to carry the cross, so we conscripted a strong Cyrenean to carry it. Then we crucified Jesus."
"All men die the same."
"Not like he did," replied Cassius. "We spiked him to the cross-bar and hoisted it onto the upright, but I’ll never forget his prayer: ‘Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.’ Sir, I was responsible for killing him, and he forgave me."
"Haven’t you been a soldier too long to be troubled by a guilty conscience, Cassius?"
Cassius shrugged and said, "About noon, Tribune, the sky grew dark. Everyone saw it, and felt the cold chill when he cried, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ He sounded like the loneliest man in the world, hanging in the darkness. He spoke scarcely a word until three in the afternoon when he shouted, almost triumphantly, ‘It is finished!’ At that very moment the ground began to tremble and roll," said Cassius. "Knocked me to the ground for a moment. And then the darkness began to lift. I tell you, Tribune, that was no mere man we crucified, he was the Son of God!"
"A few freak coincidences and you’re willing to declare him divine? He’s just as dead as anyone."
"No, Tribune, he’s not."
"The chief priests and Pharisees insisted that Pilate guard the tomb so Jesus’ disciples wouldn’t steal the body."
"I know. I ordered it."
"We posted three men around the clock, relieved every eight hours as regulations call for. I sealed the tomb before they began. It was secure."
"So, what’s this rumor that the body is gone?"
"It is gone, sir."
"I’ll have your hide, Centurion!" the Tribune shouted, rising to his feet.
Cassius stood, too, but went on. "About seven o’clock Sunday morning, sir, the three soldiers on duty came running into the barracks like they’d seen a ghost. ‘Centurion! Centurion!’ they shouted. ‘He’s alive!’ I got them calmed down, and made them tell me every detail.
"Their shift had begun about midnight," he said. They had been wide awake all night—telling stories about their girlfriends back home most of the time, I understand. Then, just before dawn, they said the garden tomb lit up as if it were high noon, and an angel with garments like lightning came and rolled the stone away from the tomb. They just sat there trembling. Then one of them got up— Publius, I think they said—and looked in the tomb. The body was gone, and the graveclothes were lying on the limestone shelf wrapped round and round, but no body in them."
"You expect me to believe that?" the Tribune responded disdainfully.
"I questioned them closely. Each looked. Each saw the same thing. The body was gone."
"They must have fallen asleep, and told a story to cover themselves."
"They were battle-hardened veterans, sir, not some green troops. I know those men. Besides, sir, you’d think the sound of people trying to roll a huge stone would awaken sleeping soldiers. No, they were telling the truth, all right."
"What do you expect me to tell people, Centurion? That he rose from the dead?"
"I don’t know what you’re going to tell them, Tribune, but that’s what happened. He’s alive. I tell you, he’s alive!"
"We’ll tell the soldiers to say they fell asleep and his disciples stole the body," suggested the Tribune.
"What soldier is willing to say he fell asleep?" asked Cassius with a thin smile on his face.
"We’ll pay them to say it," said the Tribune. "The chief priests owe us. They’ll come up with a goodly sum to bury this story.... I’ll take care of it from here on out, Centurion. You didn’t see anything. You don’t know anything. Got it?"
"But I do know, and I did see, Tribune. I can’t change what happened. Jesus is out there alive. More than alive."
"Forget this ever happened, Cassius."
"Forget it if you can, sir. But with all respect, Jesus is alive, and that changes everything."
Cassius is correct. Jesus is alive! That changes everything for those who believe.
There’s something about a new year that encourages and invigorates. As we began 2018, no doubt many had resolutions for changes to improve life.
One of the most frequent resolutions made is to lose weight — made year after year by hopeful resolvers that this will be the year they will actually accomplish their goal. How many resolve to develop long term healthy eating habits once the weight is gone?
Others may resolve to really read through the Bible this year. There might even be a few who determine to live according to the Scripture, though it might mean giving up some selfish ways of looking at one’s self and other people.
Perhaps this is the year Jesus will return to earth. All kinds of possibilities await us and it is easy to get sidetracked by what might happen in the future and forget that God is Lord of each day.
"It is of the Lord’s mercies and loving-kindnesses that we are not consumed, because His (tender) compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 Amplified Bible)
My personal resolution, hopefully for not just this year but for always, is illustrated by this story:
A man was exploring caves by the seashore. In one of the caves he found a canvas bag with a bunch of hardened clay balls. It was like someone had rolled clay balls and left them out in the sun to bake. They didn’t look like much, but they intrigued the man so he took the bag out of the cave with him.
As he strolled along the beach, he would throw the clay balls one at a time out into the ocean as far as he could. He thought little about it until he dropped one of the balls and it cracked open on a rock. Inside was beautiful precious stone.
Excited, the man started breaking open the remaining clay calls. Each contained a similar treasure.
He found thousands of dollars worth of jewels in the twenty or so clay balls he had left. Then it struck him. He had been on the beach along time. He had thrown maybe fifty or sixty of the clay balls with their hidden treasure into the ocean waves. Instead of thousands of dollars in treasure, he could have taken home tens of thousands, but he just threw it away.
It’s like that with people. We look at someone, maybe even ourselves, and we see the external clay vessel. It doesn’t look like much from the outside. It isn’t always beautiful or sparkling so we discount it. We see that person as less important than someone more beautiful or stylish or well known or wealthy. But we have not taken the time to find the treasure hidden inside that person by God.
There is a treasure in each and every one of us. If we take the time to get to know that person and if we ask God to show us that person the way He sees them, then the clay begins to peel away and the brilliant gem begins to shine forth.
May we not come to the end of our lives and find out that we have thrown away a fortune in friendships because the gems were hidden in bits of clay.
May we see the people in our world as God sees them." (Author unknown)
Jesus looked at each person as a unique individual created by His Father for God’s own purposes. If you’ve ever doubted your importance to God, read Psalm 139. David, who wrote the Psalm, said "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them." (verse 16, Jeremiah Study Bible)
Jesus selected His twelve disciples on the basis of what He saw in each one, not how they appeared on the outside.
"The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’
And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’
Philip said to him, ‘Come and see,’
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’
Nathanael said to Him ‘How do you know me?’
Jesus answered and said to him ‘Before Philip called you when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’
Nathanael answered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’" (John 1:43-49)
In this New Year, the greatest news we can hear is that Jesus sees us as we are, yet still calls us to Himself. The best resolution one can make at anytime is to believe in the One whom God has sent. (John 6:29)
And our best New Year’s resolution is found in Proverbs 3:5-10): "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.
Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine."
Happy New Year to all. May this be the best year of your life in spite of troubles, disappointments, and setbacks because God is
"Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
Give me oil in my lamp I pray.
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
Keep me burning till the break of day."
This is the first verse to a children’s chorus that first appeared in church hymnals in 1760. The latest printing was in 2000. Two hundred forty years, long enough for the copyright to become public domain.
The refrain goes: "Sing hosanna, sing hosanna, sing hosanna, to the King of Kings! Sing hosanna, sing hosanna, sing hosanna to the King."
Second, third and fourth verses ask for love to keep sharing; joy to keep singing; faith to keep praying. The refrain is repeated between each verse. All in all, a thought-provoking tune.
Jeremiah, prophet to the nation of Judah, might have claimed this tune for his own encouragement had it been written at the time he lived.
The nation of Israel divided into two kingdoms in 931 BC after Solomon’s death. By the time Jeremiah came on the scene in ‘the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign’ (641-609 BC) the nation of Judah was well on its way to God’s judgment.
God had appointed Jeremiah a prophet even before he was conceived. (Jeremiah 1:5) He also told Jeremiah that he would face opposition: "Therefore prepare yourself and arise, and speak to them all that I command you. Do not be dismayed before their faces, lest I dismay you before them. For behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you.
For I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you." (Jeremiah 1:17-19)
Everything came to pass just as Jeremiah prophesied. Judah was taken into captivity, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, all because of the people’s refusal to give up their gods. "Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying: ‘As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you! But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble. But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.’" (Jeremiah 44:15-18)
These people made no connection with their actions to their circumstances. God had explicitly told them they were to have no other gods before Him.
Are we seeing a similar situation in our world today? Many people think if the economy improves it will solve most of our problems. In reality, that’s putting a band-aid on a cancer.
Jesus used a parable to describe what we can expect to happen: "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with the, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard; ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming, go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." (Matthew 25:1-13)
In the Bible, oil is a symbol of God’s Holy Spirit. Without His Spirit, imparted when we accept Christ as Savior, we have no ‘oil in our lamp.’
None of the gods of this world, power, prestige, money or fame, can supply oil for our lamps. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will insure that we will be ready to meet Him when He comes. And He will return to earth just as He said He would. "Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so some in the manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’" (Acts 1:9-11)
Jeremiah was faithful to God in spite of persecution from those who opposed his message. Will Christians today be faithful? We alone are responsible for our own spiritual walk with the Lord. Do we have oil in our lamps?
View From The Piew
Did you know one of the most popular Christmas songs ever written was an answer to a desperate father’s prayer?
On a December night in Chicago, a little girl climbed onto her father’s lap and asked a question.
"Daddy," four year old Barbara asked, "Why isn’t my Mommy just like everybody else’s mommy?"
Bob May stole a glance across his shabby two-room apartment. On a couch lay his young wife, Evelyn, racked with cancer. For two years she had been bedridden; for two years, all Bob’s income and small savings had gone to pay for treatments and medicines.
As he ran his fingers through Barbara’s hair, Bob prayed for some satisfactory answer to her question.
Bob May knew only too well what it meant to be "different." As a child he had been weak and delicate. With the innocent cruelty of children, his playmates had continually goaded the stunted, skinny lad to tears. Later at Dartmouth, from which he was graduated in 1926, Bob May was so small that he was always being mistaken for someone’s little brother.
Nor was his adult life much happier. Unlike many of his classmates who floated from college into plush jobs, Bob became a lowly copy writer for Montgomery Ward, the big Chicago mail order house. Now at 33, Bob was deep in debt, depressed and sad.
In December, 1938, Bob May told his daughter the following story:
"Once upon a time there was a reindeer named Rudolph, the only reindeer in the world that had a big red nose. Naturally people called him Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer."
As Bob went on to tell about Rudolph, he tried to communicate to Barbara the knowledge that even though some creatures of God are strange and different they often enjoy the miraculous power to make others happy.
Rudolph, Bob explained, was terribly embarrassed by his unique nose. Other reindeer laughed at him; his mother and father and sister were mortified too.
Even Rudolph wallowed in self pity.
"Well," continued Bob, "one Christmas Eve, Santa Claus got his team of husky reindeer - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixon - ready for their yearly trip around the world. The entire reindeer community assembled to cheer these great heroes on the way. But a terrible fog engulfed the earth that evening, and Santa knew that the mist was so thick he wouldn’t be able to find any chimney.
Suddenly Rudolph appeared, his red nose glowing brighter than ever. Santa sensed at once that here was the answer to his perplexing problem. He led Rudolph to the front of the sleigh, fastened the harness and climbed in.
They were off! Rudolph guided Santa safely to every chimney that night. Rain and fog, snow and sleet; nothing bothered Rudolph, for his bright nose penetrated the mist like a beacon.
And so it was that Rudolph became the most famous and beloved of all the reindeer. The huge red nose he once hid in shame was now the envy of every buck and doe in the reindeer world. Santa Claus told everyone that Rudolph had saved the day and from that Christmas, Rudolph has been living serenely and happily." Little Barbara laughed with glee when her father finished. Every night she begged him to repeat the tale until finally Bob could rattle it off in his sleep. He decided for Barbara’s personal gift to make the story into a poem like "The Night Before Christmas" and prepare it in book form illustrated with pictures. Night after night Bob worked on the verses after Barbara had gone to bed. He was determined his daughter should have a worthwhile gift even though he couldn’t afford to buy one.
As Bob was about to put finishing touches on Rudolph, tragedy struck.
Evelyn May died. Bob, his hopes crushed, turned to Barbara as chief comfort. Yet despite his grief, he sat at his desk in the quiet, now lonely apartment, and with tears in his eyes worked on "Rudolph."
Shortly after Barbara had cried with joy over his handmade gift on Christmas morning, Bob was asked to an employee’s holiday party at Montgomery Ward. He didn’t want to go but his office associates insisted. When Bob finally agreed, he took with him the poem and read it to the crew. First the noisy throng listened in laughter and gaiety. Then they became silent, and at the end broke into spontaneous applause.
Balsam wreaths and visions of sugarplums had barely faded in the first weeks of 1939, but thoughts inside the Chicago headquarters of retail giant Montgomery Ward had already turned to the next Christmas 11 months away. The retailer had traditionally purchased and distributed coloring books to children as a holiday promotion, but the advertising department decided it would be cheaper and more effective instead to develop its own Christmas-themed book in-house. The assignment fell to Robert May. What better choice than Rudolph, the story that delighted his daughter so?
Children snapped up nearly 2.4 million copies of the paper-bound book in 1939. Plans to print another 1.6 million copies the following year were shelved by paper shortages due to World War II, and Rudolph remained on hiatus until war’s end. When the reindeer story returned in 1946, it was more popular than ever as Montgomery Ward handed out 3.6 million copies of the book.
In the interim, May married a fellow Montgomery Ward employee and became a father again, but he still struggled financially. In 1947, the retailer’s board of directors, stirred either by the holiday spirit or belief that the story lacked revenue-making potential, signed the copyright for "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" over to May. In short order, May licensed a commercial version of the book along with a full range of Rudolph-themed merchandise including puzzles, View-Master reels, snow globes, mugs and slippers with sheep wool lining and leather soles.
In 1949, songwriter Johnny Marks, who happened to be May’s brother-in-law, set Rudolph’s story to music. After Bing Crosby reportedly turned down the chance, singing cowboy Gene Autry recorded the song which sold 2 million copies in the first year and remains one of the best-selling tunes of all time.
The song and merchandise sales made May financially comfortable. After leaving Montgomery Ward in 1951 to manage the Rudolph commercial empire, May returned to his former employer seven years later. He continued to work as a copywriter until his 1971 retirement. By the time he died five years later, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" had become a piece of modern folklore and a metaphor for overcoming obstacles, embracing differences and recognizing everyone’s unique potential.
"For nothing is ever impossible with God." (Luke 1:37)
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!
An old fellow always prayed, "Lord, prop us up on our leanin’ side."
After hearing him pray that prayer many times, someone asked him why he prayed so fervently.
He answered, "Well sir, you see it’s like this... I got an old barn out back. It’s been there a long time. It’s withstood a lot of weather, it’s gone through a lot of storms, and it’s stood for many years. It’s still standing. But one day I noticed it was leaning to one side a bit. So I went and got some pine poles and propped it up on its leaning side so it wouldn’t fall.
Then I got to thinking about that and how much I am like that old barn. I’ve been around a long time. I’ve withstood a lot of life’s storms. I’ve withstood a lot of bad weather in life. I’ve withstood a lot of hard times, but I’m still standing too. However, I find myself leaning to one side from time to time so I like to ask the Lord to prop me up on my leaning side. I figure a lot of us get to leaning at times.
Sometimes we get to leaning toward anger, leaning toward bitterness, leaning toward hatred, leaning toward a lot of things that we shouldn’t.
Sometimes health issues arise and we need a little propping up and strength and grace from our Lord and Master. So we need to pray, ‘Lord, prop us up on our leanin’ side, so we will stand straight and tall again to glorify the Lord.’"
One doesn’t have to be old to need propping up by God’s grace. Life’s problems happen to all, whatever our age.
But God’s grace will do more than simply prop us up when we need encouragement. Jesus said, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered, and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you will be My disciples. (John 15:4-8)
Jesus is absolutely necessary to life. "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)
The world hates Jesus; always has and always will. Why? Because Satan rules the world and he wants God’s sovereignty over all creation. Jesus has made it possible for humanity to be reconciled to God after Adam and Eve introduced sin because of their disobedience. By reducing Jesus to merely a man in people’s thinking Satan erroneously believes he’s won.
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever." (I John 2:15-17)
Worldliness is not pleasure, but confusion of values. We’re worldly when we think our life consists of the things we possess, how much money we make or what kind of prestige we have in society. All those things are temporary and will pass away. To confuse the temporary with the eternal is deadly.
Jesus told us to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)
The advent season, soon to begin, reminds us again that Christ was born for the purpose of redeeming us from sin and the world.
Though it’s good to be propped up on our leaning side when the storms in life threaten to overwhelm us, it’s better to have the solid foundation that only a relationship with Jesus Christ can provide.
Another senseless shooting at the Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Oregon makes us aware that evil is a clear and present danger in our society.
Ten people are dead and seven wounded, three critically, in the latest rampage by a young man who apparently was disillusioned with his life. Was he mentally unbalanced? We normally assume so, but can we explain the unexplainable by attributing evil to mental illness?
The shooter made this statement in social media: "The more people you kill the more you’re in the limelight."
Immediate government response to this tragedy is to call for stricter gun control laws. Will more laws make incidents like this go away? I think not.
Jesus said, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (Matthew 15:19)
Evil takes root in the heart that is not regenerated by faith in Jesus Christ and a life not submitted to God. Power to live above the evil our heart naturally gravitates to comes from the Holy Spirit living within us.
Paul instructed Titus: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works or righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 2:11-15; 3:1-7)
According to Jesus, gossip, murder, cheating on one’s spouse, gratifying lust, stealing, lying and defying the living God originate in the heart. Therefore, we need changed hearts more than laws that affect neither our behavior nor our inner spirit. Jesus alone changes hearts.
Diligence in sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ might make a difference in someone’s heart and life.
Meanwhile, how are we to deal with the constant evil that is flooding our land?
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:1-6 New King James Version)
This Psalm is probably one of the most familiar passages of scripture to most people. It assures us of God’s presence and His provision throughout every stage of our life.
We live continually in the shadow of death as long as we’re on earth. There’s the constant threat of illness, accidents and danger (i.e. other people’s behavior) over which we have no control. It’s no wonder that anxiety becomes our closest companion.
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)
There is no guarantee that we will navigate this life safely without facing death from some whacko who thinks killing other people will solve his problems or give him fame. We can trust the One who holds our life in His hands.
"And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell, yes, I say to you, fear Him! (Luke 12:4-5)
To fear God means we respect Him as supreme authority in our life and do everything with the intention of pleasing Him. Fear of man leads to anxiety; fear of God leads to peace.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)
From the number of medications on the market today it appears we think a pill can solve anything. There is a medication for every imaginable "disease" one could possibly be afflicted with.
Though medicine often addresses the symptoms of an illness it doesn’t always cure the disease. Sometimes people become addicted to prescription drugs and end up in worse condition than before.
Dependence on medicine to solve problems is a symptom of the worst ill in today’s society. Sin, a fatal disease everyone is afflicted with. Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
It doesn’t matter how good a life we think we live. "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin." (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
Most people’s concept of sin is a wrong act or deliberate violation of one of the Ten Commandments. Actually sin is not merely what we do, it’s what we are, separated from God.
God’s plan for humanity was perfection and continual fellowship with Himself.
"Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’" (Genesis 2:15-17)
"And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’" (Genesis 2:18)
The rest of the story is familiar. Adam’s helpmate, Eve, listened to the serpent and ate fruit from the forbidden tree. "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings."
"And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden." (Genesis 3:6-8)
From that moment on humanity has been trying to hide from God. The Bible is an account of man’s sinfulness and God’s everlasting love and mercy. He chose Israel as the nation to make Himself known in a pagan world. Israel was unfaithful to God and loved idols instead. God then sent the long prophesied Messiah.
"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." (John 3:16-17)
Jesus makes it possible to be reconciled to God through faith in Him. God wants more than a nebulous belief that He exists somewhere "up there." He desires to walk and talk with us as He did with Adam and Eve in the Garden.
Abraham was a friend of God. Moses spoke personally with God. David was a man after God’s own heart. Samuel was God’s prophet. Throughout scripture there are accounts of people who knew and revered God. We too can have that personal relationship with Him.
"Therefore the Lord (earnestly) waits — expectant, looking and longing — to be gracious unto you, and therefore He lifts Himself up that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you; for the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed — happy, fortunate (to be envied) are all those who (earnestly) wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him (for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy and His matchless, unbroken companionship). (Isaiah 30:18, Amplified Bible)
The serpent deceived Eve by posing the question, "Did God really say . . .?"
Deception is rampant in today’s culture. We’ve swallowed cunning lies like God is unnecessary; He ignores sin; happiness is the only worthy goal in life; it’s more important to be politically correct than honest; abortion isn’t really murder if a pregnancy is inconvenient; God’s definition of marriage between one man and one woman isn’t relevant in today’s society. These fabrications are simply a few "pills" we use to try to absolve the guilt of universal sin.
God Himself provided the remedy: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God. Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is Pure. Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (I John 3:1-9)
Pills may relieve some physical ailments but God alone deals with our sinful condition. Because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross for our sin the fellowship with God that He intended for His creation is restored.
Church attendance doesn’t save; it provides opportunity to learn of Jesus’ saving power. Believing on the One whom God has sent brings salvation.
"Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in and rely on the truth) that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses — declares openly and speaks out freely his faith — and confirms (his) salvation." (Romans 10:9-10 Amplified Bible)
August 6, 2015
By: Leora Bridgewater
What do you do when you receive disastrous news? We’ve all been there at some time or other. The unexpected death of friend or loved one; diagnosis of a life threatening illness; wayward child incarcerated; belly up financial investment; falsely accused; fired from the job; abusive spouse; divorce; the list is endless. Disbelief is the normal first reaction, then anger, then fear. Anxiety and worry soon follow.
Hezekiah, king of Judah (716-687 BC), received some extremely unsettling news. "Then the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh (governor) with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. And he stood by the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field." (Isaiah 36:2)
You may wonder what relevance an incident that happened so long ago has to today. It’s not what happened to Hezekiah that is important; it is how he handled the situation.
Assyria had already captured Judah and Sennacherib found out that Hezekiah was considering revolt by going to Egypt for help.
"Then the Rabshakeh said to them, ‘Say now to Hezekiah, "Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: "What confidence is this in which you trust: I say you speak of having plans and power for war; but they are mere words. Now in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me? Look! You are trusting in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt, on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharoah king of Egypt to all who trust in him." (Isaiah 36:4-6)
"And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying: "O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth, Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes O Lord, and see; and hear all the words of
Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone." (Isaiah 37:14-20)
God heard Hezekiah’s prayer. "Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: he shall not come into this city nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor build a siege mound against it. By the way that he came by the same shall he return; and he shall not come into this city, says the Lord. For I will defend this city, to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake." (Isaiah 37:33-35)
God spared Jerusalem by sending an angel to kill one hundred eighty-five thousand Assyrians. Sennacherib gave up his siege and went back to Ninevah where his own sons killed him. (Isaiah 37:36-38)
Our own nation is in crisis, as much from within as from terrorist threats and other outside forces that would like to destroy America. How are we handling the things we face today?
Do we "spread them before the Lord" and ask His guidance? Or do we blame ‘the government’ and go about our business as if we are the only people who matter? Do we pursue pleasure and ignore worship? Do we grasp and connive to increase our wealth? Do we live without a thought that one day we will stand before God in judgment?
J. I. Packer says, "worldliness is not pleasure, but confusion of values."
America’s values definitely seem to be confused. We want to do away with any reference to God, the Ten Commandments, and Jesus Christ as Savior. Meanwhile we embrace evil and call it good. We condemn those who stand for biblical truth and legislate against "discrimination" while practicing discrimination.
What can we do? Hezekiah is our example: spread our concerns before the Lord; turn from any sin in our own heart; obey the Lord in what He calls us to do and be faithful day by day.
For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: "I am the Lord, and there is no other." (Isaiah 45:18)
God will always have the last word so be encouraged that your prayers are not in vain.
June 4, 2015
By: Leora Bridgewater
Do you have Rocking Chair Religion? You know what I mean, believe in God but worry about everything? I used to live in the Land of Worry; in fact I probably qualified as the Queen of Worry because although I said I trusted God, in reality I worried far more than I trusted.
Worry has been likened to a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere. I’ve traveled miles in my rocking chair and ended up exactly where I began.
All that changed when God revealed to me that I worshiped the god of self-sufficiency instead of Him. What an humbling experience that was! I had the choice, continue with self as my god or surrender my life to God Himself.
When I chose God over self the battle began. Only by reading God’s Word and relying on Him instead of my own feelings have I been able to abandon my rocking chair faith.
"Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice.
Who gave Him charge over the earth? Or who appointed Him over the whole world?
If He should set His heart on it, if He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust." (Job 34:12-15)
We take earth for granted and assume it will always be here. Faith is intangible, its results not always visible so we often think that what we can’t see isn’t really real.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and through it he being dead still speaks.
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God." (Hebrews 11:1-5)
Human nature is geared to believe what we can see, feel or touch. To believe in an invisible Someone who promises to have our best interests at heart is a stretch.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
How does one acquire faith? Paul said, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
Romans 12:1-3 further instructs: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith."
It sounds so simple to say, "just trust God" yet His Word says, "God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy and therefore ever true to His promise and He can be depended on." (1 Corinthians 1:9, Amplified Bible)
We all have the choice of our rocking chair of feelings or God’s Word. The choice we make determines whether we live life worried about everything or confident that God will keep us in every circumstance we encounter.
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