Faithful, Not Forgetful

Does it ever feel like the train of life keeps moving along without you?

Have you ever lost something valuable on a ride before?

We’ve all been there at some point – you’re blissfully enjoying a peaceful ride while out in public somewhere, maybe on a bus, boat, or train, and you get so caught up in the ride itself, that by the time you get off, you completely forget something important behind. The after effects of feeling relaxed take a few minutes to wear off, and you realize too late that something very important is missing. Your first instinct is to contact the company responsible for the vehicle, inquiring about your missing item. They have an employee search the vehicle for you, but inform you that it’s nowhere to be found, suggesting that perhaps it fell out during the ride at some point. Unfortunately in some cases, the company has a zero liability policy, and if they can’t find your possessions, your valuable object is gone forever, never to be seen again. You wish more than anything that you could get it back, but this particular object is already lost beyond all hope. People will tell you to just replace it, but it was more than just an object to you; perhaps it had some sort of special meaning and sentimental value for you.

You start to blame yourself, thinking that if you had just asked the driver or conductor to stop or turn around sooner, you might have been able to save it. However, contemplating the hypothetical circumstances proves to be futile, as nothing can be done at that point. You feel sad about the loss of your valuable possession, but have to accept that it’s gone no matter what.

Perhaps you feel like God has forgotten you, leaving you behind just like the scenario described above.

There may be opportunities, circumstances, goals, and many other things that you clung to with all your heart, trying your best to keep them safe everywhere you went. However, you may feel as though these things have been taken, lost, or broken due to forces outside your control. You may quite literally feel left hanging, wondering what in the world is going to happen to you next. You sigh and pass the time as best as you can, but constantly wonder when God is going to “come back for you” and pick you up again. The waiting feels endless, and you grow more and more anxious with each passing day. You start to believe that you’ll remain in this forgotten place forever, in spite of what you’ve been told or taught about God’s goodness all your life.

Even though life has no “round trip” ticket, you can rest assured that God has not missed you on any of His “stops.”

Just when you feel like abandoning all hope about the lost things that were important to you, God has a way of reminding you that He still cares, regardless of how it might appear to you. Maybe you decided to leave the important thing behind you already, quite literally leaving it in God’s hands. Time passes, and you happen to be going about your day, when news reaches you about this thing that you had previously signed off as long gone. No matter what the context of your circumstances is, God might show you later on how He was guiding you along the right path the whole time, sparing you from hidden dangers, or redirecting your course. He lovingly and gently acknowledges your situation, while reassuring you that He has you exactly where you need to be. God is faithful to remember you in all the details of your life, because what is important to your life situation is always important to Him. God knows that everything close to you has meaning, and even if something feels lost forever, He is there to remind you that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Weary, But Worthy

“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

Do you ever have days where you just feel like you can’t do anything?

I don’t mean the common human condition of laziness, where you just don’t feel like, or want to do anything, nor do I mean the days where you feel like you can’t do anything right. I’m talking about fatigue – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual fatigue. The mornings when you have to sometimes literally drag yourself out of bed, because you dread facing another day of the same responsibilities and the same difficulties you faced the day before. Do you find yourself frequently saying, “God, I just CAN’T do this?” Don’t worry, you’re not the first person to feel this way, and you certainly won’t be the last; so don’t despair –

you’re not alone.

We all face the issue of burnout, which can result from a variety of reasons. Common factors include: stress from work, family issues, relationship conflict, overextending one’s self, dealing with difficult coworkers, disorganization at home, and also inner turmoil caused by trauma. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental diseases in the world, and absolutely anyone can be susceptible to it, regardless of their individual circumstances. Even if things in your life seem to flowing smoothly, it’s easy to get trapped in a whirlpool of wondering what the point of everything is. No matter if the sun is shining outside, if you feel demotivated and distressed on the inside, there will probably be a rain cloud pouring in your heart and mind. If you’ve caught yourself staring at your daily surroundings, feeling like you’re trapped in some kind of invisible cage of existence, I know exactly how that feels.

Because we have an inner idea of what our version of “normal” is supposed to be like, it can be very easy to get too hard on ourselves.

On the days when we simply feel too worn out to function, we might be capable of performing our daily duties like a robot that’s just following its programming, while neglecting to take care of the inner part of ourselves that needs the most attention. We might just get through the day, checking off boxes on our to do list, but by the time we crawl into bed at night, we still feel empty and unfulfilled. Even if our day was brimming with productivity, it might never feel like it’s enough according to our personal standards of success, especially if these standards are formed by our toxic culture of comparison through social media. As Christians trying to do our best for God, we can sometimes judge ourselves too harshly when we have days like this, calling ourselves “failures” in our minds. While we should never excuse laziness in our lives, the Lord wants us to know that He understands our every weakness. When Jesus asked His disciples to be on watch with Him in the garden for one hour, on the night He would be captured by the Pharisees, they all fell asleep before they even realized it! “And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, ‘What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.'” (Matthew 26:40-41)

God, in His infinite love, mercy, and wisdom, is all too aware of the human frailties that afflict us on a daily basis.

It’s so easy to fall victim to extreme negative thinking, calling ourselves worthless servants of Christ, all because we feel incapable of accomplishing as much as we’d like to on certain days. However, our hearts should be filled with encouragement, because our Savior’s heart is full of compassionate thoughts toward us. “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14) On the days when we feel overwhelmed and burned out from our every day routines, He wants us to remember this simple fact for ourselves too. Surely, if God Himself can exercise patience with us, we can extend the same kind of grace to our own failings when we need it the most. Many times of feelings of failure are caused by a hidden layer of pride in our hearts that we aren’t aware of, falling prey to the idea that we always have to take care of everything by ourselves, without God’s help. When this happens though, we often forget to take care of the most important part we need to fulfill our regular tasks – our inner well being. Just as we need to make time for our physical self care, spiritual and emotional self care is also a must if we are to stay functioning for the next twenty-four hours.

We are not qualified to do tasks based on our own strength; our Creator qualifies us based on His own strength.

When we feel like we just can’t make it through another day without another physical or emotional breakdown, we must remember that our strength to function does not lie within ourselves. We are not qualified as God’s servants because of our innate capability, which is already hindered by our sinful nature; we are qualified only because God has asked us to be His appointed servants. We can do absolutely nothing in and of ourselves, this includes breathing and moving. Nothing we are capable of can be possible outside of God’s direct influence, because He created us to be dependent on Him for everything. This is not meant to be taken as a personal insult, it’s merely the basic fact of our Creation by Him. It’s important that we try to persevere through the strength of the Lord, because He has valuable assignments for us to fulfill that He has blessed us with the privilege of being used for. Even if we feel like we can go no further, He is there to give us a loving pep talk and pick us back up again. “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Even if we disappoint ourselves with our daily depression, God will always comfort us because He truly cares.

The woes of life can certainly make us feel weary, unwilling to face another day of the same old circumstances. Sometimes we might feel confined in an eternal time loop, just like in the movie “Groundhog Day.” God wants us to know that we can always turn to Him for emotional comfort and support, because He knows what we face each day better than anyone else does. Since He lives inside our hearts, He is constantly aware of every difficulty we face, whether it’s internal or external conflict. The Devil wants us to begin each day feeling defeated from the moment we wake up, dreading the next twenty-four hours because we feel personally incompetent. However, he has no final authority on our destiny, because our Savior has already declared the victory over us that is valid through all eternity. Our feelings and struggles are valid too, but God can help us overcome them if we ask for His help daily like we’re supposed to. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) So even though we may be afflicted and weary of life itself, we are still worthy of the calling God has chosen for us, because He lives within us and has declared us worthy.

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” (Psalm 42:5)

“Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:9-11)

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9)

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Marble Memories

Our most sacred memories are safe in the treasure houses of time, under God’s watch care.

Do certain moments in your life hold a special value in your heart?

Throughout history, from ancient to medieval times, kings, queens, and other noble monarchs held royal treasure houses that guarded all their most precious riches. These elaborate structures were often constructed of marble and other valuable substances to showcase the splendor of their opulent lifestyles, from the past and their present. Only their most trusted guards had access to these secret places where they hid away their most costly artifacts. Sadly, these places are lost in time, standing isolated and collecting dust as they are forgotten through the ages. While we may not bear a title of earthly royalty, as God’s adopted children we have eternal royalty that gives us noble titles of a spiritual nature; because we are sculpted in God’s likeness, our spiritual and emotional treasures mean a great deal to Him.

Our memories are irreplaceable, priceless treasures that happen only once in a lifetime. As much as we might wish otherwise, we cannot travel back in time to revisit the best ones we have. On a similar note, there are other memories we may wish to erase, but by the same token that feat is also impossible. We may try to grasp tightly onto these tokens of time with all we have, but each passing day they continue to fade away into the shadows. No amount of recording events or recounting them to others will ever be able to replicate the actual sensation of experiencing those moments for the very first time, no matter how hard we try.

So what do we do when we’re afraid to forget about the moments that matter the most to us?

We commit them into the Lord’s hands for safekeeping.

I know what you’re probably thinking: If I give these memories up, it will be like saying they never mattered to me in the first place, right?

Not necessarily.

On the contrary, handing over our most valuable memories to God ensures that they will be carefully preserved to a far greater extent than we are capable of doing. So how can we be certain that God understands how much our special memories mean to us, before we’re ready to commit them to His hands?

Well, here are a few reasons why we can rest assured of this fact:

  1. He knows how often we wander these hallowed, hollow halls.

Our memories we create through our lives tell the story of who we are, and as such they form a metaphorical museum of everything that has ever influenced us, for better or for worse. Some people are prone to introspection more than others, and can easily find themselves wandering aimlessly through these marble walls of memory until they inadvertently become lost. While it can be a good thing to develop self awareness by revisiting one’s own history, it can easily become an abysmal labyrinth that may be impossible to escape from. Those of us who endlessly search these corridors are looking for clues to understand why certain events transpired the way they did, hoping to discern a formerly undiscovered truth. Since many of our past events were crucial keystone points in our personal development, it can be difficult to leave these halls behind. Because the Lord can read our every thought at any given moment, He undoubtedly understands why these past places are so important to us.

2. His home is in our hearts, so He respects our personal emotions and feelings.

From the moment we accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we invited His Holy Spirit to come dwell inside us for all eternity. While God is omniscient to begin with, He has another reason why He cares about everything that is important to us – His spiritual palace in our heart is where He resides every day. As the royal King of Kings, He not only exercises authority over our lives, but also deeply understands why these moments in our past mean so much to us, because He created us the way we are for a specific reason. Being the very Maker of our souls allows Him to have an intimate knowledge of what makes us vulnerable, including why we react to certain life events the way we do. Whether our memories are from the distant past, or the more recent present history, God cares about every single thing that takes up place in our hearts. Since He indwells us and gave us our existence, He is filled with compassion towards whatever caused us sorrow, anger, or joy. He regards these feelings as the precious riches He imbued us with when He made us in His divine image.

3. He longs to be the preeminent Muse in all our thoughts.

God is deeply interested in all the thoughts we think, and made a supernatural investment in us when He sent His Son Jesus to Earth to sacrifice His life for us, beginning the process of sanctification at the moment of salvation. We are instructed in His Word to do everything for His glory, no matter what it is concerning our daily lives. All actions, words, and attitudes begin in the same place – our thought life. Each day we have a choice to decide what we want to think about, directing our path for the rest of our waking hours. We can use this time wisely if we make the choice to honor God in our thoughts first, giving Him ultimate control through His Holy Spirit. Alternatively, we can also make the choice to be careless about our thoughts, letting our flesh become the director of our day instead, grieving the Holy Spirit of God Whose presence is always with us. Apart from God, we can do nothing, not even breathe, and He knows that if we assign authority to Him in our thoughts daily, He can help us accomplish great things for His glory.

4. He is aware that the shadows of past sin can shroud us in shame.

We are all born sinners, under the curse of a fallen, broken world. Therefore, we have all made mistakes that we are not proud of, including those that we already confessed to our Savior. When we spend too much time wandering the marble halls of our memories, we can get trapped in dark despair if we linger in a particularly shadowy section. Satan is aware of this too, and is all too delighted to use this to his advantage against us. While we are no longer condemned after accepting the blood of Christ for our sins, we can be tempted to listen to the voice of Satan and condemn ourselves all over again, becoming defeated by something God has already pardoned us for. We try to retrace our steps and wonder where we went wrong, wishing that we could somehow erase the evidence of our failings, but all of this is to no avail, especially when attempting to do so in the flesh. God can deliver us out of the dark hallways of sinful shame and despair if we choose to give all our memories to Him.

5. He knows that fixating on unchangeable facts can spiral us into insanity.

As fragile human beings, it can be all too easy for us to focus on the negative occurrences in our life and completely ignore all the positive aspects that have shaped us. Our museum of memories can be very extensive, and if we’re not careful, we can descend into the lowest levels of depression without stopping to check how far we’ve gone. Whether we like it or not, there are some things that others have done to us that cannot be undone, or couldn’t be changed because the people who did them WOULDN’T be changed. Trying to resolve impossible circumstances is as futile as banging your head against the wall. Satan wants us to be so fixed on what can’t be changed so that we are prone to overlook the change God is attempting to do in our life. If we commit these difficult facts that are set in stone to Him, we can escape the snare of the Devil himself, who seeks to use these circumstances to destroy us.

Here are God’s own Words of timeless truth that prove He can be trusted with our most sacred memories:

Deuteronomy 32:35 ~ “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.”

2 Chronicles 16:9a ~ “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”

Psalm 26:2 ~ “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.”

Psalm 34:18 ~ “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”

Psalm 139:1-2 ~ “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.”

Proverbs 4:23 ~ “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

Proverbs 14:12-13 ~ “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”

Proverbs 16:1-3 ~ “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.”

Jeremiah 17:10 ~ “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”

Jeremiah 29:11 ~ “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

Ezekiel 36:26: ~ “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”

Matthew 28:20 ~ “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Romans 3:4 ~ “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”

Romans 5:8 ~ “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 8:1 ~ “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

Romans 8:27-28 ~ “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Romans 10:9-10 ~ “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Romans 12:19 ~ “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Romans 15:13 ~ “ Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

1 Corinthians 3:16 ~ “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”

2 Corinthians 10:5 ~ “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

2 Corinthians 11:3 ~ “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

Philippians 3:13 ~ “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,”

Philippians 4:6-7 ~ “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 3:1-4 “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”

Hebrews 4:15 ~ “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

James 4:5 ~ “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?”

1 Peter 5:7 ~ “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

1 John 2:15-17 ~ “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

God’s Words are eternal treasures of infinite value.

1 John 3:1-10 ~ “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”

 1 John 3:20 ~ “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.”

1 John 4:20 ~ “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

As you can see, the Lord Himself is more than trustworthy of keeping our most sacred memories safe in His royal treasury.

As our Divine Creator and the Keeper of our very souls, God is more than worthy of being trusted to keep our most treasured memories safe, no matter what circumstances took place in them. We have no need to worry or fret about our story not being told to others on Earth, because God is our Witness, and He sees all AND knows all. It matters not what may have happened to us by the hands of others; God is aware of all the facts. He also places a high value on whatever is near and dear to our hearts – if it is important to us, it is important to HIM too. God is infinite, and has more than enough room to tenderly place our intangible keepsakes in the vaults of His loving care, watching over them with the abundant stores of His compassion. He is never going to forget us, even if others have. The Lord holds us in the palm of His hand, and our existence, along with all that pertains to it, is secure in His divine possession.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Unscripted: Following the Director’s Cut

Whether the hard events of our life are a normal theatrical release or an extended edition, we all can be tempted to sit in the Director’s chair.

“Mister Director, this is not the script I wanted…”

LIFE. Nobody gets out of it alive, ironically, yet strangely, such short statements are hardly a source of consolation for those whose experiences are anything but ideal. We all grow up having hopes and dreams for our future, at any age, but what happens when the facts of our serious disappointments don’t measure up to our expectations? It was William Shakespeare who famously once said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players;” (As You Like It), and his assessment is pretty accurate to the truth. While we are not puppets, because we have the divine gift of free will, we are still insignificant chess pieces in the grand scheme of God’s ultimate purpose and plan for the universe that HE created. The very word “history” itself combines the words “his” and “story,” showing God’s relation to mankind which He made with His own hands. With this knowledge, all humans created in His divine image are faced with a perpetual burning question that is universal to the human experience in this sinful, fallen world:

What are we supposed to do when we feel like the Director isn’t following the script we imagined for ourselves? Do we panic when we feel helpless about what’s happening onscreen?

We all think we have some idea of how our lives should go, based on society’s expectations and pressure it puts on us, which in turn, are founded on events that have transpired since the Garden of Eden. This is further complicated when we create our own imagined scenarios in our hearts and heads that generate from our innermost desires and thoughts. We all have a very unique backstory, with different set pieces, characters, conflicts, tension, action, and themes. All of these elements combined form an original script that plays out the story of our lives. Based on all of the established information in the introduction of the script, we as humans try our best to guess the plot before it has a chance to play out. However, no matter how many plot twists await us in our lives, God doesn’t believe in giving us spoilers.

Since we know that it is His divine prerogative as the Director of our life story to orchestrate the events we see unfold, why is it so difficult for us to trust Him with the ultimate outcome?

There are many reasons for this, and thankfully for our sake, our Creator is more than compassionate enough to understand our natural, human reactions to these unexpected plot twists. He also has divine wisdom to compensate for our limitations in trusting Him.

Here are just a few common reasons that account for our universal, human struggle –

Reason #1: We can only see through the scope of the lens of our limited, finite perspective.

This might run the risk of sounding oversimplified, but we are humans, and God is GOD. Only He can see the ultimate end of all things, in every sense of the phrase. As the Alpha and Omega, He is the Author and Finisher of the script He’s written for His creations. Since we are not infinite as He is, we don’t have the divine advantage of knowing not only the future, but also every imaginable circumstance that provides the context of the lives of every single person on the planet. Because we only have access to our own script one page at a time, it can be easy for us to start questioning our role that we play in our own plot, or even the plot itself. We must remember that even though we are limited to our own perspective on the stage of our lives, the Divine Director can see everything on the set of His Creation from ALL angles. He can move cameras and set pieces around that we probably are not even aware exist in our script, much less have the power to control them. God is determined to make the greatest production possible through the resources of His infinite power. Even if our personal perspective is out of focus, we can find peace in knowing that our Director commands the overall view of our original production.

Reason #2: We cannot control the roles others choose to play in our lives.

When we are carrying out the scenes in our scripts, we interact with a full cast of characters of all kinds. These characters all have their own unique scripts too, which they can choose to follow or turn down at will. Just like actors and actresses, people can and do affect our lives in multiple ways, for better or worse. Some who initially choose to sign onto the project of our scripts might suddenly decide to walk off the set at any time, for any reason. Alternatively, the divine Director might make His own executive decision to write them out of the script. Sometimes this is simply because of outstanding circumstances in their own scripts beyond their control; other times it is because of a deliberate decision they choose to make. Although they said they were dedicated to the role they chose to play in our lives, for whatever reasons they decided that the part just wasn’t for them. They fully know the part they were supposed to play, but they refuse to stick to the script and abandon the project altogether. Whether the reasons they had for walking away for were valid, or born of pure selfishness, we cannot force them to honor their metaphorical contract with us. Does this mean the divine Director necessarily approves of their choice, or the way they may have unprofessionally exited stage left?

Not always.

But, regardless of their decision, the Director knows that the show must go on. He doesn’t throw away our whole script just because some people choose to not follow it along with us.

Reason #3: Our plot tends to unfold in the darkness of the film Developer’s studio.

Our Director has been planning the plots of our lives since before we were born, and is intent on bringing them to an expected end. Just as God had plans for the Universe in the darkness of the Void before Creation, He has plans for us long before our moment of conception in our mother’s womb. Since one of the greatest mysteries of the universe is the miracle of new human life itself, it is no wonder that the details of our lives are hidden away in a metaphysical dimension that only God Himself holds the key to. Rather than assuming God keeps secrets from us out of malice, however, we should realize that the greatest artists of any sort do their best work in solitude, and the Master Artist of all Creation is no different. Although it is easy for us to conclude that God is withholding details from us about our lives because He doesn’t want us to know, we should look at His strategy through the lens of His love instead, knowing that He is guarding His artistic process because He’s busy doing His best work for us.

Reason #4: We care about the reviews we receive from a critical audience.

It’s all too easy for us to compare scripts with other people around us, and think that our Director has unfairly given them a better part than us. We can fall into the trap of jealousy, bitterness, covetousness, and resentment towards other people, even if they haven’t done anything wrong to purposely make us envy their personal circumstances. Although we put this unfair pressure on ourselves on a regular basis all on our own, it also can result from pressure we feel from the outside world to “get our act together,” or to “look the part.” It is our responsibility to know that we are only obligated to answer to God Himself, and we are not placed in this production to please people who might happen to be onlookers. Our earthly audience should not be our top priority. We have a duty to make sure we carry out our roles to the best of our ability in order to fulfill the divine Director’s vision for ultimate good. It will be easier for us to stick to our assigned scripts and roles when we remember that His final review is the only one that truly matters.

Here are some Director’s notes that show He understands how difficult it is for His cast to work under pressure:

Psalm 103:14 – “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

1 Corinthians 10:3 – ““There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Philippians 1:6 – “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

Hebrews 4:15 – “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

Hebrews 12:2 – “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 13:5 – “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

James 1:2-4 – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Revelation 22:13 – “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”

Instead of having us abandon the project completely, our Director is willing to let us “take five.”

Unfortunately, we don’t get a choice in the scripts that life hands to us; however, we do have a say in how we choose to play our parts. Thankfully, our Director is patient enough to give us all the time we need to process our roles and understand the direction He wants us to take with our individual performance. Our script was written by His loving hand, even if the details of the setting and plot don’t seem that way. We all have specific parts of our script that we wish with all our hearts could be “redacted,” whether those details were already written into our script or added by our own choices. We don’t get to pick and choose our circumstances, but we can control the way we respond to them. Every day that God allows us to live is another chance to shoot another scene, and because of the current, fallen condition of our world, some scenes might require several takes. Because our divine Director is understanding and compassionate, He may allow us to “take five” in between those “takes,” whether those translate into five weeks, months, or years. God is willing to work with us if we are willing to work with Him. The only option that is completely off the table is throwing away the script, because we do not possess that authority. No matter how many difficult plot twists occur that were unscripted in our heads, we have to accept the unacceptable whether we understand it or not. Our scripts may not make a bit of sense to us, and we do not have to like them, but we are expected to cooperate with our Director out of love, faithfulness, and obedience. If we make a conscious effort to follow the vision of the divine Director’s cut, He will bring our story to an expected end.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

The Weight of Words

Words are powerful.

Ever since the beginning of Creation, words have been used to speak things into existence, whether through physical manifestation from God Himself, or through the manifestation of ideas and thoughts from the minds and mouths of humans. Since we are all created in the divine image of God, we are capable of using words in powerful ways, even though we are drastically limited by our fallen, sinful state.

How we use our words, however, is a choice, given to us by God with the gift of free will.

This gift of free will is a privilege our Creator gave us to use with wisdom, as our words and actions directly affect every aspect of our lives. We should choose our words carefully in every situation, because they can have positive or negative effects on the people around us. As believers in Christ, we are endowed with the sacred duty of showing God’s love to others in our lives, no matter who they might be. The words we say can be some of the most potent tools in our collection to spiritually benefit others, or they can become deadly weapons if they are used selfishly in the flesh.

Here are just a few of the many reasons why we should exhibit the greatest care and caution when choosing our words:

  1. They directly reflect the spiritual condition of our hearts.

The words we say to others, whether they are spoken or written, show the contents of our minds and hearts. As Christians, we are tasked with the responsibility to show the fruits of the Spirit. When we are producing the fruits of the Spirit like we’re supposed to, people will know that we are rightly related to God in our personal walk with Him. When we are right with God in our hearts, the fruits of the Spirit will be produced naturally, and the words that flow from us will freely show His influence in our lives. Apart from God, we can do nothing on our own; in Him we live, move, and have our being. Therefore, it is only natural that we should turn to Him daily to help us govern the words that proceed from our minds and mouths. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can change the course of someone’s day, or even their life itself, if we choose our words carefully with God’s love and wisdom. The fruits of the Spirit are unmistakable, while it is also very telling when they are missing in a person’s life. If someone is choosing to use his or her words out of the selfishness of his or her flesh, he or she is missing out on the daily opportunity to be a blessing to someone else around him or her. Rather than benefiting themselves by using their words selfishly, they are depriving themselves of having a profound impact as a positive influence in another person’s life. Rather than choosing the option of showing God’s love to others with his or her words, the selfish person is taking the opposite approach by becoming a negative influence in someone’s life with his or her words. We never know just how much influence we may have on another person, so it is absolutely imperative that we exercise loving wisdom and discretion with the words we say. All this is because…

2. The words we say or write cannot be easily erased or forgotten.

Just as we never know how much influence we might have on another person, we also never know just how long the words we say might stay in someone else’s mind. If we use our words to encourage someone else when they need our help, we can potentially cause them to be inspired and not give up. As a result of our caring words towards them, they may remember us later on in a special way, as the person who was there for them when they truly needed us the most. No greater honor can be bestowed upon someone than being another person’s friend in a time of need. Even if we are not remembered for our kind words in the future, God remembers our efforts to show His love to other people in our lives, and that’s all that really matters anyway. However, if we are careless with what we say, especially when deliberately acting out of a selfish heart, we can cause irreparable damage to someone else’s very heart, mind, and soul. The old saying about “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a LIE. Words DO hurt, because they not only come from inside our heart and mind, but they also reach directly into other people’s hearts and minds. Even if we say something hurtful to someone and apologize for it afterwards, they might never forget what you said, even if they choose to forgive you. Even if trust and peace is somehow eventually restored, the damage has already been done, and that person’s mind and heart will probably take years to recover from the emotional injury. Apologies and forgiveness might be given, but words can never be taken back once spoken. The things we say can have a lasting impact on the world around us, for better or for worse. We may eventually forget what we said, but the words we choose will follow us wherever we go. This also includes the fact that…

3. The words we speak echo into the halls of eternity.

The Bible tells us that we will have to give a personal account to God Himself for “every idle word” someday, when we each stand before Him. If God cares about all the little careless things that come out of our mouths every single day, imagine how much He cares about all the rest of the things we say. We should never take our words lightly, even the ones that were spoken in haste, because our words are serious business to God. Surely, the One Who created the human tongue, heart, and mind cares greatly about all the thoughts that proceed from them! How foolish are we to assume that God doesn’t care about the things we say, when we are created in His divine Image! As Scripture informs us of the truth that our bodies are bought with a price, that also includes our hearts, minds, and mouths. Therefore we should take extra care and concern with whatever comes out of our lips, regarding the things we say to other people. While we will not be condemned for whatever we have already confessed to Him, we should still strive to be conscientious about any other areas that may have escaped our awareness. While this is not meant to make us paranoid, it is simply a truth that should make us more sober minded once we realize that each and every one of us will have to face our Creator before eternity.

Here are some of God’s own Words that prove He cares greatly about the weight of the words we say:

Numbers 23:19 – “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”

Proverbs 18:21 – “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 – “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?”

Matthew 5:37 – “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

Matthew 12:33-36 – “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Galatians 5:22-25 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Ephesians 4:29-32 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Colossians 3:8-10 – “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”

1 John 4:19-21 – “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”

1 John 1:5-10 – “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

As you can see, the words we say do indeed have weight to them, and we should always do our best to handle them with care.

Our words matter. Words have meaning, or else they wouldn’t exist; there wouldn’t be any reason to use them otherwise. Without meaning and purpose, why would we need them? Regardless of whether or not we always mean the words we say, they still always retain their inherent meaning. God knew that in order to interact with His special creation made in His divine Image, it would be necessary to bless man with the gift of human speech. This priceless gift allows us to communicate with others, a privilege that no other part of Creation has been given. We are capable of intelligent thoughts, and have the abilities to communicate effectively if we choose to use this gift the right way. Communicating with other people is a special ability that should never be taken for granted; it should be treasured as a valuable way to interact with other beings created in God’s likeness.

Sadly, because of the first sin of mankind in the Garden of Eden, the special gift of communication has been corrupted since the conclusion of Creation. Each and every day, we have a choice to make – we can use our words either to bless or curse people. As children of God, we have a responsibility to not only bear His divine Image, but also to showcase our Christlike testimony through the help of the Holy Spirit. It is our own free will, a God-given privilege, that allows us to make this choice whenever we verbally interact with others. We are bound by the blood of Christ to show compassion to other people, since the words we say ring hollow when we don’t reflect His love in our hearts. Since human hearts are extremely fragile, it is our duty, especially as Christians, to weigh our words carefully, lest we run the risk of shattering someone else’s soul.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Breaking Open the Bottle

Surrendering our sorrows is a sacred form of worship.

Why do we bottle up our emotions away from God?

We know we’re supposed to cast all of our cares upon Him, as the Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, but many times we find ourselves unable to fully release all of the hurts that hold us captive. Whether we harbor bitterness, or we’re simply incapable of forgetting our pain, we humans manufacture various excuses for not giving our troubles over to God.

We not only make up these excuses, but we also have a long list of reasons why we justify ourselves for making them. “They never apologized to me!” Is one of the most common phrases that signifies a lack of forgiveness. “If I move on from this experience, it will be like pretending it never happened to me.” Is another one that shows a lack of faith in God’s grace. However, as stubborn as these reasons might sound, there is a third reason that comes from a broken heart which is simply unknowing of God’s goodness: “Can God really handle the pain that I’ve been through? How can I possibly heal from this?”

The answer is, of course He can.

Surely the same Lord Who worked physical miracles on this earth over two thousand years ago can also work emotional miracles in our hearts today. It’s simple logic, really – if we were able to trust God to give us salvation for all eternity, we should be able to trust Him to heal us from whatever hurts us in the past or present.

So why do we still have so much trouble actually trusting Him with this? I believe it’s the same reason that human psychologists would ascribe to an earthly relationship – we’re afraid of vulnerability.

Just as we might have trouble opening up to other people we love, we can have the same problem with God sometimes.

Maybe we’re afraid that God will judge us for holding onto something negative for so long. Or perhaps, we think that He might be angry with us for some reason, unable to relate to us due to His status of divinity. Whatever our thinking might be, we need to change the way we view God’s ability to understand us.

In order to access God’s gift of understanding, we must be unafraid to approach Him.

In the New Testament, we are told of the time Jesus and His disciples visited the house of two sisters, Mary and Martha. While Martha, the older sister, was busy preparing a meal in the kitchen, Mary chose to give her time and attention to Jesus Himself. She had been saving a costly bottle of ointment, or perfume, for a special occasion, and decided to use it on Jesus’ feet as a way to honor Him as her King and Savior. She also wept before His presence, using her long hair to wipe her tears off of Him. Mary didn’t care that other people were watching her; she only cared about intimately worshiping her Savior.

Immediately after this took place, Judas Iscariot, the greedy disciple who would later betray Jesus for money, criticized her actions by saying, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” (John 12:5) Jesus corrected him right away, by explaining that poor people will always exist in this world, but Mary chose to use her valuable possession to honor Him before He died.

We must remember that people, like Judas, will always judge our actions based on their own perceptions, but God knows our hearts and can tell if we are sincere towards Him. Therefore, we should never be afraid to open up the treasury of our hearts to give Him what He rightfully deserves.

So instead of saving our emotions to deal with later, we should open them up and give them to Jesus.

Our pain and problems of the past won’t go away if we just keep burying them. Just like dust, they keep building up gradually as a source of constant irritation until we finally deal with them. We shouldn’t be keeping them in a bottle for a special occasion – once Jesus lives in our hearts, He is the special occasion. Unleashing our cares into His loving hands is an act of sincere trust and intimacy. Sometimes the only way to expel recurring issues from our spiritual system involves shedding tears before His presence, just like Mary did.

Showing Jesus that we are willing to be vulnerable before Him lets Him know that we not only trust Him, but love Him as well. We are giving Him the most fragile part of ourselves – our very heart and soul. It’s a sacrificial offering that is the only thing He requires of us, but we must be willing to give it to Him. Shall we selfishly hoard away our bottles of fragile emotions, or shall we entrust it to the care and keeping of His loving hands?

Finally, the ritual of surrendering our sorrows should be completed with sincere worship.

When Mary poured the ointment and her tears on Jesus’ feet, she had to be in a lowered position beneath Him to do so. Likewise, we also must demonstrate humility before Jesus when we ask Him to take our pain away from our hearts. We acknowledge that only He can heal us as the divine Savior of the world. Once we have made our earnest request to Him, He works a miracle in our hearts by relieving us of our enormous burdens. All the heaviness that we carry as a weight inside our hearts will be lifted away, thrown far from our reach.

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, neglecting or refusing to give our burdens to God is a type of pride and unbelief. We think to ourselves that God isn’t able to care for us as well as we think we can. Oh, what an ignorant way to think! Certainly the One Who made the human heart is able to care for it and meet all its needs. Therefore, by letting Him do His work in our hearts, we are acknowledging His authority over us as God and Savior.

Once we have committed our cares to Him, they are no longer our concern. They’re in God’s hands. By confessing our woes to our Savior, we grow even closer to Him, developing a strong, supernatural bond. This special relationship is something that we should cherish all our lives, taking time to nurture it and keep it well.

Why suffer longer when you don’t have to? Give your sorrows to Jesus today.

Satan wants nothing more than for us to hold onto the things that hurt us so we’ll be distracted from serving God. He knows that if he can get inside our heads, he can use our pain as a tool to exploit our primary weakness. Don’t let him have the privilege of knowing your inside information! Give those valuable details and secrets to God before they take root in the form of bitterness.

Holding onto the things that hurt you only prolongs your suffering needlessly. Remember, God is omniscient; by trusting Him with what He already knows about just shows Him how much you love Him. He will show you just how understanding He is, since He was right there with you when you went through everything that ever hurt you. He loves you, and sharing your pain with Him is a sign of strength, not weakness. Jesus made Himself vulnerable for us on the cross, so we should allow ourselves to be vulnerable before Him. Break open your bottled up emotions for Him today – I promise that you won’t regret it.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

A King Worth Loving

A righteous Savior is worth serving as a Sovereign.

Whom do you swear your allegiance to?

In the Middle Ages, knights of European kingdoms had a noble duty to uphold the laws and wishes of the kings or queens they served. After completing years of hard training as a young squire, they would eventually be pronounced an official Knight by the monarch of their royal court.

From the point of their knighthood, they were charged with all the responsibilities and rules that their king or queen gave them. This sometimes included a code of honor, such as chivalry, which concerned the knight’s personal conduct in specific situations. Failure to follow the king or queen’s expectations would most likely lead to imprisonment, if not immediate execution.

Thankfully, we do not live in the “Dark Ages” anymore.

In terms of history, we are free (for the most part) from the iron fist of absolute monarchy. However, we do live in an increasingly dark world that is groaning for the return of the Lord of Light. All of Creation cannot be freed from the curse of mankind’s sin until the Savior comes back to restore it. If you have accepted Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior, your individual restoration process, or inner transformation, has already begun.

Hopefully you have experienced his goodness for yourself in your everyday life. If your heart is truly in the right place, you have sworn allegiance to God as the King of your life. Surely the Creator of the entire universe is worthy of being in control of your daily destiny, if one of His royal titles is “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Here are three reasons why we serve a divine King Who is WORTH loving:

1. He saved your soul from Hell.

As a true Christian, the very reason you should want to serve God is because of all He did for you on the cross. He sent His only, holy Son to die for you and became sin Himself for the sake of your eternal life. God has never wanted anyone to go to Hell when they die; He sincerely desires that all come to repentance from their sins. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ~ “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.“)

(2 Peter 3:9 ~ “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.“) Hell was created as a place of divine punishment for the eternally wicked Satan and his loyal following of rebellious fallen angels; it was never meant to be the destination of mankind’s souls.

Sadly, the moment man chose to listen to the voice of Satan, he became just like him, choosing a lifestyle of sin over God’s righteousness. That is why Hell exists for human punishment as well as demons – because they chose to follow Satan’s ways of wickedness over God’s holiness.

But thanks and praise be to God, Who saw fit to SAVE us from a fate of eternal darkness, despair, and pain, completely separated from His goodness and light forever. We did nothing to deserve it, no, but He extended His grace and mercy toward us so we wouldn’t have to know that terrible fate. (Romans 5:8 ~ “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.“) Instead, we gained the privilege of knowing Him, which leads to the second reason He is a King worth loving…

2. He is kind and merciful.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is overflowing with benevolence towards our souls. He not only forgives us for all our sins (which we should ask for daily), but also makes intercession for us on our behalf to God the Father Himself. (Romans 8:27 ~ “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”)

When Satan accuses us of our sins daily, Jesus Himself stands before His Father in Heaven and says “Wait a minute – I know exactly what *insert your name* is going through right now, and it isn’t easy. Since I know everything about *insert your name in the possessive case* life, I understand why they did what they did. It doesn’t make it right, but I already paid the price for their sin. So please Dear Father, forgive their sin on My behalf.”

As you can see, Jesus is the lover of our souls – that’s the whole reason why He did what He did for us on the cross. He gave us the chance to have eternal life when we didn’t deserve it whatsoever. He loved us, even when He knew it was likely we might never love Him in return. That is unconditional love, and we can never repay Him for it in full. However, He is satisfied with us giving our best to Him, which leads to the third reason why He is worth loving…

3. He is understanding.

The Lord knows our weaknesses, and rather than showing us cruelty for them, He offers His compassion instead. He knows that we are but made of dust, and remembers that every time we fail Him, which is often, if not daily. (Psalm 103:14 ~ “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.“) Because we are saved from the pit of Hell by His grace, He shows us refuge instead of condemnation. (Romans 8:1-2 ~ “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.“)

Therefore, we have a much better life of service than the European knights of the Middle Ages. Rather than being thrown into the dungeon or executed, we are spared from our punishment by the loving kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is well within His right to judge and condemn us if He chose to, but since we have chosen to place our faith and trust in Him, He acknowledges our loyalty to Him and gives us more grace.

As the Good Shepherd, He knows us by name and calls us unto Him every day. He protects us from physical danger on Earth, as well as supernatural attacks from Satan himself and his demonic minions. Jesus is truly a warrior king, and stands apart from all other human warrior kings, because he has already won the victory, which lasts forever. We can choose to ride with Him in safety into spiritual battle every day, or we can choose to stumble along the sidelines where are vulnerable to satanic attacks. Hopefully you choose to ride with Him, charging against the hordes of spiritual darkness.

For an infinite Creator and King, we have infinite reasons to love Him.

The number of reasons we owe our love to God doesn’t stop at three – on the contrary, the list is endless. Each person is free to fill the list with his or her own reasons, based on the marvelous works He has done in their lives. The three reasons I’ve listed here are simply basic, fundamental reasons for loving God that are derived from biblical truth. I hope that this month and every month, no matter what the holiday, you will remember to love the One Who loves you the most. Jesus IS WORTHY of our love, our life of service and sacrifice, and our loyalty. Let Him be your Valentine daily, and you will see for yourself just how much He can fill your heart with His unconditional love.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Generating Power

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Winter has come – …Are you prepared?

 

Where does your warmth come from?

Now that winter is finally here in its full force, you must have all the essentials necessary to survive the cold elements: soft, thick, insulated clothes, lots of moisturizing lotion, lip balms to spare, a heavy coat or weatherproof jacket, a fluffy scarf and hat, fuzzy gloves or plush mittens, fleece-lined pants or leggings, and sturdy boots for walking in the snow. Most people use these things during the cold months, and if they don’t already have them, they put them on their shopping list. However, while these things are all helpful for sustaining internal body temperature, most people neglect to prioritize another essential supply in their daily routine that is actually the most important of all.

That particular supply item is none other than the power of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

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Yes, even Christians who have the Holy Spirit living inside of them can sometimes forget to take full advantage of His supernatural strength, which they need each and every day. When we pass by on the power of the Holy Spirit, we are also passing by access to His wonderful, daily blessings. Without using the power of God, made accessible to us by the Lord Jesus Christ, man is left in his natural state, stranded on the cold outside looking in to the warmth of God’s love. (James 1:23-24 ~ “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”)

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This neglectful choice is comparable to someone who has lost all power in a huge snowstorm, yet also owns a personal power generator and deliberately chooses not to use it. What good is it to own such an important resource, if you forget or choose not to use it? It simply makes no sense. Likewise, we also go through many different forms of power outages in our Christian lives. We endure countless seasons of suffering and trials, times when we are all tempted to feel like just giving up. (1 Corinthians 10:13 ~ “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”) Why would we make the mistake of relying on our own strength to overcome life’s numerous obstacles? Whether the reason is personal pride or unintentional ignorance, we should take care to remember exactly Who it is that truly takes care of us. (Matthew 10:29- 31 ~ “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”)

We must also remember that there are many others around us in our everyday lives who depend on us to be a spiritual power source of encouragement for them.

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Whether these people are born again Christians or not, we have a responsibility to them to show forth the warmth and light of God’s love, grace, hope and joy. How can people stay warm from the harsh, bitter cold of the fallen world we live in if we don’t offer them any sort of spiritual refuge? (1 Peter 3:15 ~ “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”) Therefore, it is our duty to not only take care of our own spiritual well being but also to look after everyone else as a natural side effect. This is God’s great and glorious purpose – that through His power we not only receive a blessing for ourselves, but share that same blessing with others. (John 7:38 ~ “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”) Even if the unsaved people we know continue to reject the blessing of God’s love we show them, they can never say when they stand before God someday that it was never offered to them.

In order to generate God’s power in our everyday lives, we must follow His instructions.

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God wants us to exercise our faith in Him daily by praying to Him and reading His Word. It’s been preached and taught countless times over the years, and its truth remains the same. People have tried unsuccessfully to live their lives without this strategy, and end up miserable with their results. (John 15:5 ~ “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”) The power generator itself is our heart, and in order for it to function properly, we need to be connected to the proper outlet and source of energy. To do this well, we need to use the wireless cables that connect us to God, which are effective prayer and sincere reading of Scripture. God wants to know how much we truly want Him in our lives, and its our job to prove that to Him. We must seek Him with our whole heart, and only then will we find Him.  (Jeremiah 29:13 ~ “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”) Once we have disciplined ourselves to do this every single day, we will be generating spiritual power to bless ourselves and others around us before we know it.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

The Guiding Star

 

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The true Star of Christmas will always lead you to what you seek.

 

“Wise men still seek Him…”

You’ve probably seen this quote plastered on a large billboard posted at the side of a highway, next to the iconic image of the three ancient biblical travelers from the Orient. While nonbelievers of all kinds may scoff at and scorn this saying, it is immediately understood by true Christians who strive to follow its message. The original wise men described in the Bible died thousands of years ago, but modern day believers still carry their same quest until the day the Lord Himself returns to Earth.

Those biblical wise men earned their title through their reputation for discerning the meanings of the stars, as they were ancient astronomers who studied God’s intricate design of the universe. They sincerely believed in the existence of the one true God, Who not only created the stars they watched nightly but also their very own existence. The biblical wise men desired to see the face of the newborn baby Jesus, whom they correctly believed was the human manifestation of God’s Son on Earth. So they began an epic journey to find Him, their famous quest taking them great long distances across the lonely deserts of foreign lands. As biblical historians reveal to us, their quest was not in vain, as they successfully reached the Savior two years after His birth and gave Him symbolic gifts that were worthy of His royal, divine identity.

 

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As told in the Scriptures, those wise men did not rest until they had finally reached their goal – the purpose of their journey was to find the Lord and Savior of all mankind, the infant form of Jesus Christ. The star was the special compass that led them all the way to their ultimate destination. The wise men didn’t care how long it took them to journey towards the Savior; they only had their one goal fixed in their mind. They were absolutely determined to find the baby Who was King of kings and worship Him the way He deserved. The fact that the wise men came all the way from the Orient (or the Far East) proves just how much finding Jesus was important to them. The light of the star led them straight to the Light of the World.

Today, people all over the world are seeking that same Light. God has given mankind the best resource possible to find their way to Him – the wonderful gift of His holy Word. The Bible points the way to the true Star of Christmas, which is Jesus Christ Himself. He is the Star of His own story, shining the light of His love unto all who would seek Him. Unfortunately, in our sinful world, there are millions of other stars that would use their lesser light to distract people from the true Star that can save them. These “lesser lights” are the many various things of this world that Satan loves to divert people’s attention with. When people concern themselves too much with the lesser lights of the world, they often end up lost, confused and disillusioned. Instead of being led to the bright light shining down into the stable, they wind up alone wandering the dark streets of Bethlehem, where there is no room for them to stay anywhere. Worse still, their distracted vision may lead them far away from the city of the Savior, all the way into the deserts of disappointment and despair.

Perhaps you too have found yourself wandering aimlessly in your search for the Light, even if you’ve already accepted the Savior into your heart.

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Even as Christians, it can be all too easy to let ourselves get distracted from our goal of seeking the Savior. If we’re not careful, we can allow Satan’s influence to enter our minds and discourage us, becoming completely overwhelmed with the stressful circumstances of our lives. It is Satan’s primary goal to shut out the light of Jesus’ love from our eyes, regardless of whether or not we know Him. He wants us to stumble around in the darkness, utterly oblivious to the light of Christ that would lead us out of the shadows. However, if we want to find the right direction, we should be looking up towards the true Star, rather than focusing on the dark streets around us.

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Just like the wise men did before, we need to chart our course directly to the Savior, ignoring any distractions along the way. This is a time of year when we can tend to feel lonely, even if we have family and friends around us. We may try to stuff away our feelings like how we hide Christmas presents for others in the closet, but just like those presents, they are bound to be discovered sooner or later without fail. Rather than suppressing them in an unhealthy way, we need to deal with our emotions by expressing them openly and honestly. We think we can try to cover them up, but if we don’t take care of our personal well being, it will inevitably affect everyone around us. The last thing everyone wants during the Christmas season is a friend or relative who is so overcome with anger, stress, or sadness that he or she suddenly snaps at them without warning.

So how can we redirect our gaze to the true Star of Christmas and find our way out?

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The first thing we need to remember is that if we’re feeling lost, alone, stressed, depressed, and overwhelmed this time of year, someone else we know is most likely feeling the same way. Modern celebrations of Christmastime have become such a huge annual production for most families that everyone involved can get unwittingly caught up and carried away from the holiday’s true meaning.

 

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“…yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light.”

 

 

We might compare ourselves to some straggling shepherds, who have the best intentions of seeking Jesus at heart, but somehow lost our way and took a wrong turn in the busy streets of Bethlehem. What we need to do for ourselves and for others around us is look up past the city buildings and fix our gaze on the Star of Bethlehem, Whose shining light cuts right through the darkness. Following its piercing rays, we will be led straight to the Savior, Who should always be the real reason we are celebrating anyway.

What I mean by all this is we need to take some time out for ourselves to refocus our minds and hearts on Jesus Christ Himself, just like we ought to do each and every day.

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In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we should set aside some quiet time to pray and meditate on God’s holy Word, reminding ourselves of what’s truly important. If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-4) Because after all, God’s Word says that if we love Him first, we’ll be able to show His love to others around us.If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 John 4:20-21) This verse certainly applies to the holiday season, when people may be forced to interact with relatives that might be difficult to get along with. When we find ourselves in this situation, we should respond the way the Lord wants us to, by following the Golden Rule found in Scripture: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

These are verses we should meditate on to love God and others properly, but God still deeply and personally cares about each individual too.

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We should always remember that Jesus coming to Earth as a human baby is a divine miracle that is a personal gift to our own hearts. “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Ephesians 2:8) Instead of feeling lost and alone amidst the chaos of Christmastime, we should simply make time to talk to Jesus Himself and tell Him about everything in our hearts and minds. He came to save all the people of the world, including you personally. He wants to free you from any darkness that is holding you captive – whether that be spiritual or emotional darkness. Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Jesus wants to show you the wonderful, glorious light of His love, reminding you that He is always there for you. Even if other people (including Christians) may treat you poorly, Jesus will always treat you with kindness out of the abundant grace of His heart. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Don’t let your present circumstances or past experiences from this time of year control the joy in your heart that Jesus sacrificed His life for you to have!

As you can see, the true Star of Christmas will lead you out of the darkness and straight to Him.

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Just like the biblical wisemen embarked on a long and difficult journey to meet the Savior in person, from the moment of our salvation we Christians have also embarked on a similar lifelong journey that is filled with perilous paths and treacherous territory. The wisemen did not fear the trip ahead of them though, for they were skilled navigators who solely relied on the star of Bethlehem as their main compass. We also should never fear what we encounter in our earthly lives, because Christ is our central, spiritual Compass. No matter what darkness we face, we can survive every kind of danger this world throws our way because we have the Savior with us in our hearts at all times. Jesus is the Star of Christmas that not only leads us out of sin, but also out of depression, despair, and distractions that Satan tries to use to defeat us. We too can be navigators, just like the wisemen, and let Jesus, the precious Son of God and Prince of Peace, guide us in every aspect of our lives.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Too Much Stuffing

 

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Don’t become so overstuffed with blessings that you forget to share them with others!

 

As we all know, Thanksgiving is a time that is popular for stuffing ourselves.

I will be the first to admit (among MANY) that I enjoy immense amounts of carbohydrates on Thanksgiving Day, and the stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy are my favorite parts of the menu! My eyes are often bigger than my stomach, so I am prone to piling it all on my plate before I realize I can’t quite finish it all; this is NEVER the case with my mashed potatoes and gravy, however! The excessive portions of rich food are all too easy to over-indulge on, usually followed by a massive coma. I’ll also admit that it is sometimes hard to remember that I’m supposed to leave some helpings of my favorite dishes for my family members, but I usually try to remain self-aware of my servings before I let myself get too carried away.

Basically, I’m heavily inclined to want too much of a good thing.

This applies not only to heaping amounts of food, but also to all manner of material objects in addition to the food. Whether we are shopping for others or for ourselves on Black Friday (or literally any other time of year), the natural human instinct of selfishness can easily display itself, even in good people with the best intentions. Our culture’s philosophy of commercialism during this time of year boils down to the simple yet harsh idea of “survival of the fittest.” Everyone is preoccupied with getting all they can for their own individual purposes while the getting is good. It would seem at times that some people push aside all pretenses at human civility and decency in favor of their ruthless quest in pillaging for treasures. Sadly, this is the reality of our modern society that has become obsessed with the culture of commercialism and consumerism.

However, we must never forget about the real treasures that are at risk of being lost.

As you go about the day shopping for the holidays during this time of year, you will see multitudes of faces in every corner of every store – faces that all belong to people that the Lord Jesus Christ gave His precious life for. Each and every individual is a completely unique entity that was created and formed in the divine image of God. Just as you have thoughts, feelings, emotions, and problems in your own life, so does everyone else. Instead of focusing on your own needs, try to think about people around you who may be in similar (or even WORSE) situations. Many people in today’s world do not know God as their Creator and Savior, or if they do know, they willfully choose to reject Him and His love for them. Just as Jesus Himself stated in Luke 10:2, “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few.” It is therefore imperative that we don’t neglect the enormous potential for harvesting lost souls for Christ’s sake during the holidays, just like any other time of year.

The best way to take advantage of this potential spiritual harvest is by sharing our spiritual treasures and gifts with everyone else, rather than hoarding everything good for ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying what we have, and we are commanded by God to be thankful, but the Bible also instructs us to follow Christ’s example by giving unto others. If Jesus Himself was willing to go out of His way to show His Father’s love to people on this Earth, then certainly we must do the same.

What are some ways that we can share Christ’s love and His blessings during this time of year? you may ask.

Believe it or not, the available options are surprisingly simple and quite manageable, even if you’re on a tight budget:

1. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you with His presence.

 

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

 

Before you take one step inside your local shopping mall (or anywhere else, for that matter), make sure you consciously remember to ask God to fill you with His Spirit. There are countless hurting people in the world with broken, confused, and disillusioned hearts; they just need someone to look at them with love through the eyes of Jesus. Instead of blending in with the stressed out hordes of humanity, stand out from the crowd with the light of the Holy Spirit’s love shining inside of you. No matter how many other bodies are surrounding you, your presence filled with God’s peace will not go unnoticed. Someone who has a truly Christ-like countenance is rare to find these days, and if someone is brave enough to put it on display, it will be like a breath of fresh air to a lost and fallen world.

2. Give the gift of joy by sharing a smile.

 

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Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash

 

“Joy to the world! The LORD is come!” It’s so sad to think about the countless people who don’t have any sense of joy in their hearts; they probably don’t even understand the true meaning of the word. Unfortunately, Satan is responsible for this circumstance in our sinful world. The good news is, we HAVE the Good News to share with others – the Gospel, which describes how God loved mankind so much, while it was still yet cursed with sin, that He was willing to send His Son JESUS to die on the cross to take our punishment away for all eternity. To escape from eternal death unto eternal life is an opportunity that ought to put a smile on anyone’s face, but how can the fallen world understand that concept of joy if we Christians don’t keep up a joyful countenance? Sure, I understand how stressful this time of year can be, and the levels of stress inevitably vary based on individuals’ circumstances – but we can still make an effort to spread true, Christian joy with those around us by keeping a warm smile on our face to help melt away the bitter coldness on other people’s faces.

3. Serve others with little acts of kindness.

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Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Even if you think that you don’t have much to give to others, a helping hand is always a welcome gift when needed. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about donating money for a cause or getting someone a financial boost; I’m talking about just showing kindness to others on a daily basis. Whether it’s holding a door open for someone else (regardless of their gender), carrying heavy bags and/or boxes, shoveling snow off a driveway or parking lot, assisting with cooking holiday meals, wrapping presents, or just doing the dishes, the list of helpful actions goes on and on. Another act of kindness that is simple to carry out is being a listening ear for someone else. Surely people have all kinds of problems this time of year, just like they do in any other month; the least we can do is let them know we’re there for them by just listening. If the other person welcomes it, we can also offer helpful advice from our personal experiences and also God’s Word. Of course, praying with and for another person is the greatest act of Christian love you can do for someone else. So as you can see, no matter how small your “gift” is, there will always be a need for it somewhere by someone who truly appreciates it.

These spiritual blessings are not limited to this time of year alone; rather, we are called to “be the light” 24/7, 365 days a year.

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By providing others around us with these gifts of spiritual blessings, we offer them an even GREATER gift of hope – hope that can ONLY be found through knowing the Lord Jesus Christ in a personal relationship with Him. After obtaining this divine, personal relationship with Jesus, people everywhere receive the true meaning and manifestation of “blessed hope” in their hearts. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” (Titus 2:13) We should go out of our way like Jesus did to make a conscious effort to bless others, no matter where we are or what our circumstances may be. We should never keep the light all to ourselves, but share it freely in the darkness of this world full of hurting people. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid, neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) It is our sacred duty and privilege as Christians to carry out the Great Commission for the sake of our Lord, Jesus Christ, so that lost souls might be saved and realize just how much God loves them. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Now that you know these budget-friendly options for sharing spiritual treasures with the world, I hope that you will go out and try them to the best of your ability. Remember, nobody wants to be labeled as a selfish, over-stuffed turkey that’s close to the verge of exploding! Get out their and share your stuffing, and show the world the stuff you’re made of – God’s love.

– Gloria D. Hopkins