The Essential Equinox

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Just as the seasons must change, our hearts must do the same.

Everyone looks forward to many different things during the season of autumn.

The air gets cooler, giving people the perfect excuse to wear their favorite sweaters and jackets. The nights last longer, allowing people more time to sleep. Because of the colder weather, annual summertime insect pests finally disappear. Other enjoyable things include bonfires, jumping into piles of leaves, toasting marshmallows, savoring warm, hearty soups, sipping hot cocoa, wearing soft, comforting scarves, and attending social gatherings to celebrate the harvest.

However, there is one important thing that occurs every year during autumn that everyone simply cannot ignore: the annual changing of the leaves.

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Although the changing colors of the leaves are beautiful, they are also foreboding.

As most people know, the leaves changing color represent their imminent death during the coming winter. The lowering levels of chlorophyll present in the leaves are responsible for making them lose their shades of green. Carotenoids, chemicals which cause plants to appear yellow, and anthocyenids, chemicals which cause plants to appear red, are the two remaining sources that give autumn leaves their fiery hue. Also responsible for this change are the shorter hours of sunlight during the annual autumn equinox. Without chlorophyll and sunlight working together, the trees are no longer able to make food for their leaves, and the natural consequence is a gradual death for the leaves.

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For nature lovers like myself, this scientific fact is quite sobering, and makes me feel sad when I think about it. As much as I love seeing the trees throughout all their stages during the year, I hate the thought that their leaves are subject to an annual death. Being a spring baby, I am more comfortable with the trees coming back to life after winter, when their leaves and flowers are growing and blossoming all over the place. However, I always need to remind myself to accept the fact that the changing leaves and their subsequent death is necessary for the trees to have a new, fresh life in the spring. If they constantly hold onto the old, dead leaves, they won’t be able to grow the young, living ones. God designed the trees this way as an essential part of His cycle of nature in His creation.

Just as the leaves have a necessary cycle of change, we as Christians do also.

It is important for us to remember that although we are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, we are still sinners saved by grace. This means that even though we strive to sin less, we have a long way to go before we obtain sinless perfection in Heaven. We all struggle with sin every day, in various different forms and degrees. Only God knows the content of our hearts and whether or not our sins are intentional. This is why it is necessary for us to make a daily habit out of prayer and ask God to search our hearts for us, to make sure that there is nothing between us in our relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit will gently make us aware of anything we need to confess to God so that we can rid ourselves of it and remove it completely from our lives. We must also keep in mind that the process of change in our hearts is a slow one, just like anything else that changes, so that we do not become too hard on ourselves if we happen to fail God more than once.dead-leaves-giphy

The greatest obstacle in accomplishing change is establishing new habits while abolishing old ones. When the leaves die and fall off the trees, they are not needed any more as they are no longer useful. In the same way, God is able to examine our hearts to see what problem areas are hindering us in our spiritual walk. When we read His Word and a certain verse or passage convicts us of something, that is the Holy Spirit talking directly to us, saying, “Get rid of it; you don’t need that anymore. If you hold onto this sin or bad habit, you will be blocking access to My blessings in your life. Only after you kill off this unnecessary thing will you be able to see new growth and transformation take place in your heart.” If we listen to the soft whispers of God’s Holy Spirit, we will achieve two victories – pleasing God by practicing obedience to Him, and bettering ourselves for our personal benefit and for His glory.

We are all like swaying tree branches, and God grounds us as the solid trunk.

There is no need for us to be afraid of letting go of spiritual hindrances in our lives, as we can live much better without them. The tree branches don’t die when they release their leaves to the ground; only the leaves themselves die. We can still live without the sins and bad habits that we might cling to, and have a much improved quality of life as well. Although we might sway in the breeze when experiencing personal change, God is still there to help keep us grounded. He is the Vine (or Trunk), and we are the branches. We have no life in and of ourselves, but only when we are connected to Him. It is through God alone that we are able to attain new life in the spring of spiritual growth once we receive salvation. He is our support system that keeps us firmly rooted during all the trials of life. Though the winds of autumn weather may get rough, the trunk keeps the branches strong and secure. We have no reason to fear about falling off when we are connected to God.

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Even though the season of autumn symbolizes the coming of death, we know that eventually springtime will return. Once we have completed our process of earthly transformation, in Heaven we will be rewarded with a brand new, everlasting life. The wickedness of this world will pass away, and God’s righteous rule will finally be set up to reign over the new Heaven and Earth. Just as in nature’s autumn equinox, the days will grow darker before they get brighter. However, we have an eternal hope and joy that we have invested our faith in; and that’s something that God has promised us. We must trust that God has everything in His ultimate, divine control, and not allow the troublesome, chilly breezes of this world to blow us to and fro. Therefore, we can have peace in knowing that God will allow everything to unfold according to His perfect plan, and watch the changing natural process take its course.

“Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.” ~ Emily Bronte

Here are some verses to help us understand the need for our essential equinox:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 ~ “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;  A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”

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.”

Acts 17:28 ~ “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”

Romans 6:4 ~ “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Romans 12:2 ~ “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 ~ “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Ephesians 2:15 ~ “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

Ephesians 4:22-24 ~ “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;  And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

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:”

Colossians 3:5 ~ “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:”

1 Thessalonians 5:24 ~ “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”

We must embrace the essential equinox in our everyday lives.

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When the autumn leaves change colors and eventually fall off entirely, it does not happen overnight. It is a gradual process that occurs over the three months of the season. In order for us to experience real change in our hearts and lives, we must have realistic expectations and exercise patience with ourselves. We will accomplish very little if we do the opposite and end up making ourselves feel discouraged and hopeless. This is also why we need to call upon God to ask for His help in our process of change. Remember, we are helpless to do anything without Him, and He will hear us if we come to Him in humility. God understands our weaknesses, and takes pity on our human condition. He is more than happy to help us if we are willing to acknowledge our constant need for Him. God will provide us with the courage and strength we need to release the sins and spiritual bad habits that are holding us back, so we can fully experience newness of life. Instead of resisting these changes, we would do well to embrace them, and let God perform the miracle that He desires to work in our lives. In the process, we will witness something amazingly beautiful take place as change occurs inside us.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Acknowledging the Author

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The pen is not mightier than the Sword of the Lord!

Did you know that your life story has an Author?

Believe it or not, regardless of society telling us that we are the authors of our own fate or destiny, our lives were written into existence by an intelligent Being, Who loves us very much. Each and every one of us is a unique, individual character designed to fulfill a specific purpose on the stage of this world. While some of us may have more difficult backgrounds and settings to deal with than others, all of us are certain to face daunting challenges and conflict throughout the various chapters of our lives. During the darkest moments of our life experience, it may be extremely hard to keep reading until we reach the next chapter. However, we must never forget the One Who is constantly writing the story of our lives, nor forget the inherent goodness of His character.

God, the ultimate, Divine Author, has plans for every chapter we live.

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From the moment that we are conceived in our mother’s womb to the moment we take our last breath, God is busy writing a grand novel about our lives. Depending on whether or not we come to know Him by choosing to accept salvation, our lives can become either a triumphant masterpiece, or a pitiful tragedy. You see, the main thing that sets us apart from fictional literary characters is tense – past tense, that is. When human authors tell stories, they usually use the format of relating the different events as having already happened; while our lives are limited to the present. Only God has the privilege of knowing what will happen in the future; yet He still has given man the gift of free will, allowing us to shape the course of our future. While God will always be the One Who is ultimately in control, He has given man the responsibility to make his own decisions, which he will be held accountable for at the end of his life.

God desires to perform a wonderful work through each of our lives, which He will only carry out if we let Him. He literally sees everything from a higher perspective, in both a physical and spiritual sense. Possessing the power of omniscience, God knows exactly who needs us, what needs our abilities, when we are needed, why we are needed, and how we are needed. From our finite point of view, we can only see a limited picture of God’s purpose for us. This can be extremely frustrating at times, causing us to want to question God and His pure, just motives. However, if we knew exactly how everything is supposed to work out in our lives, then why would we need to trust God in the first place? God designed us to be completely dependent upon Him, whether we like it or not. When we rely on Him for guidance every day, it keeps us humble as we always should be. Also, if we knew what was going to happen in all of the chapters ahead of time, it would take the excitement out of our story, defeating its purpose with the biggest spoiler ever!

As the main characters of our stories, we are subject to development.

At the beginning of most stories, the main character usually starts out with personality traits or circumstances that may or may not change by the end of the final chapter. Just like many fictional literary characters, we tend to have a variety of qualities that God desires to change about us during our life’s journey. Since we are born with a sinful nature, and God is holy and perfect in every way, anything that God manages to change about us is guaranteed to be an improvement. Here are some classic examples to help emphasize this point: With Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” he went from being greedy and miserly to generous and compassionate. With Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit,” he started off as a timid little homebody and became a bold, brave burglar that traversed all of Middle Earth. With Mary Lennox in “The Secret Garden,” she was once a bitter, cynical little girl who didn’t care much for other people. Yet by the end of her story, she had become a sweet, loving little girl who had learned to finally trust other people.

Just as the characters from these classic stories had flaws and weaknesses that made them far from perfect, we likewise suffer from our own personal problems that we must strive to overcome. In case you haven’t already figured this out by now, we are totally helpless all on our own. When it comes to improving ourselves as human beings, we are utterly powerless to change any aspect of ourselves without God’s help. Once again, this is where we are designed to depend upon Him. In exchange for our robe of fleshly ways, God can give us a robe of righteousness through the transforming power of His Holy Spirit. If the characters mentioned in the stories above were already perfect, there wouldn’t be any need for them to go through the different experiences in their stories. In the same way, if we were already perfect like God, then we would be in Heaven with Him right now instead of living on this earth. We all need to go through our own types of character development during our earthly stories before we can acquire sinless perfection in Heaven.

For our characters to develop, we must be willing to go through dark chapters.

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In order for any story to be interesting to the reader, the main character must go through some sort of conflict during the majority of the plot and learn how to overcome it. Without a decent conflict, the story is dull, boring, and altogether irrelevant to its human audience, which is all too familiar with conflict in the real world. Depending on the complexity of the plot, this conflict can come from many different sources – a main antagonist, the protagonist’s preexisting circumstances, or even from within the protagonist himself. For a really dramatic story, the author will probably form a conflict by mixing together all three of these sources, to keep the reader’s interest. Even though the conflict in the story might be so overwhelming that the main character wants to give up, he has no choice but to keep going, if he is ever going to reach the resolution at the end.

As the main characters of our life stories, we must also keep going if we are going to reach the ultimate goal of God’s will for us. Although conflict in this world will never be completely resolved until the Lord returns, we can still witness resolution in our lives every day by choosing to focus on God’s goodness in the midst of trials. If we are following God, Who is light, then we will certainly be opposed by Satan and his forces of evil, who are darkness. Even though God does not like to see us suffer, He still allows it to occur in our lives to grow us in our spiritual maturity. If we try to resist the reality of suffering in our lives, we are only deceiving ourselves, and simply postponing the inevitable.  When Jesus Himself was on this earth, He suffered more than any of us could ever imagine. Are we greater than God’s only Son to think that we are entitled to make our way through life without any obstacles? Absolutely not! In order to see the final chapter in our story filled with light, we must first earn our happy ending by experiencing chapters filled with darkness.

 

Here are some verses to prove that God is busy developing the plot of our lives:

 

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.”

Romans 8:28 ~ “ 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.

Psalm 27:14 ~ “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

Psalm 37:23 ~ “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.

Proverbs 3:5 ~ “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Proverbs 16:3 ~ “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Proverbs 16:9 ~ “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.

Jeremiah 1:5 ~ “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Ephesians 3:20 ~ “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

1 Corinthians 2:9 ~ “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

 

We must acknowledge our Author by submitting our will to His.

Within the pages of every great story, the main characters all have individual desires that drive them to perform the course of action they take throughout the book. Sometimes the desires of the protagonist become clouded by his overwhelming circumstances of adversity, causing him to lose hope and give up all of his willpower to achieve them. To make the story feel real and relatable to readers, a good author will often bring his main character to the brink of surrender through all of the plot twists and turns that he throws at him. Yet for a good story to truly resonate with a reader, the protagonist will always find a way to overcome his circumstances, no matter how many times he is knocked down. This inspires the reader to have strength and determination in his own life, regardless of his own personal struggles. The protagonist doesn’t know that he is merely playing a part in the author’s grand scheme of things; he simply accepts his role and dutifully fulfills it. We, on the other hand, are aware of our Divine Author, and also have a say in making our own decisions. In the midst of all the drama in our daily lives, God wants to hear us cry out to Him and seek His will above everything else. We do not have the authority to control the many different plot twists He gives us, but we are expected to cooperate in loving obedience with God by trusting the goodness of His character.

At times, it may seem hard to accept the difficult plot points that we are given in our unique stories. We may even be tempted to get angry with God and question what exactly He is doing with our lives. As humans, we don’t like being told to wait and put our desires on hold, nor do we like facing uncertainty in the midst of adverse circumstances. However, it is our responsibility to acknowledge God’s rightful place as the Author of our lives. The Bible, the greatest Book that has ever been written, assures us that we can trust God completely, because He loves us unconditionally in spite of our sometimes misguided decisions. No matter how many mistakes we might make, God is always ready and willing to forgive us, and turn those errors in judgment around to make for a more interesting story. If we can convince ourselves to give up our stubborn pride and selfishness, then we will be able to see just what amazing things God is capable of doing in our lives. To be a true servant of the Lord, we must relinquish our grip on the pen of our will, and give it to the One Author Who knows how to make a remarkable, miraculous story.

– Gloria D. Hopkins