Speak Up, Don’t Give Up!

 

Alone At Sea
Please don’t choose to end it all, when you don’t know the end of it all.

 

I realize that September is nearly over already, but I feel compelled to write about this subject before it passes: National Suicide Awareness Month. While I am happy that there is a specific month dedicated to making people more mindful of this issue, I wish that our society would realize just how serious it is throughout the entire year, as this problem will never completely go away while this dark, fallen world exists.

There are countless people in this world who suffer from depression, which as a condition itself comes in many different forms. It is far more than just a negative emotional state; it is medically proven to be a mental illness that strongly affects one’s emotions and sense of rationality. However, I’m not writing this post to elaborate on the complex definition of depression – I’m writing this to help those who might be struggling with it, and also people who have loved ones in their lives that are also struggling with it.

Before I continue, let me clarify that the entire reason I started this blog was for the purpose of encouraging people to keep their joy in spite of dark circumstances. Satan’s primary goal when attacking Christians is to steal their joy. He achieves this by causing them to focus far too much on all the many negative things in their lives instead of God and His goodness. You see, because Satan hates God so much, he goes out of his way to convince people, including Christians, that God is not the good, loving Creator that He says He is. Satan even tells himself this lie to justify his rebellion against God when he still lived in Heaven. Satan reasons that if he can’t win against God, then he wants to pull as many people into the darkness with him as he possibly can.

Now, Christians have already been saved from the darkness of Hell, but they are still not immune to emotional and spiritual darkness.

God has already won the victory over Satan, death, and Hell, and Christians who have accepted Him are granted eternal security. Satan knows this, and he HATES that there is absolutely NOTHING he can do about it. God’s power will ALWAYS be superior to his, and Satan can never change that fact. However, Satan is certainly not above being petty against God, because he is the biggest sore loser in the entire universe. Even though Satan cannot counteract what Christ did for us at Calvary, he resorts to an alternative strategy to try to destroy Christians’ lives – he wants to render them completely useless for God’s service in this world.

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” ~ Colossians 1:12-14

 

Painful Reflection
Artist credit: Geoffrey Jones

 

Satan knows that a Christian who is filled with God’s power will be victorious over him, so he makes it his primary goal to convince Christians that they are powerless over their lives. He relentlessly attacks people by taunting them with the difficult life circumstances they face and drives them into despair and agony by reminding them that they are helpless to do anything to change their miserable condition. Satan wants to emphasize how Christians don’t possess God’s power over their circumstances themselves and wants to keep them ignorant of the fact that they are capable of spiritually and emotionally rising above the circumstances that he (Satan) is using to harm them.

“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.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13

Once a Christian makes the heartbreaking decision to end his or her own life, Satan rejoices at winning a trophy against God.

Now, please don’t misinterpret the above statement. After receiving salvation, a person belongs to God for all eternity, and Satan can never possess custody of his or her soul again. However, if a Christian chooses to kill himself, Satan sees his death as one less warrior in God’s army to be used in the ongoing spiritual battle against him. The more Christians that Satan can take out of the fight, the less opposition he’ll have to face in this world, meaning that the billions of other lost souls that exist will have a much stronger chance of remaining lost forever, doomed to Hell.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” ~ Ephesians 6:12

Therefore, committing suicide as a Christian is not only a sin, but it is also STEALING a valuable servant and potential warrior from God Himself.

When Jesus died on the cross for your sins, He gave everything He had just so you could be freed from Satan’s evil clutches and join Him in Heaven forever someday. Jesus gave you this opportunity through His glorious act of unconditional love on the cross, even though you had the option of never loving Him back. Jesus gave up His own life because He loved you enough to rescue you from the punishment of sin; He didn’t make His ultimate sacrifice just so you could throw your life away and all of your limitless potential you had to serve Him. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, God literally bought you back from Satan himself, since he is the god of this present world. After you accept salvation, Satan and the love of self are no longer your true masters – God alone is. Without trying to sound harsh or judgmental, my friend who is reading this, what right do you have to rob God of the service of your life that He rightfully purchased with the blood of His precious Son?

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Now that I have explained the tragic loss of suicide from God’s perspective, allow me to just talk to you as a friend.

First of all, let me just say that I know exactly what it feels like to struggle with suicidal thoughts. In my life, I have been through several dark experiences that Satan has tried to use to destroy me to the very best of his ability. These include being bullied severely during my entire childhood at school – in elementary, middle, and high school; being involved in an extremely emotionally abusive romantic relationship; being betrayed by people whom I thought were my real friends, and the list goes on and on. I fully realize that I am not the only one who has suffered these things, but that in no way detracts from the great deal of pain I have been through because of them all. In fact, to this very day I still have to ask God to help me deal with the emotional scars that I’ve gained from my difficult past. There are certain negative things that will trigger my memory, which just so happens to be photographic, and my brain doesn’t need help remembering what it already holds onto so vividly whether I like it or not.

Mood Ring Finger
I’ve worn this mood ring on my right middle finger since the summer of 2013, the last time I was really struggling. Half of it changes color, and the other half glows in the dark. My mom bought it for me at the beach when she was trying to help distract me from my pain. I have worn it every day ever since to remind me of my mom’s love for me, and also to remind me to keep glowing in the dark.

The way that people have treated me throughout the course of my relatively brief lifetime has taken an immense toll on my personal self esteem. Because of this, I am not ashamed to admit that I still struggle with issues such as my self worth, since many people made me feel like I was never good enough for them, and that nothing I did could ever please them. Satan loves it when I feel this way, because he wants me to forget about how God sees me in His eyes – which is a valuable soul that He created, and sent His Son to rescue from Hell by dying on the cross for me. Whenever I’m tempted with suicidal thoughts, I remind myself of how I belong to God in both body and soul, and I have no right to steal from Him what He has already rightfully bought.

 

So I say all that to say this –

 

I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed with the rainstorm of your own emotions.

 

Alone In the Rain

I have endured many sleepless nights where I was drowning in my own tears, helplessly engulfed in the sea of personal sorrow. My mind has the potential to be my own greatest enemy, if I allow it to be. When I don’t give God full control over my thoughts, I can very easily be dragged down into the depths of despair if I’m not careful. My negative emotions, if left unchecked, can numb me to the outside world around me to the point where I don’t even notice all the other many people who are suffering from their own pain. That’s the thing about Satan’s strategy of self-pity – he wants us to be so wrapped up in our own problems that we won’t have any time left to care about those around us. Who knows how different things would be if we took the time to ask other people how they’re doing, and discovered that they’re struggling with the same problems that we are? Not only would we be helping other people to see that they’re not alone, but we’d also be helping ourselves to find out that WE’RE not alone after all like we thought!

If you feel like you just can’t take it anymore, please, by all means, TELL SOMEBODY. Speak up, just don’t give up! Don’t feel ashamed to be honest about how you’re feeling with someone you trust. Believe me, that person would much rather have you tell them NOW about your problems than feel guilty for the rest of their life after you’re gone because they didn’t know you were struggling. You are NOT a bother by telling someone whom you trust about the issues you deal with, even if you might feel like it sometimes. You might have had other people treat you like a bother in the past, which is what probably led to these negative feelings you’re having now. However, if you can find someone that you believe is willing to listen to you, they will assure you that your feelings are perfectly valid and worthy of consideration. Be aware that Satan will whisper lies in your mind that everyone else doesn’t have time for you or your problems, because he wants to keep you from the help you need.

Furthermore, Satan seeks to isolate you physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

 

Alone In The Mist

When you’re feeling depressed to the point of having suicidal thoughts, your natural instinct is to shut yourself off from other people, simply because you assume that nobody else understands what you’re going through. However, this is the worst possible thing you can do, since Satan loves to attack us when we’re most vulnerable, just like the roaring lion the Bible describes him as. He attacks when you’re locked away in your bedroom, silently crying in anguish as you play the same sad songs you relate to on repeat. He attacks when you’re out in public and you see other people around you who appear to be perfectly happy, enjoying all the different things you wish you had. He attacks when you go through your daily routine at work or school, through the comments or actions of other people that may or may not be intended to hurt you. I know exactly how Satan approaches his prey, because I myself have been his targeted victim in all of these scenarios.

Instead of hiding out in your room or anywhere else you go to avoid other people, try seeking out those who you feel you can trust, even if you don’t think they’ll ever understand how you feel. Chances are, you’ll wind up surprised at just how understanding other people can be in spite of your pre-existing judgments. Even if there is no one in your everyday life that you truly feel you can trust, you can seek out the help of professional counselors, as their whole career is about providing the listening ear you need and desire. If you cannot afford professional counseling, another option is seeking out someone involved in a ministry who has a godly testimony that has been proven over a long period of time. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you spend sufficient time in prayer about it first. Don’t neglect the resources that are available and designed to help you. Remember, your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being as a whole is the most important thing you can invest in for your life.

 

You life HAS MEANING, and the unique touch that you give to this world would forever be sincerely missed.

 

Handprint

Whether you realize it or not, your life is important and special, because God created it ON PURPOSE. You do not exist for no reason! Every single person who has ever lived was made by the hands of an Almighty Creator because He wanted them to be a part of His living Masterpiece. There are countless other lives that you touch every day which you are unaware of, and will most likely remain unaware of until you get to Heaven. Once there, God will reveal to you all the many other people who were affected by your life in a positive way, regardless of how significant you felt your words or actions were. That is the true definition of eternal riches – affecting and influencing other people’s lives so their souls can have hope and happiness forever.

Refuse to believe Satan’s lie that “everyone else would be better off without you.” The only thing he can do is tempt you with his evil influence; YOU are the one who has the free will to make a decision. If you need help resisting Satan’s attacks, pray to God to give you the strength, courage, and determination you need to fend him off. Satan is persistent, so don’t expect to see the last of him if you succeed in pushing him away the first time. Become resolute in your heart that you will turn to God for help every single time you need Him when it comes to this deadly temptation. If you feel that you lack the ability to achieve victory in this area on your own, ask God to send you someone who can be your human guardian angel. Just remember, the amount of emotional pain that you’re feeling right now will NEVER outweigh the pain of everyone around you once you’re gone.

 

If you know someone who is severely depressed and struggling with suicidal thoughts, please try to be sensitive to their feelings and HELP them.

 

Depression

Whether it’s a friend, family member, or just a casual acquaintance, anyone you know could be secretly struggling with suicidal thoughts on the inside. Because these feelings are symptoms of severe depression, they also make the person feel too ashamed to talk about it voluntarily. Society has placed a negative stigma on this issue for years, but recently it seems to be getting progressively better about being sensitive to it. We should always be concerned and care about the well-being of others, but if we ever have good, solid reason to suspect that someone is sincerely struggling emotionally, we ought to go out of our way to reach out to them. Suicidal feelings are a result of the notion that nobody cares about the person, and that no one would care enough to ask how they’re doing. You never know how much of a difference you could make in someone’s life if you decide to step up and show that you care about them. In fact, the difference just might be that you helped save their life.

The correct way to approach the issue is by just being a friend to that person. DON’T treat them like a freak who has something wrong with them. DON’T come across as patronizing or condescending. Just talk to them, ask open-ended, non-threatening questions, and BE THERE to listen. You don’t have to be a licensed therapist to listen to someone else’s problems – being a friend to someone includes being their personal confidant, with whom they can share their deepest thoughts, feelings, and secrets. Do little things for them to help them out, such as chores or errands that they might lack the emotional or physical energy to do. Surprise them with little things you know they like. Write them an encouraging note or letter to express just how important they are to you. Or, if writing by hand isn’t your thing, just a simple text message or email to let them know you’re thinking and praying about them would suffice. No matter what you choose to do, make sure that person knows that you have love for them in your heart, as God’s unconditional love is what makes ALL the difference.

Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, if you or someone else you know is struggling and needs help RIGHT AWAY:

Call 1-800-273-8255

You are NOT alone.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

Save

Going Over The Edge

Sailing Over the Edge
Fear not the future’s abyss, for God’s strong hands will never miss!

Do you remember from history class how people used to believe that the earth was flat?

During the medieval/renaissance period, it was commonly accepted by everyone that our world was completely flat. Scientists, astronomers, and cartographers from that time did not fully understand the true shape of our beautiful planet. This was due to a universal ignorance of facts, but they simply didn’t realize it at the time. Whenever maps were made for sailors who went to explore the New World, the artists would depict the ocean with its usual horizontal surface, but also portrayed the very edge of it as falling straight down as if it were a waterfall. Many times, these same mapmakers would draw pictures of giant sea monsters waiting at the bottom, ready to devour approaching ships in the jaws of death as soon as they sailed over the edge.

Flat Earth
A great dragon from beneath the earth and sea waits eagerly to swallow explorers whole.

Other medieval maps were designed similarly, showing the waters surrounding the New World infested with all sorts of aquatic monstrosities. From giant krakens to sea serpents, cartographers from the Middle Ages let their imaginations run wild when it came to portraying uncharted territory. While it’s logical to say that the ocean has its fair share of dangers, it’s most likely that half the creatures the mapmakers came up with were nothing more than purely mythological. However, we DO know that tales of dragons and other colossal beasts were commonplace back then, so seeing them included in the artwork of maps from that time period is not surprising.

You may ask, “What was the purpose of all this? Were the sea monsters just included merely for the sake of decoration on the maps?”

That might indeed be the case, given that medieval artwork in all its forms tended to be highly elaborate. However, such a hypothesis is only derived from simple speculation. I believe the reason sea monsters were included on medieval maps was much more meaningful. When you think about all the many tales and legends about dragons and other monsters from back then, they were usually describing fearsome beasts that had to be reckoned with, representing the age-old struggle between good and evil. Note: the key word here is “fearsome.” When cartographers from the medieval and renaissance period drew their maps of the New World, they were trying to illustrate the great unknown that they had never seen before. Since they didn’t have any idea what sort of things lay ahead of them in the lands across the waves, in their minds it made perfect sense to associate that dangerous uncertainty with dragons and other types of sea monsters. As you can see in the picture below, they would write on their maps the ominous warning, “Here be dragons.”

Here Be Dragons

With all of these frightening images, you can imagine how terrified the New World explorers probably were.

Just think of how they might have been extremely excited to go out and discover the New World, only to grow increasingly full of dread at the possibility of being eaten alive by a vicious sea monster! They truly feared that the moment they sailed out into the great unknown and passed over the edge of the earth, the head of a gigantic beast would pop up out of the abyss and swallow them whole! Any voyage at sea back then was already full of great peril as it was; certainly the people’s ignorant yet imaginative mindset didn’t do anything to help calm the sailors’ nerves! There are two famous phrases that say “We have met the enemy, and he is us,” and “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” When your most formidable fear is created by your own mind, then you’re really in for some trouble!

However, what would our world be like today had they not found the courage to venture out into the Great Unknown?

For starters, there would be no advanced western hemisphere. Many different countries that are part of our modern society simply would not exist if the New World explorers had chosen to stay home because of their fear and anxiety. Yes, there were many different cultures of people living in those lands for thousands of years before the explorers arrived, but our world history would be very different if the explorers let their fears get the best of them. All of the European settlers would have remained in the Old World, where they would continue to be oppressed by their countries’ respective monarchies. They would not only be oppressed by the government of absolute monarchy, but also by the rule of the Church which claimed to hold total power and control over the kings themselves. Any religious system that believes man should be worshiped and honored on the same level of God Himself is critically fallible in its thinking. Without religious freedom or a fair system of government, it is highly unlikely that European civilization would have survived much longer than the Renaissance.

In other words, our world would have remained stuck in the Dark Ages.

With religious and political freedom at stake, it’s a blessing that God enabled the New World explorers to embark upon their dangerous quests. Each sea voyage required the sailors to face the treacherous waves, violent thunderstorms, and of course, whatever mysterious perils awaited them in the new lands ahead. Even though the original explorers were not Christians, as far as we know, it was still the divine providence of God that they were brave enough to risk their lives on the high seas. A whole new world of adventure was ready and waiting to be explored, a gateway to golden opportunities for freedom of all kinds.

ships_of_christopher_columbus.jpg
Columbus’s Ship At Sea (Artist unknown)

In some regards, we Christians can strongly relate to the olden explorers. Whether or not we learn from their achievements all depends on how much we are willing to trust God. Even though the New World explorers lived centuries before us, they still have much in common with us since they were humans just like we are.

 

There are three ways that we as Christians are like the New World explorers before they left the Old World:

 

  1. Just like the medieval mindset believed that the Earth was flat, we Christians have a very limited perspective of God’s divine, ultimate plan.

    In our everyday lives, we are only able to see the present circumstances that God allows us to see. At first, this might seem rather unfair from our point of view, however, we must also remember that God is omniscient, and knows exactly what He’s doing in our lives. With our finite minds, we would be simply incapable of handling the sheer weight and amount of information that God is aware of constantly. From our perspective here on Earth, we can only see the physical flat horizon of our planet, and also the flat horizon of our circumstances. The only way we can discover what lies ahead of us is by stepping forward in faith, trusting in God’s inherent goodness. The terrain that lies immediately before us may be rough, but God knows that smooth meadows and valleys are just up ahead in the distance. We may be asked to climb high mountains, yet they are not insurmountable with the help of our omnipotent Creator.

    Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 12.07.48 AM
    God is our Captain, and His Word our Compass.

    Even though we cannot see what’s in the distance, we can choose to trust God as He guides us every step of the way. He is our Lord, we are His servants. He is our Leader, we are his followers. He is our King, we are His subjects. He made this world and our lives with His very own hands, so we can safely rest as He navigates our charted course.

  2. Just as the explorers possessed a fear of the “Great Unknown,” we also fear the “Great Unknown” of our future.

    When we go through periods of trial and testing, sometimes it’s easy to forget that God is in complete control. Whatever situation befalls us, whether it’s the death of a loved one, financial difficulty, losing a job, moving to a new place, or experiencing frequent disappointment in relationships or friendships, we must remember that God is always GOOD, no matter what. Even when life proves itself to be “unfair” in our eyes, we should assess exactly WHY we were put on this Earth in the first place – for the purpose of bringing God pleasure and His rightful glory. We might have a hard time understanding why bad or disappointing things happen to us, but as Christians it is our responsibility to keep trusting God’s hand. Our immediate future may be uncertain or “unknown,” but we DO have assurance of our eternal future. If we are willing to trust God with the keeping of our souls at salvation, why are we so unwilling to trust Him with the minor details of our daily lives? There is absolutely NOTHING in this entire universe that can separate us from His unconditional love; God expresses that fact explicitly several times throughout His Word.
    SEA SERPENT
    A sea serpent emerges from the depths. (Artist credit: Robert [Bob] Eggleton)

    When we face “fearsome beasts” of uncertain circumstances in our lives, we should ask God to give us the courage to confront them, because He doesn’t ask or expect us to do it alone. Rather, God desires the opposite: He wants us to fully rely on Him for everything in our lives, acknowledging His strength instead of our weakness, since without Him, we can do nothing.
  3. Just like the historic explorers, we are capable of great discoveries in our own lives.When we decide to completely trust God with our future, He will fully reveal His plan for us one day at a time. It is our duty, however, to make sure that we stay close to Him through prayer and reading His Word. Consulting with our Creator daily reinforces the fact that our will is subject to His. If we are obedient and faithful, we will find that God’s goodness is far greater than we could ever imagine. His divine design is carefully unfolded each day with the utmost care, and we are but small players that are part of His grand Masterpiece. Through this process, we will discover the true nature of God, and become more acquainted with His character. At the same time, we’ll also discover for ourselves just exactly what our true nature is, and hopefully prove to become what God desires us to be – the image of His Only Son, Jesus Christ.
    The_arrival_of_Christopher_Colombus_to_America,_1492
    “The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus” (Artist unknown)

    Just as the discovery of the New World was essential for the growth of modern civilization, the discoveries we make about God and ourselves during trials and testing are essential for our growth as Christians. If we do not venture outside the “Old World” of our personal comfort zones, then we forfeit the chance to receive the “New World” promises that God has given us.

    Here are several passages from God’s Holy Word to comfort us whenever we must go over the edge:

    Genesis 13:15 ~ “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.

    Exodus 6:8 ~ “And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord.

    Leviticus 20:24 ~ “But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people.

    Deuteronomy 9:1 ~ “Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven,

    Joshua 5:6 ~ “For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord: unto whom the Lord sware that he would not shew them the land, which the Lord sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.

    Joshua 23:14 ~ “And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.

    Judges 2:1 ~ “And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.

    Psalm 34:4 ~ “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

    Psalm 91:4-6 ~ “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.”

    Isaiah 26:3 ~ “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

    Isaiah 27:1 ~ “In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

    Isaiah 41:10 ~ “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

    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.

    Micah 7:19 ~ “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

    John 14:27 ~ “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

    Romans 8:32 ~ “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

    Romans 8:37-39 ~ “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    1 Corinthians 1:20 ~ “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

    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.

    2 Corinthians 12:9 ~ “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

    Phillippians 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,”

    Phillippians 4:19 ~ “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

    2 Peter 1:4 ~ “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

    1 John 2:25 ~ “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

    1 John 4:4 ~ “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.”

    Revelation 4:11 ~ “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

    So, are you ready to go over the edge into uncharted territory?

    sea-ocean-horizon-clouds-gray

    Perhaps God has sent you on a personal voyage of exploration in your life. If so, what fears are holding you back from it? Christopher Columbus and other explorers like him either requested permission from or received direct orders from kings to go forth into the New World, hoping to bring back news of lands filled with material wealth. The explorers mainly sought a “Northwest Passage”, which they thought would lead them straight from Europe to Asia. Little did they know at the time that an entire continent lay between them and the Orient! The “Northwest Passage” they desired to find did not exist after all, but they still reached a new land full of opportunities. Because of this unexpected surprise, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella rewarded Columbus and his men with great riches.

    If we are obedient to God’s call in our lives, God will reward us for being faithful to Him, in both eternal riches and sometimes earthly riches also. However, we will forfeit these rewards if we lack faith in Him. Had Columbus listened to his crew men when they wanted to turn back, he never would have discovered America, thus failing the quest appointed to him by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. We do not want to fail our Heavenly King when He has already invested so much in us and our future! We might not always get exactly what we want out of life or what we were looking for, but it will always turn out for the best if we keep God on His throne in our hearts.

    There are plenty of biblical examples where God asked one of His servants to leave behind something familiar in order to gain something better in return, such as Abraham, for instance. In fact, the entire meaning of Christianity itself is all about forsaking sin in favor of receiving eternal life from God. We can only receive new blessings from God if we are obedient to Him and trust His goodness. Don’t let Satan, the dragon in the sea, cause you to forfeit your future just because he strikes fear into your heart! Remember that God is far more powerful than he is, and He has already won the victory against him!

    – Gloria D. Hopkins

Prevailing Over Plot Twists

Open book
God will help lift up our heads through chapters we have not yet read.

Do you ever feel like the pages of your life have unexpected chapters?

When you’re in the middle of reading a really good book, you tend to feel like you have a decent understanding of what’s going on. Unless the genre is mystery, of course, most authors generally like to give you a good idea of what’s going to happen next in their stories. However, have you ever thought about the first person perspective of the main characters in a story? Even if the book is a work of fiction, from the characters’ point of view, their story will play out to them like reality. So when something bad happens to a character in a story, they have no way of knowing the future or seeing what awaits them in the next chapter. All the character knows is their circumstances in the present state of their current chapter. Since a good character is written to be relatable to the reader, the story’s plot will often have plenty of adversity for the character to react to and eventually overcome.

“Why are you emphasizing this?” you may ask. “This isn’t English class.”

In a previous post I wrote last fall titled “Acknowledging the Author,” I compared our lives on earth to stories written by human authors. Of course, our stories are written by God, the almighty, divine Author. Because God gave us our lives, He has the ultimate authority and control over what happens in them. We naturally have a choice with our free will, but God is the One Who orchestrates our circumstances. Therefore, instead of fighting against God by trying to tell Him what we think is best for our lives, we would all do much better to acknowledge His rightful place as the Author in our individual stories.

In this post, we’ll discuss what to do when the divine Author writes us a plot twist.

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Life is an unpredictable journey, and no matter how many times the world’s selfish mantras try to convince us otherwise, we are most definitely NOT in control. Things will be a lot less complicated once we realize and accept that as fact. As Christians however, we have something incredibly special that the rest of this dark world does not – hope. Not just any hope, but a blessed hope that promises us eternal life completely separate from the suffering of this earth. We only obtain this blessed hope by putting our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and accepting His grace to be our Savior. After asking the Lord to forgive us of our sins, His Holy Spirit comes to reside within our hearts forever.

You’d think this would make life a lot easier, right?

Wrong.

Too many people have the misconception that becoming a Christian means getting an instant happy ending with a blissful, carefree life on earth. Oh, how very far from the truth that mistaken assumption is! This belief comes from simple ignorance, or blatant lies told by those who use bribery as a method to convert people to the gospel. What these people forget is that the Lord Jesus Himself led a life here on earth that was absolutely filled with suffering. The very reason He came to this world was so He could die for our sins to pay the price of our redemption.

If Jesus, the very Son of God, was not exempt from earthly suffering, then why in the world should we as Christians expect to have it better than He did? John 15:20 says, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” If the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was willing to humble Himself for our sake, then we should be more than willing to endure trials in our lives for His sake.

With that much being said, God has promised to help us through whatever we might face on this earth.

Beach footprints

Even though God desires us to be strong, faithful warriors for Him, He is also extremely merciful and compassionate. Therefore, He does not neglect to aid us whenever we need His help during tribulation. All we need to do is come before Him in humility of mind and heart, as we ask Him in prayer for His guidance and understanding. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no temptation taken hold of you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful; He will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that which ye are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Right there we have solid confirmation in God’s Word that He wants to help us in our troubles, and provide us with a way to get through them.

When we don’t understand our circumstances, it’s all too easy to question God and His goodness to us. When we’re tempted to do that, the best thing we can do is look to that verse and remember what He’s said to us. A loving God wouldn’t allow us to suffer in life without helping us. There are many various ways that He helps us, too: He helps us by giving us understanding, by growing our faith in Him, by teaching us His truth, and by transforming us spiritually through the course of the whole process. Essentially, God wants to accomplish the same thing through our trials as he does through His Word.

Now, to be perfectly honest, we Christians don’t always read God’s Word as often as we should, therefore giving us a need to learn valuable lessons. God knows all our needs inside and out, and as He understands our imperfect nature, He sometimes uses trials to teach us lessons that we might be deficient in from neglecting His Word. It’s our responsibility to find out what God is trying to teach us, even if at the time we can’t figure out why. Usually the “whys” are answered through the 20/20 vision of hindsight, or retrospect. The good news about this is, by the time we reflect back on our trials and the lessons they taught us, we have hopefully learned everything God wanted us to get from them, resulting in an understanding, thankful attitude of peace within our hearts.

Let’s take a look at three different strategies we can use when confronted with plot twists in our life:

1. Ask questions.

Question maze.jpeg

As I already stated above, God is usually trying to teach us something when we experience trials in our lives. It is important to remember that the biblical context of the word “trial” is not the same thing as a judicial court session; in its proper context, a trial means proving what you’re made of. Whether it be a trial of your faith, obedience, or love for God, all such trials fulfill the divine purpose of showing God what’s in your heart. More importantly though, they are designed to show YOU what lies in your heart, as God already knows everything, since He’s omniscient. Think about it – if God is trying to show you what you’re made of in your heart, that usually means that there is significant room for improvement. In other words, God is seeking to use this experience in your life to change you for the better.

Instead of complaining and asking God “Why are You making me go through this?”, try asking Him “Lord, please show me – what are you trying to teach me through this experience?” You’ll find that having a humble attitude in the midst of testing is far more effective than a demanding one. Remember the story of Job in the Old Testament? God allowed Satan to put him through every earthly sorrow imaginable, with the only exception being that his life was spared. The Bible explicitly states that Job was a righteous man who loved God with all his heart, and yet God still allowed him to experience a multitude of suffering.

Of course, we know the reason why – God was testing his loyalty to Him by letting Satan take away his earthly blessings. This was only because Satan arrogantly made the claim that Job was only serving God for what he could get from Him. Satan challenged God by saying, “If You take away all the good things he has in his life, then he will curse You to Your face!” Little did Satan realize that God already knew what was in Job’s heart, and He was fully aware that Job loved Him unconditionally. However, God still allowed Satan to afflict Job for the sake of proving Satan wrong, not because He wanted to punish Job for no reason.

So throughout the entire book of Job, we read how Job’s friends and family questioned both him and God, how Job eventually questioned God’s motives directly, and finally how God answered Job by questioning him about his power compared to His own. God was not trying to patronize Job by making him feel small through His questioning; rather, He was trying to show Job that this world will always feel impossible to understand, as He is the One Who made it. Therefore, because there was so much that Job didn’t understand about God’s ways and His power, God explained that the best thing He could do was just to trust Him.

What we can learn from Job’s story to apply to our own lives is this – It is perfectly okay to ask God questions, as long as we do so with the right attitude. God wants us to turn to Him for help, as that shows Him we are acknowledging our need for Him. The only way we can obtain any kind of understanding from our life situations is by seeking God and asking for His wisdom. God wants to help us, but we need to show Him that we are humble enough to seek His guidance and direction. Through time, prayer, and patience, we will receive God’s answer, which leads us to our next strategy.

2. Listen to God’s answer.

Girl listening to ocean

After calling upon God with a humble heart, He will answer us in due time; we just need to sharpen our skills in observation to notice when He does. Often, we can find God’s answer for us within the pages of Scripture. Even though it may seem impossible to consciously search for the answer in a specific passage by yourself, sometimes God will make a particular verse or chapter stand out to you as you glance through the pages of His Word. Another way God might do this is by causing the Holy Spirit to lay a desire in your heart to read a specific section of Scripture. Other ways that God can answer us are from our outside circumstances. Depending on the situation, God can use the actions and words of other people to give you a clear direction regarding the questions you asked Him. The reason God answers us in such subtle ways is because He wants to see if we are really willing to listen to Him.

Instead of getting impatient with God, saying “Why won’t you answer me?!”, ask Him “Lord, what are the ways that you are trying to speak to me? I’m earnestly waiting for your guidance.” Being open minded towards God’s methods of communication will get you further than a limited perspective of your own invention. Remember the story of Cain and Abel in the Old Testament? Both of them were brothers who were offering up sacrifices to God, yet only one of them did it the right way. Abel listened to God and his parents’ instruction by offering up a lamb for his sacrifice, while Cain disobeyed by offering his fruits and vegetables from his garden. Not only was this the wrong decision, but Cain also had the wrong attitude by assuming God would be pleased with it. Of course, God was NOT pleased with Cain’s disobedience, nor his proud, presumptuous attitude, so He refused to take Cain’s offering and accepted Abel’s offering instead.

Cain became very angry with God, so much so that his countenance fell, and God addressed him about it. When Cain asked God why He wouldn’t accept his sacrifice, God simply explained His rules and requirements for a living animal to be given up, as it symbolized the future death of His Son Jesus for our sins. God told Cain how he didn’t follow what he was supposed to do, and that was why He refused to acknowledge his sacrifice. However, God also mercifully told Cain that he could still have a second chance by doing it over again the way He asked, but that was not good enough for Cain, who had a stubborn, proud heart. Instead of asking God to forgive his disobedience and repent from his mistake, Cain chose to take his anger out on his brother Abel by killing him in the fields with his own hands, thus committing the very first murder in human history.

In this story, we see two specific ways that God answered Cain – through His actions and by speaking to him directly. Even though Cain was not actively seeking God’s will in a season of testing, we can still observe how God communicated with him during the course of his story. When Cain disobeyed God’s wishes for giving a sacrifice to Him, God sent a very clear, strong message by simply ignoring it. Sin separates us from fellowship with God, so if God’s presence appears to suddenly be quiet or hidden in your life, it might be a good idea to examine your own heart for any unconfessed sin. God can use His quietness to get our attention when we’ve done something wrong, but He’ll also in His grace be the One to occasionally seek us out.

What we can learn from Cain’s story to apply to our own lives is this – We might be the very reason why we aren’t getting an answer from God. Just as we need to ask God questions with the right attitude, we also need to listen with the right attitude. We can show God that we are willing to listen to Him by obeying His Word, and by making sure that our hearts are right with Him before we expect to hear an answer from Him. Cain’s problem was that he didn’t really listen to God when He answered; instead He chose to get angry with God for what He said and took it out on his innocent brother by killing him. It is extremely important for us to listen to what God has to say by responding correctly, which leads us to our next strategy.

3. Follow where God leads.

Sign post

Once we have received clear direction from God about our situation, it is up to us to do what He wants us to by obeying Him. God might call us to take a specific course of action, or He might want us to simply keep waiting as we watch Him work things out. What everything ultimately comes down to is how much faith and trust we have in Him. Are we willing to do whatever is necessary to accomplish God’s will in our lives? Or are we going to hide behind the artificial excuse of not knowing what He wants us to do when He has clearly already told us what it is? If we pretend that we don’t understand what God is doing in our lives when deep down, we know that He has already shown us, that is nothing more than procrastination, plain and simple. Granted, it will take much time and patience before we know for certain what God’s will is in our personal circumstances, but once we do finally know His will, there is no excuse for us to turn back. And believe me, God has heard every single excuse in the book!  We need to show God that we are up the challenge He has called us to face.

Rather than telling God “Give me more convenient circumstances!”, we should say “Lord, give me the strength I need to grow through this experience.” God wouldn’t put us in a challenging situation if He didn’t want us to change for the better. He certainly won’t make the period of testing easier; if anything, it will get a lot harder than we want or expect it to! God wants us to recognize our own weakness so that we will be compelled to rely on His strength. Remember the story of Moses in the Old Testament? He knew exactly what God wanted him to do – he was commanded to lead the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt. God didn’t sugarcoat his assignment; He told Moses exactly how everything would transpire once he dared to confront Pharaoh. As a result, Moses was scared silly! He knew the difficulty he was getting himself into, therefore he made up every reason he could think of for God to send someone else instead.

Moses told God that he couldn’t accomplish His will because he was “slow of speech,” or stammered when he talked. God became frustrated with his excuse and reminded Moses that He created the human tongue, meaning that He could help him in spite of his weakness. When that didn’t work, Moses asked God what he should do if the Jewish people didn’t want to listen to his authority. God responded by telling him to give them a sign by saying, “I AM hath sent me.” By doing so, the Jewish people would recognize that Moses was indeed sent by the one, true God Whom they worshiped. These are just a couple examples, but every single excuse that Moses gave in an attempt to get out of his calling, God shot down without any hesitation.

Realizing that he was in a losing argument with God, Moses finally gave up and gave in to the command that God gave him. When he decided to make God his Source of strength, Moses was able to accomplish everything in Egypt that God asked him to, and glorified His Name in the process. Even though he was unsuccessful in getting the Pharaoh to believe in God and His power, Moses did achieve what God sent him to do – deliver the Jewish people from their captivity as slaves. It didn’t matter what the Egyptians or the Hebrews thought of Moses and his abilities; it only mattered that Moses was willing to obey God no matter how tough his calling turned out to be. All Moses needed to do was step back from focusing on himself and his weaknesses, so that God could display His tremendous power through him as his servant.

What we can learn from Moses’ story to apply to our own lives is this – God has already done His part, and He expects us to do ours too. It’s not fair for us to ask God questions about our situation, demand answers from Him, and then just sit back passively when He wants us to do something. I know what you’re probably thinking – “How am I expected to do something when I might not have control over my situation? Isn’t it a bit inconsistent for you to tell me to take action when you’ve already said that God is the One in charge of my life?” Well, the thing is, what God might ask us to do in the midst of trying circumstances isn’t always a physical action. He might be simply asking us to have more faith in Him and prove our trust to Him. Most likely, He’s probably testing us to see whether or not we’re willing to obey His calling for us. We must look deep inside our hearts and ask ourselves, “Am I really willing to follow wherever God leads me, no matter what the cost?”

 

Here are verses to help you implement these strategies so you can prevail over plot twists in your life:

 

Isaiah 33:2 ~ “O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 ~ “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. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

Psalm 22:19 ~ “But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

Psalm 43:5 ~ “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”

Psalm 46:1 ~ “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalm 56:8 ~ “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?”

Psalm 61:2 ~ “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Psalm 119:28 ~ “My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.

Psalm 120:1 ~ “In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.

Psalm 130:1 ~ “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:27 ~ “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;”

1 Corinthians 10:13 ~ ““There hath no temptation taken hold of you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful; He will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that which ye are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ~ “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

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

Romans 8:26 ~ “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Ephesians 6:10 ~ “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Philippians 4:13 ~ “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

 

The best way to prevail over plot twists in our lives is by trusting and obeying God.

To summarize the three strategies I’ve shared with you, I’ll reference the chorus of the classic old hymn titled Trust and Obey:

“Trust and obey,

for there’s no other way

to be happy in Jesus

but to trust and obey.”

handwriting

When we don’t understand where exactly our life story is headed, we should look to the One Who is still busy writing it – the Divine Author, God Himself. Even when everything seems hopeless and dark in the present, all things are still under His control. The future is bright, since we have a blessed eternity to look forward to after accepting salvation. If we make a little bit of effort, we’ll notice that there are plenty of happy blessings to enjoy in this present world, in spite of all our trials and troubles. Making an attempt to be thankful to God for little things each day will add to our Christian joy, helping it to be strong regardless of difficult circumstances. In fact, we should also thank God for the trials in our lives, since they should be viewed as an opportunity for spiritual growth. No matter how many different plot twists are written into our life chapters, we have no valid reason to worry, since He already has it all planned out. Instead of trying to grab the pen away from His loving hand, we should loosen our grip completely and realize that He knows what He’s doing.

-Gloria D. Hopkins

Shear Joy: Living Life As God’s Sheep

Sheep
The Lord cares dearly for His not-so-innocent lambs.

Are you sheepish?

Whether you realize it or not, you are a part of a universal flock that wanders through the many vast fields of this world. There is only one Shepherd that we all truly belong to, yet so many of us are gone astray, roaming far from the safety of God’s pastures. Jesus is the Good Shepherd Who sacrificed everything just to rescue His lost flock of sheep. His little lambs are very precious to Him, even though they are guilty of running away from home. The Bible says that “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) This means that every person in the world is a stubborn sheep who only wants his or her own way. Jesus gave up His life by dying on the cross for our sins, just so that we could all have the chance to be redeemed, reunited, and reconciled with Him.

Irish shepherd

If you have already made the decision to accept Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior, then you know Him as your loving Shepherd Who protects, cares for, and watches over you. If you have not made that decision yet, then you are still wandering far from home, lost in the wilderness of sin. Jesus is searching for you far and wide, calling out your name so He can find you and bring you to safety. You might be thinking, “Why would I want to listen to Him, when right now I can do whatever I want and go wherever I please? What’s the use of being stuck behind a boring fence? It’s so much more wild and exciting out here!” My friend, while I fully understand this type of reasoning, I must lovingly inform you that it is faulty and foolish. You may have the freedom to do whatever and go wherever you want in the wilderness of sin, but it will only be a matter of time before you find yourself in grave danger. A lost sheep might enjoy exploring a rocky mountainside alone for a while, but who will help save him once he falls off the edge of a cliff?

There is only one place of prosperity, and that is within the peace of God’s pasture.

Sheep thirsty

The sheep who have been returned home to God’s pastures are far better off than the ones who are still choosing to wander in the wilderness of sin. Although they are guided and corrected by their Good Shepherd, the rescued sheep are the real ones who know what true freedom is like. Jesus leads His redeemed lambs through lush meadows, and shows them where all the cool, refreshing springs are to quench their thirst. These places of comfort are readily available to the sheep that follow the Good Shepherd, since He knows exactly where they are, and therefore they can enjoy them with little to no effort of their own. The lost, wandering sheep are not so lucky – they have to search through treacherous landscapes just to find a minimal amount of shelter. The lost sheep do not know anything about the blessings the rescued sheep enjoy, because they do not have the Good Shepherd leading them under His protection. They are forced instead to survive from their own natural instincts, facing the perils of this world without any comfort or hope.

Let’s explore four reasons why life is so much better as one of God’s rescued sheep:

 

1. You never have to worry about getting lost with the Good Shepherd.

Sheep on a path.jpeg

While traversing the fields and plains of this life, you can rest assured that Jesus always knows exactly where He is taking you. As the Good Shepherd, He is wise and experienced about the many paths He travels, so He knows which ones are just right for leading His beloved sheep. Among the many twists and turns of the paths of life, Jesus already knows the safest route to take. Even though there are times when He takes you through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, you have nothing to fear, as long as you carefully follow His every step. The lost sheep might feel like they are free wandering out in the wilderness of sin, but in reality they have no idea where they’re going or what they’re doing, hence the reason they are called “lost.” They do not know the security of having a loving Shepherd guiding them through rough, unstable terrain. The lost sheep just keep wandering aimlessly, hoping to find the elusive happiness they’re searching for; but their efforts are all in vain as long as they keep running from the Good Shepherd.

2. The Good Shepherd takes great care of His sheep.

feeding sheep

A flock of sheep doesn’t need to worry about where or when they’ll obtain their next meal, as long as they have a responsible shepherd looking after them. Likewise, the Good Shepherd never neglects to nurture His beloved flock, always giving them the freshest grass to eat and the cleanest water to drink. The rescued sheep have a calm assurance that all of their needs will be provided for them every day by the Good Shepherd, and this gives them a sincere desire to submit to Him. The lost, wandering sheep, however, depend on themselves to find nourishment. Sure, they might find a few patches of grass and puddles of water here and there, but only after a long time searching for it. Even after finding it, the taste simply cannot compare to the food and drink the Good Shepherd provides for His rescued flock. What’s more, the lost, wandering sheep do not know the blessed privilege of having someone love them enough to give them the things they need. In their attempts to be independent and self-sufficient, they’re missing out on the greatest things life has to offer –  grace and compassion.

3. The Good Shepherd shears His sheep whenever necessary.

Sheep shearing

Sometimes, even the sheep living among the rescued flock can tend to get their wool dirty, or just so overgrown that they simply can’t see anymore. Metaphorically, this means that Christians too can still be stained by sin, or so focused on themselves and their personal circumstances that they can’t see their Savior anymore, which is where their focus should be. In a state of temporary blindness, they might even stray off the pathway that their loving Shepherd is guiding them on. As a result, they may return with some prickly thorns, sticks, or burrs stuck in their wool. However, they need not become discouraged by this, as the Good Shepherd is more than happy and willing to remove whatever objects they got stuck to them. Occasionally, their wool might become so entangled with foreign objects that the only available option is to shear them completely. When this happens, the Savior lovingly holds them with His firm but gentle hands until their transformation is finished. Afterwards, they look so clean with their freshly shorn skin! Unfortunately, the lost sheep do not have this luxury. When they fall into briars and other natural snares, they have no one to clean up their soiled wool. They have no choice but to carry it around with them until it becomes too heavy to bear anymore. The lost sheep do not know what it feels like to be relieved of the burden of wool pulled over their eyes.

4. The Good Shepherd knows every one of His sheep by name, including the “black” ones.

Mixed crowd

In God’s rescued flock, it doesn’t matter what kind of life you led before you were saved; God loves you equally just as much as He loves all the other lost sheep He saved. You are special and important to Him, so much so that He knows you by name, even though the numbers He’s rescued are countless. There is no such thing as a “black sheep” in God’s flock, where one is set apart as lesser than all the rest. No matter who you are, what you look like, or what you’ve done in the past, God loves you unconditionally. You can rejoice in knowing that nothing in this world or the next will ever change that fact. Sadly, the lost, wandering sheep are unaware of just how much they are loved. Some of them even believe that they are not worth rescuing, because the distance they’ve strayed from the Good Shepherd is so great. If only they knew that they are just as priceless and valuable to the Good Shepherd as the flock He’s already rescued! They only need to hear His kind, gentle voice calling out their name, beckoning them to return to the safety of His fold.

 

Here are some verses to help you remember why the grass is always greener within God’s pasture:

 

Psalm 23:1-6 ~ “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

John 10:1-18 ~ “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”

Isaiah 40:11 ~ “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”

Hebrews 13:20 ~ “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,”

Psalm 79:13 ~ “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.”

Psalm 95:7 ~ “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,

Psalm 100:3 ~ “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

Psalm 119:176 ~ “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.”

Ezekiel 34:31 ~ “And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.

Luke 12:32 ~ “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

No matter how far we might wander away, the Good Shepherd loves us though we often stray.

Irish sheep

We never have to worry about Jesus rejecting us just because we have a natural tendency to sin frequently. Those of us who are rescued sheep still like to occasionally run off and do our own thing, whether we admit to it or not. Fortunately for us, we are blessed to have a Good Shepherd Who loves us enough to come looking for us every time we go off the path. Since we are inherently stubborn, He may have to grab us with His hook around our neck, but this is only because He wants to keep us from danger. As ignorant sheep, we do not always know better; we like to have our way at all times. We don’t always know what’s good or best for us, but praise God that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does! He is fully aware of all our strengths and weaknesses, and is determined to help us grow in those important areas. Thankfully, God never gives up on us, even though we are notoriously strong-willed! As partakers of the blessings of God’s peaceful pasture, we should be joyful and thankful every single day that we get to live under His watchful care. We should go out of our way to share the good news with other fellow sheep who are lost, so they too can know what it’s like to follow the Good Shepherd and experience true freedom and sheer joy.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

Five Reasons You’re Always Special To God

heart-jewels
We must always try to understand that our worth is found in His hands.

Did you know that you are special?

On Valentine’s Day, our society promotes romantic relationships with a special someone. However, this day is not always favorable in the eyes of those who lack a relationship with someone special. In fact, many people downright despise or despair of this holiday, simply because they feel unhappy about the fact that they are lonely. It is a sad truth indeed that our culture has become so oblivious to the real meaning of love, and often ignores that love is not limited to romantic relationships. The result of this faulty mindset causes many people everywhere to believe that if they aren’t in a romantic relationship with someone at any given moment of time, that there is something wrong with them. Of course, this belief inevitably leads to even more heartbreak for those who act on it, as they will never be satisfied with another person who is just as empty and broken as they are.

But I’m not writing this to present the dreary facts that we already know of in this world. I’m here to tell you that regardless of your relationship status during this past Valentine’s Day, you are incredibly special to Someone Who loves you more than you could possibly imagine. Your worth is found in God alone, not a person. Any time you doubt that, ask yourself this question – Who made me, God, or a person? The answer is obviously God. Although He created humans with the physical ability to give birth to other humans, God is the One Who fashioned and formed every detail of your physical and spiritual existence inside your mother’s womb. Your very essence, called a soul, is a gift from God when He breathed life into you. Because you were made by such a powerful, talented Creator, He thought you were valuable enough to save from an eternal death as punishment for sin in a horrible place called Hell. That’s why He sent His Son Jesus to take your punishment so you would never have to go to such a terrible place. God wanted you to not just live forever, but to live forever with Him in Heaven.

You may ask, “Why would God bother taking the time to help someone like me?”

The answer is simple – He loves you.

God’s love is so unconditional towards us, that it’s nearly impossible for us to understand why He would care so much about us when we’re so sinful, and He is perfect. The good news is, we don’t have to understand. We merely need to accept the fact that we are loved by Him. Even though accepting that we are loved doesn’t require understanding, it does help to remember the reasons why we’re special to Him, so we can be joyful every day.

Here are five reasons why you are ALWAYS special to God:

1. You are His own creation.

paints

 

As a person formed by God’s own hands, you are an original, unrepeatable work of art. No amount of similarities between you and other people will ever change that. Because you are God’s work of art, you are valuable, precious, and special to Him. The color of your hair, eyes, and skin was handpicked by Him. Your personality, emotions, and heart were all carefully selected with His specific purpose in mind. The voice you have is certifiable proof that you are an irreplaceable copy, as it will always be different from the sounds of other voices around you. The combination of all these elements is what makes you unique, and therefore special to God. Just as an artist would never throw away his masterpiece, God never wants to lose you, the Masterpiece that He made.

2. He put you on this earth for a specific purpose.

pencil-on-paper

The very fact that God made you means He has a special plan in store for your life. He didn’t create you for no reason. God is a God of meaning and fulfillment, not randomness and chaos. God made you because He knew that people you encounter throughout your life would need someone like you, to affect them for their benefit. Although there are many people in the world, the lives you touch of those where God has placed you are equally important as those who live far away. You were specially designed by your Creator to be an instrument of blessing to others around you. The talents and abilities you possess are gifts from Him to use in His service. It is up to you to realize what gifts you have, and to develop them into becoming their full potential that God wants them to be. While there are many people in this world with similar talents, God has placed each person exactly where they are needed, regardless of who has the greater skills in those particular talents. So the next time you feel discouraged about feeling inferior to someone else’s supposedly superior skills, just remember that God designed you to have the unique capacity of abilities He gave you in order to fulfill the specific need or calling for your life.

3. You were made in His own image.

mirror-reflection

When God made you, He poured a likeness of Himself into the very core of your being. You, as a person, possess the abilities to think, feel, and speak, unlike animals that function from their God-given instincts. The reason you are able to mentally process your thoughts and emotions and communicate them through your words is because God desired to have a special creation with whom He could share a personal relationship. God gave every human being a soul, a spirit, and a body, which are a direct reflection of the Holy Trinity that is comprised of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Your soul is the essence of your identity, the manifestation of who you are as a person. Your spirit is your divine life source that allows you to worship God and communicate with Him directly. Your body is but a temporary vessel that encases these two intangible, yet very real things that are your existence. Because God made man so much like Himself in this incredibly special way, He couldn’t bear to see His divine image shattered by sin. In a sense, God was a part of man, and man was a part of Him, since God breathed the breath of life into man’s very nostrils.

4. He literally moved Heaven and Earth just so you could be with Him again.

side-earth

 

It’s no exaggeration to say that God used all of His power necessary to restore man’s lost relationship with Him. Because of the reasons listed above, you are SO special to God, that He was willing to give up the very best thing He had – His only Son, Jesus Christ. For thousands of years, while the history of mankind was unfolding on Earth, God was devising a Master plan to redeem His favorite creation that was formed in His likeness. Instead of despairing over man’s choice to sin over obedience to Him, God mercifully gave him an alternative option that would save man from eternal punishment in Hell. God decided to send His absolutely perfect and holy Son Jesus from the shining realm of Heaven into this dark, wicked world, full of the depravity of man’s sinful heart. In order to do this, God orchestrated events throughout Earth’s history that would eventually bring about the promised coming of the Messiah, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God’s hand was behind everything from the very beginning. Man’s foolish mistake did nothing to change how much God loved him in spite of his sin. God not only sent His Son to die for the sins of the whole world, but He also did it for you personally. The beauty of the gospel message is this: No matter how many people have ever lived in this world, Jesus died to save each and every one of them, including you.

5. If you know Him personally, You are His beloved child.

gods-child

 

Once you have decided to receive salvation by accepting Jesus as your personal Savior, you are officially adopted into God’s family. As a member of God’s family, you are blessed with the riches of His grace, love, and mercy. You have access to the privilege of prayer, which is the gift of constant communication with God at any time you desire. God is no longer an estranged Being Who is separated from you by your sin; He is your kind, caring, compassionate Father, Who is more than willing to meet your every need. Any time you want to talk to Him, He’s there to listen with all ears, provided that you are right with Him in your heart by confessing any sin that might be there. God already knows every single thing about you, yet He is always eager to hear about your day and whatever it is that’s on your mind. You are precious to Him, and He has promised to make you an eternal heir to His heavenly Kingdom once you are redeemed. God understands that as His child, you are inclined to fail Him often; but that does not stop Him from loving you. Nothing can ever separate you from His love after salvation, not even the Devil himself. You never have to worry about being disowned by God if you mess up from time to time. You will always have a place in His eternal, righteous family, because as His child, you belong to Him.

 

Here are some verses to further confirm why you are always special to God:

 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ~ “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

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.”

Matthew 13:45-46 ~ “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

Genesis 1:26-27 ~ “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 2:7 ~ “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Jeremiah 1:4-5 ~ “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 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.

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.”

Jeremiah 31:3 ~ “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

Ephesians 2:10 ~ “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Psalm 119:73-74 ~ “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments. They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word.”

Psalm 139:13-14 ~ “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

Psalm 139:16 ~ “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

 Isaiah 64:8 ~ “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.


Romans 8:32 ~ “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

 

Your identity is not found in a special someone, but in Someone Who KNOWS you’re special.

pearl-of-great-price

 

Instead of focusing on people who fail you with their artificial, changing “love,” focus on God, Who will NEVER fail you with His real, unchanging love. Don’t let Satan deceive you into thinking that your worth is dependent on other people’s treatment of you. No matter what any person says to you or about you, nothing will ever change how special you truly are in God’s eyes. However, it’s not enough just to be told that you are valuable to God; you need to make a conscious decision to believe it for yourself. It’s one thing to know something inside of your head, but it’s a different thing entirely to sincerely believe it within your heart. The next time you hear a subtle voice in your head silently whispering that you’re not special, recognize it as the voice of Satan, and tell the Devil to go straight back to Hell where he belongs. Don’t choose to dwell on painful memories of your past, when instead you can revel in the joy of God’s love for you in the present! Ask God daily to help you remember how much He loves you, and He will be sure to remind you in His unique, affectionate way. Never forget that you ARE valuable to Him, and your life is of infinite worth.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

In the Not-So-Bleak Midwinter

footprints-in-the-snow
Though all the world looks cold and drear, the hand of God is very near.

Winter is now upon us.

When the first official snow falls across a rural landscape, the entire scene appears to be a solid blanket of white, closely touching the grey, cloudy skies. The world seems still, if only for a season. All of nature looks as if it were cast under a powerful sleeping spell, lying dormant until the spring. The cold, frigid air is devoid of sound, except for the occasional howling of the wind. Many animals are hushed in their homes, snuggled away in hibernation. The trees form dark shapes against the sky, their bare branches spreading out in tangled lines.

All of these things combined together seem to whisper one thing – silence.

Silence is something that this world needs a lot more of. It’s rather refreshing to have a break from all the noise when winter finally comes. For some people though, silence can be a difficult thing to endure. Those who prefer the warmer, more active season of summer can hardly bear the inevitable cold and inactivity of winter. Nature lovers might find themselves overcome with a sense of sorrow and longing for spring. They wish with all their hearts that the flowers and trees would come back to life, so that the landscape wouldn’t look so barren and desolate. These are perfectly understandable reasons for people to dislike winter, yet there are three reasons why winter is very important and shouldn’t be overlooked. Believe it or not, winter can be viewed as a hopeful, positive season, rather than a dull and depressing one.

Here is the first one:

1. Winter is the season when nature gets a period of rest.

Snowy bench.jpeg

Upon first glance, the winter landscape appears as if everything in nature has died. However, that is the farthest thing from the truth. Actually, the plants and animals are really sleeping instead of dead, although this fact is hidden from our sight. The plants have life within them, but it is well shielded from the cold with their protective outer layers. The animals are simply hibernating in a safe place where they can keep warm, either eating or sleeping most likely. Just like nature, we humans keep ourselves indoors throughout the winter as much as we can to avoid getting hypothermia. It is such a comforting privilege to be able to stay inside where it’s warm and cozy, and look out the window to gaze upon the frosty landscape. While the rest of creation is in a state of hibernation, we too can enjoy blissful moments of peace and rest as we relax inside the warmth of our homes. In the same way that we are content to rest inside our houses, we can also be content to rest in the knowledge of God’s love for us. Just as we feel safe and secure from the cold winter winds when we stay inside, we can feel safe and secure from the cares of this world when we remember that God is protecting and taking care of us. The warmth of a bright fireplace is comforting, but it is nothing compared to the warmth we feel when we know that God is always watching over us.

fireplace.gif

Instead of wishing away the time out of longing for spring to arrive, we should choose to embrace this season of rest and relaxation, as it is beneficial to our health. Those of us who struggle with annual illnesses this time of year readily agree to and welcome the need for rest,  so we can take the necessary time required to get well. Instead of worrying about everything going on in our lives, God wants us to be still and know that He is God. If we know that God wants His creation to rest and relax for a time, then we too are automatically included in that category. God wants us to work hard during our time on this earth, but He also wants us to admit when we need to take a break too. Overworking, overthinking, and overstressing is not good for anyone’s well being. Pleasing God is about being diligent, but it’s also about taking care of the bodies He gave us. We cannot possibly expect to continue functioning as normal if we don’t take a time out to let our bodies do the physical maintenance and repair they need. We also should accept the fact that nature needs this time to slow down, which leads to this next reason why winter can indeed be viewed as a positive season.

2. Winter is a season of development when hidden growth takes place.

snowy-path

God designed the season of winter to be restful so that all the elements of His creation can have a chance to grow underneath the surface of the ice and snow. While the tree branches may look barren, there are brand new leaves growing inside the chambers of bark, waiting to sprout forth the moment spring arrives. Although many animals are hidden from view, they are slumbering safely inside their dens, where they might give birth to new young that will emerge when it’s warm again. The baby animals that are already born also need this time so that they can grow. God established this cycle of transformation so that renewal can take place every year. We can learn a valuable lesson from God’s creation of nature by renewing our hearts and minds. This can be accomplished by recognizing our own need for spiritual growth through the help of the Holy Spirit. Just as the plants and animals have hidden changes occurring on the inside where we can’t see, God wants the same thing to be true within our hearts. While we’re waiting to see God’s plans for our lives unfold, we should take a moment to stop and consider if God is trying to privately teach us something in the meantime. Rather than asking God “What are You doing to change my life circumstances?”, we should be asking ourselves “What do I need to change about my attitude before God reveals His plans for me?” The season of winter evokes a wondrous sense of mystery, and God’s ways are far more mysterious than any of us can possibly imagine. We can’t always understand what God is trying to teach us, but our hearts need to be willing to learn from Him nevertheless. Whatever God is trying to communicate to us, we can only listen for His silent whispers that are as soft as the newly fallen snow.

baby-ducks

Rather than wishing it were spring right away, we need to accept the fact that spiritual growth and development takes time to occur. We need to have honest and realistic expectations of ourselves before we try to see everything the way God sees it in the present. It will take humility, dedication, and a sincere desire for us to make a serious change about our perspective on what God is doing with our lives. If we want to receive the very best blessings that God has to offer, then we need to show Him that we are willing to trust Him to work everything out in His perfect timing. Developing these spiritual character traits in our lives isn’t always easy, but it is well worth the effort. God knows our hearts, so He can see whether or not we’re really trying to change. He also knows our weak and fragile human state, so He is forgiving when we fail to understand Him sometimes. God wants us to grow into strong people of faith who firmly rely upon Him for everything in our lives. In order for this to happen, we need to acknowledge what is or is not under our control, which leads to the third and final reason why winter can be viewed as a positive season after all.

3. Winter is a season of waiting to see God’s miracles unfold.

snow-bunny

Just like all the other seasons, winter takes three months to finish its course of time. All of the beautiful, wonderful things that we see and enjoy during spring time don’t just appear overnight. Instead of despairing over all the ice and snow, we should appreciate the beauty it brings that is unlike anything else we witness throughout the rest of the year. We wouldn’t be able to recognize the colorful flowers in the spring months without first gazing upon the whiteness of the winter snow. In the same way, waiting for winter to pass can be directly compared to the seasons of waiting God puts us through in our lives. We aren’t always able to see exactly what He’s doing as He’s carrying out His will for us. In fact, we might not be able to see any sign of significant progress on the horizon of waiting for His plans to be fulfilled. However, that does NOT mean that nothing is happening behind the scenes. Just as we must wait for all the snow and ice to melt, we must also wait for God to orchestrate all the right circumstances before we can see the answers to our questions and prayers. As humans, we aren’t too fond of waiting, since it means that there are, in fact, some things that we simply cannot control. Even though seasons of waiting might make us feel like we’re stuck and not going anywhere, we need to trust God by knowing He won’t leave us stranded.

baby-seal

Before we can fully enjoy the blessings of the future, we must be content with the circumstances of the present. When God makes us wait for things to happen in our lives, it is for our benefit, so we can learn how to depend on, grow, and trust in Him. We have no way of knowing exactly how long it will take before God fulfills His plan for our lives, or grants us access to achieve our dreams and wishes for success. In the meantime, however, we can choose to have faith in Him by believing in His goodness, regardless of outcomes. We wouldn’t be able to appreciate God’s answer to our prayers and questions without first waiting to see how He chooses to respond. Sometimes the longer God makes us wait, the more satisfying it is when He finally gives us our heart’s desire. This is good for two reasons: it forces us to remember that we can’t take God for granted, and it helps us realize that God hasn’t forgotten about us, caring enough to remember our requests.

 

Here are some verses to help remind you that waiting in your personal mid-winter isn’t so bleak:

 

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:”

Psalm 25:5 ~ “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”

Psalm 27:13-14 ~ “ I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”

Psalm 33:20 ~ “Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.”

Psalm 39:7 ~ “And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.

Psalm 130:5 ~ “I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.”

Psalm 138:8 ~ “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.

Psalm 145:15-16 ~ “The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.

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.

Lamentations 3:24-26 ~ “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”

Micah 7:7 ~ “Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.”

Matthew 6:25 ~ “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?”

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.”

James 5:7-8 ~ Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”

 

In the not-so-bleak midwinter, you can be confident that God’s hand is hard at work.

Heart snowball.jpeg

 When you look upon your present life circumstances and see nothing but white and grey, do not immediately descend into despair. The color of white that is so prevalent in winter snow represents a blank canvas for the bright colors of the future spring. In the same way, the season of waiting in our lives that at first appears to be barren and desolate is actually a fresh opportunity for God to bring new blessings into our lives later. Just as God is busy preparing His natural creation to have new life in the spring, He is also preparing to bring new things into our lives as well. We can choose to be content with waiting to see what will happen, and increase our faith in God and His goodness at the same time.

The color of grey seen in cloudy, snowy skies also represents the uncertainty of the future.  God works in mysterious ways, and He is pulling things together behind the scenes when we don’t even realize it. God has nothing but your very best interest at the forefront of His mind. He’s not going to abandon you by forcing you to wait for something you’ve prayed about forever. If God cares enough to follow through with His plans for plants and animals to develop, then you can be certain that He cares far much more about fulfilling His plans for you in your life. Meanwhile, you can rest in God’s perfect peace in spite of all your unanswered questions, trusting that you will be given answers in His perfect timing.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Remembering Our Royalty

rose-and-crown
Our holy heritage should be evident by our regal righteousness.

Once upon a time, there was a majestic King, Whose reign was eternal and glorious.

This King had only one Son, a Prince of light, Who was pure and perfect in every way. The King looked upon His vast realm, and felt greatly troubled for His people, who were suffering from a hopeless, endless curse. As the King felt great compassion for His subjects, He sent His only, heroic Son into the cursed realm far away from His palace to rescue the people from their despair and suffering. With good fortune, there were many people who were rescued from the dark curse; yet sadly, there were also many others who chose to remain bound within its horrible shadow. The people that were rescued followed the Prince back to His royal palace, to await the instruction of the great King. The King welcomed His rescued subjects with open arms, and decided to adopt them into His royal family, where they would be loved and accepted forever and ever. However, the King gave His new relatives but one simple command:

“Now that you are officially part of My royal family, you must remember to act like it.”

The people listened to the King’s command, and promised to do their best to heed His wishes. They soon discovered, however, that keeping His command was easier said than done; for they were already accustomed to doing things their way like they used to in their villages before they were rescued from their curse. They tried to improve, yet always seemed to fall short every time. Luckily for them, the King was still compassionate as before, and gave them many other chances to succeed. Though the King was merciful and compassionate, there were some people who seemed to forget that they were ever adopted, and continued to live as they pleased in spite of the King’s command. This angered the King, Who was known for His kindness and patience. The Prince intervened on the people’s behalf by going before His Father, and asked for His grace and mercy. The King took one look at His Son, and remembered all the heroic deeds He did to rescue the people. After beholding the goodness of His Son, the King quickly forgave the people once again, and allowed them continue living in His palace out of His great love for them.

Though told like a traditional fairy tale, this is a true story indeed.

crowning

Perhaps you’ve already heard this story before, when you attended a church service or Sunday school class. Or maybe someone told it to you when they first reached you with the gospel. Either way, The King in the story is God, the Prince is Jesus, and we are the people He rescued. After being adopted into God’s family, we become real royalty, yet in a spiritual sense. As our Heavenly Father, God expects us to behave in a way that clearly shows we are His children. Do we always manage to live up to that extremely high expectation? Certainly not. However, we still have hope, because Jesus makes divine intercession for us before His Father’s throne since He loves us so much. God is always looking to advance His kingdom, so He wants us to be a good example to the world of His love and righteousness. Let’s take a look at a few ways that we can carry ourselves like God’s royal children.

1. We must clothe ourselves with dignity and respect for our bodies.

little-princess

When God first created Adam and Eve, they had no clothes to wear. The Bible tells us that they “were naked and not ashamed.” Unfortunately, after they sinned, their original state of innocence was lost, and their nakedness became associated with shame. God had already planned to give them clothes in the future to protect them from their natural environment conditions, but He didn’t want them to discover they were naked until He chose the proper timing. God covered their bodies with a sheep skin out of His love and compassion. Ever since then, man has had to wear clothes to cover himself. After accepting salvation, what we put on the outside of our bodies should be a reflection of the Holy Spirit Who lives on the inside. Therefore our clothes should be appropriate for every situation, and not draw too much attention to our bodies. If we are to be effective witnesses for the cause of Christ, we should present ourselves in a way that people will take us seriously. Showing respect for our bodies in the clothes we wear not only pleases God, but shows others around us that we seek to honor Him in our dress choices. The outer robes of clothes we wear should match our royal robes of righteousness.

2. We must speak words from a vocabulary of holiness.

crown-on-books

Every word that goes forth from our mouths should be measured by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. God wants our words to be kind, true, pure, and edifying to those around us. Are the things we say positive and uplifting to others? Do we make an effort to display honesty when people ask us questions? Are the things we say full of virtue and praise, free from any sort of vile or unclean associations? Do we encourage others to pursue their spiritual walk with our words? The Queen of England always refers to herself as “we” to represent her entire royal family. In Genesis chapter 1, God refers to Himself as “us” to represent the Holy Trinity. Since we are a part of God’s family, the words we say represent Him, and everything He is. Therefore it is our responsibility to ensure that what we say is an accurate reflection of God and His character. The words we speak should be chosen with the utmost care and consideration for holiness.

3. We must embrace our royal identity, and never be ashamed of it.

graceful-princess

As God’s adopted children, we are very special, and nothing can ever take away our royal title. It is also important for us to remember, though, that being heirs and heiresses of the Kingdom of Heaven is a privilege, not a right. It is by God’s grace and mercy that we are saved and included in His holy inheritance. With that being said, we should take great joy in being called God’s children, and not shrink away from sharing our testimony with the world. Our royal Father has called us to spread the good news of us being found and rescued so we can give it to those who are lost and need rescuing. There might be others who despise, reject, or even outright oppress us, yet we should remember how Jesus, the King of Kings, suffered those very same things at the hands of men long before us. The crown of Christianity must be worn in full view for all the world to see.

 

Here are the divine words of our royal, Heavenly Father Himself to remind us of our regal heritage:

 

John 3:16 ~ “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 14: 15 ~ “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.”

Romans 8:34 ~ “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

Hebrews 7:25 ~ “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

Ephesians 5:8 ~ “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ~ “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 ~ “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

1 Peter 3:3-4 ~ “Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

Revelation 19:8 ~ “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

Isaiah 61:10 ~ “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Philippians 4:8 ~ “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Ephesians 4:29 ~ “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.”

Galatians 3:26 ~ “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

John 1:12-13 ~ “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

1 Peter 4:16 ~ “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

1 Peter 1:14-16 ~ “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

1 John 2:28 ~ “And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at his coming.

2 Timothy 1:8 ~ “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;”

Matthew 10:32 ~ “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.”

Romans 8:17 ~ “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together.”

 

Our royal heritage is eternal, and nothing can ever change that fact.

It doesn’t matter how many times we fail God in our human weakness; we will always be His children once we have accepted His gift of salvation. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are no longer peasants covered with the tattered rags of sin – when God looks at us, He sees nobility draped with the luxurious satin robes of righteousness! Satan may try to accuse us before God, but his wicked efforts are in vain as long as Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father. Once we are officially adopted into God’s family, we receive a golden certificate of eternal life that we can never lose. If you ever doubt that you are God’s child, it is for one of two reasons: you have not yet been adopted in the first place, or you have been behaving in a way that is the direct opposite of God’s righteousness for so long that you can’t remember if you are His child or not.

There is nothing to worry about though, for both of these problems can be solved through the simple solution of prayer. If you wish to become God’s child by getting adopted into His family, all you need to do is confess that you are a sinner, ask Him to forgive you, and believe that Jesus died for your sin; then the Holy Spirit will come to live inside your heart for all eternity. If you have been far away from God for a long time, and have been living apart from His ways, all you need to do is ask Him to forgive you, and He will remind you that you are still His child. God cares greatly about you, and He wants you to understand that nothing you confess will make Him love you any less. It takes lots of practice to train ourselves to behave like the royal children of God, but He is always there to help us when we need it. Our royal, righteous, holy heritage is secured at salvation, and it is ours to enjoy for all eternity.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

Stepping Out of the Cell

image
God has already given you the freedom to escape, you just need to trust Him enough to leave.

Do you live your life behind bars?

At some point in each person’s life, Satan decides to cast individuals into a prison of pain. Whether the jail cell is fashioned from sin, self doubt, or depression, Satan ensures that each captive is held in solitary confinement. Each cell is soundproof, so that the victims he holds hostage are thoroughly convinced that they are utterly alone in their suffering. The hallways in this prison are long, dark, and endless, while the only noise that passes through the silence is empty echoes of former, forgotten happiness. The air is cold and damp, making the atmosphere feel musty and uncomfortable. No matter how many times the prisoners cry out in desperation for help, Satan purposely ignores them, choosing to mock their anguish by prolonging it as much as he can. The Devil is a cruel prison warden, and he has no intention whatsoever of releasing the inhabitants held within his dungeon.

However, there is only one way to escape.

Despite the many defenses around Satan’s prison of pain, there is one Person Who is able to storm its gates without any trepidation. God alone is the only One powerful enough to bail people out of their personal torture chambers. Since Satan holds each individual hostage within the high walls of his fortress, he requires a ransom before he’ll even consider unlocking their cells. The good news is, God has already provided payment for Satan’s ransom of individual souls – that payment is the blood of His only Son, Jesus Christ. God was the Designer of the greatest master escape plan ever invented, far greater than Mission Impossible itself. It doesn’t matter if people are in need of salvation, reassurance, or hope; God is fully capable of rescuing every last soul in peril.

Yet successful escape can only be accomplished through one condition:

People must possess the will to escape.

You see, once God unlocks the door to a person’s cell, He is inviting that person to make a choice to come follow Him out. He can’t yank on his arm to make Him get up, neither can He pick him up and carry him out. The reason for this is the fact that the keys God uses to open the cell are fashioned from His grace, which can either be accepted or rejected. God gave every human being the special gift of free will, allowing man the ability to make his own decisions. You would think that the logical, reasonable thing for a person to do in this prison situation is bolt out the door as soon as he heard his cell creak open. However, sadly, there are a few reasons why he might choose to stay, trapped within painful solitary confinement:

1. Personal Pride

Yes, one of the most common reasons that people might decide to linger behind in their cell is the matter of their human ego. Whether it’s because they truly believe that they’re fine on their own, or they’re too ashamed to admit that they need help, some people tend to naturally resist God’s outstretched hand reaching for them. To ensure a successful rescue, people must prevent themselves from falling prey to Satan’s own original sin – pride. Satan would love nothing more than for his prisoners to be sincerely convinced that they don’t need God’s help at all, that they can handle their personal pain alone. Through this cleverly crafted lie, the prison bars become thicker and stronger than they ever were before. Since man is hopeless and helpless without God, trying to deny that truth makes all of his own attempts to escape from Satan’s prison become futile.

What they need to realize is, the only way to access the keys of God’s grace is through simple humility. Once people become humble enough to acknowledge that only God can save them from their pitiful condition, it is then that they can finally accept the reality of being released from Satan’s prison of pain.

2. Foreboding Fear

Another common reason that people may choose to stay behind in their cell is their fear of the unknown. This fear of the unknown can be either positive or negative – people are either afraid of being happy, or they’re afraid that their pain will only get worse. It might seem strange to say that some people are afraid of being happy; however, this claim is indeed valid, as it occurs in some people’s minds daily. This is mostly because they fear that once they dare to rediscover happiness in their lives, they will only have it taken away from them all over again sooner or later. On the opposite end, people who fear the unknown are reluctant to trust God to lead them out of their personal pain, believing that their personal circumstances may never improve. Their mindset is, “Why bother trying to leave this prison cell and be happy, when it’s unattainable anyway?”

Instead of fearing the unknown, these people must believe that the only way out of Satan’s prison of pain is by trusting God enough to take His hand. Once people fully grasp and understand the eternal truth that God is good, they can finally gain the courage to follow Him out of Satan’s dark dungeons of despair.

3. Satisfying Sorrow

Finally, the most common reason of all that people might refuse to leave their cell is that they have grown complacent in their grief. Preferring to nurse their sadness over searching for God’s joy and peace, these people lie down to sleep in their cell each night upon pillows of self-pity. As strange as it sounds, these people find comfort in their calamity, making heartbreak their new home. Instead of trying to break free from Satan’s chains of misery and woe, they openly embrace the deepening shadows of sorrow that surround them, feeding their burden of brokenness. It’s not that these people don’t want to be happy again; quite the contrary – they simply have just become too comfortable in their own sorrow, accepting it as the new norm in their lives. Their emotional eyes have adjusted so much to the darkness of their circumstances, that stepping out into the light of God’s hope is enough to almost blind them.

These people can only be freed from their cell once they accept that the light of God’s hope is far more satisfying than Satan’s shadows of sorrow. Rather than wallowing in shrouds of self-pity, it is so much better for these people to wallow in the golden goodness of God’s love for them. Only then can they truly experience a renewal of happiness in their hearts and minds.

 

Here are keys from God’s Word to encourage you to step out of your cell:

 

Isaiah 42:6-7 ~ “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

Luke 4:18-19 ~ “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,  to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 ~ “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;”

Hebrews 2:14-15 ~ “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

Psalm 91:14-15 ~ “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.”

Psalm 118:5 ~ “I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.

Isaiah 61:1 ~ “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

Colossians 1:13-14 ~ “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”

 

Your cell door has swung open – will you take the chance to step out?

Taking your freedom is a risk, and a very frightening one at that; but the only way to get past your fears is by remembering the One Who risked everything to give it to you. God Himself allowed His only Son Jesus to endure the worst pain possible during His time here on earth, all so you could have the freedom to live victoriously. Jesus’ death ensured that no one, not even Satan, could hold people hostage from Him, in spite of Satan’s best efforts to do so. No matter how many times Satan has slammed the cell door shut on you after throwing you into his prison of pain, you have been offered the chance to unlock it. The keys you need to accept from God are grace, trust, and faith. They are capable of unlocking the deepest, darkest dungeons in any person’s life, regardless of their individual circumstances. God is shining the bright rays of His goodness and love upon you, inviting you to join Him in the eternal sunshine of His joy and peace. The only thing holding you back at this point is your own free will, as the choice is entirely up to you. Will you take a risk at rediscovering happiness in your life? God is waiting earnestly for you, wanting you to experience healing in your life. Will you leave the prison of pain behind for good? Will you step out of your cell?

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Five Reasons To Eat Your Words

Sugar Lips
Taste the flavor of your words before you spit them out.

As we all know, words can be either helpful or harmful.

It is extremely important for everyone to examine the content of their speech before they let their thoughts escape their lips. While this is a lesson that most people should have learned at an early age, unfortunately there are many individuals who are quite careless about the things they say. Sometimes those of us who try to be careful in this area can be capable of accidentally offending someone, or simply saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Within the confines of human nature, it is a difficult challenge to tame the tongue.

Let’s take a look at five reasons why it is necessary for us to eat our words on a daily basis:

  1. Words are verbal symbols of objects or actions.

What most people seem to forget is the simple fact that words are tools to represent things. As an avid lover of the English language, I thoroughly understand the truth that all words have a very distinct, specific meaning. Therefore, it confuses me to no end when I hear people around me using profanity, since those words are usually unpleasant. This is especially true when I hear people using curse words that refer to bodily functions or other vulgar things that should never be mentioned. Instead of preaching at those who commonly use profanity, I would just ask them one question: Would you still use those disgusting words if the objects they represent literally came out of your mouth?

Think about it – would you really want something nasty to emerge from your mouth just because you weren’t being careful about what you were saying? I know it’s a bit of an extreme metaphor, but it’s an accurate depiction of what occurs when people choose to use vulgar profanity. Once a particular bad word is spoken, an image of the object it represents is planted in the mind of the person who hears it, just because of its common association. The result is a distasteful mental picture, all because one person did not make any effort to use decent, polite vocabulary. Instead of resorting to using profanity to express yourself, try to challenge yourself to use accurate, precise vocabulary words for the sake of being courteous to those around you.

2. Words can stay in people’s minds for the rest of their lives.

I believe that everyone who has ever lived has been guilty of saying something they shouldn’t have in a heated moment of anger, or at the very least speaking without thinking how it will affect someone else first. While you can always apologize for something you said to another person, your apology may not necessarily guarantee their forgiving you. Even if they do the honorable thing by forgiving you, it is unlikely that they will forget what you said to them anytime soon. No matter how much time might pass, or what you might try to do to compensate that person, the damage has already been done, and there is nothing you can do to reverse any emotional scars your words might have caused. It makes no difference whether you said something in haste or not; once spoken, your words can never be taken back.

While every person has the ability to make their own choices in life, hurtful words can still affect the outcome of a person’s decisions. Since most people are born with a natural desire to please others and be accepted, anything and everything they are told can be taken to their heart, whether they like it or not. Man’s opinions are fickle things; but how a person’s heart and mind responds to those opinions is not easily changed. The truth is, all people are sensitive deep down, even if they make an effort not to show it. Therefore, it is highly important that we show the utmost respect to everyone around us by being very careful with the things we say to them, since we never know how strongly our words might affect them.

3. Words and the way we use them define who we are as people.

Whenever you hear someone speaking with an accent, you can usually tell where they are from, especially if it is a very strong accent. The same thing applies to the words we use – our speech allows others to determine our level of education, our cultural background, and our character. Of course, for every occasion there is an appropriate style of formality in which we should use our speech. For example, the type of casual conversation you would carry with your friends at a party is quite different from the professional way of speaking that would be expected of you at a job interview. Instead of laughing it up and joking around with a potential employer, you would want to portray yourself in the most polished, refined way possible. Doing so will cause them to perceive you as mature and respectful. You should want your words to benefit you in all of life’s many different situations.

Also, the words you use every day will give your community a reflection of your testimony. If your words are positive, uplifting, helpful, and kind, then people will be more likely to say good things about you. If your words are negative, discouraging, contrary, and unkind, however, then people will be more inclined to say bad things about you. However, it is important to use good words for the sake of your own testimony, since people will always tend to criticize you no matter what you do or say. Your testimony in your local community is quite valuable, especially if you claim to be a Christian. The things you say are ultimately a reflection of the contents of your heart, as the Bible says. As a Christian, you are an ambassador for Christ to the world around you. Keeping your speech pure and your words honorable is one of the best ways to make God’s light shine brightly from your heart.

4. Words used in the appropriate time and context can be very powerful.

You’ve probably heard the saying “silence is golden” before. The main reason that phrase is so humorous and popular is because most of the time, the world around us is incredibly noisy! There are people who love to talk, and then there are those who just love to hear themselves talk. It doesn’t take very long to discern the difference between someone who is sociable and someone who is domineering. Sadly, many people think that for their friendships to last, they must be with someone who loves to talk just as much as they do, labeling any others who have a more quiet nature as “boring.” This unfortunate misunderstanding comes from these people choosing quantity over quality. It is far better to use fewer words in a meaningful way than to talk excessively and make white noise.

For example, if you have friends who are going through a very stressful situation in their lives, they would find you to be much more helpful to them by just listening to their problem instead of volunteering your input. Remaining silent as they tell you about the difficult time they’re experiencing is better than trying to fix their problem without knowing all the facts. However, your friends would be extremely grateful to you if you said something encouraging, genuine, and heartfelt to them once they are through explaining their rough circumstances to you. You never know just how much your appropriately timed words might mean to them while they are fervently seeking for hope in their life.
5. Words are a gift from God, and should be used to honor Him, not disrespect Him.

All language and forms of communication are direct gifts from God, and serve as evidence that we are all created in His divine image. However, because man chose to rebel against God back in the garden of Eden, he tainted the divine image in which he was created with sin, losing his former respect for God and taking the gift of language for granted. Because of this lack of respect for God, man began to take God’s holy Name in vain, exchanging its powerful association for a common curse word. Of course, God was not pleased by this whatsoever; and as a result of man’s wickedness, He made one of the Ten Commandments say, “Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Apparently it was such a prevalent issue back in Bible times that God literally had to set it in stone. Sadly, it is still a huge problem today, even with many Christians. God’s Name should only be used in a respectful way when people are talking to Him in prayer or praising Him.

When people take God’s Name in vain, they are forgetting that He is a real Person with feelings and emotions just like we have. Taking God’s Name in vain is essentially the same thing as hearing someone call out your name, only to hear them say “Never mind,” when you reply. Imagine if someone kept repeating your name many times, and each time you say “What?” the person just says “Nothing,” for the sole purpose of annoying you. You would most likely be tempted to lose your temper with them for wasting your time. Well, that’s how God feels every time someone decides to take His Name in vain as profanity. Most importantly, it offends God because people are using His powerful, holy Name as a cheap way of sinning, by turning it into a form of corrupt communication known as cursing. The blameless Name of God Almighty should never in any way be associated with the very thing He detests the most – sin. God specifically warns people in His Word that He will not hold people guiltless who take His Name in vain. A much better alternative to say is the word “goodness” in place of the perfect, pure Name of God.

 

Here are God’s own Words to help us to make better choices in selecting our words:

 

Ephesians 4:29 ~ “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.”

Ephesians 5:4 ~ “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.”

Proverbs 25:11 ~ “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

Proverbs 16:24 ~ “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”

Exodus 20:7 ~ “Thou shalt not take the Name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain.”

Psalm 12:6 ~ “The words of the LORD are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.

1 Corinthians 10:31 ~ “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

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;”

Matthew 12:36-37 ~ “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.

James 3:6 ~ “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

Proverbs 21:23 ~ “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.”

2 Timothy 2:14 ~ “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.”

Luke 6:45 ~ “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

Colossians 4:6 ~ “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

 

What’s the flavor of the words you’re using?

Now that we’ve discussed five reasons we should eat our words, we should be more conscious about the flavor of the words we speak. Just like people prefer sweet and salty flavors with real food, Christians have the best tasting speech when their words match those same flavors also. Just like a chocolate-covered pretzel, we should be sweet to others around us by showing God’s love in our words, but also salty by preserving our Christian testimony when people ask us about our faith. Don’t be like some Christians whose words taste like vinegar due to their bitterness; but rather a perfect balance of good flavors to edify and build up the people in your life. So before you serve other people a meal made of your thoughts, make sure you taste and swallow them in your mind first! The Master Chef of course should be the Holy Spirit inside you, Who will let you know whether or not he approves of the way your words taste. Don’t feel discouraged, as this subject is something ALL of us must work on daily, myself included. If I can refine my speech with God’s help, then I know that you can too; you just have to trust Him and believe in His amazing power.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

 

Canning the Cravings

Crushed Coke Can
Instead of filling up on emptiness, we should quench our thirst for fulfillment with God.

Do you ever find yourself craving something?

Usually, people have cravings for certain foods, activities, or music, depending on whatever mood they’re experiencing. Most people live off of coffee, tea, or energy drinks; but my main caffeine source comes from soda. Since a very young age, I have loved the bubbly, fizzy, sweet taste of carbonated liquid sugar, equating its delightful properties to a magic potion. Being very imaginative, I always like to pretend that the soda I’m drinking is a special substance found only in fairy tales, such as a divine nectar produced by fairies. Aside from the fantasies of my mind, my soda addiction certainly isn’t helped by the prolific advertising campaigns of the mass corporations that market my favorite brands. Almost everywhere you go, you can find the logo of my favorite sodas plastered across billboards, race cars, posters, t-shirts, and a large variety of other media serving as a commercial canvas.

However, one day I noticed a significant difference.

As a teenager, whenever I was thirsty, a can of my favorite soda was my go-to beverage of choice. Like most other young adults, I could bond with other teens my age through a mutual love of the same sodas, even if we had nothing else in common. Being a rabid fan of a specific brand of soda meant that you were cool, since that’s what everyone else was drinking. Several years later, I was a sophomore in college at home during Christmas break, reveling in my favorite food and drinks that I had been deprived of during the previous semester. I took a drink of one of my favorite sodas, and noticed something different that I had never been aware of before – even though liquid entered my mouth, it still felt dry and sticky, with my thirst unsatisfied.

I realized that no matter how many drops of soda I drank, my thirst would ultimately never be quenched, because the caffeinated contents were dehydrating my body. As most health experts will tell you, soda consumed in large quantities can have quite a damaging effect on your body. Without turning this post into a nutrition or diet-themed lecture, I will simply state that from that day forward, I made a solid decision to drink less soda than I had been all the previous years of my life. I am currently trying to make water my main source of hydration in an effort to be healthier and improve my quality of life. Sometimes, I tend to relapse and find myself drinking lots of soda all over again; but when that happens, I try to turn myself around right back where I left off, forcing my brain to choose only water when it recognizes that I am thirsty.

In a similar way, my struggle with soda can be compared to putting aside the flesh.

Every person who has ever existed came into this world with desires. No matter how many desires people have, or what type of desires they may be, all of us are connected by one single desire –

fulfillment.

God created us with an inherent need for fulfillment because he wanted His creations to be drawn back to Him, no matter how far they might stray. If we were all made to be self-sufficient, we would have no need for God whatsoever; but the truth is that we are incapable of being self-sufficient. You see, the very fact that we were created by God means that we are dependent on Him: we cannot even have life at all without Him. Those who choose to deny this biblical truth and advocate the atheistic doctrine of evolution instead are only fooling themselves, preferring to live in darkness instead of light.

At the end of a long day at work, most people will automatically turn to their favorite interests and hobbies to relax themselves, wanting to think about as little as possible. Christians are no exception, as I am prone like others are to immediately engage myself in electronics, television, books, or literally anything else besides reading my Bible and praying. It is indeed a natural instinct to do so, since the flesh always demands to be satisfied before anything else. However, there have been many nights that I have sadly discovered that I have neglected to spend time with the God Who loves me far more than I could ever deserve. I lie down in my bed to rest before the next day, and then I suddenly realize that I have left no part of my day reserved for acknowledging God.

The problem lies in misplaced priorities and misunderstanding.

Just like my addiction to soda, our tendency to put self first and God last comes from being ignorant about what is truly good for us. In our flesh, we think that we can satisfy ourselves by doing whatever we feel like at any given moment, when in reality we are just perpetuating a vicious cycle. God designed us to need Him, and the more we keep ignoring that need, the more we’re going to feel a gaping hole inside of us. There is an intrinsic void that only He can fill inside of every human being, whether saved or unsaved. We were created for God’s pleasure, and we were meant to spend time with Him to give us our much-desired fulfillment. When we do spend time with Him, we can discover that we have been depriving ourselves of what was meant to be ours the whole time – lasting peace and contentment.

The solution can be achieved through a method of replacement.

The first step I took in overcoming my addiction to soda was replacing the urge to drink it by choosing water instead. Likewise, the most effective way to overcome the natural, selfish instincts of the flesh is by replacing them with spiritual activity, such as praying and reading God’s Word. To help myself make spending time with God a priority, I’ve been trying to set aside time for Him immediately after I come home from work. That way, my heart and my mind can be refreshed through the replenishing waters of God’s presence. Instead of choosing to surf the internet or play games with no point to them, my mental energy has a redirected purpose when I decide to spend time getting to know God better. I realize that all of us are different, so some people might prefer to take a different approach that works better for them; and that is totally fine. However, I would encourage you to use this strategy: Whenever you are inclined to do something else with your free time, spend time with God first. That way, you will not be filling up on emptiness, but instead the rest of your day will have meaning and purpose.

 

Here are God’s Words to encourage you to fill yourself with Him regularly:

 

John 4:13-14 ~ “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Jeremiah 31:25 ~ “”For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.”

Psalm 17:15 ~ “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”

Psalm 63:1-5 ~ “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:”

Isaiah 55:1-2 ~ “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”

Ephesians 3:19 ~ “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Ecclesiastes 4:16 ~ “There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Romans 8:19-20 ~ “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,”

Jeremiah 2:5 ~ “Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Acts 14:15 ~ “And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:”

Psalm 42:1-2 ~ “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”

Ephesians 4:22 ~ “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;”

Galatians 5:16-18 ~ “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”

 

Canning our cravings will always be a work in progress.

While it is possible to permanently change physical habits over a period of time, changing our spiritual habits will always be a struggle. However, I do not say this to discourage you; but rather to encourage you to always rely on God for His help. Remember, we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us. Overcoming the natural cravings of the flesh by replacing them with spiritual habits is expected to be challenging, thus emphasizing how much we really do need God in our everyday lives. Just keep in mind that achieving success in anything we desire is dependent on keeping a positive mindset. Whenever you need help in this area, remember that God is always just a prayer away. He is more than happy and willing to give you the victory in overcoming the flesh with the spirit. I am still learning to kick the proverbial soda can on all of my bad habits, both physical and spiritual. If I can learn how to change my ways with God’s help, then I know that you can too.

– Gloria D. Hopkins