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.

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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.

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    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.

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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

In the Not-So-Bleak Midwinter

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Acknowledging the Author

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

Did you know that your life story has an Author?

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

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

pages-giphy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Romans 8:28 ~ “ And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

Stepping Out of the Cell

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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

Easter Is Not “The End.”

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Jesus will always be there for us on the road of life.

The Lord Jesus came back to life on the third day, but the story doesn’t end there.

When most people celebrate Easter each year, they usually tend to focus on the climax of our Savior’s sacrifice, namely His death and subsequent resurrection. However, the rest of the story sometimes gets unintentionally overlooked, the part where Jesus spends a short period of time walking on Earth in His new body. After Jesus arose from the tomb, He walked alongside His disciples on Emmaus road, and also visited some of His faithful followers inside their homes for food and fellowship.

The purpose for Him doing this was not only to provide living proof of His glorious miracle, but also to show His followers that He still cared about them and loved them very much. You see, from a human perspective, it would seem that the first thing Jesus would want to do is go back to Heaven immediately, after He had endured so much suffering here on Earth. Yet our Savior was the very Portrait of unselfishness as He went out of His way to spend time with those He loved before He ascended into the golden clouds of Heaven.

Why is this part of the Easter story so important to remember?

While it may be easy to see the latter part of the Easter story as less exciting, there are many meaningful lessons to be derived from our Lord’s final chapter on Earth. When I think about this part of the story, the first thing it reminds me of is how much Jesus loves us. He certainly didn’t have to stay behind and spend extra time with people, but He chose to because He loved them. He could have decided to leave for Heaven immediately, letting His followers believe the miracle of His resurrection by faith alone; but He wanted to show up in person before their very eyes to make their faith whole and complete.

The next thing this part of the story reminds me of is how the Lord desires to comfort us. When Jesus walked and talked with His disciples and other followers after His resurrection, He was calming their hearts from the fear they had of the Jewish leaders. Jesus knew that His followers would undoubtedly face persecution for their faith in Him, and wanted to assure them that any future attacks on their faith should not dissuade or discourage them. The disciples and other followers of Jesus would have felt absolutely helpless against the world without the loving, comforting words they received from Him.

The last thing this part of the story reminds me of is how the miracle of Easter continued to give people hope even after the Lord’s resurrection. When Jesus visited His disciples and followers, He encouraged them by telling them that the story wasn’t over yet. He let them know that another Comforter would come to them, the Holy Spirit, and that someday He would return again a second time as King of the whole Earth. Even more exciting news for His followers was the fact that after Jesus’ second coming, they would all ascend up into Heaven to live with Him for all eternity.

For Christians, the Easter story continues to go on every day in their hearts.

When I was younger, I used to be sad the day after Easter, thinking that because the official holiday was over, that meant we could no longer celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. However, now that I am older, I have realized that Christians NEVER have to stop celebrating Easter; in fact, they should be celebrating it EVERY DAY! You see, the Lord IS risen. That is a present state of being. Yes, He arose from the grave over 2,000 years ago, but He is still alive! Because He is still alive today, and sitting at God’s right hand in Heaven, Christians should ALWAYS have a cause to rejoice and be glad in their hearts! The story of Jesus’ Easter miracle is eternal, and those who know Him in their hearts will always have a reason to celebrate it, because He conquered the grave by coming back to life! What a wonderful thought it is to meditate upon! The Lord Jesus Christ provided a way for us to have eternal life through His temporary death on the cross. Because of His sacrifice, those who believe on Him can partake of His joy daily, and enter into eternity with a sense of fulfillment for their existence.

How can we continue to celebrate Easter after the official day is over?

There are many ways to continue celebrating Easter as a Christian, and not surprisingly they aren’t that different than what Christians should be doing to worship God daily. The best way to celebrate Easter every day is by offering praise and thanks to God for all that He has done for us. Specifically, we should thank Him for the amazing sacrifice of unconditional love that His Son Jesus performed on the cross for our sake. The more we show God our constant appreciation of His love for us, the more He will be inclined to show it to us more apparently each day. Also, another way to honor Easter in your heart every day is by simply remembering the events of Jesus’ loving sacrifice. The more you ponder upon the details of His journey on earth and all He endured to secure your eternal life, the more you will feel grateful to Him. Place yourself back in time over 2,000 years ago on the morning that Jesus Christ arose – imagine that you are one of His disciples, eagerly anticipating His imminent resurrection. Once you fully consider all of the circumstances surrounding the miracle of Easter, you will experience the great joy that the disciples felt when they ran to the tomb and found it empty!

What does the rest of the Easter story mean for us today?

The miracle of Easter provides eternal hope for mankind, ensuring that God is powerful enough to save us from spiritual death. After Jesus Christ ascended up into Heaven, His disciples were watching Him with their eyes lifted up to the clouds in the sky. Immediately after Jesus’ ascension, an angel appeared to them and commanded that they get busy doing the Lord’s work to further His eternal kingdom of reconciled souls. In the same way, we should also be busy today, doing our best to give the world an example of Christ’s love. While we should celebrate the miracle of Easter every day in our hearts, we should also be looking forward to eternity, and possess a sense of urgency about the countless lost souls that are at stake. When the Lord does eventually return, He should be able to find us diligent in His service, spreading the truth of the gospel and winning souls back to Him. We are not to forget about Christ’s return, but instead be eagerly awaiting Him when He decides to appear in the clouds of Heaven.

 

Here are the Lord’s own Words and promises to help us celebrate Easter every day:

 

Luke 24: 13-32 “And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.

“And he said unto them, ‘What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?’ And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, ‘Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?’ And he said unto them, ‘What things?’ And they said unto him, ‘Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:  And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.

“‘But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.’

“Then he said unto them, ‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.

“And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?'”

John 14:1-3 ~ “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

John 14:16-18 ~ “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Matthew 16:27 ~ “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Matthew 24:30-31 ~ “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

Matthew 28:6 ~ “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

Acts 1:9-11 ~ “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward Heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, ‘Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into Heaven.'”

Psalm 51:12 ~ “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.”

 

In the meantime, while Jesus is physically in Heaven, He is always with us spiritually.

 

Just as Jesus surprised His disciples by walking with them on the Emmaus road, He is always desiring to walk with us on our journey down the road of life. Whenever we need His help, He is there to guide us and also to comfort us. His Holy Spirit lives within the hearts of those who believe on Him, so that they are never alone under any circumstances. Jesus was more than willing to teach His followers more about Him as they walked together, and He is also happy to teach us too, answering our questions about life’s tricky twists and turns. The Lord certainly has not left us comfortless, as He stated in His Word: He gave us His Holy Spirit, His Word, and the privilege of constant communication with His Father in Heaven through prayer.

Jesus is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother, and He will always be there for us no matter what, as He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. While we serve Him each day, we can look forward to His glorious return in the golden clouds of Heaven. If you do not know Him today, I sincerely encourage you to meet Him today – He is waiting for you on the top of a hill along the road of life, lovingly reaching out His hand for you to join Him so you can walk together. Will you accept His invitation of eternal fellowship by asking Him to come into your heart and save you? The Savior is waiting for you, calling you by name to come follow Him before the sun sets and eternity begins.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Five Ways We Misunderstand God

Heaven
We must comprehend our Creator to fully enjoy His love.

God’s love for us is an everlasting privilege.

Our compassionate King has promised and proven His love for mankind all throughout His Word. It is a special treasure that is granted to us by His grace, but sadly is often taken for granted, whether it happens intentionally or not. God’s love is free to be experienced by everyone, but the extent that each person experiences Him depends on much he wants to know Him. Now, God and all His ways will remain a vast mystery to man until He chooses to fully reveal His glory in Heaven; but He also desires us to seek Him out of an earnest heart. While we must respect the fact that God has chosen to keep certain things a sacred secret from us, there are many wonderful aspects about God’s nature that He wants us to discover for ourselves.

First, it is important to understand that God is a Spirit and a Person, which means He has real feelings and emotions like we do. Every element of the human soul is directly modeled after God Himself, Who made man in His divine image. With that said, we must acknowledge God’s existence as a personal Being Who is more than capable of giving and receiving communication. While we realize that God is infinitely more powerful than we are, we must not forget that He wants to connect with us on an intimate, personal level. In order to achieve this level of emotional intimacy with God, we must understand Him and the nature of His heart to the best of our earthly ability.

 

Let’s take a look at five different ways we commonly misunderstand God:

 

1. We assume that He’s too busy for our problems.

This is one common misconception about God that we have all thought at one point in our lives. We think to ourselves, “God’s so busy taking care of everything going on around the world; surely He doesn’t have time to hear about my little problems today.” This might sound like overly simple reasoning, but God is GOD. He is omnipotent and omnipresent! He is infinite, and lives outside the bounds of time! It is rather foolish to think that the all-powerful Creator doesn’t have any time for us and our problems, when He took the time to give us life and a purpose.

While God has a much higher perspective than we do about our problems, that doesn’t mean He has no patience to hear about them. In fact, He WANTS us to unload ALL of our cares upon Him, because He cares about us! Surely the One Who made the human heart understands when it is carrying too much to handle. God wants us to realize that no matter how small an issue might seem to us, it’s not too small for Him to consider and provide an answer for. Because God is everywhere at the same time, that means He is always there for everyone to call on whenever they need Him. Isn’t that a wonderful, comforting thought?

2. We assume that He is impatient when we fail Him.

Here is another way we commonly misunderstand God. Every time we fail Him by sinning, whether it’s one time or repeatedly, we think that God is done with us and has no hope left in us. We tell ourselves, “Why would God ever have any use for me, when I’ll never be perfect like He is? He probably thinks I’m a lousy servant.” While it is true that we can never be perfect like God until we get to Heaven, our tendency to sin constantly doesn’t mean that God can’t use or doesn’t want to use us! God is so powerful that He is able to use us in spite of our sin! Our sin nature keeps us dependent on His mercy and grace, and reminds us that without Him we can do nothing.

Even though God desires us to repent from our chronic sins, He does not lose faith in our potential to serve Him. He is our Creator, and He knows exactly why and how He plans to use us. Sometimes the very weaknesses we have that cause us to sin can be turned around to form a specific strength to fulfill God’s purpose for us. Besides, God knows that we are frail, fallible human beings; it doesn’t surprise Him when we mess up every now and then. However, He wants to assure us that through Him, we can achieve victory in any areas, including our recurring sins. Far from impatient, God is always extremely compassionate.

3. We assume that He can’t see things the way we do.

Many people accuse God of being insensitive to their circumstances, passing judgment on His character based on the limited details they see in front of them. Even Christians do this sometimes, thinking that God has isolated Himself up in Heaven away from humanity and is oblivious to the reality of earthly suffering. However, just because God has a higher plane of perception doesn’t mean He is ignorant of how we feel. It is not only unfair, but blasphemous when we blame God by calling Him uncaring, when He has provided eternal salvation for all mankind. On the day that man sinned for the first time, God gave him His plan for redemption through His Son Jesus.

God is always with us every day, completely aware of everything we experience. He knows what we’re thinking and how we’ll emotionally respond to things happening around us. As our constant Companion, God understands our feelings completely, and knows why and how things affect us. Just because God sees the whole picture when we can’t doesn’t mean He is insensitive to how we see it. He wants to show us what steps we need to take in order to get to the next chapter. He wants us to experience His power to work miracles in our lives by bringing our emotions full circle to realizing His will. God not only sees things from our view, but also His at the same time, so He can guide us in the right direction.

4. We assume that He is never satisfied.

Many people fall into the trap of thinking they’ll never be enough for God, and plunge themselves into a vicious cycle of good works. Even though the Bible states that faith without works is dead, God doesn’t just want us because of what we can do for Him. In fact, the very best that we can do is like filthy rags in His eyes. God’s holiness is so unattainable, so incomparable, that it’s impossible to do anything that will meet His level of achievement in our own strength. However, God is satisfied with us because of the shed blood of His Son on the cross over 2,000 years ago. What God wants from us is to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind; if we love Him completely, our actions will be more likely to please Him as well.

God sent His Son to earth as a grand gesture of His love for mankind, proving that God’s grace alone is capable of redeeming him and making him righteous. Does that mean we should just sit back and take it easy after receiving salvation? Of course not! We should always be working hard to further God’s kingdom of reclaimed souls while we have time before eternity begins. It just means that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God is happy to embrace us as His children, no matter how imperfect we are. All He wants is our hearts’ devotion, and through Christ alone, we are good enough for Him.

5. We assume that He isn’t hurt when we ignore Him.

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that our lives don’t make a difference, and that God is not bothered at all when we forget our responsibility in our relationship with Him. We think to ourselves, “Oh well, I don’t feel like spending time with God today. It won’t really matter how long I stray away from Him; He’ll still be there for me tomorrow.” What a sad error it is to think this way! Just because God has thousands of angels praising Him every day doesn’t mean He doesn’t miss our presence when we stray away from Him. God gave everything He had for us when He gave us His Son Jesus to prove His love for us! He wanted our lost souls back in communion with Him so much, that sent a Part of Himself to minister unto us! How ignorant we are when we take Him for granted by forgetting to spend time with Him! It’s telling ourselves a horrible lie, that we don’t need Him.

Just as we desire to be acknowledged and respected as a person by other humans, God desires the same thing from us, but in the context of Creator and creations, Savior and souls, or Father and children. We owe Him our acknowledgment and respect as the very least thing we can give back to Him, to repay all that He’s done for us. If God made us as special, unique individuals, He desires us to talk to Him in our own special, unique way. The fact that He is infinite God doesn’t change the fact that we matter to Him. Showing our love to God by opening our hearts to Him is exactly what He wants, to share a real, loving, connected relationship with us. God has feelings too, and we deeply hurt Him when we treat Him as an impersonal, nonexistent force.

Here are God’s own Words to help us understand Him better:

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

Isaiah 57:15 ~ “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

John 4:24 ~ “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Jeremiah 23:23-24 ~ “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.”

Acts 17:27-28 ~ “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”

John 15:5 ~ “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

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

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.

Exodus 34:6 ~ “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,

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

Psalm 103:8 ~ “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

Titus 3:5 ~ “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

Jeremiah 29:11 ~ “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 2:32 ~ “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.

Isaiah 51:12-13 ~ “I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;

Deuteronomy 8:10-14 ~ “When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;”

It’s time to re-evaluate how well we understand God.

I hope that this post has been an encouragement to help you see the heart of God more clearly. He wants nothing more than a real relationship with you filled with mutual understanding! The more you understand Who God really is and all His ways, you’ll find it easier to trust Him in all of life’s circumstances. Most of all, the more intimately you get to know God, the more you’ll be able to enjoy His love wrapped around you! No amount of hugs from humans can compare to the wonderful feeling of being hugged by God’s love! When you invite God to work freely in your life, you’ll open yourself up to a whole world of possibilities provided by Him. Because the privilege of God’s love is eternal, you’ll discover new things about Him day after day, forever and ever! A relationship with God never runs out of adventure and excitement! So instead of complaining that God doesn’t understand you, try understanding God more accurately, and you will surely be rewarded.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

Protecting Your Peace

Be Still
Quiet your soul, for God is in control.

“Peace, be still.”

With these words, Jesus Christ was able to calm a violent, stormy sea. With waves thrashing all around them mere moments before, His twelve disciples couldn’t believe their eyes when the water suddenly became as smooth as a small pond. Before Jesus spoke these three, simple words, they were fearing for their very lives; but they soon discovered the true nature of His deity when He proved His power over the world’s natural elements. They were completely surrounded by an extremely frightening situation, yet when Jesus performed His miracle, it made the living nightmare vanish right in front of them!

How amazing it is that God is able to make our problems go away with His miraculous power! No matter how noisy or stressful the world gets, He is above it all, ruling from His throne in pristine glory and majesty. It is no wonder that nothing troubles God, for He is God, the sovereign Ruler of the universe that He created. However, we humans down here on earth are of a far lesser state. Because of our sin, we are plagued daily with a variety of innumerable concerns, wishing that the whole world could just stop spinning for one second. In the midst of all the earthly chaos, though, there is a still small Voice that is calling out to us each day.

God is inviting us to possess His perfect peace every day, but many of our daily distractions keep us from finding it. Some of our distractions can’t be prevented, but there are others that can be helped. Let’s take a look at some of the things we CAN control to help us protect our perfect peace.

1. Avoid the unnecessary noise!

I know it’s an age-old solution, but it’s still valid today more than ever. If you’re trying to spend time with God through prayer or Scripture reading, find a nice, quiet place or time of day to commune with Him. Don’t try to convince yourself that playing music or listening to something else won’t distract you, because it will, in spite of your best intentions. Turn off the TV, stop the music, and go somewhere that you know you can be completely alone. Depending on your personal routine or daily schedule, this may be more difficult to do. All that matters in God’s eyes is that you’re making an effort to spend quality time with Him as His child. The point is, if the noisy distractions aren’t necessary, then put them away! The still, quiet presence of the Holy Spirit is far more rewarding.

2. Drain your brain!

Everyone has many different things on their mind each day. Stress isn’t called a killer for no reason! Whether it’s an assignment, a test, a work project, or a performance, any type of challenge can potentially become deadly if its weight isn’t kept in check. Do yourself a favor and put your fears to bed! A huge sense of empowerment comes the day you realize that your daily circumstances do NOT have permission to control you. If you’re struggling with a load of stressful issues, simply give it all to God, and leave it in His hands. He wants you to cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares about you. Once you accept the fact that only He has the real power in your life, you can put yourself at ease by knowing that He can handle it. Whatever it is that’s bothering you, God can take all the pressure away from you.

3. Remember God’s practical promises!

A great deal of anxiety occurs when we take into account all of the things that are said and happening around us in the world. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the hype that is designed to capture your attention and never let go! Sometimes we find ourselves becoming too occupied with man’s vain opinion or petty actions we hear about on the news. Remember, we are IN this world, but not OF it! Just as God is presently sitting above us in Heaven unaffected by man’s wicked imaginations, so shall we be unaffected if we recall eternal, biblical truths. Regardless of man’s words or actions, God’s truth never passes away or becomes void. Reassuring ourselves of God’s sovereignty can calm our hearts in the midst of the turmoil that surrounds us.

 

For further affirmations of peace, here are God’s valuable words of truth:

 

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

Matthew 6:6 ~ “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Psalm 2:4 ~ “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

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

John 17:16 ~ “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

Isaiah 54:10 ~ “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.

Psalm 119:165 ~ “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”

Now you can see that God fully intends for us to live in peace every day, no matter what situations are going on around us! He can carry away your stress and help you see that you’re blessed! If you are God’s child, you carry His power within you at all times, and you can be invincible to the troubles of this world. It doesn’t mean that you are blind to them, but it simply means that they don’t control your happiness or rob you of your peace. Nobody said that this was going to be easy, because protecting your peace is a full-time job! However, if you have unwavering faith in God’s Word, then you have nothing to fear!

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Reaching For the Right Fruit

Forbidden Fruit
We must eat of the fruit that is already given to us.

Forbidden fruit.

Since the Garden of Eden, this term has been used to symbolize anything our flesh desires that is against God’s will. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything we desire is evil; it just means that God might not want us to have something for any number of reasons that He knows about. As our Heavenly Father, God knows what is best for us, and also what is worst for us. It is His right to protect us out of His loving heart from anything that will seriously harm us by placing rules and restrictions around certain areas of our lives.

Let’s take a look at the story of the original Forbidden fruit to see why God really knows what’s best for us.

 

The Test of Contentment

 
Most of us are familiar with the story of the Fall of Man found in Genesis chapter 3 of God’s Word. Satan enticed Eve to sin by using the one tree in the Garden of Eden that God had forbidden her and Adam to eat from. That tree was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which God placed in the garden to test their obedience to Him.

Now, Satan knew that Eve was aware of God’s command, but he wanted to deliberately draw her attention to the one thing she couldn’t have, in spite of all the other wonderful things she had already been given. God gave Adam and Eve permission to eat fruit from all the other trees of the garden except that one, because He wanted to not only test their obedience, but their contentment as well.

Satan was the first being to sin, because he was dissatisfied with serving God in Heaven. It wasn’t enough for him that he was the Leader of Music among the angels, or that he had a beautiful appearance; he wanted to be worshiped just like God. So when Satan wanted to tempt Eve to sin for the first time, he projected the source of his original sin onto her, by making her want to be like or equal with God Himself. By telling her the lie that eating the Forbidden fruit would make her and Adam like gods, Satan was trying to twist and pervert the natural desire that humans have to be holy like God, since we are all made in God’s divine image.

What was wrong with Eve’s desire?

In truth, there was nothing wrong with Eve’s desire to be like God, since she was created to desire His holiness and perfection. However, there was something very wrong with the way she chose to pursue this natural desire, by disobeying God and not following His will. God is good and gracious, and he wanted Adam and Eve to be happy, but it is His divine right to withhold certain things He didn’t want them to have. You see, the Bible tells us that after eating the Forbidden fruit, the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened, because they knew the difference between good and evil. God desired them to be in a state of pure, innocent bliss in the Garden, while He would deal with Satan’s betrayal Himself. He knew that they did not need to know the presence of wickedness in the world, and that they would be better off without it; but Satan convinced them the very opposite – that God was being selfish and didn’t want them to be happy.

When Eve chose to eat the Forbidden fruit, she was missing out on all the other blessings around her, the many different trees that God HAD given her permission to eat from. She believed Satan’s lie that God was holding something good back from her, when it was really a commandment made for her own good. If she had just waited to ask God how to be like Him, I’m sure she would have received an honest, straightforward answer, rather than a deceitful, double-sided answer from Satan. It could very well have been the case that God might have wanted to teach Adam and Eve to be more like Himself over the passing of time, rather than having them attempt to be like Him through disobedience.

How are we like Adam and Eve?

Just like our very first parents, we are prone to discontentment as well. Whenever we take our eyes off the things that God has already given us, we automatically become dissatisfied, and begin lusting after things that He either hasn’t given to us yet, or after things that He never wants us to have. Now, some of our desires might be completely natural and wholesome, but God may not have chosen to fulfill them yet. Does that mean that He doesn’t want us to be happy? Of course not! God is good, and if He chooses to delay in giving us something, it simply means it isn’t the right time for it yet. Perhaps He wants to change something in us before we’re fully ready to have a particular desire.

For example, a small child might want to drive his parents’ car, but his parents realize that he is far too young to be responsible for such an object. They tell him that when he is old enough, he will be able to drive the car someday. Does that make the boy’s parents cruel and unkind for not giving him his wish immediately? No, they simply practiced common sense by judging what their son was or wasn’t capable of handling. The same thing applies to our desires and God’s will. There are many things that we might desire: a certain job, a nice house, a new car, a person to be our life partner. While none of these things are wrong to desire in and of themselves, they can quickly become wrong if we try to claim them for ourselves before God wants us to have them, or in a way that goes against His Word. The best thing we can do is wait on the Lord to do His will.

How do we possess the skill of patience?

It can be extremely difficult to wait on God to fulfill our desires, especially when our hearts so desperately want them in the present. In the meantime, God would have us to practice the skill of patience while He accomplishes His perfect work in our lives. We can start by asking ourselves a question such as this – What is God trying to teach me in this period of patience? There are always things we can improve about ourselves, and some of them might be harder to find than others. Thankfully, we have the help of the Holy Spirit  to identify what needs to change within us. There might also be the possibility of God wanting us to get busy preparing for the future while He prepares our blessings yet to come. What it all comes down to is the simple matter of our faith in God. Do we truly believe that He is good, and sincerely desires our well-being? Are we willing to trust Him enough to let Him have His way as He writes the story of our lives?

How can we learn from Adam and Eve’s mistake?

There are many different lessons to be found in Genesis chapter 3, but the one that stands out to me the most is the importance of thankfulness. Adam and Eve were perfectly happy until they listened to Satan’s lies and became ungrateful like he was in Heaven. Instead of focusing so much on what we want but don’t have, we should focus on what we already have that God has given us, and really don’t deserve at all after sinning against Him. Just like the many other different kinds of trees in the Garden of Eden, God has provided us with a multitude of blessings flowing from the treasury of His grace. If you hear Satan starting to whisper in your ear to walk in the direction of the Forbidden Fruit in your life, the best thing you can do is to just turn around to look at the Permitted Fruit. When he begins to draw your gaze towards what is off-limits (for your own good), reach your hands for the right things that God wants you to have right now. Practicing contentment can help you prevent a personal catastrophe!

Here are God’s own words about this matter:

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

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

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.”

I hope this helps encourage you to be satisfied with God’s goodness in the present, even if you still have unmet desires in your life. Don’t forget to trust God no matter what, because He never fails, even when man disappoints. If you keep your eyes on the right fruit that God has permitted you to have in your life, then you should be able to stay away from the forbidden fruit, at least until God allows you to have it in the future. Remember that He is your Heavenly Father, and He loves you more than you could ever imagine.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Reclaiming Our “Muchness”

 

Alice
“We are but older children, dear, who fret to find our bedtime near.” ~ Lewis Carroll, Child of the Pure Unclouded Brow.

 

Who hasn’t at one point or another wished that they could be a kid again?

Childhood is considered by many as an ideal time of life, full of wonder, excitement, and imagination. However, every person who has ever lived can only visit this stage temporarily. We all have to grow up eventually, whether we like it or not; that’s just a fact of life. Yet we are not required to lose that childhood spirit of unwavering belief.

Most people consider adulthood’s rite of passage to be a shedding of youthful innocence in every sense of the word, and sentence themselves to a jaded, cynical mindset that seldom hopes for anything. They allow their accumulated negative earthly experiences and circumstances to disillusion them, leaving little to no room for true inner peace and joy. Sadly, this despondent condition can also be found among many professing Christians, not just the lost souls who don’t know the Lord.

Sometimes Christians fall into the hidden sin of bitterness, which can stem from a multitude of different reasons. Whatever bad things they have faced in life can cause them to become angry with God and lose faith in Him if they aren’t careful. We are all familiar with this common situation, but the root of this problem is simply this – unbelief.

For some reason people tend to accept the false idea that becoming an adult means you must automatically stop believing in anything good. This type of unbelief covers a wide range of emotions, from growing resentment to complete apathy. While it is natural to expect such feelings to result from living in a fallen world cursed by sin, as Christians we place ourselves in a dangerous position when we get lost in the dark forest of unbelief. We lose sight of the path before us because we’re too busy focusing on trying to find our own way. We run the risk of forgetting God’s goodness and questioning His holiness. Before we know it, we see the world differently than we used to, and we are transformed into different people as well.

“I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.” – Alice

Just like Alice from Lewis Carroll’s beloved classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, we are merely confused, small children in large bodies, wandering aimlessly in the adult world, trying to make sense of our ever-changing surroundings. We lose our “muchness,” or the carefree innocence and anything-is-possible mindset that we possess as young children. Instead of believing that God can do anything, we feebly ask ourselves, “Can God really do this for me? Why would He want me to be happy?” If only we knew how much it grieves our Heavenly Father when He hears us ask such questions!

If we know the Lord as our personal Savior, we are the adopted children of God! He wants what is best for us, and knows what will give us lasting happiness in our lives. Our Heavenly Father wants us to reclaim our “muchness” in spite of whatever tough circumstances we have faced. In other words, He wants us to have steadfast faith in Him, just like a child readily accepts and believes that anything is possible. We are expected to have a childlike faith to receive salvation, so naturally we must keep that same faith regarding everything else in our lives.

 

Here are some verses from God’s Word to help us reclaim our “muchness”:

 

Hebrews 10:23 ~ “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)”

Matthew 17:20 ~ “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

Matthew 19:26 ~ “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”

Luke 18:16-17 ~ “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.'”

God’s Word tells us that anything is possible with Him, just like when we were children and believed in anything we wanted to. However, the main difference is, God’s power is a wonderful reality, contrary to what we dream of in our imaginations! Like little children, we can reach up and grasp His strong, loving hand, expecting His goodness to take care of us. The truth is, though we may grow up, we never have to grow out of our “muchness” and unwavering belief: we can live as pure, innocent children resting in the power and safety of our Father’s hands.

– Gloria D. Hopkins