Securing the Evidence

There is no such thing as a “cold case” when God holds all our evidence.


In the event of a crime, it is crucial to gather as much evidence as possible to assist in providing justice.

Why is this necessary, you may ask?

Because every little piece of matter involved in the crime matters. It matters because it tells a story. It matters because it gives us all the important details of the facts of the incident. Regardless of how long the case has been open or closed, all pertinent evidence is essential to giving an accurate account of the crime that took place. Making sure that all the evidence is not tampered with, hidden, or destroyed is vital to solving a case.

But why is all of this so important, when the crime that was committed cannot be undone?

In some cases, the damages caused by a crime can be compensated through financial resources or community service done by the convict. However, there are countless tragic cases where the damages caused by the crime resulted in a permanent loss, such as a person’s life. Since it is impossible to bring someone back from the dead, you may wonder what good it does to collect as much evidence as possible, even when the prime suspect has already been captured.

Even though it might seem futile to collect evidence after the fact, it is still vital because of how it brings all the pieces of the puzzle together. This matters because the entire picture of the situation needs to be visible in order to be understood. Fully understanding the details of a given crime allows the investigators to assess what needs to be done to make the criminal answer to justice. Sometimes though, too much time passes before the case is totally resolved, and it grows cold as a result. Thus, the tragic circumstances of injustice fall into the shadows of obscurity, forgotten by society as a whole.

Sometimes, we might feel the same way regarding the unfortunate circumstances in our lives.

We are tempted to think that just because days, weeks, months, and years pass by, that our situation no longer matters, either in general, or to God. We feel faded and forgotten, waiting on the edge of our seats, forcing ourselves to take that next breath. Satan certainly does his part to amplify these unpleasant feelings, stirring up a deadly concoction of anxiety, depression, fear, anger, and despair. He knows that the more toxic ingredients he poisons our minds with, the more we will choke on our own thoughts and become desensitized to God’s truths, which are characterized by the breath of Life.

The truth is, no matter how forlorn or forsaken we feel about circumstances in our lives, they still matter to God, just as WE still matter.

Here are some helpful reminders that the things that matter the most to us regarding our personal situation also matter very much to God:


1. We are God’s special creation.

  • The very fact that God took the time to mold us and shape us in our mother’s womb proves that He is a deeply personal God Who cares just as deeply about all that concerns us. He knew us long before we were even born, and designed a special place for us in His ultimate plan. Because we have an important purpose to fulfill in this world, which is intended to bring God glory, we are valuable to Him beyond words. Everything that pertains to our well being in every aspect of our existence is what God is very much interested in. Therefore, what matters to us, no matter how small, matters to Him. This does not mean that He will always agree with our thoughts and ideas, since we are inherently sinful, but He cares about the feelings of our heart, since they are intrinsically connected to our mind and soul. He is invested in guiding us through every shifting emotion that travels through our innermost selves, seeking to provide us reassurance and wisdom with His truth.

    2. He has witnessed every single event of our lives.
  • From the moment we are born to the very second you are reading this, God has seen everything that has ever happened to you. He not only saw it from His unique perspective of omniscience and infinity, but He also watched it take place up close and personal, through your eyes. Since He knows all things from every angle, He is fully aware of each perspective and aspect of your unique situation. Because He has done this and continues to do this, He knows exactly how everything in your life has personally affected you, no matter how minor you might consider it to be. He has always been with you since your very beginning, and He will remain with you forever yet to come. This special power of His grants Him the dual perception of His infinite wisdom and your human perspective. He is able to comprehend all your circumstances and details of your life simultaneously, as well as how those things directly relate to everyone in your life, and His purpose for the world as a whole.


    3. He loves us unconditionally.
  • We will never be able to fathom just how deep and wonderful the love of God is for us. The story of the gospel is a perfect example of this fact. While we were yet sinners, meaning continuously sinning indefinitely, Christ DIED for us. We are so incredibly undeserving, yet He saw fit to save us from Hell so we could fellowship with Him in Heaven for all eternity. This is biblical evidence that God cares about us no matter what tricks the Devil tries to play on our minds. Nothing can separate us from the power of God’s love, not even Satan’s psychological and spiritual manipulation. Because he loves us so much, God feels our feelings with us. He weeps when we weep. He feels rage at injustice even more strongly than we do. He mourns for whatever loss our heart is suffering from, while maintaining His perspective of wisdom and hope. For this reason, He is our Rock, our Refuge, our Shelter, and our Hiding Place. So whatever important circumstances are weighing heavily deep down in your soul are of the utmost interest to Him.

With this knowledge, we can be fully reassured that all the pieces of evidence in our personal circumstances are secured in God’s mighty hands.

No matter how helpless we may feel against the circumstances of our life, we don’t have to be imprisoned by a victim mindset, because God is our divine Rescuer. He knows all the facts of what happened, through your eyes, other people’s eyes, and HIS eyes. His eyes run to and fro throughout the earth, beholding that which is evil and good. He is our perfect, infallible Witness, and also a very just Judge. He has every situation under His control, even when it doesn’t look like it. He cares too much about us to let our cases grow cold. He has all the vital information stored in His safekeeping. He won’t forget what happened to us, or why it’s important to us. Because it matters to us, it matters to Him, because WE matter to Him. This isn’t because we’ve done anything special to deserve His care, but because of just how good and loving HE is, and the fact that He MADE us. He will not forget about us or our circumstances, because He has already secured all the evidence in the palms of His hands.

Gloria D. Hopkins

_____________________________________________________________________________

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

“Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.” – Psalm 82:3

“For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!” – Psalm 139:13-17

“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” – Proverbs 15:3

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

“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.” – Romans 8:38-39

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” – Ephesians 1:4

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

“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.” – Hebrews 13:5

“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 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;” – Titus 3:4-5

The Essence of Time

“Time is an illusion.” – Albert Einstein

Have you ever noticed how time brings change, yet some things always remain the same?

For example, the daily ritual of the Earth’s rotation on its axis, while simultaneously orbiting around the sun, does little to change our surroundings apart from bringing light and darkness to the sky. Depending on the Earth’s stage in its orbit, we experience different seasons that bring forth all kinds of weather conditions. You may also have noticed that apart from the date on the calendar, whether it’s a record of days, months, or years, our world in general doesn’t really change that much in regard to its longstanding terms of existence.

It was the great physicist Albert Einstein himself who once stated that “Time is an illusion.” As it turns out, there is much truth behind his statement, since we know from the Scriptures that God exists outside of time, and is not subject to all the same circumstances that humans are on Earth. “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8) God is self existent and eternal, and can remember the very first day of Creation just as vividly as He can foresee the last day of Earth’s destruction. With this knowledge, He is worthy to be the infallible, perfect, holy Judge of all mankind on the final Judgement Day. That last fact can be a huge comfort to us, or a major concern, depending on the state of our hearts. For now, let’s focus on why it’s important to be aware of the essence of time.

  1. Every second of our lives counts in God’s eyes.

From the moment we were conceived in God’s creative thoughts, to the moment of our physical conception, to the moment of our final breath, God is highly concerned with everything that pertains to us and our lives. No matter what we have been told by people on Earth, society’s lies, or negative ideas from ourselves, we ARE important to God in spite of our sinful nature. We are put on this planet for a reason, and only God Himself knows the divine purpose of our lives and all the things that will bring us to “an expected end.” Because man’s life is but a vapor compared to God’s eternal existence, everything we do, think, and say matters to Him during the brief time we are allowed to be a part of His divine Creation. Therefore, we are expected by Him to not waste the opportunities He gives us to serve Him and be a blessing to others.

2. Since we are created in God’s image, time is directly affected by our free will of choice.

It does not matter HOW many days pass by on the calendar; what has been done in the past cannot be undone, and has tangible effects on the world around us. People who think that their actions have no consequences are fooling themselves through willful deception, since all of our choices have a ripple effect on everyone else in our lives. A new month or year on the calendar is NOT going to change what’s been done in the past, or erase the circumstances that the choices of people from previous years have created. Since God gave us the gift of free will, and the knowledge of right and wrong, we can use our independent thoughts and choices to make decisions that please Him, or please ourselves. However, this does not change the fact that we WILL reap what we sow, whether good or bad. God is NOT mocked, by anyone. He is no respecter of persons. Therefore, it is crucial that we make choices that glorify Him and show love to others to the best of our ability every single day, not just when we feel like it or when we think it benefits us personally.

3. Because God exists outside of time, He does not forget about us or what the years have brought us.

That thing that matters to you more than anything else? It matters to God. “Why?” you may ask. Because God loves us, and everything that concerns our well being is something that He is deeply interested and invested in. While He wants us to be aware that He comes first before all else, He also wants us to know that He cares more for the details and circumstances of our lives than we will ever realize. Even if we feel like the days and years keep passing before we have a chance to catch our breath, we will still be important to God no matter what events occur in our lives. Just because a number changes on your phone’s lock screen or a page of a calendar doesn’t automatically invalidate anything you experience in life. It will ALWAYS be important to God… ALWAYS.

Now that we are aware of the importance of the essence of time, we can live our lives more intentionally to please God.

Because our time on Earth is limited, we must be extremely careful with how we choose to spend our lives. Our actions not only affect our lives, but countless others also, regardless of what we might think. Most importantly, we must always be conscious of the fact that our earthly actions will resonate into eternity, determining our destiny long after we die someday. While this idea is indeed sobering, it should also give us a sense of purpose to make the most of what God has given us in His grace. Do not let the date on the calendar scare you – God knows all, sees all, and remembers all, and He’s holding you in the palm of His hand.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Marble Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not necessarily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Words are eternal treasures of infinite value.

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

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

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

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

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

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Unscripted: Following the Director’s Cut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not always.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Gloria D. Hopkins

The Weight of Words

Words are powerful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Generating Power

joel-jasmin-forestbird-506742-unsplash.jpg
Winter has come – …Are you prepared?

 

Where does your warmth come from?

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

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

herrmann-stamm-730020-unsplash(1).jpg

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

steinar-engeland-109854-unsplash

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

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

roberto-nickson-1293509-unsplash.jpg

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

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

ben-white-181034-unsplash.jpg

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

– Gloria D. Hopkins

The Guiding Star

 

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

 

“Wise men still seek Him…”

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

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

 

wise men and star

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

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

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

gabriel-santiago-19716-unsplash

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

Screen Shot 2018-12-25 at 3.53.40 PM

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

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

caleb-stokes-759604-unsplash

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

 

dan-kiefer-467643-unsplash
“…yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light.”

 

 

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

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

aaron-burden-52037-unsplash

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

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

ben-white-181778-unsplash

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

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

sebastian-frohlich-167774-unsplash.jpg

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

– Gloria D. Hopkins

A Missed Understanding

 

freestocks-org-147688-unsplash
We all need someone who “gets” us, but do we care enough to “get” God?

 

“No one understands me! What’s the point of talking to anyone anymore?!”

Teenagers are often ridiculed for this verbal stereotype, but sadly, this desperate claim of angst is true for people of all ages. This anguished question has resonated from the minds and mouths of every person who’s existed down through the ages. Human beings were created by God as social creatures, desiring more than anything else to connect with other, separate entities. This truth is described in the book of Genesis, when God created a helper for Adam in the person of his wife, Eve.

Unfortunately, after they opened the gateway to sin on this earth, Adam and Eve inhibited themselves in all areas, including the realm of communication. Once they bit into the forbidden fruit, which grew from the sin of selfishness and pride, their true natures were transformed from serving God and each other to serving their own egos. They were no longer concerned with listening to each other’s words; they cared only for the thoughts inside their own heads. Ever since then, mankind has constantly struggled to make his voice heard, crying out loud to the dark, far reaches of the universe.

“If only there was someone who’d listen!” he cries. “I would give anything just to have someone care enough about me to understand how I feel inside!”

Oh, what a sad, tragic mistake it is when man has chosen to remove himself so far away from God that he forgot how God has always been there for him in the first place! In human relationships, misunderstandings often stem from a lack of communication; the same principle applies to our relationship with God. We choose not to open up to Him because we assume that He’s just going to judge us for our thoughts and feelings, just like what many teenagers and young adults assume about their parents. So instead of pouring our hearts out to God in prayer, we shut Him out of our daily lives by not talking to Him, just like a typical moody teenager locks him or herself inside their bedroom.

The surprising truth is, God is FAR more understanding than we give Him credit for.

artem-kovalev-86365-unsplash

How do we little, puny humans get the nerve to think that God is incapable of knowing our thoughts and feelings when He’s the One Who orchestrates the circumstances of our lives to begin with? Within a parent/child relationship, the parents have years of experience dealing with the same issues that their children face every day, but a self-absorbed teenager or young adult either does not realize or refuses to acknowledge that fact. This is due once again to the common faults of stubbornness and pride, when they think or say out loud, “Mom and Dad don’t know what they’re talking about! They’re just trying to control my life; why should I listen to what they have to say?!” This ignorant claim echoes constantly in today’s world when people say horrible, blasphemous things like “God is dead!”, or “If there is a God, why would He care about me?!”

We are fortunate that God bestows His grace and mercy upon this world at all times, for there are innumerable lost souls who try His patience and kindle His wrath every day. The very fact that He delays the punishment of man’s wickedness until death is proof that He is mindful of our fallen, corrupt state. God is longsuffering, meaning that He’s patient beyond our human comprehension, and is merciful enough to let every man live long enough to have a chance at knowing Him. Unfortunately, there are many people who pass away from this world without ever knowing Him, therefore missing out on the very thing their souls craved the most – a loving Being Who infinitely understands them.

Sadly, there are also many Christians who miss out on God’s gift of understanding.

Now, please don’t misunderstand the above sentence – this is not in any way meant to question the salvation of those who claim to be born again Christians; that deeply personal matter is between their hearts and God alone. What I mean is that some Christians fail to take full advantage of all the privileges they gained access to once they formed a renewed relationship with their Creator and Savior. Of course, the one particular privilege I’m referring to is the aforementioned gift of being completely understood by Someone, regardless of circumstances. Why do they miss out on such a wonderful treasure? Because of mistaken, preconceived notions on their part, also known as faulty assumptions. This symptom occurs when Christians choose to listen more to the inner voice in their human minds, limited by human reasoning, rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit, Whose purpose is to draw them closer to God. Another reason that faulty assumptions are formed about God and His character is when Christians might also choose to listen to the voice of Satan, the Father of Lies, who desires nothing more than their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual destruction. In fact, sometimes the lies that Satan tells Christians on a regular basis are the same exact lies that he tells to unsaved people to prevent them from knowing their Savior and gaining eternal security for their souls.

He whispers wicked things like, “God doesn’t care about your happiness.” “He doesn’t want you to have any fun in your life, because He’s selfish.” “Why should you trust Him with the things you care about the most when all He cares about is telling you what to do?”

Rather than entertaining these malicious lies from the pit of Hell, Christians should seek the assistance of the Holy Spirit Himself to gain the courage and strength they need to say, “Get behind me, Satan! Leave me alone, and get out of here!”

 

So, to help anyone who might be struggling in this area, here are three things to always remember about God to prevent missing out on His understanding.

 

1. God LOVES you.

julia-caesar-15078-unsplash

A few months ago, I wrote a post about how God is everyone’s true “First Love.” In it, I described the two main attributes of God’s love – it is eternal and unconditional. Knowing that God’s love for you will never end should bring hope and peace to your soul while knowing that He loves you unconditionally should bring comfort and reassurance to you. With these two truths combined, you should always know that God will NEVER stop loving you, no matter what you do or don’t do. Therefore, you shouldn’t be ashamed to share anything with Him, including all the hurts, hopes, fears, failures, pain, and passions that reside within you. Many people are afraid that God is always angry with them for sinning, and is only interested in judging them for it. While it is true that God cannot and will not tolerate sin in our lives, His attitude toward us as Christians is not spiteful or passive aggressive. God is so loving to us, that even though He knows about the sins in our lives, He is patiently waiting for us to confess them to Him so He can forgive us. God waits for us to do this in His mercy since He is fully aware of our every weakness. With that being said, here is the next thing we should always remember about God:

2. God knows and wants what’s best for you.

shttefan-284259-unsplash

Because God is so loving, it’s only natural that He would also be caring and concerned about every detail in your life. Now, God is sovereign, and it is important to remember that He has complete control over all circumstances; however, even though He possesses this authority and power, God does not try to directly control our lives. If we claim to know Him as our Savior, then we should want to give Him complete control over the decisions we make, because He deserves it after all He’s done for us. Saving our souls from an eternity in Hell while we were yet unworthy is MORE than enough reason to justify giving God the divine right to direct us in everything we do. From the very beginning, God has only had man’s best interest at the core of His heart. Consider how Earth is the only planet in our galaxy that is capable of sustaining human life, and that’s where God chose to make our home when He created everything. Also, don’t forget how even though man chose to rebel against God’s command in the Garden of Eden, resulting in sin, God provided a free way for Him to escape eternal punishment so he wouldn’t have to suffer in the same place that was made for the Devil and his fallen angels. So if you remember these facts, you should be more than comfortable with trusting God enough to share whatever is on your heart with Him, and know that your past, present, and future has always been, and will always be in His hands. With that knowledge, here is the third and final important thing to always remember about God:

3. God MADE YOU.

averie-woodard-205419-unsplash

Yes, that’s right – contrary to popular, secular belief in today’s world, God is STILL the Creator of the entire universe, including man himself. No matter how many false theories are proposed, celebrated, or taught in schools and museums as fact, the Word of God, the Bible, still stands true and firm. Man was created in God’s divine image, with three parts to his being that form a complete whole. The Bible says that God fashions every person in the womb with His own hands, and I believe that is true because of how different each individual looks from another. To me, the eye sockets on a person’s face appear to be molded by a Person’s thumb to make two, deep, circular impressions. The nose and jawline are always so unique on each person that it looks like they were sculpted by hand. The same principle applies to every other part of a person’s body, in my opinion. However, that is only the outer, physical evidence of Who made you – the internal part that is the real you is unrepeatable and irreplaceable. Your soul, the true, essential identity of your being, is God’s signature as the Master Artist Who crafted you. Your inner essence is the most intrinsic part of your existence as a person, the part that processes emotions, thoughts, and ideas. Since God designed you in a specific way to express all of these things, He certainly knows and understands all the reasons why you respond to various feelings you experience in different circumstances. Because of this fact, God isn’t going to judge you or condemn you for your feelings when you share your heart with Him, unlike how some people do. You can always feel completely free and comfortable to be yourself in God’s presence, no matter what.

 

Here are some verses to assure you that you can trust God with your innermost thoughts and feelings:

morgan-sessions-543-unsplash

Psalm 9:9 ~ “The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”

Psalm 31:1, 5, &7 ~ “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;”

Psalm 32:7 ~ “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

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

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 91:1 ~ “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 139:2, 23-24 ~ “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

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.

Zephaniah 3:17 ~ “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”

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

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

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.”

 
God’s understanding is our true “safe space,” our purest secret place.

noah-silliman-107988-unsplash

Now that you know these three important truths to always remember about God, you should never again feel discouraged by the failed attempts of man to understand you. God will always be there for you with loving, open arms that are ready and willing to accept you no matter what. No secrets you have will ever surprise Him, because He is omniscient – meaning He already knows everything anyway. If you know God as your Creator and Savior, then He is your Best Friend and trusted Confidant. He alone has the power to free you from the negative influence of other people’s thoughts and judgments about you. He is reaching out His hand to you today, waiting for you to take it in full confidence and assurance that He will take care of your heart and all its needs. The disappointment of man’s failures to understand you won’t matter anymore once you’ve received a taste of His glorious compassion and mercy. God is inviting you to experience life with Him as a thrilling adventure, filled with intimate moments that you can share with only Him. Don’t miss out on God’s gift of understanding – take His hand, and let Him embrace you with the warmth of His unconditional love today.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

“Natural” Worship

 

andrew-ly-152164-unsplash
God is everywhere around us, but He is NOT everything around us.

 

Our natural world is filled with many beautiful wonders.

Since the beginning of time itself, man has always admired the great beauty and majesty of nature. The universe was created by an almighty, loving God who desired to give us a pleasant environment to live in, while at the same time leaving His divine fingerprints everywhere we look. Unfortunately, after the entrance of sin into our world, man began to replace his ideas of the Creator with His creation instead, choosing to serve anything and everything else but the Deity that formed him.

About a month ago, the relatively new holiday called “Earth Day” was observed. While it is allegedly celebrated for a noble cause, we should be careful to maintain a spiritually accurate perspective on it. Although it’s a good thing to want to be good stewards of the natural resources God gave us, it’s quite another thing to elevate the cause of protecting nature to the point of worshiping it. There are many people today who self-identify as “neo-pagans,” however, there is absolutely nothing new about paganism, which has been wrongly practiced for thousands of years. From Wiccan Druids to tribal shamans, practically every single culture in the world has been guilty of worshiping nature as god at some point.

While it’s certainly easy to point fingers and criticize pagans, whether they be ancient or modern practicers, it’s also easy to see why they would fall under Satan’s spell of confusion and error. As I already stated before, nature in all its various forms is undeniably beautiful. Every aspect of it points to God’s love for design and artistry. Not only is everything aesthetically pleasing, but it is also fully functional with a distinct purpose. Surely, whenever people look at mountains, oceans, or sunsets, they simply cannot miss the supernatural evidence contained in all the natural elements. For this reason, we can understand why people are susceptible to fall under the temptation to practice paganism. However, while nature is indeed glorious and of divine making, God never intended for us to worship it – God wants us to give Him His rightful glory by praising Him for the many things He made. Instead of worshiping nature, we can look at the wonderful gift of nature as the best way to worship God the way He deserves.

Here are three ways we can get closer to our Creator through His creation:

 

  1. Recognize that God is always superior to the things that He made.

    philipp-lublasser-217209-unsplash

When God created nature, He designed everything in a specific way that would lead man to the knowledge of Himself. Since we were created in God’s image, He made us with an inherent need to discover His identity and seek out His presence in our lives. For thousands of years, sinful man has been trying to do this very thing, yet with the wrong approach. Because man has a rebellious, wicked heart, he chose to fulfill his God-given needs and desires in a twisted and corrupt way, rather than the way God intended. Man’s sinful heart decided to pursue its goal by following Satan’s pattern of taking something perfectly good that God made and turning it into either a cheap imitation or outright mockery of God’s original plan. When ancient pagan cultures worshiped nature, they subconsciously realized that there was a God, and their first instinct was to recognize His presence in their surroundings. While the very first people groups should have known better and knew what they were doing when they turned away from God, their descendants had been exposed to error for so long that they sincerely believed in their hearts that the false religion they practiced was true.

will-van-wingerden-87463-unsplash.jpg

As you can see, the ancient pagan cultures were so close, yet so far from the truth when it came to fulfilling their quest to worship God properly. Rather than making the same mistakes that the ancient pagans did, as Christians, we have the benefit of taking a more spiritually enlightened approach. When we look at the beautiful world around us, we acknowledge that it came from the mind of the same all-powerful God Who made us and gave us life. If we ever find ourselves tempted to be deceived by Satan to turn away from the truth, we can resist his lies with very simple questions, such as: Did a tree give me the breath of life when I was first born? Can a mountain actively take care of me from its own conscious will? Does the ocean care about my feelings and have compassion on me? Can the wind hear me when I need to talk to someone about all my problems? Of course, the answer to all these ridiculous questions is NO. The point of these questions is to acknowledge man’s need of a personal Creator Who cares about him in a deeply intimate way. Only He can satisfy the inherent needs of our heart, and provide us with a fulfilling existence.

2. Point out God’s presence through the things He made to those who don’t know Him.

hamid-khaleghi-454131-unsplash

Once we have realized that God is greater than His creations, we can help others come to see the truth by showing them the beautiful wonders He made. There are countless people in the world who are constantly searching for answers to questions about their own existence and purpose on this planet. Sadly, many of these people turn to secular reasoning to explain these burning questions that were placed in their hearts by God Himself. While using good discretion, we can determine the proper context and timing to share the truth with people who sincerely desire to know it in their hearts. Once you gain a precious opportunity to witness to someone, you can use the different elements of nature as a direct comparison to help the other person understand how much God cares about them. For example, you can tell that person how there are trillions of stars in our universe, and yet God knows each and every one of them by name, just like He does with the people He made. You can also describe how every time a small bird falls to the ground, it never goes unnoticed by God’s eyes, just like how He always watches over us and protects us. You can express how the greatest depths of the ocean are no match for the depths of God’s love, mercy and compassion on us as humans.

lea-dubedout-40117-unsplash

These are all simple suggestions that you can use; however, as I stated before, it is imperative that you exercise wisdom when deciding to witness to someone. The condition of another person’s heart is between them and God alone, and they must be ready to listen to the truth from their own will rather than having it forced upon them. I recommend using your best judgment with the help of the Holy Spirit to determine the proper context and timing for witnessing to someone. Perhaps this other person you’re concerned about will bring up the subject themselves in the form of a simple question, or maybe you’ll get the chance to walk outside with them while engaging in pleasant conversation. If you happen to discuss your surroundings or the weather in that conversation, that would be an ideal way subtly bring up the subject. However, I cannot stress enough that this strategy all depends on the person in question and how well you know them. Nobody likes to feel attacked or blindsided with heavy subjects, even from someone they consider to be their friend. Once you have confirmed that the other person is ready and willing to listen to the truth, then you can find endless ways to explain it to them through the world of nature. Tell the other person that God put so much effort into creating our beautiful world because He wanted us to be happy, drawing attention to His inherent goodness. Explain to them that no matter where they are in the universe, God is always there with them, watching over them with loving care.

3. Intimately connect with God by worshiping Him outside in His Creation.

ben-white-138743-unsplash

Perhaps it’s because Man was first created in the Garden of Eden, but I truly believe that Man’s natural instinct to worship God is best performed outside in the physical realm of nature. Before sin entered our world, Adam used to walk with God in the Garden of Eden every single day, conversing with His loving Creator. You can call me a hippie if you want, but personally, I just feel closer to God when I’m outside. I even have an opinion that some might feel is too radical – I believe that all church services should be held outside. Of course, certain adverse weather conditions during particular seasons might prevent such an ideal concept from becoming a reality, but in the case of such exceptions, you could easily have a designated tent or building close by to your original natural worship spot. Here’s how I see it – when Jesus Himself taught His truths to His followers, the majority of the time He was outside in His Father’s Creation. For example, He had His famous sermon on the mount, and there were many other times that He preached by the seaside. Not only were these natural locations a beautiful setting, but they allowed a greater audience of people to be present for His teachings.

jennifer-regnier-624534-unsplash.jpg

When it comes to one on one personal worship with God, I also believe that doing it outside is the very best option. Depending on the location you choose, you can have all the privacy you need to commune with God in the midst of His Creation. Enjoy the tranquil sounds of birds chirping, breezes blowing, or water flowing, as you contemplate the many joys of what He made. Enthrall yourself with the divine euphoria of being completely alone with God in a naturally beautiful setting. Make it your preferred method of worship whenever you can, and you will come to find that it’s the highlight of your day, as it should be. Consider this as well – when you’re spending time with someone you’re romantically attracted to, don’t you like to pick a spot with a beautiful view? If we want to pick the very best for the people we care about, then God deserves so much more from us too. Although a personal relationship with God is different from an earthly relationship, the same principles are still in effect when it comes down to it. God loves us infinitely more than any other person can, and He will feel extra loved when we decide to pick a beautiful setting to spend time with Him.

 

Here are some verses to prove that Man is meant to worship God, rather than “the universe” around him:

 

ben-white-137387-unsplash.jpg

Genesis 1:1 ~ “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

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

Genesis 3:8 ~ “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.”

Psalm 115:1-8 ~ “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.”

Psalm 139:7-10 ~ “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Matthew 5:1 ~ “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

Matthew 6:26, 28-30 ~ “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

And why take ye thought or raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”

Mark 4:1 ~ “And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.”

Luke 5:1 ~ “And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,”

Romans 1:20-23 ~ “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”

Colossians 1:16 ~ “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:”

Hebrews 11:3 ~ “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

1 Peter 3:15 ~ “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

 

 

By practicing these three things, we can easily distinguish the difference between nature worship and natural worship.

ben-white-147270-unsplash.jpg

Rather than confusing the Creator with His Creation, like the ancient pagans did, we know better enough to give God the rightful glory He deserves. By doing the three things listed above, we can still appreciate and enjoy the wonderful elements of nature without falling into the trap of worshiping it. God will smile upon us when we make an effort to respond to His Creation the way He intended us to. By recognizing that He is over all the things He made, we acknowledge God’s power and dominion. By showing other people who don’t know Him the truth about where the universe came from, we are giving God His due credit and praise while also obeying His command to witness to the lost. By spending time with Him in worship outside, we come full circle by completing the connection of our Creator to all the things He made. Man was designed with an inherent, undeniable need to worship something, and once he realizes the truth, he opens up his life to an entire world of beautiful spiritual fulfillment. It is only natural for Man to worship God, and the most natural way to do it is for him to commune with God in the natural surroundings that were specially designed for him to enjoy.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Mirror Madness

 

Alice portal
Don’t look so hard into the glass that you shatter your self-image!

 

“Who am I? What am I supposed to be? Where do I fit in the world?”

These three questions are commonly asked by every single person in the world at some point in their lives, often becoming recurring questions. Our society has a severe case of missing identity, which is ironic considering how prevalent selfishness and narcissism are in our culture today. In the process of elevating himself to the level of worship that God deserves, man has sadly lost sight of his true identity that can only be seen through the Creator he tries so desperately to ignore.

Man has stared at his reflection in the mirror so intently, that he has shattered the glass from the impact of his efforts. Staring at the looking glass for too long is not a good thing whatsoever, and vanity concerning our outward appearance can blind us to the inward reflection that really matters. After finding nothing but emptiness behind the shards of glass, man is constantly grasping for anything he can use as a substitute for God’s presence and purpose in his life.

The issue of having a personal identity crisis is more pressing now than ever before, and Christians are no exception. If we do not solidify our identity in Christ in our minds early on, then Satan will surely try to snatch it away from us. In order to prevent that from happening, we must assess some fundamental truths that are grounded in God’s Word, thereby finding the answers to these perpetually vexing questions. Once we are assured of God’s truth concerning who we are, we can permanently protect ourselves from Satan’s attempt at identity theft.

 

Let’s take a look at these three questions one by one, and see if we can make sense of them in this nonsensical world of ours, shall we?

 

1. “Who are you?”

 

Alice and the Caterpillar.jpg
“Alice Meets the Caterpillar” from ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by John Tenniel. Macmillan and Co, London, 1898.

 

In Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, the titular character Alice is a little girl who tumbles down a rabbit hole, only to find herself in a strange world full of talking animals and various other forms of nonsense. After going through several frustrations at the beginning of her adventure, Alice meets a caterpillar who acts rather sophisticated and stuffy, much like a grown-up. He asks her to recite a few poems from memory, just like her schoolteachers always expected of her back home. The caterpillar also asks Alice a simple question, about her identity. Due to the strange experiences she had up to that point, Alice replies to him that she’s not at all sure who she is anymore. In fact, she explains that she had changed several times already since that morning, referring to how she mysteriously grew and shrank in size earlier in the story. This was an intentional metaphor that Lewis Carroll was using to illustrate the challenges of growing up. When we grow older, our physical appearance changes, as do our personal interests to some extent. Some of these changes are under our control, while many of them are not.

Perhaps the greatest change we undergo throughout life is the transformation of our minds – we all start out as happy, innocent children, but are soon exposed to the harsh realities of our sinful, fallen world. The negative circumstances we experience in life have the potential to either make us or break us, and the first outcome is only achievable with God’s help. Just like Alice in her dreamworld of Wonderland, we are often confused by our ever-changing surroundings, feeling lost and helpless in the upsetting events going on around us. However, when we seek God’s face in the midst of troubling circumstances, He can guide us onto the right path in spite of all the utter nonsense.

God has a special plan for each and every one of us; He makes that very clear in His Word. He created us to be unique individuals that are totally different from anyone else He made. You are a work of art from God’s own hands, and if you know Him as your personal Savior, you are also His adopted child. It’s so easy for us to look at other people and compare ourselves to them, whether its’ our personalities, advantages, or abilities, that we often forget that God made us special all on our own. We don’t need validation from any other person on the planet to confirm our worth; we just need to remind ourselves of what we already know to be true. Before we were saved, our former identity was that of a hopeless sinner lost in darkness, but after salvation, we took on a new identity of a redeemed child of God who has been returned to the light. It’s not for us to look at others and wish that we were just like them; God wants us to be content with exactly who He made us.

2.  “What are you supposed to be?”

 

Cards Attacking Alice
“Alice defends herself against the Queen of Hearts’ army of cards” from ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by John Tenniel. Macmillan and Co, London, 1898.

 

Throughout Alice’s entire journey, she is constantly judged, criticized, and questioned by the curious and madcap residents of Wonderland. The White Rabbit, having poor eyesight, confuses Alice with his housemaid, Mary Ann, and begins to obnoxiously order her around with his list of demands. Alice is also wrongly called a “stupid girl” by other middle-aged, female characters such as the Duchess. The Mad Hatter and March Hare accuse her of being rude for accidentally barging in on their private tea party, even though she had no way of knowing what was going on. The Cheshire Cat suggests that Alice is just as crazy as he is, for the mere fact that she found her way into Wonderland. Last but not least, the Queen of Hearts claims that Alice is a criminal for painting her white roses red, and repeatedly orders the removal of Alice’s head every time she is slightly offended by her. Sadly, even though this book is about a fantasy world, Lewis Carroll accurately portrayed the cold reality of how many adults think it’s okay to emotionally abuse and ridicule children, often for no valid reason. Thankfully, by the end of the story, Alice finds the courage to stand up for herself and silence her insufferable attackers. If there is any character that perfectly fits this modern phrase, “I came out here to have a good time, and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now,” it’s Alice.

In our real-world lives, we often encounter many different people who think they can tell us who we are or what they think we should be. The most common scenario for this to occur is with our relatives, who sometimes make the mistake of thinking they know exactly what’s best for us just because they share our same blood. We can all think of at least one person, whether it’s a relative or not, who constantly oversteps their authority in our lives by assuming they know all the details about our future. There are also plenty of other times when we have been misunderstood by other people for pointless reasons, causing unnecessary conflict due to their closed mindset. Well, other people need to take a step down from the judge’s seat, because that position is reserved for God alone. While helpful guidance and wisdom are beneficial when they come from a loving heart, unwanted orders and prejudice are destructive when other people are just being nosy or critical. Just like Alice was on a literal trial in the book, she also had her patience tried past the point of no return. We need to ask God for the grace and patience we need to deal with other people who think they can take His place in our lives.

What you are supposed to be is a matter that is strictly between you and God Himself. As I stated before, He designed you for a very special purpose in His mind. He has promised that He is going to fulfill that purpose for your life until the second coming of His Son, Jesus. God always finishes the projects He starts, which is far more than I can say for myself as both a writer and artist. He’s not going to leave you hanging as an incomplete draft or a half-empty canvas! He’s going to sculpt you and mold you persistently throughout your entire life until He decides that you’re done. When other people fail to understand what He is doing with your life at the present moment, that’s not God’s fault, nor is it yours. In fact, it’s not meant to be for other people to understand, because God’s ways are much higher than our ways! God is supposed to get the glory for everything He creates, and your life story is no exception. Along the way though, it’s our job to stay close to Him always so He can guide us on this journey of divine transformation.

3. Where do you fit in the world?

 

Alice being left alone
“Alice watches the White Rabbit walk past her in the low, dark hallway” from ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by John Tenniel. Macmillan and Co, London, 1898.

 

Several times during Alice’s adventure, she falls into some distressing situations that cause her to (understandably) ask for help from the citizens of Wonderland. In this picture, Alice has just experienced the strange phenomenon of growing to be nine feet high inside a closed, narrow corridor, unable to escape or return to her normal size. Feeling rather frightened like any regular child would in this situation, Alice begins to cry until she floods the entire room with her enormous tears. Eventually, she notices the White Rabbit casually passing by, who appears to take absolutely zero notice of her in this awful predicament. He just strolls by quietly as if he were the only one in the room, going on about his day as if Alice doesn’t even exist. Poor Alice had just grown into the size of a giant, and yet it was as if she were invisible! Later on in the story, she stumbles across the tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter and March Hare, where there were plenty of chairs to sit in, but they adamantly claimed there was no room for her. Lewis Carroll was portraying how adults often tend to ignore children and treat them as nobodies, or otherwise make them feel like an afterthought. Everyone in Wonderland was going about their business and doing their own thing, but nobody cared enough to help Alice find her way home. She was just a lost little girl who felt like she didn’t belong in their world, but that actually turned out to be a good thing. In the end, it was Alice’s sanity prevailing over all the nonsense that saved her life and provided her escape!

In our lives, all too often we feel like absolutely no one cares about us, or at least cares enough to truly help us with our problems. Even if they do care, they might be too preoccupied with their own problems to take time out of their busy schedules for us. We could be going through an extremely difficult time, but nobody seems to notice us struggling. Everybody has their own issues, so why would they want to help us, right? Many times it feels like we might as well be invisible as far as other people noticing us is concerned. Aside from people not noticing our struggles, it also can feel like we just don’t belong in society, at least not in the same way everyone else seems to. From childhood on through adulthood, our lives will be filled with other people who shun us or reject us altogether, simply because their preconceived notions about us preclude them from getting to know us and accept us. Here’s some good news, however – it’s okay if we don’t fit in with everyone else or the world around us in general, because we’re not supposed to. Individuals we come across in our lives and society as a whole will always expect us to conform to their perfect, artificial mold, built from their own shallow standards and limited perspective. Don’t despair of being stuck in this impossible situation, though, because Jesus Christ Himself was not immune to the shallow judgments of people in this world. Jesus, being the Son of God, was completely PERFECT, and yet He STILL wasn’t good enough for some people! Just like Alice in her story, Jesus was the only truly sane Person when it was really everyone else who had the problem!

If there is any comfort to be found in the rejection or dismissal of man, it’s knowing that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered the very same things. When other people ignore us and make us feel like we’re invisible, Jesus is there to put His arm around us, providing unconditional love and support. When we’re struggling with difficult situations, and no one seems to notice or care about our predicament, Jesus is there to help and comfort us in our distress and sorrow. In addition, God is the One Who guides us along our life’s journey, showing us exactly where we need to be to fulfill His purpose for us. Even if other people don’t give us the time of day, we’re still important to God, and our lives will always matter to Him. We are wonderfully accepted in the love of Christ, and He is our sympathetic High Priest Who cares deeply about each and every one of our troubles. While other individuals may underestimate us, our abilities, and our potential, God is fully aware of what we are capable of accomplishing through Him with His help. We don’t need to belong in the world of other people’s approval, because we already belong to the One Whose approval matters most!

 

Here are some verses to help us confirm our identity in Christ, as daily affirmations when we look in the mirror each day:

 

Reflection

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

Ephesians 1:5-7 ~ “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”

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

Isaiah 54:5 ~ “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.”

Romans 8:38-39 ~ “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.”

Romans 9:20 ~ “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”

Romans 14:8 ~ “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”

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

2 Corinthians 11:2 ~ “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

John 10:28 ~ “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

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 15:15-17 ~ “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.

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:”

Jeremiah 20:11-13 ~ “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.

Galatians 3:26-29 ~ “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

 

There is only one way to cure mirror madness – by acknowledging Whose reflection we should be cultivating.

Forest mirror

I think we can all strongly identify with little Alice wanting to escape the perplexing world of Wonderland, full of “whos,” “whats,” “wheres,” “whens,” “whys,” and “hows.” With so many tricky questions flying around our heads at such a rapid speed, we’re bound to question our sanity at some point or other. However, this happens when we try to find our own way in the flesh, rather than consulting God and His ways. If we try to contemplate the above three questions by ourselves apart from God, we will most surely be driven to madness by our inability to find the answers. It is first of all our responsibility to remember that we are the creations of God, the Creator, and after that acknowledgment, everything else should fall into place. Discovering our true identity is a life-long journey, and at times it can be very difficult, but that should never discourage us from giving up on it. God Himself has placed these three questions in our hearts so that we will be compelled to rely upon Him, having no choice but to seek Him for the right answers. When we turn to the world’s tactics of defining our identity, we will find nothing but confusion sent by the Devil himself. Fortunately, we know that God is not the Author of confusion, and He wants us to be informed of the divine plan that He has laid out for us. For every single person who has ever lived, God has designed a grand Master plan for their lives that they can potentially follow if they choose to seek His will. Each unique individual will have a unique life story all his own, but regardless of the many different designs, God desires all of us to conform to the image of His Son, Jesus. “What would Jesus do?” has been a popular catchphrase among Christians for years, and it applies to all areas of our lives. When it comes to determining the purpose and direction of our lives, we can do no better than do exactly what Jesus did while He was on Earth, and will always do – trust God, and seek His Father’s will. Rather than saying “All ways are MY ways!” like the Queen of Hearts, we should say “All ways are THY ways!”

– Gloria D. Hopkins