Monday, November 29, 2021

 When bad things happen, where is God?

Probably about a year ago or more... I noticed a strange lump on my left elbow.  It grew and grew until it was so large it fit into the cup of my hand.  It was rather unsightly so all summer, no matter how hot it was, I wore long loose sleeves to keep it hidden. 
It was a lipoma -- a benign tumor that grows under the skin.  It can grow anywhere on the body. 
There is no cure or treatment -- it can only be removed by surgery.

      I was combing my hair in front of the mirror one day last week and  looked at the growth protruding from my elbow.  I talked to the Lord about it. "Lord, I know it isn't life threatening and maybe I am being vain , but ... couldn't you just melt it?  Take it away?"
Later it seemed to me it might be smaller, but I thought I was just imagining it and I went to bed.  The next morning when I got up, I realized that it was completely gone, completely, as if it had never been there. I could feel the bones of my elbow !  I went into the kitchen and said to my husband.. "Do you believe in miracles?"   He said, "Yes, of course !"  and I held up my arm.  He looked, stared and then shouted .. "Praise the Lord !!!!"   
It took me a while to believe what the Lord had so lovingly done for me.  It felt like a warm hug.  

     I could have asked... "Lord, why did you so easily get rid of this tumor when I asked, but you have not healed me of Celiac nor rheumatoid arthritis that has caused me so much pain and suffering over the last 25 year." I did not ask God that question because I know the answer.  God did not heal me of my RA because there is a reason for  it.  It is needful in the purposes and plan of God that would be hindered if He healed me.  

     I like to think of it this way.  A child becomes very ill and is in hospital undergoing frightening (to the child) ,uncomfortable, painful treatment and procedures.   The child cries and begs to go home - looks to the parents to stop the hurting.   The parents are there and their heart aches for the suffering of their beloved child but they do not remove the child from the hospital or prevent the treatment given by the doctors and nurses.. Why?  Because they know this is the only way for their child to be helped and the only way for it to get better.  They stay with the child,  bring candy and treats to brighten their day , hold the child in their arms and love it... their hugs assuring the child of their love. And the child trusts them. 

      So God too has a reason why He does not always heal us or prevent the difficult times that come into our life.  But He allows only what He can turn for our ultimate good and for His glory. 
It is not easy to understand or see purpose when we are in the middle of suffering, just like the child in the hospital -- but one day looking back we  see what God accomplished through it.  

     God so desires us to trust Him, know Him as a loving Father and he gave us so many examples in the Bible to show us His ways and purposes when 'bad things happen'. We tend to read the stories backward and go... Wow!!  but stop and think about what it was like for them BEFORE they saw the purpose of God. 

     We see Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo who were trying to survive in a foreign land,to worship God when everyone else was worshipping false gods and idols.  And of course they were hated !  They were 'tried and found guilty'  and they were condemned to be thrown into a burning furnace.  We read their brave words but any one in their situation would  have felt dread and fear twist their emotions . just  thinking about being burned alive !!  Where was God?  The king looked into the furnace and saw 4 men walking.. not three ... God was in the furnace WITH them !  (Daniel 3:25)

     We think about Joseph and all he suffered for so many years..  torn from his family, made a slave, falsely accused, thrown into painful stocks in a prison and yet Joseph recognized that while 'men' meant his suffering for evil, God was working it for good... not just for Joseph but for many many people. (Gen. 50:20)

    Who does not know the story of Job and his suffering ?  The  financial losses, the killing of his servants and his children, then the loss of health .. his wife turning on him, and his friends accusing him. Where was God ?  watching over him, in control, knowing that all would be restored to Job double.. but the best thing would be that Job , instead of living in fear, would come into an intimate relationship with God. (Job 3:25,26 -- Job 42:5)

     We see Paul who begged God to take away "his thorn in the flesh" but God refused. Why?  Because God understood Paul's natural bent and He knew that without a 'deterrent' in his life Paul would grow proud of what God could do through him and his ministry and God's purposes would be spoiled. Without the thorn in the flesh , Paul may not have written much of the New Testament. (II Cor. 12:7)

     A king' son was sick and he died.  Why did God allow the child to die when he had not done anything wrong?  Why was his life cut short?  Where was God?   Watching... and we are told that God took the child to Himself because  the palace family was evil. Only the child had 'goodness' in him and God could not bear for the child to suffer the wickedness around him so He 'rescued him'. ( I Kings 14:12,13)

     Then we have Jonah, unwilling to obey God's command to go to Nineveh and he ran away to hide in a ship going in the opposite direction.  Then when the storm threatened to sink the ship, there was only one way to save the ship and crew, throw Noah overboard.  Where was God?  Right there watching, and had a big fish ready and waiting to swallow Jonah and when Jonah repented , throw him up on land.  Jonah reluctantly then obeys even though his heart is not in it and he hopes that God will NOT save the Ninevites.  Jonah has a bad attitude but where is God ? Right there.  He even causes a plant to grow to shelter Jonah from the heat.  (book of Jonah)

     I could go on and on. The stories are so many,  addressing so many different 'bad things that happen'. Take note when you read the accounts of the Bible characters, put yourself into their shoes and then follow through to what God was able to do in the end. It is the endings we love and remember but the 'end' could not have come without the difficult times.  

     So when you feel alone and abandoned in the middle of trials and trouble remember that God cannot lie!!  He says that He is "no respecter of persons" -- meaning that God does NOT make one person more important than another.   If you believe that ANYONE is important to God then you have to write your name alongside   What God will do for one, He is committed to do for you!   He will not let you go through anything that He will not go through with you and work for good, no matter how hopeless it looks. 
     He gave us His Word, His LIVING Word .. .it is not a yellowed letter, long-ago written and forgotten, out of date. NO .. it is new and fresh every morning, not one word has ceased to have meaning for YOU.   God put  living examples in our Bibles  to prove who He is and since God is the same yesterday , today and forever, we know that what is true in the past is still true today. 

     Our God is truly a faithful and ever present God -- His eyes, full of love, are upon us , His purposes for our life are for good and not evil and we can without reservation trust Him completely knowing He is right beside us walking WITH us. And we can count our blessings, even in the midst of the storms. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

New Life Mandeville

Three summers ago I bought a Mandeville plant, but it didn't do very well.  I took it in for the winter - it struggled through without completely dying and I put it out in the summer.  It stayed very sickly looking but, being loath to kill something that still had a few green leaves on it, I took it back inside and watered it.  It did not grow and I know it really was not worth keeping.  But, believe it or not I again put it out in a corner of my patio last spring to see what it would do...Well, the best it did is that it didn't completely die. So for the second winter I let it sit in my ensuite with its few half-yellow leaves and thin branches. 
This spring I put it out again, tucked it out of sight, where I didn't have to look at. It grew a little, but nothing that impressed me.   
Then, a miracle happened !!  

One Christmas my daughter gifted me with a book , "The Hidden Life of Trees" by Peter Wohlleben. A very interesting book by a man who could be called a 'tree whisperer'.  One thing he said stuck with me. He said that plants communicate with each other and if two or more different plants are planted in the same space they are provoked to fight for personal growing space - becoming very competitive. They do  not do this with like-plants. 

A dear friend gifted me with a little miniature rose plant several weeks ago. Not wanting the plant to die (I do NOT have a green thumb) I thought it would do best planted outside.  Since my half-dead Mandeville plant wasn't growing anyway, I decided to plant my little rose bush in the same pot. Several days later I looked out my kitchen window and to my shock saw a cluster of super-big Mandeville leaves !  Really?  As you can see in the photo the plant suddenly took on new life and it is thriving, full of fresh new growth and even BUDS !  

I saw a spiritual lesson in this. One of God's object lessons tucked into His creation. 
I thought of the verse in Hebrews 10:24.  The old KJV has the words "Let us consider one another to PROVOKE unto love and good words."  (other translations use  words 'stir up'  'motivate' 'encourage' instead of 'provoke') But I think the word 'provoke' best fits with this object lesson. 
Just like planting the rose bush into the Mandeville pot - PROVOKED the Mandeville to suddenly grow,  so also we are called to 'provoke' one another, in love, to grow in  'good works'  and be an example to those who are watching. We cannot do this if we don't  'have close relationships with one another'. 

We have been 'isolated' or 'quarantined' for much of the past year and a half and we have not been gathering together.  And we see the 'lack' of growth.  Churches open but attendance is low.  Airlines report a sharp increase in aggressive behavior. Is this why we are admonished in Hebrews 10:25 not to "forsake the assembling of ourselves together,....... and the more as you see the day approaching."? In the middle of that verse it repeats the 'provoking' thought , "exhorting one another".   

In a politically correct world mind-set we have lost that zeal to watch over our brothers and sisters to stir them up in their faith.  My Mandeville plant reminded me how important it is to 'be our brother/sister's keeper".  We need each other to grow and be strong. Alone, it is easy to become weak.

Paul, in Romans 14:12-23 spells it out how we are to live in relationship with one another - and if our relationship, our interactions  with one another are not motivated by love, then we will "destroy the work of God" ..

The apostle John's sermon is still all we need to live worthy of God's praise, "Children, love one another!" 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Me and My Ducklings

 I have always loved animals.  Loved to care for them .. loved to tame them.... loved to win their trust, even wild animals. 
We had a little pond on our yard  and one day I decided it needed some ducks to enjoy it.  
So we went to the nursery and  bought several duck eggs and set up a warm place for them to hatch in our foyer.  Duck eggs take longer to hatch than chicken eggs so it took some patience on my part.  
However, after 28 long days of waiting and watching the eggs hatch.   The ducklings were adorable, of course! 
A baby duck needs a 'mom' and their pre-programed instructions are to watch for the first thing that moves because that is their mom and they are to follow her.   
It so happened, of course, that I was the first thing to move in their range of vision so I became, by default or by design, their 'mom'. 
I loved them, especially their gently soft contented cooing sounds.  But it only took me moving out of their sight that the cooing became panicked, piercingly, high pitched squawks that did not let up until I stepped in their view again.   They refused to eat or sleep if they could not see me, and when I lifted them out of their enclosure they followed me as fast as their webbed feet would take them -- close at my heels.   What fun I had with them.   Of course as they got older they were okay living outside with each other for company.  I no longer had to be in sight all the time although they still happily came when I called them, but they had learned that I would reappear if I was gone for a time.  

The memory of those ducks came to mind the other day and thought about how we behave when God is 'out of sight'.  
We too have a pre-programmed awareness of God and our need of Him, but like my little ducklings we need Him to be 'in sight'.  

What does 'in sight' mean to us? 
 Does it not mean when everything is going well, and we have everything we need or want and we feel God is smiling down on us?    But there is nothing like hardship, or disappointment, or loss, or something going side-ways that we begin our panicked 'squawking'  calling for God to 'show Himself' and put things right again. 
Yet, of course, just like I was not 'gone' when my ducklings couldn't see me, so also God is not 'gone' - He is still watching over us -- He will not leave us, no matter what ! 
Psalm 139:7

If my ducklings could not see me, they refused to eat. Because the food was suddenly gone?
No, of course not, I made sure there was always enough food and water for them.  But they would have starved to death, with plentiful food in front of them, if I had stayed out of sight! 
It is a bit humbling to acknowledge, but are we not just like that?  
We feel God is 'out of sight' or far away and we focus on our grumbling or our complaining.  We are so consumed with worry or anxiety that we refuse to 'eat' of the good things that God has abundantly supplied.   It is right there in front of us, but we have blinded our eyes to it and refuse to 'eat' . We are so focused on the problem, on the 'what ifs' and the 'have nots' that have upset our day or our life, that we turn away from the God whose eyes are ever upon us.  The God who desires to encourage us with His love, to remind us that His promises do not fail. The God who will not leave us or forsake us.  No matter what we are going through He will work it for our good.  He desires that we eat of His provisions before us.  our faith, our trust in Him never faltering! 
Phil. 4:6,7 , Is. 43:2, John 14:27 

My little ducklings never questioned where I was going, or where I was leading them.  Their only  focus was to keep up with me and go wherever I was going. 
Would that we were like my little ducks.   Not concerned where God is leading us, not questioning His plan for our life , but  our only concern is  to keep up with Him, following His word and voice.   
Matt. 16:24 

If I was sitting on the grass, it didn't take long and all my ducklings were cuddled up close, on my lap, cooing contentedly.  It always melted my heart to see how much they trusted me. 
It didn't not matter to them that I was 'other'. They didn't question how much bigger I was than them, they never feared that I might hurt them or cause them harm in any way.   They never questioned me in any way.  I was their 'MOM" and all was well with their world. 
They loved nothing better than to be held and cuddled ... are we not also held in God's hand? Does He not invite us to draw near, to bask in His Presence? 
Is. 55:8,9   

Did my ducklings even begin to understand me in an intellectual way? Hardly...  and did it matter?  No...  It did not matter that they did not understand me - it only mattered that I understood THEM !  
Is that not a picture of us and God as well?  We cannot begin to comprehend all that He is... but does it really matter ?  No ... it just matters that He understands us !  
Jer. 1:5, Matt. 6:8, Ps. 139

PRAYER  "Dear Heavenly Father, how we praise you for your wisdom .  We thank you for your love toward us and are so grateful  for your unfailing care over us.  We place our trust in you even when things around us seem dark and fearful because there is no one else we can trust!   Fill us with your Presence and your Holy Spirit, that we may never falter in our steps as we follow you wherever you may lead !   We love you, Lord !  in Jesus' name , amen."

Thursday, June 17, 2021

A Dog - Man's best Friend

You have all heard the idiom "gone to the dogs"  -- well,  my thoughts have 'gone to the dogs' rather literally.  


There are so many negative expressions about dogs ... like if someone is in trouble with his wife he is 'in the dog house' ... or if things are going wrong for someone they say "its a dog's life'.  Or it is rather insulting to say about someone .. "you can't teach an old dog new tricks".  And we describe our society as a 'dog-eat'dog-world' ...   

And yet .. on the other hand we say a dog is man's best friend  --- as the sweet photo above portrays.  

Every part of God's creation is infused with a lesson -- an opportunity to learn about God and our relationship with Him, or it provides a 'mirror' to learn about ourselves !  

So I just want to share a few of my thoughts about what I have learned from 'dogs'.  

1.  "Pride in Belonging!"    
The other day we drove past a homeless camp and there was a man with a beautiful German Shepherd dog.  I watched the dog so proudly walk beside his owner and the thought struck me that it makes no difference to a dog if he is owned by a homeless, penniless, ragged, dirty man living in squalor,  or if he is owned by the Queen of England, living in a palace!   
He knows who he belongs to and is proud of it !   His desires nothing more .. he belongs !  
I thought about how often Christians are not always so proud to acknowledge who they belong to, being afraid of being mocked or laughed at or embarrassed..  We are not always ready to defend our faith, to speak of the One we belong to. 
There is a verse that is sobering and goes beyond just avoiding an embarrassing moment -- but a dog would never be guilty of it .. 
"But whoever denies Me before men, 
him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven."
Matt. 10:33 
(see Matt. 10:32 for the positive) 

2. "Never Questioning"
I think it is impossible for a dog to hold a grudge.  No matter how he is treated or neglected by his owner.  He can be left alone all day and yet  all is well as soon as the master returns and the dog turns himself inside out eager to  communicate his greeting and joy at seeing his master again !  

A dog never blames or questions his master for what he does or neglects to do. Never questions how he is provided for, whether the food is plenty or sparse.  He desires only to be with his Master and seeks his pleasure. 
I think about the times I have heard Christians question God and His ways.  I read yesterday that a very well known Christian leader acknowledged that he shook his fist at God because He did not heal his wife's cancer.
 It would never occur to a dog that his master could do any wrong. 
Wow ... if a dog so trusts a human master, how much more should we trust our Heavenly Father who is infinitely good and wise and full of love toward us ... even when we do not understand His ways !  
Job had a 'dog's'  attitude when he said .. 
the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; 
blessed be the name of the Lord 
(Job 1:20–21).
And we have God's promise in Rom. 8:28 .... 
"And we know that all things work together
 for good 
to those who love God, 
to those who are the called according to His purpose..."

3. "Unconditional love" 
The capacity of a dog to love his master is amazing to watch.  I had a wolf/dog for a pet that showed such pure love in her eyes when she looked at me that it melted my heart.  She thought I was her Alpha Wolf, the one she loved and obeyed .  She made me feel how important I was to her !! 
God's love for us is unconditional  and it is wonderful to acknowledge that kind of love toward us .   But  I have heard many times Christians who will 'brag' (openly or suggestively)  about how God has blessed them as a reward for what they did for Him !  
I like Ann Landers quote, "Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful!"
Yes, God's love for us is beyond what we can understand or fathom but it has nothing to do with how wonderful we are ... and isn't that a relief ?  How could we EVER deserve or earn the love of God.   God loves us because we are His ...  and because of who HE is , not because of who we are.  
And it is true humility that understands that ! 
"Therefore He says, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
James 4:6 
And that beautiful verse in Micah 6:8 
"He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humble with your God."

4. "Self-less service" 
A dog is devoted 24/7 to serving his master and never tires of it.  Dogs will not think twice before protecting their master, risking their own lives ... and they  make wonderful service dogs.  A dog delights in serving and seems to have tireless energy. 
Are we so self-less and committed to service as a dog ?   Speaking for myself I would have to say, 'no'.  
And yet that is what we are called to, isn't it ?  To serve our Lord and Master with joy ? And to serve one another in love?   
"The greatest among you will be your servant." 
Matt. 23:11 

"Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, 
especially to those who are of the household of faith. " 
Galatians 6:10

"Work willingly at whatever you do, 
as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, 
and that the Master you are serving is Christ." 

5. "To Forgive"
A dog is so forgiving he does not even recognize that he has cause to forgive !!  
A quote by an unknown author -  ... "To err is human - to forgive is canine."
God asks us to forgive even as we have been forgiven ... yet, we struggle to let go of our grudges and feelings of having been 'ill done by'. or mistreated!
To not  even acknowledge that we have been wronged ?  That is a hard lesson to learn ... And I think the only way it can be learned is if our love for the offender  is 'bigger'  than our sense of having been hurt or insulted, or offended. 
" And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.
"Eph. 4:32 
"Love suffers long and is kind, ...  is not provoked ... thinks no evil !" 
I Cor. 13:4,5 

It is considered an insult to be called a dog ... but I'm thinking that if someone compares me to a dog, I might just take it as a high compliment !!  😊

PRAYER --- "Dear Lord,  thank you for the many lessons who put into your creation for us to learn from.  Make us more aware of the many ways you speak to us, and may we let your truth change our hearts and make us more like you !  I thank you for all my friends here and I pray a special blessing of your love poured out upon them .. and may they know your love is not earned, it is not deserved, it is simply given !!   You are truly the One, 'who alone is wise and to you be glory and majesty , dominion and power,both now and forever!!! amen' "

POSTSCRIPT    - (ADDED BY THE LORD)  regarding the above 4th point 
I wrote the above lesson early Tuesday afternoon before I went to visit my Dad.  He was not doing very well and had a hard time staying awake.  I waited to feed him his dinner (a few spoonfuls!) and then I left 'just at the right time' to meet a resident at the elevator. We were both going down. 
She warmly greeted me and I was immediately drawn to her. 
Our conversation flowed and this is what I learned about this glowing, joyful lady who looked years younger than her 89 years. 

Her mother was widowed at too young an age, and was a very poor widow with 7 children .. Hilda was one of them. 
Her mother was not well and her youngest sister had serious health issues, needing a lot of care. 
She considered at an early age that if she married and had her own family she would not be able to provide the care her mom and sister needed.  She knew she could not do both and so decided that she would devote her life to caring for others.  With a smile she said, "I know I made the right choice!"   She became a nurse and worked many years in maternity wards and in extended care homes to provide the income her family needed.  
Her life was given in self-less service to others.  
Her mother and most of her siblings have all passed on -- only she and one brother are left. 
When we said good-bye I had tears in my eyes and told her what an inspiration she was to me and I assured her that she had many rewards waiting for her in heaven. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

 The Eternal Living Word of God 

"Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven."
Psalm 119:89 

"But the word of the Lord endures forever"
I Peter 1:25 

When I was a child I loved the book Anne of Green Gables.  I lost count of how many times
I read it.  The most moving part of the book that always brought me to tears in sympathy for poor Anne was the part of the book where she longed for a dress with puffed sleeves. 
She begged and pleaded, but Marilla was unmovable, her cold 'no' so hurtful to Anne.  Finally, Matthew secretly arranged for to have a dress made for her with puffed sleeves and OHH !!  JOY !!  FINALLY, Anne's heart longing was satisfied and she got her puffed sleeves !  
Just because .. I decided to reread the book some years ago.  I was shocked.   The 'main' part of the book was reduced to a few sentences on a couple of pages?  I would have believed the book was an  edited edition  if it wasn't an old copy I was holding in my hand.  How could these few sentences have made such a mountain in my emotions and memory ?

In the early years of my marriage, my husband and I watched the movie "The Birds".  It was terrifying beyond any terror I had ever felt.  I had nightmares for weeks afterwards and jumped whenever I heard a flock of birds outside.    
Years later,  I suggested to my husband that , just for fun, we watch the movie again.   We did, but something had happened to the movie !   It wasn't scary at all - in fact the effects were so contrived and fake that we laughed and laughed throughout the movie .. How could it have struck such terror into my heart the first time I  watched it?

Recently, my sister reminded me of a book we had both read in the early '80's .  It was a best seller at the time  called "This Present Darkness" by Frank Peretti.  For both of us, it was a life-changing book - the kind you never forget !  She expressed the desire to read it again.  I told her I had a copy she was welcome to borrow.   Before I had opportunity to give her the book, I thought I might as well re-read it as well.   I started it thinking it would grab me as I remember it grabbed me the first time I read it years earlier.  I had to force myself to keep reading but gave up after I was about 1/3 through.  It didn't grab me at all.  In fact, I wondered what in the book had seemed so deep and spiritually enlightening?   It seemed kind of silly now, almost.   I did not say anything to my sister when I gave her the book. 
She returned it yesterday and I asked her... "Did you read it all the way through?"   "No", she admitted. 
She said she forced herself to keep reading thinking it would get better, but finally she gave up about 3/4 of the way through.   We agreed that whatever had so impacted us the first time we read it was gone. The book now left us cold and critical of the error and inconsistencies in the book.   

As I considered this and linked the above 3 experiences, I realized something.   
Times change, people change. At different times in our life things speak to us and we interpret them through the circumstances that define our space at the time.  
Even in our spiritual walk, God can use certain books  and speak to us through them.   Yet, we go on, past those check points in our spiritual life. We mature... Our understanding grows.   
Considering the above, I had a flash of insight.  
The Bible is thousands of years old, it has been read and reread by millions and millions of people.   Yet... it never gets old, it never loses its power to impact and change lives, it never loses the living truth expressed and expounded on every page.  The main Character, Jesus, never changes, His message never changes,  His purposes never become trite or out of date, every word is eternally true!  Every time I open it, it is fresh and relevant and speaks the truth and guidance that I need for the day. .  

I had never quite put it together in the same way before - that the fact the Bible is unchanging in its power to impact is an undeniable proof that the Bible truly is the Word of God -- so much more than an ordinary book.   

Wednesday, March 3, 2021


"Before the foundation of the world"

  While God has given us details of what we can look forward to in our 'eternity' with God after the time of this earth,  we do not have a lot of information on what God did in His eternity  before  time on this earth began.  We do however have a few verses that contain the phrase  'before the foundation of the world." 

These passages are...... 
Eph. 1:4,  - God chose us in Him 'before the foundation of the world" 
Matt. 25:34 -  Jesus says that when He returns in His glory the Father will say .. "inherit the Kingdom prepared for you 'from the foundation of the world.'" 
 I Peter 1:19 ..  Jesus was "foreordained 'before the foundation of the world' ..."
Matt. 13:35 -  Jesus said He would fulfill the prophecy that He would speak of things that had been kept secret "from the foundation of the world."
John 17:24, Jesus, in speaking to the Father, says " ...for you loved Me before the foundation of the world." 
II Tim. 1:9 ,  we are told that 'according to God's own purposes and grace, we were saved and called in Christ Jesus ... 'before time began' 
Heb. 4:3  -  God says all His works were finished "from the foundation of the world." 

All of the above passages speak of wonderful truths  and we could build a great study based on them, but that is not where I want to focus today. 
If you look at the above list of passages you will notice something they all have in common.   ALL of them speak of what God thought or planned or determined as His purpose.  NOT ONE of the above verses depend on anything except God Himself.  NOT ONE of them need or  allow any input from us.  We have no part in the plans nor in the 'work' of God.   
Yes... God's plan and purpose was FOR us  and we can enter by faith into God's marvelous plan, but God 'before the foundation of the world"  planned, ordained and fulfilled it  ALL BY HIMSELF 

One Verse that Stands Alone
We all agree, God's plan and purposes and all His creation were His alone, but there is however something God did 'before the foundation of the world'  that DOES involve man's  'work'  or 'involvement'. . 

There is one verse that I did not include in the list above and it is found in  Rev. 17:8 .  There we read ... ".... whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world...."

If we consider that verse and follow its thread ..we will find God did something 'before the foundation of the world' that did involve the 'will'  and action of man.   

Be Fruitful and Multiply 
Adam and Eve were created directly by God  -- they were part of the God-alone thoughts and purposes of God.  But after they were created God told them what their 'work' was. They were to go and ..."multiply and fill the earth".   In other words,  all of the people born AFTER Adam and Eve .. were not by the 'will' of God, but by the 'will' of man.  
If this is not true, then we would have to believe that God decreed  that a certain man would rape a certain girl so that the resulting 'predestined'  child could be born. That, of course, could never be!  
So then we know that the 'multiplying'  of people is by the will of man...Man chooses and marries a woman and they have children, who grow up and  choose  spouses and they have children. And included in this 'multiplying'  process,  you and I came to be.  

We all  have a deep need for 'significance'.  We want to know we are loved, that we belong and that we have purpose.   I think we have all at times-- some more than others - felt that we were just 'one of a crowd' - lost in the masses of people.   Is God even aware of me?  Does He see me?  How can He care about me when I am so insignificant?"  

God does not want us to feel that way -- because we are   - every one of us -- important to Him. 
And He did something to prove it ...I am sorry it is not something often talked about , so I want to focus our attention on it today and hopefully you will never again doubt that you are important to God!!  

The Book 
Before He began the 'work' of His creation -- BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD -- God created a book.   A Book created by God has to be the most beautiful book you or I have ever seen.  I can't even imagine how intricately beautiful the details of the cover are.  I think just looking at it would leave us in such awe that we would not dare even touch it.   Yet if God smiled and encouraged us to open it, we would be so surprised and 'shocked' to see what was written in the book.  
When God created this Book, BEFORE He created anything else,  He looked down the long corridor of time and -  by His foreknowledge - NOT predestination - He saw every human being that would be conceived and born on this earth.  He lifted His finger and wrote down the name of every person who has ever lived or ever will live !   Imagine that ... before Gen. 1:1 , God wrote my name,  Julianna Joy Klassen, in His book .. and He wrote down your name !  
Is it hard to believe that that is possible?  even for God?   Consider what science has been able to discover about our DNA..   ALL our DNA would fill about 1/2 teaspoon, but if the information were written out it would not fill just one book but enough books to stack from here to the moon -- not just once, but 5 times !!  It is so mind boggling that nothing  God does should surprise us !!  

BUT .. BUT .. you correctly point out , in the  Rev. verse I quoted above it does not say EVERY name was written in the book...  No it doesn't, but follow with me and you will see why I can say that every name was written into the Book of Life 'before the foundation of the world'. 

We sometimes hear someone say .. 'even if you were the only person on this earth, Jesus would still have died for you!"   and yes, that is true ..  for ANY one of the names written in God's Book of Life, Jesus would have come and died to save them.   That is how great God's love is .. and He wants us to know that we know that EVERYONE is so important to Him that He recorded their names in His Book -- BEFORE He laid the foundation of the earth that would be our home. God is LOVE and love needs somewhere to be expressed and God chose 'mankind'  and built His whole creation plan on His ultimate relationship with mankind -- specifically you and me !   Wow !!  

So you may be stuck on the thought ..." but, but ..  she is wrong in saying the name of every person ever born is written in this Book, obviously Rev. 17:8 says  some names are not!"  
Granted, that is a valid objection at first glance  .. but stay with me.  

The Most Important 'Invited Guest'  List
God has revealed His heart to us  and  we know His character. 
We know that it is God's will that EVERYONE should be saved... I Tim. 2:4.  We also know that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked- Ez. 18:23, Ez. 33:11  and He proclaims for all to hear ... "Whosoever will may come ...   "   His invitation to come to Him is extended to every human being -- Rom. 10:9-13, Rev. 22:17, Joel 2:32, John 3:16, Acts 2:21, John 12:46.  

If I am planning a milestone birthday party I will send out invitations to everyone I want to be there.  It would not make sense for me to say ... "I really want Susie to be there, but I won't send her an invitation."   
In the same way, we know  that if God desires EVERYONE to be saved they would ALL be on His list of people who are invited -- and that would include every human being that has been or will be born on this earth.  As with any invitation, however,  not everyone accepts the invitation and shows up at the event. 
While that conclusion is logical, it is not my 'proof'  to show that God wrote EVERY name in His Book. 
(I believe that every aborted baby that is not given a name, God Himself names it  and records the  name in His Book!!) 

 Names we know are Written 
There are other passages that speak to our names being written in the Book of Life.  Jesus Himself refers to it in Luke 10:20 when He tells His disciples to rejoice because their "names are written in heaven". 
Paul refers to the Book of Life in Phil. 4:3 when he speaks of his fellow workers "whose names are in the Book of Life."
Daniel prophecies in Dan. 12:1 that God will deliver those "whose names are written in the book." 
Rev. 21:27 speaks to the fact that in the New Jerusalem nothing will be allowed to enter it that defiles ... but ONLY those who are "written in the Lamb's Book of Life" 
Heb. 12:23 assures us that those in the 'church' of Jesus are "registered in heaven" 

So we know that the above names are those who are 'saved'. All those who have put their trust in Jesus have their names written in God's Book,  And we know the names that are there were recorded 'before the foundation of the world."

Let's look at whose names are NOT found in the Book 
Rev. 17:8  tells us  that the names of the beast worshippers are not found in the Book, and we also see in Rev. 13:8  that this fact is repeated -- beast worshippers do not find their name in the Book. 
We know that those :beast worshippers' whose names are NOT written in the book are outside the Kingdom of God,  
So now we must consider  --  if every human being's name was written in the Book of Life before God created the earth, then why do these verses point out that some names are missing? 

Names Blotted Out 
It seems that Old Testament saints knew about the Book of Life. . 
We first see reference to it with Moses in Ex. 32:32.  Here Moses is interceding for the rebellious Israelites who have angered God to the point He severely punished them and Moses was afraid God would destroy them all. In a desperate plea Moses begs God to forgive, but if He cannot forgive Moses offers Himself for the lives of the Israelites.  He says, "Yet now, if You will, forgive their sin - but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." 
"Blot me out?"  Moses can only be referring to the Book of Life.  And he is saying .. "Put the people's sin on me, blot MY name out of the book instead of theirs."  
Moses knew that if  his name was  blotted out meant he would be condemned. His offer points to Jesus who DID take the sin of the world upon Himself to let them go free. 
God's answer to Moses, of course, was a refusal. He replied, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book."   Everyone is responsible for his own name in the book, whether or not it is blotted out. 
So we know that 'sinners' have their names blotted out of the Book of Life -- but names can only be blotted out if theu were first written in, right?
We also see David. In Psalm 69:28, asking for God's judgment against his enemies.  The worst he can wish upon them is that they would be blotted out of the Book of the Living - that their names should not remain with the names of the 'righteous'.  

NOTE - In Rev. 3:5 Jesus promises that those who overcome shall be dressed in white garments and Jesus will NOT blot out their name from the Book of Life. 

Is it Easy to Have our Name Blotted out?
When I don't want to do something, it takes a lot of will power to make myself do it, so I would think the same would be true of God. 
He says He does not want anyone to perish but ALL to come to repentance that they might be saved ....  so then how hard do you think He would try to save everyone?
We see God had patience with the  Amorites for 400 years  (Gen. 15:16)  He says He had patience because their 'iniquity was not yet full' ... What does that mean?   It means He still had hope, still gave them room to repent , and only when their hearts were so hard  that they would never turn from their sin,  did God finally bring judgement.  
So we know,  God will continue to draw, to woe, to convict EVERY soul until there is no hope left because the heart is tooo hard for His mercy to soften it.  Man has the free will to reject God,  but he has to harden his heart to resist  the love of God drawing him. 

Warning - how important God's word is 
There is a warning in Rev. 22:19 that states how serious an offense it is  to  take away from the words of the book of this prophecy' .. We have this same warning in Deut. 4:2 and Prov. 30:5,6. God is warning that if man 'takes away or adds'  to the Word of God the penalty is that their name is removed from the Book of Life and their inheritance in the holy city taken away..  
God's word is true and there is no other truth .. no other path to heaven ... no other salvation.    
We need to keep a holy fear for the things of God and guard our hearts from the  lies and deception of the enemy. .
"Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You."  Psalm 119:11 

Why is it important for us to understand the Book of Life?
Other than the simple explanation that every word given us by God is important I think there are some important conclusions that encourage us greatly to trust God more ! 

1. God knew and cared about me before time began !   How mind boggling is that? That God wrote down my name in His Book -- just imagine for a moment that book in heaven - lying before God's throne open to the page that has your name written in a heavenly script with liquid gold !   We know of the Hollywood Walk of Fame where celebrities have their name written on a star on the street and people come to gaze on these names.   How much greater a privilege is it to have YOUR name written in God's Book !!  

2.  Knowing our name is written -- and not written and placed on a heaven-shelf - but this book is in God's hand -- Is. 49:16  is a wonderful encouragement to our faith to believe how personally detailed God's interest in us is .. and how much He is watching to fulfill His plan and purpose for us !  see..   Ps. 56:8, Ps. 139:16, Jer. 29:11 

3. It keeps us on guard against anything that could take us away from the Lord -- We don't want our name 'blotted out' ..We want God to smile when He looks at our name and pours His love out upon us and delights in our return love for Him ! 

4. Because God wrote our name in His Book, we KNOW that He is committed to fulfilling every promise He made -- to us PERSONALLY --  
 I learned something this week.  There is a verse that has always somewhat bothered me ... "It is found in Luke 1:37 where it says .. "For with God nothing will be impossible."  We know even with God some things are impossible --for example,  it is not possible for God to lie .   I took the verse in the general sense that God could do anything He wanted to do ...  But if we go to the Greek we see that the original meaning sheds light on the intended meaning.    In the Greek it does not say that NOTHING is impossible with God ... it says that it is impossible for His  REHMA  (living) WORD to fail.   And we have the confirmation in Mary's response when she says .. "let it be to me according to your WORD"
All of God's promises to me ... to you ... stand !  Not one of them can fail !! 

5. Bottom line conclusion --   YOU and I are important to God - it is IMPOSSIBLE for Him to forget about us !!  We truly are VIP IN  His eyes!  

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Time Eraser

                                                                                     street in ancient Laodicea

If I wrote a note to a friend commenting that I was so tired of this isolation, I would not have to add that I was talking about the Covid restrictions - she would immediately know. 
 BUT .. if for some reason my note was preserved for a thousand years and someone found it so many years later, they would be rather confused about  the isolation  that I referred to and might wonder if I was in a prison cell sentenced to solitary confinement. 

Time often erases information that at the time it is shared needs no explanation. 

We sometimes struggle in understanding some Bible passages for exactly the same reason. The scriptures were written  to people who understood what the writer was referring to without needing detailed clarification. But for us in another time, another culture, another language we can easily miss the intended meaning of certain scriptures. 

In recent times knowledge has greatly increased regarding details of ancient history, credit largely going to the discoveries of modern archeologists. Those uncovered details now allow us to fill in some of  the cultural  gap in our understanding. 

For example .... We now have a fresh understanding  of  what Jesus was talking about in his letter  to the church in Laodicea.  He comments in Rev. 3:15,16 --  "I wish you were either hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm I will spew you out of my mouth."   That statement would have immediately resonated with the Laodiceans as they read it, but to us it has been  a blank statement that we have grappled with to understand.  

Laodicea was a rich and prosperous city on a major trade route. It had a thriving textile production and had was admired for its finances and banking.  But there was one thing they could not control - access to good drinking water. 

Some miles away was the city of Colossae that enjoyed the cold, clear, pure water from mountain streams.  In the other direction were the hot springs of Hieropolis, known for their healing minerals. The Laodiceans were very familiar with these two cities and I'm sure envied them.     

Since they however had no fresh source of water , water had to be brought in by viaducts.  Not only was the incoming water lukewarm but it was also full of sediment.   It was not pleasant to drink  -- and  it would have been a shock to them that Jesus would compare them to this despicable water !  Unthinkable!!
 Jesus put His finger on the problem in a way they could not miss His meaning. 
Of course Jesus would rather they were like cold pure water, that satisfied thirst or like the hot healing water.   But the lukewarm gritty water was not desirable at all and neither were the Laodiceans. 

There is another analogy in Jesus' comparison to gritty, lukewarm water.   When we 'hew our own cisterns of water "  (Jer. 2:13)  we forsake the fountain of living water.  And when we compromise with the world, seeking its pleasures more than Christ,  we find that the resulting 'water' is gritty and disgustingly  lukewarm in its ability to satisfy.   

Only the Fountain of Living Water can satisfy - that springs up within us  into eternal life! If we drink from this water, we will never be lukewarm or in danger of Jesus spewing us out !!  

"Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.
 But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water
springing up into everlasting life." 
John 4:14