Saturday, April 13, 2024

Deception can Look Good !

I don't know how familiar you are with the term Spiritual Formation but I would be surprised if you have not heard of it. If it isn't familiar to you, I'm sure it soon will be. 
 Spiritual Formation / Contemplative Prayer, teaching. is gaining acceptance in our churches, and if you have not seen Stephanie Griffin, then I highly recommend the podcast linked below. 
 The deception is growing so quickly! I have followed it for the last 20 + years and am very alarmed to see how 'open' it is becoming -- churches, schools, seminars, retreats, small groups etc. -- in fundamental Protestant denominations. 

 Stephanie Griffin, the girl interviewed on the podcast is a nurse and has come out of nine years of new age/contemplative life and practice. 

 I'm sorry, I don't know why the link below won't let you click and connect but you can copy and paste it into your Google search bar and the podcast will come up.   
(Stephen C. Ministries)

Monday, April 1, 2024

 Truth is Unchanging 

 Please watch!   If you have already watched this short video,  I know you will enjoy seeing it again.  It so pointedly  addresses  the fallacy of  modern thinking,  'my truth, your truth'.

Pastor Matt on Sunday shared a conversation he'd had that week with someone who had bought a car from a man who had lied about what was good about the car as well as what was bad.  When the purchaser contacted the seller , the seller said .. "Oh, just sell it to someone, telling the same lies, that's how cars are sold."   The seller?  A pastor !  
I recently purchased some 'pain relief patches' from Amazon... only to learn that they were 'knock-offs'.  The box was the same, the listed ingredients were the same, but they didn't work. One small  word on the front of the box was not what it should have been.  
Who can we believe today?  I hate having to question everything I hear !!!  

BUT ...  I am incredibly thankful that I know where the truth can be found. We have God's Word and it has not changed in thousands of years.  Nor has God changed any 'jot or tiddle' of the scriptures we have in our Bibles .
After we watch the video (link above)  we want to brush it off with a comment ,  "But that is so obviously true - of course 2 plus 2 equals 4."   But .. think again ... how many once unquestionable truths are today not only put in question but blatantly cast aside as false, outdated or just plain 'not true anymore' !   You don't have to think long to come up with a list! 

There is a man in Australia who has come up with the 'cure' for mankind that will eliminate all the suffering in the world !  His name is Jeremy Griffith and he has founded a fast-growing movement , called "World Transformation Movement".   
What is the secret to solving man's problems - to end violence and evil?  In uncovering the problem it was easy for him to come up with the solution.  Man's problems all stem from the fact that he has been made to believe that he is a sinful creature and guilt has evidenced itself in all kinds of pain, chaos, violence and suffering. . 
The solution ?  We must believe the 'truth' -- that we are not inherently sinful, but rather quite the opposite.  We are all basically  'good'.  And believing that to be ' true' is life-changing, revolutionizing the world!!!   

We are remembering an event that DID revolutionize the world, changing it one soul at a time!   - the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Jeremy Griffith is 'too little and too late'  and his message useless and  totally false !  

God, our Creator, knew exactly what man's problem was and He was willing to give His life to set us free !   All we have to do is accept His free gift of salvation, bought and paid for with the suffering and death of Jesus. Proven by His miraculous resurrection!  

Jesus Himself declared that He was the "Way, the Truth, and the Life"  John 14:6. 
He is the Way -  Today... the popular message is there are many ways to God - He is a loving God who accepts anyone who is 'sincere', no matter what path they follow. Yes... I agree!! 
ALL... every human being, no matter what path they follow, no matter what their religion is or even if they have none -- their chosen 'path' will lead them  to God . They will one day stand before God's throne of judgement and if they did not come 'by the way of Jesus' , they will hear the words .. "I never knew you!" 

He is the Truth -- Ephesians 4:21 declares that "The truth is in Jesus".   Not just the truth of the gospel, but ALL  truth.   Two plus two equals four because that is God's truth.  His whole creation is built on 'numbers'.  A fascinating study.   Truth has no 'grey areas' -- In God there is only 'truth' and all else is a lie.  We need to reject anything that does not line up with God's Word. Our Bibles are NOT outdated !!   
In Acts 16:17 we have the story of the demon possessed girl that followed and annoyed Paul and Silas.  She called out .. "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation."   Even the demons must tell the truth when they are where the Lord and His followers are. 

He is the Life --  Interesting, isn't it, that as arrogantly as science claims to have the truth, they cannot define what  'life' is,  how it started, nor can they create it. And they will never be able to understand until they recognize the GIVER of Life, the One who IS Life.  We have passed from 'death unto life' - and will live forever in glory with Jesus.   That is what we are celebrating this week-end!  (John 5;21,24) 

Quote - "It's not about the bunny, it's about the lamb!"  author unknown 

Wednesday, March 13, 2024


Interesting QUOTES... 
Our old history ends with the Cross; our new history begins with the resurrection. 

Watchman Nee

The New Testament writers speak as if Christ's achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the 'first fruits,' the pioneer of life,' He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so.
C.S. Lewis

I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.
Charles Colson 

Devotional Thoughts .. ---  BARABBAS 

Barabbas ...  we all know the details of his part in the crucifiction story, but he is quickly passed over with little further thought given  him.   I have been thinking about him and would like to take a bit of literary license with his story.  I think I have some credibility in doing so because in James 5:7 we are told that Elijah was , "of like nature or passions" as us.  That means that given the same circumstances we respond with our emotions and actions with predictability,  because we are all of the same flesh -  'human'.  

So taking the scant details we are given about Barabbas in Matt. 27:15-26, Mark 15:6-15, Luke 23:18-24, John 18:40 I put myself in his place to try to flesh him out as a fellow human being. 

"My name is Barabbas. 
I was well-known , but infamous rather than famous.  I was an angry, violent man who charted my own way of dealing with life.  I hated the Romans, hated them with a passion.  I hated their arrogance and their domination over us Jews.  What right did they have....  NONE as far as I was concerned.  

I lived by my own standard of right and wrong.  If I needed something, I took it, not caring from whom.   So I was known as a 'robber' by my own people.   

I rebelled against authority, in particular, the Roman authority and was vocal about it, thereby gaining some support from men who thought like me.  Joining with me, they agreed to my plan. We cared little about our own well-being, just wanting to inflict some pain on the Romans, and find a way to vent our churning anger. 

We planned  our insurrection plan, and carried it out !  It was at least partly successful, we murdered men guilty of nothing more than being Roman, but that was enough reason for us. 

The part that didn't go so well was that we were caught and arrested - thrown into prison, bound with chains.  I knew my life was over, crucifiction my sentence, I tried not to care!   I  waited for the inevitable along with the fellows chained with me. 

One day, I heard the footsteps of the guard approaching our cell.  The door clanged open and I fully expected my time had come.   The guard bent to unchain me and then his words startled me, no = they shocked me. "You  are free to go."  

What?  There was no mercy for me - I knew I had long ago crossed that line!  So what was the guard saying?   I was free?  How?  Why?   I must be dreaming. 

But, the guard roughly pushed me out of the cell and turned back to relock the cell door.  He didn't even look at me.  Really?  I was free to go?  I didn't believe it until I found myself outside, breathing fresh air!  

I stopped the first person I met and asked what was going on.  Why would I have been released from a Roman prison?   Demanding answers I finally found someone who could answer my questions.   A man named Jesus was on trial, and Pilot , trying to play his cards in Jesus' favor, used  the tradition of setting a prisoner free that day.  He offered the people a choice,  Jesus or me !  Well, even I knew that I should have been the last criminal to be offered freedom.   But me instead of Jesus?  I had heard of him,  people spoke of him as a great prophet, some even suggesting he was the long-expected messiah ...  and now they wanted him dead so badly they were willing to have me freed?  me? a robber, murderer, rebellious rabble-rouser?  How was that possible?  Had the people gone mad?

My feelings were conflicted, I hardly knew what to think ... much less what to do.  I wandered aimlessly...  but then hearing the crowds was curious to know what was going on.   I quickly became aware that  a crucifixion was about to take place -- three men.   A chill shivered up and down my spine with the realization I was to have been one of those men.   I recognized one of the men as Jesus, the one who was taking my place.  

I stood at a distance watching the horrifying events unfold.  I witnessed the suffering inflicted on the men on the crosses.   My eyes were fixed on Jesus - literally my saviour!  I was grateful for my undeserved, unexpected freedom but I could not justify, much less understand,  the reason for it. What was I going to do for the rest of my life? "

To my regret, we are not given any details about what Barabbas did after he was set free.  Did he hear of Jesus' resurrection?  Did he listen to the gospel story and come to faith in Jesus?  

We will have to wait for eternity to find out.   But truly,  Barabbas is representative of each one of us.   We all stand at the cross looking at the One who took our place there.  Our sin laid on Him, when He Himself had no guilt at all.  I am offered freedom, only because "God so loved!!"  

At this time of year, as we again focus on Jesus' sacrifice -- His death -- and His resurrection, we can be so thankful that in Him  we have forgiveness and  life eternal .   

God asked Jesus'  "Who shall I set free?  You or ----------  (
fill your name in the blank) ?
 and Jesus answered... " Set ______________ free, I am willing to take their place!"  

Saturday, March 9, 2024

My Amaryllis 


I was gifted an amaryllis bulb for Christmas and I had so many Christmas flowers that I decided to wait to plant it.   I finally planted it a few weeks ago, and I took this photo today.  It has 4 huge flowers on the tall stem and more coming up on the second stock.  
I was telling my sister how I loved my amaryllis and she listened and then commented...:"I hear a devotional coming up !!"   Well, I never turn down a challenge .. and I am a firm believer in God having a lesson or message in everything He does .... soooo....  you, my friends, are the recipients of my amaryllis lesson !!  

Before I planted my bulb I did some research on how-to, what-not-to , to try to ensure my success.  One comment I read on one of the sites gave me great hope !  It said .. "Amaryllis' are easy to grow no matter what colour your thumb is !!"    Well, my thumb is all colours but green so I loved this comment !  
It made me think ....  I am  so encouraged that God doesn't 'grow me' because of anything I have,  or because of who I am.  He just grows me because HE IS and because He wants to.  
I love the verse in Psalm 115:3 -- "God does what He pleases!"   Did you ever think of that ?  God does what He does because it PLEASES Him ?  And it pleases Him to grow you and me into His likeness...  and He uses His own righteousness to do it .. All we have to do is be willing, ready and open to receive what He has for us. II Cor. 3:18,"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." Amazing, isn't it ? 

I looked at the ugly bulb before I planted it.  I really would have just tossed it out if I thought that was all there was to it!  But the box said that it would grow into a beautiful blooming plant.  Okay ...  I was willing to give it a chance.  
Aren't we like that bulb?  Plain, ugly, useless... (okay, I'm speaking for myself!)  and yet God looks at us and sees the beauty in us that He can bring out.  He knows exactly how and where to plant us and nurtures us to bring  us to be transformed into something lovely!  

It is a mystery to me how those beautiful blooms can be hidden in that ugly bulb.  How does it know how to get out and just grow and unfold in such glory!  Isn't that a miracle ?  Since I cannot explain that, yet accept the truth of it , then why should I doubt when God says He sees beauty in me and you and that He will 'cause us to bloom' !!   
Paul in Ephesians 3 speaks of the mystery of God's plan of salvation... how it all unfolds God's mystery, to reveal that "the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel'.  I believe the 'mystery of the amaryllis' and I believe the mystery of Christ - God's perfect salvation, planned from the foundation of the earth.  Ephesians 1:4  "even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love."

I learned something amazing about the amaryllis' bulbs.  If the bulb is waxed it can be placed in a decorative pot, or simply hung from the ceiling and it will grow and bloom without you paying any attention to it, you need not even water it !!  
Wow...  the lesson in that is really profound, isn't it ?  If there are no missionaries, if there are no churches, if there are no Bibles, God can find the most isolated person and find a way to reveal Himself to them and open their hearts to 'grow' in Him.  We have all heard the stories of Jesus appearing to Muslims in the Middle East in dreams and visions because that is the only way they will hear of Him !  Only a God of love can care so much that He will do all He can to reach every single person!  No one will ever stand before Him on judgement day and say they never knew of Him !     

It was almost scary watching my amaryllis grow  - up to 2": a day.  It stands almost 2 feet tall! Easy to see what it is teaching us here, isn't it?  God did not save us to be 'hidden'.  He wants us to stand tall, where we can be seen by those who need to be saved.  In Matt. 5:14 and 16, Jesus says "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden ...... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

I have been reading how to take care of the amaryllis bulb so it will bloom again year after year!. It has to have a period of dormancy or rest after a blooming season, before it will once begin to sprout forth new growth. .  We too go through periods where we feel  tired,  burned out, we need to 'rest' or maybe encounter a period where God seems far away, or a time that tests our faith. Even though these times may be difficult we know that 'spring' is coming and we will be renewed in strength! 
"But those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength, They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." -
Isaiah 40:31.... see also II Cor. 4:16-18 

My amaryllis is red, but there are at least 500 varieties and colours. Easy to draw the analogy here that we too are each unique - our own 'variety' and our own 'colour'.  Yet all are precious in His sight !  

I hope you enjoyed my ramble inspired by my amaryllis.  To God be the glory for His wonderful creation so full of His love-notes tucked into it for those who seek to  find them !  

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Words of the Wise


Well-driven nails by One Shepherd !! 
This morning in my Bible reading I focused on two passages - one from Ecc. 12 and the other from Acts 16.  
Ecclesiastes  12:11 --  I love the words of this passage, they always stir my heart-emotion.
Let me quote the words .. 
"The words of the wise are like goads, 
and the words of the scholars are like well-driven nails, 
given by one Shepherd, "
Do you see the pictures painted in this verse?  

Goads -- are farming implements , a round stick with a pointed end used to urge cattle to move forward, or in the right direction.  So to apply the analogy we see that the words of the wise are meant to be 'sharp' as in they get our attention and spur us on in the way we should go. 

The next picture is that of a carpenter driving nails into the wood.  My dad was a carpenter and how often I watched him drive one nail after the other with unfailing precision straight into the wood.   Here the analogy points to the fact that words from the wise or the wise scholar will not 'knock' us off course, will not cause us to bend to the right or to the left but will encourage us to stay on a straight path.  

And the 'source' of these good words?  The last picture is that of the Shepherd.  Who is a Shepherd but one who cares for his sheep. He will watch over them, protect them, feed them, care for their health and well-being.  And the pivotal word here is ONE ... Who is the ONE Shepherd but Jesus ... the WORD made flesh in the one who is a faithful and true Shepherd. All the words that are 'wise'  ,that are 'true' come from ONE source - "I am the way, the TRUTH..!".  Truth is the kind of thing that defines 1 plus 1 equals 2.   Any 'word' contrary, is immediately recognized as being false. 

In John 16:13 Jesus - the ONE Shepherd -  promises that when the Holy Spirit comes, whom He calls the Spirit of Truth, He will guide us into ALL truth.  He will only repeat the words of the ONE Shepherd.  
You and I and every believer have the indwelling Spirit of Truth, who guides us into all truth. 
But the enemy is also at work to distract us from hearing/recognizing that 'voice'.  We are easily moved to doubt we are 'discerning' God's Voice , we are overwhelmed with the amount of info and knowledge and media voices that bombard us daily. And so - too often- that soft voice is covered by the noise around us.   
Self-doubt is the most effective tool in the enemy's hand isn't it?  We are quick to second guess whether it was our own thought/feeling or if we were discerning the nudge of the Spirit., and we tend to err on the side of caution and surmise that it was our own 'words'.   I want to encourage you to be confident in knowing that you CAN and DO hear the voice of the ONE Shepherd through His Holy Spirit that lives within you.  

in Acts 17:11  The Bereans are commended, praised, because they checked what Paul was teaching , against the words of the One Shepherd.  If Paul came as guest speaker to our church do you think we would all be checking to  see if he was speaking 'truth' ?  I don't think so ... and yet  if the Bereans were praised for checking Paul's teaching for themselves .. and they only had the Old Testament!!  -  how much more should we heed the warning to be discerning - to check for ourselves what we hear - no matter who the 'teacher' is ..  (myself certainly included!!!)   Know for yourself what 'words' are well driven nails given by ONE Shepherd - the Spirit of truth !!  

The second passage I focused on this morning was an account of fitting life-examples of the Ecc. passage. In Acts 16. we have snap-shots of the 'word' being spoken and how it was received and by whom. 

The first example is Timothy who met Paul, who desired to have Timothy join him in spreading the 'word'.  We know Timothy gladly responded and in verse 4 we see that Paul and Timothy delivered the 'gospel truth' as it had been determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.  The 'words' agreed.
The second example was a man from Macedonia whom Paul and  Timothy and Silas were sent to preach the 'word' - again the man heard and believed. 

The third example is a woman named Lydia, who was obviously a wealthy independent woman. How do we know?  She had her own business - a weaver of purple (worn only by the rich) she was leading a group of women,  and she had the authority to open her home and hospitality to Paul and company.. She was already a worshipper of God but verse 14 says that she 'opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul".  She discerned the 'words spoken by ONE Shepherd" 

The fourth example is the demon-possessed girl.  She followed Paul and his friends proclaiming that they spoke the 'words of truth'.  Paul cast the demons out of her and she was set free, to the anger of those who had used her for their monetary gain!  

The fifth and last example is the keeper of the prison that Paul and Silas were cast into.  When God sent an earthquake to get the prison keeper's attention as well as set Paul and Silas free, the jailer received the word of truth and he and his household were saved !!  

how beautiful , how powerful are the words of Truth.  Truth has the power to set free, to change anyone who receives it ... whether a  Greek youth, a man from a foreign city,  a rich business  woman, a demon-possessed girl  or a jailor doing his job!  

I love how in each of these examples the word 'spread' through the one who first heard and received the 'word', to impact their sphere of social contact.   
May we learn from these examples and know how powerful the unchanging truth is and may we be discerning so that our 'words' will be well-driven nails that will not cause someone to 'bend' from the truth, but will be life to those who hear us. 

Friday, February 9, 2024

 . I was actually looking for a different image,  but this one   caught my eye .. and imagination! 

How often do we judge things with a false or twisted mindset or world-view!  We judge by our own standards, our own preferences, our own tastes or desires. 
And too often we voice those false judgments,  and words are powerful ... especially to children. We can all think of something someone said to us as a child that we have never forgotten and we still feel the influence of those words --- good or bad.  
If we follow the analogy in the image of the fish, think of that poor fish.  If it is told by a squirrel that considering how easy it is for them to climb a tree, they must be very stupid to not even be able to get out of the water  !!!  And the fish, seeing the squirrel run up and down the trees with such skill, concludes that the squirrel must be right ... and he must be very stupid.  
We are vulnerable, easily tempted to make us believe we are 'less than' we really are. 

My granddaughters' generation is into what they call 'thrifting'.   For those of you who are around my age remember how embarrassing it was to have to wear hand-me-down clothing.  Even purchased second hand clothes was only for the poor.   Yet today, it is praise worthy and a habit that is  enthusiastically embraced!  
Garbage used to be garbage -- all went into the one garbage can.  Today it's about how or what can be recycled and we have 4 different bins that garbage needs to be sorted into, plus the depot for what can't be put to the curb.  All because we have a cultural mindset of 'recycle, don't waste'. 
A good thing , isn't it ?  We have all heard 'waste not, want not' !!  

What got me thinking along this thought path, was learning something about the egg shell. How many egg shells have we all thrown away?  my friend Mary encourages everyone to crush the egg shells and use them as a very nutritious plant fertilizer, but I have never thought of them as an edible food item! 
My husband has recently developed some kind of stomach related medical problem -- ulcers?  inflammation of stomach lining?  I don't know, he hasn't been to the doctor yet.. though he does have an upcoming appointment. So I was searching the internet looking for natural remedies.   And to my surprise the egg shell was very high on the 'healing' potential list..  Boil egg shells for sterilizing, then dry them  .. then crushed into powder -- coffee grinder works great..   Then add a teaspoon to a cup of hot milk ... or mix into your drinks of choice. Who would have thought that we were throwing away a valuable part of the egg?? 

God is the original 'nothing wasted' recycler.  When you study nature everything has its place, everything plays a significant and important part in the ecosystem.  My response is -- well, except for mosquitos.  But then I researched that and found how very important they are and if they were eradicated the breakdown of the food chain would filter down to affect us !! 
You only have to look at a flower, to appreciate how every detail is important, how every animal is cared for in their given environment, how the seasons follow one another, how the ocean tide flows in and out ... on and on.. 
We read in Romans 1 how God created the earth to display His character.  It is so clear that no detail in God's sight is wasted.  
On the contrary, we tend to be  wasters ... Why?  because we don't see or recognize the value of something and throw it out. .  

We see God's 'no waste' rule even in scripture.  I love how every word is important -- hence the title of my latest book "No Word Wasted".  But it is also shown in the stories of the Bible.  The feeding of the 5000 from a little boy's lunch,  where the crumbs were gathered up,  the widow's oil and grain that lasted throughout the time of famine,   Joseph's story of the storing of extra grain so there was a  supply  for the famine years, even our tears he collects and keeps in a bottle. (Ps. 56:8)   
I love that even though God is not a waster, He is generous to the extreme!  God never heard of the popular saying .. "Less is more!"  He says 'more and greater is better !!" 

But I want to tie this back to the egg shell and mosquito.  If God created every detail of His creation to have an important purpose, then does it not follow that He would also not waste anything about His highest creation - man made in His image? 
Do you think you are the egg shell that is a 'throw-away-  or the mosquito that is an annoyance?  That is totally contrary to God's character, and His expressed love for His children all through scripture!  Yes, you are unique ... God intended you to be!  So don't compare yourself to someone else.  (remember the fish and the squirrel) 

Okay... so I've convinced you that you are NOT  a 'throw-away' or 'nuisance' in God's Kingdom.  But it goes much deeper.  
What about the details of your life?  What about the difficult circumstances, the tragic events?
Do you believe He is  in the midst of them , orchestrating them for good? 
 What about your sin,  your failings, your wrong choices and decisions?  Do you think He can recycle those too to 'create' something good on your behalf and for His glory?  
This morning, I was  reading  Paul's comments on this thought (Rom. 6:1).. "Wow! really? then let's sin some more so that God has more to 'recycle' into something good !!" (my paraphrase !! ) 
But he quickly lays that argument down and says ... "Of course not! if God can recycle even our failings, how much more will He use us when we die to self and live in His righteousness!" (again, my paraphrase) 

The enemy is always ready, to distract us and he plots for us to live in discouragement or despair thinking we have messed up.  How quickly God forgives when we come to Him with heart-confession.  Why quickly?  Because He is eager to begin the restoration - the 'recycling' process.   
Being a creative person , as many of you are as well, we understand the joy and fulfillment of taking something 'useless' in itself and creating something beautiful and valuable. That is a 'God-characteristic' that He gave us so we can believe Him when He says ... "I have wonderful plans concerning you,  I can make you into something beautiful !!"  (my paraphrase of Jer. 29:11)

The trouble is that many of us, at least at some points in our life,  are 'hoarders'!  Hoarders of guilt about past or present sin, hoarders of resentment.... of unforgiveness, of anger.  Hoarders of remembered offences.... we note and label every one !   
It's hard being a hoarder.   It fills up good spaces that could be used for something so much more useful and enjoyable. 
We can keep our 'garbage' , or give it to God for 'recycling'. 
Can we embrace, even get excited about the fact that God loves to recycle?  Remember that the material gathered for recycling is completely worthless in itself and has  very little value, It is the vision,  creative ability and skill of the one re-creating that is important to achieve  the oft surprising value and worth of the end result.   If we admire this gift in other human beings... how much more should we believe that God - the greatest Creator of all - would be able to take the worthless 'junk' we give Him and in His forgiving and restorative work turn it into something beautiful - something that causes  us to shine in His kingdom and give Him glory !  

Here are a few verses that speak to who we are in Jesus,... there are so many more!  Take note  when you are reading them to KNOW that they are meant for YOU, personally, if not you, then NOONE. 
 Jeremiah 29:11, Malachi 3:16,17 , I Thess 1:4, II Cor. 5:17, Eph. 2:10, John 1:12 Philippians 4:12, Col. 3:12 Rom. 8:1 John 15:16 , II Cor. 3:18

Sunday, January 14, 2024

 Parallel Stories

Isn't it comforting to know that we do not have to trust in our own righteousness, but can trust in His right hand holding us up and His indwelling Spirit strengthening us when we are weak? 

Parallel Stories in Contrast
in my mornings,  I have a habit of asking the Lord what I should read and into my mind will drop a scripture  - often one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. And I am delighted how most often they fit together or together confirm a teaching or word of God. 
I want to share one example of such a parallel here.... 

The old Testament chapter I read was  Numbers 32, and this is the story. 

The excited Israelites had finally completed their wilderness journey. Except for Moses, Joshua and Caleb all the Israelites at the end of the 40 years in the wilderness had either been under 20 years old leaving Egypt or were born in the wilderness. 
It is easy to imagine how excited they would have been. The thought of settling into their own homes and having land to grow crops and yards their children could play in would have been exhilarating. 
So now Moses is standing in front of the gathered people and informing them what part of the promised land is allotted to which tribe. 
It seems everyone was happy with what  their tribe was given,  except for the children of Gad, the children of Rueben and half the tribe of Manasseh. They were cattlemen and they had taken note of some prime land perfectly suited for them on the east side of the Jordan -- the other side from where Moses was settling the other tribes. 
When they presented their request for land on the other side of the Jordan, Moses reacted with anger. He rebuked them for plotting to separate from the rest of their brethren and refuse to fight with them to take possession of the land. Moses accused them of selfishness and rebellion against the commandments of God. 
 But they were quick to assure Moses that he had misunderstood !  They were not separating from their brethren.  They had full intentions of joining with them in battle to secure the land God had given them.  They just wanted to settle their wives and children  first and then they would cross the river to join the other tribes in battle.   
Moses'  anger was deflated and he assured them if that was their intent then all was well. God would not find fault with them.   BUT .. if they did not follow through on their promise then "their sin would find them out!"  (isn't it interesting that it is in this story that we find this familiar , oft quoted verse??) 
The children of Gad and Reuben and part of Manasseh were given the land they  desired and they were faithful to their promise to fight with the other tribes until they had secured the land. 

My other passage is found in Galatians 2:11-21 and we have a surprisingly similar story. 
It happened like this. 
Peter travelled to Antioch to fellowship with the believers there. Peter, after his vision, had accepted that God's salvation was not just for the Jews but was also intended for the Gentiles. He was happy to eat with the Gentiles and enjoyed the mutual fellowship.  
But .. then certain men from James also came to Antioch -  Jews who were "of the circumcision", meaning that they believed that you had to be circumcised to be accepted by God.  Peter was afraid of their judgment of him eating with the Gentiles, and so he took the coward's way out.  Wanting to avoid confrontation he withdrew from the Gentile believers and sat only with the Jews.  And he wasn't the only one, others followed his example including even Barnabas!  
Peter was shocked and did not mince his words in criticizing the Jews' action to separate from the Gentile believers. He said "they were carried away with their hypocrisy."  

It is rather humbling to recognize that the Old Testament people refused to 'play the hypocrite' and separate from their brothers,  but the New testament believers who should have supported their brethren even under duress or persecution, failed.  
My lesson last week stressed how 'love' is the motivation that keeps us from sinning.  We see that played out in these two stories. 
The half tribe of Manasseh, children of Gad and  Rueben loved their brethren and were not even tempted to withdraw from them, to protect their own interests. 
Peter and even Barnabas who was known as "the encourager",  were not motivated by love, but rather their own self-interest.  
To Peter and Barnabas's credit, I believe they deeply regretted their cowardly actions and were never guilty of it again.  
Sometimes God lets us fail, because our subsequent  regret/sorrow/shame is a strong deterrent, keeping us from falling into that same error again!