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He Will Provide

Lessons from Cherith

The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down.  Psalm 145:14

We had come to Colorado after receiving the news – my mother-in-law’s constant bowel pain was the result of peritoneal cancer, a rare and deadly disease.  She had never fully recovered from her bout with uterine cancer diagnosed just 18 months prior.  Her markers were clear but this painful and never-ending pain in her stomach kept her sidelined.  We will never know why it wasn’t discovered sooner but there are blessings even in that.

And so, after setting her up on hospice and determining that additional in-home care wouldn’t be sufficient and was well beyond what my father-in-law could afford, I offered to stay longer.  As I said goodbye to my husband who needed to get back to San Diego for work, I was faced with my usual self-doubt.  “I’m not good at this kind of thing” I said to myself.  “I’m not a sweet, kind, compassionate person” I lamented.  “I never know what to say in difficult times” I fretted.  

I was scared to face day-to-day the woman I love as my own mother as she lay living out her last days.  I was worried about how to be around my quiet father-in-law.  I definitely was concerned how to handle all her friends who wanted to visit and needed a shoulder to cry on. And then I finally remembered God.

He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
    the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever. Psalm 111: 4-5

I went for a walk and soaked in the beauty of the Colorado mountains and realized I didn’t need to have all those gifts.  He has blessed me with so many other gifts that were needed – organizing, communication, and more.  And what I now needed was to lean on Him for the rest of what was required.  

My BSGs had just finished Shirley Giles Davis’ study book, God. Gifts. You. Which takes a deep dive into the list of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit.  Coincidently she lives and works in Boulder, Colorado, just a few miles from where I now found myself needing the strength of God’s gifts.  She reminded us that our gifts can be used for good and have their own pitfalls if used incorrectly.  She showed us how God’s beautiful world can only function properly when we appreciate and honor the intricate ways all people’s gifts are used in harmony.  

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me.  Psalms 55:16

And so, I called on God in humility.  I thanked Him for the blessings of financial security that helped me be there.  I listed in thankfulness the gifts of the Holy Spirit which have been endowed to me.  And I prayerfully spoke the following:

“Lord, I cannot do this without you.  I don’t have the right words for the right moments so I need the Holy Spirit to speak for me.  I don’t have the strength for this gracious Father.  I need you to keep me strong and lifted or I will fail.  Only through your loving grace, using my gifts that I have been blessed with and you filling in the rest will I be able to glorify you and help Bev and all those around her. Please Lord speak in place of my words and be my strength.” Amen

His intervention was immediate as He surrounded me with His love and peace.  All those worries and fears dissipated.  And for the next three weeks the Holy Spirit held me up and spoke for me.  He spoke to the friends who left Bev’s room crying in despair.  He spoke to family members who handle grief differently than me.  He spoke to Bev while I read her Psalms each day to comfort her.  And He kept me from being tired and weak.  I could wake at any hour with ease to administer medication, keep the house clean, and make meals for the ever changing number of people at the house.  He provided, just as He promises, just as He always has.

You are my strength, I sing praises to you; you, God are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.  Psalms 59:17

My BSGs recently completed Priscilla Shirer’s study on Elijah.  In her week 6 video she mentions the definition of faith as aligning our entire life with God’s 8,000 promises found in His Word.  Our faith doesn’t need to be some mysterious feeling that is undefinable.  It’s simple, when we believe God’s promises and live like we do then that is faith.  That’s what Elijah did when he went, as directed by God, to Cherith — a lonely, dry, desolate place. God provided in ways only He can with food delivered by ravens and just enough water to get by for about two years. Elijah knew he couldn’t make it on his own. He needed God to survive. All his knowledge and gifts weren’t going to help him. God would need to fill in where he was lacking.

Friends, God promises over and over to provide for us.  The Bible is filled with endless stories of His provision.  Our own lives are testimonies to those provisions.  Sometimes we just need to remember to humbly ask for Him to provide where we are weak and not gifted.

The morning my beloved Bev went to our Father I was blessed again to have God show me how much He had answered my prayer.  I needed some alone time so I decided to take a shower.  As I stood in the bathroom waiting for the water to warm up, I suddenly felt a huge weight press on me – like an anvil was placed on each shoulder.  I cried out in surprise and then it was gone.  I knew He was showing me what He had sheltered me from for the last few weeks.  And although I am still experiencing the grief of Bev being gone from this earth, that heavy weight has never returned.  I can thank God and the Holy Spirit for being my weight bearers.  And I can thank God that He will provide in our weakest moments.

Where in your life to do you need to ask for God’s provision?  
Where do you feel insufficient and weak?  Ask Him today He will provide!

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From Student to Teacher

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:46

“The teacher encourages
the student morphs – moth to beauteous butterfly soars” 

Mala Naidoo, author

When God directed me to start the Emboldened blog He also led me to a few simple quotes to put on the homepage. I didn’t know at the time one day I’d be using those quotes for this week’s study on Jesus and His teaching nature! Of the few quotes He led me to, I included this one by Joyce Meyer:

“If you leave church and are not convicted, asking questions, or emboldened then either you are at the wrong church or you weren’t paying attention.”

Joyce Meyer

How many times have you left church and within an hour couldn’t remember what the sermon was about?  You couldn’t even pull up the general topic in your memory?  

I recently heard someone say that we don’t go to church to sit and put in our “dues” to God.  It’s where we should 1) be rejuvenated for the mission and 2) get more training for the mission.  And the second we leave the doors of our “God classroom” we should be at the ready to embark on the commission which Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19. When church becomes a place where we leave just feeling like that was a “nice” experience, at best, or an obligation, at worst, we owe it to our personal faith progression to re-evaluate the situation.

When I started going to church my family ended up at a large Presbyterian church nearby.  The pastor was just what I needed at the time.  He was more counselor than teacher.  And when I left each Sunday I felt he had really spoken to the problems I was having and reminded me that God loved me.  The sermons were light on scripture, maybe one or two mentioned, and heavy on personal stories. But I soon found that sole message to be not quite enough.  I wanted to know more.  And the “teaching” sermons were what I gobbled up.   As my husband can attest, I’m very curious.  He constantly reminds me that I like to ask questions that seem to have no answers.  

As a developing Christian, we should all be asking questions about God.  If this “almighty being” is to be the center of our universe, the touchstone for how we live our lives, and the message we herald, shouldn’t we know everything we can know so we are prepared when sin enters our sphere?  So we can be prepared when a seeking, fellow man starts asking us questions?  

From learner to teacher.  That’s exactly the path Jesus took.  Here’s the rest of the scene when Jesus’ parents found him, as a boy, in the temple courts.

"Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers." Luke 2:47

And so, I constantly seek to learn more about this awesome God.  At the beginning of this year my husband and I were directed to a new church.  My son-in-law and his friend host a Christian men’s podcast called “Supplement the Faith.”  They heard on a local St. Louis radio station a show called “Core Christianity.”  The main host is Pastor Adriel Sanchez, who unbeknownst to me at the time, is a pastor in my town.  They raved about his sound, Christian doctrine and told us we had to go check him out. 

And so we went.  The music was not my favorite – very simple and traditional hymns.  The style of service was more formal than I was used to.  But when Pastor Adriel gave his sermon I realized I was listening to a teaching pastor.  That day, my church “program” was scribbled all over with notes!

In a brief period of time, I’ve learned a lot from and about Pastor Adriel.  He and his beautiful wife have four little children with another on the way.  This young pastor, who has led his fairly recently planted church for only about seven years, can be heard on the radio and podcast throughout the world via Core Christianity – which is a question and answer format.  His youthfulness stands in contrast to his calm, confident poise.  I recently asked Pastor Adriel if he’d be willing, in his busy schedule, to talk about his pastoral style.   

And if you are on your faith journey toward learning more about His Word, I encourage you to tune in to either Pastor Adriel’s sermons at North Park Presbyterian (PCA) or the Core Christianity podcast.  The questions asked on the podcast might just be something you get asked one day!

Kris:  You seem to be drawn toward being more of a “teaching” type pastor than say a “counselor” type.  How do you think you developed that style?

Pastor Adriel: I have a firm conviction that from the pulpit my job is to communicate God’s word clearly, and seek to apply it to the folks that God has entrusted to my care. Teaching or explaining the Bible is really important to me because I know that God’s word is the source of life. I do seek to provide biblical wisdom or counsel at times – but often that happens in the context of one on one conversations within the church.

K: Who are your favorite Christian authors/pastors?

PA: I love reading the Christian classics. St. Augustine’s Confessions, Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians, Calvin’s Institutes,  C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I nerd out on church history, so I really enjoy reading the early church fathers. As far as living authors are concerned, I like books by theologians like Michael Horton, and pastors like Tim Keller.

K: What got you involved in doing Core Christianity and the podcast?

PA: One of my seminary professors invited me to be on a podcast he had hosted for decades called the White Horse Inn. Over time, we started thinking about a new project that would reach a broader audience helping them to understand the core doctrines of Christianity. A lot of research has come out recently highlighting how little Christians know about their faith – so this was a huge need. Our goal has been to answer basic listener questions about the Bible and the Christian life, and in the process to point folks to Jesus and his gospel. As we grow in our understanding of God’s word, we’re enabled to love and serve God better. 

K: What do you like most about doing the podcast?

PA: I love the live element. I think it makes the show exciting, because we can’t really anticipate what kind of call we’re going to get. As a pastor, I also love it when I’m able to answer a question for someone and I can tell audibly that they’re encouraged by God’s word. 

K: What are the most frequent topics you get asked?

PA: Questions related to marriage, assurance of salvation, finding a good church, and how to properly apply God’s law are common from our audience. Depending on what’s going on in our broader society, we also will get questions on current events. 

K: What question have you gotten that “stumped” you? And what was the funniest question?

PA: Never been stumped! Just kidding. Actually, sometimes we get very obscure Bible questions, or questions for which there is no clear biblical answer. I find those questions to be the most difficult to handle. As far as the funniest question we’ve received… not long ago someone asked if there were fish on the ark too. That one made me chuckle. 

K:  Which book of the Bible do you enjoy teaching the most and why?

PA: I find that whichever book I am preaching through tends to become my favorite book for that season. Believe it or not, I had a ton of fun preaching through Leviticus a couple of years back. I also really enjoy preaching through the Gospels. I preached through Mark early in my ministry, and like to revisit the Gospels from time to time in-between other books. 

K: Which book seems to be the most misunderstood?

PA: As I field questions about the Bible, I think one book that’s frequently misunderstood is Galatians. Many believers don’t have a proper understanding of the distinction between the law, and the gospel, and they struggle to understand how God’s law (and various OT commandments) are to be applied today. Galatians is helpful because it speaks to this kind of problem. 

K: Do you see value in studying the entire Bible — not just the New Testament — and why?

PA: Absolutely. Jesus said in John 5 that Moses wrote of him, and in Luke 24 that the entire Bible was about him. The entire Bible gives us a glorious picture of redemptive history, and each story in that history is meant to instruct us in one way or another (1 Cor. 10:11). If you don’t study the Old Testament, you’ll miss out on so many of the riches in the New Testament, and you’ll miss out on Jesus as he’s revealed in the types and shadows of the Old Covenant. 

K: What are your overall personal goals as a pastor for say the next 5 years? 10 years?

PA: Honestly, I just want to be a good husband, a good dad, and a faithful pastor. My goal is to grow in that for the next 5-10 years. 

Thank you to Pastor Adriel for his time!  Whether it be through a teaching pastor, Bible study groups/individual, Christian authors, a radio show or Christian podcast, these days we have so many resources at our fingertips to get to know God.   As Christians, we must make it a priority to place this knowledge of His ways firmly at the forefront of our lives.

I wanted to leave you today with this quote about being a learning and then teaching Christian:

He who asks will have; what more did he ask for? But he who seeks will go further; he will find, will enjoy, will grasp, and will know that he has obtained. He who knocks will go further still, for he will understand, and to him will the precious thing be opened. He will not merely have the blessing and enjoy it, but he will comprehend it.  

Charles Spurgeon

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His Will Be Done

Lesson #11: God is sovereign over all, even unbelievers

“The day of the LORD is near 
for all nations.” 
Obadiah 1:15

There’s a song one of my previous churches used to sing a lot that goes, “Our God is an awesome God.”  That refrain is sung over and over throughout the song.  I’ve always thought that wording was a bit odd.  If we have “our God” then which “god” does anyone else have?  Once, after a service, I went up to the pastor and asked him that question.  I said, “Shouldn’t that song just say, ‘God is awesome?’”  He replied that he’d never thought about it before.  So again, there I was asking the weird questions.  As someone who not only likes to talk but also write,  I sincerely believe that words matter – even words we sing.

In our verse today from the prophet Obadiah he makes it clear throughout the prophecy that there is no “our God” or “your god” but only one God – the God of the Universe, God the Creator of All.  

“The God who made the world and 
everything in it is the Lord of 
heaven and earth and does not live 
in temples built by human hands. 
And he is not served by human hands, 
as if he needed anything. Rather, he 
himself gives everyone life and 
breath and everything else. From 
one man he made all the nations, that 
they should inhabit the whole earth; 
and he marked out their appointed times 
in history and the boundaries of 
their lands.” 
Acts 17:23-26

As Christians it can be dangerous to fall into the trap of “our God.”  It leads us to forget that God’s judgement comes to all, eventually.  So, we get outraged over the seeming lack of justice in our human concept of time.  We forget that God doesn’t just have expectations of us, as His faithful believers, but also of those who have chosen not to believe.  Non-believers don’t get a “free pass,” in the realm of eternity. 

Were there even one datum of knowledge, however small, un-known to God, His rule would break down at that point. To be Lord over all the creation, He must possess all knowledge. And were God lacking one infinitesimal modicum of power, that lack would end His reign and undo His kingdom; that one stray atom of power would belong to someone else and God would be a limited ruler and hence not sovereign.

A.W. Tozer

Even when I was, as a what can only be called a “Christian-lite,” I had to laugh when people put limits on God’s authority and ability.  If you listen to an atheist, you’ll hear all the limits they wish to place on a being that is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. Their expectation is if they can’t figure it out then it just isn’t true.

“It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances. We take such liberties with our circumstances, we do not believe God engineers them, although we say we do; we treat the things that happen as if they were engineered by men.

Oswald Chambers

The atheist can be forgiven because, for whatever reason, God has yet to open their eyes to Him.  But for the Christian to place limits on God is to deny His sovereignty.  As stated in the above quote by Oswald Chambers, we Christians sometimes opt for the “coincidence” excuse when God answers our prayers.  Or we take complete credit for the win or the loss.  Or worse yet, we just assume God won’t or can’t answer our prayers.

So much of our issue with God’s sovereignty comes back to our limited sense of time.  We live in a blink of God’s eye.  And yet we have the gift of looking back over the history of God’s work in our human existence and see His hand throughout.  I heard a good analogy of how God’s timing works along with the issue of free will:

“Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities (God). Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.

On board the liner are several scores of passengers (Mankind). These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.

Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other. So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history. God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfilment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began. We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been disclosed to furnish us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us good hope and firm assurance of future well-being.” A.W. Tozer

One of greatest prophesies in the Old Testament is Isaiah 53 and one in which all Christians should be well versed.  He writes of the coming of God’s Son, Jesus.  Isaiah was called into ministry in 739 B.C.  And when you read his prophesy of Jesus you can’t help but be amazed of the details which came true.  That’s because God has a plan.  He has a plan for every single one of us – believer and non-believer.  He uses bad circumstances to bring us closer to Him, if we choose.  He never makes a mistake. He never has a “Plan B.”  

Our human story that started with Adam and Eve was not a mistake.  It is all going according to plan.  It may not seem, in our small timeframe, to be going all that well right now.  But that is the beauty of faith.  Today, during a meeting of my BSGs, we shared how during this pandemic there has been some amazing blessings.  Yes, a lot of not so great things have happened.  But each of us could share how God has used this terrible time as a means for sanctification in our lives.  

His sovereignty means we can hold on to all of the promises He has made.  God is not a covenant breaker.  If anything, it’s us that likes to break covenants.  Our ocean liner is on a steady path to the glorious port He has waiting for us.  It’s up to us to decide to have faith in our captain that He will get us through any squalls.  Some of us will jump ship thinking we know better.  Some might even try to take over the ship and turn it around.  But God’s will never fails.  So, let’s enjoy the ride and know He will bring us home. 

“Good is not always God’s will, but God’s will is always good.” 

Watchman Nee
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A Tiny Message #2

So, what do we do when a prominent member of our church or a Christian friend has fallen off  Jesus’ path?  First, let’s remember that every single person sitting in a church is actively sinning in one way or another.  As Christians, we acknowledge that Jesus didn’t come to save us so we can keep on sinning.  He came to create a new covenant – that by stating our faith in Him we are saved from eternal damnation from sin.  And through that faith we are to work daily being the best example of His people as possible.   (Eph. 4:22-24)

When the teachers of the law 
who were Pharisees saw him eating 
with the sinners and tax collectors, 
they asked his disciples: “Why does 
he eat with tax collectors and 
sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus 
said to them, “It is not the healthy 
who need a doctor, but the sick. I 
have not come to call the righteous, 
but sinners.” 
Mark 2:16-17

If it’s ok to say to a Christian friend who confesses their issues they have with pride that we love them, then it’s also ok to say to a church leader who has an extramarital affair that we love him as well.  And just like our prideful friend, we are challenged to help that church leader find his way back into the truth of God’s Word.  

Notice that Jesus says He came to be a doctor of sorts. He didn’t say He was just going to ignore sin and allow it to grow like a cancer. We should be surrounded with loving people who remind us of our place in the covenant with Jesus.  We are our brother’s keeper.  

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Send Me!

Now if you obey me fully 
and keep my covenant, then 
out of all nations you will 
be my treasured possession. 
Exodus 19:5

A prayer to act when directed by God

Dear God, I used to think that my faith was solely a personal, spiritual pursuit.  But I keep hearing the word “obey.”  I admit that obeying isn’t a comfortable word for me.  It implies me giving up something for someone else.  In your covenant world however, “obey” just means holding up my end of the bargain.  You are always faithful, LORD, and I need to be faithful as well.  James said it best when he admonished us to be “doers of the Word, not just hearers.”  Sometimes I allow the world to drown out your Holy Spirit who speaks your will to me.  Or I worry that I’m not worthy or ready to do your work. But I’m tuning in to you and listening, watching, and anticipating for your direction.  Give me opportunities to be your hands, your feet and your heart.  I will obey.  In your Son’s name I pray this.  Amen


One of my BSGs shared with us the other day how she was one of those Christians who claimed to never hear God direct her.  That isn’t the case any longer.  He’s been nudging her so hard she may almost have a bruise on her back!  She shared how she bought 10- $5 coffee gift cards from a locally owned coffee shop.  At random she is handing them out telling people, “God has blessed me so much this year and I want to share in the blessing.”  She told us of approaching a policeman and giving him a card.  He looked surprised.  When she walked away, she heard him on his radio exclaiming, “You won’t believe what just happened.”

Isn’t that awesome!  I want some of that God-goodness!  He speaks to us through His Word, Jesus’ teachings, and the Holy Spirit.  He tells us how to treat the poor, the downtrodden, the sick, our neighbor, our loved ones, and the stranger.  When we feel that nudge and the nudge feels like God, it can never be wrong.

I love the story of Isaiah and his vision amongst the angels.  He first sees himself unworthy of being in the presence of heavenly beings.  So, what does he do?  He cries out, “For I am a man of unclean lips.”  In other words, he prays for help with his unworthiness.  And an angel touches his lips with burning coal (ouch) to take away his guilt and sin.  And then the real action takes place.

Then I heard the voice of 
the Lord saying, “Whom shall 
I send? And who will go for us?” 
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah 6:8

He “hears to voice of the Lord” make an urgent request.  God needs volunteers to spread His message of love and hope.  And when we Christians accepted the covenant promise of Jesus, that left us a spot to sign on the dotted line to volunteer for that service.  

When others step to the back of the line we need to learn to step forward.  Not hang out waiting for thunder and lightning to give us a loud message.  We need to be ready to jump at a moment’s notice – not only that, but be so excited to say, “Here am I.  Send me!”

I want to wake up every day in anticipation of the work He wants done through me.  And I want to go to bed looking forward to another chance tomorrow.  I’m listening LORD.  Send me.

If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!

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A Promised Return

The desert and the parched land 
will be glad;the wilderness will 
rejoice and blossom. 
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
Isaiah 35:1-2

It was only just recently that I heard the concept of a “return to the Garden.”  I mean I’m quite familiar with the promise of eternity but I just never made the full circle of an opening of the guarded Eden gates.

These past few weeks as myself, Todd and Madison have been reminded of the many promises of God, I keep hearing the word I have heard for more than a year – “obey.”  With each promise there is a covenant agreement.  God is sure and trustworthy about His side of the covenant.  But we “mule-like” humans struggle to hold on to God tightly and sign at the bottom line.  I wonder if it really just boils down to that little bit inside of us that doesn’t fully believe.

On March 26, 1997, San Diego Sheriff’s deputies discovered the bodies of 39 members of the group, Heaven’s Gate.  The home where the bodies were found is just a stone’s throw from my own home.  If you don’t recall their beliefs, I’ll give you a brief summary.  The leaders, using the Bible and science fiction works by Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke convinced their followers that extraterrestrial beings were clearly mentioned in the Book of Revelation.  And the comet Hale-Bopp, was the sign for them to give up their early bodies and hitch a ride to the heavens.  They twisted a lot of theology to meet their beliefs.

Sometimes when I’m talking about the concept of Jesus, salvation and eternity I think about those Heaven’s Gate souls and wonder if I sound just as crazy to non-believers.  I shy away from talking about God and loosen my grip on Him. Of course, one of the large differences is that God never asks us to speed up the date and time of the end of our days here on Earth.  And we have been constantly assured that we cannot know the hour of Jesus’ return.

But that return is definitely promised.  And if we believe that God is the creator, the sovereign LORD overall, then we must also believe in our return to the Garden. 

The prophecy from Isaiah in 35:1-2 was written as a message of hope for the people of Jerusalem.  It’s likely the Assyrians had ravaged all the nearby cities and had made the roads too dangerous on which to travel.  The people, as Warren Wiersbe says in his commentary, “Were cooped up in Jerusalem, wondering what would happen next.”  Sound familiar?

He goes on to write that the faithful were praying continuously to God for hope and relief.  And God answered their prayers.  As He had done so many times before and since. 

“The time has come,” he said. 
“The kingdom of God has come near. 
Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark 1:15

How many jokes have we seen and heard related to this verse?  And yet it is surely true.  Jesus himself makes this statement.  I heard an evangelist pastor say once, “I don’t know when Jesus is returning and we will see the Garden again, but the time is certainly nearer than it was yesterday!”

It’s said that the new Garden will be even more magnificent than the first.  And although that sounds wonderful, I’ll be joy-filled just to be able to have my name written on the list to enter any type of garden God has for me.  

Each day I am here on this Earth is another day to hold on tightly to God’s promises and obey and believe.  Each day we are here is another gift God gives us to step out of our comfort zones, out of our cooped up lives and work on putting just one more name on that list. 

I hope you have enjoyed these 25 Promises of God through the Book of Isaiah.  Please join me for our next series titled, “Pray It Till You Make It!”  It’s a focus on praying to be the people we know God wants us to be and watching the transformation work He does in us! 

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A Tug-o-War

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
    you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 1:18-20

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a bit of a tug-o-war with God.  He’s trying to get me over that line and I keep resisting – pulling back to my way of doing things.  Like a two-year old saying, “I can do it myself,” I resist the pull of God because I think I know better.  

Have you ever been in a tug-o-war and the other side decides to completely let go?  Your side is pulling so hard you all tumble to the ground.  Even though the other side knows they’ll lose they think it’s hilarious to see the results.  It’s a dirty trick.  Thankfully God promises to never let go of His end.  His grace and forgiveness keep me upright even when I pull on that opposite end with all my might.

When I am weak and give in to my earthly ways God gives me grace and forgiveness.  I want to resist and rebel.  He works in so many ways to pull me back toward Him.

But he said to me, “My grace is 
sufficient for you, for my power 
is made perfect in weakness.”   
Therefore, I will boast all the 
more gladly about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

The context of that verse is Paul writing to the people of Corinth and sharing a constant pain he endured.  He pleaded with God three times to remove the thorn in his side (we don’t know exactly what the thorn was).  And God replied that His grace is sufficient.  How many times have we complained, maybe just today alone, to God to remove something from our lives?  That’s not to say that He won’t.  But He reminds us that sometimes we must be weak to truly rely on Him.

Sometimes God does meet the need by substitution (ie health instead of sickness); but other times He meets the need by transformation.  He gives us His grace so that the affliction works for us and not against us.

Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Commentary, New Testament 

At times when we pray for God to remove something awful in our lives and He doesn’t perform the way we expect, we then enter into that tug-o-war game.  Pulling into our own ways of “fixing things” ourselves, complaining, or even turning our backs on God by letting go of our end of the rope.  We give in to our idols, our wants and needs.

We should remember the saying that God, through grace, gives us what we do not deserve, and in His mercy, He does not give us what we do deserve.  So, when situations do not turn out as we have directed God, we need to pray to God to help us see what He wants us to see.  To help us understand what He wants us to understand.

God does not require us to understand His will, just obey it, even if it seems unreasonable. Life Principle # 5

Dr. Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principles

When we allow God to pull us back toward Him, He showers us with His mercy and forgiveness.  He cleanses our crimson souls to be white as snow.  And another covenant agreement is balanced at both ends of the rope.

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Always With Us

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you 
are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43:1-3

Around the holidays we inevitably start seeing helpful news stories on how to deal with our families at social gatherings. How to handle the uncle who drinks too much.  What topics not to bring up around your opposite political leaning parents.  And yet we still attend these family events.  Why? Because they are our family and we still love them.  It’s amazing what we will put up with when it comes to family.  

That idea of “blood being thicker than water” keeps us closely tethered to our loved ones.  It reminds me of those pre-school ropes with little fabric rings the children hold on to so they don’t wander off and get lost.  The teacher admonishes the children to grab hold of their ring tightly so the little family stays together.  And if Jimmy gets distracted and starts to head in a different direction, the group pulls him back in.

Now imagine God as our head of household.  He provided the roof over your head, the food for the feast and the gifts about to be received.  He created that uncle, your parents, and even that really weird cousin.  And He calls you His child.  He calls us to grab hold of our place on His family rope so we don’t get lost.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, 
neither slave nor free, nor is there 
male and female, for you are all 
one in Christ Jesus. If you belong 
to Christ, then you are Abraham’s 
seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:28-29

We drink too much.  We gossip.  We steal.  We withhold forgiveness and mercy.  We look to the world for guidance.  We work so hard to let go of God’s tether and yet He sticks with us.  He still shows up.  He never leaves us.  We are his. He is Immanuel — God is with us.

I was reading a prayer by Charles Spurgeon called “The Presence of the Word.”  He describes God’s Holy Word as always being with us.  The divine teachings through the Bible are at our fingertips, on our mind and at the ready whenever we need Him.  

“Oh, let it (Your Word) be in us a living seed that will produce in us a life acceptable before God…..Lord, we ask that your Word may chasten us whenever we go astray.  May it enlighten us whenever for a moment we get into darkness.”

Charles Spurgeon

If we make the mistake that the Bible was written long ago and has little or no connection to our life, we have attempted to untethered ourselves from God.  He is always with us through His living Word.  The Bible is meant for us right now — to be His constant voice and sense of being part of His family.  

My son, keep your father’s command
and do not forsake your mother’s 
teaching.
Bind them always on your heart;
fasten them around your neck.
When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch 
over you;
when you awake, they will speak 
to you.
For this command is a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
are the way to life.
Proverbs 6:20-23

When we keep the Word of God tethered to our heart and mind, He is sure to be always with us.  You might say, “I’m not good about memorizing scripture.”  But here’s a little secret: So much of our lives are already seeped in God’s Words and commandments.  We can all probably list a few of the 10 commandments right here and now.  And if we were to stick with those the rest of our lives and truly follow them, we’d be closely tethered through eternity.

But His Word has so much more wisdom and comfort available to us.  The first verse I truly memorized was:

Be still and know that I am God.
Proverbs 46:10 

And it’s funny.  As soon as I decided to try and remember that verse it started popping up everywhere!  God was with me, guiding me, encouraging me to remember.  Like a parent cheering on a baby taking her first steps.

He promises to never leave us.  We were called to Him by name.  We are His.  And when we feel the pull of that blood to bring us back home, we need to show up — be the other half of the covenant.  Our family is not complete without you.

Therefore go and make disciples 
of all nations,baptizing them 
in the name of the Father and 
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 
and teaching them to obey everything 
I have commanded you. And surely I 
am with you always, to the very end 
of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20
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His Lifeline of Love

In a surge of anger I hid my 
face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah 
would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry 
with you,never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken 
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will
not be shaken nor my covenant of 
peace be removed,” says the Lord, 
who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

I recently stumbled upon these verses while doing a study of Genesis. As you read above, verse nine discusses “the days of Noah” and recounts the covenant God made with Noah after the flood waters receded. Noah then built an altar in remembrance of all from which God had delivered him. In witnessing Noah’s obedience, God established a covenant of peace with Noah, promising him that never again would he wipe out all of mankind in anger (Gen. 8:20-22). 

When God called Noah to build the ark and spared his family from the worldwide destruction, God extended Noah a lifeline of love. Because he had compassion on Noah and truly loved mankind, God created a way out of death by giving Noah clear guidance for surviving the flood.

God showed Noah that while yes, sin had entered the world and man was disobedient, that He still loved His creation. We often get caught up on God’s wrath by sending the flood in the first place. Mass destruction and death seems a bit harsh. But if God was so harsh, then why did he save Noah? He could’ve wiped out all of mankind on Earth and started over, but His steadfast love for Noah and his offspring prevailed. God showed Noah that no matter how bad things got on Earth, His lifeline of love would always be there for those who trust in Him with complete obedience. 

That lifeline shown to Noah, is Jesus. When the Lord states, in Isaiah 54:10, that his steadfast love shall not depart from you – He is talking about His son Jesus. You see, from Noah until now, we as believers all still hold on to the same lifeline that Noah, Abraham, Moses and David held onto.

The covenant God established with all those men was the covenant of His Son. The promise that one day, there would be complete restoration of all sinners who call on His name and that those holding on to the lifeline of His steadfast love, would all be brought into the glories of heaven. 

Though 2020 has seemed like a worldwide disaster – think again. There will be the day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord because of the power of God they see all around them. God’s steadfast love for us believers never expires. We have the eternal hope of God’s love forever – into eternity. 

This is love: not that we loved God, 
but that he loved us and sent his 
Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10

Until then, we hold fast to His lifeline of love. Hold fast to the God that established His covenant with ordinary people like Noah and Abraham and you and me. Through His son Jesus Christ, he once again established his eternal love with us – until the day we see him again. 

God’s love is abundant to those who trust in Him. He cares for us and loves us as His children – are you resting in that truth today?  Have you accepted your side of the covenant?

Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Isaiah 43:4
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His Promised Freedom

“I, the Lord, have called you in 
righteousness;
    I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
    to be a covenant for the people
    and a light for the Gentiles,
 to open eyes that are blind,
    to free captives from prison
    and to release from the dungeon 
those who sit in darkness.
Isaiah 42:6-7

In the United States, during particularly heated political disagreements, you’ll hear a lot about an issue’s “constitutionality.”   The United States Constitution is our country’s guardrails.  It’s our safety net and our guiding path for laws.  To many, it was a divinely created document.  The wisdom and foresight our founding fathers had when creating it was nothing short of amazing.  

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Preamble, United States Constitution

The precursor to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, was a bold statement by many of the same people.  For some, it was like signing their own death warrant.  But the goal of both was not to create a new kingdom where one man would rule the peasants.  No, it was to place God firmly as the head and the people to organize and live in His ways.  Lest anyone try to convince you different, a visit to the highest court in the United States – the Supreme Court – will show images of Moses and the Ten Commandments in both sculpture and engraving form.  Enshrined on the bronze doors of the Chief Justice of the court you will find these same images.  

And although the Ten Commandments and the US Constitution have the commonality of “do not” in their directives, so much of what they are purposed to do is about freedom.  The Constitution, unlike many world government founding documents, is about limiting what the government can do to its citizens – giving a wide berth to freedom.  And the basis is that our freedoms are given by God and God alone.  

Likewise, God’s plan and promise for us is about freedom.  When we accept Him as our safety net, our guiding path, He removes not just the past sin, but puts us on the path to removing the future desire to sin.  He takes the alcoholic and the drug addict and the sexually immoral out of their old ways and leads them to freedom.  He opens our eyes to His love and compels us to live in our new selves by loving others as Christ loves us.  He removes the fears and anxieties that imprison us by giving us eternal life.  

I lived a lot of my life as a “woulda,” “coulda,” shoulda,” person.  It was a prison of my own making.  And the world was happy to hold the key.  I never felt good enough or kind enough or smart enough.  I looked out of my prison bars at people that seemed happy and fulfilled.  I allowed competitiveness and outrage and hurt and worldly desires take control of my heart, mind and soul.  I sat in the darkness of the dungeon.

By all accounts I looked to have a perfect life.  A very busy and active life.  But I prayed constantly for joy and peace and lightness of spirit.  Yes, you got that right – I was a believer and still felt this way.  And one day I realized I believed but I didn’t follow.  You see, we can believe in all kinds of things but then not pay much attention to them.   There are many people in the United States that understand the laws and Constitution but choose not to follow what it says.  That leads to tumult and strife.  I believed in God but I didn’t believe God. I read the Bible but didn’t put my full faith and trust in its directives and lessons.

Therefore, if the Son makes you free, 
you shall be free indeed.
John 8:36

The day I decided to grab hold of God’s safety net was the day He smiled at me and said, “Finally.”  It set me firmly on His path to removing the old me and old lies and refocusing my sights on what God wants from me. It was freeing.  My eyes are truly open and my prison bars have melted away. I have chosen not to dance around the hard lessons of the Bible, His Word. And in doing so I have found my life so much simpler.

For those who are led by the 
Spirit of God are the children 
of God. The Spirit you received 
does not make you slaves, so that 
you live in fear again; rather, 
the Spirit you received brought 
about your adoption to sonship.
Romans 8:14-15

We are so good at disobedience — since the beginning of time. And we don’t like people to tell us what to do. And for many, following God is seen as taking away freedoms. It’s true, we aren’t to engage in any number of sinful behaviors. But time and time again society proves that so much of that behavior creates bondage rather than freedom.

When we follow the laws of our communities, we find ourselves in safer and calmer environments.  When we follow and believe God, He opens our eyes and unlocks our prison doors.  He promises a life of joy, a love greater than we can ever know, and eternal salvation.