THE HOMESTEAD

The term “homestead” means a family’s home, including the house and any other buildings or lands that go with it.  Often, we think of it in terms of a large tract of land, but that is not necessarily required.

However, there is an area in Tennessee, along the Cumberland Plateau, where a New Deal Subsistence Homesteads community was built.  There were about 100 of these communities throughout the country and the Tennessee community is evidence of the ingenuity, hard work and dedication that these folks had.

Of the initial 233 families selected for the Cumberland Homesteads project, 30% were distressed farmers, 30% were unemployed miners, 30% were unemployed textile workers, and 10% were struggling professionals (including teachers, nurses, and a doctor).  Architect William Macy Stanton, who designed a number of buildings in TVA’s planned city of Norris, created the basic design for the homes and other buildings at the Homesteads. The community’s first stone houses were completed in late 1934.  

Although the original purpose of the Homesteads project failed, the community survived, and over half the farms remained in the hands of original homesteaders through the 1950s. Indeed, the homestead house design is still visible if you drive through the area.  There may be some additional rooms added, but the basic homestead house design is still identifiable.

I was speaking with a gentleman who was a child when his parents received a homestead.  He said that they would build the barn first, because that would house the animals that they needed for food and it would hold whatever equipment that they had to use on the farm. 

He laughed and said that, since there was no glass on the barn windows, the rain would come in through the window openings.  That meant that they needed to see which way the wind was blowing so that they could move their hay mattresses and clothing to the other side of the barn so they would not get wet.  This was a vivid memory, and I suspect he could feel the damp hay even as we were speaking.

Homestead water tower

The Homesteads water tower provided a source of water as well as serving as the social headquarters for the community. 

Today, the water tower building is used as a museum recording the existence and perseverance of the community that thrived there almost 100 years ago.  In the museum area, there are hundreds of letters, pictures, and personal items, many of which provide an interesting view of life in the rural Cumberland mountains.

Homestead museum 3 revised

The typical homestead house was made from the stones that were on the property itself!

Homestead museum 5 revised

Telephone communication was certainly not something that could fit in your pocket!  In fact, you will notice that the only way to speak into the phone was to put your mouth up at the phone itself.  You would hear by using the ear piece attached by a cord hanging on the side of the phone box.

Homestead museum 7 revised

This is a picture of a Conlon Zephyr which was a type of ironing machine. Indeed, this was state-of-the-art in the mid-1930s.  The little sign on the fabric reads:

“Flowered feed sacks were welcomed bonuses for the farm wife. She carefully chose her colors and patterns for making dresses, quilts, curtains, etc.”

Homestead museum 10 revised

The wood stove kept things toasty in the kitchen, likely the area most folks would congregate during the harsh winter on the plateau.

In our world, things always are subject to change.  Today in 2018, we in the United States certainly do not live like they did in the 1930s.  We have electricity and we have cell phones.  Most of us don’t use feed sacks for curtains or clothes.  Some would argue, I suspect, that some of the changes in modern days are not for the better, while other changes have surely made our lives significantly easier.  But like them or not, changes have, and will, come.  Things change.

But there is One who does not change, and I am referring to our God and Father.  Scripture says:

“”For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Malachi 3:6

God, Himself, is saying that He does not change – a characteristic that is totally foreign to us.  He is immutable.  He is the same today as He was before creation even existed. And, He will be the same when time is no more.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

Christ’s divinity and His immutable nature is highlighted by the writer of Hebrews when he says:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8  

Praise the Lord that He is unchanging and that His promises are, therefore, secure.  This gives the believer security to know that when we have been adopted into God’s family through faith, we can trust God not to change His mind and “unadopt” us because of something we have done. 

No man can slip through His fingers into the breach of hell if that person is a child of God and has expressed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God neither changes His plan, His covenants, His prophecies, nor His justice. In other words, God is dependable – God is immutable, unchangeable!

While things change in our world, we can be secure in the knowledge and conviction that our God does not change.  His perfect plan for us will be accomplished no matter what the circumstances surrounding us may be.  Thank Him, today, for His wondrous love and mighty strength to keep us in His arms throughout the turmoil and change that we see all around us.

Father, the old hymn says “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand” and those words are true.  Christ is the Rock on which I stand when all else around me is tumbling and changing, when the world is rushing to evil and violence, when even Your people are abandoning Your Word.  Father, I pray that my Homestead is in heaven, secure in the grip of Christ my Savior.  I further pray that You would use these thoughts to encourage, challenge and strengthen those who read them. May Your Spirit move in our world, today.

WHO DO YOU IMITATE?

Although he lived long before anyone reading this post was born, Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) rendered a quotation that many of us know today.  He was an English cleric who was also a writer and collector.  His book, including collections of comments and short essays were wildly popular in their day.  One of his most famous quotes which is still in use today is: “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery”.

Imitation.  Children imitate their parents/caregivers all the time.  We were taking care of a young girl while her mother took some night classes at a nearby school.  She was looking at a Golden Book that we had in the house when she began “reading” to us, as her nursery school teacher would do.  She held the book in her hands and looked at the pages, then turned the book facing us and said “Blah, blah, blah, I don’t want to hear about it!”  After saying this, she turned the page and looked at the next two pages, again flipping the book to face us and repeat the same sing-song-phrase. 

Clearly, this young girl was not actually “reading” the printed word, but she was repeating what she regularly heard at home, complete with the intonation that comes from frustration or anger.  Imitation. 

Even if we are adults, don’t think that our days of imitation are over.  We still imitate others. 

When we were in England a number of years ago, we went to Abbey Road in London.  Since some in our family were alive when the Beatles walked across that road, we had to do so as well.  This is our impression of the Beatles’ classic album cover.

Abbey road

It was a great deal of fun to imitate that walk, although it did not bring us any fame, just some honks by irritated drivers!

On a much more serious note, imitation can take on eternal consequences.  For example, we are to imitate the good that other Christians do in their lives.

“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”

3 John 1:11

Most of all, we are to imitate the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior.  After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them to imitate His actions.

“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

John 13:15

He also said:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

John 13:34

Eternal consequences, you may ask?  What if I don’t want to imitate Jesus?

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:15

“If you … [then] you…”  The opposite of this, of course, is that if we do not keep His commandments, then we do not actually love Him even if our lips try to say otherwise.

The writer of Hebrews said that we are to imitate the faith of our leaders who faithfully brought the Word of God to us.

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

Hebrews 13:7

Paul put it this way:

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

1 Corinthians 4:15-16

Two questions, thus, come to mind.

  1. Are you obeying Christ’s commandments? Do you love others and serve them in His name?  If not, why not?  Do you really know Jesus Christ as your Savior or are you playing Christian, rather like playing a part in a play? 
  2. Is your life, your witness, your love for the Lord such that you could say the same thing that Paul said? “I urge you to imitate me.”  Is your way of life revealing the strength of faith you have in Jesus Christ?  If not, why not?  If so, can others find Jesus Christ by imitating you?

Imitation.  So easy that a child can do it.  So hard that many will run from its demands.  So much a blessing that it provides grace and abundant living in the here and now, as well as forever more.

Father, I pray that I would be a witness for Your Son, Jesus Christ and that Your Spirit would strengthen me as I seek to imitate Him and His love for others.  Enable me to live so that others can imitate me and grow stronger in their faith and in their devotion to my Lord.

ABANDONED

As we were driving through a neighboring town, we spotted a large retail complex with the high parking lot light, the mesh screens to keep the merchandise intact, with the promise of more goodies in the adjacent building.  On the property just next to this complex was this small building, that had clearly been abandoned some time earlier.

 Abandoned broken down building cropped

As we looked at it, I wondered what stories that building could tell, and what had happened to reduce it to crumbling timbers.   

Another example of abandonment that we saw on a trip through Colorado is this mining camp, high in the mountains of the Rocky Mountain Range. 

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains 2

 

A closer look at this site reveals that this camp was destroyed by the ravages of time and weather.  When it closed, nothing could save it from the destruction that comes with abandonment.

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains

The problem is that buildings are not the only things that are affected by abandonment.  It is a sad and distasteful statement to make, but the reality is that people are abandoned on a regular basis.

Human relationships are frequently conditional, and often people are abandoned when they have done something that is distasteful to another, and that person abandons the relationship, walking away and leaving the first person alone and sometimes destitute.  Consider the wife who is told that her husband wants a divorce because she no longer pleases him.  He walks out, and she is emotionally, and often, physically and financially abandoned.

Or, consider the employee who has spent decades working for the benefit of the company, only to be told that his efforts are not longer required because technology has rendered his job obsolete.  He is abandoned by his employer and he finds himself without a meaningful job and, sometimes, without means to care for himself or his family.

While it seems the situation is stark and there is no refuge to which to turn, there is One who will not abandon His children – the Lord Jesus Christ.

When the Israelites were facing a severe challenge in the wilderness wanderings, Moses told them:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

This comforting truth was brought from the Old Testament into the New Testament when the writer of Hebrews said:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.“”

Hebrews 13:5

The Psalmist assured us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that:

“For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage;”

Psalm 94:14

Jesus, Himself, told His disciples these comforting words taken from John 14:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Verses 16-18

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Verses 26-27

What comfort and what encouragement, even if you feel abandoned by all others, Jesus has said that He will not leave His sheep, His children, as orphans.  Rather, He will send the Holy Spirit to be within each believer in Him.  The Holy Spirit will teach the believer all that he/she is to know.  The Holy Spirit will encourage and strengthen the believer so that there is no fear.  In place of fear there will be heavenly peace that is sent from Jesus Himself. 

Note, this is not a blank check so that you can get whatever material stuff you want! 

This is a free gift that will provide all the peace and comfort that you need, whenever you need it.  It will provide courage and strength to face whatever is ahead of you, even that which you don’t recognize today.  There is no reason to fear because your Lord and Savior is with you.

This is a free gift with no limit because your debt has been paid in full by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.  You are debt free. That does not mean that you will not sin any more, believers in Christ are not immune from the temptation to sin, but the Spirit gives us the strength to withstand sin.  And, if we yield to tht temptation, confession and repentance will restore us to the peaceful relationship we can have with our Lord.

Abandoned?  I personally know that it is a scary time, but you are not alone if you are in Christ Jesus.  It is not an easy time, and getting through the trial will probably take more time than you like, but God’s schedule is eternal and not limited to our minutes.  He can give you peace moment by moment, as He directs you to those who can assist with your needs.  While God is with you each moment of this trial, His renovation of your spirit and your outlook may take some time, but it is a transformation that is worth the wait!

Often, when something is abandoned, there is a remarkable new structure that is ultimately built exactly where the abandoned building had stood.  When we feel we are abandoned, God can take this time to rebuild and refortify us so that we can serve Him in a new way. 

Rest in the Lord, and let Him overwhelm you with His peace, as He prepares you for your next adventure in the life with Christ.

Father, I thank You that You are the master builder who can transform an abandoned individual into someone who lives for You and who loves Your Son.  Thank You for not leaving us as orphans in this hard land; and thank You for the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, a peace that passes all understanding.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD — IMMANENCE AND IMMUTABILITY

Today we are considering two aspects of God’s nature that we almost never think about, but which are aspects of the majesty of God with respect to His relationship with us – Immanence and Immutability.

IMMANENCE

Immanence is a fancy way of saying God is with us, always.  Our God is at hand and He works even through the minutiae of our lives to produce a love for and enjoyment of His Word and, in fact, of Himself.  This attribute is in direct opposition to the concept that God established the world and then just walked away and left it to spiral wherever it wanted to go.  That God did not involve Himself with the creation; once the creation was done, He was finished with it and things could go well or poorly and God didn’t really care.

In Jeremiah, God asks:

“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 23:23-24

The Psalmist frequently talks about God and His relationship with the creation.  One of my favorite chapters is Psalm 139 where David says God knows him so well that He even knows when we stand or sit, or recline in slumber.  God is so near that He knows what we are going to say, even before we express the words out loud.  There is absolutely nowhere on earth or heaven or hell that we can go where God cannot see us, reach us, hear us.  This chapter extols the immanence of God, without using that term.  Beloved, read this chapter and know that our God cares about you, personally and intimately.

In Acts 17, verses 27-28 we read:

“Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed His offspring.'”

Acts 17:27-28 

Scripture describes our God as One who does not sit back and merely observe a creation which He set in motion millennia ago; He is present and actively participating in His world.

What does this mean to you as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?  Immanence is an attribute of God that provides the believer confident rest in the knowledge that there is no place or situation that is too far to be under God’s providence and protecting hand.  Things may be difficult as far as this world is concerned, but there is no reason to fear that things will remove you from His love and care.

Paul put it best:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

IMMUTABILITY

Our world is always changing.  Even things that we consider unchangeable, immoveable – actually do change.

Half dome (C)
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Mountains such as those found in Yosemite appear so strong and solid, and they are – at least until God shakes them in an earthquake.  But even mountains are changed, albeit gradually, by the ravages of weather. 

Yosemite giant sequoia fallen tree (C)
Giant Sequoia Tree fell and its root system was exposed.

Even Giant Sequoia Trees that have stood for centuries, change and, at some point, will come crashing to the earth.  Change in this world is inevitable.

Because of this, we have a hard time contemplating the attribute of immutability.  Nothing in this world stays the same … everything changes.  But not so with God. 

Not only does God know every little thing that is going on with each one of us, His immanence, the attribute of immutability means that God will not change His mind when it comes to His ultimate will for His children’s care and protection. 

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Malachi 3:6

God, Himself, is saying that He does not change – a characteristic that is totally foreign to us.  He is immutable.  He is the same today as He was before creation even existed. 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

The fact that God does not change his mind, his characteristics, his plan, or anything else guarantees God’s character will remain the same and that which He has willed, will, in fact, occur.   

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Hebrews 13:8

This gives the believer security to know that when we have been adopted into God’s family through faith, we can trust God not to change His mind and “unadopt” us on a whim.

No man can slip through His fingers into the breach of hell if that person is a child of God and has expressed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God neither changes His plan, His covenants, His prophecies, nor His justice. In other words, God is dependable – God is immutable!

Listen to the beautiful hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.   Note the words “As Thou has been, Thou forever wilt be.”  That’s immutability!  As you listen, identify other phrases that point to God’s immutability.  Praise Him that He is unchangeable, and He loves us with an unchanging love!

This hymn is sung by Robert and Robin Kochis on the album entitled “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.

Father, Your mercies, grace and love are magnificent.  Your involvement with us on a moment by moment basis is such comfort and security, even when things seem to be going poorly, we know that nothing will thwart Your plan for us.  I praise You for your Immanence and Immutability.  You are God.  I praise Your Holy Name.  May my life reflect Your grace to others throughout my days.

 

THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – ETERNALITY

We know that God created the world and everything in it.  We are told that in the very first book of the Bible, Genesis chapters 1 and 2.  In these verses we are told that God created all things in six days, He rested on the seventh day after proclaiming His creation to be “very good”.  Genesis 1:31.   On the fourth day of creation, God set the sun and moon into action thereby establishing the time that governs us throughout our lives. 

dar-library-clock-c
Clock in the DAR Library, Washington, D.C.

We, along with all of the created order, have a beginning and an end.  In other words, simply put, we are bound by time; we are finite; we are not eternal. God, however, is not so bound.  God is eternal and His eternality is one of His attributes.          

Wayne Grudem says:  “God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in his own being, and he sees all time equally vividly, yet God sees events in time and acts in time.” [Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 168]

Louis Berkhof notes that the eternal nature of God means that He “possesses the whole of His existence in one indivisible present.” [Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 60]

Being outside of time is virtually impossible for us to comprehend.  However, it is an attribute of God which is fundamental to our thought about our Creator and Savior. 

In Exodus Chapter 3 God is speaking with Moses and, in answer to Moses’ question about Who was sending him on the mission to free the Israelites from Egyptian captivity, God says:

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'””

Exodus 3:14

God will exist undiminished everlastingly into the future, and He has existed identically throughout the infinite past. For this reason, God said to Moses “I AM WHO I AM”.

David understood God’s attribute of eternality when he wrote:

“But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.”

Psalm 102:12

Not only is God the Father eternal in His nature, but this same eternality extends to Jesus Christ, the eternal Son.  He existed eternally before His incarnation as the Firstborn over creation, even though at that time He did not have human form. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Hebrews 13:8

Peter wrote of the eternality of the Lord in words that we can understand, even if we cannot wrap our minds around what it means:

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

2 Peter 3:8

The attribute of eternality is a wondrous truth for the believer God and in His Son, Jesus Christ.  This attribute gives us confidence in our faith and in the salvation and preservation that He gives to us as we live within time.  We can live without fear because God is always with us.

Eternality – a word that we don’t use or think about, but it is a word that gives hope, security and confidence as we rest in God’s eternal nature and in His eternal promises.

Father, I cannot understand how You can exist forever … I cannot even understand the concept of forever since all that I have known will last just a short time.  But I understand Your name – I AM – and I bow at Your feet in thanksgiving that the God of creation would rescue me from sin and claim me as His child, eternally.

WHERE IS YOUR SECURITY – IN MONEY OR IN GOD?

In every home there must be time set aside to handle the financial matters of the family. It might be weekly, monthly … whatever fits for the individual situation. While there are at times not many “finances” to manage, there always seems to be an unending supply of bills to pay. 

No matter what our station in life may be, we must deal with money because we use it to pay for the goods and services our lives depend upon. 

But, what is it that we really rely upon for security in our life? 

Jesus spoke about money on many occasions.  For example, in Matthew 6:24, Jesus said:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Paul gave additional admonition regarding money to the young pastor Timothy when he admonished:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

1 Timothy 6:10 ESV

We must be careful not to let money become our master, to prevent money from taking the place in our heart that rightfully belongs to God.  God is deserving of our love and adoration, and He alone is the One to whom we should be devoted.

When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to testify of His words in nearby villages, He told them to take only a staff, implicitly telling them that God would provide that which they needed along this trip.  This occasion is recorded in  the book of Mark, chapter 6.

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.  He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in their belts–but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.”

Mark 6:7-9 ESV

The result of their journey is reported in verses 12 and 13 of this chapter:

So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.”

No report is made that they lacked what they needed.  Rather, God supplied their needs and they were able to do Jesus’ work throughout the land. 

Remember that Scripture says that God has unlimited resources with which to help His people.  God said:

“For every beast of the forest [is] mine, [and] the cattle upon a thousand hills.”

Psalm 50:10 KJV

Cows grazing in pasture along highway in Virginia cropped
Cows seen grazing in field along a Virginia highway.

Recall, also, that God sent manna to the Israelite people in the wilderness when there was no grocery in which to buy bread.  He sent quail for meat when nothing but desert surrounded them.  God has His ways to provide for His children.

The writer of the book of Hebrews admonishes:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.“”

Hebrews 13:5 ESV

It is not sinful to plan and work toward a strong financial position for your family.  Money itself is not evil.  But, we must remember that God gives us everything, even the health and wisdom to work, and the talents to be used in our life work.  Indeed, He has even given us the gift of life itself.  All things are from Him. 

With this in mind, we are to be content with what God has given us.  Even when we are in desperate financial straits, God has promised that He is with us and His children would not be forsaken.   This is the definition of true security.

Father, forgive me when I have let my sense of security come from the bank account or pension plan; forgive me when money has become my security blanket.  I pray that I would rely on You alone for my security, as You alone are capable and dependable, and You alone love me with an everlasting love, through Your Son and my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

IMITATION – the way of learning the Way

We all know that children learn by imitating their caregivers, whether it be parents, grandparents, day care workers, or anyone else who provides care and input into their lives.  Indeed, they even imitate what they see and hear on television, a sobering thought to be sure!

JDD playing keyboard

When our grandson was young, he would play the keyboard as if he was playing the piano, something he had seen me do.  Then, too, he would imitate his Papa by using the computer in the home-office, keyboarding with the abandon only a young child can muster!

At the office (C)

But, children need to be discriminating in selecting who they imitate. I recall my Mother’s admonition about imitating people “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?”  In short, we must learn who deserves the high honor of our imitation. 

This is as true in our Christian life as it is in our physical life. We are not to imitate someone who preaches something other than the Gospel of Christ as found in Scripture.  The Apostle John warns:

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.

3 John 1:11a ESV

So who are we to imitate?  First and foremost: Jesus. 

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

John 13:14-15 ESV.  Another time Jesus spoke of imitation related to loving each other:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12 ESV

Even Jesus’ command that the disciples were to love each other was based on imitating how Jesus had loved them.

In addition to Jesus, Paul says this to the believers in Philippi:

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Philippians 3:17 ESV. 

Just think, Paul’s life was so controlled by the Spirit of God that he could safely encourage the believers in the churches to imitate himself, further telling them that they should only follow those who live by the example that he set for them. 

In urging prayer for the leaders in the church, the writer of the book of Hebrews says:

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:7 ESV

Look at the life that the leader is living; look at the witness, at their honesty, at their integrity, at their fidelity to the Word of God.  Look at the entirety of their way of life and then, and only then, imitate their faith.

G. K. Beale said:

Christians are like pilgrims passing through this world.  As such they are to commit themselves to the revelation of God in the new order so as progressively to reflect and imitate his image and increasingly live according to the values of the new world, not being conformed to the fallen system, its idolatrous images, and associated values.

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 175.

Some questions to ruminate upon:

  • Are you imitating someone who is guiding and uplifting you in your Christian pilgrimage through this world?
  • Are they deserving of your imitation, and if so, are you praying that they remain strong in their faith and witness to you and to others? Are you encouraging them in their walk with the Lord?
  • What would happen if someone were to imitate you? Would they grow in their understanding of the Christian walk?
  • Can you say, like Paul, “join in imitating me”? If you cannot say this, what do you need to do to realign your life with Scripture so that you can be the witness that deserves to be imitated by those less mature in the faith?

Father, we know that children learn and imitate us even when we are unaware that they are doing so.  I pray that I would be someone whose life would lead children and adults alike into a life with the Lord Jesus and that I would be a consistent witness for Him.

QUESTION — IS IT A POT OR PAN?

 

Often we have questions that seem insurmountable about things are so weighty that our head feels like exploding, but in hindsight the questions seemed irrelevant and trivial at best.  

Take, for example, the question “What is the difference between kitchen pots and kitchen pans?” 

pot-and-pan
A frying PAN and a stock POT.

One is supposedly a pot and the other is a pan.  So, which is which?  What, pray tell, is the difference?

According to Wonderopolis, a pot can correctly be called a pan, but a pan can’t correctly be called a pot. So if you ask a chef for a pan, you could get either a pot or a pan. However, if you ask for a pot and a chef hands you a pan, the chef would be wrong!  Is this really worth pondering at length?   And then there is the pot that can be used as a pan or is it a pan that can be used as a pot? 

pot-or-pan
I fry in this non-stick coated pan and I cook sauces in this pot. So is it a “potpan”?

For a non-chef kind of cook (like me), my response (I am afraid to admit) would be “who really cares?”  Isn’t that a tempest in a [tea]pot or pan? (Pardon the partial pun!)

But then there are other questions that are far more important, but even then we don’t always have an answer for difficult life questions that confront us. 

  • “What do I do for my career?” 
  • “Is this the right person for me to marry?”
  • “Is my church feeding me from Scripture or is it merely giving me warm, cozy thoughts to contemplate?”
  • “When I volunteer at the mission, am I doing it in service to my own ego or in service to my Lord?”

We can search counselors’ thoughts and life coaches’ theories but they fall short – well-meaning but insufficient. 

We can turn to Scripture and read until our eyes are blurry but sometimes even then the answer eludes us. 

Or, we can turn to prayer – and then commune with the One who loves us and who sent His Son to secure our salvation. This One does know the answer to even the hardest of questions, because He is sovereign.  I Timothy 6:15-16.  In fact, He knew the answer to the questions we were going to ask even before we were born! Psalm 139.

We still may not know the answer to the problem facing us, but if we know God as our Father who loves us and gave His son for our eternal life with Him, we can rest in His grace and sovereignty.

I married immediately after college graduation and then worked to put my husband through seminary.  Eleven years and two children later, I began attending law school, not only because my husband said I should, but because I believed that the Lord was directing me to this career.  After MUCH prayer, I applied, quite confident that I would be told that I was too old, I had two small children, and I was too stupid. I rather thought I would go through the motions and do everything I needed to do in application to the school and then God would close that door and I would be done with the “you should go to law school” comments from my husband and various co-workers. 

When the phone call came advising me that I had secured the one open spot to begin school in two weeks, September 1980, I was stunned.  I quit my job, and two weeks later found myself purchasing enormous books (none of which had pictures!).  I was terrified but determined to do this because it was clear the Lord had directed me to this path.

Three months later, my husband told me our marriage was not worth working on and he left the apartment.  Three months after that he left the church, the city and the state. I seriously began questioning whether I had misunderstood God’s plan.  I could not believe that He would have me in school with two preschool children, no means of financial support, no family close by to assist.

The children and I moved to federal housing and I completed my education through tears and questions about how we were going to live.  Needless to say, things were not easy for us and we did not have everything that our greedy little hearts ever wanted.  But when I began to falter and fears overtook my heart, the Lord would send someone or something to encourage me and remind me that He is God and in control and He had us in His Hands.  He did not give me answers, He gave me Himself and that was more than enough.

A quick glance at the First Century Christians belies the interpretation of Scripture that God will give us only good times in this world if we merely believe in Jesus. Simply put, Nero did not provide a good time for Christians!  Nope, can’t find any “prosperity gospel” there!  But, even during those horrific days, the Christians praised God and believed His promise of eternal life if they persevered and relied on Him. 

Jesus says in Matthew 6:31-33: 

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Jesus here is not promising all the goodies that this world has to offer.  No, He is telling his disciples that they should rest in God – seek first God and His righteousness … then everything else will fall in line according to God’s purpose. 

The details of life may be messy and hard and we may not know the answer to our questions now.  We may not understand the situation we are in, but we can remember that we are not God … we are temporal, mortal, dust.  He is omniscient, omnipotent.  He is not limited by time, indeed He created time for our benefit.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. 

“For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.”

Psalm 90:4 ESV

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 ESV

So, while we don’t know the answer to the questions we have, we do know the end result of our struggle is secured. God has given us Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and His Holy Spirit is our resident Counselor.  Our everlasting life and our presence with Him is satisfaction of our only real need.

Crazy questions may abound in our world.  But for the question that is the most important one of all, the question that transcends the here and now, the question that defeats mortality and the evil in this world, we can know the answer.  

The all important question is —  Where will you spend eternity?

For those in Christ, that answer is “With Him now and forever more.”     Matthew 25:36-40 and John 6:37-40. 

Praise His Holy Name!

Thank you Father for granting mercy and grace by sending Your Son to die the death that we deserve so that we can have eternal life with You.  Thank You for providing the answer to the only question that needs to be asked.  We praise Your holy name.

WHATEVER SHE HAS, SHE WANTS SOMETHING DIFFERENT!

Cuddles, our MinPin canine daughter, often seems to provide vivid illustrations of Biblical truths.

cuddles-rin-min-pin-stance
Cuddles in her “Rin-Min-Pin” pose.

Recently, she wanted to go outside.  Now she had been outside earlier in the evening, and at that time she had barked incessantly until we let her out and the barking was transferred to the neighbors instead of to us.  Then she barked to come in and we, as properly trained dog parents, got up and obeyed her bark.

Moments later, she was again barking to go outside.  At this point, my husband said “Whatever she has, she wants something different!” 

When she was outside, she wanted to be inside.  When she was inside, she wanted to be outside.  When she was playing with a toy, she wanted a different one (the one her sister was playing with, actually).  When she got that toy, she put her paw on it and barked for something else.

 

cuddles-playing-with-toy-2
Cuddles playing with her toy.

After reading thus far, you might say that she is not well-trained and we need to get her to a trainer post haste.  I agree with you – but we did have her with a trainer who was great, and then we failed to continue with the regimen — now we have this.

But it seems to me that she exhibits what many of us do on a regular basis.

When we have good health, we want more money.  When we have money, we want better health.  When we have ample food but no self-discipline, we want to be slender but we don’t want to do the work to get there.  When we are young, we wish we were older so we could do things that we cannot yet do, but when we are seniors we look with longing at the young and wish we were young again so we could do some things differently (of course this desire for youth also comes with the requirement that we retain the wisdom that age brings).

Are we satisfied with what God has given us?  As Christians, Scripture exhorts us to be content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves for our God is in control:

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Philippians 4:11

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

used-thanksgiving-meal
Table set for the Thanksgiving Day feast.

In just a few days we, in the United States, will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day, the national holiday where we set time aside and thank God for those daring folks who came to this country when there was little to draw them here.  It was a harsh land and the transition from European “civilization” to the American frontier life was anything but easy.  They relied upon God daily as they worshiped and prayed for each other during those difficult early years.

It surely is right that we honor and remember the Pilgrims and their sacrifices so that, hundreds of years later, we could live in an incredible land of abundance, majestic beauty and awesome breadth.  It is right that we offer prayers of thanks to God for their acts of heroism and for His providential care of them in coming to and in establishing our country.

But it is even more appropriate for us to, daily, thank God for His provision, love, grace and mercy toward us.  We ought not reserve our thanksgiving for a day with that moniker! 

USED praying hands
Praying hands.

 

  • When was the last time you thanked God for life, for His gift of air to breathe, for His provision of food for your table, for His grace to our sin-cursed heart by sending His Son for our salvation?
  • When was the last time you thanked God for whatever position or condition you are in, even if it is difficult and/or painful, even if it is not what you would have chosen for yourself?
  • When was the last time you thanked God for difficulties in the secure confidence that He will use these circumstances for your good and His glory?

Will you pray like this on Thanksgiving Day? 

Will you pray like this in December, when Thanksgiving is just a memory?  What about in 2017?  Will you pray like this daily and thank God for what He has blessed you with, even if that “blessing” is difficulty or a trial?  God is in control and He will use all those experiences for His glory even if that is outside the scope of your vision right now.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

You may never know what effect your response to difficulty will have on others, but God knows and He will bless you for your obedience to His commands.   

Christian, give thanks to Him for all things and you will be blessed, now and for all eternity.

 

Father, we thank You for the gift of your love, grace and mercy; for your atoning work through Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross all for the purpose of providing us salvation and release from the bondage of sin so that we may have eternal life through His name.  Father, we thank You for your provision of all the things that we need for life and we pray forgiveness when we have squandered them or when we have claimed to have merited them through our own efforts.  Give us eyes to see and hearts to understand that all we have and all we are is a result of your grace, mercy and provision as You are the one and true God, and through Christ You are our Father.