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Never Alone: Our Bodies, Temples of God

One of the biggest challenges of daily life with chronic illness is the constantly changing condition of our physical bodies. In recent months I personally have dealt with increased pain and disability and a long list of new digestive issues. And changes like these mean looking for new ways to live in the best way possible with the “new normal” to which we are learning to adjust.

In the midst of dealing with a less than perfect physical body, today’s I Am Not Alone verse and some related ones in Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth remind us that our bodies are holy temples that we need to take the best care of possible. Our bodies as believers in Jesus Christ are individually and collectively the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. And collectively as our individual bodies are healthier, we function better as a part of the body of Christ.

Personally, when this truth concerning my body comes to mind, the first Scripture I think of is found in 1 Corinthians 6. It refers to our individual bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This call to glorify God in my body motivates me to learn the best ways to function with my current health issues so I can live the most fruitful life possible in spite of the new health challenges I’m facing.

But today’s focus verse, found in 2 Corinthians 6, deals with the second aspect of the New Testament concept of God’s temple, the truth that the body of Christ is collectively the temple or dwelling place of God on earth. In context, it speaks of us living lives that are markedly different than those of the unbelievers around us.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.’” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭6:14-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

No matter what lies ahead of you today, remember that your body is the dwelling place of God, and let that truth determine the choices you make today. We are each a part of the body of Christ, individually members of God’s dwelling place on earth, so let’s live in a way that honorably reflects that truth. Since the Holy Spirit has made your spirit His home you are never alone.

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Never Alone: Three Benefits of Being Jesus’ Sheep

Today’s I Am Not Alone Scripture, John 10:27-30, has special meaning to me during this difficult season I’ve been walking through. In the midst of some of the biggest health challenges I’ve faced in several years, I’ve experienced the ability to hear the voice of God as clearly as I ever recall during my nearly fifty years as a believer in Christ. Yes, there have been times when God was silent. But overall, as I’ve spent time daily in God’s Word and seeking understanding of the path He is taking me down, His clear direction has given comfort that He is with me in all that I have been and still am walking through.f

Another important truth in these verses: No one is able to snatch us out of the Father’s hand! If we have repented of our sin, received Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we have been given eternal life and that’s not going to change.

Protection from the attack of wolves and other predators is one of the responsibilities of the shepherd, and our Good Shepherd will never fail to fulfill this responsibility for His sheep. We are safe and secure in Him. He will lead us by His voice, provide the Spiritual nourishment we need to keep growing through His Word, and protect us from the attacks of the enemy as we grow in our knowledge of Him.

What are you needing today from your Good Shepherd? First, make sure He truly is your Shepherd, that you are one of His sheep. And if you are secure in this truth, remember the benefits of being His sheep.

  • You are able to hear His voice. The main way He speaks to us is through His written Word, but sometimes He also uses other Christians, the still small voice of His Spirit within, and even circumstances to make His voice heard. Just be sure what you are hearing lines up with His written Word, because He never contradicts Himself. “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.” (John 8:47a)
  • He will lead you and you have the freedom to decide to be led. God doesn’t force us to follow Him. But if we have truly made Jesus both Savior and Lord, one of the fruits in our lives will be a desire to do what is pleasing in His eyes. “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians‬ ‭5:8-10‬)‬‬
  • He will protect us when the enemy comes against us. We have a part in this too, but by putting on the full armor of God (see Ephesians 6:10-18), we will be empowered to stand and keep on standing in the victory our Good Shepherd has already won on our behalf. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:57‬)‬‬

Never Alone: God’s Presence Within

I used to wish I had lived during the time when Jesus walked in Jerusalem and the surrounding area and could have actually heard Him teaching. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have been among the crowd as Jesus stood on the Galilean hillside now known as the Mount of Beatitudes, and began speaking these words most of us have read many times?

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:5-12)

But more recently, as I’ve begun an in-depth study on the Holy Spirit as a beginning step in writing a Bible study on the names and functions of the Holy Spirit for the small group I work with at our church, I’ve seen this a little differently. No, we can’t be a part of the large crowds that gathered to hear Jesus’ teaching. But because of the promise in today’s “I Am Not Alone” verses, we experience something even more amazing. If we have surrendered our lives to Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we have the Holy Spirit, also known as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Jesus, living within us as our ever-present teacher.

The setting of today’s verses was Jesus’ last supper with His disciples, during which He warned that one of these gathered around Him as a trusted friend, Judas Iscariot, would betray Him and He also foretold of Peter’s coming denial. Jesus had just told His disciples He was leaving them, and their hearts were troubled.

Jesus was trying to reassure these who had walked so close to Him that He was leaving but He wasn’t leaving them alone.

“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.” (John 14:16-17)

These verses told the original disciples that the Father would give them another Helper, another Counselor, Comforter, Teacher and Friend to be with them. A Helper of the same kind, The Spirit of truth who would teach them and guide them into all truth. And a couple chapters later in the Gospel of John, He explains it is to their advantage He is returning to the Father, because this Helper would not just walk beside them. He would live within them, to be their Teacher, and close Friend. And this indwelling Holy Spirit would empower them as they completed the work Jesus had appointed them to do.

The good news for us today is that these promises were not limited to these original disciples. If you have accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross as payment in full for your sins and received Jesus as your Savior and Lord, these verses equally apply to you. You are Never Alone because God lives within you in the form of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

Today’s message in song:

When God Is Silent

I spent some time reading and praying yesterday about today’s Teach Me Tuesday post. If there has been one key truth God has been teaching me recently it’s that life and encouragement are found in the lessons He is teaching, not in the ideas that spring out of my own understanding. And yesterday was a day of not sensing any new truths to share.

This month, I’ve been focusing on the truth that we are not alone. This morning, as I did some personal study on this subject, one truth seemed to stand out. God promises to NEVER leave or forsake us. But He does not promise we will FEEL His presence daily. He will go before us to lead the way, be with us in every circumstance we face, but there are times when our awareness of His presence will be missing. So what are we to do during such times?

As I prayed about this earlier today, three things came to mind.

1. When God is silent, remember He is still there. Keep seeking His face.

2. Go back to the last thing(s) He spoke to you, and be sure you are walking out the previous truths He has shown you.

3. Rest in the Lord as you wait for His next instructions.

One of the recurring messages I’ve heard over the past two and a half months is that faith doesn’t focus far into the future. Faith is walking in obedience to the steps God has already revealed. As Joni Eareckson Tada has said, “it’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.” Sometimes, God is waiting for us to get moving so He can continue to lead us into the future He has for us.

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Refined – Not Defined – By Trials

Last Thursday, I shared an important lesson God reminded me of as I was reading the book I Still Believe, an autobiography written by Contemporary Christian singer and song writer Jeremy Camp. Before I put this book aside, I wanted to share another truth that I learned while reading this book. It has to do with the purpose of trials in our lives.

“The Word of God never promises that we won’t go through trials. Actually, it’s pretty much a sure thing that we will go through them. In fact, James exhorts us to ‘consider it pure joy, my brethren, whenever you face trials of many kinds.’ We aren’t guaranteed a perfect life. We’re going to struggle and endure hardships.”

But that’s not the end of the message. Jeremy continues:

“And yet God does promise that in our trials, He will stand right next to us and be there every moment. He will be faithful to lead us and guide us, to breathe life into us and heal our hearts.”

But honestly, the statement that touched the deepest place in my heart from this book was the following one. Frankly, it opened my eyes to a truth I hadn’t seen before, the difference between being refined by our trials and being defined by the difficult circumstances God allows to touch our lives. One is a part of the plan of God in allowing suffering in our lives on this earth, the other was never meant to be.

“What I have walked through has refined me. It hasn’t defined me – this is not who I am, ‘the guy whose wife passed away and who has a powerful testimony because if that’- but it has refined me and deepened my dependence on the Rock of my salvation.”

As many of you know, we lost our thirty-four year old special needs son David last November. And after his death, one of my biggest struggles was feeling like I’d lost a major part of who I was. Suddenly, I was no longer the mother of a child with special needs. For thirty-four years, my life (and my husband’s as well) had centered around meeting David’s extensive medical needs. When that was no longer my responsibility, I felt lost.

Until I read the above quote, I really didn’t understand I had been allowing the suffering in my life to define me, to determine how I saw myself. Trials that don’t just come for a short time and then go away can do that if we aren’t careful. But I was not primarily the mother of a child with special needs. My identity is found in Christ and my relationship with Him.

Yes, trials are a part of life on this earth. Yes, they refine us, changing us from within. But, no, the difficult circumstances we walk through are not meant to define who we are. Unfortunately, when trials drag on and on and on, they have the potential of doing just that. What we are walking through becomes so much a part of who we are that it can become how we see outselves, our identity.

Ladies who are reading this on our GLG page, remember your chronic illnesses do not define who you are. You are a child of God, an heir of God and joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:16-17), who happens to have one or more chronic illness. If you are reading this on my personal blog, perhaps your prolonged trial is of a different kind, but the same lesson applies. Life on this earth and trials go together but the suffering we go through does not determine who we are.

On this Teach Me Tuesday, let’s remember our trials do refine us, but they don’t define us. We are God’s beloved children who will one day be whole, when we see Him face-to-face. Allow your trials to remind you of this truth, and look forward to that day when we will leave behind these broken bodies and live in the future God has promised us, when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation‬ ‭21:4‬ ‭ESV‬)‬

Fixing Our Eyes On Jesus

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Ginny Owens, a Dove Award-winning Contemporary Christian singer and songwriter, began losing her sight at age two from a congenital eye disease. While physically blind, she has beautifully expressed the message of the above verses in both her testimony and her songs.

As I thought about an effective way to get across the message God had put on my heart for this week’s Teach Me Tuesday post, I could think of no better example of what it means to fix our eyes on Jesus and willingly run with endurance the race God has set before us. Ginny shared this testimony on her website after the release of her album Love Be The Loudest.

“Most people think my greatest life challenge is blindness; I’ve been blind since age three. But that simply isn’t true. My greatest challenge is doing battle with the critical voices in my head that distract me from what’s most important. It’s the whispers of those who feel sorry for me because of my physical challenge and don’t think I hear their comments. It’s the shouts of my own doubts and insecurities, asking, ‘Do you have anything valuable to contribute to society?’ It’s the mindless chatter of our culture, inviting me to believe that any voice, as long as it’s loud, is fine. Every song on this album is an invitation to my heart, and the heart of the listener, to allow God’s perfect voice of love and truth to be irresistible to our hearts, drowning out all other voices, and moving us to action.”

Where we fix our spiritual eyes – and where we tune in our spiritual ears – determines how we run the race God has set before us! This is never more true than when we are facing difficult circumstances, an unexpected “detour” from our intended route to our destination.

This has been one of the main lessons God has been teaching me during the past week. Some days have been encouraging and my heart has been at peace. Others have been just the opposite. And when I asked God what was causing this, He reminded me of the above Scripture. The only way to run with endurance the race God has currently set before me is to fix my eyes on Jesus.

The Greek word translated “fix our eyes” in Hebrews 12:2, aphorao, comes from apo meaning “away from something near” and horao meaning “to look away from all else and to look steadfastly, intently toward a distant object.” The idea is to direct our attention without distraction as we choose a forward-gaze. This verse is talking about inner, spiritual vision that overcomes all distractions and looks ahead with confidence in the lovingkindness and faithfulness of our God.

DISTRACTIONS FROM A SINGLE FOCUS

On the surface, this may not seem like a challenging assignment, but this past week it was the biggest struggle I faced. I learned that fixing my eyes on the Lord in the midst of my current circumstances wasn’t going to be an effortless task. Ongoing pain in my left knee, fears about the possible complications if I move forward with the surgery, a delay in getting a referral to a orthopedic surgeon, then a further delay in getting an appointment once the referral finally came joined together to make it a difficult week.

The distractions from fixing our eyes on Jesus fit in four main areas:

  1. Our circumstances – When we are in the midst of circumstances causing physical pain or emotional stress, it’s easy to fix our eyes on our problems. This is the first distraction we need to overcome.
  2. Our emotions – Fear and anxiety about the future, dread of what lies ahead, doubts about our ability to do what we believe God is calling us to do for His Kingdom – all of these have the potential of paralyzing us spiritually and keeping us from continuing the race God has called us to run.
  3. The voices of those around us – What Ginny called “the mindless chatter of our culture,” or closer to home the discouraging words of family members and friends, can become major distractions from finishing the race. But we need to keep in mind that other people are not our real enemy.
  4. The lies of the enemy – Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” We have a spiritual foe whose greatest desire is to cause us to doubt God and turn out back on Him. He uses such tactics as saying “did God say?” as he did with Eve and by planting thoughts in our minds that cause deception, discouragement and doubt to take root. To finish the race successfully, we need to put on the full armor of God and stand against his attacks. We need to learn to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. When we submit to God and resist the devil, James 4:7 says he will flee.

Jesus gave us an example to follow when He faced the Cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew‬ ‭26:39‬‬‬) Jesus didn’t want to face the suffering of the Cross, but without the shedding of His blood we would all still be lost in our sin. So He submitted to the will of His Father. Hebrews 12:2 gives us some insight into how He endured the suffering – by focusing on the joy set before Him. This is also one way we are strengthened to face the hardships that are a part of life of this sin-stained earth.

When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we are setting our inward gaze on One who understands suffering. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” And He invites us to “draw near” to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” https://www.bible.OverDcom/100/heb.4.15-16.nasb

The Grace of God

One of the devotions I use regularly during my personal quiet time chose 1 Corinthians 15:10 as the key verse for Monday’s devotional. (All verses in ESV unless otherwise noted.)

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

I always look up the verse in my Bible to see the context in which it was used, and with this verse I sensed it was time for some more in-depth study. This passage begins with a reminder of the gospel message in a nutshell. Written by the apostle Paul, in verses 3 – 5 he says:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”

‭‭Then next four verses tell of the appearances of the resurrected Christ to His apostles, ending with Paul’s own visitation on the road to Damascus. In verse 9, he identifies himself as “the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle“, because of being a persecutor of the church prior to his conversion. And then Paul speaks of the grace of God in verse 10.

After studying a verse in context, one of my favorite online resources for gaining a clearer understanding of a verse or passage of Scripture is the website preceptaustin.org, which often has a detailed commentary and other resources to help me see the verse in light of the whole of Scripture. I decided to check that out today, and found some help getting a clearer understanding of what Paul was trying to communicate in this verse.

First, this resource gives the verse being studied in a variety of translations. As I read through the list, one version stood out to me for it’s clarity, one I seldom use in my personal study. In the Barclay translation, this verse reads:

“It is by the grace of God that I am what I am, and his grace to me has not proved ineffective, but I have toiled more exceedingly than all of them, but it was not I who achieved anything but God’s grace working with me.”

The commentator on this passage, who is a retired physician, points out that grace is used “in triplicate” in this verse. He compares 1 Corinthians 15:10 to a prescription from God, written in triplicate, for “spiritual health” in both our personal lives and in our ministry to others.

By the grace of God that I am what I am

Most of us have a basic understanding of the meaning of grace. The Greek word for grace, “charis,” means undeserved favor given to us. There are two main kinds of grace taught in the New Testament, saving grace. This is the kind of grace spoken of in Ephesians 2:8-9.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

‭‭Paul definitely acknowledged this kind of grace in his life, but this isn’t the kind of grace he is focusing on in this verse. The second type of grace has been called sanctifying grace. This is the daily grace God extends to us as Christians that empowers us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Sanctifying grace is the ongoing work of the indwelling Holy Spirit that enables us to grow spiritually, so that we become better representatives of the Lord to those around us. It is the process described in Romans 8:29, and it will continue until the day we see Jesus face to face.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

His grace toward me was not in vain

The proud Saul of Acts 7 who was rejoicing over Stephen’s stoning and who “was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” in Acts 8:3 is gone. And more than his name was changed. He had been changed on the inside. And God’s grace was responsible for the change, first in bringing Saul to saving grace and then in changing him into Paul through His sanctifying grace, a key instrument of God in spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth and author of much of the New Testament. The message for us here: The grace of God in our lives is effective in accomplishing His purposes in and through us.

His grace in our work and ministry.

The third mention of grace in this verse is the one that caught my attention. Paul worked diligently at the tasks God had called him to do. But the changed Paul took no credit for what he had accomplished. Instead, he acknowledged anything achieved in and through his life was the result of God’s grace. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8,

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

‭‭‭Paul further explains this in Philippians 2:12-13,

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

‭‭Yes, we have a part in living the successful Christian life. Our part is choosing to walk in obedience. But total obedience isn’t something we can accomplish in our own strength. If so, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to send the Holy Spirit to empower us to live the life He calls us to live.

  • Grace is what brings us to Christ.
  • Grace is what helps us grow more like Jesus.
  • Grace is what empowers us to do the work of the Kingdom that God has prepared beforehand for us to do.

The Holy Spirit is the member of the Godhead who offers us saving grace and sanctifying grace, and He is also our source of empowering grace for the work God has called us to do.

Are you in need of God’s grace today? I sure am. If you don’t already know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, if you haven’t put your faith in Him for forgiveness of sin, don’t put this life-changing decision off another day. You need God’s saving grace and the Holy Spirit you will receive the moment you surrender your life to Jesus.

If you already have become a Christian, did you know that sanctification is a work of grace, accomplished as we cooperate with the indwelling Holy Spirit? Or are you trying to change your “problem areas” in your own strength? Paul described the results of doing this is Romans 7:14-15, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” We have a part in the process – renewing our minds in God’s Word, choosing to lay down our will and walk in obedience – but the needed power to walk out His will comes from the Holy Spirit within all believers. The Holy Spirit will bring both conviction concerning areas that need to change and the power to make those changes.

Are you struggling with seeing what purpose God has for this season of your life? Is there something you believe God is calling you to do but don’t have any idea how to get started? In this area too, God’s grace is the answer. The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit is given to make us God’s witnesses in the neighborhood and city where we live, the surrounding area, and even to the ends of the earth if that’s a part of God’s calling on your life.

Facing the Unknown With a Known God

Youth With A Mission, better known as YWAM (pronounced “WHY-wham”), is an interdenominational Christian missionary organization founded by Loren Cunningham and his wife Darlene in 1960.

While on a beach in Hawaii, looking out at the waves, Loren Cunningham saw a vision of a different kind of waves – waves of young people taking the gospel message to the ends of the earth. YWAM was founded as a result of that vision. Fifty-nine years after it began, YWAM continues as an effective tool for fulfilling the vision He gave Loren and the Great Commission of Acts 1:8 upon which it was based and of Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

YWAM has had a special place in our lives. Some close friends of ours, Billy and Lyn Littlefield, went through the YWAM discipleship training program in the 1970s, and their training became the catalyst for a discipleship training program my husband Mitch and I were a part of in the early years of our marriage. A few years later, Mitch’s sister Shirley also spent time with YWAM.

I think the thing that has stuck with me more than anything else from these early years of our marriage and our indirect involvement with YWAM is the stated purpose of this Christian organization: To know God and to make Him known. I can’t think of a better description of the effective Christian life!

To Know God

John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The Christian life begins with a personal relationship with God. Through faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we receive forgiveness for our sins and come to know God and His Son Jesus Christ. J. I. Packer, author of the book Knowing God, said:

“There’s a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. When you truly know God, you have energy to serve Him, boldness to share Him, and contentment in Him.”

Knowing God begins when we become a part of His family through faith in Jesus Christ. But it is also a growing process as we come to know Him more fully through His written Word. As we read and study the Bible, we learn what He is like – a faithful God, loving us with a steadfast love, showing us mercy by not giving us what we deserve and grace by giving us what we don’t deserve. His names, attributes, promises and the total of Scripture progressively reveal the fullness of Who God is. This kind of knowing is a lifelong process.

To Make Him Know

Once we know God through a personal relationship with Him, Jesus has commissioned us to go into all the world and share that knowledge with others. Starting with our “Jerusalem” – the neighborhood, town or city where we live and moving out from there, we begin sharing the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As disciples, our call is two-fold, to grow personally in our knowledge of God and to be disciple-makers, introducing others to the good news that has changed our lives.

When An Unknown Future Looms Ahead

At no time in our lives is truly knowing God more important than when we face an unknown future. When things feel totally out of our control, knowing God gives us confidence that our circumstances aren’t out of God’s control. God has not promised to shield us from trouble. He has promised to be with us, whatever we must walk through.

Peter Marshall, pastor and chaplain of the United States Senate from 1947 to 1949, said: “God will not permit any troubles to come upon us, unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.

Corrie ten Boom, survivor of Ravensbruck German concentration camp and Christian speaker and author of The Hiding Place, a memoir telling the story of her family’s hiding Jews from the Nazis, said: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

As I write this Teach Me Tuesday post, I’m preparing for an MRI on my left knee that has been swollen and extremely painful since the end of May. As I await this test, scheduled for today, I don’t know what lies ahead. So I’m choosing to focus on what I do know.

  • I do know God has promised to go before me and be with me, no matter what lies ahead, and He always keeps His promises. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭31:8‬ ‭
  • I do know God promises to work all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purposes, and I am one of the called. “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 ‭
  • I do know that God uses the circumstances He allows to touch my life for His purposes, specifically, to conform me to the image of His Son. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans‬ ‭8:29‬
  • I do know God is good and I believe I will see God’s goodness while I’m still on this earth. “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Psalms‬ ‭27:13‬ ‭
  • I do know God is faithful. He never promises and then fails to deliver. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:23‬ ‭
  • I do know God is love. God’s love is so great that He gave His only Son to bring us into fellowship with Him. With His love, He embraces each of us personally. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John‬ ‭4:9-10‬
  • I do know when this life is over I have an inheritance awaiting me in heaven. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:3-4‬

As Corrie ten Boom said, if we know God we have no reason to fear the future. If we understand His love for us, we can know the difficulties we’re currently walking through will produce blessing, both in this life and in eternity when we go to be in His presence forever.

Diamonds

When I’m hurting, as I have been over the past four weeks with intense pain in my knee and digestive problems also making it difficult for me to eat regular meals, my prayers have been primarily for two things, for some answers concerning the cause of symptoms I’m dealing with and for some relief from the pain. But as I laid in bed early Sunday morning, after a painful night with little sleep, the clear word I heard from the Lord had nothing to do with these desires of mine.

The words I heard, as clearly as any message I’ve ever heard from the Lord: “I’m forming you into a diamond, created and cut perfectly to be a reflector of My light to those around you.”

Even if this wasn’t the message I was desiring from the Lord, after walking with Him for almost fifty years I know better than ignore a word from Him. So I decided to do some research on how diamonds are formed and prepared. It was eye-opening.

Diamonds are pieces of pure carbon. Contrary to popular belief, they do not come from coal, although they may be similar in chemical composition. They are formed deep within the mantle of the earth, but only where the conditions are right since they need a lot of heat as well as pressure to form.

The only producing diamond mine in the United States is located near Murfreesboro, Arkansas, with around fifty commercial diamond mines around the world. The rough diamonds come out of the mines looking like worthless pebbles, which must be carefully cleaned to remove all the impurities.

To prepare them for use as gemstones is the job of skilled diamond cutters. Since diamonds are made of the hardest material in the world, only a diamond can be used to mechanically cut another diamond. Precision in cutting is key, both for the larger rough diamond and for the individual cut diamond in getting the exact angles needed for the best result. The more the diamond is cut, the brighter it sparkles.

As I tried to imagine the extreme temperature and pressure under which diamonds are formed, and the detailed process of turning a rough diamond just out of the mine into a valuable gemstone, I began to see why God had brought this object lesson to mind. I suddenly wasn’t surprised at the fiery trial I’ve been going through during this last month… or all the other trials our family has been through over the last few years.

John 1:9 identifies Jesus as the light of the world, but in Matthew 5:14 Jesus said the same of us. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” We are called to be reflectors of the true light, Jesus. And for that to happen we need to go through a similar process to the one that turns a rough diamond just out of the mine into a valuable gemstone.

‭‭1 Peter 1:6-7 describes the positive outcome of being tested by God’s fire. I especially appreciate the wording of these verses in the New Living Translation. Though these verses compare the process we go through as Christians to that of purifying gold, fire is a common factor in both gold and diamonds becoming what they were meant to be.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

‭‭So don’t be discouraged at the trials and pressures in your life. God is using them to create something beautiful from our lives. Something that will cause us to be light in the darkness of this world, and then result in praise and glory and honor on the day Jesus returns.

Seeking God with Our Whole Heart

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord,” Jeremiah‬ ‭29:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This promise from Scripture is one of my favorites. It comes immediately after one most of us are familiar with, Jeremiah 29:11, which reminds us that God has a good plan for our lives, a plan to give us a future and a hope. Often, I see this verse quoted, with no mention of the following verses that are directly related to it. They speak of the focus that is to be present in our life as we realize God is good and His plan for our lives is good.

Earlier in the book of Jeremiah, we read a solemn warning of what was ahead for Judah (the Southern Kingdom of Israel) if they continued down the path they had been trodding (see Jeremiah 9). If they continued stubbornly ignoring God’s law, determined to follow their own desires, judgment was ahead.

Unfortunately, this stern warning had not been heeded, and that judgment had arrived. God used Babylon as His agent of judgment against Israel for their sins of idolatry and rebellion against Him, and in B.C. 587 Jerusalem was attached, the city destroyed, and the people taken into captivity to Babylon.

Jeremiah 29 begins with these words. “These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭29:1‬)

In this letter, Jeremiah gave clear instructions from the Lord to the exiles. They were to build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce, marry and have children, take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage that they in turn would have children, and seek the welfare of the city where they have been sent into exile. (https://www.bible.com/59/jer.29.5-7.esv). In other words, this would not be a brief interlude in there lives, so they needed to accept the consequences of their failure to obey God and live in the best way possible during this time.

In verse 10, Jeremiah gives them a promise that this time of exile will come to an end. Jeremiah writes, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

This is the setting of Jeremiah 29:11-14. The season of exile would come to an end, the people of Judah would return to their promised land, and in having gone through the Lord’s discipline they would have a hopeful future, as they chose to seek God with their whole heart.

While we have not experienced exile because of disobedience to the Lord, like Judah we are recipients of this promise. This is a conditional promise, requiring something from us. To seek God is to desire His presence more than His presents. While God has promised to never leave or forsake us, our awareness of His presence is affected by the depth of our relationship with Him. To walk in God’s presence daily, we must seek Him with our whole heart.

What does it mean to seek God with our whole heart?

  • It is to seek Him with a deep longing that makes the things of this world pale in comparison.
  • It is to recognize receiving life from Him is a vital necessity, something without which we can’t truly live a meaningful life.
  • It is to realize without Him we can do nothing of lasting value, and therefore make abiding in His presence daily our highest priority in life.
  • It is to respond quickly to the conviction of the Holy Spirit

Remember, we are seeking the presence of a God whose desire for us to live daily in His presence is so great that He sent His own Son to earth as a man, to live the life we were called to live but could not, and then to die as our substitute on the cross. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, was raised on the third day, and He now lives within us in the person of the Holy Spirit to empower us to live in a way that pleases the Father.

Once we have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as the payment for our sin and become children of God, we can seek Him with confidence that He desires a close relationship with us even more than we desire to walk close to Him. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, the way has been opened for us to encounter God based fully on His grace, mercy and love for us. All that is required for us to experience God is to set aside time daily to seek Him with ears open to His voice and a heart ready to receive and obey.

Original photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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