Saturday, June 15, 2024

A Father’s Legacy of Faith

 

When we consider the story of how God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to God on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:1-19), we typically view it as an example of Abraham’s great faith. Yet this test proved Isaac’s faith to be just as strong.

Isaac was the child of promise, whom God had promised to Abram and Sarah when they were very old and had no children. Even more amazing, this would be the child through whom Abraham (his new name) would be the father of a great nation, in whom all would be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3), with descendants as innumerable as grains of sand on the seashore or stars in the sky (Genesis 22:17).

Sarah laughed when she heard that they would have a child, for she was aged and barren (Genesis 18:10-15). She had grown weary of waiting for God to allow her to conceive and took matters into her own hands by persuading Abraham to have relations with her handmaid Hagar (Genesis 16:1-8).

Sadly, Abraham acquiesced, and Ishmael was born from that illicit union. This lapse in faith proved not only that Abraham was human, subject to the same weaknesses as all of us (Romans 3:23), but also that God can and will use those who love and trust him, even when they have gone astray as Abram had done several times before (Genesis 12:10-20).

But every choice has its consequences. The birth of Ishmael caused strife not only in Abram’s own household, particularly after Isaac was born to Sarah as God had promised, but also engendered constant warring between the great nations born of Abraham’s offspring – Israel and the Muslim nations (Genesis 16:8-12).

Nonetheless, Abraham was a man of great faith in the One True God, which I believe is the greatest legacy a father can pass on to his children (Ephesians 6:4). His faith began when God first spoke to him, asking him to leave behind his home, pagan beliefs, and seat of power to journey through the wilderness (Genesis 12:1-3). God spoke of the Promised Land and said he would lead Abram there and make of him a great nation (Genesis 12:1-7).

What amazing faith it took to trust God to do this when Abram had no idea where he was going or how long it would take to get there! But even that faith pales in comparison with what happened later. God tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to take his only son Isaac, whom he loved, and to offer him as a burnt offering on a mountain of Moriah that God would later specify (Genesis 22:1-19).

What must have raced through Abraham’s mind, and how must his heart have ached as he heard this! There was no mistaking God’s command. He specified “his only son” Isaac, making it clear that he referred to the child of His promise, and not the illegitimate son born through the weakness of Abraham’s flesh.

God clearly knew how much Abraham loved Isaac, making His command all the more repugnant and incomprehensible. Any loving parent would rebel at sacrificing their child, and most would even be willing to sacrifice their own life to spare that of their child, if they had the opportunity. Yet God was asking Abraham to lay Isaac on the altar, slay him with a knife, and then set his body on fire!

God’s command seemed to fly in the face of His very nature, which cannot change (Hebrews 13:8), as He later would forbid child sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5). His own Son loved little children and held them up as an example of the type of faith needed to enter His kingdom (Matthew 19:14; 18:3). Abraham did not have the benefit of knowing this, yet he believed that God would keep His promise to make him the father of a great nation, which could only happen through Isaac.

Abraham’s faith is clear in his detailed obedience by getting up early for the journey, saddling and loading his ass, taking two companions for the trip, and bringing the wood for the burnt offering. He traveled for three days and must have had to silence whatever doubts and fears gnawed at his soul as he resolutely headed for the mountain (Genesis 22:1-4).

At the base of the mountain, Abraham told his companions to stay there with the ass and reassured them that he – and Isaac – would return after they had worshipped God (v. 5). What faith he showed to trust that God would somehow spare Isaac’s life!

Then it was only Abraham and Isaac ascending the mountain. The father carried the fire and knife, and the son bore the heavy burden of the wood to be used for his own funeral pyre. It foreshadowed Jesus struggling under the weight of the cross that would be the cruel instrument of His death (John 19:17).

Finally Isaac voiced the question that must have been troubling him, and to which he already knew the answer – where is the lamb for the burnt offering? (v. 6-7).

At this point Isaac was a strong young man, and his feeble father more than a centenarian. Isaac’s faith must have been just as great as Abraham’s faith, to obey God to the point of death, just as God’s only begotten Son Jesus would millennia later (Philippians 2:8). That type of faith is not born in a vacuum (2 Timothy 1:5), but from the living faith Isaac saw daily in his father Abraham.

Almost as if trying to convince himself, Abraham told Isaac that God Himself would provide the burnt offering. A man of lesser faith than Isaac would no doubt be tempted to escape as Abraham prepared the altar and wood, or to wrestle free as his father laid him on the altar and then raised the knife to slay Him (Genesis 22:8-10).

Yet Isaac held fast without complaint or struggle, submitting himself to God’s mercy, just as Jesus did when He was led as a sheep to the slaughter to pay the debt for our sin (Isaiah 53:5-7).

God rewarded the faith of father and son by sparing Isaac’s life, sending the angel of the Lord to keep Abraham from harming Isaac (Genesis 22:11-19). This test proved through their obedience and submission to God’s will that not only Abraham, but also Isaac, feared and trusted God. This came as no surprise to God, Who knows all things (Psalm 139:1-6), but it must have been an amazing confirmation to both men of God’s faithfulness and of their own faith.

God rewarded them further by providing a ram for the offering and by expanding upon His promise:

That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”  (Genesis 22:17-18).

All nations would be blessed through Jesus Christ, Who would be born to the house of Abraham (Matthew 1:1-17) and be the Savior of all who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way Heaven (John 14:6).

But Abraham’s legacy of faith did not stop with Isaac. His firstborn son Jacob, later renamed Israel because his faith was so great that he spent all night wrestling with God until He promised to bless him (Genesis 32:24-30), gave rise to the great nation of the same name, God’s chosen people. When Isaac was on his deathbed, Jacob acknowledged that his God was the God of his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham (Genesis 32:9).

Similarly, when Israel was on his deathbed, he blessed each of his twelve sons, progenitors of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. These included Joseph, himself a great example of faith in God working all things together for good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28). Israel described Joseph as blessed “by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above” (Genesis 49:25).

As God had promised, the lineage of the Messiah would stem from Abraham’s seed, namely through Israel’s son Judah, direct ancestor of Jesus, Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5), from whom the scepter of kingship and the lawgiverlawgiver would not depart (Genesis 49:10).

On Father’s Day, we honor our earthly fathers and thank our Heavenly Father for their Godly influence and other blessings on our life. May our earthly fathers bless their children with the greatest legacy – the gift of faith in our  Lord Jesus Christ!

© 2021 Laurie Collett

Reposted from the archives 


Saturday, June 8, 2024

Transitions: Triplets of Workmanship - God’s Enemies to His Ambassadors

 


Few transitions depicted in the Bible are as dramatic as that of Saul, Rabbinical scholar who thought he was doing God's work by persecuting and imprisoning Christians and even participating in their death by stoning. Yet on the road to Damascus, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him, struck him blind, and asked why he was persecuting Him.

From that moment on, Saul became a devout follower of Christ, meriting a change of name to the apostle Paul, who would not only win converts on his missionary journeys, but also plant churches and write many books of the New Testament

Once we are saved, we are to serve Christ, although few may be as fruitful as Paul. Nonetheless, our Christian walk should be marked by spiritual growth, following God’s lead, and knowing when to act and when to wait. The first step of spiritual growth is being born again (John 3) which transforms us instantly from enemies of God (Romans 5:10; James 4:4) to His children (1 John 3:1-2).

In our unsaved state, the apostle Paul describes us as being Gentiles in the flesh (Ephesians 2:11), The Jews were circumcised in obedience to God as a remembrance of the covenant He made with them and as an outward sign to those who were not God’s chosen people (Genesis 17:9-14). When Paul refers to unsaved Gentiles as uncircumcision, he is not describing their physical condition, but rather their state of separation from God. Unsaved souls are without Christaliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise (Ephesians 2:12).

But once we trust Christ, we are reconciled in peace by the fleshblood and cross of Christ not only to God, but to all His children, whether Jew or Gentile (v. 13-17). Through Jesus Christ, all believers in Him have access by one Spirit to the Father (v.18). This transformation changes us from strangers and foreigners to fellow citizens with the saints, or others who have placed their faith solely in God (v.19).

We then become an integral part of the church, or “household of God,” (v.19), which Paul describes in three ways. We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Himself as the chief corner stone; we are soundly framed together in a building that becomes a temple to worship Him; and we are built together as a dwelling for the Spirit to inhabit (v.20-22).

What is the ultimate purpose of this transformation? We are saved not only to “get out of hell free,” for if that were the case, God would take us to Heaven the moment we accepted His Son as Lord and Savior. We are saved by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:9), but we are His workmanship, created in Christ to do good works, which God has appointed to us since before we were even saved (v.11).

What kind of works will He do through us, if we yield to His Spirit? We are transformed from enemies of God to His children and to ambassadors for Christ! Being His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20) means that we represent Him to others through our witnesslifestyle, and teaching.

From the moment we are saved, we can witness to others about His transforming power, as did the Samaritan woman at the well once she realized He was the promised Messiah (John 4:28-30;39). This involves telling others that Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1); that He has lifted our burden of sin (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10); and that He has given us eternal life (John 3:16).

Over time, our changed lifestyle is a testimony that we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). This includes turning away from sin (2 Corinthians 7:1Ephesians 5:4James 1:21); worshipping Him by obeying His general will for our lives (Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 4:12); and doing good works for others by putting their needs before our own (James 2:16-18; 1:27).

Worship includes studying His Word (2 Timothy 3:15-17), praying in private (Matthew 6:6; Romans 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:17), and assembling together for corporate worship (Hebrews 10:25), as well as giving tithesgifts and offerings (Malachi 3:10; Matthew 5:23-24; Luke 21:1-4) Corporate worship includes preaching God’s word (2 Timothy 4:2), prayer for one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and praise through spoken wordmusic, and dance (Psalm 150).

As we mature in our Christian walk and in learning His Word, we should be able to teach others (Hebrews 5:12) what the Spirit has shown us. This might include formal teaching of Bible study or Sunday School, preaching, and/or Christian counseling from God’s Word, or simply a willingness to learn and share with others Biblical wisdom appropriate to their given situation.

We never know when God might arrange a divine appointment in which He wants us to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14), illuminating another person’s path with truth we have gleaned from His Word (2 Timothy 4:2).  Surely every believer is called to teach their children in God’s Word, and many may be blessed to have that same opportunity with grandchildren (2 Timothy 1:5) or friends who meet for informal Bible fellowship.

When I was a medical intern, the principle regarding how we were to learn to perform medical procedures was “See onedo oneteach one.” This baptism by fire was a little scary at the time, not only for the interns but especially for our patients, and even more so in retrospect. Yet this strategy was surprisingly effective. A similar principle should apply to our Christian walk: see God’s goodness (be saved); tell others about how He has changed you (witness); and disciple others, teaching them Bible truths based on our own study of the Word (Matthew 28:19).

Solomon speaks of the transitions from planting to harvesting (Ecclesiastes 3:3), with a long period of growth in between. Much of this process is invisible to the farmer as the seed germinates in the earth, until finally a tender shoot appears above ground, and then the plant matures until it bears grain or fruit ripe for harvest. So the farmer has faith in the miracle of the harvest even though he has no visible proof (Hebrews 11:1), he has confirmation of his faith when the first visible shoot appears, even though the plant at this stage is of no practical value, and finally he has fulfillment of the promise when the plant bears fruit that is ready to harvest.

Parallel transitions appear in our spiritual service: we plant the seed of the Word; there may follow a long dormant period during which we see little if any signs of change; and then finally we or another lead the soul to Christ as he accepts Him as Lord and Savior (Matthew 13:1-43). We can witness of God’s goodness, pray for salvation of the soul to whom we witness, and encourage that soul to accept Christ. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit to harvest as He changes the sinner into a new creation in Christ.

When I was a little girl I remember planting seeds in the garden and being so impatient at their apparent lack of growth that I was tempted to dig them up just to see what was happening! Yet even adult Christians may be equally impatient after we plant the seed of God’s Word and of our own testimony, and we may get discouraged when our efforts seem not to bear fruit immediately.

Thankfully, Scripture warns not to get weary in obeying Him, for in His perfect timing, we will see the fruit of our labor if we don’t give up.(Galatians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:58). This may not happen during our earthly lifetime, but when we see Christ face-to-face, He will reward us with the crown of rejoicing for every soul led to Him through our efforts (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

Even if we did not personally lead that soul to say the Sinner’s Prayer and call on the name of Jesus to be saved (Romans 10:13), we will take part in the reward if we witnessed to them, prayed for their salvation, or even encouraged them indirectly or unknowingly by distributing tractsposting messages from God’s Word online or in print, or supporting missionaries (Philippians 4:10-17).

Praise God for the many opportunities He gives believers to work together with Him in the ultimate endeavor of soul-winning! When we place our faith in the deathburial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Wayonly Way to Heaven (John 14:6), praise God that He transforms us from His enemies to His children and even to His ambassadors

Copyright 2014 Laurie Collett 
Edited, expanded and reposted from the archives

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Transitions: Triplets of Change from Death to Life

 


Jesus Raises Jairus' Daughter from the Dead

As we are made in the image of the Triune God (Genesis 1:26-27), it is not surprising that our physical and spiritual being, our relationships, and our life path reflect His three-part nature. Our lives unfold and transform according to His perfect plan, with triplets of change marking our transitions along that path (Jeremiah 29:11).

Solomon speaks of God making everything beautiful in His time. He speaks of the times and seasons of life, beginning with a time to be born and a time to die (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2,11). Yet sandwiched between these two events is the span of our time here on earth. In 1966, Linda Elllis wrote a poem called “The Dash,” referring to that tiny line on the gravestone between the birth year and the year of death – that tiny line that represents all we do with our allotted time in this life (Psalm 90:10). In the scheme of eternity, that time is like a vapor, disappearing like the puff of air we exhale on a frosty day (James 4:14).

So life on earth is the transition from birth to death, and even before that is gestation, during which the baby lives in its mother’s womb during the transition from conception to birth. When we are born, we as children depend on others to provide for our physical needs; then we are self-sufficient as mature adults; but then as elderly we begin to deteriorate physically, once again requiring support from others. God therefore commands us to honor our parents, not only when we are children and their care prolongs our life (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16), but also as adults when the tables are turned and we provide for them (Mark 7:10-12).

Since Adam and Eve fell and sin and death entered this world (Genesis 2:17; 3), our bodies have been doomed to age. The process of physical maturation and decay is marked by transitions in posture and stance – horizontal in infancy as the baby spends most of its time sleeping and then crawling; upright in childhood, adolescence and adulthood; then stooped and ultimately bedridden due to the ravages of old age.

Yet physical aging need not mean the end of our usefulness to others and service to God, as was the case with Caleb (Joshua 14:9-14), Moses (Deuteronomy 34:7), Naomi (Ruth 4:14-17) and others. Our church is blessed by our elderly pastor and his wife, in leadership at our church for over half a century, as well as by faithful teachers and missionaries who have continued to serve God throughout their long lives.  

Before puberty we cannot have children; then we become sexually mature and capable of parenting; but as we age, we become infertile and lose our reproductive potential. Of course, nothing is impossiblenothing is impossible with God, and He blessed Sarah (Genesis 17:15-19) and Elizabeth (Luke 1:13-18) with children at a very old age even though they had been barren). 

Even more important than the physical transitions every person must undergo are the spiritual transitions God freely offers to whosoever desires them (Revelation 22:17). When we seek God, and search for Him with all our heart, we shall find Him. Then we can call upon Him, and pray to Him, and He will listen to our prayers (Jeremiah 29:12-13). Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, later paraphrased this by saying, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jeremiah 33:3).

Jesus Himself promised us the greatest possible life changes if we are willing to undergo three transitions or steps of obedience: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7).

Sadly, many reject Christ’s offer of eternal life. These unsaved people must transition from life to three kinds of death: not only physical death (Hebrews 9:27) that all of us face unless we are still alive at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:50-54) but also spiritual death, or separation from God during their earthly life (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13), and eternal death with everlasting punishment in Hell (Mark 3:29; John 5:29).

By calling on the Name of Jesus, we can go from death in sin to being born again (John 3:3-8), followed by spiritual growth as we are progressively conformed to His image (Philippians 3:10-14). When we are born again, we are transformed from a natural man (unsaved), ideally to a spiritual Christian yielded to the Spirit, but sometimes we act as a carnal Christian when the old sin nature wins the daily battle against the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:13-23; 8:6; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16).

At the moment of salvation, we are justified (just as if we’d never sinned), meaning that God no longer sees our sins, but only the perfect righteousness of Christ that now clothes us by His grace through our faith (Romans 3:24-28). Throughout our Christian walk, we are gradually sanctified, or made more like Christ, until He takes us home (1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:11). Then, at the Rapture, we are instantly glorified, becoming as He is (Romans 8:17-30).

One of the most important transitions of our life involves how we deal with sin, for all of us are sinners in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23). First we must ask His forgiveness of our sins (1 John 1:8-10), then we must repent or turn away from willful sin (1 John 2:1-6), and then we must forgive others who have sinned against us (Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 17:4). All of our sins nailed Jesus to the tree, yet He forgave us (Colossians 2:13), so how much more should we be willing to forgive others? (Matthew 18:21-35) To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).  

Praise God that He allows whosoever will to transition from death to abundant life (John 10:10) here and now and to eternal life in His presence! May we place our faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven and spend our short time here on earth by praising, worshipping and following Him!

 © 2014 Laurie Collett

Edited, expanded and reposted from the archives


Saturday, May 25, 2024

Two Butterflies


Photo by SFAJane 2010


One lovely morning, my husband Richard was reading aloud from our daily devotionals as we sipped coffee on our lanai overlooking the woods.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a pale gold butterfly, delicately traced with black veining and borders, bejeweled with dots of sapphire and ruby. It drifted past my gaze and then soared upward on the breeze.

“Look!” I exclaimed. “A beautiful butterfly!”

“That?” Richard asked doubtfully, pointing at what appeared to be a dried leaf suspended from a twig.

I realized that the swallowtail butterfly I had spotted was no longer in our field of vision, apparently having caught a wind current lifting it gently toward the heavens before Richard could see it. What he was viewing was indeed a butterfly, albeit a dark, shriveled creature suspended on a nearby bush. Was it dead?

It was hanging from a twig, caught in thin strands of silk. We couldn’t see a fully formed web, so we weren’t sure if it was trapped by a spider beyond our view, or if it was a newborn butterfly just having emerged from its chrysalis. At least now there were signs of life – faint, intermittent pulsating of its wings. Was it in the throes of death, or struggling for new life?

Intermittent glances at the butterfly as we continued our readings did not shed light on the situation, but finally, after a few arduous beats of its wings, it flew away! I imagined that perhaps it had joined the butterfly I had seen earlier, both elevated to lofty heights, together enjoying the freedom of flight.

Far from coincidentally, our selection of morning readings had touched on being elevated to heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6), on being born again (John 3:3-8), and on the dangers of falling prey to subtle sins that can ensnare us and keep us from soaring upward with our Lord and Savior (Hebrews 12:1).

To me, the first butterfly epitomized the joy, beauty and liberty of salvation (Psalm 21:1; 35:9) through trusting in Jesus Christ, Son of God Who died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). When we are saved and in His perfect will, the Holy Spirit empowers us to soar with Him on the heavenly mission He has designed specifically for us (Ephesians 2:10).

We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in all details, and God created the human eye to be attracted to movement, pattern and color. Just as I quickly noticed and was uplifted by the colorful butterfly darting past me, so our spirits are attracted to the believer who is not only saved, but who is fulfilling God’s perfect plan for their life (Jeremiah 29:11). There is an inner beauty, purpose, and freedom in such a soul that acts as a beacon to all who are blessed to encounter them (Matthew 5:14-16).

But the soaring butterfly was once a lowly caterpillar, and the born-again believer emerged from a despairing sinner realizing their need of a Savior. The encumbered butterfly, which could have been in the final stages of metamorphosis, reminded me that only the Spirit can lift the sinner from the pain and darkness in the pit of sin to the healing and light of salvation (Psalm 30:3; 40:2; 143:7).

Like metamorphosis, the process of salvation is not instantaneous or painless. It occurs over time as the sinner hears the Word (Romans 10:14) and is convicted of his own sin, lack of merit, and inability to save himself from the eternal punishment in hell that his sins deserve (Ephesians 2:8-9). Meanwhile, the Spirit works in the heart to save him through processes unknown to us (Ecclesiastes 11:5).

Or was the second butterfly caught in a spider’s web, struggling against the odds to be set free? Even once we are saved, we can easily fall prey to Satan’s traps and to the sins that so easily entangle us (Hebrews 12:1). On casual glance, these may seem innocent enough, and even attractive, like silky strands of web shimmering in the sunlight. But if we let down our guard, we are so easily trapped (1 Peter 5:8), not to lose our salvation, but to lose the joy and freedom of fulfilling God’s purpose for us.

Thankfully, there can be release and restoration, just as there was for the butterfly that may have been freed from the spider’s web. If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9) and will renew our fellowship with Him, so that we can wait upon Him to lift us up as on eagle’s wings! (Isaiah 40:31)

May we soar freely with Him, born again as the caterpillar to new life as the butterfly, and restored to heavenly places when He forgives us of our confessed sins! 

© 2017 Laurie Collett

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Be Still, and Know...

 


Photo by Vian 2018

One night as I Iay awake, my mind churning through dark waves of shoulds and coulds, of “if only I’d…,” and “what if…,” I felt my heart pounding against the rocky cliffs of failure, doubt and despair. But the Holy Spirit brought a verse to mind that calmed me as no other could, as I meditated on it word by word:


Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Be. To be, not to do, that is the answer. As if I could do anything for God on my own merits or in my own strength – without Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). I had gotten so wrapped up with doing that I forgot that more than anything, God wants me to just be. Be the Shepherd’s sheep (Psalm 23), the Father’s child (Romans 8:16-21;9:26: Galatians 3:26), the Son’s bride, the Spirit’s student (John 16:13). Only then, when I let go of my own identity, my will, and my pride, can He use me as a fully yielded vessel (Romans 9:21; 2 Timothy 2:21) and do works through me for His purpose (Ephesians 2:10), making me an ambassador for Christ (Ephesians 6:19-20).

Still. Not clamoring for worldly attention (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13), not bewailing my fate (Job 2:9), not reciting my shopping list of wants to God (Matthew 6:7-8; James 4:3) and calling it “prayer.” Listening instead for that still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13) Who will guide (Proverbs 3:5-6) and comfort me, leading me beside the still waters (Psalm 23:2). The peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) comes only from stillness, from waiting on Him (Psalm 27:14; 37:34) to reveal Himself and His specific plan.

And. Stillness in and of itself is not enough – God wants more. Stillness is not passively waiting; it is actively seeking His face (1 Chronicles 16:11; Psalm 27:8; 105:4), which requires faith, or knowing that He is Who He says He is and that He will do what He has said He will do (Hebrews 11). He commands us to know Him through faith in His recorded Word, as well as to be still. And yet, being still is a prerequisite to knowing Him. He promises the reward of knowing Him if we are still enough to drink in His presence.

Know. When I pray to God or read His Word, do I hope that He will hear me, or that some of His promises might come true, depending on His whim? If so, I am just performing a religious exercise while denying its power by my own lack of conviction (2 Timothy 3:5). Or do I truly know, in every fiber of my being, that God is unchanging (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8), faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Corinthians 1:9), and true to His Word (Titus 1:2), and that if He said it, it is so? Only that degree of resolute faith can tap into the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) that He gave us through the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30) at the moment we accepted Him as our Lord and Savior.

That. What specifically does He want me to know? I could know all the genealogies and prophecies and quote Scripture and verse for any occasion, yet I could miss the point entirely (1 Corinthians 13:1-3), unless I set all knowledge into its proper place in the framework He has so clearly built.

I. It’s all about Him. It’s not about me, what I want, what I can do, how lovable I am, because I’m just a wretched sinner (Romans 3:23) deserving eternal punishment in hell (Romans 6:23), and all my self-righteousness is like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). The danger is that any ministry, any service, any act of worship could be directed to the idol of Me (1 John 5:21) if I fail to give Him the pre-eminence (Colossians 1:18). Christ alone is worthy (Revelation 5:12), and I must decrease so that He can increase (John 3:30) and take His rightful position on the throne of my life. Reserving any part of my life for my own selfish desires amounts to partial obedience, which is disobedience (1 Samuel 15:22). He bought me with the priceless sacrifice of His own precious blood (Romans 3:25; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

Am. He is the great I AM (Exodus 3:14), the eternally existent One (John 1:1), the completely self-sufficient One (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27), the Beginning and the Ending (Revelation 21:6; 22:13), the timeless One Who was, and is, and is to come (Revelation 1:8). He made me in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), for His pleasure (Psalm 147:11; 149:4), so because of I AM, I can be.

God. God is Love (1 John 4:7-8), which is the framework in which all knowledge, faith and works must rest if they are to have any power or meaning (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). His infinite love led Him to give His only Son (John 3:16) as the perfect sacrifice on our behalf, so that whoever places their faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven will be saved. God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), for He is perfectly holy. And God is Spirit (John 4:24), empowering His love and purity with complete might.

So to be still and know Him, I must walk in love (Ephesians 5:2), in light (1 John 1:7), and in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16,25). Yet these are not deeds or good works, but the source of power for good works, allowing my life to bear fruit as I abide more deeply in Him. The branches do nothing in themselves to grow grapes; it is only their utter dependence on the Vine that accomplishes the purpose for which they are created (John 15:5).

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10).

Ultimately every knee will bow to Him and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10), but for our lives to glorify Him in this short span of earthly time He has allotted us (James 4:14), we must first be still, and know…

© 2014 Laurie Collett

Reposted from the archives


Saturday, May 11, 2024

Human Relationships: Reflecting the Trinity

 


In today's troubled world, I often wonder how much of the apparent confusion has resulted from ignoring God's plan for human relationships. As many of my readers prepare to celebrate Mother's Day, I thought it would be an appropriate time to repost this article. May all mothers be blessed on this special day and throughout the year!

As we can see throughout Scripture, God’s Triune nature is echoed in His creationHis attributes, His prescribed patterns of worship, and in mankind created in His own image. Even in our relationships to one another in our community, globally, and to Our Creator we again see groups of three playing a central role.

The grammatical construction of all languages describes all relationships in terms of three persons: first person (I and we), second person (you), and third person (he, she, and they). The basic unit of society is the family, which in its simplest complete form is father, mother, and child. Even though Jesus Christ had God as His Father and was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:16-20), He began His earthly life in the family comprised of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. (Luke 2:16).

God has structured these elemental family relationships by commanding children to honor their father and mother (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16); and fathers not to drive their children to anger, but to raise them with the loving care and correction of God Himself (Ephesians 6:4).  This basic pattern should prevail in all our earthly relationships: the person in authority leads not with brute force but with self-sacrificing love and Godly example, and the person under authority respects, honors and submits to the one leading them (Ephesians 6:1-9). 

The marriage itself can be viewed as a relationship among three, with Christ at the Head, the husband submitting to Christ and loving his wife self-sacrificially, and the wife submitting herself to her husband (Ephesians 5:20-33).

Our family should be knit together in obedience, love and prayer. Obeying God's Word demonstrates our faith in Him, for faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). God is love, and we cannot genuinely love one another without first loving Him (1 John 4:8). The apostle Paul urges us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and the sincere prayers of believers for one another are effective (James 5:16).

Our position in the life cycle and in extended family life can broadly be divided into childhood, adulthood, and old age. In childhood, we depend on our elders for our physical and spiritual nourishment (Luke 11:11-13). In adulthood, we may marry and have children, providing care for our loved ones and for others in our community. In old age, we may again depend on adults to care for us if we are physically or mentally infirm (Mark 7:10-13), or we may be blessed to mentor others through our wisdom and experience (Titus 2:2-5).

In other societal groupings, many relationships can be categorized into three levels: self, superiors, and subordinates. For example, a worker reports to his employer, but supervises his secretary. A teacher answers to the principal but is responsible for her students.

Whether applied to the basic family unit, to work or school environments, or to friendships, Solomon’s metaphorical wisdom is that a cord of three strands cannot be easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). In Old Testament law, two or three witnesses were required before someone could be accused of a crime (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16, etc.). In the New Testament, Jesus promised that God would be present whenever two or three worshippers are gathered in His Name (Matthew 18:20).

The Bible gives many examples of relationships among three persons. The sons of Noah (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) were the progenitors giving rise to the southern, middle, and northern peoples after the flood  (Genesis 10:1). The three Hebrew boys refusing to renounce God and delivered by Him from the fiery furnace were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3). The three apostles in Jesus’ inner circle were Peter, James, and John, as these three witnessed His Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2) and were invited to go further into the Garden of Gethsemane with Him to pray on the eve of His crucifixion (Matthew 26:33).

Three-person relationships within the human family and within society mirror the association of self to others and to God. If we imagine ourselves as located at our home base on earth, we could draw a circle around that point to indicate others within our circle of influence. The radius of that circle depends on how far we can travel and on the sophistication of our communication devices. Nowadays, anyone with an Internet connection theoretically has a worldwide circle of influence.

Our individual relationships with others may vary, particularly in our local communities, so that we may be in a position of higher authority over some (e.g. our children, our employees) and in a position of submission to some (e.g. our employer, law enforcement, government leaders). But as we travel further away from our home base, those in our circle of influence are more likely to be in positions of equal footing relative to one another (for example, all of us connected on the Internet).

If we think of our circle of influence on earth as a base, and we draw an imaginary line upward from the center extending infinitely high to God, the enclosed space would be a three-dimensional cone symbolizing the meaning of our existence: ourselves in relationship to others and to Our Creator.

No matter how much or how little authority we have in our earthly relationships, He regards us all as equal in His sight (Acts 10:34; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). We must all submit to Him, either in this life by placing our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and in His completed work on the cross (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15) or at the day of judgment when those who rebelled against Him will bow the knee and confess that He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 17:14; 19:16).

May we all choose in this life to recognize Christ as Lord and enjoy eternal, abundant life (John 10:10) with Him here and in Heaven (John 3:16), rather than once it is too late to avoid the just punishment of eternity in hell (Matthew 10:28; Luke 16:19-31). May our obedience to Him in our Christian life include following His divine plan for human relationships!


© 2012 Laurie Collett
Edited, expanded and reposted from the archives