Saturday, November 25, 2023

Get Up and Go!

Elijah and the Angel of the Lord


As the old joke goes, “My get up and go has got up and went!”

What should we, as Christians, do when discouragement and defeat make us want to give up our ministries?

My husband Richard and I were reading our daily devotionals when we came to an anecdote about Catherine Marshall, dedicated missionary and prolific Christian writer. In her later years, she had come to the point where she felt exhausted and unable to continue, to the point that she felt she had to give up writing.

This brought tears to her eyes, knowing that her Spirit-inspired words had helped so many people and had brought her such intense satisfaction. Through much prayer, she felt God’s confirmation that it was not time to abandon her God-given gift, and that He would give her strength to continue.

Richard expressed confusion over her decision, admitting that he too had struggled at times with wanting to give up our dance ministry. “I’m old; I’m tired; and my body doesn’t want to do what it used to. I’m thankful for the gift God gave me to be able to dance for His glory, but if I’m not able to dance as powerfully as I used to, then I feel that maybe it’s no longer to His glory.”

I reassured him that even though we were older and perhaps less capable in the natural than we were in previous years, that it wasn’t about our ability, but about God’s strength being made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I reminded him that we have been encouraged in our recent performances when people of all ages, even strangers, told us that they were inspired and moved by our dancing and its Christian message.

God always chooses unlikely candidates to fulfill His purposes. Moses was a stutterer whom God chose to speak to Pharaoh and convince him to liberate God’s people (Exodus 4:10-12; 3:10). Noah was a drunkard whom God chose to repopulate the planet after the great flood (Genesis 9:20-21; 10:1). Ruth was a pagan who not only turned to the one true God, but whom God chose to be an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Ruth 1:4,16; Matthew 1:5-16).

It is not unusual for God’s people to get discouraged and want to give up, even in the midst of great spiritual victory. Elijah overthrew the false prophets of Baal by challenging them to a contest with the one true God, Who brought down heavenly fire on a water-soaked altar (1 Kings 18:21-40).

Shortly thereafter, intimidated by Jezebel’s threat to kill Him, Elijah wanted to give up. But God led him to a quiet, shaded spot and told him to have a snack, take a nap, then get up and go! (1 Kings 19).

The apostle Paul admitted that he would actually choose death over life, because it would immediately transport him to eternity with his beloved Lord and Savior. Yet he knew that would be a selfish choice, because it would deprive his converts and new churches of his leadership and inspiring example (Philippians 1:20-26).

So he persevered, knowing that God’s strength was made perfect in His weakness, and that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).

“Yes, but Paul didn’t have to do overhead lifts!” Richard protested.

“True, but he did have to endure shipwreck, storms, near drowning, severe beatings, jail, and nearly being stoned to death,” I countered. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). “Still feel like complaining?”

Richard inspires me because of how God has used him in our dance ministry despite what many would consider as strikes against him in the highly demanding area of Theatre Arts dancing. He had no formal dance training until he took his first dance lesson at age 40. He has a spinal condition that prevented him from combat duty, and a heart condition that gave us quite a scare when he suddenly became short of breath while in the midst of a strenuous training session.

And yet, God had an amazing plan – the doctor told him that the best way to prevent further episodes was to continue high-intensity training – particularly overhead lifting!

Decades later, now a cancer survivor who had three years of treatment known to reduce muscle mass and strength, Richard continues to partner me in our dance ministry – only by the grace of God! 

After a cancer procedure with usual recovery time of 6 weeks or more before resuming even light activity, Richard performed beautifully with me in a benefit for the American Cancer Society, 3 weeks to the day from the procedure! Praise God for His empowering grace!

Once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), God has a Divine purpose for each of us, which He determined from before the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10). If we don’t give up, we will reap many rewards, if not in this lifetime, then once we hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

May we get up and go, run with patience the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1), and keep on keeping on until the day we hear the last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:52) or He calls us home!    

© 2023 Laurie Collett

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Top Ten Thankful Thoughts


Photo by Ms Jones 2005

As Christians, we have so many blessings for which to thank God, not only at Thanksgiving but every day, that a list of only ten cannot even begin to describe it! Every good and perfect gift comes from God above (James 1:17), for the unsaved as well as for born-again believers (Matthew 5:45John 3:3-8). The Psalms repeatedly echo what was first said in 1 Chronicles 16 (v. 34; 41): “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1,29; 136:1,3). So let’s use this verse as a departure point! 
1.God is good. Only the Triune God (the FatherJesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit) is good (Lamentations 3:25), meaning holy, without sin, righteous (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). Because He is good, He desires only the best for His children (Romans 8:16-17), meaning those who are saved by our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Because He is righteous, God sees all who have trusted Him as righteous, for He has clothed us in His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10; Psalm 132:9). 
2. God is merciful (1 Kings 8:23; 2 Chronicles 6:14; Nehemiah 1:5; Psalm 52:8; 66:20; Micah 7:18; Luke 1:78; Romans 9:16; Ephesians 2:4; 1 Peter 1:3; Jude 1:21; etc.). It is great news that God is good, but it is also the worst possible news if we cannot meet His standard of holiness, and none can (Romans 3:23). Holy God cannot allow an unsaved sinner into Heaven, for that would defile Him. Because of His mercy, He does not give us what we deserve, which is eternal punishment in hell (Psalm 86:13). 
Instead, He loved us so much that He gave His Son (John 3:16) to pay the price in full for our sins, so that sinful man could be reconciled to Holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18). When God looks at born-again believers, He no longer sees our sins, but instead sees the perfect righteousness of His Son, which He has credited to our account. If we confess our sins, He forgives us (1 John 1:9), removing us from our sins as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). His mercies are new every morning (Psalm 59:16; Lamentations 3:22-23). 
3. God is full of grace. His mercy spares us from what we deserve, and His grace, freely given as unmerited favor, gives us what we do not deserve – eternal life in Heaven with Him and with our loved ones who have trusted Him by faith (Ephesians 2:3-8). There is no good work we can do to earn our way to Heaven, for our attempts to be righteous on our own are like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6).   
While we look forward to eternal life in Heaven, He gives us abundant life here and now (John 10:10). His grace showers us with blessings every day (Ezekiel 34:26), grace upon grace. His grace is sufficient for us to endure trials (2 Corinthians 12:9) and empowers us to carry out the work He has appointed to us (1 Corinthians 15:10). 
4. God endures forever. He cannot change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), so we don’t have to worry about an unstable god wresting our promised future away from us. We are not gambling on the whim of some capricious god finding favor with us when we die, or judging that our good deeds outweigh the bad. We have the blessed, living hope and promise of the One True God, our Rock (1 Samuel 2:2; Matthew 16:18) and Fortress (Psalm 18:2), returning for His children to spend eternity with Him in Heaven (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3). 
There is nothing we, He, nor anyone or anything else can do to reverse that, to rob us of salvation once we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior (Romans 8:35-39). We did nothing to earn it, and nothing can ever remove it from usHe is faithful and true (Jeremiah 42:5; Revelation 3:14; 19:11), steadfast and constant (Daniel 6:26), always delivering on His promises (James 1:17; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13). 
5. God is love (1 John 4:8). Because God loves us, He not only saved us, but He always acts toward us out of love. We may not always understand His ways, just as a rebellious child does not always understand why a loving father slaps the hand that is reaching for the hot stove (Hebrews 12:6-11). But we can always trust that He is working all things together for those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). He loves us infinitely, so He can’t love us any more, and we don’t have to work to earn His love. Similarly, He can’t love us any less, even when we rebel.  Because God is love, His Spirit in our heart teaches us to love and serve Him and one another, and our earthly relationships can thrive when motivated by love (John 13:34-35). 
6. God is all knowing and all powerful. Not only does God love us infinitely, but He has all wisdom about all things past, present and future (Psalm 139:1-6). He knows what is best for us, what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8,32), and what must be done to accomplish that. Is anything too hard for God? (Jeremiah 32:27) Can the One Who spoke the worlds into existence (Genesis 1), Who made the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12), and Who parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21) be unable to do whatever is best for us? 
7. God is light. Once His Holy Spirit enters our heart at the moment of salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13), His Word is a light to our path and a lamp to our feet (Psalm 119:105), showing us where to go, how to follow Him, and to understand His will and plan for our life. He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), yet His light shining through us and reflecting from us allows us to be lights (Matthew 5:14), illuminating a dark and wicked world with His truth. 
8. God provides for all our needs. If God cares for the birds of the air and clothes the flowers in beautiful apparel (Luke 12:22-33), will He not provide for His children? We are the crown jewel of His creation (Genesis 1:26-27), made for His good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5,9), and He will provide all we need to carry out the mission He has appointed to us (Philippians 4:14-19). If we seek Him first, and His righteousness, all other needs will be met (Matthew 6:33) – food, clothing, shelter, safety (Psalm 37:23-25). 
9. God gives us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). He provides not only for our basic needs, but for special blessings to enrich our life. These may not be financial or material, appealing to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life, for these are of the world (1 John 2:16). Yet the beauty and majesty of His creation, freely available to all, is beyond measure (Genesis 1:31Psalm 19:1). 
The spiritual blessings He gives us of peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and joy in Him (Psalm 21:1; 35:9; etc.) cannot be bought at any price, except for that of His shed blood on Calvary’s cross (Hebrews 9:22). How can we compare to any earthly treasure the joy of knowing that we will see our sisters and brothers in Christ once more and forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), never having to say goodbye; in glorified bodies without tears, pain, sickness, aging or death? (1 Corinthians 15:35-58
10. God has a plan for our life. Praise God, He has freed us from the bondage of sin, death and hell! Praise God, we are no longer His enemies (Romans 5:10), but His children (Galatians 3:26), joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17) to His inheritance of eternal life, and united as the body (Romans 12:5) and bride (Revelation 21:2) of Christ! But it gets even better – we are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) and His fellow-laborers (1 Corinthians 3:9). 
His general plan for our lives is that all be saved (2 Peter 3:9; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13), and that once saved, to keep His commandments, to tell others about Him, to pray, and study His Word. Beyond that, He has a specific plan for each of us (Ephesians 2:10), which He designed before time even began (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:5,11). If we have faith, He will reveal that plan to us, piece by piece. If we yield to His Holy Spirit and follow that plan, we will have the joy of hearing Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21
Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endures forever! 
© 2016 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Dolls, or Friends?


When I was a little girl, I spent hours playing with dolls. For me, it wasn’t so much about dressing them up in pretty clothes or taking care of a baby doll – it was about creating drama. I loved making up intricate plots of adventures, mysteries, relationships and intrigue in different historical periods or even in the future, and in exotic locales. When I ran out of three-dimensional dolls to play the many characters in these ongoing narratives, I switched to paper dolls, often using figures from four or five paper doll books to take part in the same story.

The beauty of this type of play was that the dolls were willing subjects in whatever fantasy world I envisioned. I was the master of their universe. They wore the clothes and assumed the identity of the characters I created for them; they spoke the dialogue I wrote; and they had the feelings and reactions I thought appropriate for the relationships and situations in which I placed them.

But the downside of playing with dolls is that they have no life of their own. They could never surprise me, and I had no real affection, or indeed any feelings, for them, because they were under my complete control and incapable of doing anything other than what I made them do.

“Chatty Cathy” was a popular doll during my childhood, as you could pull a string on her neck and she would randomly say one of several prerecorded phrases. I never wanted one of these dolls, as her inane comments paled in comparison to the sophisticated conversations I preferred for my dolls. Yet despite the cleverness of the repartee I invented for these characters, it never enlightened, informed or touched me, as it came solely from my own mind.

In works of fiction we sometimes see dolls or toys coming to life, as in the Nutcracker Ballet. More often, these are horror stories, like Bride of Chucky, as we would perceive any independence coming from a doll as originating from a demonic spirit.

Today, an additional scenario is further cause for alarm -- AI, or artificial intelligence. What happens when an inanimate object, such as a computer designed to help mankind, gains unintended power? It's one thing to ask Alexa for directions or for the best temperature at which to bake blue hake. (Sadly, regarding the latter, "she" often gives me recipes for Smurf-decorated blue cake!). 

AI has a range of potentially positive applications ranging from predicting stock market prices to designing safe and effective new medications. But when AI is used to create malicious "deep fake" videos damaging someone's reputation, or to hack financial systems, or to develop lethal new warfare strategies, it seems like the "sorcerer's apprentice" has turned on the sorcerer.

Another unintended consequence of the proliferation of AI is that those using it tend to rely less on their own, God-given intelligence. What is the incentive to memorize important facts or to learn survival skills when we can just look these up at the touch of a button on a device we carry in our pocket? But what happens if the computer crashes, or worse yet, gives us wrong or misleading information?  

As I grew older, I realized it was time to put aside childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11), and I eventually became proficient in computer skills, mostly to my benefit. (I admit to still having a doll collection, but not to playing with it!). 

Instead of dolls, I had friends – long before the days of Facebook, texting, or BFFs. In this brave new world, I was often surprised, amused, or puzzled by how my friends reacted to what I said or did. Sometimes I was hurt by their indifference, rejection, or betrayal, yet often I was touched by their loyalty, kindness, and generosity.

What an amazing feeling when a classmate you admire says she would like to be your friend! The spontaneity and freedom classmates had in choosing to spend time with me and to be called my friend brought me incredible joy, as I knew they could have chosen otherwise. Those friendships are a source of strength to this very day, and I am thankful for wisdom gained from lessons learned with those friends and from their positive influences on my life.

Unlike dolls, friends cannot be controlled. We can influence one another for good (Proverbs 27:17), as Jonathan did to David (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 19:2-6), or for evil, as Jonadab did to Amnon (2 Samuel 13:1-22). But “friends” can and do ultimately choose to love (Proverbs 17:17), ignore or hate us (Job 16:20; 19:19; Psalm 41:9)

Despite all our best advice and love for them (Proverbs 27:9-10), they can choose to do what we think is best for them, to disregard the benefit of our wisdom, or to openly defy us (Deuteronomy 13:6; Job 6:27; 32:3; Jeremiah 19:9).

Reminiscing about dolls and friends made me think about how God regards us. He created us for His good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5,9; Philippians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:11), in a way like a toymaker designs dolls to delight little girls. And yet, we are so blessed that He created us not to be like dolls, but rather to be His friends! (Exodus 33:11; 2 Chronicles 20:7; Song of Solomon 5:16; Matthew 11:19; Luke 12:4; James 2:23).

He not only desires fellowship with us (1 Corinthians 1:9Philippians 2:1; 3:10; 1 John 1:3,6-7), but He loved us first (1 John 4:19), while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), enemies (Romans 5:10; James 4:4), and children of the devil (1 John 3:10). He is the Friend Who sticks closer to us than even a brother (Proverbs 18:24),

Even when we ignore, disobey, or defy Him, He is loyal, faithful and true (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 89:8; Isaiah 25:1; etc.). He created us not to be His servants, but His friends, entrusted with the wisdom the Father gave to His Son. There is no greater love than His for His friends, because He died to pay the penalty for our sins and rose again so that all who trust Him would have eternal life (John 15:13-15).

God created mankind in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Just as He has a Triune nature, we therefore do too. We have not only a physical body, like the one Jesus had when He came to earth in human flesh (John 1:14) as Emmanuel, meaning God with us (Matthew 1:23), but a soul and spirit, giving us our unique personality, desires and talents.

Because God created us with the potential to be His friends, He gave us free will to make choices, whether for good or for bad. No matter how realistic in appearance, or how many phrases a doll can recite if you push a button, or how many preprogrammed actions a robot can carry out, it lacks the ability to make decisions.

God, Who is all-powerful and infinitely wise (Psalm 139), could have guaranteed that we would always serve Him, pray to Him, witness for Him, and never sin. Had He done that, though, we could not be His friends, but only His playthings.

Instead He created mankind with free will and with the capacity for choice and creative thought, which is why He could assign to Adam the challenge of naming all the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). With free will, however, comes the capacity for sin. Despite the wonderful fellowship Adam and Eve enjoyed with their Creator in the Paradise of Eden, they chose to disobey His commandment and to eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6).

When Adam and Eve sinned, they had to face the personal consequences of that choice, namely loss of innocence and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. But even worse, their sin brought the curse of sin and death on all mankind (Genesis 3:7-24).

How amazing that the Creator of all designed us to seek Him, so that we could be blessed by fellowship with Him as His friends, created for His good pleasure! May we wisely exercise our free will with every choice we make, yielding to the Holy Spirit within, and not to our old sin nature! 

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

Saturday, November 4, 2023



Recently, after carrying heavy bags up the stairs leading to our beach house, I felt somewhat light-headed, probably because of the sudden exertion after a long car ride. But as I gazed out over the ocean and toward the blue horizon, I felt my equilibrium restored.

About two years ago, I had to rehearse for our dance ministry when I had nearly, but incompletely, recovered from a 24-hour bout of episodic vertigo. Spinning and being lifted overhead, sometimes while upside down, were more challenging than usual! But I found that if I looked up and into the distance, the vertigo disappeared and my balance quickly returned.

The key to overcoming these troubling situations seemed to be a matter of perspective. Keeping my focus narrowed on myself and my immediate surroundings aggravated my discomfort, whereas shifting to a broader, heavenward view gave me a reassuring sense of stability.

Leonardo da Vinci, the great Renaissance painter, was a master of one point perspective. This technique uses parallel lines converging at a single vanishing point to create the illusion of depth while drawing the viewer’s eye to focus on the main subject. In his renowned “Last Supper,” the vanishing point is behind the head of Jesus Christ, and the lines in the painting all converge on His right eye, directing the viewer's attention to Him.

Perspective has spiritual as well as physical and visual implications. When chaos swirls all around us, we can choose a heavenly rather than a worldly perspective and keep our eyes, hearts and minds focused on Jesus Christ. Remembering that we are saved by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) and are promised eternal life with Him (John 3:16), all our worldly cares grow dim.

Just as Leonardo used artistic techniques to highlight Jesus Christ as his most important subject, we can use our spiritual gifts to give Him the pre-eminence in our lives. We must keep ourselves from idols, or any goal, relationship, or pursuit that we value more dearly than Him (1 John 5:21). We must bring every thought into captivity and subjection to Him, while casting out any prideful idea opposed to God’s supremacy (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Scripture urges us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to be anxious about nothing (Philippians 4:6), and to meditate on God’s Word day and night (Deuteronomy 6:7; Psalm 119). Although our thoughts may flutter about like a swarm of bees, each bee can light on only one blossom at a time, and our mind can only process one thought at a time. So if we direct our thoughts to God, wicked, intrusive, or anxious thoughts take flight.

Like Elisha, we should pray for our own eyes and those of our loved ones to be opened to God’s perspective, seeing not only our physical enemies but also the angels and great cloud of witnesses far outnumbering and overpowering any physical dangers or foes (2 Kings 6:15-17).

If we first seek Jesus Christ and His righteousness, He will not only allow us to find these, but will add on the blessing of meeting all our physical and spiritual needs (Matthew 6:33). Beginning our prayers with praise and thanksgiving reminds us of His infinite power, wisdom, righteousness and love, and His great mercy and grace (Matthew 6:9-13). It reminds us to shift our focus from our weakness to His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9), from our confusion to His solution, from our fear to the faith only He can provide (2 Corinthians 4:8-18).

Turning next in prayer to intercession for the great needs of our loved ones, church family, acquaintances, and even our enemies (Matthew 5:44) changes our perspective by making our own problems seem small in comparison. Then we can ask for whatever personal concerns remain on our hearts, but by then our attitude is likely to have shifted from grumbling or anxiety to gratitude.

In today’s perplexing and distressing End Times, the world, our flesh and the devil want us to focus on the problems, misery, and evil all around us, to paralyze us with fear and distract us from doing God’s work, following His Word, and worshipping Him. But the Holy Spirit within each believer encourages us to look up, for our redemption is near! (Luke 21:28). May we shift our perspective to heavenly things above (Colossians 3:1-2).

In this life we will be troubled and we will face many trials and much suffering (1 Peter 4:12). But in the vast scope of eternity, these all last but a fleeting moment (2 Corinthians 4:17) and will all vanish at the last trump, when we are raised in our glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:52-53) and get our first glimpse of our Savior’s precious face!

Then our perspective will change completely, for we will know Him as He now knows us (1 Corinthians 13:12). We will enjoy Him, Heaven and one another throughout eternity, never again to experience death, aging, sin, sorrow or pain!

Look up, for our redemption draws nigh!

© 2023 Laurie Collett