Saturday, July 13, 2024

Triplets of Life: Live, Move, Be

 


Photo by Charles J Sharp 2014


In God we live and move and 
have our being (Acts 17: 28). I don’t believe the Scripture is being redundant here just for emphasis, but rather that each of these verbs represents a different, deeper and higher plane of existence.

LIVE means to be alive, or to exist in the physical state that distinguishes living beings from inanimate objects such as the dirt from which God created man (Genesis 2:7). That state is also different from death, or the state of a body that has ceased to live (Romans 3:23). Finally, life is distinguished from mechanical animation, because of the distinctive life force that animates it. Robots with highly developed artificial intelligence may simulate meaningful actionconversation, and even expression, but they do not live.

The life force unique to living beings allows metabolismgrowth, and reaction to the internal and external environment. Pro-choice activists argue about whether an embryo or fetus is alive, but even in these early stages (Psalm 139:13-16), the baby clearly demonstrates metabolism as it receives nourishment from its mother and uses it for growth, actually at a much higher rate than occurs after birth. Transfer of energy through metabolism also allows reaction to stimuli, which doctors can monitor as changes in heart rate, sucking or other facial movements, and kicking or other limb movements. Any woman who has carried a child knows the excitement of feeling her infant kick within the womb, and those who have sonograms will appreciate her baby sucking its thumb or even seeming to wave hello! 

We live to MOVE. Through movement, we can satisfy our physical needsexpress our emotions, and interact with our world. Our emotionsdesires and soul constitute the force that motivates us to physical actionwork, and deeds (Deuteronomy 32:21; 2 Samuel 18:33; Daniel 11:11; Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 18:27; etc.). Movement in dance, song or playing an instrument can be used to worship God.

Our action causes reaction from our environment, so that our deeds have clear consequences, not only for ourselves, but for others and even for subsequent generations (Genesis 20:9; Judges 19:30; 2 Samuel 12:14; Ezra 9:13; Esther 1:17-18; Psalm 28:4, Isaiah 59:18; Luke 23:41; Romans 2:6, etc.)

The sum total of our thoughtswords and deeds (Acts 7:22; 2 Corinthians 10:11; 1 John 3:18) shapes our personalitystatus, and who we are – our very BEING. The former US Army slogan, “Be All You Can Be!” connotes being our highestbestoptimal self.

God oversees our development while our being is still incompletely formed in the womb (Psalm 139:16), and He allots our being life span during which we are to sing praises to God (Psalm 104:33; 146:2). After physical death, our being is transformed into a child of the resurrection (Luke 20:36), if we have trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).

Livemove and have our being” may be paraphrased as “existwork, and fulfill God’s purpose for your life.” Mere physical existence, as for example someone who is considered brain dead after severe head injury, falls so short of our expectations for life that many complete living wills to avoid being artificially maintained in that state.

Work that honors God is a noble occupation for any life (Colossians 3:23), whether it is gainful employmentunpaid works of charity, or artistic endeavors that uplift others. God Himself worked to create all that there is (Genesis 2:2-3). 

Without hard work at some point by ourselves, our forefathers, or by some of our family members, we are not able to eat (Genesis 3:17-19; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Proverbs 31:15), be clothed (Proverbs 31:13,21-22), or find shelter (Proverbs 24:27). God honors these efforts by providing for our needs when we seek Him first (Matthew 6:28-33).

Failure to work because of laziness leads to poverty, physical want, and ruin (Proverbs 6:9-11; 24:30-34). Our work should provide needed goodsservices, and/or education that benefit others physicallyintellectually, and/or spiritually (Isaiah 65:22; Proverbs 31:10-31).

In the animal kingdom, God created every living creature that moves (has a specific task), and He gave them the higher purpose of reproducing abundantly, after their kind, to maintain each species (Genesis 1:21; Proverbs 6:6-8). As an illustration, let us consider the life cycle of the butterfly. When the caterpillar entombs itself in the chrysalis, it is, for all, intents and purposes, dead. Its enzymes completely digest and obliterate what once was the caterpillar.

But then God gives it new life as the digested proteins reassemble into the immature butterfly. As it moves, it begins breaking free from the chrysalis and pumping fluid into its still fragile, immature, barely pulsating wings. This movement allows it to achieve the highest level of being that God intended for it – it flies away as a butterfly that pollinates flowers (work benefiting mankind)reproduces its own species.(fulfilling God’s laws of nature) and lifts our spirits with its beautyfreedom, and grace.

God created Adam and Eve as living souls (Genesis 2:21), gave them meaningful and fulfilling work, and intended their beings for fellowship with Him (Genesis 2; 3:8). The work He gave Adam and Eve was to be fruitful in the work He appointed to them (naming the animals, dressing and keeping the garden), to multiply or reproduce, and to have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moved upon the earth (Genesis 1:28).

Without God, we are nothing, we can do nothing, and we have nothing (John 15:5.) God and man are inseparable – everything we aredo and become is a gift from Him (James 1:17). God gives to all mankind life, and breath, and all things (Acts 17: 25).

Life refers to our physical existence; breath to the movement of air to sustain us (Job 33:4; 12:10; 27:3) and His Spirit to fill (John 20:22) and inspire us (Isaiah 42:5). God created a living soul from the inanimate body He formed from the dust by breathing life into Adam’s nostrils (Genesis 2:21). His breath also made the heavens (Psalm 33:6) and revived the dry bones of the spiritually dead nation of Israel (Ezekiel 37:1-14). “All things” refers to the many blessings He bestows on us (Proverbs 10:22, etc.) because of His lovemercy and grace (2 John 1:3, etc.).

We are entirely dependent on God, for our physical life from the moment sperm fertilizes egg to create a unique human being (body; Psalm 139:13-15); for our active life to interact with the world and with others as motivated by our emotions and desires (soul), and for our spiritual life (spirit; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 4:12).

Our body (“soma” in Greek) allows us to be aware of and interact with our world; our soul (“psyche”) gives us awareness of our desires and affects our relationships with others, and our spirit (“pneuma”) is that part of us unique to mankind that God designed to interact with Him. Whether or not we yield our spirit to knowingworshiping, and serving Him determines our eternal destiny!

Thankfully, God is near us, and He designed us in His image (Genesis 1:26) to want to know Him, to look for Him, and to find Him (Acts 17: 27). In this life, we can have no higher purpose than that!


© 2015 Laurie Collett
Edited, expanded and reposted from the archives

Saturday, July 6, 2024

The Most Important Thing


Photo by Olybrius 2008


I had a dream in which I was kidnapped and taken to a hotel room filled with boxes and boxes of what appeared to be old junk. My captor told me that in this room were the contents of his relative’s estate. He had brought me here to find the single most important thing, and to tell him what it is was when he returned. If I had the wrong answer, I would die.

Without another word, he enigmatically disappeared. My heart pounded like a caged bird as I frantically scratched through the cartons.

The gleam of an antique bracelet first caught my eye – well made, and no doubt of historic value, but what was it worth? Perhaps the deceased had herself inherited it from her mother or grandmother, to be treasured as a legacy and now passed on to my captor.

Next I spotted a paper so fragile that it nearly crumbled in my hand. The ink writing was long since faded and worn away at the folds, but it appeared to be a love letter penned by a Civil War soldier to his fiancée awaiting him at home. Did he return from battle alive, I wondered, and if so, was she still faithful? The story that letter could tell might speak volumes to my captor’s heritage.

I recoiled as my grasping hand encountered sharp, pointed teeth, rooted in a tiger’s jaw – possibly a safari trophy? I shuddered as I put this aside, knowing I would not want this reminder of man’s needless cruelty to animals. Yet, given my kidnapper’s criminal tendencies, this might be exactly what he sought.

Eureka – a map! An island, near the equator, showing coordinates and a pathway leading to an X near the center. A treasure map leading to gold doubloons, or just a hoax?

Even in my panicked state, a faint smile curled my lips as I noticed a plaster-of-paris mold of a tiny handprint, embellished with “I Love U” in a child’s scrawl. Could it be that the little hand commemorated the bond between my captor and his mother, reminding him of a gentler time, her nurturing love and the promises of youth?

Another memento of childhood – a painstakingly embroidered, now yellowing, christening dress. Perhaps the kidnapper counted on his infant sprinkling to get him to heaven?

Then a nicely framed diploma, summa cum laude Masters’ degree from Harvard. No doubt that had opened many doors for this family. Or was it the reverse – the heir spurning the advantages of an expensive college education, and instead squandering his inheritance?

Hiding in the corner of one of the last cartons was an inobtrusive plastic bottle containing heart medication. If only the deceased had taken this in time, she might still be here, and I would not be in this awful predicament!

Aha! I exclaimed aloud in my half delirious state -- surely this was it – a safe deposit box key!  Everything else here was just debris accumulating on the journey of life, with merely sentimental value or clues to the path taken. But the real reward was surely the cash, securities, title deeds, and other valuables locked away for the rightful heir.

Confident that I had found the most important thing, I suddenly realized that days had gone by, and I was ravenously hungry. There was no food in the room, but to my surprise, the door to the hallway was unlocked. I ran out, elated to be “free” but then spotted the armed guards at the hotel entrances and exits. Apparently I could roam about inside but not leave the hotel.

With an ominous thud, the door to my room locked shut behind me. If I were not inside the room, how could I save my life when my captor returned by telling him the most important thing?

But if I fainted from hunger, there was no hope at all. First find food, then somehow get back in the room. There were stores and restaurants, but I had no money, and I could tell from the faces of the staff that they were hardly sympathetic to my plight. I was thrilled to find a nearly empty box of crackers on a room service tray, with a few crumbs still inside. I snatched it up and scurried into a corridor leading to the pool room, thinking I could eat there in peace.

Instead I found a little girl in a soaking wet bathing suit, shivering and sobbing, and all alone. She threw her arms around me, crying “I’m cold! I’m hungry! I want my mommy!”

There were no towels or bathrobes anywhere, so I wrapped her in my sweater, hugged her, and gave her what was left of the crackers. I knew I had to stay with her to comfort her, even if I would be killed once apprehended. As starved, wretched and terrified as I felt, helping her gave me a strange sense of joy and peace, and I remembered Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat… I was a stranger, and ye took me in…36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.…40 Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Jesus! My Savior! How had I forgotten Him as the only One Who could rescue me? (Romans 10:9,13; Acts 2:21; 4:12 ) Only He would never leave me, nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

As if the sun rose in my darkened mind, I suddenly knew that the most important thing in that hotel room was not the safe deposit box key, the jewelry, the diploma, the treasure map, the medicine, the childhood souvenirs, or the historic document. It was not part of the estate at all, but tucked invisibly in the nightstand drawer would surely be a Bible, left there by the Gideons in their mission to provide God’s Word to weary travelers on their journey through this planet that is not our true home (Psalm 119:19, Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11).

I awoke feeling so thankful for God’s promises recorded in His Word (2 Samuel 7:28; Acts 2:33,39; 13:23). Without them, life would have no meaning. Why had I plunged into the futile exercise of combing through boxes full of trash without considering the treasure of Bible wisdom – the secret to abundant, eternal life (John 3:16; 10:10) for all who place their faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)?

How often are we distracted by piles of junk accumulating in our life, while neglecting the riches found without fail in our Bible? Why do we worry about our “stuff” instead of storing treasures in Heaven, where we can enjoy them forever? (Luke 12:16-34; Matthew 6:19-21)

I felt blessed that my husband Richard recently became a Gideon, and that we had the privilege of handing Scriptures to students. I remembered a testimony shared at a Gideons’ meeting of a maid who was cleaning a hotel room and found a handwritten note carefully placed in the Gideons’ Bible to mark Psalm 23. The writer explained that he had checked in, feeling that his life was over and that to spare his family additional grief, he planned to kill himself. Then he started thumbing through that very Bible and read the verse that brought him newly found peace and hope:

Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

God alone can deliver us from all our fears and save us from all enemies, even sin, death and hell (Psalm 34:4-7; 2 Kings 17:39; Romans 8:2; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Truly the most important “thing” in this life is our Bible – God’s love letter to us that guides, comforts, corrects, and inspires us (Psalm 119:11,14.16, 105, etc.). But it is not a “thing” – just like Jesus, His Word is eternal and unchanging (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; Hebrews 13:8).

Without understanding its promise of eternal life through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who reconciled sinful man to Holy God through His shed blood (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22), we cannot know the all-important One. Christ alone is the Way (John 14:6) to abundant, eternal life. Trust and follow Him today!


© 2014 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Insurance

 


NOAA Photo of Turbulent Skies 2019

As the 2024 hurricane season in the US has officially begun, many are concerned with property insurance to cover potential damage, particularly as the season intensifies. In many states, insurers have left without covering claims or drastically hiked premiums, even as many are still reeling from wind and flood damage in recent years. I therefore thought it would be fitting to repost the article below. Praying for all our readers and their homes to stay safe, by God's protection and provision.

In 2019, we went on a cruise to Cuba to celebrate our anniversary, and praise the Lord, He blessed us with a wonderful vacation and an opportunity to grow closer to each other and to Him!

Before we left, we decided to forego the cost of travel insurance to reimburse us if we had to cancel our trip, as well as medical insurance in case we got sick in Cuba or while at sea. But we did purchase and bring with us “poor man’s insurance,” namely bracelets to prevent seasickness, anti-nausea and antidiarrheal medication, and antibiotics in case we caught the local version of Montezuma’s revenge!

As is the case with most insurance, we prayed that we would never have to use it, and God answered that prayer. Our monetary outlay was small, and in return we received some peace of mind that we were to some extent covered if we became ill, as well as items that could prove to be useful at a future time (although we hope not!)

But most insurance that many of us are required or feel obligated to purchase carries a hefty price tag – life insurance, medical insurance, homeowner’s insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, car insurance, and even umbrella policies in the event of disaster not covered by the above. These often account for a large proportion of our budget, yet unless a covered event occurs, they reap no tangible benefit other than peace of mind, or for some forms of insurance, the privilege of doing something like driving a vehicle. 

Is it wrong to insure our assets and abilities rather than relying on God (Psalm 144:2) to protect us from disaster? I don’t believe that the first negates the second, for He wants us to be good stewards over all He has entrusted to us (Matthew 25:14-30). We should use common sense to protect ourselves and our households from danger and loss (Proverbs 22:3).

When we spend money on clothing, food, shelter, transportation, education, and other needs and wants, our expectation is that we will not only use them, but enjoy them, and perhaps even pass them on to our heirs. But insurance is a recurring, costly expense that we pay for while praying we will never have to use it!

Seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal had a vastly different view of insurance, not of the types described above, but rather of the spiritual variety. In his essay, “The Wager,” he proposed that every person, knowingly or unwittingly, makes a bet with their lives that God either exists or that He does not. This wager is not optional, for everyone must either accept God or reject Him.

My paraphrase is that those who believe in God have a form of spiritual insurance, for if their belief turns out to be true, they will live eternally in Heaven with Him and with their fellow believers. But those who reject God lack such insurance, for if God exists and condemns to eternal hell those who do not trust in Him, they have lost everything.

If we have no homeowners’ insurance and our house burns to the ground, that is a terrible tragedy, yet one from which we can ultimately recover, through God's grace, if our life was preserved. But if the Bible is true (2 Timothy 3:16), and Jesus Christ is the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven through faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), then those who die without such faith will spend eternity in hell (John 3:18; Mark 9:43-47).

Scripture tells us that the narrow path to salvation is through Jesus Christ alone (Matthew 7:13-14); that we are saved by God’s grace through our faith alone, and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9); and that life is eternal, either in heaven (John 3:16) or in hell (Luke 16:20-31). Let’s suppose for a moment that the Bible is not true, and that people who believe in other gods, or in no god at all, can go to heaven if their good deeds outweigh their bad. Or let’s imagine the even more extreme position that there is no afterlife, and that once our heart stops beating, our soul and spirit are no more.

What are the consequences for the believer in Jesus Christ if either of the above scenarios are true? In comparison to those who reject Christ, the believer in Him has lost nothing. In this life he may have given up worldly pleasures, such as illicit sex, drugs, or alcohol, yet abstaining from these has physical and mental health benefits and prolongs life. He may face earthly persecution for his beliefs, yet he has faith that he will be rewarded for these in Heaven (1 Peter 4:12-19).

Even if his belief in Christ were misplaced, he would gain peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), joy in his Lord (Nehemiah 8:10), hope that God is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and abundant life (John 10:10). His belief would likely improve his relationships with others (Galatians 6:2) and benefit society as a whole.

So Pascal concluded that the only rational decision is to believe in God and live as though He exists. In so doing, the person “betting” on God loses essentially nothing, leads a better earthly life, and receives infinite, eternal gains in Heaven, while avoiding infinite, eternal losses in hell.

Not for a moment do I intend to imply that we are gambling by trusting in Jesus Christ, for only He can save our souls from eternal damnation! (Acts 4:12). Even the apostle Paul wrote that if Christ did not rise from the dead, then we as Christians should be most miserable, and we might as well party as if there is no tomorrow (1 Corinthians 15:12-32).

But praise God, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead  (1 Corinthians 15:4), and by trusting in Him, we are clothed in His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), our sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9), we are God’s children and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), we are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) and fellow workers (1 Corinthians 3:9), and we will live forever with Him in glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-54) and in mansions (John 14:1-3) He has specially designed for each of us!

We spend vast sums of money to insure our physical life and belongings, while hoping that we never need that insurance. Why would each of us not take out spiritual insurance that costs us nothing? By trusting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can know through God’s Word and prayer that we can have the assurance of eternal life in Heaven with Him and our loved ones in Him, as well as untold blessings here below.

To summarize: If we trust God and He is not real, we have lost nothing. If we trust God and He is real, we have gained everything. If we reject God and He is not real, we have lost joy, peace, hope and a sense of purpose in this life. If we reject God and He is real, we have lost everything throughout all eternity.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

© 2019 Laurie Collett
Edited, expanded and reposted from the archives

Saturday, June 22, 2024

What Are You Running From?

 

I had a dream in which I was home at night, working in my study while my husband Richard was in the family room. Suddenly I heard him cry out, “There’s a strange man in the house – run!”

I quickly tried to get up but snapped back into my seat. I was strapped into my office chair by a seat belt-like contraption going across the right side of my neck and shoulder all the way to my left hip. Frantically I struggled with the buckle until it released me and then I ran out the front door, leaving it wide open.

Although it was dark, I immediately realized that I was not on the street where we currently live, but on the street where I grew up. While running as fast as I could, I berated myself for not having dialed 911 before I left. Then I realized that I was running the wrong direction – not toward a busier intersection where I would be more likely to flag down help, but toward another quiet, dark, residential neighborhood.

I decided to change course, but as I turned around, I spotted a dark figure lurking in the shadows. Should I call out for his help? Or was this more likely to be the intruder who had broken into our home and was now pursuing me?

So I kept running, as fast as I could, away from the stranger. When I awoke, my heart was pounding and my breathing was so fast and shallow that I thought I might pass out.

I finally calmed myself enough to lapse back into a fitful sleep, interrupted by another dream. In this dream, one of the ladies in the Bible study that I teach and I were working at an emergency medical facility. She raced into my office to tell me that one of the patients had fainted and to ask what we should do next.

As we rushed down the hall to see the patient, I asked my student many questions about the patient’s medical history, medications, recent labs, other recent symptoms, and what she was doing before she passed out. Finally I asked her, “Did you call 911?”   

When I awoke and considered the significance of the dreams, I realized that the prominent theme was running – away from danger in the first dream and toward assistance in the second dream.

In the first dream, my husband yelled for me to run away. Thankfully, our marriage is strong, centered in our faith in Jesus Christ and in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only way to Heaven (John 14:6). But the dream may represent a general warning that some relationships, particularly with unsaved people (2 Corinthians 6:14), can hinder exclusive reliance on our Savior. We must run from such relationships as we would from any idols (1 John 5:21), defined as anything that gets in the way of our devotion to Christ and usurps His pre-eminence in our lives (Colossians 1:18).

Although I immediately wanted to obey my husband’s command to run away, I was delayed by being strapped into my office chair. This may represent the hold that work, as a means to power, prestige or excessive wealth, may have on some people. As Scripture confirms, all who are able need to work to meet our physical needs and those of our family (2 Thessalonians 3:10). But when excessive time at work becomes more important than God or family, workaholics are serving their job or career as an idol and should run from it.

The main reason I was running away in the dream was because there was an intruder in our house. Danger, defined as anything that separates us from God and His perfect plan for us, is seldom as obvious as a terrifying devil with horns, tail and a pitchfork; or a roaring lion seeking to devour us; or even an armed home invader.

As responsible stewards of the time, talents, treasure, ministries and relationships God has entrusted to us, we should hide ourselves from evil (Proverbs 22:3; 27:12) by screening who and what we allow into our home. We may have alarms, security systems and doorbell cameras to keep out criminals, but the dangerous home intruders we face may be more subtle.

Beginning in the 1950s, the ubiquitous television has diverted time and attention away from worship, prayer and family time to meaningless or even harmful “entertainment” promoting filthy language, sexual immorality, violence and substance abuse. Around-the-clock news channels may rob us of our peace and joy.

The Internet can be a valuable source of information on virtually any topic, but it can also promulgate misinformation and false doctrine. Social media can foster virtual friendships among like-minded individuals and can be a means to share the Gospel. But these can also expose even children to dangers including bullying, body shaming, lowering self-esteem, triggering depression or anxiety, and even fostering hookups with cultists, drug pushers or sexual predators.

Sadly, “how-to” sites can teach depressed individuals how to end their own life and can provide criminals with instruction manuals for violence, breaking and entering, procuring weapons, building bombs, murder, and even terrorism. We must therefore guard our homes and our lives from these dangerous intruders.

In the dream, once I ran away from the threat within my home, I began fleeing my past, symbolized by suddenly finding myself on the street where I grew up, running away from my childhood home. There I needed to change direction, which brought me nearly face-to-face with a shadowy figure. Was this a potential source of help, or the home invader I sought to escape?

God endowed each of us with a unique history specifically suited to the mission He has planned for us. Our past experiences, even if there were trials we had to endure, equip us with compassion and wisdom to help those going through similar trials (2 Corinthians 1:4-6). But when Satan mocks and belittles us with past mistakes, inadequacies, or sins, we must flee from the danger of believing his lies (John 8:44) and becoming trapped in our history rather than moving on to our future. We can’t outrun the devil, but if we resist Him by submitting to God, he will flee from us (James 4:7). To avoid confronting Satan in the first place, we must flee temptation (2 Timothy 2:22).

Once we elude intruders into our God-given peace and joy and resist the devil and his lies (which are ongoing struggles in the Christian life overcome only by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit), we may more fruitfully pursue God’s work. In the second dream, my supervision of a friend in Christ, in the role of a medical coworker, may represent the mentorship opportunity I have in teaching a ladies’ Bible study. Just as a medical facility is the best place to obtain physical healing, a local church and its fellowship and study groups is often the ideal setting for spiritual healing and ongoing growth in our Christian walk.

In the dream, the woman from my class ran into my office for help with another’s healing, and then we both ran to the aid of the one in distress. Strangely, I asked her whether she had called 9-1-1, which is odd, because we were in a facility delivering emergency care.

In my first Bible after being saved, I kept a list of “9-1-1” verses I had printed up from the Internet – verses to consult in times of need, whether physical danger, temptation, sadness, grief, sin, failure, or loss of fellowship with God. I believe the second dream was a reminder that without Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5), and that attempting to do His work without the direction of His Spirit and His Word is doomed to end in failure.

May we have Spirit-empowered strength to run away from physical and spiritual dangers, and to run with patience the race He has set before us (Hebrews 12:1), running toward the mark for the prize (Philippians 3:14) of victory in Christ!

© 2024 Laurie Collett

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