Kids and Kindness

Kids and Kindness 

By Pat Knight

The six-year old was staying overnight at his grandparent’s house. During the night the young man left his bedroom en route to the bathroom. He walked past his grandmother sound asleep on the couch. As he retraced his steps to his bedroom, he halted beside the couch. In hushed tones he spoke, “Nanny, Nanny, I didn’t flush ‘cause I didn’t want to wake you up.” Then, he trudged back to his bedroom, satisfied he had been thoughtful enough to prevent his Nanny from awakening! Meanwhile, Nanny was shaking her head in bewilderment. She wanted to laugh out loud, but in the silence of the night, there was no one awake to listen. She chuckled to herself and fell back to sleep, thanking God for her dear little grandson.

Under the rule of the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Israelites were an oppressed people in a foreign land. They were living as slaves in abject poverty, forced to build cities out of the bricks they made. Their captors were brutal and demanding. Though they were in bondage to Egypt, their numbers continued to grow. Their masters were fearful and threatened by their rising population. Several methods were tried in an attempt to squelch the rapid growth, but when all else failed, the Pharaoh issued a vicious executive order that every Hebrew newborn boy be thrown into the Nile River. (Exodus 1)

Jochebed was a godly Hebrew woman who gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but her great love for her son prevented her from announcing his birth to the authorities. So, she successfully hid him for three months. What a chance she was taking! The Egyptian soldiers regularly patrolled the Israelites’ living area for the sole purpose of confiscating baby boys.

When Jochebed realized she could no longer muffle the loud cries of her infant, she was not going to stand idly by while hateful murderers drowned her child. Jochebed worked tirelessly, fashioning a tightly woven ark out of bulrushes. Meticulously she daubed the exposed seams of papyrus with tar and pitch to prevent water seepage. Because Jochebed loved and trusted her God, He was merciful to her and gradually revealed His plan for saving her son.

Jochebed must have repeatedly rehearsed with her daughter, Miriam, her participation in the plan to save her infant brother. With tremendous faith, the infant’s mother placed him in a little sea-worthy, waterproof ark. It was Miriam’s responsibility to surreptitiously carry the precious bundle to the river. There she found a shallow area in the reeds where she stealthily eased the precious cargo into the water.

There were many dangers inherent in Jochebed’s plans: alligators roamed the waters of the Nile River, an Egyptian soldier could have intercepted Miriam, or the tiny ark could have floated away without discovery. However, faith prevailed. God’s plan was perfect, much larger and involving many more thousands of people than Jochebed could have imagined. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Jochebed was confident that her God would answer her prayers. With innocent faith, she became an important participant in world history.

Miriam closed the lid on her brother’s custom-made houseboat, secretly slipped it into the river, and waited. Soon, the royal participants in the drama arrived. Pharaoh’s daughter and her attendants went to the same secluded shallows of the river to bathe where Miriam had maneuvered the ark into the water. Abruptly, the princess spied the mysterious basket floating among the reeds and instructed her servant to fetch it. When the lid was opened, a beautiful baby was revealed. Although the princess immediately recognized the infant as Hebrew, “he was crying and she felt sorry for him” (Exodus 2:6).

Right on cue, Miriam emerged from hiding, asking Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” (Exodus 2:7). The princess agreed, ultimately offering the baby’s mother the opportunity to nurse the child and receive payment for her services. What an exceptional reward God granted Jochebed for her faithfulness! She was allowed to serve as surrogate mother to her own son during their bonding years. When her son grew older, Jochebed delivered him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised him as her own

“She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water’” (Exodus 2:10).

God had promised His people delivery from slavery; this scene was but a small portion of the plan God chose to liberate nearly a million people. He had selected Moses prior to his birth as the leader of his people. It took many years for God to reveal His plan to Moses, but he eventually became God’s spokesman before Pharaoh, to plead for his countrymen’s release from slavery. 

From the time Moses was born to Hebrew slave parents, there was potential for his life’s plans to fail. Infant mortality was excessively high with soldiers drowning boys in the river. But, when God has a plan, He uses the most unlikely people in the most absurd situations to facilitate His purposes. We have proof that God intervened in the lives of His oppressed people in a miraculous way.

Pharaoh had every intention of eradicating the Israelite nation by attrition; drowning all newborn boys. He did not account for the sensitivity and weakness of his own daughter displayed when she opened Moses’ papyrus basket. She was unwittingly manipulated by God for His purposes. Moses was nurtured by the princess, nourished at the table of kings, educated in progressive Egyptian schools, and protected by their vast army. That baby grew up to save the nation of Israel—a foretaste of the baby of Bethlehem.

How history would have been altered forever if Jochebed had not obeyed her Lord and allowed Him to use her practical trust for His good purposes! God uses each of His believers throughout their lifetime to accomplish His will. God wants us, like Jochebed, to use our common sense, resourcefulness, and intelligence to serve Him. Then, believing that God will use His love and empower us to develop His plan, we march forward in faith, doing what we know God is directing us to do. 

Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God. —Bob Pierce, Founder, World Vision

It is our privilege to respond to the issues that tug on the heart of God. His goals transform to our goals, His priorities become ours, and we develop passion for all of God’s projects. Then we will be prepared for use in accomplishing His goals. 

It was the squealing life of a forbidden Hebrew baby boy who wrenched the love from the heart of the princess. Even the grandchild who was so considerate of his Nanny spoke volumes of love and kindness with his simple act. With his extraordinary sensitivities, he, too, may someday fulfill God’s plan as he learns to trust in Him and give his life for God’s purposes. 

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Psalm 8:2). God may speak to us through our children of lofty purposes we may not recognize in any other way. Let us seek to learn the same innocent and straightforward love children have for Jesus. It will greatly improve our faith and our lives.

Attentive Listening

Attentive Listening

By Pat Knight

Mary of Bethany, a sibling of Martha and Lazarus, possessed enviable listening skills. When Jesus visited their home, she sat at His feet with her rapt attention hanging on each of her Master’s words. Mary unabashedly worshipped Jesus, captivated by her Friend to the exclusion of all others present.

 On the same occasion when Mary and Martha prepared a dinner for Jesus and His disciples, Martha demanded. “‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’” (Luke 10:40). To Martha’s surprise, the Lord commended Mary’s actions, tenderly replying, “‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has shown what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42).

Both Mary and Martha loved their Lord, but Martha allowed distractions to divide her devotion. No doubt she wanted a delicious, perfectly presented dinner for her guests, straight from Martha Stewart’s handbook. But, it was Mary who displayed compassion, kneeling before Jesus, intently absorbing every word, noticing each gesture, studying His facial expressions, and discerning silent or spoken aspects of His conversation. Mary listened audibly and visually.

On that evening of dinner fellowship six days prior to Christ’s crucifixion, Mary poured a pint of expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet in anticipation of His upcoming sacrifice. She didn’t ask her Lord’s permission; she intuitively knew that Jesus would approve of her gracious act. Surrounded by men, Mary wasn’t intimidated. Loosening her long hair to wipe Jesus’ feet of excess oil displayed Mary’s humility; a respectable woman didn’t unbind her hair in public. Her submissive spirit was apparent; caring for feet was servant’s work. Mary’s actions spoke volumes. By anointing Jesus’ feet, she demonstrated that she understood Jesus’ teaching about His future death and burial far better than His disciples did.

Listening is an active art. It takes commitment to heed God’s words. To hear well, we must concentrate fully, not permitting distractions to eclipse our attention. Adequate listening skills allow us to know the will of our heavenly Father for our individual lives. We hear God speak to us through His Word as He communicates His love, commands, and our relationship to Him and to others.

God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me.
—Psalm 66:19-20

Prayer time without listening is simply a one-sided conversation, a monologue rather than a dialogue. “Love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life” (Deuteronomy 30:20). Prayer and praise, listening and love, complement one another as we interact with Jesus Christ in a personal relationship.

God no longer speaks audibly or in dreams to believers as was His custom in times past. Now the Holy Spirit interprets God’s messages and illuminates God’s written Word, making His personal guidance and wisdom available to us.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, the large crowd was listening to him with delight” (Mark 12:35a; 37b). When was the last time you listened to your Lord during prayer, from His Word, or while reading Christian literature, reacting with extreme satisfaction and great pleasure, the kind of attention Almighty God deserves?

Let us not miss the sovereign plans about which God desires to advise us through His Spirit. Live in anticipation of His words, confident that our two-way communication is functioning to full capacity. More than any other discernable sound in our world, yearn to recognize God’s soothing words. He provides power to persist toward the ultimate goal of spiritual victory as we listen, follow, and trust Him explicitly.

A father used a game of ball toss as an object lesson to instruct his son regarding a well-balanced conversation. For a while the two threw the ball back and forth, settling into a predictable rate. Then, the father dropped the ball and refused to continue the volley. When the bewildered son asked his parent to explain his behavior, his father compared his actions to those of an unbalanced verbal discussion: just as dropping or hogging the ball disrupts a game, such is the way with conversation involving an unequal exchange of listening and speaking. Concentration is required to keep the ball in motion just as shared dialogue keeps conversation moving. Prayer, like a game of ball, is participatory activity. The alternative is talking to oneself, and we all know how non-stimulating that can be!

Our Lord is never too busy, distracted, or preoccupied to harken to the emotions attached to each word. God listens with love. Though He is aware of the intent of our hearts before we speak, God is pleased to hear from us. “‘Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear’” (Isaiah 65:24).

If we maintain candid, vivacious communication with God, as Mary of Bethany demonstrated, our listening skills will soon produce pleasing acts of worship to Him and service to others. Jesus promised, “‘You are my friends if you do what I command’” (John 15:14). What a privilege, to claim the sovereign Savior as a personal friend, who listens to us and expects attentiveness to His voice. Could there be anything more satisfying?

Before you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to clear your mind of entangled thoughts and distractions, to focus entirely upon the glory of God. Then your heart will be receptive to His guidance. In the quietness of your prayer time, ask God to reveal Himself. He will gladly open your mind and heart to reveal paths to follow Him. “Listen to my instructions and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me” (Proverbs 8:33-34a).

Learn to be attentive to your Savior with the bold singlemindedness Mary exhibited. Incredible interactions occur at the feet of Jesus as we submit, weep, confess, and listen for our Master’s divine words designed solely for our needs.

Bleating of the Sheep

Bleating of the Sheep

By Pat Knight

Historically, God’s chosen people displayed a chronic disobedience pattern. Nearly as soon as God communicated a new decree, the Israelites either ignored or blatantly disobeyed His command. Few people took God seriously; fewer still took His laws seriously. The punishment for breaking God’s laws was particularly severe: disease, plagues, capture by enemy forces, and sometimes immediate death. Yet the grave consequences were not sufficient to motivate the Israelites to consistently obey their God.

The prophet, Samuel, relayed God’s instructions to King Saul: “‘Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys’” (1 Samuel 15:3). The Amalekites were descendants of Esau, named after Esau’s grandson, Amalek. The directions were simple in terms of clarity. King Saul understood explicitly.

God’s edict may seem excessively harsh punishment to us, but God and the Israelites knew the Amalekite people to be ruthless, merciless, and savage. They were predatory, attacking the Israelites during their wilderness walk. From the rear of the traveling camp, the Amalekites stalked and killed the weak and the elderly as they traveled from Egypt. Their treatment of Israel was spontaneous and vicious, causing Moses centuries earlier to prophesy:  “‘When you were weak and worn out, they {Amalekites} met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you a rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!’” (Deuteronomy 25: 18-19).

God had been generously patient with the Amalekites, giving them over five hundred years to change their barbaric ways. Our heavenly Father is the supreme judge, adjudicating wrong and evil. He does not forget!

With thousands of soldiers, King Saul staged an ambush for the Amalekites. Saul was given the opportunity to demonstrate his allegiance to the Lord by obeying the assigned task of eliminating the Amalekite tribe. Instead of wiping out all life, “Saul and the army spared Agag {the Amalekite king), and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good;. These they were unwilling to destroy completely but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed” (1 Samuel 15:9).

God then spoke to the prophet, Samuel, expressing His sorrow that He had ever made Saul king of His people, for Saul refused to follow God’s instructions, relying on his own instincts and greed instead. When Samuel traveled to confront King Saul, he discovered the king had set up a monument in his own honor. From disobedience to false image worshipping, King Saul was puffed up with self-importance. Yet even before Samuel questioned him, Saul offered, “‘I have carried out the Lord’s instructions’” (1 Samuel 15:13). Saul actually believed his actions were justified, but sinning against God is neither wise nor justified.

Samuel retorted, “What then is this bleating of the sheep I hear?
What is this lowing of the cattle I hear?”

1 Samuel 15:14

Saul shifted responsibility, blaming the soldiers for sparing the best animals to use as temple sacrifices for the Lord. Samuel then replied, “‘Enough!’

I can envision the prophet abruptly gesturing with his hand protesting Saul’s weak excuses. Samuel asked King Saul, “‘Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord? (vs. 19). Saul actually felt merit in completing his assigned military orders from God. It appears the details of God’s commands were irrelevant as long as Saul met his own selfish needs. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17).

Our Lord values humility, repentance, and grief for sin. Saul’s heart was full of pride. Chief among the seven things God hates the most is pride, followed next in line by a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:16-19). Saul had employed both of the shameful priorities, masterfully disguising his rebellion and disobedience. Samuel replied with this rebuttal to Saul’s actions: “‘To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams’” (1 Samuel 15:22). God removed His Spirit from Saul, dethroned him as king of Israel, and anointed another king in his place.

Upon self-examination, do we discover ourselves to be as shrewd as Saul, crafting insidious excuses for disobeying God? What personal justification do we use when God confronts us with our sin? We have ready access to all of God’s commands in His Living Word, through which He speaks to us. God commands that we love Him and others more highly than ourselves, discouraging our selfish motives.

It is possible that fear of reprisal prevents us from sinning on a regular basis, but we occasionally fall into temptation that is hard to resist. That is when our obedient devotion and love of God is paramount to  empower us to follow His words and His will. He has shown you. O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). It is the most compelling principle of behavior, defining a right relationship of men with Almighty God.

Our Lord loves us beyond measure, demonstrated by the gift of His Son, who died to set us free, creating a sovereign relationship that bridges between finite man and the infinite God. With God’s overwhelming love and attention to every detail in our lives, why would we even consider disobeying Him with the intention of indulging in self-desires? Why do we settle for second best when God is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us?” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

We cannot come to God without faith in Him; faith leads to obedience. We want to please our Savior by serving Him. It grieves our Lord when we wander outside the boundaries He has established for us. “‘You are my friends if you do what I command. I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you’” (John 15:14-15). It is astounding that human friendship with Almighty God is even possible, deeming it imperative that we not react to His gracious gift with apathy or scorn exhibited by disobedience.

Instead of reacting like King Saul, blaming others for rebellion against God’s commands, let us take personal responsibility for sin, redirecting our energy to serve our Savior as His friends and fellow workers, seeking to consistently pursue His righteousness and faithfulness.

Obedience to God is palpable evidence of our faith. God considers our personal submission to His will so expressive of our love for Him that He accepts full responsibility for the consequence of our obedience. What assurance!

Joy’s Grandeur

Joy’s Grandeur

By Pat Knight

“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you—
I, whom you have delivered.
My tongue will tell of your righteous acts”  (Psalm 71:23).

On a second missionary journey, Paul and Silas traveled to Philippi, a leading Roman city where Roman customs were observed and idols worshipped. In Philippi the missionaries were confronted by a demon-possessed slave girl who made her owners wealthy by fortune-telling.

Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, ’In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her” (Acts 16:18). Realizing their lucrative business had evaporated right before their eyes, the girl’s owners seized Paul and Silas, dragged them into the public square to the city magistrate, and claimed false charges against them. Mob involvement grew to a fever pitch. Soon the men were stripped, beaten, and thrown into the maximum security cell of the jail.

The men were flogged, a severe form of beating similar to what Christ endured prior to crucifixion. Against bare skin the Romans used a whip fashioned of several leather straps with lead and bone embedded at the ends. Flogging tore open wide gashes of skin. The Jews, by law, restricted the number of lashes to thirty-nine, but the Romans had no limitations. Victims of Roman flogging often didn’t survive the savage punishment.

Following their beating, the two men were led into an inner prison cell where their feet were placed in stocks, serving as added security and extra torture. Physically their bodies were beaten and bloody, but their jubilant hearts could not be broken. Their spirits soared. Paul and Silas knew that all power, joy, and victory reside in Christ alone. They were confident they were serving a faithful God who would intervene on their behalf.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open and everybody’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:25-26).

Because their lives were saturated with joy, the missionaries were able to sing spontaneous, resounding praises to God. How many of us, in similar circumstances, find songs of joy on our lips?

“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you—I, whom you have delivered. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts” (Psalm 71:23).The men sang while suffering, for they had vision and trust beyond their current situation. Their witness in song that night communicated far more to the other prisoners than any words they could have preached. If joy were dependent on circumstances, Paul and Silas would have cowered due to pain and injustice. But they were assured that God’s protection was sufficient.

In God’s Word, joy is a command, “rejoice always” (Philippians 4:4), and a gift (Galatians 5:22), demonstrating that when God assigns a task to His children, He lavishes them with help and strength necessary to finish His work. “The trouble with too many of us is that we think God called us to be manufacturers when He really called us to be distributors. He alone has the resources to meet human needs; all we can do is receive His riches and share them with others” (Warren Wiersbe). Let us distribute God’s joy wherever He sends us, to whomever crosses our path.

God’s characteristics fill our hearts to overflowing. Any receptacle that overflows quickly spreads its contents into surrounding areas, seeping into cracks, permanently staining, leaking into remote spots to be discovered at a later time. Jesus’ joy is incapable of containment. It must multiply in the lives of believers, who carry it throughout the world.

Overwhelmed with gladness, our hearts cannot be restrained by a dam of negativity. Joy rolls along like a somersaulting downhill snowball, picking up peace, trust, and hope, wrapping them into a spectacular bundle of unmitigated worship. Trudging through uphill trails of adversity, layers of zeal, strength, and courage naturally melt, seeping onto the pathways of life, leaving behind evidence of an intimate relationship with Jesus our Savior. The dispersing love ministers to others, harvested by those who are desperate to know eternal peace and comfort.

Jesus provides inside-out rejoicing by filling our hearts with a deluge of enthusiasm. In addition, He clothes us with joy. “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy that my heart may sing praises and not be silent. Lord, my God, I will praise you forever” (Psalm 30:11-12). Sackcloth, a symbol of mourning, is replaced by songs of exuberant praise. From the riches of heaven’s own wardrobe room, swishing, elegant robes of rejoicing define us externally as the light of Christ’s joy engulfs our hearts, offering supernatural encouragement. Jesus said, “If you obey my command, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remained in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11).

Joy has the potential to leap boundaries. Those who know Jesus personally acknowledge the splendor of His majesty, initiating a reaction that can best be described as dynamic, triumphant joy forevermore. “My heart leaps for joy and with my song I praise him” (Psalm 28:7). When was the last time you spiritually leaped for joy, demonstrating the thrill of victory with eternal consequences?

When Paul and Silas rejoiced in prayer and song, they weren’t aware of the exceeding great plan God had devised: “The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (Acts 16:34). Joy is the consistent result of trusting in Jesus.

Joy divided is multiplied. “To get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with” (Mark Twain). Joy is contagious. Let us be carriers, proliferating its impact throughout the world.

Great Expectations

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for
and assurance about what we do not see.
—Hebrews 11:1

Great Expectations

By Pat Knight

As I gazed out the window at the bleak winter landscape, I detected a definite lack of color, a bland outlook with no life stirring. With barren expectancy, we prepare our hearts for desolation, reflected in our attitudes and conversation. Are we so mentally programmed with gloominess that even our anticipation of future events is dulled?

Comparing heart focus with environmental conditions is risky, thwarting inward hope and personal growth. It is easy to be affected by the lack of sunshine and warmth in winter. Let us not permit exterior influences to eclipse the radiance with which Jesus penetrates darkness by reflecting His light through our lives. Joy is quickly extinguished by despondency.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). After Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, conquered his disbelief at Christ’s post-resurrection appearance, Jesus taught the eleven disciples, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have  not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). In today’s vernacular we would explain Jesus’ teaching as “blind faith.” In spite of our circumstances, our beliefs don’t change; they are locked securely inside our hearts. Faith in God is the consequence of trust; trust the outgrowth of belief.

If we constantly focus on the negative, our hearts will languish with despair. We’ve all been exposed to a curmudgeon who  projects a pessimistic approach so hopeless that black clouds spontaneously open, dispensing chilly water on a new idea. Cynics have an intimidating influence on positive thoughts, much like the austere environment in winter.

With whom do we communicate to enliven a joyful spirit? God is the Author and Creator of all things good. “Jesus answered, ‘No one is good except God alone’” (Mark 10:18). The good God constantly imparts to us is a reflection of His own divine character of purity and holiness.

After gazing outside at the monotonous winter panorama once again, rather than a change of scenery, I discovered the need for an attitude adjustment. God has the ability to change our perspective with His gifts of joy and peace. Man is unable to conjure up sovereign gifts independently with the power of positive thinking, as some assert. We must depend upon our Lord to supply us with His limitless gifts, always available to those who seek Him. “Take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you” (Ephesians 4:24,The Msg).

We are commanded to fellowship with God, the glorious, victorious Creator of life and peace, joy and light, grace and love. In the new year, let us establish enlightened priorities, recognizing the capacity to alter our lives forever by placing them in God’s care. “Submit yourself, then, to God. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7a-8).

Winter, with its unique season of dormancy and hibernation for many living things, is also a period of refreshment, preparing for regrowth; for a magnificent burst of beauty and fragrance that identifies the imminent season of spring. Let us not bear winter grudgingly, but joyfully use the time to develop attitudes pleasing to God. There is beauty during winter unseen at other times of year. Shadows on snow peek around trees, marching like toy soldiers as the sun manipulates the imaginary forms. Sunsets of magnificent proportions and beauty light up late afternoon skies with unequivocal displays of prismatic colors. The deep green of softwood branches and the silhouettes of stark hardwoods in the foreground of high, pristine snowbanks create fantastic visual delights. A full moon illuminates light blue blankets of snow when the dark draperies of night are pulled down upon the world.

What do you envision in the winter season of your life? The bleakness of financial, health, or employment woes, or the unprecedented power, protection, and provisions offered by God Himself? The new year holds unimaginable possibilities and victories. Seek an attitude that reflects Jesus’ submission, humility, and obedience toward His Father. “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus could release His deepest hope to His heavenly Father, assured that even at such a late hour God could perform the impossible by cancelling His Son‘s crucifixion. Yet, Jesus believed that His Father’s perfect plan would be accomplished. Christ was convinced that His hope wasn’t misplaced by cross-your-fingers wishful thinking, but as confident expectations resting on God’s promises, free of worry and nail-biting. Jesus trusted in God’s sovereign ability to answer his prayer custom designed for His Son alone. He does the same for us.

Hope is like an restraining anchor at the bottom of the sea. The Christian anchor rises up into the heavenly realms, guaranteeing our personal security. We are sheltered by our sovereign refuge.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

It is essential for us to value God above all else in our lives. He freely extends joyful delight, anchoring hope and unconditional love. Ask God to transform your priorities. He will lavish you abundantly with the righteousness of Jesus. To live right before God (righteousness) is His ultimate goal for each believer. “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

Hope is expressed when we turn toward God with confident expectation during times of trial.

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). With inner tranquility, believers relinquish their worries to God and dwell on them no more. Then the victory of God is theirs to enjoy. The full dimension of God’s love and provisions are beyond our comprehension, motivating us to trust Him explicitly.

During one final peek outside, I focused on the glory of God’s creation. Just as the outside world perpetually changes, believers also experience consistent growth and renewal deep within their hearts. We learn patience and perseverance, but most marvelous of all is the imperceptible growth in hope, trust, and faith our Lord accomplishes by His power at work within us, transforming our lives. Expect the unexpected from an exceptional, extraordinary God!

Heart Treasures

Heart Treasures

By Patricia Knight

Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Mary was an ordinary person who accomplished the extraordinary. As a young teenager, a mere twelve to fourteen years of age, Mary possessed a quiet faith, one that conveyed submission, humility, and inner strength of character. The angel assured her, “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with GodYou will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1: 30-32).

Mary was initially overwhelmed and perplexed by the announcement, but she asked only one question of the angel, Gabriel: “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). Once Gabriel responded that the Holy Spirit had overcome her to create her pregnancy, Mary replied, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).

Her next response was to sing a song of praise and glory to God, rejoicing in His mercy lavished upon her. Mary’s song ends with conviction that God is faithful to His promises. She felt honored that she had been chosen to participate in a miracle that would fulfill God’s sacred word made centuries ago to bring the prophesied Savior to the world.

Mary didn’t attempt to live in the future, avoiding futile “what if” questions. She relied upon her Lord to meet all of her needs on a daily basis. Whenever she was reminded of a new aspect of Jesus’ future predicted by a prophet or an angel, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). God recognized Mary’s superlative heart value. He chose her as the mother of Jesus by examining her heart and found it overflowing with goodness.  To hold the Son of God in her arms, to cuddle Him, to nurture and instruct Him, must have been a tremendous privilege and responsibility, not so different from the devotion and love all mothers feel toward their children. However, a sense of wonder must have constantly permeated Mary’s emotions.

As Jesus matured, He gradually developed an awareness of His unique relationship to God. He was also perfectly obedient to His earthly parents. Mary and Joseph must have yearned for their firstborn to experience every aspect of life, but Jesus was unable to fall in love, have a family, or experience any permanent status on earth. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh.  He was focused on the work with eternal consequences that He must perform during his brief time on earth.

Jesus’ parents had no forewarning that their adult son would walk on water, cure the blind, or heal the lame. But they believed unreservedly in His mission. At a wedding feast where the wine supply was exhausted much too early in the celebration, Mary asked Jesus to help in some way to prevent embarrassment to the bridegroom. Then she instructed the servants, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). Though Jesus had never performed a miracle before, Mary trusted His abilities and judgment explicitly. She was likely as surprised as the servants that Jesus converted gallons of plain water into elegant wine.

Jesus was born on earth not to constantly perform fantastic miracles, as needed as they were, but to bring redemption of sin to the multitudes. 

Soon the prediction the prophet Simeon uttered when Jesus was an infant, was proving true: Mary as well as Jesus would suffer deep anguish in the future. When Jesus claimed to be the son of God, storm clouds of opposition and rejection gathered over His life. Mary must have felt personally attacked when she viewed mob hatred escalating toward her son. Jesus was the subject of intolerance and shame; scorn and disbelief.  Mary paid a tremendous price to bring the Savior into the world; she paid an exorbitant price to stand beneath the cross, witnessing the physical and emotional torment of Jesus’ during his heinous crucifixion. Mary’s heart must have completely shattered, spilling forth all the treasures she’d pondered over the past thirty-three years of her son’s life.

As He hung from the cross, Jesus assigned His beloved disciple, John, to care for His mother for the rest of her earthly life. Then Mary retreated into seclusion with Jesus’ committed followers, where they hid from the Roman authorities, praying for protection and guidance. Three days later, news arrived that Jesus had risen from the dead. How Mary rejoiced!  Her son, the Son of God, was alive!  Thanksgiving filled the air.

Are we willing to cling to our beliefs, as Mary did, even when the rising tide of public opposition threatens to chip away at our spiritual commitment, like granite eroding from the constant battering of surging tides? Just as plans for the incarnation of our Savior were flawlessly choreographed in heaven, God loves us so much that His purposes for each of our lives are also perfect. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas season, let us follow Mary’s example, learning to treasure all the Words of God and ponder them in our hearts.

Magnificent Multi-Tasking

Magnificent Multi-Tasking

By Patricia Knight

Considering that most of us gravitate toward energy-saving activities or devices, consolidating tasks to create efficient use of our time is commendable and often successful.

Recently I placed a phone call while preparing dinner, an appropriate time-saver; or so I thought. Both  hands were free for other functions as I nestled the phone between my ear and shoulder. The device soon slipped from its precarious position and launched air-borne to clobber an open jar of maraschino cherries. The impact gyrated the jar, spewing cherry juice in puddles on the countertop, flowing in rivulets down the lower cabinet doors. Before I could predict its next route, sticky liquid accumulated inside my open sandals; my toes were glued together in a quagmire of cherry juice. The phone landed, keyboard down, in a pool of gooey juice. I was quite literally, stuck in one place, encircled with a smattering of red, syrupy liquid. Cleaning up the cherry debacle took more time than accomplishing each task separately. I didn’t bother to calculate the absurd amount of time required to clean the sticky liquid from between the keys of the phone.

Our contemporary lingo is deluged with computer terms, some of which we have adopted for personal use, as with multi-tasking, the concurrent performance of several tasks at once. People have been multi-tasking for centuries; only the name is new. If we were able to perform an activity at a consistent level of excellence, there would be no need for Olympic games, competitive sports, or grading systems in schools. The reality is that no one can repeatedly duplicate exceptional results, particularly when combining tasks.

Our Lord is a magnificent multi-tasker who embodies superior knowledge and wisdom, (omniscient); is  present everywhere at all times, (omnipresent); and is all-powerful (omnipotent). Man may labor to juggle a few minor tasks simultaneously, but our sovereign God accomplishes innumerable enterprises continuously and perfectly every time. He is unlimited in character, actions, and abilities. God never changes, nor is He limited to time or space. God is perfect, divine, and infinite. “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6).

God’s omnipotence is defined by His superior power and authority regarding His creation. He is the author of all life, desiring fellowship with mankind. He is capable of answering the prayers of billions of believers while surveilling the entire cosmos. God views every corner of our world to check on the whereabouts and activities of His children. “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely his” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NAS).

As a magnificent multi-tasker, our Lord knits together fractured bones while simultaneously painting a breathtaking sunset. His grace miraculously transforms the hearts of believers as He limits the proliferation of communicable diseases worldwide. God designed corn stalks crowned with silky festoons of tassel, yielding ears of perfectly aligned rows of corn inside an insulated husk. Across the globe, He assigns silk worms to weave elegant fabric. Our heavenly Father maintains planets in specific orbits, each rotating at a designated speed, as He suspends millions of twinkling stars in space. God presides over the earth He has populated, synchronizing balanced ecosystems for the land and its inhabitants, concurrently uniting people internationally via transportation and communication.

Our Lord monitors the exertional pull of the moon on tidal waters while maintaining exact gravitational forces on the earth’s surface. God welcomes one of His dear children into heaven for eternity as He simultaneously greets a newborn baby on earth. He raises His hand to prevent a vehicular collision while gently unveiling the fragile petals of a rose.

God’s harmonious, elaborate efforts impact people and matter everywhere. He is the sole architect and creator of our world, forming it with His commands, sculpting lofty mountain ranges, hollowing vast chasms of earth to flood as oceans, gouging gaping canyons, and leveling large expanses of desert and plains. He travels the labyrinth of galaxies, all the while meeting the complex needs of His children. “For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes” (Proverbs 5:21, NLT).

All natural elements respond to the Lord’s instructions. In one geographic zone, an avalanche of snow plows down a mountainside. On another continent, a rainbow is observed, displaying its prismatic array of colors against a placid, blue sky, reminding us of God’s promise to Noah centuries before.

Jesus was sleeping in the stern of His disciples’ boat when a furious storm blew across the lake without warning. The high seas were breaking over the gunnels when the disciples awakened their Master, “shouting, ‘Lord save us! We’re going to drown.’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him’” (Matthew 8: 25-27, NLT). Jesus controlled the sea simply by speaking to it, for He possesses authority over all elements of nature.

Let us defer to God’s excellence. He invented magnificent multi-dimensional tasking and He excels in the art, a sovereign version that equips Him with infinite ability to know the end result at the beginning of each endeavor. There is no refuting God’s power and wisdom. He is knowledgeable of the innermost thoughts, attitudes, and intents of each person’s heart. “O, Lord, you have examined my heart and you know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me to understand” (Psalm 139: 1-6, NLT)

Although multi-tasking is computer jargon etched into our vocabulary, the number of tasks we are able to juggle at once is of trivial value. Of utmost importance is our relationship to the all-powerful ruler and sustainer of the universe, a personal God who desires to be ever-present in our lives, extending to us righteousness through His Son, Jesus Christ. God possesses superior knowledge and wisdom pertaining to our universe and to each person in it.

“Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He {God} brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding” (Isaiah 40:26; 28, NLT).