An Old Telephone

In keeping with my current prayer theme, Pat Knight has some very wise words to share with us about the power of prayer.

The trumpet-shaped hand-held listening device is suspended from a metal cradle on the side of the imposing oak cabinet. While listening to conversation with one instrument, one would talk into the protruding snout on the front of the large, antique telephone. The old, original telephone is now mounted on the wall in my parent’s home. The wood has been refinished but stress marks remain from years of use.

By the time I was enamored with the telephone in my teen years, the communication apparatus had diminished in size to a small plastic box with an all-in-one listening and speaking hand set. I was physically limited only by the length of the cord attaching the hand set to the phone box.

Today I use either a cordless telephone or a cell phone, an electronic wonder the size of a deck of cards. I can use the cordless phone throughout my house and around the yard. The amazing cell phone seems limitless with the ability to send electronic messages, click photographs, or transmit and receive messages even as we travel in a vehicle. What incredible changes have occurred during the century since Alexander Graham Bell invented the first rudimentary telephone in 1876!

IncredibleChangesInPhonesPTZ-50--AMP

The concept of a massive network of telephone cables transmitting messages between countries, traversing oceans, and penetrating remote areas would have seemed unfathomable to its original inventor. Yet, electronics have now significantly shortened the distance between people and nations. The universal 911 emergency call system, providing immediate medical response, has proved an unforeseen adjunct to the telephone.

As sophisticated as we consider our present day system of communication to be, there are still dead spots with cell phones or power interruptions with land-based telephones. Isn’t it a relief that we don’t have to depend upon a man-made device in order to communicate with God? 

Do we operate on the assumption that God is in heaven and we are on earth, creating light years of travel between us? God’s Word dispels that notion: “Those who obey His commandments live in Him, and He in them” (1 John 3:24).  The Creator spoke earth and its inhabitants into existence. He walked and talked with the first humans in the Garden of Eden. Ever since those early times, God has communicated with man and encouraged His children to talk with Him. God desires to live within our hearts, creating a unique, intimate emotional and spiritual relationship.

Our finite minds misconstrue our human boundaries with God’s omnipotence, minimizing His power. We dare not expect God to conform to our human limits. He is the Almighty God, our sovereign Lord, and supreme Creator. We are His creation. God merely speaks and His children hear His voice. Because He loves us, God desires to fellowship with each of us. “And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Not all of us understand the technology of sound waves, but we respond by talking. When God speaks through the Holy Spirit, we readily hear Him, although we may not fully understand the intimacy of the Trinity.

When God spoke, Elijah didn’t hear Him in the fantastic windstorm, the earthquake, or in the fire (2 Kings 19:11-12) as might be expected, but in a gentle whisper which Elijah clearly heard. God is not in the habit of shouting to converse with His children. He speaks in love and peace, just as a parent cradling a child closely speaks in a soft voice. As His children, we are attuned to the voice of our heavenly Father. “He who belongs to God hears what God says (John 8:47).

Some people may hold the view that love and verbal communication developed among men as they evolved into social beings. However, we are commanded, “Let us love one another, for love comes from God”  (1 John 4:7). God is the author of love and conversation, which He initiated with the first people He created and promises with all who follow Him. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

It is to our advantage that our conversation with God is quiet and reliable. The Holy Spirit can discern our thoughts; able to convert our mere groans into requests to God, for He hears everything we say (Romans 8:26). Occasionally interferences occur with man’s inventions, but with God there is never a loss of power or bad connections with heavenly communication. God hears and responds to every one of our prayers. “This is the assurance we have in approaching God:  that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). 

Try casting your cell phone aside for a day and grasp the confidence that assures your connection to the greatest source of power in the universe. God is only a spoken word away, lovingly inhabiting our inner being, always waiting to hear from His creation.  Spend time in heavenly conversation, pouring out the needs and desires of your heart, tempered with praise and thanksgiving for your Lord and His marvelous works.

Ps46-10-StarryCometSky--AMP Over the years, as the telephone has transitioned into more sophisticated technology, usage and maintenance fees have sky-rocketed, presenting us with the opportune time for conversation with our heavenly Father, with absolutely no associated financial costs.  We need never consider prayer a burden, reminding us of the towering, imposing antique telephone, but a joyful privilege with the One who loves us with holy passion. It simply requires that we express our emotions to the God who always hears our words and answers in His precise timing.

Don’t ever hang up prematurely on your call to the Lord; keep an open dialogue. And, remember; don’t do all the talking. Listen for God’s quiet voice. Prayer, like a good phone call, is the conduit for a two-way conversation. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). In the stillness, God will speak to you.

Enduring Love

Pat and her husband are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this month. Here is her sweet story of how they met. Happy 50th anniversary, Pat!

Enduring Love

By Pat Knight

Boarding the Greyhound bus late one evening, she observed it was nearly filled to capacity with cramped travelers. As she stood at the front of the bus scanning the dim interior, her gaze identified only one empty seat remaining. Reeling as the bus pulled out of the station into traffic, she quickly slid into the vacant space. She gave a perfunctory nod to the man sitting in the window seat who was preoccupied reading a book. With the bright overhead reading light shining directly on his head, she dismissed him as bald and assumed he was elderly.

Silence reigned between the two people for much of the journey. Then at one point when she shifted her position, their eyes met. In the astonishing moment that followed, she felt a spark of attraction toward the young stranger with closely cropped blond hair. She mentally reversed her first impression. Names and college information were readily exchanged in the short time remaining. They were both college freshmen in Boston traveling to their separate homes in Maine for their first long holiday weekend. She had just enough time remaining to share her reluctance to investigate the city of Boston alone. Reaching her destination first, she departed at the station as the bus lumbered away. Its thick plume of exhaust dispersed in the night air along with any thoughts of a future encounter materializing from the serendipitous meeting with the handsome stranger.

Incredibly, during the following week a letter arrived in her college mailbox from the man she’d met on the bus, inviting her to tour the city of Boston on foot. From that first pedestrian date, their relationship blossomed into a friendship of sharing and caring. Their college years were a whirlwind of fun and exuberant dates, of enviable cultural and educational experiences. Their friendship gradually transformed into ardent, committed love. The night he proposed marriage and slipped a shimmering diamond ring on her finger, the world was ablaze with irrepressible hope and promise. Their hearts overflowed with exuberant love!

In June they graduated from college and were married. Dreams were fulfilled, prayers answered. Over the ensuing years, people who knew the couple well expressed the unsolicited observation that their marriage was “made in heaven.”

During her first months at college, she had prayed that God would choose her life-long partner. Perhaps her motivation for seeking God’s help was selfish; she likely felt inadequate to make such a monumental life decision herself. It was a tentative act of faith at best, but our Lord honors trust and reliance, accepting miniscule amounts of sincere faith.

Jesus explained to His disciples, “‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible to you’” (Matthew 17:20). Jesus was not teaching that His disciples could literally displace mountains, but that when large, looming problems are fully relinquished to the Lord, they are either minimized or resolved when faith is bathed in prayer.

Mustard seeds were some of the smallest known to man in Jesus’ day. When planted, the seed grew into a tall shrub in one season, serving as Christ’s metaphor to illustrate the result of implementing a small quantity of faith to gain a large victory. It is God’s desire that our hesitant faith gradually matures into constant dependence upon Him, no matter how difficult, large, or impossible each situation may seem to us. 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).

 Our Lord is jealous for our exclusive adoration and devotion. With ever increasing submission and obedience the couple extended toward their Lord, the greater the abundance of joy and peace He heaped upon their marriage. God delighted in their companionship, He lavished them with His redeeming love, and He accepted them as His friends. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete” (I John 4:16). God’s eternal love reaches its full expression on earth through those who believe and serve Him, for we are designated as His current disciples.

 God has been consistently faithful to the couple whose meeting He orchestrated over fifty years ago when He answered a hesitant prayer. According to His perfect plan, executed in His precise timing, a miraculous introduction of future marriage partners was initiated with coy smiles and whimsical sparks in the improbable environment of a crowded bus cruising the Interstate at 70  m.p.h!  “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, The Msg.).

My Friend Sammy

Image credit

My Friend Sammy

By Pat Knight

Our four-year-old grandson informed his mother he was sure he was a boy because “girls have square heads and mine is round.” And how did he discover this morsel of childhood truth? “Because Sammy told me!” Of course, the logic of childhood has conquered another subject.

In allotting some of my thought to this physical inequity between boy and girl, it did occur to me that a square head might be useful. The brain could occupy the main part of the box-shaped head. Then, tucked away in the corners could be all those important dates and lifelong trivia we long to recall instantly. No longer would I forget birthdays. The dates would be squeezed into a corner, perhaps attached by a sticky note on a permanent brain corkboard. Appointment dates for the entire family at times require a filing system all their own. There would be another head corner available for those remembrances. It is a daunting task to remember clothing sizes for everyone in a growing family. The shoe and sock sizes, shirts and jackets, pants and gloves, hats (square) and boots; all could be neatly catalogued in another corner of the square skull. The remaining corner could be delegated to lists, those aggravating necessities of daily living. What a possibility for superior organization and efficiency, with every thought and job catalogued in corners of our boxy heads!

The square head might be a little top heavy with all of the informative corners assigned.  Perhaps it would be wise if we kept the original mold, after all. God knew how to configure people for optimum function and fulfillment. There are parts of our brain used exclusively for empowering the body with its mechanical prowess. All of our senses are neatly provided a unique section. Reasoning, learning, memorization, problem solving, wisdom; all have been compartmentalized.

God designed us long ago with His plan that has never outdated. The human body and mind must be one of only a few items in this world that have not been altered or improved over time. God alone possesses the pattern for creation of Homo sapiens and He is not likely to release it. We are children of God, made in His image. Who would want to tamper with that relationship? “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Notice the triple repetition of being made in God’s image, a fact He doesn’t want us to take lightly.

With the reasoning minds God constructed, we are capable of grasping the enormous gift of fellowship with Him. God could have built the most palatial residence in heaven for His abiding place. After all, He is the One, Exalted, Supreme God of the universe, mighty in power and riches. God could live anywhere He chooses, but miraculously, He has chosen our hearts! God will reside in each individual heart and mind of the person who invites Him inside.

God not only created us, but He knows every intimate detail of our lives. He didn’t leave us to our own fickle devices. As our heavenly Father, Lord, and Savior, He is deeply involved in our lives and lifestyles. “You preserve my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:2-3).

Adam and Eve tried hiding from God in the Garden of Eden after they deliberately disobeyed His command. They recognized their perilous error which they had been warned was punishable by death. Imagine hearing God’s voice call to you as He did to Adam and Eve after they hid among the trees. They were afraid, embarrassed, and for the first time, guilty. But God was merciful and spared their lives, just as He has saves us from our sins and the required death to atone for them.

God also stands ready to protect us. “‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him. I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him’” (Psalm 91:14-15). God loves His creations, taking personal responsibility for us, as our earthly fathers have learned to do.  God is a loving, sensitive Father who provides for all of our needs.

Many are the times God protects us from harm, times of which we are unaware. When we complain because our plans are interrupted or detained, God may be protecting us from danger. His plans and timing are always perfect. God maintains personal peace in each of our lives.

Our Lord also offers comfort and healing from suffering. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). God cares for our total being, physically and emotionally. He responds to our cries for help. “So we can say with confidence, “‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:6).

In His mercy, God daily pours out His love for us. In place of death, God provides for our eternal life. To adjust for the sins we commit, God continually forgives when we confess. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Who can even speak of God’s eternal and faithful love? It is impossible to comprehend His love completely unless He reveals it in small portions. In faith we accept it; in trust we rely upon it; in obedience we share. “ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ ” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

 From the beginning God created us in His image. We have evidence from when Jesus’ lived on earth that His physical attributes resemble ours. That tells us something about the square head theory—let boys be boys and let girls have the same shaped head!

No Good, No More

No Good, No More  

 By Pat Knight

It is a familiar sight during the spring clean-up season in Maine to observe small trailers bumping and squeaking along behind personal vehicles, transporting fallen tree and yard debris to the local compactor site. From the monumental piles of deteriorating natural matter, gardeners will eventually back their trailers up for a load of rich, composted material to be used as organic fertilizer. 

In our disposable world-view, there is little that has not been discarded for a superior model. Vehicles, houses, and large equipment depreciate with time until they are trashed, torn down, or sold for scrap metal. Although most communities have embraced a vigorous recycling program, it will take many more decades of reduce/recycle/reuse efforts to clean our environment and find beneficial solutions for all cast away materials. 

To believe unborn humans are disposable is undefendable. God creates each person in His own image, setting the birth and death dates in advance. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). Men have chosen to disregard their Creator’s authority by promoting abortion and physician-assisted suicide.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me where written in your book before they came to be” (Psalm 139:13, 15- 16). The combination of facts is not happenstance. God alone sovereignly creates and perpetuates our lives.

That which God has revered, man has despised. God appoints the length of each person’s life; mankind has struggled to capture the decision-making. As humans place a stranglehold on determining life span, we are rejecting God’s omnipotence; ignoring God’s supreme power and authority. God knows all things before they happen. He knew us before we were born; all our days were ordained before conception.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you;
before you were born I set you apart”
(Jeremiah 1:5).

God creates all life on earth. From one cell to a complex organism equipped to maintain life independently, God oversees our growth and development. He establishes physical and emotional life and breathes a soul into our being. When a life is devalued and destroyed by man before birth, there is rarely justification for the action. God grieves when His children are cast aside or thrown away. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). We are God’s dwelling place where He resides in our hearts as an integral part of our lives. To destroy life is an offense that is punishable by God.

“You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked, who freely strut about when what is vile is honored by the human race” (Psalm 12:7-8). God clearly calls men wicked who distort His laws and purposes. “Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8b). Our lives are not our own; we are children of the living, loving God. “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’  They are corrupt, their deeds are vile. Do these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord” (Psalm 14:1, 4). It is unconscionable to disdain the exalted.

Oh, how depraved the human heart that guides hands to scrape a fetus from inside its protected, warm, life-sustaining womb, tossing the body parts aside with an arrogant attitude toward God who has assigned life! “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14).

The growing perceived need to legally allow suffering people to end their lives prematurely is a dangerous movement. God is actively involved in every aspect of our lives, desiring what is best for us. He loves us beyond measure. He promises safety and protection for believers, but nowhere in God’s Word is the believer promised an easy life. We are told to expect hardship, suffering, and persecution. At times God allows us to experience trials to teach us to lean upon Him for strength; silencing our motors of everyday activity; setting us aside for a period of time so we can best hear His voice and focus on a closer walk with Him. 

Eliminating a life to assuage pain is not the answer to physical or emotional agony. God promises His presence, His help, and His comfort. Jude tells us that there are “‘Ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4). Wickedness prevails where God does not reside in hearts.

We will face no affliction that Jesus did not experience when He ministered on earth. Our Savior prayed so earnestly and agonized so completely the night before His crucifixion that “His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). An angel appeared from heaven to lavish Jesus with the strength to suffer humiliation, abuse, and pain to redeem mankind on the cross. Now our Savior advocates for us during our trials.

Just as God sent an angel to empower Jesus, He promises to exchange our weakness for His strength, interceding for us in the same manner in which He did for His Son. Unlimited power and strength are available simply by asking. A call to God for help brings answers every time. His angels still minister to us today.

Though it will require a collaborative effort to clean up the environment by recycling disposables, the human body need not be among them. In spite of pain or inconvenience we may experience, we serve a God who loves and cares for us, who promises to provide spiritual victory to comfort suffering. “He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (Lamentations 3:32-33). What a resource and a safety net for us when we are hurting! Pray for God’s help, for He will always provide that which He promises.

Scrap Paper

I  have an update on Pat’s new book, which looks like it will be published this year in late summer or possibly in the fall. After much prayer, she has decided to name it “Feast of Joy.” I have already written an enthusiastic endorsement for the back cover and am really looking forward to reading this addition to her joyful series of books. Pat is also the author of Rejoice! and Pure Joy, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, eBay and XulonPress.

Scrap Paper

By Pat Knight

The paper is now yellow and tattered with only one sentence written repeatedly on both the front and back. It was more than fifty years ago when I wrote determinedly until there was no space left near the torn edges. Recently I have taken steps to preserve the relic by laminating it. Now the sentiment of my past remains safely tucked inside my Bible as a poignant reminder of the exceptional, unexpected methods God devises to draw me to His side.

I clearly recall the frustration I felt when I sat at my desk in my college dorm room staring at a monumental stack of books written in a new and unfamiliar language. I had managed to complete three weeks of the first semester. Now my assignments were piling up, and my only reaction was defeat. Many miles from home in an alien city, I was lonely. I had met many new friends, but unlike me, they all exuded confidence. Was there anyone experiencing the disarray of emotions I was feeling? I was overcome with a sense of helplessness that I feared would lead to certain failure.

With the last shred of emotional energy remaining that evening I grabbed my Bible and adroitly flipped to a favorite, reassuring verse. There was no need to find the passage; I had memorized it long ago. As I pondered the verse, I began scribbling on a random piece of paper. I prayed the words of the verse as I wrote, as if putting the promise in my own handwriting would transplant them in my mind this night. The apostle Paul admitted, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV). I was scribbling feverishly and ultimately covered the half piece of paper, front and back, for a total of eighteen repetitions. Completely spent, I then plopped into bed. No homework was done that night. But, I had a new commitment. I would make it through college with Jesus at my side, empowering me each step of the way.

Though that experience occurred in my youth many decades ago, it left me with an impressionable lesson. Philippians 4:13 was my new goal. I have used it often and with conviction. God proved that He and I could accomplish anything together that conforms to His will.

When Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he penned a letter to his fellow Christians in Philippi. If Paul grasped the reality of God’s promises from prison, surely I could acknowledge God’s interaction in my own life, to be and to do what He establishes as my goals every day. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

The Old Testament reveals that due to disobedience, God allowed the Israelites to be captured and enslaved by the Egyptians. As a result of their outcry, after four hundred years as slaves in a foreign country, God revealed His magnificent plan to free His people.

God chose Moses to lead the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom and land ownership in the Promised Land. But Moses was resistant and flatly refused the assignment. He told God he wasn’t eloquent of speech or believable and he argued at every reassurance God offered. Finally, God had witnessed enough rebellion and insisted that Moses accept the appointment.

There were many challenges ahead for Moses as he frequently dealt with a defiant nation of people who first agreed to God’s commands, but soon thereafter disobeyed them. On many occasions Moses wanted to quit, but God always provided the needs of both Moses and the people, often in miraculous ways.

Moses led the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt, through the parted waters of the Red Sea to escape the Egyptian militia, and he delivered the Ten Commandments to the people directly from God’s hand. For forty years he led a large and stiff-necked people. In his lifetime Moses progressed from a skeptic to a believer who was totally reliant on his Lord. What an example Moses left for all of us!

Every day we face opportunities, responsibilities, and questions for which we do not know the answers. Assured God is always available to help and lead us, we are willing to obey what He asks of us. “‘Call to me and I will answer you, great and unsearchable things you do not know’” (Jeremiah 33:3). What an exciting Christian life is possible when we remain malleable and obedient for God to use for His purposes!

Whenever God sends us to witness and work for Him, He desires to accompany us. There is nothing to fear when God is near. Moses demonstrated God’s partnership in his life by developing into one of God’s most powerful and effective servants. He didn’t begin that way. When God presented His plan, Moses argued, asking God to send someone else. Have we unwittingly refused God’s plan for our lives? If we feel His leading and refuse to follow, we act as stubborn and as disobedient as Moses did. When God formulates a plan for our lives, He intends to make it a rich, growing experience, one with a secure future in which we work side-by-side with him. “‘So is my word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace’” (Isaiah 55:11).

There is peace and joy serving God, with no limits to what you and God can accomplish together. If you harbor any doubts, then I suggest you grab scrap paper and start writing: “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Allow plenty of room on the paper—repetition reinforces ideas and you may want to save your work as a life-long reminder of God’s leadership!

Polka Spotted

Polka Spotted

By Pat Knight

Among our three grandsons visiting Christmas day, the 5-year old suffered a fully developed case of chicken pox. The disease had no regard for person, place, or time; no indication it was interrupting our celebration of the birthday of the King. The chicken pox boy endured long enough to unwrap his Christmas gifts before he collapsed on the couch for the remainder of the day. Occasionally a whimper erupted from his direction as he tried to resist the complete lethargy and generalized soreness that accompanied the disease.

Our grandsons coined the phrase ”polka spots” for the skin lesions populating his body, including his lips, throat, inside his nostrils, and on the soles of his feet. The generalized outbreak of chicken pox, if blended together, had the potential to change his skin color. As I performed a close inspection of the polka spots on his back, it occurred to me that God could devise a method of registering our transgressions; a pox assigned for each sin. Over our lifetime, I wonder if we would have enough room on our bodies to register all of the pox? Thankfully, God does not choose any means of broadcasting to the world the mistakes we make. Sin is a private matter between God and the believer. Never does He make our indiscretions known to others. He has promised, “‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’” (Hebrews 8:12).

If we are wronged by another person, we remember the incident to prevent similar hurt again, applying what we’ve learned, but not for the purpose of retaliation. God assures us, “‘I am he who blots out your transgressions, for my sake, and remembers them no more’” (Isaiah 43:25). Our Lord is not interested in flaunting our sins to the world. Once we repent of our sins and he redeems us, he destroys sins’ memory, never to be retrieved. Our God is patient and long-suffering, identified by justice and loving kindness. “‘I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist’” (Isaiah 44:22, NLT).

The Son of God’s death on the cross paid all debts in full to redeem our sins. God is not interesting in brow-beating; His forgiveness is merciful and full of grace. Conversations and dealings with us are held in strictest confidence, never to be revealed. Our Lord is kind and compassionate. “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help” (Psalm 86:5, NLT).

In some societies slaves wear collars to identify their status and their owners. As Christians, our uniqueness is displayed by our love of God and our fellow traveler. No physical marks are necessary. We exhibit an outward manifestation of inner peace and joy, secured by hope in an unfailing God. Job, who suffered untold physical and mental anguish, said, “‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him’” (Job 13:15).

 

“He was pierced for our transgressions.
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Believers in Jesus Christ do not require a distinguishing physical mark. Rather than brand us as His followers, God expects us to minister for Him with our speech and actions. “Just as the body is dead, without breath, so also faith is dead without good works” (James 2:26, NLT). Our external actions reflect our heart’s allegiance.

If we yell from the rooftops our love for God, we would be summarily labeled as wacko. But, if in our daily lives we consistently display the love and peace of God, our positive actions and benevolent outreach will impact many lives, including our own.

People also listen to what we do not say. Non-verbal communication sometimes speaks louder than words. If we refuse to be controlled by anger, resentment, or bitterness, others take notice. Are we active listeners, conveying a sense of importance to others? “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19).

Our goal is to be a conspicuous Christian, to imitate Jesus and His actions. The slogan so popular with Christian teens years ago, “What Would Jesus Do?” (W.W. J. D.), is still an appropriate question for us to consider prior to decision-making. We are commanded, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” (Eph. 5:1-2, NLT).

Let us evaluate whether we exhibit joy and patience amidst the disappointments and losses in life. Are we able to cling to our faith in Jesus when all hope seems lost? Are we patient and long-suffering when awaiting answers from God? Others observe confidence, joy, and gentleness as correct responses to unpleasant situations, those features that cancel negative behavior in every scenario.

Unlike the Nazi practice of tattooing Jewish prisoners in concentration camps or the fanciful idea of a chicken pox for each sin, as followers of Jesus Christ, promises are the only brands we will ever receive from our Lord. His words are believable, His love magnificent, and His gifts generous beyond our imagination. Polka spots represent a hurtful, temporary disease. Give God your sins and He will exchange them for an abundant life on earth and a home in heaven forever and ever!


[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Mature In Christ

I have exciting news to share with you about Pat Knight. She has been working on a new book of devotionals which should be published sometime this year. She is still pondering and praying about what the title will be, so I’ll be sure to keep you updated as I learn more. Pat is also the author of Rejoice! and Pure Joy, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, eBay and XulonPress.

Mature In Christ

By Pat Knight

One summer at the lake we experienced the sheer joy of observing two newly-hatched common loon babies under the tutelage of the adult pair. The interaction between parents and chicks provided no end of amusement and delight. The family of four swam by our shoreline with each baby hitching a ride on a parent’s back. We could sense the adults’ pride as they swam leisurely but cautiously near our Independence Day picnic area, seemingly to introduce their new family.

Initially the two newborn loon chicks were tiny brown puffballs, totally dependent on their parents for food, warmth, and protection. Daily as we noticed the parents nurturing and instructing their young, we were reminded of our relationship with our heavenly Father. A priest assured King David of God’s constant care. “‘I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you’” (Psalm 32:8). All of our thoughts and actions are known to our Lord.

It was both amazing and heart-warming to hear the adult loons tenderly cooing to their young. We were accustomed to their boisterous, eerie cries that pierced the night silence. With their chicks the adults displayed only gentleness and tenderness. When Jesus ministered on earth, He neither yelled nor screamed His message. His gentleness and patience were known by all. Likewise, we are reminded, “In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

The ritual of feeding in the loon family continued throughout the day. The adult dived to catch a minnow, carried it alive in its beak, then dropped the fish directly in front of its offspring. The chick attempted to retrieve its lunch before the small fish struggled to its freedom below the water’s surface. This process reoccurred until the chicks proved unsuccessful catching their lunch. The adult loon then recaptured the fish and placed it directly in the chick’s mouth. It was a thrill to discover the older chicks soon capable of diving and catching their own food independently.

The apostle Paul likened the initial time when we place our trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior to the nourishment requirements of an infant, who at first drinks only milk. He compared our spiritual growth and the need for progressively more sustenance with our physical growth. With greater understanding and maturity in our walk with Jesus, He eventually introduces solid spiritual food.

During the Israelites’ forty-year wilderness walk toward the Promised Land, God assumed the responsibility for feeding millions of His people. He miraculously provided daily food adequate to sustain each person. Dissatisfied, the Israelites wailed and complained about the monotony of the manna and the absence of meat. God heard their grumbling and mercifully sent quail for their evening meal. “‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God’” (Exodus 16:11-12).

God never gives up on His children, urging us to depend on Him for our daily needs. The apostle Paul reassured, “‘God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus’” (Philippians 4:19). God commands us to trust and obey Him, promising that our lives will overflow with His blessings.

When the loon chicks were newly hatched, we equated their diving attempts to submerging a ping pong ball. At first, it was an impossible feat; they were merely small balls of buoyant fluff. However, they persisted, and by their fourth day of life, they had mastered rudimentary diving skills.

Just as the loon chicks practiced and persisted until their tiny bodies were heavy enough to stay submerged, so too, God expects us to practice our Christian lifestyle until God’s ways are natural to us. “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:5-6). Our lives are testimonies to our beliefs.

The adult loons were fiercely protective of their young. Predators such as eagles, hawks, or humans pose great threats to an isolated loon chick. To divert attention away from the little ones in the face of danger, the adult loon performs a “penguin dance.” With their wings alternately folded vertically against its body or flailing, the parent walks on water while contorting and shrieking at the predator. If boaters or curiosity seekers are not wise enough to exit, the loon may dance until exhausted and perish attempting to protect its young.

Although God equips common loons with instinctive methods of protecting their young, He promises personal, unfailing protection to His own children. “The Lord watches over you. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Psalm 121:5a, 7-8). God not only protects us routinely, He also offers shelter during the sudden, unexpected storms of our lives. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

God provides practical analogies and lessons as we observe His creation, promising love, leadership, and protection in believers’ lives. This, then, is our response: “‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Loons provide natural object lessons, illustrating God’s constant parenting and grace for those who seek to follow and obey Jesus. Let us seek spiritual maturity, grasping the gifts God offers to cultivate Christlikeness in each of us.