The Artist’s Palette

The Artist’s Palette

By Pat Knight

Quickly they flutter to earth like thousands of brightly colored confetti pieces. They crunch when we walk, rustle in the wind, and swirl around our feet. Autumn leaves in New England are delightful. The bright reds and oranges, the most brilliant of all, are products of the sugar maple trees. Birches add yellow, while the reddish-brown leaves fall from stalwart oak trees. All of them in an assorted mixture form breathtaking landscapes.

While the leaves remain attached to the branches, iridescent splendor shines a blaze of autumn hues in the sunlight. En masse the foliage creates a surge of brilliant color, while individually the leaves resemble startling tongues of fire. As the leaves dry and float to the ground, they are scattered by autumn breezes. They flail against vertical surfaces, congregate in heaps, and dance in circles, spinning into a mini-twister before collapsing into an exhausted pile. Such provocative scenes awaken the senses during the dramatic transformation into the fall season.

Change may be comforting or threatening depending on circumstances and individual interpretation. When the cool, crisp days and nights of autumn burst on the scene following the suffocating heat of summer, it offers great relief. In that case, transformation is appealing. The phenomena of changing temperature and magnificent foliage is an anticipated ushering in of the fall season of the year. In the Northeast, we experience four distinct seasons. We are accustomed to change. No season lasts longer than a few months before the next one is introduced. It is the variety of seasons that entices many to live in northern states.

Though variation is interesting and often necessary, there are some things we expect to remain constant or immovable. God’s love and sovereignty are steadfast and reliable. “‘I am the Lord. I do not change’” (Malachi 3:6). When God establishes a covenant with man, He always keeps His promise. God cannot transmute His character. He is pure, holy, divine, and powerful.

Though neither God nor His promises vary, He has masterminded the change of seasons. He could have created a colorless transition, but God chose to splash His beautiful palette throughout the earth. Consider His splendor in sunsets, rainbows, rock sculptures, spraying sea mist, purple mountains capped with snow. God has authored natural beauty. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Our Lord remains constant, complete, and fulfilled. His character is dependable.

When God commanded Moses to lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, Moses wanted to know whom he should tell his people had sent him on the mission. God’s reply was quick and sure. “‘I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). God has always existed and always will. He declares, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.’” (Revelation 22:13). In order for God to create the world and everything in it, He existed before the world.

For centuries God promised the Israelites a Savior. When Isaiah 53 was written in approximately 700 BC, the Man of Calvary was described in detail. The people expected their king to reign with power and conquer their enemies in his kingdom on earth. Few believed that the baby born in Bethlehem was the prophesied Messiah. God had kept His Word. His Son brought God’s promised love and saving grace to the world. He preached a personal, innovative Gospel that enraged the legalistic religious leaders. When Jesus professed to be the Son of God, the temple worshippers were infuriated by His claim. They “took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him off the cliff. But, He walked right through the crowd and went on His way” (Luke 4:29).

Denials and persecution of Jesus didn’t change His sovereign status; He remained Lord. Repudiating God’s deity will never alter the fact that He existed before the beginning of time. God is constant, stable, unswerving, and steadfast. In spite of individual disbelief, one day every person shall confess His Lordship. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Throughout Scripture, God affirmed His Son’s authenticity and authority. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the Head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus is our secure, unmovable, unchanging Lord and Savior.

God is an artist, painting both softly muted and brightly sparkling scenery. Daily He changes the pigments on His canvas. Though God makes sweeping modifications of landscape, His character is unchangeable.

“But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You remain the same and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:12, 27). We invest our lives in a God who is forever the same, who keeps His promises, and who desires to live with us forever. “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2). He is eternal. Because He lives forever, He offers us an identical future. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).

With each new day I am more sensitized to my surroundings, attributing their magnificence to God, the creator, artist, and pigment-maker. Encompassed with such visual luxury, I am going to allot more time to appreciate the changing beauty apparent in each new day, confident that Almighty God will never change.

Heads Roll

Heads Roll

By Pat Knight

When I was a little girl, playing with my dolls was a favorite pastime. Imagine the trauma I suffered when my doll’s head fell off! My Daddy was always willing and able to pop that doll’s head right back onto her shoulders again. I would go running to greet him at the end of his workday, hanging onto the two doll parts. He instinctively knew what would make a little girl’s heart happy, performing repairable doll surgery right before my eyes.

One day the three of us siblings were creating a loud verbal commotion inside our house. Our mother announced in measured tones, “I have a headache, and if you children don’t quiet down, my head is going to fall off.” Instantly, I envisioned a frightening mental picture of my mother’s head detached from her shoulders, just like my doll. So I was quick to assure her, “That’s all right, Mom, Daddy will put your head back on when he gets home tonight.” I remember confusion reigned when she broke into peals of laughter. This was not at all funny to me, but if she found humor in my remarks, maybe her headache would go away and we wouldn’t have to witness her head helplessly rolling off her shoulders.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
─1 Corinthians 1:3-4

Lessons the broken doll taught me prepared me for tragedies that would strike in my future lifetime, directing me where to turn for relief. Trusting my heavenly Father as the source of all help is the ultimate relationship the God desires all of us to enjoy with Him. He is the one “who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 1:4), the knowledge necessary to navigate this world and its trials. There is no problem too immense for our Lord to solve, no affliction too overpowering for Him to reverse, no grief too staggering for Him to comfort. God is our sufficiency, our answer to all of life’s difficulties.

Job was a broken man, but not defeated. He was declared “Blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1b). Yet one day he suddenly lost all of his livestock, wealth, and family. He was struck with a skin disease of overwhelming proportions. However, he persisted in trusting God. Job knew that “All things are possible with God” (Mark10:27). He was not into the mode of blaming God for his calamities. Job rationalized his steadfast hope: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”(Job 2:10). Job decided to choose victory, as God promised. He took the high road of deep faith that would not shatter during a personal crisis.

I didn’t understand how my Daddy fixed my doll, but I trusted that he would. More importantly, he took responsibility for his little girl’s happiness. Isn’t this the reaction God wants from us, that we trust Him for our delight and joy?

God loves us and wants us to put our confidence in Him as the source for all of our help and protection. “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save, He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

Jesus taught His disciples in parables, using common objects to convey extraordinary lessons. He will also find the best way to reach out to us with His truths, even if it involves a simple object like a toy. Nothing in this world escapes God’s service.

Thankful Prayer for God’s Love

This is another of my devotionals published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His love . . .

God’s love will continue forever.
—Psalm 52:1 NCV

This is what real love is: It is not our love for God;
it is God’s love for us in sending his Son to be
the way to take away our sins.
—1 John 4:10 NCV 

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
—Psalm 118:29

[Jesus said] God so loved the world that he gave
his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
—John 3:16

We love Him because He first loved us.
—1 John 4:19 NKJV

. . . I will pray.

Loving Father,

I don’t get it, Lord—why You love me, that is. I look myself over, and frankly, I must not be seeing what You see. I can’t understand it. But I’ve decided that I don’t need to understand it. Why, even the nature and logic of love between human beings is seldom knowable. That’s why I’ve determined just to accept it, to let Your love cover me, change me, energize me, make me special.

I’ve read in the Bible that You love me so much that You allowed Your Son, Jesus Christ, to accept the punishment for my sins. I can’t imagine giving up one of my children for anyone—even You. I guess that’s why You’re God and I’m just a mortal human being created in Your image and loved for Your own reasons.

Thank You, Father, for Your great love for me . . . and I want You to know that Your love won’t be scorned. I love You in return. With all of my human strength, I love You. With all of my human determination, I pledge my love to You. I don’t deserve Your love, Father, but You do deserve mine. I give it freely.

Amen.

God does not love us because we are valuable.
We are valuable because God loves us.

—Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

The Bible: The Word of God

This article was originally written in 1951 and was republished in the March 2019 issue of Decision Magazine.

The Bible: The Word of God

By Billy Graham

This article was originally written in 1951.

The Bible is being discussed today more than ever before. Some people want to get rid of it completely. Some want to keep it just as literature. And many, believing it to be God’s Word, want to live by it. Does the Bible have anything to say to us?

THE CONSTITUTION OF OUR FAITH

The United States has a constitutional form of government. A number of men, after long argument and debate, drew up the Constitution and submitted it to the 13 Federated States for ratification. The presupposition of these framers of the Constitution was that law was absolute.

People in the United States were to be free, for they were to know what the law required and also what the law could not do. They were to know their rights, their privileges and their limitations. No judge was to be unfair but was to judge cases as the law required.

People found that if they knew the law and kept it, they would be truly free. They knew where they stood, for constitutional law made it clear.

The Bible is the constitution of Christianity. Just as the United States Constitution is not of any private interpretation, neither is the Bible of any private interpretation. Just as the Constitution includes all who live under its stated domain, without exception, so the Bible includes all who live under its stated domain, without exception.

God’s laws for the spiritual world are found in the Bible. Whatever else there may be that tells us of God, it is more clearly told in the Bible.

Nature in her laws tells of God, but the message tells us nothing of the love and grace of God. Conscience, in our inmost being, tells us of God, but the message is fragmented. The only place we can find a clear, unmistakable message is in the Word of God, which we call the Bible. 

True Christianity finds all of its doctrines in the Bible; true Christianity does not deny any part of the Bible; true Christianity does not add anything to the Bible. For many centuries the Bible has been the most available book on the earth. It has no hidden purpose. It cannot be destroyed.

The Bible has a magnificent heritage. It has 66 books, written over a period of 1,600 years by more than 30 writers, and yet the message is the same throughout—so clearly that the 66 books are actually one book.

The message, in every part, is straightforward. No writer changed his message to put his friends in a better light. The sins of small and great alike are frankly admitted, and life is presented as it actually is.

THE CENTER OF CONTROVERSY

The Bible has been the anvil upon which the critics have worn out their hammers. Critics claim the Bible is full of forgery, fiction and unfulfilled prophecy, but the findings of archaeology have corroborated rather than denied the Biblical data.

Our faith, which is not dependent upon human knowledge and scientific advance, has nevertheless presented a magnificent case at the “bar of knowledge.”

How many times we have heard someone say, “Why, the Bible contradicts itself!” Very few who make that statement have used the family Bible for more than a storage place for pressed flowers.

The first requirement placed upon critics is that they read carefully every chapter of the Bible. They ought also to know something about how we got our Bible, the miracle of its writing. Biblical history is fascinating and makes us appreciate the Book that has been preserved for us to this day.

If you are setting yourself up as a critic, it is your responsibility to read and know both sides of the question. It is significant that very few Bible critics have bothered themselves to read the literature available on the defense of the Bible, much less the Bible itself.

The Bible will always be the center of controversy.

Read the rest here.

A Recipe for Love from Ephesians 4

Sharing today from Dayspring.

A Recipe for Love from Ephesians 4

By Melody

Every day is the perfect time of year to talk about love, but Valentine’s Day likely sparks more “love” talk than any other. We’re bombarded with advice on how to find love—and keep it—from every friend, family member, and even strangers. Wouldn’t it be easier if we had a specific recipe for love—a foolproof way to bring love into our lives?

And on that topic, doesn’t it feel like we get so many mixed messages? I mean, what is love, really? Sometimes it feels like it’s all hearts and flowers and heart-shaped candy boxes, oohs-and-ahhs and isn’t-he-so-cute and cartoon princes rescuing damsels in distress and romantic movies with violins swelling as the couples run toward each other in slow motion with arms open wide and… Oh! My. Gracious.

Sometimes it can feel a little superficial, like the recipe for finding and expressing love ranges from sitting idly awaiting our white knight to presenting our loved one an annual box of chocolates. Searching for love can be overwhelming, and expressing love may seem complex.

So, let’s look for a better understanding of love. And let’s go to the source of love—God—and consult the Word for the true “recipe” for expressing love. After all, God is love, so it’s only natural we look to him for love advice.

Read the rest here.

Heavenly Gift Shop

Heavenly Gift Shop

By Pat Knight

God is the purveyor of His own gift shop where the selections are so monumental one stands in awe of His inventory. From His voluminous supply, He fills a shopping basket of spiritual gifts for each of us.

First, He chooses an ample amount of peace. In this frantic world, peace of mind is paramount. Jesus promised, “‘I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give’” (John 14:2, NLT). When we experience peace amidst adversity, harmony prevails. “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:7, NLT). Inner tranquility permeates our thoughts and actions when our faith is founded in Jesus. Our peace is so complete, we rejoice during trials, assured that God abundantly bathes our souls with His all-encompassing comfort.

“Those who promote peace have joy” (Proverbs 12:20). The two gifts of peace and joy complement one another. We are commanded to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” (Philippians 4:4). What spiritual freedom is available when we abandon worry for inner buoyant confidence. “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance” (Romans 5:3, NLT). With joy prevalent in our lives, our character is strengthened, whatever the circumstances. We abandon worry for inner contentment. What spiritual freedom defines our lives when we rejoice and thank God for His perfect plan, orchestrated in His precise timing of each detail. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). 

In God’s gift shop, love swirls in abundance. Who can perceive God’s unconditional love, the kind that sent Jesus to the cross to die for our sins? God delights in lavishing His children with similar sacrificial love, awash in His love that naturally extends to others. That is God’s way; He never instructs us to hoard His gifts for our exclusive use, but commands that we share for everyone’s benefit. “Let us love one another because love comes from God” (1 John 4:7). God’s love will never suffer extinction.

Each day God showers us with a fresh amount of love and compassion. We may wonder if we possess an adequate amount of love or if we will utilize it in all the right situations. “God is love; whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). God’s love abides with believers, constantly proliferating in our lives. An infinite supply of peace, joy, and love have been selected for us at God’s spiritual gift shop for immediate delivery to our hearts.

God adds gentleness, a priceless gift. During crucial life encounters, gentleness is often difficult to summon.

Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love”
(Ephesians 4:2).

Mildness and tenderness are components of gentleness. He supplies copious amounts of gentleness and expects us to apply it liberally. We all prefer delicate handling with tenderness that speaks of Christ Himself. His nail-scarred hands are the very ones that surround us with a soothing approach. We are encouraged to emulate Jesus’ attribute of humility and meekness.

God is the consummate gentleman, never intruding in our affairs without request. Once we convert the control of our hearts and minds to God, He will exhibit the perfect amount of gentle help and understanding.

Gentleness and self-control are often spoken together. “Like a city whose walls are broken down, is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). The goal of a follower of Christ is to be in control of emotions, speech, and actions at all times. His personal attributes establish the perfect example for us to follow so that others may see Jesus living in us. He desires that the light of His presence shines through our lives in all that we do or say. Managing our behavior is only possible when we first relinquish control to God. Gentleness is the result of our intimate walk with Christ.

God includes a plentiful measure of kindness for you by setting the example: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Tenderness and goodwill are both expressions of kindness, producing thoughtful deeds toward others. When shared, kindness takes root and grows, producing hope and delight in the recipient, goodwill in the giver. Whenever his gifts are dispensed, God is promoted. Kindness shared permits us to observe God’s qualities at work in our lives. Let kindness proliferate, spreading in a contagious, feverish manner! “I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24b).

Goodness could easily be overlooked in the gift shop, so common it tends to ring hollow from frequent good intentions. In a world saturated with sin and evil, God promotes excellence of character, reliability, and righteousness, all wrapped up in a package of goodness. Jesus personified goodness when He walked the earth. “How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you” (Psalm 31:19). 

Faithfulness is an affluent quality of God which He desires for all of His children to develop. “Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23b), confirms God’s immeasurable trustworthiness. We can depend upon our heavenly Father’s great love and compassion extended to us new every morning. “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Psalm 36:5), encompassing the entire realm of human existence. As we experience God’s unmitigated faithfulness, we yearn to appropriate loyalty in our spiritual lives. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Our Lord maintains dominion over all creation. His promises are magnificent and secure; His gifts sufficient and supreme.

No funds are exchanged in God’s gift shop. All of the His selections are sent special delivery from heaven straight to our hearts, triumphantly immersing believers in a life cycle of victorious living, For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. Let his faithful people rejoice in his honor and sing for joy” (Psalm 149:4-5).

Redefine Happiness

Redefine Happiness

by Joni Eareckson Tada

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.
—Romans 5:2-4

Some people are never going to be happy.

I’m not being cynical, because the very folks about whom I’m speaking would agree. They would be the first to say that they are in a dead-end marriage, that they see no end to the constant irritation of their supervisor at work, that they will never lose those ugly twenty-five pounds. Life, to them, seems to be a never-ending drudgery of the same, sad routine.

Are you this way? Does happiness, like a butterfly, almost flutter within reach but just when you think you have grasped it… it’s gone? Or perhaps you feel your marriage is okay, and your job is acceptable. Yet you feel as though something’s missing. Perhaps you think this is real happiness.

Well, life is hard. For some, it is downright hard. Unhappiness seems to be here to stay. But it doesn’t have to be this way, because the answer is not to get rid of unhappiness but to find a new definition for it.

My friend Elisabeth Elliot has suggested that we redefine happiness as duty and honor, sacrifice and faithfulness, commitment and service. Happiness is fleeting and elusive, but joy is an overflow of the perseverance and hope that comes from demonstrating faithful sacrifice and committed service.

Lord of Joy, will You help me redefine happiness in my life? You promise joy in the midst of our suffering, so please let me know Your joy today as I persevere in faithful service and as I demonstrate true commitment in my tasks. Give me Your smile, let me feel Your peace dancing in my heart. That, for me, will be true joy.


Taken from Diamonds in the Dust. Copyright © 1993 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.