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. 

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.

Be Hospitable

Be Hospitable

By Pat Knight

When the apostle Paul’s ship was forced to stop in the port city of Tyre of Macedonia to unload cargo, he found the hospitality in the New Testament church to be overwhelming. The Christian inhabitants gracefully invited Paul and his associates to stay with them. Paul spent quality time preaching, teaching, and encouraging the Christian disciples there. The people’s hospitality was rewarded by the traveler’s friendship and ministry. At the end of the week, in spite of the consistent warning from his friends that danger awaited him, Paul remained focused on his goal, ready once again to resume his journey toward Jerusalem. “‘And now, compelled by the Holy Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, a task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace’” (Acts 20:22-24)

After ministering to their new friends, when the time arrived for Paul and his associates to sail, the whole town accompanied them to the ship. Envision the men, women, and children praying and weeping as they embraced the apostle and his beloved companions. Tell-tale round depressions clustered together remained, representing knee impressions in the sand made as the people knelt to pray.

Once Paul and his travelers boarded the ship and the crowd dispersed, there were scattered footprints leading from the seashore back up the path into town. Gradually the tide washed away the evidence of love and friendship in the sand, but the visual impressions remained in the minds of Paul’s followers, a memory that would not easily fade.

How often have we been disappointed when our plans to achieve a goal or arrive at a destination have been disrupted? We failed to recognize that with God our journey is as important as the outcome. While we focus our eyes on the destination, God uses each step of the journey to teach us. God doesn’t just plan to meet us at our next stop—He travels every mile alongside us, guiding from within our hearts.

Just as Paul was forced to disembark twice on his trip to Jerusalem prior to arriving in Tyre, God knew of Paul’s agenda on both occasions. He already had blessings planned along Paul’s journey. Is there any reason God would not have similar plans for each of us?

God is frugal of time and talent, wasteful of neither. He guided travelers to hospitable strangers in Tyre, who took them in and provided their needs. The hospitality was rewarded with Paul’s friendship and ministry—the kind that remains to comfort over the years. The travelers nearly forgot about being inconvenienced, for joy superseded their disappointment.

Our inopportune situations may not be as straightforward as what Paul experienced. We may not learn the purpose for an interruption of plans until later, if at all. We are comforted knowing God’s plans for us are perfect. God is faithful and always provides our needs.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.
For we say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”
(Hebrews 13:5-6).

What an assurance from our loving God who always keeps His promises!

God makes plans for our lives. He perpetually considers our longings and safety. He never disappoints. God never fails to keep His promises nor will He ever desert us. Paul learned that God’s purposes are perfect and His schedules precise. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And, He is worthy of our trust!

A Cracked Pot

A Cracked Pot

By Pat Knight

In God’s Word, our lives are compared to clay pots, both of them fragile. Physically and emotionally we are weak vessels, easily injured. “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:21).

The woman was incarcerated in a federal penitentiary where she learned to love her Lord. Though she must serve her sentence for repeated crimes, she clung to God’s promises. She knew she was God’s creation, but she felt like a cracked vessel, flawed and sinful. Eventually she learned that there was a remedy available for the many fissures in her life. She presumed that if she were really made of clay, her cracked and crazed veneer could be repaired with glue, restoring her vessel for use. She believed God would function as her glue, forgive her sins, and repair her broken heart.

Rejoicing in her new-found freedom of healing and forgiveness, she sang praises to her Savior. Imagine being sentenced to a correctional facility and rejoicing for the positive developments in one’s life! She was joyful because her daily life depended on God’s promises. She accepted His unconditional love in exchange for her fragile, crumbling, vessel of clay.

In Macedonia, the apostle Paul intervened to heal a demon-possessed slave girl. No one thanked him for performing the miraculous healing; in doing so he eliminated the ability of the slave owner to profit from fortune-telling. There was such uproar among the town’s people due to this encounter that Paul and Silas were ordered to be beaten. After they were severely flogged, they were thrown into prison. About midnight, exhausted, bleeding, and suffering intense pain, Paul and Silas began praying and singing hymns to God. Nothing could quiet their joyful spirit. Suddenly a violent earthquake shook the very foundations of the prison, opening the doors of the cells and loosening the prisoners’ chains.

God was at work even in the dark, dank dungeon.
As a result of the apostles’ testimony to God’s goodness,
the jailor and his family came to believe in God.
Paul and Silas were released the next morning by government officials.

God delights in mending the little and big breaks in our lives. In the process, He strengthens us beyond what we can imagine. We observe the newness he has created from our previously broken-down lives. Though Paul and Silas were bruised and bleeding, God’s powerful love transformed their attitudes and healed their lacerated skin and bruised muscles resulting from the beatings.

Job sat among the ashes of the local dump heap, scraping his head-to-toe boils with a broken piece of discarded pottery. Before Jesus claimed our damaged lives we were all destined for the trash pile. We had no usefulness or merit. Breaking any of God’s commandments served to further crack our life’s fragile vessel, rendering us ineffective in carrying God’s love and light to others.

When our lives fall apart from multiple sins that weaken the outer veneer and threaten to eviscerate, Jesus is still at work in our hearts. Our ordinary, fragile, clay vessel is elevated in stature by the immeasurable value bestowed by our Savior.

The secular standard for measuring life’s worth is normally judged by the self-defeating attitude of the amount an individual contributes to society. We cannot earn God’s love. It is unchangeable and unconditional. He reaches out to us when we have no more to give; when we are spent and exhausted from our attempts at self-righteous living. God merely calms our efforts, instructing us to trust and depend upon Him as He repairs our broken spirit, damaged hearts, and physical ineptness. “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Only with the healing and peace of God can we reach our full potential in this world.

Jesus, our Savior, peers directly into our hearts and ascertains our motives. The woman serving her time in prison is aware of a great truth:

God is able to supply all of her needs,
including rehabilitating her life and repairing her fragile vessel.
Would it be so improbable for those of us who are unencumbered
by the stringent demands of prison life,
to share the same hope?

Let us sing and rejoice like Paul and Silas, the courageous and obedient prisoners of centuries ago. Grasp the truth that joy is not dependent upon our circumstances. Joy is an attitude that spontaneously erupts when Jesus resides in our hearts!

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).