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!

Why Did Jesus Want To Eat That Last Supper?

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

Why Did Jesus Want to Eat That Last Supper

April 15, 2019
By 
Suzy Silk

Almost every Sunday, churches across America remember Jesus’s “Last Supper” as they take communion together. Eating bread or wafers and drinking grape juice or wine, they recount Jesus’s words: “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me. … This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

But would it surprise you to learn that this wasn’t an ordinary dinner Jesus was having with his disciples, and this wasn’t normal bread he broke? When I first learned that Jesus’s last meal took place during a Passover dinner, and that the bread he broke was unleavened bread (matzah), I was surprised and thrilled. Jesus’s words and actions on that night suddenly became so much clearer to me.

How Jesus used Passover

Passover was the first holiday ever given by God to the Jewish people. Several times, the Lord gave the Israelites specific instructions on how to commemorate their miraculous exodus from Egypt—by recounting the Exodus and Passover story over a shared meal of unleavened bread, wine, bitter herbs, and roasted lamb on the 14th day of the month of Aviv. This was to be a lasting ordinance for all future generations (see Exodus 12:1-18Deuteronomy 16:1-8).

As a righteous Jewish man, Jesus grew up celebrating Passover every year in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41); and so, as to be expected, in the days leading up to his arrest, Jesus again obediently celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples on the 14th day of Aviv (see Matthew 26:17-19; John 13:1). During that evening, Jesus used the various items on the Passover table as prophetic signs of what he was about to do in the following 24 hours, explaining his mission and purpose to his disciples.

The questions I asked when I first learned all of this were: Why this bread? Why that particular cup? Why during that particular ceremonial moment, when he dipped his bread into the bitter herbs? And although there are many other ways in which the Passover meal helps us understand Jesus’s many words that night, let’s begin with the four required items on the Passover table: unleavened bread, bitter herbs, wine, and a roasted lamb.

The Unleavened Bread (Matzah)

During Passover, God commanded the Israelites to eat only unleavened bread (i.e., bread without yeast) for seven days. The point was to have an annual reminder of how they left Egypt in a hurry. For this reason, later generations nicknamed matzah both “the bread of affliction,” as a reminder of their slavery, and “the bread of freedom,” as a reminder of their freedom after leaving Egypt in haste (see Deuteronomy 16:3). This bread was also sacred/holy bread, since yeast was often seen as a symbol of sin in the Old Testament and was therefore not in the bread regularly offered in the Temple. Because matzah has no yeast, it also doesn’t rise, and so must be pierced all over to prevent it from burning–though striped burn marks are often inevitable.

This pierced, striped, and holy bread was a perfect symbol for what would be done to Jesus. The prophet Isaiah foretells that the Messiah, though righteous and blameless (i.e., without sin), would be “pierced for our transgressions” and that “by his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus held up the pierced, striped, yeast-less bread on the Passover table—which symbolized affliction and freedom at the same time—and compared it to his body. Then, he broke it and divided it among his disciples. Soon, Jesus would be pierced, striped, and “broken.” He would give himself up to affliction, explaining to his disciples that his body was to be “given for [them]” (Luke 22:19)—in other words, for their freedom. 

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).

Rest for the weary

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

—Matthew 11:28-30, NASB

God Most Nigh

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

God Most Nigh

Understanding the mystery of God with us
December 10th, 2018
Ann-Margret Hovsepian

As the calendar ticks closer to Christmas, one of the first carols we sing at church is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It always gives me goosebumps, not only because the tune is so beautiful, but because I’m reminded that this name (also spelled Immanuel), assigned to Jesus about 700 years before his birth (Isaiah 7:14), means “God with us.” Some people mistake the meaning as “God is with us” (which is also true) but it is important to note that it’s actually “God with us.” The distinction matters: Though God had been with humans since the beginning, for the first time in history, God became a human. When Isaiah called this human “God-with-us,” he was hinting at the mystery of what the church calls the incarnation: Jesus Christ was God in flesh (John 1:14). God’s great sacrifice began thirty-three years before Jesus ever died on the cross, when God left the glory of heaven to walk this earth as a human being and live a life of humility, simplicity, and selflessness.

Consider using this article as an aid to understanding the incarnation better through Scripture. Pause over the Scripture references and reflect on what they are teaching you about Jesus, God with us.

Fully God

Jesus’s deity—the fact that he is God—is paramount to our Christian faith. Many skeptics stumble over the claim that Jesus and God are one and the same. The Gospel writer John, one of Jesus’s closest friends, claimed that Jesus was with God at the beginning of time, and that in fact Jesus was God. John said that the whole world was made through Jesus. He called Jesus both “the only Son” of God (John 1:14) and “the only God, who is at the Father’s side” (John 1:18).

If John’s radical claims are true, they change everything. If Jesus was not God in the flesh, he could not have stepped in as the perfect and blameless sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. If he had been merely a human being, his death would have been tragic but fairly insignificant, especially because he would not have risen from the dead three days later. Jesus lived a human life, but he did not have a human father, so he did not inherit the sin nature we are all born with. Jesus lived in a way that perfectly followed all of God’s commands—something no human had ever been able to do. Thus, he was able to overcome death and offer salvation to all who believe in him. The book of Hebrews tells us that “After making purification for sins, [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). (See also Hebrews 9:14-15 and 10:12-14.)

Read the rest here.

Always Let Your Bible Be Your Guide

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

Always Let Your Bible
Be Your Guide

It’s not wise to allow movies to inform our theology. I grew up with the Jiminy Cricket quote: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” In the children’s movie Pinocchio, Disney’s dapper cricket danced and sang, encouraging the wooden puppet—along with the magical Blue Fairy—to follow his conscience as a moral compass for life. “Take the straight and narrow path,” Jiminy sang, “and always let your conscience be your guide.”

Was Jiminy right?

Culturally, the conscience is thought to help with decisions, and the conscience is considered to be rooted in good morals and virtuous character. Yet in colleges today, morals and ethics students debate what good “morality” looks like, and practical applications are open to interpretation.

A guiding conscience, in some situations, is more like a “be true to yourself” mantra than a moral compass for choosing what is proper, moral, or right.

Following True North

When hiking, if our compass is only one degree off course, we likely won’t arrive at our destination. A good, functional compass won’t be skewed; it will point “true north.”

The Christian’s moral compass points “true north” to the Truth of the Bible. God’s Word is the foundation for the believer’s moral and ethical behavior, and consequences are serious when our moral compass is not correctly aligned with God’s Word.

The Westminster Confession says, “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” God has freed us from submission to “doctrines and commandments of men” that are contrary to Scripture, that go beyond His commands or conflict with His wisdom principles for living.

God’s Word must reign supreme in our conscience! Our moral compass must be captive to biblical truth, not the whims of culture or even the fluctuating leanings of our hearts. As Andy Naselli wrote, “That voice in your head is not necessarily God’s voice. Sometimes your conscience may be theologically incorrect.”

In the Bible, Adam and Eve were the first ones to follow their own conscience, but their moral compass was not aligned with God’s words—His clear command (Gen. 2:17; 3:3, 6). The result was disastrous! Deceived, their human conscience allowed them to make a faulty, rebellious choice.

Read the rest here.