As it Begins 2019

As it Begins

By Pat Knight

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace
at all times and in every way”

(2 Thessalonians 3:16).

As I sit at my desk, I stare with anticipation at the vast amount of accessible space in the new year’s calendar. With red pen in hand, I am poised to add distinguishing color to the otherwise bland pages making important days easily recognizable during the ensuing year.

In retrospect, I realize that a great deal can happen in a year, not just the daily routines, but the earth-shattering life experiences of birth, death, job promotions, health challenges, and various adventures that inevitably lead to immeasurable personal growth.  I ponder the possibility of exciting encounters during the next 365 days.

In our area of the world, January and February are positioned for a sluggish start to the New Year. Often marooned by snowstorms, our daily activities consist of snow removal, stoking auxiliary wood stoves, and observing the world from under a cloak of darkness by late afternoon each day. And yet, as mundane as those first two months of the year usually are, occasionally some exciting and energizing events have occurred. In January, we celebrate our grandson’s birthday with a party. Former college friends whom we had not seen in twenty years spent some quality time visiting with us in February one year. So now, I must adjust my thinking; anything is possible at any time of year!

When facing an unwritten twelve months, some people are fascinated by the possibilities while others experience apprehension. Enthusiasm and excitement permeate the thoughts of those who believe in God. He promises to care for them and to supply their needs. For unbelievers, there must be real fear associated with unrevealed days ahead. When a physical or an emotional crisis occurs, on whom do they depend for resolution to problems and security against the storms of life? What a risky way to live, without God as their Source of strength and power!

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I would prefer to hang on tight to the promises of God’s Word. “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11). I know that I can trust God to watch over me and design my life perfectly, revealing His plans to me in His precise timing.

What then, distinguishes between the person who relies on his own resources and the Christian who depends upon God for his daily provisions? Peace is not only relegated to world events dealing with international political stability, but peace has the capacity to reside within each heart, enabling relaxation and fulfillment when our external circumstances defy all definitions of harmony.

God is the author of peace. God’s Word reinforces the truth that God and peace are related. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever” (Isaiah 26:3-4a).

Peace and turmoil are contrasting emotions. No one chooses to live in a state of chaos and confusion. As much as possible, we seek peace of mind, of heart, and in our surroundings. Tranquil and serene scenes often evoke thoughts of peace. What happens to one’s vision of peace when the very site producing it has been bulldozed for construction or has been claimed a disaster by a tornado?  Efforts at finding peace are easily frustrated if peace is not sought in the right place.

The truth is, peace is not a place but a person. God is peace. He offers harmony and a sense of well-being, in which there are no conflicts. There is no disorder; quietness prevails; tranquility reigns. In the hush of the early morning hour, when the mist rises above the calm waters, all of nature is harmonious, God speaks to me, “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Peace is an attribute of God and a gift of the Holy Spirit to us.

I have no fear of the unknown, for my future is anchored in Jesus Christ. In Him there is an abundance of victory confidently secured in His never-changing character. Bring on the New Year with all of its uncharted waters carrying unidentified perils. I am not afraid. During the unfamiliar days ahead I am promised Jesus’ constant companionship. He already has knowledge of the purpose and outcome of each day.

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I Bring You Great News!

I Bring You Great News! 

By Pat Knight

On a wintry, star-studded night, the only sound piercing the crisp air was the occasional, familiar bleating of sheep. Located just a few miles outside the village of Bethlehem, the little band of shepherds spread their bedrolls on the cold, hard earth around a crackling fire, prepared to settle in for sleep. The shepherds divided the night hours into watches in case a marauding animal attacked a lamb or robbers slithered into their camp, but usually the nighttime was fairly quiet. The shepherds had no reason to expect this night’s activities to be any different than others before it. Then suddenly, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:9).

The shepherds were paralyzed by their intense terror, initiating the angel’s first words to them, “Fear not.” Their fears allayed, the angels continued: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-12).

The skies then exploded in praise, revealing a large group of angels who joined the original heavenly messenger, proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). The heavenly hosts could be contained no longer, appearing en masse on earth in a blaze of God’s glory and light. The shepherds were singled out to receive a private birth announcement, a celebration that originated in heaven and embraced earth, appropriate acclaim for the birth of a King, the promised Messiah, the Anointed One!

God orchestrated a dynamic duo of heaven and earth to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It was a heavenly response from the angels announcing proclamations, an earthly reaction from the praise of the shepherds, and the marvel of all who hear of these events throughout time.

As the shepherds hurriedly followed the angel’s directions to seek the newborn King in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, they must have recalled the stories handed down to them via the written and spoken word through the centuries, promising the Messiah who would save the people from their sins. With God’s help, the shepherds found the baby in the manger, just as they had been told. It is probable that they exchanged stories of what had just happened to them with Mary and Joseph, augmenting the parents’ understanding of God’s promises that had transpired in their recent lives.

The shepherds sensed that their involvement in the heavenly celebration of Jesus’ birth was not intended to be kept private. Bursting with thanksgiving, they understood that this occasion was significant in history and they must share the Good News. Ultimately, the shepherds glorified and praised God, just as the angels had done in their presence. “They spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-18).

Let us acknowledge the greatest gifts of love and grace the world has ever known in the fashion the angels and shepherds first expressed, with exhilaration, peace, and joy permeating each of our days!

The God Without … A Thanksgiving Message

I have shared this message from Grace Thru Faith before, but it is so good that I decided to make it my annual Thanksgiving message. May you all enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

The God Without …
A Thanksgiving Message

A Thanksgiving Message by Jack Kelley

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.   For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)

Each year on the 4th Thursday of November we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the US.  It’s a holiday begun by the early settlers to express their gratitude to God for a bountiful harvest, and it’s patterned after the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

After the harvest Israelites from all over the country would gather in Jerusalem for a week-long celebration. This was to commemorate the time God had spent with them in the wilderness and to give thanks for another good harvest. All year they saved up their tithes, the first-born of their flocks and herds, the first sheaves of grain, the first grapes, figs, olives and other fruit and vegetables and brought it all to Jerusalem in the fall where they cooked and ate everything in a national celebration of praise (Deut. 12:5-7).

After surviving a very difficult year in the new world, the Pilgrims of New England instituted a similar, though much smaller, thanksgiving feast, again with the intent of praising God.   This event finally became a national holiday in the US in 1863, but it took until 1941 to settle on the 4th Thursday of November as its official observance.

My parents made sure we never forgot that it was the Lord who provided for us and so Thanksgiving was a religious observance in our house. Prayers were offered and each family member gave thanks to the Lord for all the good things we had received.

Read the rest here.

I Trust in You, O LORD

But I trust in You, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.” 

My times are in Your hands.
—Psalm 31:14-15

Once again, I struggled to unscrew the top from a jar but the stubborn cap refused to budge. Just as I was getting ready to call on Rick for help, it came loose.

I hated having to ask Rick for help so often, but the arthritis in my fingers and carpal tunnel problems with my wrists cause difficulties with the simplest tasks. Daily my frustration grows as I witness different parts of my body getting weaker and sometimes even breaking down. These days I can’t even get down onto the floor or up again without great pain and difficulty because of my bad knees.

Why do things have to be this way? I silently ask God, but I already know the answer: “Trust Me, child, I’m always here to take care of you.”

What would we do without the promises of such a loving God who faithfully guides us through the trials of life? He knows everything about us, which means He understands our limitations. He has intimate knowledge about how much we hurt and He is always with us to comfort our painful and grieving body and spirit. He holds us close to His heart in His ever-powerful hands.

I know my God takes care of me—I believe this without a shadow of doubt. I guess my real problems start when I focus on my problems instead of on God. He realizes my pain and frustration and provides the best comfort possible through His Word. How often I have been in despair and found in Scripture the very words I needed to calm my heart.

Imagine the strength in God’s hands. Now picture those same hands pulling you close in a calm and comforting embrace. His strength is our strength and can get us through those frustrating times when nothing seems to go right.

Beloved, our times are in God’s hands because everything in our lives is under His control.

Living as Dual Citizens

Sharing today from Tabletalk Magazine.

Living as Dual Citizens

By Justin Taylor

It was not easy to trap Jesus in ethical or theological dilemmas. But that did not stop the Jewish leaders from trying. Jesus made it clear that His kingdom is not “of this world” (John 18:36). His kingdom, which properly belongs to the age to come, was breaking into this world and this present age. So how, the Jews wondered, did His kingdom relate to the institutions of our time, such as the family and the state?

In Luke 20, the Sadducees pushed the family question on Him, constructing a thought experiment about the nature of marriage in the resurrection for a widower who remarries. Jesus responded, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage” (vv. 34–35). Family is an enduring creation ordinance, but the kingdom of the age to come operates in a different way.

When the Jewish scribes and elders asked Jesus whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar, Jesus asked them to show Him a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription was on it? When they responded, “Caesar’s,” Jesus drew His conclusion: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (vv. 22–25). In a subversive way, Jesus radically limited the authority of Caesar and showed the unlimited authority of God. The likeness on the denarius meant they owed tribute to Caesar, but the image of God, stamped onto our human nature, means we owe our very lives to the maker of heaven and earth. Government is an enduring creation ordinance, but the kingdom of the age to come operates in a different way.

Read the rest here.

Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

Sharing today from GotQuestions?

Question: “Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?”

Answer: Yes, Jesus is the only way to heaven. Such an exclusive statement may confuse, surprise, or even offend, but it is true nonetheless. The Bible teaches that there is no other way to salvation than through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is not a way, as in one of many; He is the way, as in the one and only. No one, regardless of reputation, achievement, special knowledge, or personal holiness, can come to God the Father except through Jesus.

Jesus is the only way to heaven for several reasons. Jesus was “chosen by God” to be the Savior (1 Peter 2:4). Jesus is the only One to have come down from heaven and returned there (John 3:13). He is the only person to have lived a perfect human life (Hebrews 4:15). He is the only sacrifice for sin (1 John 2:2; Hebrews 10:26). He alone fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He is the only man to have conquered death forever (Hebrews 2:14–15). He is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the only man whom God has “exalted . . . to the highest place” (Philippians 2:9).

Read the rest here.