Artistic Wonder

Artistic Wonder

By Pat Knight

Flourishing, cursive handwriting, such as the art of calligraphy, fascinates those of us with barely decipherable penmanship. Consider how God created the world, its inhabitants, and its surroundings with the flourish of His spoken words. Creation was not merely an isolated week of exuberant creativity; perpetual artistic evidence of God’s miracles have continued for centuries; rampant affirmation that our sovereign Lord is a miracle-worker. Expect the unexpected from an extravagant, extraordinary God! Open your eyes to experience awe-inspiring wonder, initiating commitment to promote God’s glory; to place hope and trust in His unfailing, flourishing love and grace.

Daily sunsets splash the expanse of the western sky with flaming hues of orange, purple, red, yellow, and pink, swirling and swishing across the blue backdrop in a variety of configurations, blending into a blazing neon curtain pulled down at the close of the day. “I am the Lord and there is no other; apart from me there is no God … from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me” (Isaiah 45:5-6).

The headlong crash of a waterfall from magnificent heights originating on mountain ledge smashes into limpid pools of water below, illuminating sparkling rainbow prisms as the sun reflects off water droplets to expose glittering diamonds suspended in mid-air.

Because deciduous trees are seasonally stripped of leaves, the branches that were starkly exposed during winter usher in springtime with barely discernable green growth. Each leaf will mature to the perfect size and shape for specific species, affording sheltered nurseries for the avian population, with millions of minuscule flapping fans to cool the environment, providing shade for all life.

A perfect, crescent rainbow with equal bands of the color spectrum arches across the sky in a convex semi-circle, astonishing observers as we bow to the supreme architect and painter of world wonders.  “I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. “All the stars are at my command” (Isaiah 45:12, NLT).

Millions of twinkling stars illuminate an endless ebony sky, confirming our perceived individual insignificance in a magnificently vast universe filled with awesome creations engineered by a loving God.  Unsurpassed dazzling beauty highlights His greatness, announcing God’s glory in the cosmos. “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power” (Psalm 147:4-5).

The unrivaled marvel of a newborn infant expands its lungs for the first time, cooing and slurping nourishment, flailing its limbs and punching air with clenched fists. The baby is perfect in form, its skin as soft and as squeezable as marshmallows. The miniature person is God’s unique handiwork, a gift from the Creator of all life. King David admitted: “‘You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it’” (Psalm 139:13-14, NLT).

God created humans with free wills, allowing Adam and Eve the freedom to make the consequential decision to disobey Him. From that moment God prioritized forgiveness, dispensing mercy and grace to His human masterpiece. God probes deeply, searching a person’s heart for thoughts, intents, and desires. “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God explores inner character traits that reveal our desire to communicate and fellowship with Him.

Our heavenly Father is intentionally and intimately involved in the lives of believers. As children of the King, we are royalty, enlisted as citizens of the kingdom of God, empowered with His strength, and enabled to possess the attributes of Jesus. There is no limit to the gifts with which our Lord infuses our hearts and minds, entitling us to live in spiritual victory regardless of physical circumstances.

God’s Son, incarnated on earth, experienced the entire realm of human relationships, challenges, temptations, and suffering. The sinless, holy life of the Son of God was crucified on a cross reserved for the most depraved Roman criminals. During that heinous event, God’s perfect prophecies for His Son and the world were fulfilled. The Messiah’s death and resurrection accomplished redemption of sin for all believers. “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (Romans 5:6, NLT). Acknowledging God’s perfect plan for His Son’s sacrifice and His ultimate triumph, why would we doubt God’s astonishing design for each of our lives?

The Lord of the universe desires to maintain an intimate relationship with His creatures. Personally undeserved, God’s grace requires a commitment of faith. Frustration ensues when human efforts fail to earn His grace by good works, for it is a free gift, revealing God’s overwhelming love and mercy. “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). His pouring action depicts an unrestrained, copious flow, a deluge of love, compassion, and spiritual victory surrounding us at all times. Obedience is our worshipful expression of gratitude to God for His incredible gift of life itself.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!
—1 John 3:1

Whatever God creates, promises, or performs is marvelous, deserving of glorious praise offered for His characteristics of power, faithfulness, forgiveness, and majesty. “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3-4).

God’s creations are a testament to His monumental creativity and beauty. As His disciples, may we glorify His sovereignty, righteousness, and His infinite love and grace by worshipping the splendor of His majesty. Let us glorify our Creator with excessive joy and praise. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:3).

Astounding wonder and heartfelt obedience
are manifestations of love for Almighty God!

Billy Graham: Made for God’s Purpose, Not Your Own

Sharing today from the July-August 2019 issue of Decision Magazine. This sermon was originally preached in 1956.

Billy Graham:
Made for God’s Purpose,
Not Your Own

By Billy Graham

“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. … Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand” (Jeremiah 18:3-4, 6).

What an accurate portrayal of men and women this is! The Prophet Jeremiah portrays God as the divine Potter and a man or woman as the clay that the Master Artist seeks to make into a vessel of usefulness. But in the process, the vessel becomes marred—a flaw appears in the work—and tenderly the skilled Craftsman of life refashions it to His own liking.

Three ideas stand out boldly in this parable of the potter: made, marred and made again.

We humans, in our vaunted pride and self-styled wisdom, would claim that we are self-created. We would wrest ourselves from the skillful hands of the Potter, and cry, “I evolved, and I am the product of natural law; I am self-created!”

But the only true record and the only true evidence indicates that it was otherwise.

The Bible states that God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. … So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him. … Then God blessed them” (Genesis 1:26-28).

Notice, He did not make men and women haphazardly, but with an infinite plan and purpose. He made us in His own image and likeness: creatures with whom He could commune, companion and fellowship. You were made for God’s fellowship, and to fulfill any other purpose is to fail to fulfill your destiny.

That heart of yours, despite its waywardness and evil, in its serious moments reaches out for the stars and cries out for fellowship with the infinite God. That mind of yours, so fraught with evil imaginations, sensual images and earthly aspirations, longs for communion and affinity with the divine Potter—God. That body of yours, tired of its labors and wanderings, aching with loneliness, hungers for companionship with the One for whom you were created.

Race, ethnic background and language make no difference—all hearts repeat the words of David: “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2).

There are thousands of people who admit that they are unhappy. Economic security, recreation, pleasure and a good community in which to live have not brought them the peace and happiness they expected. The reason is that we were created in the image of God, and we can find no complete rest, happiness, joy and peace until we come back to God.

You were not only made for a purpose, you were made with a will of your own. This will of yours is capable of obeying or disobeying, of choosing life or death, darkness or light, Heaven or hell, sin or the Savior.

If there is no will, there can be no true love. God wanted us to love Him willingly, with a free heart, by choice. This was a calculated risk on God’s part, but it was the only way true love and fellowship could be achieved.

Read the rest here.

Anyway

The poem below was reportedly written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta. 

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;

forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, some could destroy overnight;

build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;

it was never between you and them anyway.

—Mother Teresa

Inherited Freedom

Photo Credit: Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org

Inherited Freedom

By Pat Knight

As the Israelites prepared to possess the Promised Land, the inhabited territory was apportioned among the twelve tribes, each one receiving an allocation according to population. The location was chosen by lot. Each family was assigned a segment of land that would be passed down through their sons in future generations, ensuring that “no inheritance in Israel is to pass from one tribe to another, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal inheritance of their ancestors” (Numbers 36:7).

Zelophehad, who died during four decades wandering in the wilderness, had five daughters but no sons by which to comply to the new land regulations. During their forty-year trek, the daughters had time to contemplate the consequence of their father’s disobedience. He was a member of the larger Israeli community whose members all died in the wilderness after they unanimously resisted entering the Promised Land, defiantly refusing to trust God’s promise of leadership and protection.

With land division in progress, Zelophehad’s five daughters sought an audience with the nation’s legal counsel—Moses, the judge and law-giver; Eleazer, the priest; leaders of the assembly of Israel—to request their father’s inheritance in the Promised Land. The sisters were courageous, determined to seek justice for their father’s memory by presenting an intrepid defense: “‘Our father died in the wilderness … but he died for his own sins and had no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no sons? Give us property among our father’s relatives’” (Numbers 27:3-4).

Moses, perplexed by the unprecedented details, inquired of the Lord. What better legal representation could the women desire than that of the righteous judge, Almighty God, the defender of justice? His decision was swift and equitable: “‘What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them. Say to the Israelites, if a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughters’” (vv. 6-8). The only caveat was that God specified each of the five daughters must marry men of their own choices from within their father’s tribal clan, so that “no inheritance may pass from one tribe to another, for each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits” (Numbers 36:9). The five noble daughters rejoiced at the outcome and obeyed God by marrying within their own clan. Case closed.

Our Lord, the author of freedom and opportunity, has perpetually championed women’s equality. His Word is replete with examples of women who served Him in prominent positions. God created Eve as a helper and a companion comparable to Adam, establishing a one-man, one-woman marriage and family unit. As a child, God tasked Miriam with strategically placing her infant brother’s floating basket on the Nile River (Exodus 2:4), anticipating discovery by the Egyptian princess, preserving his life, preparing Moses for the future when he would lead the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. As an adult, Miriam served alongside her brother as the first prophetess in Israel.

Deborah was a prophet and the most courageous among the other male judges. She led Israel into victory over the Canaanite army that had doggedly pursued them for over twenty years. Deborah was the only wise judge in Israel from whom the people sought legal decisions (Judges 4:5). She trusted God, sought His will, and obeyed Him. Esther, a Persian queen, saved the Israelite nation from extinction using her quick wit and courage, chronicled in the Bible book with her name.

Rahab, a harlot (Joshua 2:1-21), whose house was located on the city wall in Jericho, hid two Hebrew spies, and later lowered them down the outside wall to escape the king and his henchmen. In the future when Jericho was captured by Israel, a scarlet cord draped on the city wall identified Rahab’s family, a reminder to spare their lives. Rahab was included in the lineage of King David and later the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5), a poignant reminder of God’s limitless love and forgiveness available to a repentant sinner of any occupation or nationality.

In the New Testament age, Jesus accepted Mary as a disciple who anointed his feet with fragrant oil in recognition of His upcoming sacrifice (John 12:3). Jesus admonished His friend, Martha, to abandon her distracting dinner preparations to join her sister, who sat listening at her Master’s feet, in a room filled with men (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus also allowed women to join His large group of disciples on their journeys.

Lydia, a business woman and a dealer in purple fabric, taught Bible studies, welcomed the apostle Paul as a boarder, and held church services at her house. (Acts 16:14-16, 40). Dorcas was a universally loved woman who befriended and provided for the poor (Acts 9:36-38). Jesus waited at the town well to specifically instruct the Samaritan woman about Living Water that produces eternal life through salvation. Due to her witness among the townspeople, many others came to faith in the Son of God (John 4:6-14).

The apostle Peter explained: “‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus’” (Galatians 3:28). In Christ, social, gender, and racial barriers are negated. All who come to God in humility and faith are members of the family of God. There are no exceptions to equality in God’s kingdom on earth or everlasting life in heaven.

Early in their history, God commanded the Israelites to refrain from intermarrying with their neighbors to avoid assimilating their liberal social culture and pagan worship practices. However, God’s chosen people disobeyed, introducing the belief held by other nations that women were merely chattels with no freedom. Consequently, women have suffered oppression and abuse; disenfranchised and powerless in many cultures throughout history, currently requiring legal intervention to reverse the trend. Such inequality was never God’s plan. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Our heavenly Father initiated emancipation at creation. Spiritual freedom in Christ has always superseded the subjugation and injustice of women that leads to oppression, necessitating legislation and discipline. Jesus Christ has always been the forerunner to accept and empower women everywhere. There are no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom. The Lord was pleased to elevate Zelophehad’s five daughters in status as landowners in Israel, just as He welcomes each one of His faithful daughters into eternal paradise as a child of the King.

“Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). A woman’s physical beauty is elusive, but her spiritual comeliness is permanent, celebrating her noble character. God honors her humility and reverence. Let us strive for both as joy and obedience radiate from our hearts.

Loving the Word

Sharing today from Tabletalk Magazine.

Loving the Word

By Daniel R. Hyde

Love is a complex thing. Contrary to popular notions, love is not a feeling or an emotion that you can fall into and then fall out of. Love is complex, meaning that love involves many things. Classically speaking, our human faculties are made up of the mind, the will, and the affections. Love is rooted in knowledge, exercised in willful decision, and experienced in the affections. To love someone involves all of this. To love someone means that you also love the things about someone. This is most true of our love for God. We love Him, and that leads us to love everything about Him. One of those things is His Word. To love God is to love His Word. Psalm 119 says, “Oh how I love your law!” (v. 97).

Because the Word is the means that God uses to speak to us, we need to love it and use it. Let’s consider how to do that.

BY OUR DUTY TO READ IT

We are to love God by loving His Word. Therefore, it is our duty to read it. Just as we give presents because we love someone and they open it in reciprocal love and gratitude, so too has God shown His love for His people by giving us the gift of His Word. The psalmist said: “He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules” (Ps. 147:19–20). Show Him you love Him by reading His Word. Scripture explains that we do this in three ways.

Publicly. We love God by loving His Word read publicly. This was done in the ancient Jewish synagogue, as evidenced by Jesus’ entering the synagogue and performing the appointed reading from the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:16–24). The early church carried on this practice, as Paul tells us (1 Thess. 5:27Col. 4:16), and continued the practice after the close of the Apostolic age. For example, Justin Martyr said, “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.” And Tertullian said, “We assemble to read our sacred writings . . . with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast.”

As a family. We love God by loving His Word read as a family, if the Lord provides us with a family. Moses exhorted the Israelites to teach the commandments to their children (Deut. 6:6–7). Family Bible reading is necessary to propagate the Christian religion in our children. Studies show the rising generation in American churches leaving those churches; is it any wonder when parents, especially fathers, are not taking the time to read the Word with their children? Ignorance of Scripture leads to ignorance of Christ.

Read the rest here.

Waiting Looks Like Worship

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

Waiting Looks Like Worship

Lost in a sea of dirty dishes, the aftermath of a dinner mostly liked by my children, I heard the familiar ding of my phone with a text, a welcome distraction from the casserole dish I was scrubbing. Expecting it to be a reminder for my son’s next baseball practice, I was delighted when instead I saw the name of a college student I had been a high school youth leader for.

“What does it mean to trust the Lord?” she asked. “I mean, what does that really look like?” I smiled, remembering all too well the ending months of my college career, unattached, and unsure what life held for me after graduation. Waiting for God to give direction, I had those thoughts as well.

But the funny thing is, I’m still having those thoughts. Only now the question marks aren’t “Who I’m going to marry?” or “Where am I going to live?” Those answers have come. Now I’m waiting on God to heal in ways I never saw coming. Waiting on God to move in the lives of my unsaved friends. Waiting on God to bring revival. Waiting on God to provide. Waiting on God to direct. Waiting on God to open or close the doors of a future ministry.

And I’m still asking, “What does it mean to trust the Lord?” I mean, what does that really look like?

We’re All Waiting for Something

In the years since college, I’ve realized waiting is just a part of life. But more importantly, it’s part of the Christian life. Hebrews 11 says the saints who have gone before us—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and others—though counted as faithful, are still waiting. They’re waiting for the promise of God, the kingdom of heaven, “the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

They were waiting for the coming of Christ, while we are waiting for the return of Christ. For “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). One day we’ll be free of our sinful bodies. One day there will be no more pain and suffering. One day Christ Himself will wipe away the last of our tears (Rev. 21:4).

But in the meantime we wait, because it’s in the waiting that faith grows. It’s in the waiting that we learn to trust, to wait with patience and perseverance and not give up on the God who doesn’t give up on us. Romans 5:4 says, “endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” In other words, waiting makes space for hope to grow. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

The Battle Is in the Waiting

Oh, but it’s a battle, isn’t it, to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus in the long enduring wait for healing or reconciliation or direction? Amid waves of uncertainty, waiting just might be the hardest thing we ever do. 

Read the rest here.

Luck, or Not

Luck, or Not

 By Pat Knight

It is surprising the wealth of information that can be gleaned from the random assortment of magazines in a professional waiting room. The article that caught my attention was a first-person account that espoused a philosophy of life that was foreign to me. Struck by the magnitude of his own mortality, the author expounded on the merits of luck. I was intrigued by his medical history: a stroke in his late twenties with the subsequent discovery of a hole in his heart. He made the difficult decision to proceed with cardiac surgery to repair the congenital defect.

Through the trials and turmoil, he healed well physically. Emotionally, he made the decision to marry his best friend who had stood by him for many years. The only explanation he gave for disease, love, and happiness was pure luck. For him, luck was on his side and was the only explanation for the positive aspects in his life. 

Lady Luck: how flirtatious and seductive; how very deceptive and empty. Depending on luck as the answer for all occasions in life is a perilous way to live. The story was true. The author was substituting luck for God. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 53:1). What a shallow lifestyle, completely void of the rich love God offers.

Luck is a powerful force in our society. It represents Satan who would have us believe that God is not responsible for marvelous life changes and miracles. Any thought that entices us away from God pleases Satan, the author of all matters in sharp contrast to God, and he is proud of it!

The Bible classifies Satan as a “liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b). How could an intelligent, critical thinker ascribe all happiness to luck and happenstance? There is no substance to it.

Luck is fickle; luck is empty; luck is false.

Luck might better be defined as chance or fortune. Good luck or good fortune denote favorable events that result from factors beyond our control. Satan is aware that humanity usually takes the route of least resistance. Luck, an easy explanation, doesn’t require commitment. Using it to explain all occurrences professes a dangerous philosophy of life. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than Christ” (Colossians 2:8). 

Satan is the great deceiver. He tricks people into accepting luck because he is in the business of contradicting God. Jesus taught, “‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves’” (Matthew 7:15). What has Satan done for us that we should even listen to his lies? Pretending to be one of God’s good angels, Satan is a master deceiver, imposter, hypocrite, and a liar. He changes his costumes each time he acquires another character role. “Satan masquerades as an angel of light. It is no surprise, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Satan is in control of luck since it describes anything that happens by chance. Luck is not a word or a concept used in scripture. The Word of God constantly reassures us of God’s love and sovereignty. Satan describes luck as synonymous with happiness. He is thrilled to persuade another person of a shallow life apart from God. Luck is obscure, ambiguous, and uncertain. “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and arguments that result in envy, quarreling, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is means to financial gain” (1 Timothy 6:3-5). 

The big prize! Many people desire instant wealth, security, or immunity from illness. There are no panaceas in this life, no guarantees apart from God. If we carefully think of the real source of our goodness and gifts, we are motivated to worship God who created us for fellowship with Him, and who lavishes us with love and grace. Truth is reliable and consistent with the character and revelation of God.  “Jesus said,If you hold to my teaching, you are my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’(John 8:31-32).

Luck, which is controlled by chance, is shallow and empty. Do you want more than luck to explain your life? “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). God has proved Himself in His Word. “Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind” (Psalm 66:5). All things that happen in this world, occur for a reason. When God sponsors a particular plan for our lives, we can be assured He has our welfare in mind. God wants the best for His children. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). 

Jesus told His disciple, Peter, that he could expect to be tested and tempted by Satan. Christ specifically prayed for Peter, just as He does now for every believer, centuries later. God does not make empty promises. God is truth; it is not within His character to mislead anyone. “‘I am the way, the truth and the life’” (John 14:6). God promises to care for us. He mends broken hearts and give us a new purpose in life. He lavishes grace, mercy, and love every day to each of His own. “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Psalm 121:2). He is the one, true God, creator of the universe, who rules with authority, power, and knowledge.

How do we react when we hear earth-shattering news? “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights” (James 1:17). Do we attribute our circumstances to blind luck, or to the Father of Lights? The author of the article I read likened love and life to throwing dice with no control of the outcome. Think about it: how could two little pieces of dotted wood possibly have any input into future events? Satan’s premise is flimsy at best.

Let us be reassured that God is in control with preparedness, truth, and wisdom. “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Our words and our lives encourage and lead by example. 

God is truth!  No Satan-sponsored luck will ever suffice.