Out of the Mouth of Babes

Life Abundant

Spring has sprung in California, bringing evidence of new life everywhere. It officially arrived on Palm Sunday, with trees and flowers are beginning to bloom, and even a few spring showers in our drought-stricken state. A week later, on Easter, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, the most amazing example of life that exists.

The weekend following Easter, we were visiting our son’s family, enjoying the rare opportunity to spend time with our three (forgive me for gushing) adorable, cuter-than-cute, smart, talented grandchildren. Our identical three-year-old twin grand daughters love books, and reading to them is a sure guarantee of having both girls on my lap for extended periods of time. Book after book, from easy cardboard toddler books to a little more detailed storybooks, their attention never wavers as the already-read pile beside the chair grows and grows. Interspersed in the collection are some Bible stories, and these resulted in one of the most memorable blessings of my life; a memory that I’m certain will endure forever. Each time Jesus’ name was mentioned, Hope would exclaim, “Nana, He’s alive! Did you know He’s alive? He really is alive!” Such a joyful, excited, simple faith–no wonder Jesus loved the children so much, and no wonder we need to become as little children!

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!  Matthew 18:1-6

But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”

And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” Matthew 21:15-16

Fear Not

FEAR NOT PIC

I’ve often written about fear, but it seems to be on the Lord’s mind this morning so here we go again. If a lesson can be repeated over and over in the Bible, I guess it’s not redundant if I do the same.

As anyone who has paid attention to the news lately will know, fear is rampant throughout the world. The latest international incident motivating fear was the attacks against women that occurred in Germany and throughout a number of other European countries on New Years Eve. Nationally, it’s the story of a police officer in Philadelphia whose assailant walked right up to the window of the patrol car and blasted away, critically wounding him. As I watched a news program last night, I lost count of the number of times someone said, “I’m afraid,” “Should we be afraid?” or “You/we should be afraid.” But I’m here to say, NO, we shouldn’t.

Fear is NOT God’s plan for His people, as He made clear to me once again this morning. Currently, I’m reading in Genesis, Isaiah, and Matthew, which obviously covers a pretty broad span of time, yet God’s message never changes, so just from my devotional time this morning without considering the hundreds of other biblical references to ‘fear’ or ‘afraid’ (do a word search, and you’ll be reading for hours!):

And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” Genesis 26:24

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. Isaiah 8:11-13

Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced. Isaiah 54:4a

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

Jesus is the antidote for our hopelessness and fears, whether they are phony or based on very real threats, such as the terrorism that is rampant throughout our world. Fear not, for I am with you says the Lord!

I AM, I SAID!

I AM

The day was moving on, and looking at the time I was a bit startled to see that it was 12:12 on 12/12. Asking myself, “If this was a dream, what would it mean?” I began to ponder, and wrote in my journal:

12 means divine government as well as fullness, so perhaps 12:12 on 12/12 is God’s way of emphasizing His plans and purposes for this time, doubling and re-doubling the 12s. Also, 4 can mean God’s creative works or seasons, and there are 4 seasons, so 4 12s could mean a fullness of seasons. Could this be about the fullness of time, as when Jesus first came?

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son. Galatians 4:7

As we look toward the fullness of time for Jesus’ return, what shall we see in terms of divine government? Scripture is clear about the difficulties of end times, the terror of the Day of the Lord, and the implementation of Jesus divine government throughout the earth; but what does that look like for us now? Much has been prophesied in recent days about the dual escalation of righteousness and evil, and we long for the tremendous outpouring of His Spirit that has been promised, but when will it appear?

And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Acts 2:17

As I finished writing the questions above, I immediately heard the incredible voice of Neil Diamond crying out, “I am, I said!”  That’s all—just those words and not the rest of the song, the lyrics of which portray a sorrowful, hopeless, lonely plea for meaning or relevance. I knew immediately that God was emphasizing His truth, telling me to heed what He said:

God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.” Exodus 3:14

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty… Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades…Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star…Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 1:8,17,18; 22:12-13,16,20

Simply from a logical perspective, God’s fullness of time for Jesus’ second coming is closer than ever before; but given the signs of the times of which He warned in Matthew 24, I believe His return is imminent, probably within the lifetime of many who are alive today. The hourglass of time is quickly running out, and it is more important than ever to realize that and decide for Christ:


Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served…and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:14-15

Standing In Faith

Barbara ParkerAs we approach Christmas, many of us reach out to others a bit more than usual, perhaps re-connecting with people we haven’t been in touch with lately; perhaps finding ways to help those who are less fortunate; perhaps greeting total strangers with a, “Merry Christmas.” Also, as one year concludes and a new one approaches, we often find ourselves in a self-evaluation mode. We examine what have we accomplished as well as what should we do differently next year, and such a process is scriptural:

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5

I’d like to do a bit of both in this post that doubles as an announcement to the Standing In Faith group on LinkedIn and an invitation to join us, offering first a quick review of our group, and then sharing with old friends and new, the message of hope the Lord has given me.

The Standing In Faith discussion group began as a leap of faith on my part in March 2011. New to LinkedIn and not a big fan of social media, it was quite a surprise when the Lord impressed me to form the group, and from the very beginning He has had full ownership. This is not my group—it is His, and I’m simply His group manager. There have been several times that I’ve wanted to shut it down because it seemed as if it was going nowhere and accomplishing nothing, but His permission for that to happen was never given. Now, in retrospect, I am in awe of what He is doing, and I’m well aware that He is accomplishing His work through the group in ways that I will never be aware of this side of eternity, which is very exciting. Our growth during 2015 has been astounding, and there are new members every day from nations around the world. This is an international outreach such as I never could’ve imagined, and I welcome all of our new members and pray that the fellowship we have here will bless and encourage you in your Christian walk.

From the beginning, the Lord designed Standing In Faith around the passion He has given me for the Body of Christ to live by faith and to operate in unity, and our stated purpose is, “To encourage Christians to live by faith and not by sight, building each another up in the unity of faith that we share in Christ Jesus.”

With that purpose in mind, there are a couple of things about this group that may differ from other groups; things that don’t make us any better or worse, but just different. First is that the Lord has led me to accept everyone who requests membership without any pre-screening, just as He is willing to accept all who come to Him. Second, while we often discuss our differences of opinion, we do not enter into divisive debates or arguments, and no comments are allowed that denigrate the person or faith of another. This can pose a huge dilemma for me as the “referee”, and I must rely strictly on the Lord’s leadership regarding which discussions and comments to allow and which ones to deny, so I would appreciate your prayers for His wisdom in this regard, as well as your understanding and forgiveness if I make a mistake in judgment. I do not agree with everything that is posted here, nor will you, but instead of taking offense and arguing with every statement, please respond from a spirit of love that displays the grace and mercy of the Lord. We are not all “on the same page” doctrinally, but instead of allowing the enemy to separate us as has been done for centuries, we consciously choose to set our differences aside and focus on Jesus in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

As you may be aware, LinkedIn has recently re-designed much in regard to groups, and both the appearance and the function has been affected. Visually, it is easier to quickly scan through discussions, but it is also harder to get the full impact of a discussion without choosing the option for “more” in order to read the entire text of the comments. I would encourage everyone to dig deeper into the “more” of our discussions to get the full benefit of what each person has to say. Also, the space allotted for text has been diminished, so it is more important than ever to try to make a point succinctly.

Previously, the group was open and a request to join received automatic approval, but now every membership request comes to me first. As mentioned before, none are turned away, but any member’s contributions may still be designated for pre-approval if they are deemed to be divisive or off the topic of faith in Jesus; and any individual may be completely banned from the group at my discretion (this has only happened with 3 people whose obvious intent was disruption and destruction). Also, please be aware that with this new system, for reasons I certainly do not understand, LinkedIn is flagging as inappropriate many entries that are fully acceptable, so please be patient if your submission doesn’t appear immediately. I try to turn everything around within 24 hours or sooner, but occasionally that isn’t possible.

Please review the group rules since there have been a few changes to remain in alignment with LinkedIn’s way of doing things. Also, please remember that we do not focus on personal agendas, make political statements, or doctrinal positions; but we discuss the traditional Christian values of the majority. That said, it is difficult to completely avoid the political arena since it has such a huge impact on our lives, but our goal is to approach any such discussions with the intent of illuminating God’s truth and not man’s opinion.

Enough review, and on to our Hope! This morning, the Lord highlighted some phrases to me from Hebrews 3 that are relevant to Standing In Faith.

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession…[who] is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope…Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Our “today” is a day in which hearts have become hard throughout the world. Jesus warnings of end times events are occurring right before our eyes. His words (Matthew 24:4-14) resonate with what we see and hear daily:

“See that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

We are not to despair! Buried in a passage where many accentuate the negative, is one of the most promising phrases in scripture. “See that you are not alarmed,” isn’t just an impossible suggestion, for Jesus would never have advised something we cannot accomplish. In Him we have hope, He is our strength and our refuge, and we need not fear:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1

At Christmas we often hear people saying that Jesus is the reason for the season, and that’s true; but I’d take it a bit farther to declare that Jesus is the reason for every season in our lives. Our very existence here on earth is designed to bring honor and glory to Him, and the fact that we are here “today” is by His design, and He has a purpose for each of our lives.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalms 139:16

So what does this have to do with Standing In Faith? Go back to the Hebrews passage from which the Lord spoke to me today, for this is the re-affirmation of our purpose:

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

May our Lord be with you all, may He bless and keep you throughout this and every season, and may He make you a blessing to others as you all are to me. Merry Christmas to all, along with my prayers and best wishes that in the year to come each person will find their strength in Him and will learn to stand in faith as never before. My prayer for each of us is from Hebrews 4:

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…Let us hold fast our confession…Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

 

 

A Response to Terrorism

277359-20151124Have you watched the news today? Undoubtedly, there’s a report of a new terrorist act somewhere in the world. Last week it was in Paris. This week, nations are on edge as threats abound and warnings are issued here, there, and everywhere. Surely we are experiencing the terrible times of which Jesus spoke when lawlessness increases and the love of many grows cold, the end times when betrayal and hatred run rampant in our streets. All around, His words come to life before our very eyes:

You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake…And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Luke 21:16-17,25-26

Sounds pretty bad, huh? And, of course, it is! But it’s not the end of the world quite yet, and we must not focus on the abounding terror but on the One who is ultimately going to bring it all to an end on the Day of the Lord. He has not left us un-prepared or without hope, and He is sufficient in even the most desperate of times. But what does that look like? There’s a perfect example in the story of Esther, the Jewish woman who became Queen of Persia, which is, interestingly, the region we know as Iran.  It’s also interesting to note that those Persians of long-ago were just as violent and cruel as are the radical jihadists of today.

In summary, in his hatred of the Jews, Haman initiated a plan to have them all wiped from the face of  the earth and the king approved it for Haman was a highly favored and trusted official. Esther 4:3-17:

And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. 

When Esther’s young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. 

Can there be any doubt that Mordecai, Esther and the entire Jewish people were in mortal danger? Can there be any doubt that the terror they faced was very much like that which is seen today? I don’t think so.

So, what was their reaction? It was one we should model as we enter into mourning, prayer and fasting, and seeking the Lord for His sufficiency in our own time of trouble. We do have hope, for just look at how our amazing God stepped in when His servants humbled themselves and took a stand for righteousness, regardless of the potential consequences.

Previously, Mordecai had learned of a plot to kill the king and had saved his life. His action had been recorded but has seemingly escaped the memory of the king. Meanwhile, Haman had come to hate Mordecai more than any other Jew and even the sight of him made him very angry so he built a gallows on which to hang Mordecai, but on the very night before he approached the king about it, God intervened (Esther 6:1-11).

On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” And the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows[i] that he had prepared for him. And the king’s young men told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’” Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.” So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”

Talk about God’s perfect timing! And what delicious irony, as the bad guy had to parade the good guy through the streets of the city proclaiming the king’s favor over his enemy; favor he thought should have been his.

Long story short…well, not really very long because Esther is only ten chapters…not only did Mordecai and Esther survive, but so did all of the Jewish people. And even more, the king granted permission for them to avenge themselves against their enemies and 75,000 unrighteous haters of God’s people were destroyed.

Our King is coming, and His arrival is imminent. Nobody can say exactly when that will be, but it is certain that all of the signs of the end of which Jesus warned are manifesting now. Let’s not allow our hearts to fail us from fear, but let’s rise up and stand in faith in our God. He is always sufficient and His timing is always absolutely perfect.

Fear’s Antidote

Sheba circleGod, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful…There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  1 Corinthians 1:9 & 1 John 4:18

Sheba loves people and has no awareness that there are those who would abuse her, and even if she did I doubt that she’d be afraid because she knows that she belongs to us and she trusts us completely to take care of her.  As a result, she happily goes up to anyone and everyone she sees with no fear of rejection.  She also knows what behavior is expected of her and that she will be reprimanded if she misbehaves; yet she remains unafraid because she loves and trusts us.

Perfect love casts out all fear, and God loves us perfectly, so why are we afraid?  He’s not “out to get us.”  We don’t have to fear his wrath unless we disobey his commands; and even then, while we can expect a gentle reprimand, isn’t that what we need—what we want?  A master who loves us enough to correct us, to show us the right way to behave; yet a loving master to whom we can take our problems as well as our joys without fear of rejection.

As Sheba reflects our love for her by fearlessly loving others, so should we also reflect God’s love for us by loving even those who may seem frightening to us—those whose lifestyles are different than ours, those of whom we don’t approve.  Jesus himself reached out to the sinners of his day, even living and socializing with them!  They were the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the people who were looked down upon by the religious leaders.  He was criticized for it too.

Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers.  “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?”  Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” Matthew 9:10-13 The Message

What a role model! Lord, let me love as Jesus did—fearlessly!

Hurry Up and Wait

 Kev & Sheba on Wade PorchBut do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:8-9

It seldom fails that Sheba decides it’s time to go outside at the most inconvenient times, and she is notorious for taking a very long time, sniffing everywhere for a place that meets with her satisfaction.  Now, Sheba may be deaf, but she’s not blind—in fact, she can probably see farther than I can.  So, though all I want her to do is hurry up and take care of her business, she’ll stop and gaze off into the distance if she catches sight of someone walking toward us.  Without moving, she’ll watch every step until they reach us.  Then she turns on the charm and usually manages to get the inevitable attention that she wants—few can pass her by without stopping to give her a pat on the back or a scratch behind the ears.  When they finally move on and turn the corner out of sight, she’ll get back to the reason we’re standing out there in the first place—and meanwhile I’m praying that another neighbor won’t decide to go for a walk so we can finish up and go back inside.

How often do we have an urgent task that needs to be accomplished—a purpose to be met—a destiny to be fulfilled by becoming all that God has called us to be; but we get sidetracked and let our attention waver toward other activities that appear more gratifying at the moment?  Unlike me waiting impatiently for Sheba, God is patient, and he waits lovingly and faithfully until we regain our focus and turn back to him and his agenda for our lives.  Then, he brings us back into his house where we are welcomed as “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (see Ephesians 2:19). I can’t think of any place I’d rather be!