"Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Author: Jeff Foster (Page 1 of 2)

What are Your Plans

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2)

I just checked indeed.com and found that there over 1,500 jobs available in my state with the word “planner” in the job title. Many of those offer a six-figure salary. We seem to be obsessed with planning our future time. We buy special designed notebooks specifically to write down our plans. Our cell phones come with a planning calendar app already installed and many of those are linked to a calendar on our work computer.

Inevitably though, our plans often get quickly changed by unexpected circumstances. As much as we’d like to believe we have everything under control and know how our day will play out, truthfully, we have no idea. Our life can be turned upside down in the blink of an eye.

After Paul explains the events that will take place when Jesus returns to take us with Him, he goes on to say that we do not need to concern ourselves with when it will happen but reaffirms the fact that we need to be ready, keeping in mind it will happen. Given that no one knows the day nor hour when Jesus will return, it’s pointless to dwell on it. Instead, we need to simply be ready and continue living each day in faith and love and the steadfast hope of our salvation, edifying and comforting one another.

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matthew 24:36)


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Break the Perfume Jar

My favorite comedian of all time is Jerry Clower. He often spun outlandish tales revolving around his fictitious family, the Ledbetters and the predicaments they got into. As if the stories weren’t enough to draw you in, his southern Mississippi accent and snorting laugh could keep you laughing ‘til it hurt. Jerry would find ways to weave in his Christian upbringing in many of his stories, making them relatable to anyone in his audience.

I recall one story in particular, about Uncle Versie Ledbetter, who happened to be the oldest deacon in the church. He didn’t attend many of their meetings though. He preferred to let the younger men, those in their 50’s and 60’s take care of the church business. But Uncle Versie heard that the deacons were going to vote on spending some money, so he made sure he was at that meeting. The deacons were voting to buy a chandelier. Uncle Versie spoke up in protest. “Nobody in church has enough education to spell it on the Sears order form. If they got it nobody in church knew how to play it. We shouldn’t spend money on a chandelier as bad as we need lights in the church.” I guess we can say Uncle Versie was a practical man and saw no need for extravagances.

Websters defines extravagance this way.

  • a going beyond reasonable or proper limits in conduct or speech; unreasonable excess
  • a spending of more than is reasonable or necessary; excessive expenditure; wastefulness
  • an instance of excess in spending, behavior, or speech

I remember the church budget discussions we had around the time of the 2010 recession and how some things were seen as necessary by some but seen as not as important to others. I think that time was good for us as a church because it gave us an opportunity to reaffirm God’s will for each of us individually. We had to ask, is the ministry path I’m on really God’s will or is it what I want to do? Sometimes we get our mind set as to what the church ought to be doing without really asking the One in charge. Jesus Christ is still our chief cornerstone.

Our scripture text reference is Matthew 26:6-13.

Verse 6 begins, “Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,” Bethany is about two miles east of Jerusalem near the Mount of Olives. It is where Jesus resided his last few weeks before His crucifixion. This Simon is believed to be the one of the ten Jesus healed that returned to thank him. Note he is still called “the leper”. Even though our sins are forgiven, the world’s view of our past deeds doesn’t necessarily change. Jesus’ blood paid the price for our eternal soul, not this corruptible body. The parallel story in John 12 tells us that Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, sat at the table and that Martha, Lazarus’ sister, was serving supper, and Mary, the other sister, is the one we read about in verse 7. This takes place just before the last supper with the disciples. So, this was sort of a last supper with those that were closest friends, those outside the circle of disciples who knew Jesus not only as their savior but as a human friend.

Photo credit to Lena Glukhova

In verse 7 we read, “There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.” As the gospels of John and Mark relate this same event, they describe the ointment as a pound of spikenard and its worth about a year’s wages at that time. It’s still used by some practicing herbal and natural healers, but the cost is significantly lower. It’s in the same family as the Valerian plant which is a more widely known herbal remedy. The oil or ointment is made from the roots of the spikenard plant. It has several medicinal properties but the one I found most interesting is that it is used in palliative care to help ease the transition from life to death. Remember Jesus has told in verse 2 that He is about to be crucified. So, Mary here is wasting no time. She even interrupts the men here at mealtime. Do we sometimes hold back our worship, our praise, for a more convenient time? Can we even know what we may be missing by waiting?

In verses 8-9 we see the Uncle Versie attitude come out in the disciples. “But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.”
Indignation here means contempt, disgust, even angry. John names Judas as the one who voices this indignation, but Mark infers that it was not just Judas, but others had indignation within themselves. The reference here is to one of the Jewish laws given by Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 15 that the poor should be taken care of by those that had the means to do it. Just back one chapter Jesus had told them they were to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned. So maybe to them in their misunderstanding of the intents of her heart, it seemed she was doing the opposite of what Jesus had just told them.

Verse 10 says, “When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.” Aren’t you glad Jesus understands? Commentaries interpret this as Jesus understanding the men’s indignation, but I believe that He also understood Mary’s desire to show her love for her savior, to worship and praise Him. If it had been Pharisees speaking against her, I don’t think she would have been troubled in the least, but this was Jesus’ disciples, the ones closest to Him who should have understood her worship. Imagine how she must have felt when they became angry at her for worshiping with her whole heart the One they call Lord. Jesus goes on to say she had done a “good work”. It was done to honor and glorify Him and it came from a real and sincere love.

In verse 11, Jesus continues For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” referring to the earthly physical body, for we know that Jesus said he would never leave us or forsake us. Sometimes we are so intent on sticking to the plan that we miss out on the great opportunities. We need to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Many opportunities to serve have been passed over because they didn’t fit our plan and many of those will never be presented to us again.

Jesus explains in verses 12-13 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.”

 I don’t think that Mary fully understood what she had done. She was obedient to the Holy Spirit in love and worship for the Messiah, but I don’t think she realized that she was as Jesus said, preparing His body for burial. She certainly didn’t think that this event would be recorded and handed down through the ages to instruct us to be extravagant in worship. God’s will is accomplished through our obedience. God’s plans and intentions are not always fully revealed to us when He asks us to do something. Think about the impact this had on Mary’s life. The transition from being hurt and broken by the opinions of men, to the joy and peace she must felt from the words of Christ, that this simple act of obedience would be told for a memorial of her whenever the gospel was preached throughout the whole world.

One of this lesson’s aims is to “break the perfume jar” for Jesus this year. These seven verses tell the story of one woman’s act of worship, seen by some as extravagant, but ordained by Christ himself to be told throughout the generations as a memorial of her. We cannot know how many lives have been changed from hearing or reading this story. How many lives will be changed if you step out on faith, in simple obedience to the Holy Spirit, and show your love for Jesus in ways the world doesn’t understand?

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The Beginning of Light

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis 1:3

The Biblical account of creation is a fascinating yet mysterious subject which, because of its mystery, continues to be a target of criticism. It’s not surprising that man would formulate such elaborate descriptions of how our world came into existence without any attribution to a divine being. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:14, But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Without Christ in us we simply cannot understand the truth of God’s word. We shouldn’t get upset at unbelievers for claiming that our Bible is nothing more than a fairy tale. Wisdom and understanding is given to us by the Holy Spirit in His perfect timing.

Back to our key verse though, let us reflect on the creation of light. To be clear, the light in verse 3 is not the sun. God created the sun on the fourth day as we see in verses 14-19.

Genesis 1:14-19 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: (15)  And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. (16)  And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. (17)  And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, (18)  And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. (19)  And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

So, what was the light created on the first day? A few of our Bible commentaries from the 17th and 18th century give us a bit of insight.

John Gill (1697-1771) compared the light to the pillar of fire that led the Israelites in the wilderness, in effect, Jesus Christ.

Adam Clarke (1762-1832) took a more scientific approach, giving that latent heat is present in all matter and with that heat is potential for light, (basically saying that is when God created the nature of atoms). I’m always a little leery when someone tries to use science to prove God’s word. I think it should be the other way around.

Matthew Henry, (1662-1714), my favorite commentator but also the most difficult to understand sometimes, commits about 3 pages to elaborate on the 1st five verses. He references many verses which refer to Christ as light but also to Christ as the Word.

The first light is God manifesting His holiness and purity in a way that the crown of His creation, mankind, could understand. The entire design for God’s plan for all creation was written on that 1st day. Think about it, we were loved and chosen before the foundation of the world, (Eph. 1:4), and on the first day the earth had no foundation, it was without form and void. Jesus isn’t a creation, He is from everlasting to everlasting, but the Light for our understanding, the Word of the gospel, was manifested in Christ on that first day.

Let’s continue to verse 4, And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

God saw that the light was good, but He doesn’t say that about the darkness. Although the Bible doesn’t tell us when angels were created but I believe the first day is when Lucifer, darkness, is separated from Christ, the Light.

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When the Path Isn’t Clear – Keep Going

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, (2) Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (3) And this will we do, if God permit.
Hebrews 6:1-3 

Every young child while visiting with aunts or uncles or other extended family is inevitably asked the question which he probably doesn’t have a clue as to the real answer. What do you want to be when you grow up? I had my definitive answer sometime around the year 1970. I was going to be a fighter pilot in the US Air Force. Now that decision may have been influenced by the odor of Testor’s plastic model glue while assembling my 1/64th scale model of the F14 Tomcat. I spent many hours in the library reading all I could find about my newly chosen career. But alas all my plans were soon dashed to pieces when I read that one of the requirements for fighter pilots was having 20/20 vision. And so it was that my half blind right eye crushed my dreams and pushed me back into the same position as the rest of the nine year old kids I knew; not a clue.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels

Eventually I did settle into a career path, one that I have enjoyed for the most part. Being a bit rebellious in my younger days while choosing the starting point of my path I encountered many twists and turns which probably made the journey more difficult than it needed to be. “Learn by doing” was my philosophy. With each step of the way I learned new things and found ways to use what I had learned from my experiences to boldly accept and conquer new challenges. The difficult experiences quickly gave me opportunities to lead and teach those coming up behind me. While leading and teaching presents its own set of challenges it is also provides the most satisfaction.

Our Christian journey, like our career path, can take many unexpected turns and run into difficulties. Those turns and difficulties, and the times we just don’t know which way to go, can stagnate us. We think God isn’t speaking or giving us direction so we just sit down and wait. At the end of the day how much reward, how much fruit, will be there if we just wait? Nothing. On our workplace job we are usually expected to keep doing what we are told until we are told to do something different. We can’t expect to clock in each morning and expect someone to come retrain us for some unknown task. Our Christian path is no different. “Learn by doing” should be the way of life for every Christian.

In chapter 6 of Hebrews the writer tells us to leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ and go on to perfection. That doesn’t mean abandon or turn from the doctrine of the gospel of Christ. It means we have all we need to serve Christ the moment we receive Him as our Lord and Savior. We cannot sit down to learn all we think we need before we put our hand to the task. The word perfection in verse 1 means equipped for duty. We are given that perfection the day the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. We still need a quiet time each day to read and meditate on God’s Word but waiting cannot be an option. Time is short and the fields are white unto harvest.

Learn by doing. “And this will we do, if God permit.”

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Looking Forward to Our Rest

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”

Hebrews 4:9 KJV

Webster’s defines rest in several ways. A few of them are freedom from activity or labor, peace of mind or spirit, to be free from anxiety or disturbance, and a rhythmic silence in music.

Hebrews 4:9
Hebrews 4:9

We can see examples of all these definitions in God’s Word. God rested on the seventh day after His six days of work of creation, (Gen. 2:2). We can have peace of mind and be free from anxiety when we “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him”, (Psa. 37:7a). Jesus is resting at the right hand of the His Father, a brief rhythmic quiet intermission between His finished work on the cross and His triumphant return to claim His church bride and destroy the enemy, (Psa. 110:1).

But for us, those who are the people of God, we have a rest that “remaineth”, one to look forward to. How do get to that rest? A work must be done, and energy must be exhausted for a rest to be applicable. It cannot be called rest if no work has been done beforehand.

What is this work? Jesus said “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19). All nations means all countries around the globe, but it also includes our next-door neighbor, our family members, our co-workers and classmates. Nations are made up of people. All nations means ALL people.

How long must we work before we reach our rest? Jesus also said, “And the gospel must first be published among all nations.” (Mar. 13:10). Man’s life is but a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. We must work tirelessly to publish the gospel to all people while we still have breath. Only then will our work be complete, and we may enter into our rest.

Gracious Father, thank you for the promise of rest when my work is complete. Give me strength today for the tasks You have planned for me. In Jesus’ name I humbly pray. Amen.

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God Consoles His People

 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Even during times of punishment, God consoles His people. During this time in Jeremiah, most of Israel was in Babylonian captivity but some were scattered about, driven from the destroyed city of Jerusalem. Israel had refused to listen to God’s pleading for them to repent so their sin had brought God’s punishment.

Jeremiah 29:11
Jeremiah 29:11

In captivity, removed from the destructive sinful society which was the work of their own hands, they finally begin to realize that they need to listen to God. He was their last hope. Now God was able to show His great love and kindness to His chosen people. In verses 5-6 He begins telling them what to do in their captive environment. God tells them to build houses, plant gardens, marry and have children. In other words, be content in the situation God has placed you in and live your life. Then in Jeremiah 29:7 He continues with, “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”

The story in the book of Jeremiah describing Israel’s fall, their punishment, and their eventual return to rebuild their home, is given to us so we can understand the nature of God’s character towards His people. Those that belong to God, those that are redeemed through Christ’s blood, will not be allowed to continue in sin. It is in our nature to follow distractions and temptations. But God will simply not allow His people to be destroyed by sin. If we stray too far out of His will into this sinful world, He will punish us in order to bring us back to Him.

Father, thank you today for the assurance that whatever situation or circumstance we find ourselves in, Your desire is that we live with peace in our heart and mind because we do have and expected end. Amen.

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Honoring God Through Adversity – Part 2

Christine Gorman, a noted medical science writer said this in an article in Time Magazine, in the July 28, 2003 edition, Perhaps because their brains are wired differently, dyslexics are often skilled problem solvers, coming at solutions from novel or surprising angles and making conceptual leaps. … It may also be that their early struggle with reading better prepares them for dealing with adversity in a volatile, fast-changing world.”

Just as the dyslexic’s analytic skills are strengthened through his early struggles, the Christian’s faith is strengthened through adversities. God prepares us for the greater trials by teaching us to look to Him in the smaller problems. Can you name one biblical character that did not go through some sort of trial or adversity?

God uses His Word to prepare us for each day and for what lies ahead. The Bible is full of examples of people serving God through various trials. God simply calls us to obedience. Nowhere did God say “do this but wait until it’s safer” or “do this but wait until they stop the persecution” or “do this but wait for a more convenient time.”

Did God tell Moses to go bring His people out of Egypt, but first wait and watch for Pharaoh to be in a good mood? No, of course not. When God gives a commandment He means now–no matter what we have to face to accomplish it.

There are many important reasons to stay steadfast in honoring God through adversity but let us focus on the three primary ones based on different biblical scenarios.

Photo by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

1.) Faithfulness during an adversity prepares us for what lies ahead.

In the book of Daniel, chapter 6 we find the familiar story of Daniel and the lion’s den.Daniel was held captive in Babylon. He no longer had the freedom he enjoyed in Israel. He, no doubt, was in adverse circumstances, through no fault of his own. But Daniel never gave up what God had called him to do. He still prayed three times per day just as he did before he was taken prisoner, and he made no secret of it. God blessed him for his faithfulness by moving him to the highest position in Babylon, just below the king. That didn’t sit too well with the Babylonian princes and governors who were under his authority. They conspired together to trick king Darius into signing a decree which would certainly have Daniel sentenced to death for simply continuing in his faith.

Daniel 6:10
“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”

 Continuing to serve through adverse or even dangerous circumstances requires us to spend more time in prayer and meditation in God’s word. We need to allow our Father to draw us into a closer relationship with Him. That’s where we find peace and contentment that only He can give us, and the greater level of faith we need to be a steadfast servant in times of trials. That greater faith gave Daniel the boldness to remain unwavering even in the face of almost certain death. God rewarded Daniel’s persevering faith by keeping the lion’s mouths closed that night. His endurance not only kept him safe that night, but God also used Daniel’s faithfulness to turn the heart of King Darius.

Daniel 6:25-27
“Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

2.)Faithfulness during the trial gives confidence to other Christians around us.

Simply put, we need each other. We need God to watch over us, we need Jesus to save us, we need the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us, but we also need our church body to encourage and build us up. God’s word tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11; “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”
What better way is there to encourage one another than by being a steadfast example of faith during our adversities?

Paul wrote in Philippians 1:13-14 “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
Young’s Literal Translation says it this way; “more abundantly bold—fearlessly to speak the word”

Paul was in prison when he wrote this, preaching to whoever he came in contact with. He was writing letters to the churches he started, to give them encouragement, instruction, and even admonishment. Wherever he was, he committed himself to be a godly example to those that looked to him for guidance.

One example that I can look back on was a Sunday School teacher I had years ago. He made a powerful impact on me by his faithfulness during a difficult time. His infant grandson had passed away unexpectedly and the funeral was on a Saturday afternoon. It was certainly a heart-breaking circumstance for him and his daughter. He would not have been questioned by anyone in the class if had asked someone to fill in and teach for him the next morning. But no, he was there, and delivered a well prepared lesson as always. My respect for him was greatly multiplied that day. I was challenged that day to strive for a higher level of steadfastness in my own faith.

3.) Faithfulness during the trial will manifest our trust in the sovereignty of God to unbelievers.

This one is the most critical reason to honor God during the adversity.

(Ezekiel 24:1-2) “Again in the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.”

God set up King Nebuchadnezzar to put Jerusalem under siege as a punishment for their rebellion against Him. In verse three, the parable begins of the boiling pot to describe the state of Jerusalem and the impending judgment they were about to receive for their rebellion against God. At one point He compares them to the bloody scum that rises to the top of the boiling pot of meat that was not properly cleaned. The pot is then emptied of the good meat and set back in the fire to burn off the filthy scum, a way of cleansing the pot. The pot here represents the city of Jerusalem and the improperly prepared meat is the rebellious and sinful people.

As God prepares Ezekiel to deliver His message, He also puts him in a trial as well. The key verse in this chapter here though is verse 16 – “Son of man, lo, I am taking from thee the desire of thine eyes by a stroke, and thou dost not mourn, nor weep, nor let thy tear come.” (Ezekiel 24:16)

You may have lost a spouse or someone else very dear to you and know firsthand how difficult it would have been for Ezekiel to keep his emotions hidden. Ezekiel was to be an example to the people by showing his trust in God’s wisdom and sovereignty, no matter the circumstance.

Ezekiel 24:24-27 Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: according to all that he hath done shall ye do: and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD. (25) Also, thou son of man, shall it not be in the day when I take from them their strength, the joy of their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that whereupon they set their minds, their sons and their daughters, (26) That he that escapeth in that day shall come unto thee, to cause thee to hear it with thine ears? (27) In that day shall thy mouth be opened to him which is escaped, and thou shalt speak, and be no more dumb: and thou shalt be a sign unto them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.

If we are always complaining about our circumstances or what is going on in the world then we can’t be a believable witness for Christ. Our job is to manifest the hope we have in Christ, to let our light shine. We make Christ attractive to those around us by staying steadfast in our faith during the adversities and trials that most people would find hopeless. When we commit ourselves to honor God, He will use us to bring hope to a lost and dying world.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

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Honoring God Through Adversity – Part 1

Merriam Webster defines adversity this way;

“a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune” 

It is further derived then from the Middle English adversite, which means “opposition, hostility, misfortune, hardship”  

I think we all understand what adversity is after what we have seen in the world during the last few years. We have either lived it or felt it through someone we love. Adversities can either make us get serious about our prayer life or drive us further away from God depending on our attitude. We all go through trials sometime in our life. Some folks it seems have much more than others. But we can be assured that God is able to use each trial we go through to increase our faith and ultimately bring glory to His son, Jesus.  

“Why do we even have these trials?” you may ask. Adversity comes about in our life from three different sources.


Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

Firstly, God sometimes creates a trial to test our faith, such as when He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. I can’t imagine placing any child on an altar to take its life as a willing sacrifice. Thankfully, God does not put trials on us greater than we are able to bear without providing a means of escape.1 God provided a substitute sacrifice for Abraham, a way to escape this trial, because he was obedient to God’s command. And because of Abraham’s faith and obedience during this trial, we are still blessed today.  

Genesis 22:17-18 (17) That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; (18) And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. 
“all the nations of the earth” That’s us today. When we get to heaven we need to tell Abraham how grateful we are that he was obedient in that trial.

Secondly, adversities can come our way from attacks by someone else or even Satan himself, through no fault of our own. Job is a well known example of this type of adversity. Poor old Job probably never knew while he was here on earth what caused his horrible trial. He also didn’t know that his story would be told for thousands of years to come. How often have we been comforted by Job’s story when we face things we don’t understand? Through his story we can see the sovereignty of God. He reminds us that God is not taken by surprise by the circumstances that so easily upset us. God is fully in control of the situation and already has a plan for how He will use it to strenghten our faith, if we simply stay steadfast in our obedience to Him. 

The third way that adversities attack us is where I think we see God’s great mercy and grace most clearly. Sometimes we just bring on the adversities ourselves. We know that disobedience or rebellion will get us in trouble. But sometimes, we get a little to comfortable with our abilities and start making decisions, big and small, without seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. We may be okay for a while, but eventually we’ll make a wrong decision that gets us in trouble.  Thankfully, God knew before the foundations of the world about our times of rebellion, our times of disobedience, our times of simply ignoring His divine guidance. Therefore He made a plan to bring us through those times of self-inflicted adversities and make something beautiful out of the messes we make. The story of Jonah is an example of God using a rebellious and disobedient servant to show His power over the sea and a big fish. Even with Jonah’s bad attitude God still used him to bring a wicked city to repentance.  

Adverse circumstances can sometimes make us want to throw up our hands and quit. If we allow them, struggles and trials can move us away from God. Many times when problems arise our instinct is to try to fix them. As Christians though, we know that we need to allow God to fix our problems. But then our sinful nature comes out  again,  and we tend to try to figure out how a problem should be fixed and then we pray for God to fix it our way. Anyone else besides me guilty on that one? That doesn’t ever really work out does it? The problem with that way of thinking is that when we can’t see any way to fix a problem then we don’t bother asking God because we don’t know how to tell Him how to fix it. That puts us in dangerous territory. Even if we do continue praying, we aren’t surrendering our all to Him and any prayer is hindered because we aren’t dealing with the trial. I know from painful experience that God will let us just wallow there until we’re ready to surrender the problem to Him and trust Him to do whatever He wants to with it. When we do finally surrender, God first works on our heart to root out our rebellious and prideful nature. Then He might change our circumstances, or more likely He makes us realize that we are safe with Him no matter what trial we are in. The size of our adversity is insignificant compared to the size of our God.  

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 

James 1:2-3 (English Standard Version)

Next week in Part 2 we will look at three benefits from the adversities we endure. 


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The Consecrated Body – Part 5

Hands That Honor God

If the pandemic of 2020 has taught us anything it’s how to wash our hands. We have also learned that germs are practically everywhere. As a child of the sixties I spent most of my time outside, in the woods, in the creek, in the dirt. Yes there were roads to build, holes to dig, frontiers to explore; never a thought or care about getting dirty. I was always reminded though to wash my hands when called inside to supper. If only I had known at the time the story of the Pharisees questioning Jesus about why His disciples ate without washing their hands and Jesus’ answer that what enters the body does not defile the body. But then I’m sure my smart mouth would have been swiftly corrected.

Concluding our series on the consecrated body we focus on how to prepare our hands for serving God. Keeping our hands free of dirt and grime may be a healthy habit, but it certainly isn’t necessary in order to please our Lord. Each of us has a distinct calling. For some it may well be to have dirt free hands while caring for the sick or preparing food. Others are called to work the fields and farms, getting dirty in the process, in order to produce food. Both jobs are equally important, both allow opportunity to honor God, yet they are at opposite ends of the cleanliness spectrum.

How then do we prepare our hands for service? It is likely that King David wrote the 24th Psalm as he led men to retrieve the stolen ark of the covenant and carry it to it’s rightful place in Jerusalem. Verse four describes what is required for such a privileged task. Our hands must not be soiled with sinful acts thereby defiling even to the heart. Our hands must be guarded from reaching after vain affections to worldly treasures which can never satisfy our soul.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.(Psalms 24:3-4)

James put it rather bluntly to the hypocritical leaders of the church who outwardly make a show of righteousness yet still walk hand in hand with the sinful world. Our hands must put away the worldly lusts, be separated completely from sin with a repentant heart in order to enjoy a holy communion with God in worship.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (James 4:8)

Honoring God with our hands is more than just maintaining godly cleanliness. We must train our hands to be competent and skillful in whatever task is given us. Whether our job is flipping burgers or building rocket ships, we can honor God by continually striving to do our very best at our job.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

There is no greater honor to God than lifting up hands in praise, prayer, and worship; hands that signify a heart softened and purified with the blood of Jesus Christ. All our labor is in vain if we fail to reach up first calling on the one true holy God. Only by first reaching up can we reach out as holy instruments in the hand of our Saviour.

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Timothy 2:8)
And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. (Acts 5:12)

Our body is made of many parts and each part is vital to the whole. Neglecting a splinter in the toe could eventually disable the whole body if it becomes infected and untreated. We must be diligent in quickly removing the things which can debilitate us. The church is also a body of many parts and each part is equally vital. More importantly, each part is loved and cared for equally by the head of the church, Jesus Christ. In the same way the tiny splinter can disable our body, a seemingly insignificant hidden sin in one member can hinder the ministry of the whole church. We honor God by keeping a watchful eye on ourselves, rooting out and discarding those sin splinters, disallowing even the slightest appearance of ungodliness. We need each other to keep us accountable before our Father.

But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

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The Consecrated Body – Part 4

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Help For Those Tired and Swollen Feet

As the body gets older the aches and pains come more frequently. Since the feet are responsible for carrying the entire weight of the body they tend to cause much suffering if not properly cared for. Doctors tell us that walking even for just a few minutes per day helps keep the blood flowing and our feet flexible therefore less likely to cause us suffering. A good soak in cool water often helps to relieve pain in the feet. The best advice I can think of is wading barefoot in a cold mountain stream. That will bring welcome relief not only to tired soles but to tired souls as well.

Photo by Shawn Pang on Unsplash

Consecrating Our Feet

As with the other parts of the body we studied thus far the Bible draws analogies with the physical feet and our spiritual feet. When we walk our feet gather the dust and dirt that’s in our path much more than the rest of our body. Many cultures still hold to the tradition of removing one’s shoes when entering a home as a sign of respect but there is also the practical reason of keeping as much dirt as possible from entering the home. In much the same way when we as Christians walk about in the world we pick up sin dirt on our spiritual feet.

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” (John 13:10 ESV) As Jesus washes His disciples feet He explains to Peter that the continuous gathering of sin dirt which we collect as we go about our daily life must not be neglected. We need a daily cleansing through repentant prayer. Not only do we need to care for our own feet but we must keep watch on our fellow Christians with loving humility lest they fall into some dangerous sin. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14 ESV)

Verses for Further Study

And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
(Exodus 3:5)

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (Ephesians 6:15)

My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. (Psalms 121:2-3)

And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:15)

He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. (1 Samuel 2:9)

For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living? (Psalms 56:13)

Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.
(Psalms 27:11)

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalms 119:105)

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. (Proverbs 4:26)

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