12/15/13

From Gary... Bible Reading December 15






Bible Reading   

December 15

The World English Bible




Dec.15
Hosea 13, 14

Hos 13:1 When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling. He exalted himself in Israel, but when he became guilty in Baal, he died.
Hos 13:2 Now they sin more and more, and have made themselves molten images of their silver, even idols according to their own understanding, all of them the work of the craftsmen. They say of them, 'They offer human sacrifice and kiss the calves.'
Hos 13:3 Therefore they will be like the morning mist, and like the dew that passes away early, like the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the threshing floor, and like the smoke out of the chimney.
Hos 13:4 "Yet I am Yahweh your God from the land of Egypt; and you shall acknowledge no god but me, and besides me there is no savior.
Hos 13:5 I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.
Hos 13:6 According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted. Therefore they have forgotten me.
Hos 13:7 Therefore I am like a lion to them. Like a leopard, I will lurk by the path.
Hos 13:8 I will meet them like a bear that is bereaved of her cubs, and will tear the covering of their heart. There I will devour them like a lioness. The wild animal will tear them.
Hos 13:9 You are destroyed, Israel, because you are against me, against your help.
Hos 13:10 Where is your king now, that he may save you in all your cities? And your judges, of whom you said, 'Give me a king and princes?'
Hos 13:11 I have given you a king in my anger, and have taken him away in my wrath.
Hos 13:12 The guilt of Ephraim is stored up. His sin is stored up.
Hos 13:13 The sorrows of a travailing woman will come on him. He is an unwise son; for when it is time, he doesn't come to the opening of the womb.
Hos 13:14 I will ransom them from the power of Sheol. I will redeem them from death! Death, where are your plagues? Sheol, where is your destruction? "Compassion will be hidden from my eyes.
Hos 13:15 Though he is fruitful among his brothers, an east wind will come, the breath of Yahweh coming up from the wilderness; and his spring will become dry, and his fountain will be dried up. He will plunder the storehouse of treasure.
Hos 13:16 Samaria will bear her guilt; for she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women will be ripped open."
Hos 14:1 Israel, return to Yahweh your God; for you have fallen because of your sin.
Hos 14:2 Take words with you, and return to Yahweh. Tell him, "Forgive all our sins, and accept that which is good: so we offer our lips like bulls.
Hos 14:3 Assyria can't save us. We won't ride on horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, 'Our gods!' for in you the fatherless finds mercy."
Hos 14:4 "I will heal their waywardness. I will love them freely; for my anger is turned away from him.
Hos 14:5 I will be like the dew to Israel. He will blossom like the lily, and send down his roots like Lebanon.
Hos 14:6 His branches will spread, and his beauty will be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon.
Hos 14:7 Men will dwell in his shade. They will revive like the grain, and blossom like the vine. Their fragrance will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Hos 14:8 Ephraim, what have I to do any more with idols? I answer, and will take care of him. I am like a green fir tree; from me your fruit is found."
Hos 14:9 Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Who is prudent, that he may know them? For the ways of Yahweh are right, and the righteous walk in them; But the rebellious stumble in them.

Dec. 15
1 John 5

1Jn 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the child who is born of him.
1Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments.
1Jn 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous.
1Jn 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith.
1Jn 5:5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
1Jn 5:6 This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
1Jn 5:7 For there are three who testify:
1Jn 5:8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and the three agree as one.
1Jn 5:9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is God's testimony which he has testified concerning his Son.
1Jn 5:10 He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who doesn't believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son.
1Jn 5:11 The testimony is this, that God gave to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
1Jn 5:12 He who has the Son has the life. He who doesn't have God's Son doesn't have the life.
1Jn 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
1Jn 5:14 This is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he listens to us.
1Jn 5:15 And if we know that he listens to us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.
1Jn 5:16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for those who sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death. I don't say that he should make a request concerning this.
1Jn 5:17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.
1Jn 5:18 We know that whoever is born of God doesn't sin, but he who was born of God keeps himself, and the evil one doesn't touch him.
1Jn 5:19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
1Jn 5:20 We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding, that we know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
1Jn 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

From Mark Copeland... The Falling Away Must Come (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)


               "THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS"

                   The Falling Away Must Come (2:1-3)

INTRODUCTION

1. Paul's epistles to the Thessalonians have much to say about the
   coming of Christ...
   a. Every chapter in 1st Thessalonians makes some reference to His
      return
   b. We have seen Paul refer to that great day coming in 2Th 1:7-10

2. It appears that misconceptions existed in the church at
   Thessalonica...
   a. At least some were being told that the day of Christ had come
   b. Paul writes to reassure them such was not the case - 2Th 1:1-2

3. Paul explains that before the Lord returns, two events must take
   place...
   a. The "falling away" will come first - 2Th 2:3
   b. The "man of sin" will be revealed - 2Th 2:3

[In this study, I would like for us to focus our attention on the
"falling away" as described in the Bible, as fulfilled in history, and
its implication for us today.  Let's start with the fact...]

I. A FALLING AWAY WOULD COME

   A. PAUL WARNED THE EPHESIAN ELDERS...
      1. It would occur after Paul's departure (death?) - Ac 20:29a
      2. It would be affected by forces outside and within the church
         - Ac 20:29b-30

   B. PAUL WARNED THE EVANGELIST TIMOTHY...
      1. In latter times some would depart from the faith - 1Ti 4:1-2
      2. Examples of the doctrines taught by the apostates are given
         - 1Ti 4:3

   C. PETER WARNED THE CHRISTIANS IN ASIA MINOR...
      1. There will be false teachers - 2Pe 2:1
      2. Many would follow their destructive ways - 2Pe 2:2

[The Scriptures are clear that a "falling away" or "apostasy" would
occur.  Did it happen?  Unfortunately, it did...]

II. A FALLING AWAY DID COME

   A. IT BEGAN IN THE FIRST CENTURY...
      1. John described it in his epistle
         a. Telling of "antichrists" who had gone out from them - 1Jn 2:18-19
         b. Warning of "false prophets" who were already in the world
            - 1Jn 4:1-3
         -- Who were teaching false doctrines about the nature of Christ
      2. Jude described it in his epistle
         a. Certain men had crept in unnoticed - Jude 4a
         b. Ungodly men who turn the grace of God into lewdness - Jude 4b
         -- Who were denying the authority of Jesus Christ

   B. IT CONTINUED IN THE SUCCEEDING CENTURIES...
      1. One of the first changes involved local church organization
         a. From self-governing congregations with a plurality of
            bishops (elders) over each congregation - cf. Ac 14:23;
            20:17,28; Tit 1:5-9; 1Pe 5:1-2
         b. To a distinction between bishops and elders in which
            individual bishops had oversight of geographical areas and
            multiple churches (ca. 150 A.D.)
      2. Other changes were slowly introduced, as traditions of men took
         precedence over the Word of God
         a. Clergy-Laity distinction, borrowed from the OT Jewish
            priesthood concept
         b. Religious holidays, such as Easter; then later, Christmas
            (3rd, 4th century)
         c. Pouring, then sprinkling, in place of immersion for baptism
            (251 A.D.)
         d. Church councils, meetings in which doctrinal matters were
            decided (325 A.D.)
         e. Creeds, statements of beliefs developed by church councils
         f. Instrumental music (first used in the 5th century)
         -- Other doctrines developed along the way, such as original
            sin, infant baptism, penance, millenialism, veneration of
            Mary

   C. IT REMAINS IN THE PRESENT CENTURY...
      1. Appeals to "reformation" did not work
         a. Despite efforts of Luther, Calvin, etc., to reform the Roman
            Catholic church
         b. Their followers simply created a myriad of denominations,
            keeping some of the human traditions, and adding new ones of
            their own
      2. Appeals to new "revelation" have not worked
         a. Several have appealed to "modern-day" revelation, believing
            it to be the solution to the religious confusion
         b. Such efforts have only added to the confusion, with such
            religions as Mormons, Christian Science, Seventh-Day
            Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many Pentecostal
            churches
      3. The only solution that has a hope of working is "restoration"
         a. Like Ezra and Nehemiah did when they restored the Jewish
            worship after the Babylonian exile - cf. Neh 8:1-18
         b. Like John the Baptist did when he prepared the people for
            the coming of the Lord - cf. Lk 1:13-17
         c. I.e., restoring the hearts of the people back to the Word of
            God
            1) Taking heed to the Word of God is the only way to prevent
               apostasy - cf. He 2:1-4; Ac 20:32
            2) Restoring ourselves back to the Word of God is the only
               way to return from apostasy!

[A survey of church history confirms that a falling away from the New
Testament pattern has occurred, exactly as foretold by the apostles.
While it is always possible to be restored back to the New Testament
church, we should never forget that...]

III. A FALLING AWAY CAN STILL COME

   A. APOSTASY IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE...
      1. The Scriptures are filled with warnings against falling away
         a. Not just of a general apostasy, such as in our text
         b. But of individual apostasies as well - e.g., 1Ti 1:19-20;
            He 6:4-6; 2Pe 2:19-22
      2. Therefore we need to heed the warnings!
         a. To give the more earnest heed, lest we drift - He 2:1-3
         b. To not develop a heart of unbelief - He 3:12
         c. To not becoming hardened by sin - He 3:13
         d. To hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end
            - He 3:14; 6:11

   B. IT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE...
      1. With the rise of Catholicism, and the development of
         denominationalism
      2. Previous restoration efforts have often reverted back to
         apostasy
         a. As with many in the Stone-Campbell movement
         b. E.g., the development of the Christian Church-Disciples of
            Christ denomination

   C. IT IS HAPPENING NOW...
      1. The pull of the world continues to draw many Christians away
         a. Just as it did with Demas - 2Ti 4:10
         b. So the love of money causes many to stray from the faith
            - 1Ti 6:9-10
      2. The appeal of denominationalism and sectarianism continues to
         have their affect
         a. E.g., the development of the International Church of Christ
         b. E.g., many "mainstream" churches of Christ developing the
            "Church of Christ" denomination
         c. I also see the beginning of a "Non-Institutional Church of
            Christ" denomination (as reflected in the question, "Can
            someone help me locate an NI Church?")

CONCLUSION

1. The "falling away" of which Paul wrote appears to have come...
   a. There has certainly been a general departure from the faith and
      practice of the NT
   b. This apostasy is clear to anyone familiar with the pattern of the
      NT church

2. But the danger of "falling away" is an ever present one...
   a. It has happened once and again, many times
   b. It happened to those who were once restored, it can happen to us
      just as easily

3. Apostasy rarely happens overnight...
   a. The path to departure is usually gradual, hardly noticed by those
      involved
   b. It begins with a mindset, develops through a pattern of speech
   c. It is encouraged by a desire to be like the world, rather than to
      be as God would have us

To avoid apostasy, make sure our hearts have been restored to the Word
of God, then give earnest heed to the Word lest we drift away!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011


From Jim McGuiggan... Why God punishes (1)

Why God punishes (1)

Why does God punish? It seems clear from scripture that there is more than one reason. In discussing punishment Utilitarians like Beccaria, Bentham and Mill, and others stressed deterrence almost to the exclusion of everything else. What justifies punishing anyone, they said, is a double deterrent effect. It will deter the specific criminal and so protect society from him and it will deter criminal behavior in general. We find this in scripture when God brings an oppressive power down to keep it from continuing to abuse its neighboring nations. In bringing Assyria down we would have a case of individual deterrence (that criminal is stopped) but Assyria’s punishment would warn the nations at large and deter them from abuse—general deterrence. When God’s judgements are in the earth all the nations learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9).

The book of Jonah says God cares deeply for Nineveh the oppressor and the book of Nahum says God cares deeply for the nations Nineveh is oppressing. God punishes nations (and individuals) to deter them from hurting someone else but he also punishes them for their own sake. He wants to deter them from oppression because by sinning they dig a grave for themselves. They do it internally by moral deterioration and eschatologically because final judgement is coming. Romans 2:4 and Acts 17:30-31 would illustrate.

Repeatedly in the prophets we hear of God punishing Israel for her wickedness in order to bring her back to him. Haggai 2:17, Jeremiah 5:3 and the whole of Amos 4 make the point that God wants Israel to return to him that they might live. "I gave you empty stomachs in every city," God says, "yet you have not returned to me." This phrase runs through the chapter (4:6,8,9,10 and 11) and underscores what it was that God was after in punishing them.

But it would be a mistake to think that God was interested in a heartless obedience. It would be a mistake to think that he would have been satisfied if the idols had been smashed to pieces, the heathen shrines torn down so that Israel was towing the line in order to get blessing rather than punishment. God watched Israel carefully and at one point says (Isaiah 29:13). "These people come near me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." See Christ’s use of the text in Matthew 15:8-9. Repeatedly he condemns mere external-ism and at times sounds almost out of patience as he does it. In Isaiah 1 he is weary of all the ritual and ceremonies and sighs that he has had enough of their sacrifices and church-going (1:10-14). He then goes on to tell them what he truly wants from them (1:16-17) and what grand possibilities lie before them. The same message comes through in Micah 6:6-8 when in response to people who say they don’t know how to please him he thunders back that he has shown them what he wants. He wants them to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with the God who saved them, the God to whom they had committed themselves. God punishes Israel in order to bring them back to holy fellowship with him so while it’s certainly legitimate to define punishment in the abstract, punishment in the biblical context when God is the one administering punishment is a reality of a different order. The righteous God is dealing with moral beings and he wants them to turn back to him in a heartfelt return.

But punishment does not atone for the wrong though when rightly administered (as by God) it marks the presence of wrong and an opposing righteousness. Nothing can change the fact that the wrong has been done and punishing the offender does not obliterate the sin, especially if the offender still inwardly cherishes the offence. Punishment doesn’t turn back the clock to the time before the wrong was committed nor does it obliterate the harm done to others by the wrong. Transgression has an inner and moral effect that is downward and punishment as administered by God is meant to redeem the sinner from that moral deterioration. It isn’t a legal issue at all though a Holy Father’s law has been broken. Punishment is not so much pain for so much punishment for so much wrongdoing; it is righteousness opposing unrighteousness with a view to overcoming it in that person or people. Its aim is to produce in the sinner a change of heart and is not a divine tit for tat.

That heartfelt return to God we most often call "repentance". Like any loving and righteous parent that must take account of their child’s evil God would prefer not to have to punish his children. "Do you think I find pleasure in the death of the wicked?" he wants to know in Ezekiel 18:32. "I’d rather they turned and lived." But there’s more than that. We hear that in all their distress he was distressed (Isaiah 63:9) and in the book of Judges we’re given the picture of God watching Israel’s misery until he could bear it no longer (10:16). In all of these cases Israel has behaved abominably and God punishes them but it’s clear that this isn’t something he relishes. Nevertheless, because he means to bring them to repentance that they might have life with him, he is willing to subject them to pain or loss.

The punishment aims to bring Israel (or whoever) to repentance and not simply to a return to material prosperity because prosperity and repentance while they may be connected are not at all of the same order. Repentance is an inner realignment with the heart and will of God which may or may not exist alongside material or social prosperity. Repentance may be connected with material prosperity but it is inextricably connected with internal and moral prosperity. Punishment may lead a person to think only of ease or relief without any inward transformation but repentance is an inner transformation. Rightly administered punishment aims to bring a person to repentance. [The matter of eternal punishment would need to be considered as outside the boundary of humanity’s present phase of living before God. It would suggest that there comes a point when God closes the door to the opportunity for repentance. But as long as God allows for the possibility of repentance punishment would need to be viewed as working to achieve that.]

Punishment as administered by God, in the words of Walter Moberly, is "not simply a hurting, but the hurting of righteousness, the assertion of righteousness in the form of the chastisement of unrighteousness." The hurting is not righteousness but it is righteousness responding to unrighteousness with a view to bringing the unrighteous person to a heartfelt homage to righteousness (to repentance).

Sin is not simply an act. It is an act by a moral being that is accountable. (Infants and others who are disabled or diseased in mind could not commit sin.) But sin is more than simply an act by a morally accountable being for it is an act that expresses the inner state of the one that acts. Our sins are us in action and not something external to us or independent of us. When a man commits a crime we do not punish the crime. We do this for several obvious reasons among which is the fact that the crime is the criminal in action. When God works to bring a person to repentance he is not dealing merely the sinful acts nor is he merely wanting him to avoid doing such acts. He wants to change him so that he will avoid doing them because he is morally realigned with God and pays homage to God’s righteousness. God wants more from the sinner than a confession that a specific act is wrong, he wants a change of heart that rises beyond a long series of confessions about a long series of actions. He wants to change the person! He is not aiming at convincing him that that deed, viewed in isolation, is evil—end of story! He aims to bring him to a new moral state. Repentance is more that prudence. Many of us will avoid doing some evil not because we do not hunger to do it—for we do hunger to do it—but because we are afraid of the consequences if we are discovered. This prudent avoidance of the evil act is not repentance because there is no inner homage to God’s righteousness. The prudent avoidance of evil for fear of consequences expresses an inner moral state that cares more about self-satisfaction and self-preservation than about God’s heart’s desire. Repentance is more than the mere (but genuine) confession that this act or that is sin for there may be many causes at work that lead us to confess (will we be given more sympathy if we openly confess?). Repentance has to do with the moral state as well as other fruits that would grow out of it.

Repentance is not "the state of having been punished"! The state of "having been punished" is external to the offender whose inner moral state may still be unchanged. Punishment does not atone nor does it reconcile! A spiteful child sent to his room is now "a spiteful child in a room" until he comes to the inner and embraced-as-his-own conviction that the righteousness that expressed itself in sending him to his room has indeed done the right thing. He now agrees that the judgement against his spitefulness is fully warranted and is not to be seen as mere retaliation or returned spite. He now sees his spite with the eyes of the loving and righteous parent. This heartfelt agreement is his change of mind and to the degree that it is genuine he will consider all spiteful behavior as rightly subject to judgement by righteousness. He has now become the judge of his own crime! Though he cannot change his I-have-sinned status, inwardly he has now crossed over to the judge’s side and is at-one with the judge.

©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.

Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, the abiding word.com.

From Ben Fronczek... Why God Makes Us Wait

Why God Makes Us Wait

Why God Makes Us Wait              by Ben Fronczek

Over the years I’ve come to realize that the most important lessons in life, those which we learn the most from, are lessons that are learned when life seems the most difficult, or the lessons we learn when great demands are made of us, or when we are the saddest. Some have even given this form of education a nickname. They call it ‘the School of Hard Knocks.’
And this does not change because you become a Christian.  I don’t know if it’s true or not but a scholar by the name of A.W. Tozer once wrote:    “I don’t believe God can bless a man until He hurts him deeply.”

Part of me doesn’t like what he is saying here in that quote. None of us want to be hurt deeply or broken, but on the other hand if you take the time to study the lives of great men and women in the Bible it doesn’t take too long to see that God has allowed men and women to go through the School of Hard Knocks time and time again, usually for a good reason.

One of most difficult times of learning, a time almost all of us have trouble with, is when we have to wait. Waiting on others, waiting for something to happen, waiting on God, waiting for Him to answer things we prayed about over, and over, and over. We want things to get better. Some are waiting for a better job. Some are wanting and waiting a significant other or a marriage proposal. Some are wanting and waiting for a child, or their own home, or for their adult children to grow up… and the list goes on. We want what we want when we want it and that’s usually, right away. And when we don’t get what we want, we cannot help but wonder why, and sometime get we frustrated.

This past week as I thought about those great men and women in the Bible and I realized that they too had to wait, sometimes for many, many years. 

For example:
God had promised Abraham and Sarah a son through whom He would build a nation of people, who would eventually possess the promise land, and through whom would come one whom would be a blessing to all nations (Jesus).      But do you remember how long that they had to wait for that child? Isaac wasn’t born until many years after that promise was made when Abraham was 80 years old. I wonder how many times Abraham and Sarah asked God, “Lord when is this going to happen?”

Joseph was put in prison on false charges for more than two full years on false charges. He shouldn’t have been there. I wonder how many times he asked, “Why Lord?”
After the Israelites moved down into Egypt, all went well as long as the Egyptians remembered Joseph and the great things he had done to save them. They grew in numbers but were later enslaved and were treated harshly.

 After Moses came on the scene at the age of 40 he saw the oppression of his fellow Hebrews and wanted to do something about it, but after killing an Egyptian, he fled into the desert and would have to wait some 40 more years before God told him to go free the people. Not until he was 80. God eventually sent him back to free the Israelites after they lived there some 430 years.

I wondered how many times over those 40 years in the desert Moses asked “Why Lord, When are you going to free your people?
Because of their sin the Israelites would have to wait a whole generation, forty years more before God would let them enter the Promise Land.
Not only did Sarah have to endure and wait many years barren before she had a child, but so too did many other famous women like, Rachael, Joseph’s mom, and then Samson’s mom (Judges 13), Hannah mother of Samuel, and then later Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mom. I wonder how many times they asked God for a baby and why they couldn’t have one?

After being anointed King of Israel by the prophet Samuel, David would have to wait many hard years before he would sit upon the throne of Saul.

Israel would remain in Babylon in captivity some 70 years before they were again set free.
Paul who waited about 6 or more years before he went on his very first missionary journey. And later he write to the Romans that we and all of creation are waiting for renewal of all things (Romans 8:22-23)

Wait, wait, wait!  Some of you know what that’s like. You have something on your heart and you have brought it to God and prayed about it over, and over, and over again, but nothing seems to happen. It’s as though your prayer has fallen on deaf ears.  But let me reassure you, it has not.
God has heard every word, every prayer you’ve made and I believe He wants us to remain faithful, but for whatever reason He also wants us to just wait.
Things are happening that you just may not be able to see right now

I’m not one much for reading poetry but I read one this past week that sheds some insight on this topic. Here it is:

 Wait  by Russell Kelfer                                                                                       
Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .
And the Master so gently said, “Wait.”
“Wait? you say wait?” my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I’m claiming your Word.
“My future and all to which I relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait?
I’m needing a ‘yes’, a go-ahead sign,
Or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign.
“You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
I’m weary of asking! I need a reply.”
Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, “Wait.”
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, “So, I’m waiting for what?”
He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .
and He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.
“I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You’d have what you want, but you wouldn’t know Me.
You’d not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint.
“You’d not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there.
You’d not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence are all you can see.
“You’d never experience the fullness of love
When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.
“The glow of my comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.
“You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I’m doing in you.
“So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait.”

Closing:                                                                                                                 
Maybe today you are feeling the pain or frustration of an unanswered prayer, and having to wait for something to happen that you want to happen right now. You prayed about that something, and prayed about it, and prayed about it, and still nothing happens. It seems like no answer is not coming and you don’t understand why. I think we’ve all been there; at least some of the greatest men and women in the Bible have. 

My encouragement today is simply this: Don’t give up on God. Trust Him. Trust in His timing. Just like He worked out things for the men and women we read about in the Bible, trust that He is working something out for you as the days, weeks and maybe years go by.

Even though you know these truths some will still get impatient and frustrated with having to wait. Some will even try to take matters into their own hands like Abraham and Sarah did when they tried to have a son through Sarah’s maidservant. Things don’t always turn out for the best when we do this, just like it didn’t for them. If anything draw closer to God because His grace is sufficient, and He will bless you according to His will which is far superior to our own. And one way or the other you will eventually see your prayer answered just like those men and women of old, and maybe just like you have seen in your own past.

From Gary... Flowers, time and blessing




























Last April, my granddaughter Elizabeth and I went on a "photoshoot".  It was late afternoon and we were just riding around looking for an opportunity to snap a few "good ones".  She asked me to stop and this picture is the result.  I like it because it shows the beauty of the flowers as well as the advancement of the day.  Eight months later, I imagine that those flowers are gone, but the memory lingers.  In just a few short months, "Lizzie" seems to have grown up.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she is selling some of her work on "Fine Art America".  And she has not even reached her 15th birthday.  How fast things change.  Reminds me of something Jesus said...

Matthew, Chapter 6
27  “Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment  to his lifespan?   28  Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin,   29  yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these.   30  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won’t he much more clothe you, you of little faith?

We are finite creatures: we are born, grow up, grow old and die.  We all have necessities that need to be met and somehow God has always provided what I really need.  He must think that I need a lot of "good memories", because I have so many of them.  Elizabeth's contribution to that body of treasure has many facets to it, photography being the latest development.  Now, I don't know what the future may hold for me, but if my past is any indication, then what started as a life out of focus has gradually become crystal clear.  God will do what He has always done, of that I am quite sure!!!  The thing is... I just don't understand WHY I have blessed as much as I have been.  Maybe the flowers know?  But they aren't talking!!!



PS.  You can see some of Elizabeth's photos at this link:

http://fineartamerica.com/art/all/elizabeth+merwin/all