This year has shaken the world to its core. I’m more than ready to return to normal life. How about you? Has your life changed? Regardless of what you may have lost, there is a lighthouse of hope and faith shining in the distance. We may be uncertain about our future, but we can be certain of WHO holds our future. Jesus. He will always be our answer to whatever we face along life’s road.
Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’
Matthew 14: 28-29a NASB
Has Jesus ever extended His hand, called you, and said, Come?” In this topsy-turvy boat of 2020, we yearn to grasp the comforting, outstretched hand of our Savior, but there’s a catch.
Walk on the water?
Jesus had sent his disciples ahead of him to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. During that windy night, the Lord appeared in the distance, walking on the water. The disciples initially cried out, thinking they had seen a ghost.
“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid’”
Matthew 14:27 NASB
Peter’s boldness tested the veracity of the Lord’s identity. After Jesus called to him, he stepped out of the rocking boat and kept his eyes on Jesus. Miraculously, the water supported his weight. He took one step, then another. Just when he might have grown a bit confident, the wind kicked up, causing a distraction.
“But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”
Matthew 14:30 NASB
When we take our eyes of faith off the Lord, fear causes us to sink into a sea of doubt.
Twenty-twenty has been a year of immense change.
In some ways, our lives may never be the same. Regardless, we mustn’t be fearful of the windy, unfamiliar days on which we now tread. Jesus will always keep us safe. We can trust Him with all our hearts.
“Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’”
Matthew 14:31 NASB
How did the story end? Here is the best part.
“When Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the wind stopped. And the rest of the disciples who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’”
Matthew 14:32-33 NASB
As Jesus calms the storms in our lives, our hearts will burst with gratitude. We will fall on our knees and worship Him. Like the disciples, we have proof of His identity—He is indeed the Son of God.
Jesus is extending His hand and saying, Come!” Are you ready to step out of your boat and walk on the water?
Dear Jesus, when we’re in a storm, may our eyes stay focused on You. Give us courageous faith to walk on the water to Your outstretched hand. We praise You for keeping us safe in Your loving arms. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Copyright 2020: Walking on the Water: Author Karen Jurgens: All Rights Reserved
I scrolled through social media posts and fell to my knees.
“The fires are getting closer and we have been ordered to evacuate. We don’t know what to take with us or if our house will even be here when we can return. Please pray!”
“Our business has been ransacked and our building is on fire. We’ve lost everything. Please pray!”
“We’re at the hospital after we were attacked at a restaurant. My husband may not survive his injuries. Please pray!”
These messages of despair–just a few of many others– bring tears to my eyes, and I pray for God’s merciful hand of protection and deliverance for each one.
When have there ever been such upheavals in our land? The United States has been blessed not to have fought a war on our soil until September 11, 2001. But today we have an internal war raging unlike anything since the Civil War. It is still hard to make sense of this conflict, although many theories abound.
In addition to our present circumstances, Friday marked the nineteenth anniversary of 9-11. We need to pause and remember what our nation suffered on that fateful day so it will never be repeated. Despite the horrors, we see its heroes—the police and firefighters who rescued so many trapped in burning buildings before the towers collapsed in a nightmarish heap of steel and dust. Those who lived to tell their story will be forever in debt to those brave people who sacrificed everything to save innocent lives. And let’s not forget the brave souls on flight 93 who sacrificed their lives. We will forever remember those who lost their lives that tragic day.
Where is God?
Through the current rioting, plagues, floods, and fires, where is comfort? Hope? Answers? Where is God?
The prophet Habakkuk shows us the answer. He takes us into his time of terror and destruction about 2,500 years ago when he also cried out to God:
How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted.
Habakkuk 1:2-4 NKJV
How does this apply to us?
What applies to our lives from the study of the Babylonians’ (a.k.a. Chaldeans’) ancient invasion of Judah? When Habakkuk cried out to God to save the temple and God’s people, how did God respond?
Instead of stopping the overthrow of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, God assured Habakkuk that He, God, was in total control, and the Babylonians would be accountable for their evil actions. The prophet realized that God’s knowledge and wisdom was far above Man’s when God said, “Look among the nations and watch—Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you (Habakkuk 1:5 NKJV).
But the prophet continued to question God, much like we do.
How can a holy God look on evil and allow the wicked to swallow up the righteous? Why doesn’t God stop this injustice?
God had an answer that we must hear, for it is as relevant today as it was in 588 B.C.
Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.
Habakkuk 2:2-4 NASB
Timing, patience, and faith
We must understand that God has a much bigger plan than we can imagine, and it has its own timetable. We must wait patiently for the answer to arrive, which is neither early nor late. God’s timing is perfect.
And most importantly…we, the just, must live by our faith, and, at the same time, understand that the lawless ones cannot due to the evil in their souls.
The rest of the book describes God’s greatness, strength, and goodness, which encourages Habakkuk. He prays an emotional prayer, asking God to show mercy through His coming wrath.
Can we praise God through our pain? Our suffering? Our fears? Habakkuk began with frantic desperation but ended with confident trust. His prayer inspires us to praise God, live in faith, and trust Him to guide us along narrow, rocky paths. Here are his words:
I heard and my inward parts trembled, At the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, And in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, For the people to arise who will invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places.
Like Habakkuk, are you willing to trust God through devastating circumstances?
Dear Lord, help us who are suffering through these painful days. Even when we can’t understand why, we know you have a good plan to save us. Deliver us from evil, plagues, and natural disasters, and let us place all our trust in You. You are a good, good Father. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Copyright 2020: Trusting God Through Devastating Circumstances: Author Karen Jurgens: All Rights Reserved
Just as the disciples witnessed the beginning of the Church Age, are we witnessing its end?
Nothing about 2020 has been ordinary. This New Year’s cup has gushed over with one surprise after another. First, the Covid-19 Pandemic has gripped most of the world inside its tight fist. Then civil unrest around our country and the world has produced rampant lawlessness. Many lives have been turned upside down by fear of the future as jobs and businesses disappear overnight. The swiftness of these events occurring almost simultaneously have left us stunned, asking, “What’s next?” Could this be the end of our civilization and culture as we know it?
What did the disciples live through?
The disciples lived through frightening upheavals after Jesus’s arrest, torture, and crucifixion. Peter had sworn only hours before that he would never forsake the Lord, even if he had to die with Him. As Jesus had predicted, Peter denied Him three times out of his fear of man.
While the distraught disciples took refuge together, Judas hanged himself over the regret of his denial of Jesus. Only John stood with the Lord and the women at the foot of the cross where they witnessed His death.
Although Jesus had told his disciples several times that the Son of Man would be crucified, they still acted in surprise. And even though Jesus had explained that He would be resurrected to life on the third day, it took time for them to believe it—especially doubting Thomas.
Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
John 20:24-26 NKJV
Nothing turned out the way the disciples had planned a few days earlier when Jesus had ridden triumphantly into Jerusalem. Following His death, they sorrowed in deep depression as evidenced by the two men who had walked to Emmaus and encountered Jesus unaware.
And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”
Luke 24:17 NKJV
2020 hasn’t turned out as we planned.
So we find ourselves in unexpected turmoil and sadness today, questioning God about what is going on. Separation from friends and loved ones, closed churches, masked faces, and the rise of lawlessness—nothing has turned out the way we had planned in 2020. Like the disciples, we are sorrowing in depression over what we have lost.
But just as the disciples joyfully realized that all wasn’t lost after Jesus had appeared to them, so should we. They found Jesus, who gave them newfound hope and victory through the power of His death and resurrection. Every word Jesus had spoken to them had come true. Then they understood, and Jesus took the next forty days to prepare and commission them to be the foundation of the Church Age. The Age of Grace entered the world with free salvation of eternal life for whoever would receive it.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV
The curtain of this age is closing.
This Church Age of God’s grace has endured for two thousand years, but I believe the curtain is starting to close. We are entering the final phase before the Tribulation begins, and it is perfectly normal that we are shaking in our shoes as we wonder what to expect. We are so like the disciples, aren’t we?
But just as the disciples had Jesus to prepare them for what to expect, so do we. God has spoken to us in His Word, telling us what these last days will be like and not to fear.
“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.“
Luke 12:32 NKJV
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV
Read the words of Jesus as He explains the end of the age HERE. (Matthew 24: 3-44.)
We mustn’t waste time wringing our hands in anxiety and finding a place to hide until this evil time passes over us. We may feel lost like the men on the road to Emmaus, but Jesus will join us on our journey. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit in Acts Chapter 2 to give His disciples the power to witness to the world about Christ and His wonderful plan of salvation. Jesus is also giving us a new anointing, stronger than before, to live and witness in these last days before the Rapture.
As the disciples received this fresh anointing after they had gathered and prayed in the Upper Room, so we will also receive our fresh anointing as we gather to pray for revival.
We will receive a new anointing for these last days.
This is the hour to receive our fresh end-time anointing, just as in Acts Chapter 2. We are to use it to witness to the lost and invite everyone to enter the ark of salvation.
It’s also time for us to repent, wash our sins in the blood of the Lamb, and put on our white wedding clothes. We must get ready for our Groom to come to get us and take us to His home in heaven.
In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
John 14:2-3 NKJV
Let’s rejoice that we are alive and participating in the end of this age. What a privilege to make ourselves ready to meet our King Jesus in the air! The time is short. Are you getting ready?
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 NKJV
As the world grows darker, the church grows brighter. As the world grows more evil, the church is growing stronger in righteousness and courage. Allow your faith to grow and sustain you during these transitional days. We may be mourning our past, but it doesn’t begin to compare to our future in heaven. Look up! The trump of God will soon be calling us home.
Are you ready to meet Jesus? If you’re not sure, you can be sure today. Please pray this prayer with me.
Dear Lord, I’m a sinner in need of a Savior. I confess my sins and ask you to wash them away in the blood of the Lamb. I receive You into my life to be my Savior and Lord. I thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to be my Teacher and Comforter. Thank you, Lord, for saving me and writing my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And I rejoice that I will live forever with You in Your kingdom. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
First published in 2015, I want to again share my thoughts with you this Father’s Day. This year marks the twenty-fifth year of my dad’s passing, and I miss him so very much. But I look forward to heaven where we’ll all be reunited with our loved ones forever.
During my regular run in a nearby park, I slowed to a walk in the midst of the growing afternoon heat, mopping away the perspiration dripping down my face. Close behind me, a father and his little girl held hands as they went along. Proximity provided me an ear to their conversation.
“I love you, Daddy, on Father’s Day.” Her excited voice bubbled up to him.
“I love you, sweetheart, every day!” His tone promised forever, unconditional love.
The exchange was precious, and a smile spread across my face, reminding me of my own father. The only thing I have of him now are my sweet memories since he went to heaven twenty years ago. How I yearn to have him on earth again, to walk hand in hand and tell him that I love him. Even though that’s not possible, I still have the rich legacy he left behind.
His love of sports…
Growing up, he shared his love of baseball with me. In summer, he taught me how to play softball by practicing batting and playing catch in the backyard after dinner. He took my mother and me to practically every Reds game, beginning at the old Crosley Field and continuing years later at Riverfront Stadium. We had great seats in the section where visiting VIPs would watch Opening Day, the Playoffs, or the World Series, and I have lots of famous signatures on my scorecard books tucked away for permanent safe-keeping.
Although I still have his valuable collection of autographed baseballs and bats, my most precious possession is my memory of sitting next to him at the games, sharing a bag of fresh roasted peanuts while pestering him with all my annoying questions–whether foul tips count as balls or strikes, and who the players were—all which he patiently answered. Whether quoting RBI or home run averages, he lit up and was at his happiest when discussing the sport he loved most.
Around the house, cutting the grass was one of his favorite jobs. Anyone who knew him would remember that because his lawn was always perfect. When I was a kid, our lawn’s size was an acre, and I used to sit on the front steps for hours and watch him mow. After he finished, we would sit together for a while and admire the fruit of his labor. Afterward, he would invite me to go with him to a nearby fast-food restaurant, Henry’s, for a celebratory orange soda. Each week during grass season we followed the same routine, and that memory of sharing those times with him is still a comfort today.
Another one of Daddy’s loves was water. Our family enjoyed boating on the Ohio River every summer, and I have fond memories of our outings. He loved to water ski, and it was his encouragement that helped me learn to slalom.
My dad was also a big tease with a great sense of humor. I can remember his laughter at comedy shows back in the ’60s like Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Carol Burnette. But he also played jokes on his own family. When I was about five or so, he convinced me that if I could sprinkle salt on a bunny’s tail, then I could catch it. That entire summer I ran around the backyard with a salt shaker but never could catch a single rabbit. I didn’t learn the truth until school began that fall, and I thought that he must have had a good laugh watching me zigzag around the lawn with that salt shaker. Just like with skiing and softball, he always encouraged me to keep trying.
His godly character…
He also passed on important lessons of character through his own example, for which I am eternally grateful. I learned about developing a strong work ethic as I witnessed him work tirelessly to provide well for his family. He is a true example of how to capture and attain the American Dream.
He taught me to be honest and never lie (the few times I tried, I always got caught).
I learned to be obedient to his rules and respectful to others in authority (he only had to take me over his knee once, never twice).
He always instructed me, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.” (I’m always working on that one.)
His example of keeping everything clean, neat, and in its place made a huge impression on me. Order and peace reigned in our home and, to this day, is an important priority. He always said, “Everything has a place, so put everything in it.”
Most of all, his love of Jesus Christ and public profession of his Christian faith spoke volumes to me, teaching me to always be an active church member, study the Word of God, and tithe the first ten percent of my income to the church. His courage and fearlessness to stand up and speak up for what’s right have been my bedrock over the years. Even though he is not physically here, the Christian convictions that he modeled live within me as my rich heritage.
Those dreaded words: It’s cancer…
In November 1994, a time arrived when he could no longer play his role as protector, and our roles reversed. On a day when he had routine prostate surgery, the doctor gave my mother the bad news. She wrote a note on the back of a dry cleaning receipt she found in her purse and handed it to me when I walked into his hospital recovery room. It’s bladder cancer. The doctor says it’s hopeless. At that point, my mother and I became his caregivers until his death on June 13, 1995—just a few days shy of Father’s Day.
Amid the sadness of that time, two specific occasions are picture-framed in my memory’s gallery. The first was after he was diagnosed with cancer and my mother had just told him the bad news. I entered their bedroom where he was standing and hugged him, saying, “I love you, Daddy.” We both shed tears. The last grains of sand in his life’s hourglass were swiftly slipping away.
The second was after he had been admitted to a nursing care facility for Hospice patients. His memory would come and go as he slipped into dementia, due to big doses of experimental chemo. One afternoon when he was lucid, I was guiding his wheelchair through the outdoor gardens where we stopped to admire beautiful flowers. I took that opportunity to thank him for being such a wonderful father and told him how much I loved and appreciated him. That was one of the final days that he recognized me, and I am eternally thankful to God that I was given a window to tell him one last time. Such a priceless gift.
So, as I look into the sky this Father’s Day, I breathe out these words toward heaven. “I love you, Daddy. On Father’s Day and every day.”
What exactly is Shavuot? As Christians, we are more familiar with the term Pentecost. Let’s explore this festival’s Jewish and Christian roots for a deeper understanding of its meaning.
Tori Avey explains in her words: “Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people, and occurs on the 50th day after the 49 days of counting the Omer. Shavuot is one of the three biblically based pilgrimage holidays known as the shalosh regalim. It is associated with the grain harvest in the Torah.” (Read more at Toriavey.com)
Chabad.org also has some interesting festival background: “Shavuot 2020 (a two-day holiday, celebrated from sunset on May 28 until nightfall on May 30) coincides with the date that G‑d gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai more than 3,300 years ago. It comes after 49 days of eager counting, as we prepared ourselves for this special day.”
When did Shavuot turn into Pentecost (its Greek name)? It began on the forty-ninth day or seven weeks after Jesus ascended into heaven. Christ spoke of His sending the Holy Spirit several times to the disciples.
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
John 14:16-17 NKJV
Tell me more…
Jesus also explained the Holy Spirit’s role in their lives, and why it was necessary for the Spirit to come.
“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
John 16:7-11 NKJV
That day arrived…
Acts 2 tells about this supernatural event. The disciples, along with Mary and a few others, had convened in the Upper Room, praying and waiting on the promised Helper. On that Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit descended like flames of fire resting above each person’s head.
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
Acts 2:1-4 NKJV
Many Jews from different countries happened to be in Jerusalem at that time to celebrate Shavuot, and they heard these men, full of the Holy Spirit, speak in each one’s native language about the mighty deeds of God. The Jews laughed, claiming the disciples must be drunk, but Peter rose up and preached to them all, quoting from the prophet Joel:
“Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams; Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit And they shall prophesy. ‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above And signs on the earth below, Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.‘The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood, Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Acts 2:14b-21 NKJV
Jesus also explained the difference between John the Baptist’s water baptism and the fire baptism of the Holy Spirit:
Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 1:4-5 NKJV
Water versus Fire…
At salvation, Christians are baptized with water, which represents the washing away of sin and being filled with the Holy Spirit. But Pentecost is a baptism of fire from Jesus Himself through the Holy Spirit, usually with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. What is the purpose of this second baptism?
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
John 16:13-15 NKJV
“…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Acts 1:8 NKJV
May we all experience the wonderful power of Pentecost in our lives.
Dear Father, thank you for sending us the Comforter, our Helper, to live inside our spirits. As you did in the day of your disciples, send us fire from heaven and baptize us in Your power and anointing. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
The pandemic has taken the world by surprise, and daily information about its cause and remedy has poured forth from every direction. Conflicting opinions abound, making it difficult to know what to believe. How can we know the truth?
Instead of looking to the world, let’s search for answers by refreshing ourselves in the only source of Truth–God’s Word. What can we learn about such a time as this? I guarantee you’ll find a delightful surprise that will lift your spirits with hope and joy.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night
Psalm 92:1-2 NKJV
The Lord God is so faithful. He promises to always care for us, to never leave nor forsake us. The Old Testament tells one story after another of God’s care for His children through perilous times. Let’s review a few of them.
Story #1: Noah and the Ark
The Lord shut up Noah’s righteous family for forty rain-filled days and nights while He destroyed all life on the earth with a flood. Do you think those six persons got a bit claustrophobic as they waited several additional months for the waters to recede? What joy when they could set foot on dry ground and free the animals who must have also wearied of their confinement. Afterward, God made an eternal covenant with Noah.
It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Genesis 9:14-15 NKJV
What a blessed ending to such a long trial! People around the world have been shut up at home for a month or more, making us all the more empathetic for Noah. Fortunately, like the ark, our pandemic has an ending in sight.
Story #2: Moses and the Passover
“Let my people go!” Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. Destination: the Promised Land.
But before Pharoah finally agreed to free the Jewish slaves, many plagues befell Egypt: blood, frogs, lice, flies, diseased animals, boils on man and beast, hail, locusts, darkness, and death of the firstborn of both men and animals. God purposely hardened Pharoah’s heart in order to reveal His power and glory to the stubborn, unbelieving king of Egypt.
Let’s keep in mind that not only were the Israelites present when God sent these plagues, but also God supernaturally protected them. As the Jews witnessed Egypt’s suffering, their camp was spared. Only the final plague demanded that the Israelites take action in order to be saved—the establishment of Passover–a Jewish feast celebrated to this day.
‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
Exodus 12:12-13 NKJV
Can’t we imagine the joy those captives experienced at their moment of freedom? After 430 years, God’s grace rescued them from slavery and set their feet on a path to the Promised Land. Likewise, God will supernaturally rescue us and set us on a path to freedom from this health crisis.
Story #3: Jonah and the Whale
Remember Jonah and the big fish? His disobedience to God’s command to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to the Ninevites had landed him in that dark, stinky jail cell. Shut up in the fish’s foul-smelling belly for three days and nights, Jonah repented and prayed mightily for deliverance.
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. And he said: “I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, And He answered me.“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.” (Read the rest of Chapter 2 HERE)
Jonah 2:1-2 NKJV
After Jonah vowed to be obedient to God’s command, the fish vomited him up onto dry land. Then God spoke again: “’Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you’” (Jonah 3:2 NKJV).
So, Jonah walked across that city–a three-days’ journey–and cried out that God was going to destroy Nineveh in forty days. The people, as well as the king, believed and heeded the warning. They donned sackcloth, proclaimed a fast, and earnestly repented of their sins.
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
Jonah 3:10 NKJV
Thus the people of Nineveh were rescued from certain destruction through citywide repentance centered on fasting and prayer. If this pandemic is the judgment of God for our rebellion against His Laws, can’t we also stay God’s hand through repentance, prayer, and fasting, just like Nineveh?
How does this apply to the current pandemic?
Calamities of all shapes and sizes have come to the earth in response to man’s disobedience and sin. But the Bible tells story after story of man’s repentance followed by God’s responses of forgiveness and deliverance.
By studying the character of God during distressing times, we find comfort and hope. We can rest assured that God will always protect and bring His children safely through all sorts of disasters. But do we have a role to play?
Let’s take action…
This Easter and Passover season, let’s repent, fast, and pray for God’s divine deliverance from the virus that has our world in its grasp. Just as the Israelites painted their doorposts with the blood of their Passover lamb, let’splead the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, over our homes and families for supernatural protection. We can trust the Lord to keep us safe and bring us into His Promised Land. (Click to read Ephesians 6:10-18.)
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by.
Psalm 57:1 NKJV
How are you trusting in the mercy of God during these present trials?
Dear Father God, we look to You in these times of pestilence and distress. We repent of our sins and ask You to forgive us and heal our nations from this virus. May we turn to You for protection and comfort. We plead the blood of the Lamb over us and our loved ones. Hide us under Your wings until this pestilence passes by. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Think back to all those magic shows we loved as kids. We would be spellbound, watching a man in a tuxedo tap his magic wand over a top hat and pull out a rabbit. Or how about those fascinating card tricks? And best of all was a woman sawn in two. All hoaxes, but we loved the thrill of being tricked.
But magic is evil. Think of a dark veil made up of lies and trickery that we wouldn’t—and couldn’t—see through. As Christians, though, aren’t we immune to deception?
In order to answer that question, let’s begin with a definition. According to Merriam-Webster, deception means:
the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid : TRICK fooled by a scam artist’s clever deception
Where did deception originate? We would all point to Genesis. That old serpent, the devil, deceived Eve to believe a lie and commit an act of sinful disobedience. Let’s listen in on their conversation and pinpoint how Satan’s trickery worked.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
Genesis 3:1-7 NKJV
Step 1: Twisting the truth
The first step involves questioning what God has said. (“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” ) Satan expected Eve to refute his question in order to engage her in a conversation to confuse her logic. But let’s review God’s exact words:
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Genesis 2:16-17 NKJV
Now let’s backtrack. When God spoke this command to Adam, where was Eve? Apparently, not yet created. So if Adam had instructed her himself, it may explain Eve’s embellishment–that even touching the tree would result in death.
Step 2: Using Naivety Against Us
Satan knew that if he could deceive Eve about what God had said, he could win a battle against the Almighty. How? By dragging His trusting creation into the devil’s evil world of sin.
When Eve misquoted God’s command, the serpent used her mistake to his advantage. The serpent played upon Eve’s emotional naivety to convince her to bite the forbidden fruit. He dangled sparkling lies to convince her it wasn’t dangerous but would make her wise like God. He tricked her into trusting his words to be true.
Step 3: No Fear
Step 3: The serpent took away Eve’s fear of death. (“You will not surely die.” v.4) Remember, no one had ever died yet (her son Abel, not yet born, would be the first), so the concept of death was a great mystery. Satan’s false assurance must have given Eve comfort from her fears as she trusted the serpent’s words.
Step 4: Be Smart and Powerful
Step 4:“For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (v.4). Here Satan claims to know God’s words, which he falsely twists. He tells Eve the end result of her potential disobedience, promising her that she will be equal to God Himself in power and knowledge. No longer will she take orders from God–she will be wise enough to make her own rules, to live her own way. The tantalizing promise of the knowledge of good and evil would be a glorious promotion to omniscience and omnipotence. And she fell for Satan’s bait–hook, line, and sinker.
Step 5: Justification of a lie
Step 5:“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” (v.6). Eve, no longer afraid to touch it, listened to Satan’s voice of justification. Who doesn’t want to be wise? Why not eat such beautiful fruit? Eve reached out to pluck the fruit and share it with Adam. At that moment, deception led to sin.
Like Adam and Eve, we can use our God-given free will to either obey or disobey. Our choice, yes, but also we must face the consequences.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
James 1:13-16 NKJV
How do we apply these truths to our lives today?
Lesson 1: Know God’s exact Word
Let’s make sure we know God’s exact Word so Satan can’t deceive us. He’s a master at serving up a glass of truth with a twist of lies. If the devil can confuse us about the truth, we drink it down, falling into deception and thus into sin. Memorizing and knowing the Word will cancel those plans.
When Satan tempted Jesus
Remember when Satan came to tempt Jesus after the Lord’s forty-day fast in the wilderness? Each time Satan tried to deceive Him, Jesus quoted Scripture to refute those lies mixed with truth. (Click HERE to read about it.)
Lesson 2: Naivety, our worst enemy
Satan deceives us to turn away from our beliefs at any age. Especially when we’re young, about to enter teen years, Satan uses our naivety to trick us into sin.
For example, kids will entice those who are inexperienced about the world, luring them with the promise of thrilling fun–drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. If they balk at first, the tempter will use other ploys, such as shaming them for not being cool, being a scaredy-cat, or threatening their inclusion in a group of friends. As innocent kids submit to rejecting their true beliefs in exchange for lies, their lives can be ruined, or in extreme cases, ended too soon.
Thankfully, Jesus provided forgiveness of our sins at the cross.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 NKJV
Lesson 3: Living without fear of God
For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.
Psalm 96:4 NKJV
Not too many years ago—back in the ’80s—kids used to wear tee-shirts emblazoned with No Fear. When the fear of authority and a living God are absent in the human heart and mind, falsely-enlightened people easily break rules and laws. No longer afraid of any repercussion or punishment, they have a cyclonic heyday, leaving behind a wake of destruction. Today we can especially witness the results of this deception in many crime-infested cities, failing schools, and corrupt governments around the world.
Beware of NO FEAR deception in the church. Have you wondered why Seeker-Friendly churches never display a cross or mention sin and its consequences? Their weekly talk is only positive, laced with the serpent’s classic cunning found in Genesis 3:1: “Has God indeed said,” and verse 4: “You will not surely die.” But a one-sided or twisted gospel is a deceptive gospel, smearing the truth of salvation and sanctification to afford sinners comfort and acceptance to remain as they are. And it’s another way Satan’s kingdom grows.
Churches must preach the truth of the whole gospel, which convicts sinners and brings them to the altar of repentance and saving grace.
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
Romans 3:23 NKJV
Lesson 4: Not little gods
Satan also promises to give us God’s power and knowledge to make us equal to God. His false reasoning convinces us that we won’t need God anymore. We can be our own little gods, following our own false wisdom.
This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
James 3:15-17 NKJV
Lesson 5: Don’t buy the lie
Where do we find this principle? Advertising, for example. Companies pay a fortune for an ad or video to convince consumers they can’t live happy, complete lives without their product. That’s the lie. They play on our emotions and our five senses to make us crave it, rather like Eve: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” (Genesis 3:6)
Satan is waiting to deceive each one of us with his lies: good is evil and evil is good. He tempts us through sight, arousing our desire. He reasons falsely that we will benefit in some way–beauty, wealth, comfort, or status.
Here’s a description of Satan in Jesus’s words:
‘He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.’
John 8:44b NKJV
Are Christians exempt?
No. Satan comes to everyone with his deception—even Christians. The difference is that the Holy Spirit provides us with the gift of discernment to know the truth so we don’t fall for Satan’s lies.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: …to another discerning of spirits, …
1 Corinthians 12: 7, 10b NKJV
Let’s discern the spirit of truth by reading and memorizing God’s Word. His Word is truth–our sword of the Spirit that divides truth from lies. With the Word in our mouths, Satan can never deceive us with his false trickery.
Let’s always be prayerful that God will give us His truth and wisdom to discern Satan’s clever deception.
Let’s conclude in agreement with Paul’s prayer:
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Amen.
Philippians 1:9-11 KJV
How have you been victorious in using God’s Word to destroy Satan’s deceptive lies?
I’ve missed posting on my blog since December, but these weeks have been reserved for resting and recuperating from the flu. The good news is that I was finally on the upswing and feeling back to normal, just in time for tying on my apron and heading to the kitchen for Christmas dinner. And although Christmas is many weeks behind us, it’s still a good memory. I want to share a story with you about what the Lord taught me during that season.
Early in December—before the flu—our family had planned a special holiday outing. I had purchased tickets for a concert in a nearby town where the venue was described as a charming theater in an old courthouse building. A relaxing evening with a symphonic jazz band and featured singers sounded like a good way to get into the Christmas spirit.
Upon our arrival, what a surprising sight greeted us inside. We had stepped back in time to creaking wooden floors, cement walls painted gunmetal grey covered with old posters of bygone days, narrow staircases with steel handrails, and groaning elevators designed more for carrying janitorial equipment rather than people.
After locating the second-floor theater, we settled into well-worn seats of red plush velveteen. The stale air roared with voices. Bobbing heads of every shade and style exchanged merry greetings with passersby searching for their ticketed rows of seats. On stage, high-heels and oxford dress shoes rushed across the floor on a time-sensitive mission. Violas and bass violins stood straight, and violins found their perches under tucked chins. Sequined dresses swept the floor, shimmering in bright stage lights. At one end, drums rat-a-tat-tatted and piano keys tinkled. A complete cacophony of dissonance.
Eventually a quiet swept over the stage, and its contagion gripped the audience into a hushed silence. The conductor walked solemnly to the front of a platform and bowed, signaling our applause. Clapping exploded like a bomb into the room’s acoustics, then subsided. One piano key sang out, and every instrument slid collectively into tune.
What good can come out of this?
My eyes roamed around the room. What kind of inspiring music could come out of such a musty, ancient place? I already regretted not traveling the extra miles to a downtown state-of-the-art venue featuring famous professionals. As I mourned over my mistake, beautiful string music began and sweetly beckoned a finger at the door of my heart.
My rising yawns cut off as the upbeat music carried me into its rhapsody. It didn’t take long before I was hooked. My soul stirred with delight and appreciation as each new song swelled from the stage and swept through the auditorium. Songs about Christ’s birth and the miracle of God coming down to earth in the form of a perfect, holy newborn. Angels trumpeting horns, proclaiming His birth as they led choruses of rejoicing. From jazz band to cultured symphony to rich-throated singers, I acknowledged my grateful surprise of this unexpected gift: deep love from the heart and soul of every stage performer’s instrument lavished itself upon the audience.
What must that holy night have been like?
I could envision through the music the rustic stable where Mary gave birth to Messiah. Almost smelling the animals’ earthy scent which enveloped the holy couple, I could imagine their clouded breath in the air as they snorted questions about who these intruders might be. The rough, wooden trough filled with straw would not feed them this night but would instead cradle the swaddled baby. Sweet peace must have filled the air and quieted the animal audience into reverent submission from their front-row seats as they witnessed the greatest story that would ever be told.
Have you ever wondered why God chose for His Son to make His earthly entrance into such poor circumstances? Humble, common parents in the midst of traveling for the census. Not even a decent indoor retreat for Mary’s labor and delivery. Yet, God provided and created a celebration fit for a king. The angels announced His birth—not to the world’s wealthy and royal—but to the lowliest class of people at that time–shepherds tending their sheep on nearby hills, drawn to that stable as human witnesses. Such a wonderful miracle, yet such a great mystery.
We can fully understand God’s symbolism as Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread. He was placed in a manger, a trough from which animals eat, because He is our Bread of Life.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ ”
Matthew 26:26 NKJV
Prophecy also described Him as the Good Shepherd, which made us, His followers, His sheep. We can likely recite Psalm 23, but here is another reference:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel. ”
Matthew 2:6 NKJV
The comparison between this humble concert venue and Jesus’s humble birth meshed with clarity. From this simple stage on a chilly December night came something more than wonderful: the message of God’s divine, perfect love poured from a blend of harmonious instruments and voices, just as the angels sang and played for the shepherds and all of heaven on the night of Christ’s birth, set in a simple stable.
This message isn’t just for Christmas–it’s for today and every day of the year.
Finally, the Lord showed me these concerns for 2020. Are you feeling inadequate or discouraged about your life? Have you recently lost a loved one and feel as though you don’t know how to continue? Are you unsure about your financial future? Seeking a godly mate? Trying to find God’s purpose to chart your future?Seeking physical healing and health?
God takes our commonplace lives and works miracles for His glory, just like He did on the night Jesus was born. Something very special can come out of a humbled life. He can take our lives and make them into something wonderful, but we must first lay down our selfish god of SELF on God’s holy altar. We all must die to SELF.
“ ‘But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.’ “
Isaiah 66:2 NKJV
Have you been born again?
Have you surrendered your life to Jesus and accepted Him as your Lord and Savior? You can do that now by praying a simple prayer, confessing your sins, turning away from them, and asking Jesus into your heart.
“…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ ”
Romans 10:9-11 NKJV
It’s what God does best–making us new creations in Christ Jesus, cleansing us from sin by His blood, and filling us with His Holy Spirit. Writing our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life and the Book of Remembrance. Making our lives a clean slate with a new story to write. Giving us the assurance of eternity in heaven where we will dwell in His presence forever.
May this be your best year yet as you serve the Lord. May He transform you and play His beautiful music through your life to bless others.
Wishing you all a blessed and prosperous 2020!
What do you need the Lord to do for you in 2020? Leave your prayer request in the comments and I will pray with you and for you. May God bless yourichly.
Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas! God bless you as we celebrate the holy birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus. May His everlasting love and salvation be born in your hearts today. Please join me prayerfully in the lyrics of a familiar Christmas hymn.
It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old, From angels bending near the earth To touch their harps of gold; “Peace on the earth, good will to men From heaven’s all-gracious King” – The world in solemn stillness lay To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come With peaceful wings unfurled, And still their heavenly music floats O’er all the weary world; Above its sad and lowly plains They bend on hovering wing, And ever o’er its Babel-sounds The blessed angels sing.
But with the woes of sin and strife The world has suffered long; Beneath the angel-strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong; And man, at war with man, hears not The love song which they bring; – O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing!
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, Whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way With painful steps and slow, Look now! for glad and golden hours Come swiftly on the wing; – Oh, rest beside the weary road And hear the angels sing!
For lo! the days are hastening on By prophet bards foretold, When, with the ever circling years Shall come the age of gold; When Peace shall over all the earth, Its ancient splendors fling, And the whole world give back the song, Which now the angels sing.
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear Also seen occasionally as “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” Erik Routley, University Carol Book (Brighton: H. Freeman & Co., 1961) Words: Edmund Hamilton Sears, in the Christian Register (Boston, Massachusetts: December 29, 1849), Vol. 28, #52, p. 206. Afterwards published in Sermons and Songs, 1875, 5 stanzas of 8 lines. Source: Edmund H. Sears, Sermons and Songs of the Christian Life (Boston: Noyes, Holmes, and Company, 1875), pp. 17-18.
Welcome to the final chapter of our year-long study. What a wonderful time we’ve had studying God’s Word together! It’s been my honor to host you here and also on the Heart”wings” Ministry Facebook Page. Let’s take one last look at what we’ve learned this year about growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV
Let’s take a look back and enjoy what we studied this year. All of our former posts will be linked under each heading for you to access here.
I trust you have grown in the fruit of the Spirit along with me this year. The fascinating thing about the Christian walk is that we are always in the process of growth. No matter how many times we may read a particular Scripture or study a specific topic, the Lord always teaches us something new.
We’ve reached the end of our journey, and bidding you farewell is bittersweet. I have been very blessed to walk with you down life’s path this year. May you be blessed each day as you continue to grow in the fruit of the Spirit.
Please continue to follow me here on my blog, Touched By Him, for future posts where I’ll be sharing some thoughts for Christmas. I plan to continue posting as usual in January, as the Lord leads.
Dear Lord, thank you for this past year of growth in the fruit of the Spirit. Bless Your Word richly in each person, and water the seeds to grow up into mature plants. May we be known by our fruit, that we are Your disciples. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.