Divine Artistry

Harbingers of winter, falling leaves cover the landscape and provide compost for next year’s gardens. In our world, leaves cannot lay unattended so we rake them into piles for fertilizer or burn piles. As a youth this was commonly done and provided smokey reminders of the passing season with chilly Fall mornings announcing Winter’s return.
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Speedy!

I was in Navy Boot Camp in San Diego. In case you’ve never been in boot camp, all personnel are grouped into companies, headed by an experienced Navy man. This person is assigned to this duty just as he would be to a ship. In other words, they have no particular experience in leading recruits, they are simply stationed at this base. It is considered good duty for them since they’re not on a ship and can be home every night.

   Most every hour is accounted for in boot camp so, in the evening, after all work is done, the free time before lights out is precious.

    As young men often do, we were challenging each other in games of speed and dexterity. In this case I had just been playing a game where two guys hold their hands out toward each other, one set hands up, the other hands down. The hands are touching each other, one on top the other on bottom.

The challenge is for the one on bottom, hands facing upwards, to quickly flip his hand or hands over and slap the other’s hands before he can move them out of his reach. I thought I was pretty good at this game. I thought I was.

    Just as I finished with a guy, taking a win, another guy in our company, an Asian, asked if I wanted to play with him. Yep! I was in for a shock, embarrassment, humiliation and pain.

    I don’t remember his name now but we were shipmates (before ever sailing on a ship), buddies of a sort. I started with hands on the bottom. The very first attempt at smacking his hand was missed. I was stunned. I hadn’t come close. He was lightning fast.

I was sort of worried but thought I could out maneuver him soon. Wrong. It was as though I was living in a slow motion film and he was in a super fast one. However, he did miss before too long which encouraged me. I should have just walked away.

    As we began the next series, he was a blur. Time after time, he smacked the tops of my hands. Over and over, while smiling and even telling me which hand he would use! I was imobile. Frozen. Of course my mind was telling me I was a loser but dare not quit.

    By this time, there was a crowd watching him beat the life out of the tops of my hands. They were red and swollen now. Guys were now imploring me to quit. They could see how swollen and red my hands were. Too proud. I couldn’t quit.

Finally, he quit. He said he’d had enough. I don’t remember if I spoke or not but I was in a great deal of pain. For the first time, I wondered if I might have jeopardized my ability to use my hands tomorrow. That sent shivers down my spine.

    I’m not sure if I learned anything from this beating but I hope so. I was able to use my hands the next day so the Company Commander didn’t have to reprimand me.

    My other buddies checked with me in the morning to make sure I was ok. Seeing I was, they began to rib me and make jokes for some time. One guy nicknamed me Speedy!

 I’m not certain if I did learn from that bizarre incident but later in life, there were times when I was fighting with my pride and it seemed that God brought that beating back to mind, sort of reminding me that pride is a devastating state of mind. Oh, and by the way, there is a Bible verse that says, “God resists the proud but draws close to the humble.”

                                                                                                       (c) David Nelson

Book Review

Book Review: The End Times Survival Guide

Author:  Mark Hitchcock

November 23, 2018

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. I am under no obligation to give a favorable review.

I’ve read two books by Mark Hitchcock so I was expecting a worthwhile book in this one. I was not disappointed. Mark has his head on straight and is spiritually discerning, aiming at using his writing gift to share God’s Word with all his readers.

I was surprised at how he went about this one, since I had a picture of how he might prepare the reader for the End Times (which are really on the horizon). His approach is quite clever, building a secure biblical foundation on which to establish our secure faith in Christ as the primary building block in preparation for the End Times.

In the final chapter, Mark quotes A. W. Tozer thusly: “Each day our focus should be on the Coming One. Our focus on the Blessed Hope is the most important discipline of our Christian life.”

Ignorance regarding the coming end times will bring uncertainty, fear, and confusion. Mark Hitchcock, through this book, addresses how we should be prepared to confront that final day, walking with Christ in peace and assurance of our final destination. According to Matthew 25:13, “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of [Jesus’] return.”

Hitchcock writes: “The Rapture is possible any day. . .In light of the imminence of Christ’s coming, the key issue that should grab our hearts is being alert and awake. That’s what Jesus repeated over and over.

There are no 5 Easy Steps for anything. However, if you are hazy about the End Times, Mark Hitchcock’s book will give you a sense of security as he leads you along a Scriptural path of preparedness and encouragement.

Church Meetings

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“When you meet together, one will sing. . .” 1 Corinthians 14:26

Settling into the restaurant booth after church, Sal and Phil scanned the menu, placed their order and relaxed with coffee and tea. “Well, since this was your first time in church, what did you think of the service?” asked Phil.

“Truthfully, I was surprised by how much extra stuff there is.”

“Extra stuff?”

“You know, announcements, reading of the bulletin, taking a break for coffee and snacks. And then when the pastor did come, he spent extra time joking about his hunting trip with some of the guys. But the church didn’t seem to mind, they laughed a lot.”

Phil was quiet as he thought of his reply. “I know. And I agree, Sal. Over the years men have changed the church meetings. And not for the better. Actually the bible does have an outline for church service in 1 Corinthians 14:26-33. Let’s look at it.”

Well my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together:

  1. One will sing
  2. Another will teach
  3. Another will tell some special revelation God has given
  4. One will speak in tongues
  5. Another will interpret what is said
  6. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you
  7. No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say. But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately.
  8. Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said. But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop.

    In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged. Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.

“Wow, that is quite different from what happened this morning,” said Sal. “What we just read sounds exciting and filled with God’s presence. I get chills thinking of it. So, it seems that many people might contribute during the meeting, not just one.”

“According to 1 Corinthians, I think church meetings were completely different in order and how people were seated.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if several people will be sharing according to the Spirit’s leading, we would be seated in a more open format so we could all see and hear one another.”

“Are you opposed to what we call church today?”

“Oh no. Not at all. Meeting is important. But when we read this section in 1 Corinthians, how can we simply neglect what God has given us regarding meetings? Since the bible is God’s word, how can we ignore this outline of how to meet? What does 2 Timothy 3:16 say?

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

“We live in the world, Sal and satan is the ruler of this world. His influence is felt every day in countless ways. If we are not purposely focused on God’s Word and listening to the Holy Spirit, we will gradually modify God’s best purposes for our lives by polluting our choices with worldly ideas. For example, how did Christian church meetings change so dramatically?

“Many churches have small groups that meet in homes (isn’t that how the original church met?). Why not turn these groups into meetings according to 1 Corinthians 14 and watch as the Holy Spirit drives the outcome. Giving control to the Lord would prove to be scary and also exciting!”

“Trust in the Lord will all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6

No Fear!

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“I am the Lord your God. . . so don’t be afraid!” ~Isaiah 41:13

 

Are you a Christian? Do you read the Bible? Do you believe it is the Word of God? If you answered yes to these questions then I have wonderful news for you— you don’t have to be afraid! Regardless of the mounting debt you face, your unemployment, broken down car, illness, failure in business, or falsely accused; You don’t have to allow fear to control you. Life is filled with all manner of troubles and obstacles but fear only makes the problem worse. Calling out to God and reading the bible provides supernatural peace. Here are some Bible verses which will help:

Isaiah 41:13  I am the Lord your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Psalm 27:1 You, Lord, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears.

Psalm 62:2 God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and the fortress where I am secure.

Psalm 91:1-2 Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the Lord, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.

Romans 8:38-39 I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love— not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not the powers above or the powers below.

Isaiah 25:8-9 The Lord All-Powerful will destroy the power of death and wipe away all tears— At that time, people will say, “The Lord has saved us! Let’s celebrate. We waited and hoped— now our God is here.”

Psalm 145:13-14 Our Lord, you keep your word and do everything you say. When someone stumbles or falls, you give a helping hand.

Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking Him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Hebrews 13:5-6 God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

Now, you may be thinking, more bible verses? What I need is tangible, real help. I need answers not more verses. But that’s it! The Bible is God’s infallible, never ending Word designed to answer life’s questions and provide comfort, hope, inspiration and LOVE. Love greater than all your fears and insecurities. God’s love takes away all fears.

 

Selective Application

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Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Job 38:4

 

Even though we are Believers and followers of Christ, we seem to have the gift of selective application as we read the Bible (forgetting it is the Word of God). This is a version of Christianity that allows us to pick and choose what we apply to our lives rather than attempting to immerse ourselves fully into His Word by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Selective interpretation allows the reader to decide which verses are applicable to their life and which are allegorical or historical or, perhaps, applicable to specific people of a different time and place. This heretical approach gives the reader the power to challenge God’s word, picking and choosing which verses are “for today.”

The most obvious danger in this approach to reading the Bible is the reader becomes equal to God, deciding that they have the authority to eliminate or water down the precious word of God. Left unchallenged, they freely re-translate the Bible into ideas that are more convenient or less challenging. Imagine thinking that we can decide which Bible verses are pertinent to our lives rather than asking God to give us wisdom and understanding as we read His Holy Word.

A classic example of this dangerous approach to the Bible is taught by a popular, well-known pastor who has decided that the Spiritual Gifts, as described in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 are no longer applicable to Christians today. According to him, these miraculous gifts ended some time after the original apostles died. He says we no longer need such gifts because we have the Bible. If that is true, the Bible itself says all believers have gifts. In order to make such a decision, he has decided that 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 is no longer applicable. How can mere man make such a declaration?

2 Timothy 3:14-16  Yet you must go on steadily in all those things that you have learned and which you know are true. Remember from what sort of people your knowledge has come, and how from early childhood your mind has been familiar with the holy scriptures, which can open the mind to the salvation which comes through believing in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for re-setting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living. The scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God and fit him fully for all branches of his work. (J.B. Phillips)

The Bible is not a collection of stories, fables, myths, or merely human ideas about God. It is not just a human book. Through the Holy Spirit God revealed his person and plan to godly men who wrote down God’s message for his people. This process is known as inspiration. The writers wrote from their own personal, historical, and cultural contexts. But even though they used their own minds, talents, language, and style, they wrote what God wanted them to write. Scripture is completely trustworthy because God was in control of its writing, and its words are entirely authoritative for our faith and lives. (Life Application Bible Notes © Tyndale House)

2 Peter 1:19-21  So we have seen and proved that what the prophets said came true. You will do well to pay close attention to everything they have written, for, like lights shining into dark corners, their words help us to understand many things that otherwise would be dark and difficult. But when you consider the wonderful truth of the prophets’ words, then the light will dawn in your souls and Christ the Morning Star will shine in your hearts. For no prophecy recorded in Scripture was ever thought up by the prophet himself. It was the Holy Spirit within these godly men who gave them true messages from God.

Romans 15:2-4  Even if we believe that it makes no difference to the Lord whether we do these things, still we cannot just go ahead and do them to please ourselves; for we must bear the “burden” of being considerate of the doubts and fears of others—of those who feel these things are wrong. Let’s please the other fellow, not ourselves, and do what is for his good and thus build him up in the Lord. Christ didn’t please himself. As the Psalmist said, “He came for the very purpose of suffering under the insults of those who were against the Lord.” These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us so that we will look forward expectantly to the time when God will conquer sin and death.

Job 38:4-11  “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Do you know how its dimensions were determined, and who did the surveying? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who decreed the boundaries of the seas when they gushed from the depths? Who clothed them with clouds and thick darkness and barred them by limiting their shores, and said, ‘Thus far and no farther shall you come, and here shall your proud waves stop’?”  

If enough people agree on an idea it eventually becomes established as truth. Many of these so-called truths are actually myths, superstitions and outright lies. But, as we have all experienced in life, sayings learned from childhood establish themselves as fact in our minds.

Consider the Bible. Do you think of it as fact or fable? Is it absolute truth or partial truth with scatterings of myth for variety. Either you believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God or you do not. There is no middle ground; no neutral territory. By faith in God, the Bible becomes absolute truth leading us to forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God.