Lesley (Dahlseng) Rieland

Children's Book Author and Christian Blogger


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Patiently Press Toward Your Destiny

HourglassTo the faithful followers of Christ, those who have said “yes” to God. 

Perhaps the “yes” was within your first prayer of repentance, or perhaps it was concerning a specific endeavor.  Regardless of the agreement, I extend these words to you . . . keep going!  If the time for this needed encouragement has yet to transpire, then may it echo into your future need.  KEEP GOING!

An understanding follower of Christ will possess the foreknowledge that with every call will come at some point a test of patient endurance.  On the other hand, what is evasive to our understanding is this test’s longevity.  A test of this kind necessitates such evasion of understanding, for no test of patience can be effective if it ends sooner than we expect, nor even within our expectancy.  No, by nature it must extend beyond our own limits in order to pull us into the limitless grace of God, whose works within us are counted just as much treasures as the works He will do through us – even more so.  For our destiny is not comprised merely of our earthly accomplishments, it is to radiate the image in which we were made in the beginning, that being the image of God.  More specifically, our destiny is to be conformed to the image of the Christ who did nothing of Himself, but only what His Father showed Him (Romans 8:29 and John 8:28).

Here are two truths for us to cling to during any test of endurance.  First, that your “yes” was to God and God alone . . . not to a career, not to a ministry, not to any person or pursuit, and no matter how worthy the cause.  Second, that your destiny will automatically follow if you can hold tight to the first.

Should we be surprised when doubt’s voice shouts louder than that of our original hope, when discouragement becomes an all-too-frequent solicitor?  Do not be ignorant.  The moment we set our course towards our destiny, there is also destined to be an opposition, a plan masterfully wrought to play upon our weaknesses and pervert our strengths.

Above all, its strategy is to confuse our goal.  The moment we say “yes” to God, it works tirelessly to redirect our measurement of success.  If our goal can become earthly, then not only can success be stolen from us, the labels of success and failure are apt to be misapplied as well. But if ours is a goal beyond this world, it is also beyond the reach of even our craftiest opposition.

Had the prophets of old measured their success by the world’s reaction, discouragement would likely have risen victorious.  Like Ezekiel, whose call was regardless of “whether they listen or fail to listen” (Ezekiel 2:5), the fulfilling of our destiny also is dependent not upon anything in or of this world but rather in our fulfillment of each and every “yes, God”.

It is of no surprise that Ezekiel was first shown the peculiar heavenly creatures, whose striking behavior was that “each one went straight ahead, and wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went” (Ezekiel 1:12).  Likewise, we are to set our compass toward God Himself and wherever the Spirit goes, so too shall we.  We mustn’t turn.

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).  Therefore, keep going!  We cannot risk any turn, not a turning to look back as Lot’s wife did – who, seduced by the past, stands to this day as a warning concerning such a seduction’s entrapment.  Pay heed to the mistake of Israel, who “did not consider her destiny; therefore her collapse was awesome” (Lamentations 1:9).  Remember, also, God’s words to the Israelites before the Red Sea:  “Why do you cry to Me?  Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (Exodus 14:15).

Do not be confused if even within your “yes” to God, your worldly fulfillment of it seems far-off.  Our God is never complacent, so be assured that even while our earthly positioning or situation seems to be at a standstill, He is continually at work to position us in higher spiritual standing – from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).  The design of patience is not to generate inactivity but rather to actively and continually confirm a “yes” to the will of God over your own.  Patience is not lost ground nor is it lost time.  Thus, in whatever form the Lord designs – keep going!  Continue enduring!  Your destiny awaits, if you do not turn from the One who first predestined it.   Press on . . .

 ” . . . press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [you] heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 3:14)


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Vermin Alert! The Little Things in Life Can Have Big Consequences

Mouse TrapScene One: One mouse, scurrying across the floor. That’s all I saw at first. One tiny mouse that brought on a foreboding disproportionate to its own miniscule size. It’s amazing how much damage one mouse can do, I thought to myself. It’s amazing how one mouse can soon become two.

Scene Two: Premonition becomes reality and this one unwelcome guest has invited company. They are now an army of mice climbing atop my table and into my food. I swat at them, dishes crashing to the floor. One swing, two swings, and then a third . . .

Scene Three: The aftermath. As my vision spans the room, a realization sinks in concerning the consequences of allowing just one little pest to remain. Contaminated food, broken vessels, overturned chairs, and then I see it . . . that nasty vermin destroyed my Bible.

*   *   *   *   *

I have plenty of dreams that I wake from and don’t give any more thought than, “Wow, that was really weird.” This would have fit the same category if it wasn’t for that picture of my destroyed Bible lingering in my mind. The Word of God is more than just paper and ink, so it’s not as though it can actually be destroyed. The symbolism still struck me, however. The working of God’s Word can be spoiled in our lives if we let it, and it’s not always obvious, not always black and white. Sometimes it’s the gray things, the little things we let into our lives . . . like that little gray mouse.

The Bible gives a similar warning in the Song of Solomon when it calls out, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” ( 2:15). Broadly applied, the vineyards can be nearly anything involving our lives, and foxes can take many forms. Within business vineyards, quality control and safeguards must be kept so as not to let in a “fox” that could cost hundreds, thousands, even millions. Within our diet vineyards, there are often small foxes here and there that we let in and underestimate the hindrance to progress which comes with them.   Most important are relationships, and marriages are a favorite vineyard for foxes of wide variety to come in and slowly destroy.

Solomon’s vineyard is of an earthly marriage, yet the even greater symbolism should turn our attention to the marriage between God and ourselves. Jesus declared, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).   This short passage reveals several things. First, that God wants us to remain in Him, meaning relationship. Second, within this relationship, His plans and purposes for us will come to fruition. Third, stating “IF you remain in me” is to also state that there may be some who fail to remain. Fourth, we can do nothing if this occurs. The working of His will and purposes for us will not come to fruition. Even the fruit we had may begin to dry up.

So keep watch for the foxes or, as with my dream, keep watch for the mice! We constantly encounter temptations that seem so small and gray, but can slowly eat away at our relationship with Christ, and hinder our growth and effectiveness in all that He’s planned for us. Whether it be frustrations, discouragements, distractions, or compromises – guard your relationship as if your life depended upon it, for He is the Life. Then you will bloom into all that He has created you to be and your fruit will display the beauty of our God!


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The Dethronement of Food

Cupcake Eat MeI didn’t mean to eat that many.  Honest.  I only meant to eat a couple . . . maybe a few.

It just sort of happens.  What harm can three miniature peppermint patties do?  And if three isn’t so bad, then how much worse could four be?  And why do I seem to be getting hungrier as I keep eating these?  I guess I’ve been working out more, burning more calories . . . I deserve a little reward now and then.  Hey, a few hours have passed and I bet my body could handle it if I just had one more . . . or two.    

I head to the trashcan to discard yet another peppermint patty wrapper.  To my horror, the trash reveals “a few” more than a few empty wrappers.  If I’m to be perfectly honest, I had the foresight back at the store.  I knew the danger when I picked up that bag of York Peppermint Patties, but Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and I needed a few bags of candy for my daughters’ class parties.

Some people might ask me, “What’s the big deal?  You’re not overweight.”  No, I’m not overweight.  I’ve never struggled with weight.  I remain fairly active.  My normal food choices are much healthier than the standard American’s diet.  So, why am I left with this feeling?  It’s not satisfaction.  It’s defeat.

The “diet discussion” is not new to our culture.  Overeating leads to all sorts of issues that hit deep.  Body image issues, for instance, are very emotionally real.  Physical health issues can literally be life or death, and all caused by the foods we eat.  The list could go on.  I don’t mean to belittle these, yet I believe they are only scratching the surface.  Our real problem is spiritual.  Our real problem is sin.  God desires so much better for us.

“ ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)

It’s tempting to ignore the feeling of defeat – to brush aside the fact that what you hoped would be fulfilling only revealed a deeper emptiness.  Granted, some people may become so accustomed with these feelings that they hardly know any different.  It’s the feeling of being mastered by something.  You’re not even the servant, you’re the slave.

Food is an interesting element to navigate because we need it, and unlike the Garden of Eden scenario and some of the old covenant Jewish laws, most theologians agree that we are “free” to eat anything.  We may know that gluttony is a sin, but often we don’t realize that we’ve crossed over into it until it’s done.  In my case, since I don’t struggle with weight I may even try to argue that my eating must not be excessive, therefore not gluttonous and therefore not sin.  Yet, I can’t deny that nagging feeling that something seems spiritually amiss.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

I used to view the fruit of the Spirit as a work that God simply took over in me.  If love is a fruit of the Spirit, then God will fill me with love and I’ll automatically love everyone.  This may happen to a certain degree.  What I’ve since realized is my need for continued cooperation with the Spirit.  Sometimes I don’t feel loving, but it’s my choice whether to act loving.  If you want to argue this for some reason, then I must direct your attention to a certain fruit of the Spirit called . . . Self-Control.  There’s something funny about this fruit if you don’t want to take responsibility.  You see, although it is a fruit of the Spirit, it is not called Spirit-Control, it is called Self-Control.

” For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Galatians 5:17).

No doubt you’ve felt the war within yourself before, the war of wanting something that you know is wrong.  Here is one question for the morally-minded:  is it easier to keep yourself from stealing, or to keep yourself from overeating?  And why?  Most likely the answer is that they are not seen at the same degree of sin.  I would agree with you, though some Christians dispute whether any degree differences exist at all in terms of sin.  Nonetheless, I believe that if we also (like stealing) see our use of food as serious in matters of our relationship with God, then the strength of our conviction against its misuse will also increase.  After all, it’s not about how I fit into my pants, it’s about how I fit into the image of Christ.

Disclaimer: The following are points over which God has convicted me. Personally, I love this about God. His word says that He rebukes and disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:6, and Revelations 3:19). His correction is always because He desires us to have His best. What this does not mean is that He condemns (see Romans 8:1). Conviction draws us closer to Him. Condemnation pushes us away. Draw nearer!  God always offers hope and His mercies are new every day!

* * *

“Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)

1.  Admit if food is an idol in your life.  Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:7, and numerous other verses in Scripture command us not to have any other gods before the Lord.  Most would never outright claim that they desire food more than they love God.  Nonetheless, remember Paul’s admonishment not to let anything master you?  When you hear in your conscience that you’ve had enough to eat, what do you bow down to – God or food?  Jesus warned us that no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13).  Though He was discussing money, the principle equally applies to food.  Who (or what) is your master?  If it’s not God, ask for His forgiveness and His grace to overcome!

* * *

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

2.  Humble and submit yourself. I know, if your personality is a bit stubborn and independent like myself, then the word “submit” can send near-violent shivers down your spine.  How many of us dream of being our own boss?  Yet, Colossians 3:23 tells us that we are supposed to do all things as unto God.  ALL is inclusive of our food choices!  In fact, 1 Corinthians 10:31 includes food specifically, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 

I’ve heard so many times, “I’m (fill-in-blank) years old, I can make up my own mind!”  Well, here’s a good swift wake-up call to all of us Christians:  age isn’t the point.  Your mother may not be there to keep your hand out of the cookie jar, yet that does not mean you have the right to put it in.  Jesus is not only our Savior, He is supposed to be our Lord. The two are mutually inclusive. You are no longer your own! As jarring as this may sound, it is cause for rejoicing. When we offer ourselves to Him, we are transformed from broken vessels into holy temples. As Paul proclaims in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” There is no greater freedom than in submission to God.

* * *

You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.  You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.”  (James 5:5)

3.  Identify the true treasure and go after it! It’s natural to want comfort.  It’s natural to admire beauty.  It’s understandable to crave the delicious.  There’s something greater than natural, however . . . it’s the supernatural!  Earthly treasures are momentary, whereas God tells us to seek eternal treasure (Matthew 6:20).  The hard truth of this matter is that the two cannot be sought together (see 1 John 2:15, Colossians 3:2, and James 4:4).

My very wise mother-in-law once told me that the system of this world is set up in such a way as to distract us from God.  If we seek the luxuries of this world, our heart is inevitably distracted from the treasures of God.  Spiritual discipline is the opposite of self-indulgence.  Ever wonder what the point of fasting is?  Esther did not underestimate its power and Jesus declared that some demons won’t be cast out without it.  There is a power in denying the savory earthly delights in that it resets our internal compass toward what is greater.

Let’s take Daniel’s discipline as an example, who did not indulge in all that was made available to him from the king’s food.  He took the “high road” and he was brought into a higher calling.  Let’s redefine our nourishment and reset our cravings . . .

“Jesus said to them,My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34)


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The Christian Battle

ArmorChildren always offer a fresh perspective, and it can be especially interesting when hearing their perspective of YOU.  I’ve heard many descriptions of myself from my children.  A couple of my favorites are that I’ve been aged at 100 years old on a kindergarten Mother’s Day questionnaire and I’m supposedly famous, since my picture is on both Facebook and my website.

 Some descriptions I never want to forget.  Some I’d prefer to forget, but should own up to and learn from.  Others just make me laugh.  Take this description of me, for example:

 “You are a woman of war, Mom!”
Me: (?????) Umm . . .huh?
“You are just so strong.”

Had I been in workout gear pumping some serious iron, moving something large like the refrigerator, or coming in from a long run then maybe I could see the correlation.  I was doing nothing of the sort.  It just so happened that I was able to . . . drink cranberry juice.  Yes, that is quite the feat and I’m proud to accept my strong warrior title for it!

I had a good laugh.  At the same time, it revealed a longing within me for that description to be true.  I want to fight for something meaningful.  As a Christian, I want to fight for God’s kingdom.  When Paul calls us “more than conquerors” in Romans 8:37, I yearn for this to be lived out in me.

I admit, my personality is a bit on the aggressive side and this probably lends to me being drawn to the dramatic warfare elements within Scripture.  I love the psalms of David which speak of the destruction of his enemies, of course knowing that it applies now to our spiritual enemies (see Ephesians 6:12).  When I read that Christ has given us authority to trample upon serpents and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19 ) and that we shall “trample the great lion and the serpent” (Psalm 91:13), I have to contain myself from stomping around the floor in symbolic declaration.  Maybe I’ve read too many Frank Peretti novels?  

In all seriousness, the spiritual enemy is very real and 1 Peter 5:8 warns that our “adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”   On the other hand, the righteous are equipped not so that we should simply flee to safety, for God has also declared us to be “as bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).  The church is meant to have a roar as well.

As exciting as this sounds, in actuality, the majority of our practical warfare is far less dramatic. While our warfare should be within prayer, if many of us are completely honest, it can be a battle simply to pray at all – especially unceasingly, as Paul encourages in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  Though we may war against powers and principalities, our captives must often be our own thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5).  The most important war we’ll wage will be against our own temptations (Galatians 5:17, 1 Peter 2:11, and Romans 7:23) and, ultimately, our fight will be the “good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).  I may have imaginings of leading a cavalry charge against the enemy, but I must remind myself of this: the little things DO matter.  As Jesus claimed, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10) and “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21).

Therefore, I will set my battle to do ALL things – both great and small – as unto the Lord and for His glory (Colossians 3:23, Ephesians 6:7, and 1 Corinthians 10:31).  May my “strong woman of war” title carry far beyond a cranberry juice feat!  As dear as my daughter’s description of me is, I long so much more to hear these words:

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”
(Matthew 25:21)


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The Best God Recipe

I rarely watch television, but I have to admit that the Food Network is dangerously tempting for me.  If I allowed myself to slip into television stupor, I’ve no doubt that I could sit for hours watching the competitive show, Chopped.  However, not only would much of my time then be irrecoverable, I would almost inevitably face the many appetites elicited by the program. 

Should it be surprising?  Food is one of the most delightful experiences in our lives and many fond memories are based around it.  Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, Good Housekeeping . . . the list goes on and on for all the different TV programs or magazines that will feature recipes from outstanding chefs.

Considering that these chefs are in the realm of genius within their specialties, I should ask myself why I change nearly every recipe that I try.  If it’s a casserole, I double the vegetables.  If it’s a cookie, I never do the recommended bake time.  Soup?  Maybe some extra seasoning, veggies, or beans.  It doesn’t matter what it is: cut this, add that.  I guess I know what I like and what I don’t like, and I enjoy the freedom to change up the recipe however I desire.

In many areas it is highly beneficial to experiment with new things, push the boundaries, and not assume that the traditional is best simply by way of it being traditional.  It inspires thought and creativity and it can at times generate progress.  From a marketing perspective, the “best” products or procedures are largely relative.  We are triggered very differently depending upon numerous factors.  Gender, age and culture are just hitting the surface.  One size rarely fits all and the goal is to be adaptable.

Considering all the benefits that have resulted from our culture of ingenuity, is there any fathomable limit as to what this mindset should be applied?  Yes!  I will say it again.  Yes! Additions and subtractions within a recipe is one thing, and marketing adaptability is a necessity.  Unfortunately, many people are applying this same strategy to their belief in God, particularly within the Christian community and its eroding reliance on the Bible as the foundation of their theology.

If you are reading this article and hold to an atheistic, agnostic, or other non-Christian religious viewpoint, then this won’t apply to you.  Though equally important, that would be an entirely different topic.  I am writing to those who profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  My question to you is this: is your Jesus based on what the Biblical authors experienced and claimed Him to be, or is your Jesus based on your feelings and opinions of what you want Him to be?

One of my favorite quotes is from Robert Frost’s poem, The Black Cottage: “Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favor.”  Analyses of this poem will often claim the minister within it had problems accepting change, lending a negative twist on the minister’s convictions.  The truth is, truth doesn’t change!  If it did, it wouldn’t be truth.  The change is whether a person’s heart is open to it or not. We are either in favor of truth or not, but truth itself does not change.

Our justice system is correct in its demand and definition of truth as the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  We cannot subtract from truth and have absolute truth.  We cannot add to truth and have absolute truth.  Yet, this is the common theme of Christianity today in our culture.  Many dismiss whole passages of Scripture based on how they think or feel.  Many don’t bother to learn enough from the Bible to even know what to dismiss.  Wouldn’t it be better to base our understanding on accounts of those who were eye-witness to Jesus and whose testimonies were confirmed across the board with other eye-witnesses?

Since the disciples lived and breathed under Jesus’ teaching for three years, wouldn’t they know whether their own testimony of Him was true or false?  If for instance they knowingly testified to a false depiction of His teaching, do you think they would have radically based their lives upon that faulty foundation in face of severe persecution and even to the point of their death?  Martyrdom for what they knew to be a lie?  And not just one, all faced martyrdom and did not relent.  Of the twelve (minus Judas the betrayer), ten of the original disciples were killed.  An unsuccessful attempt was also made on John’s life – though I think being thrown into boiling oil would make me seriously question the legitimacy of my convictions.  No.  For this reason, among many others, the Bible is actually considered the most accurate historical document that exists¹ . . . And yet we think we know better?

To be fair, some Biblical topics are difficult to navigate.  The unfortunate “feud” between Calvinist and Arminian thinking, for instance, leaves me scratching my head.  References for both theologies are present, and I can’t pick and choose which is correct with much conviction.  The same applies to questions around the rapture.  Pre-tribulation?  Mid-tribulation?  Post-tribulation?  I guess we’ll find out someday, though I admit that I can’t muster much excitement concerning the tribulation part. These theological mysteries are not the downfall of the church, however.  As AW Tozer states, “God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, ‘O Lord, Thou knowest.’  Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God’s omniscience. Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints” (The Pursuit of God).  No, the downfall occurs when we look at Scripture and turn our face away with this statement: “I disagree.”  

This isn’t always so blatantly stated.  Often times it comes in the form of “My opinion is . . .”  Our opinion?  I’ve long since realized within my Christian walk that opinions, mine or anyone else’s, don’t matter.  We don’t worship God in spirit and opinion, we can only worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). Certainly misinterpretation or misapplication can happen to even the most sincere and devoted Christians.  The question is whether we are seekers of truth and not just what makes us feel warm and fuzzy.  

As both Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 states, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”  It is not only to our benefit to seek truth, our lives can depend upon it.  It is the truth which sets us free (John 8:32), not the warm and fuzzies.  Actually, this passage is set up conditionally stating that it’s about more than seeking truth, it is about walking in it:   “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8: 31-32).  A similar seriousness is emphasized in Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders: “Therefore everyone who hears these word of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose , and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundations on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24-27).

Much of our compromising of Scripture is rooted in our temptation to sin, either by disregarding passages explicitly declaring something to be wrong or by watering down God’s holiness and severity towards sin.  The fruit of this is not only hurtful to ourselves, it stops short the ultimate purpose God intends for us on earth which is to represent Him and be wholly conformed to His likeness.  

Ironically, one of the main arguments of those who like to disregard God’s condemnation of sin is on the basis that God is love.  On the contrary, God’s nature of love cannot be pleased with evil. And since sin is only destructive to our lives, a loving God will surely want to direct and correct us far from it.  We should not think that the love of God is disjointed from the severity of God.  It is only when we first understand the severity of God’s stance against sin that we can truly comprehend the great love He has for us, for “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus is not a symbol of God’s leniency toward sin. The scars upon his hands and feet should be a reminder of just how serious God is in His judgment against it. Yet to this great length He did not hesitate to save us – not by way of permitting us to remain in what destroys us, but by saving us from our own destruction. 

Do not be afraid to submit to God’s truth.  It is the only way to freedom.  It is the only way to wholeness. Who better to know the best for our lives than our Creator and Redeemer?  There is no benefit to experimenting with new things or pushing His boundaries.  There is not progress to be made outside of His prescription for us.  God is not relative, He is a rock upon which we can stand firmly and securely.  In the end, you will find that the best “God Recipe” is not one you can add to or subtract from, and there is great comfort in this constancy.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 

“I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
(Hebrews 13:8)

“For I am Jehovah; I have not changed.” 
(Malachi 3:6)

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind.” 
(Numbers 23:19)

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
(James 1:17)

“He delights in unchanging love.”
(Micah 7:18)

“His love endures forever.” 
(Psalm 100:5, Psalm 106:1, Psalm 107:1, Psalm 118:1, Psalm 136, 1 Chronicles 16:34, 2 Chronicles 5:13, 2 Chronicles 7:3, 2 Chronicles 20:21, Ezra 3:11, Jeremiah 33:11)


1.  If you are interested in studying the claims to Biblical accuracy, I highly recommend the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.


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Everlasting Joy is Never Out of Season

The third chapter of Ecclesiastes begins with this wisdom, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Growing up in North Dakota, I know my fair share of seasons.  As a farmer’s daughter, I experienced season changes with even greater meaning.  There was the labor of seed-time in which the fields  swallowed up what we offered and the only immediate fruit was the dirt and grease covering from head to toe.  The fields would then change faces to reveal bright, new life – an encouragement that the labor was not in vain.  Next, waiting and maturing.  Then eventually knowing their time has passed, these fields offered up their life.  Their stripped appearance revealed their sacrifice; they had fulfilled their God-given purpose.  Then, winter slumber never failed to call and a they would be hidden in blankets of white.

It is one thing to admire the seasons on display in nature.  The real challenge is facing the seasons in our lives personally and recognizing their beauty.  Solomon understood this when he wrote later in the same chapter, “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time” (v. 10-11).

As Solomon described, our own lives vary from seasons of mourning and weeping to times of laughter and dance, peace and war, love and hate.  Not that everything in our lives can be attributed to the will of God.  Let’s face it, God does not will for us to sin, and sin is ultimately the cause of our mourning, weeping, war, and hate in this world.  Nonetheless, we can rest in the assurance that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  We will go in and out of seasons of mourning and seasons of war.  Amongst all these, however, there is one constant in which God intends for us to remain . . . JOY.  May our JOY never go out of season.

Indeed, it seems quite strange to announce that we are to have joy even within seasons of pain.  Yet, never is it more vital than during those very times.  As it states in Nehemiah 8:10, it is the joy of the Lord that is our strength.  Not just any joy – the joy of the Lord.  So how are we to navigate the more trying seasons?  How can we be strengthened with the joy of the Lord?

Ultimately, the Psalmist knew it well, that joy comes from being in the presence of God.  Psalm 16:11 sings out, “You will fill me with joy in Your presence” and Psalm 21:6 says that we are made glad “by the joy of Your presence”.  Joy, after all, is a fruit of God’s presence – His Spirit – in us (Galatians 5:22).  And when God’s presence invades our space, Eternity invades our time.  Again the Psalmist:   “you lovers of the Eternal . . . Light is sown in the just; as it grows, it brings joy to the pure of heart.  Celebrate the Eternal God” (Psalm 97:10-12).  Abiding in God’s eternal presence and perspective . . . this is the key to joy.

The New Testament apostles lived in such a way that far outshined our romanticized “carpe diem” ambitions.  They not only lived in the moment, they lived for Eternity.  How else could James exhort us to “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).  It is the reason Peter encourages us to “be happy that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings so that you will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory” (1 Peter 4:13).  As Paul states in Romans 8:18, “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.”  And again in 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul directs us unto the Eternal: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

I am slowly learning to view my present with the eyes of the Eternal.  Remember the burden Solomon spoke of?  “I have seen the burden God has laid on men.  He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11).  Within that very same verse 11 is this interesting bit of wisdom: “He has set eternity in the heart of man.”

An eternity mindset is not one of escapism.  We are here for a purpose.  Our purpose cannot be wholly fulfilled on the earth, however, if we grasp for things of the earth.  Yes, I believe in a God who works all things for good and I believe it for the here and now, but my ultimate hope is for a good that endures.  I believe in a God whose desire is to prosper us in all things (3 John 1:2).  However, in our prosperity, let us not chase after the world (1 John 2:15, Colossians 3:2).  In Christ we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), but let it be for His kingdom and not our own.  Overcomers?  Yes, just like Christ!  Just remember that it’s the world we are to overcome (John 16:33, 1 John 5:4).  I praise God that He heals me now, yet I will praise Him all the more that death itself has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55).  Hallelujah, I believe God is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).  I will press toward that prize!  And may God Himself be my exceedingly great reward (Genesis 15:1)!  May our crowns be ones of everlasting joy (Isaiah 51:11)!

I’ve long ago discovered that God can say things far better than I, so I will end with this encouragement from His Word. . .

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-3).


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Honoring Christ and His Martyrs

HeavenLast Wednesday my husband was attending a morning Bible study when it was interrupted by an urgent prayer request.  A member of a local church had a connection to missionaries in the Middle East.  Two separate messages were given.  The following are portions of these messages:

“ISIS has taken over the town . . . systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus . . . so far not one child has.  And so far all have consequently been killed.  But not the parents.”
“We lost the city . . . they are beheading children systematically . . . within 10 minutes of where our team is working.  Thousands more fled last night . . .  Our team is unmoved and will stay.”

Where can I begin . . .

Chapter 11 of Hebrews pays honor to those who lived their lives by faith.  The list is long and it brings to remembrance those who dared to declare the word of the Lord, who stepped out in whole-hearted obedience, those who experienced miraculous deliverances, God-glorifying victories and more . . . then there were others.

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword.  They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—  the world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews 11:35-38).

I sense an urgent nudging to wake up.  The nudge is for the American church.  My ears are burning with the latest message from one of our nation’s largest churches.  Supposedly Christianity isn’t really about Christ after all.  It has become about us, because we need to know that “God only wants us to be happy.” When did we limit our perspective to this world?  When did we reduce His riches to earthen handiworks?  Many have taken His promises and used them as reasons for promiscuity, desiring ever more of this world and calling it His favor.  Much of our Christianity is about gaining the world, when the world should not be worthy of us.

Oh, America, what god have you worshipped?  Could it be that our god has too often been ourselves?  Let’s quickly wake up!  I will worship the One who sweat drops of blood in a garden, preparing to plant His very life and make the Way for fruits of a righteous church.  No more can we afford to belittle His grace with licentiousness.

While we as His bride should have had our eyes uplifted and our voices raised in unison with that of Revelations 22:17 – “Come, Lord Jesus, Come!” – we now find a very different visitor at our doorstep.  The threats are already here.  What kind of church has our enemy come to see?

Before John the Baptist’s beheading, he sent a question to Jesus:  “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”   Within Jesus’ reply was this declaration, that “blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”  He then addressed the crowd concerning John, “What did you go out into the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  If not, what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in fine clothes?  No, those who wear fine clothes are in king’s palaces.  Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written:  ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you'” (see Matthew 11).

Like John, I do not want to be a reed swayed by the winds of persecution.  Like John, I want to be worthy of carrying the message of Christ, acting as His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20) and preparing the way for His second coming.  And only by His grace, I will not fall away on account of Him.  Lord, help us all!  What will the world see if – or when – that day of trial comes upon us?

Church, let’s wake up to see the worldly entanglements all around us.  We have been too preoccupied with the pleasures of this life that we forget we are only sojourners.  May we finally see this world for what it is – passing away (1 John 2:17 and 1 Corinthians 7:31) and remember where our true citizenship lies (Philippians 3:20).  Our real prize is not of this world and cannot be taken from us.  Only then can we face trials and be about His work with not only boldness, but with great joy.  It is this joy that will be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).   

In doing this we may finally honor Christ. We will honor those who risked their lives forwarding the message of our salvation. We will honor the martyrs of our own generation, those who join their father in the faith, Abraham, who looked “forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God . . . They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth . . . Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Hebrews 11:10,16).


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