We Will Never Forget.

The Lord Is My Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
 
 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
  He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.
 
 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
 
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.
 
(Psalm 23 ESV)

The Problem of Evil and Suffering: Part Three – Why Does God Allow Suffering?

“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does” (1 Peter 5:8-11 MSG).
As photos begin to emerge of the catastrophic impact of hurricane Dorian on the Bahamas and her people – and as Georgia and North and South Carolina brace for the storm’s arrival – it’s a struggle to find words that won’t in any way minimize the fear, shock and devastation that many thousands are experiencing right now. I assure you that our hearts are crying with you, our prayers are constantly with you, and that God has not abandoned you – and he never will.
It is during times of extreme suffering that God’s grace and mercy are most present. These are the times when he most yearns to comfort us. These are the situations where he most desires to pour the balm of his healing presence into the chaos of our circumstances.
Why does God allow suffering? If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why doesn’t he stop suffering before it starts? Is there any value in our suffering, or are we just random victims of fate? Where is God when we suffer? Can we trust a God who allows so much evil and suffering to exist in the world? Is there any hope?
Dear Friends, one of the things that suffering teaches us is that we are not in control. That can be a bitter pill to swallow and a difficult lesson to learn, but it is an essential component in establishing of our faith.
Hebrews 11:1-3 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (NKJV).
These verses tell us that the same God who formed the heavens and the earth and all that is in them is always working behind the scenes – in ways that for us are invisible. And that our faith is the the evidence that we do know and believe that God – and nothing but God – is in control of the universe and all creation, even though we cannot begin to understand the magnitude of his plan.
Jude, a half-brother of Jesus, encouraged us to build ourselves up in faith by praying in the Holy Spirit (1:20), and the author of Hebrews stated that “… without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (11:6 NKJV).
This world is full of suffering, and the suffering we experience is painful and real. In fact, Paul writes that “… we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering” (Romans 8:22-23a NLT).
God knows that because of the effects of sin in this world, we all experience suffering. And he knows that his entire creation is groaning, like a woman in labor, waiting for the pains to be over – and for the joy of new birth to arrive.
Paul said that after long, considered study, he had come to the conclusion that even though the sufferings that we experience are extreme, he was convinced that the glory that would be revealed in the fullness of God’s plan for us will demonstrate beyond any doubt that it has all been worth it (Romans 8:16-39).
Beloved, God knows who you are, and God knows everything that you’ve suffered. And Almighty God, who stepped down from his throne in heaven to become fully human like each one of us, and who experiences every suffering with us, will not allow one moment of our suffering to be wasted.
“You haven’t received the spirit of slaves that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the spirit of God’s adopted children by which we call out, ‘Abba! Father!’  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. If we are his children, we are also God’s heirs. If we share in Christ’s suffering in order to share his glory, we are heirs together with him” (Romans 8:15-17 GW).
We share in Christ’s suffering, because he shared in our suffering. His suffering is our suffering, and our suffering is his suffering. That is what he took upon himself when he became not only fully God but also fully human, and bore the punishment for our sin and the pain of ALL our suffering, at the cross.
The prophet Isaiah witnessed this in the spirit when he said that the Suffering Servant who was to come would be a man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief:
“He certainly has taken upon himself our suffering
        and carried our sorrows,
            but we thought that God had wounded him,
                beat him, and punished him.
 He was wounded for our rebellious acts.
        He was crushed for our sins.
            He was punished so that we could have peace,
                and we received healing from his wounds” (Isaiah 53:4-5 GW).
Therefore Beloved, whenever we suffer, we can be completely assured that Christ is with us and he will bear our burdens and wipe away every tear from our eyes. Not only in the kingdom that is to come but here now, where the suffering still exists. We are not alone, and although we do suffer, we do not suffer alone. Because Jesus was willing to go beyond all comfort, he is with us and he will comfort us. His assurance in the presence of our suffering is the basis for our faith.
You know the story of bold, brash Peter, who walked on water – for just a minute or two; and who insisted that no matter what happened he would stick with Jesus through thick and thin – only to deny him three times. Friends, I can imagine that Peter’s suffering before the cross was unbearable. But listen to what one of Jesus’ closest disciples says to encourage us in him: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world” (1 Peter 4:12-13 NLT).
Scripture tells us that in this world we will experience suffering, but that in our suffering not only are we partners in Christ, but he is partners with us. He is the stronger and we are the weaker partner. Because we understand that we are weak and he is strong, it is important for us to cast our cares onto him and not try and bear the burden of suffering on our own.
Peter said this about our relationship to Christ in suffering, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]” (1 Peter 5:6-7 AMP).
Beloved, God watches over us very carefully. If you are experiencing any kind of suffering today, please be assured that God is standing by to help.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT).

The Problem of Evil and Suffering: Part Two – The Dilemma of Choice and the Beginning of Sin.

In the very first verse of scripture, Genesis 1:1, Moses wrote that God created the heavens and the earth. As the creation story unfolds, God calls forth light and darkness; day and night; the sun, moon and stars; the earth and the seas; the plants, and all the living creatures that swim, walk and fly; and he brought forth the first man and first woman.
“God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31a ESV).
In the paradise he made for human beings to occupy, God’s creation was only good.
“And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9 ESV).
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying ‘You may surely eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat…” (2:16-17a).
When God gave Adam the first rule, he also gave him the first “choice” – to obey or not to obey. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was just like any other tree in the garden, as long as Adam obeyed God’s only commandment, and did not taste its fruit. As long as Adam’s choice was to obey God, the creation surrounding Adam remained very good.
But when Eve and then Adam chose to disregard God’s commandment and partake of the only thing in the garden that was forbidden them, the paradise that God created for them was lost and they fell into another world. They could no longer live in a reality where everything was only good, because suddenly, within them now resided not only the knowledge of good, but also of evil.
As soon as Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit, they realized that they were naked, and for the first time they experienced shame, and hurried to cover themselves.
Then they heard God walking in the garden, and for the first time they experienced guilt, and rushed to hide.
When God asked them what they had done, for the first time, they pointed fingers of blame.
Scripture says that the tree from which God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It wasn’t that the tree bore “evil fruit,” but that eating the fruit from that tree would give the eater a specific kind of knowledge.
Can you see that once Adam and Eve made the choice to disobey God, the knowledge of evil entered their hearts and sin itself immediately began to multiply? 
As they moved further into sin, they moved further away from intimacy with God until it became necessary for God to remove them from their original location.
Paul wrote about his personal struggle with sin in Romans chapter 7, and The Message translation puts it this way:
“Don’t you remember how it was? I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of ‘forbidden fruit’ out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel” (Romans 7:8-11).
God specifically cautioned Adam that on the day he ate of the forbidden fruit he would surely die in Genesis 2:17, and Romans 6:23 confirms that the result of sin is death.
When satan, the enemy of our souls, deceived Adam and Eve into breaking God’s only commandment, he seduced them and all the generations after them into a condition of “sin-death” that has corrupted everything around us. As a result of their choice to disobey God, Adam and Eve were banished from paradise into a world that was ruined and broken by sin.
That is the world that we occupy today.
It is not the world that God originally designed to house his creation. However, it has been allowed to continue by God, in order that we would have a classroom within which to learn the knowledge of both good and evil and the struggle that exists between them as two opposing principles.
Shortly after the fall, Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. In the course of time, both sons of Adam brought offerings to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected the offering of Cain, and Cain was very angry (Genesis 4).
God said to Cain, “…’Why are you angry…? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it’” (4:6-7 ESV).
Soon afterward, jealous Cain murdered his innocent brother Abel.
This pattern of God presenting mankind with a choice between good and evil and the tendency of human beings to reject God’s will and choose evil has repeated itself since the time of the fall.
Over the years I have heard people respond to the question of why God allows sin and suffering with the answer that when God created human beings, he created us with free will so that ultimately we could make the choice to love and obey God of our own volition and not as automatons. God endowed us with free will, so that we would use our free will to choose God’s way over satan’s way. And this answer is true. God did endow us with the power to choose, and his desire is for us to choose him out of a pure heart.
However, we must put that understanding in context.
Because of the choice made by Adam and Eve and their subsequent fall, every human being since then has been born into a world that is designed to highlight the struggle between good and evil.
Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit because they wanted something that they did not have, and that something was knowledge. The knowledge not just of unpolluted good, but the knowledge of both good and evil. Therefore, in response to their desire for that knowledge, God created this world to be a classroom and in this classroom the knowledge we gain is not just an idea or a concept. In it we come to understand the interplay of the forces of good and evil through hard-won experience. Because the knowledge that Adam and Eve chose to pursue was real, the experience required to gain it must also be real and therefore we experience the effects of sin directly.
But please keep in mind that even though the world we occupy is broken and the lessons are difficult, God has not left us alone and he hasn’t left us as orphans. He knows that in this world we will have tribulation, but he has already given us his plan to overcome the world and he helps us to endure through trials and suffering.
“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 MSG).
We will continue in Part Three.

The Problem of Evil and Suffering: Part One – It’s Ok to Have Questions.

One of the big questions people ask about God is “Why does a loving God allow pain, suffering and evil to exist in the world?” Or, when faced with an insurmountable tragedy a suffering person may ask, “Why did God allow this to happen to me and my loved ones?”
Why do bad things happen to good people? And why don’t bad things happen to bad people? Where is God when bad things happen? Can an all-powerful God still be loving when he allows people to suffer?
Beloved Friends, it isn’t wrong to ask these kinds of questions. God wants us to come to him and ask about everything that concerns us. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8 ESV).
God wants us to seek him and he invites our questions. Even the hard ones. He not only wants us to ask and seek but when we do, he also wants to give us answers. Most often his answers come to us as direct revelation through his Word. Sometimes he reveals his truths through pastors, teachers, friends and counselors. Many times, his answers unfold only through time and experience and require the application of our patience to bloom into wisdom. As we mature, we realize that God’s answers are deeper and wider than we ever imagined as over the years he reveals more and more of his character to us.
In this series, we will explore some of these difficult questions, and the plan that God put in place from before the beginning of the world to help us cope with suffering in our lives today.
As Jesus said to his disciples, “…I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world” (John 16:33b MSG).
Please stay tuned for Part Two.

A Year of Blessings!

All of us here at Speak Comfort want to say thank you so very much to you, our readers, who fellowship, worship, and study with us. Our first year has been wonderful because of you.  We love each one of you. It is such a blessing and privilege to be part of your lives in this way.
My precious friend Jeanette and I could not have built and tended this beautiful site without our extremely talented web development team. We thank God for their expert help every day. We are constantly amazed by everything they do behind the scenes to make this work.
Our aim and prayer are to bring you the best possible content.  We hope to create some wonderful additions during the next few months, so please stay tuned!
Above all else, we give praise and thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for every blessing that he pours into every one of our lives. Our desire is to serve you for his glory.
We pray for you every day, in Jesus’ name!
The Lord bless you and keep you;
 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 ESV)

How to Thrive Through the Struggle: Have a Snack and a Nap.

Elijah is one of the most famous prophets of the Old Testament. 1 Kings chapter 18 tells the story of how he called on God to defeat the prophets of Baal who served the wicked Queen Jezebel and King Ahab. When Elijah called on God saying, “’Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back [to you]’” (1 Kings 18:37 ESV), God sent fire from heaven to obliterate the altar Elijah built on Mount Carmel while all of Israel stood by, amazed.
After this great victory which caused the Israelites to abandon pagan worship and proclaim “’The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God!’” (1 Kings 18:39 ESV), the enraged Jezebel vowed to murder God’s prophet. Exhausted from his mighty labors, Elijah fled into the wilderness and hid himself under a broom tree, crying out to God, “…’It is enough, now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers’” (1 Kings 19:1-4 ESV).
Have you ever been so worn out from serving that even after experiencing a wonderful success you were just too tired to go on and felt that you wanted to quit? Have you ever cried out to God and said, “Lord, I love you, but I just can not handle another thing”? Or maybe simply cried out, “Help me, Jesus!” when you felt you couldn’t manage to take another step in the direction the Lord was leading you?
If so, Beloveds, you are not alone. Think of Elijah, who suffered from prophetic burn-out; Naomi, the mother-in-law who wanted to change her name to “bitterness” (Ruth 1:20); John the Baptist, losing his cool before he lost his head in prison (Matthew 11:1-6); and Martha, who worked her fingers to the bone, threw her sister Mary under the bus and fussed at Jesus for being so hard to serve (Luke 10:38-42). Even Solomon, the most powerful king and wisest man in the world, wrote the book of Ecclesiastes to remind us that though there is a time for everything in its season, nevertheless life is full of vanity and there’s nothing new under the sun.
But listen, here’s how God responded to Elijah’s desperate plea:
“And [Elijah] lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again” (1 Kings 19:5-6 ESV).
God sent an angel from heaven with a hot meal and plenty of fresh water, and after Elijah ate and then slept for a while, God sent the angel again…
“And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’  And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God (v. 7-8).
Beloved Friends, God knows that there will be times when the journey is too hard for us to manage. When the broken roads we sometimes travel seem too long and full of potholes, God wants us to come to him to be nourished and refreshed.
Our Creator knows that it’s important for us to make time to eat and rest. We need spiritual food that we find in the Word of God, and we also need earthly food. We need spiritual rest and we need earthly rest.
As Jesus walked beside the sea of Galilee, a great multitude of the lame, blind and sick came to him to be healed. “Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way’…and Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven, and a few small fish’…he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over” (Matthew 15:32,34,36-37 ESV).
Of course, this story of the miracle of Jesus feeding four thousand men, in addition to women and children, with just a few loaves and fishes is a Bible study all its own. But notice here that Jesus took the earthly bread that his followers brought to him and through it manifested heavenly food for the crowds. Jesus pulled bread from the storerooms of heaven to feed his people. God sent an angel with bread and water to feed his prophet Elijah.
God is the source of our heavenly food and our earthly food, and he wants to provide for us everything we need to strengthen us for the journey ahead. He knows that earthly life can be difficult and that sometimes it is too hard for us to handle.
But Jesus said, “I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
Jesus is the Word of God, and the Word of God is fresh bread and pure water, straight from heaven, that nourishes our souls and our spirits.
God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, and he gives us all good things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).
So when you feel exhausted, like Elijah; or you’re starting to feel a little bitter, like Naomi; or you want to blame everybody around you because you’re working too hard, like Martha, it’s time to stop, eat a good meal and get some rest. Then pick up your Bible and let God feed your spirit. Jesus doesn’t want to send us away hungry. He wants us to be strong and rested for the journey, because he doesn’t want us to miss out on any of the treasures that he has hidden for us along the way. After all, Elijah ultimately got to take a ride in God’s chariot (2 Kings 2:11).
But even with all the miracles he witnessed, what he really needed to keep going was a snack and a nap.

How to Thrive Through the Struggle: Keep Your Lamps Filled With Oil.

The twenty fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel begins like this: ‘“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise”’ (v. 1-2 ESV).
Doesn’t that sound like the beginning of a very exciting story? It certainly is, and one of the things that make this parable of the wise and foolish virgins especially thrilling is that Jesus told it to his disciples as an illustration of what he had prophesied would happen at the end of days as told in Matthew chapter 24.
Even though because of the chapter headings the prophecy and parables seem to stand alone, they are really part of one continuous dialog. The parables that Jesus taught in Matthew 25 were told to illustrate the prophecy recorded in Matthew 24.
Notice that verse 1 of chapter 25 opens with the word “Then.” This indicates that Jesus is prophesying not only about his own time, but also about a future time. These parables in fact were written as a warning and admonition not only to Israel of Jesus’ day but for the Church in ours. They provide us with a roadmap for behavior as the Body of Christ in the final days of the 2000-year Church Age.
 Jesus begins the parable of the wise and foolish virgins by telling us that all the virgins were going to meet the bridegroom. The Church Universal is the Bride of Christ as described in Ephesians 25:22,28b, 32: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior…He who loves his wife loves himself. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (ESV). Therefore, the Bridegroom that the virgins in the parable were waiting for was Jesus, himself.
He recounted that the five foolish virgins had their lamps but took no oil with them, but the five wise virgins had flasks full of oil for their lamps (25:4). Proverbs 20:27 tells us that the spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, but it isn’t really the lamp itself that illuminates, but the flame, that is fed by the oil that is in the lamp. The lamp is a vessel for the oil, and the oil provides the fuel for the illuminating fire.
The Church is the vessel that is intended to be filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit that sustains the passionate flame of God’s love for his eternal Bride.
“As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’  And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:5-10 ESV).
The foolish virgins didn’t understand that they couldn’t “borrow” the Holy Spirit from the wise, nor could they “purchase” him in the marketplace. They had not personally received the infilling of the Holy Spirit directly from heaven, and so their lamps were going out. They couldn’t sustain the fire of their love for God “with their own oil” or in their own strength.
“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you’” (25:11).
After the Last Supper and before his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told his disciples that he would send another Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, to abide with us forever. He also stated that his disciples would know the Holy Spirit because he would come to live within us, but that the world would neither receive him nor know him (John 14:16-17).
When we become fascinated by and filled with the things of the world, we don’t leave any room in our lamps for the Holy Spirit, and without his abiding presence, the blaze of God’s love cannot continuously burn within us. Our spirits are simply too weak to sustain the fiery power of his love for us. We must have the Holy Spirit, married to our spirits, so that our lamps are continuously filled with precious oil.
The parable concludes with Jesus instructing his disciples to “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (v. 13).
We don’t know the day or the hour that the call will sound that the Bridegroom is coming for his Bride. But even if that call comes in the middle of a dark night, and even if we have fallen asleep while we are waiting if we are filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, when the Light of the World calls us home we will be ready to meet him.

How to Thrive Through the Struggle: Come to the Well.

I know that there are many of you reading this from all over the world, and that our lifestyles and customs can be very different. I speak for myself and, I’m sure, for my sweet friend Jeanette and our entire Speak Comfort team when I say that as we think about you, when we pray for you, and while Jeanette and I write to you – even though we haven’t met yet face to face - we hold you in our hearts as one family in Christ, from every tribe, and nation and tongue (Revelation 5:9; 14:9).
Although the circumstances and places that we occupy are different, we are one Body, having partaken of the same Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), and our Father in heaven sees us as the Body of Christ, composed of many members, each with a divine calling and purpose.
As Jeanette mentioned in her wonderful post, “Shalom In The Midst Of Chaos”, often times she and I will write articles for you that miraculously wind up being on the same topic, not because we discuss it ahead of time but because we are writing “in the same Spirit.”
I’ll give you a little peek behind the screen and confess that sometimes I beat myself up a little bit because I don’t post as often as I imagine you would like me to, or even as often as I want to, but neither Jeanette nor I are in charge of how often we post, not because we are so busy (even though we totally are!) but because we’re not in charge of this process, Jesus is!
And so when I sit down to write as I’m doing now, it’s after the Holy Spirit has put me through his paces for a week or so, to get me ready to post what he wants to say to you. For example, I put together the image for this post on July 19, and I’m writing the content for the article today, July 29.
In between I’ve been focusing on you, praying for you, talking with the Holy Spirit, and anticipating the moment when my schedule would open up, the light would shine through, the angels would sing and the Holy Spirit would say – “You’re ready! You’re set! Now GO!” – and I would sit down and start typing! Hallelujah!
And before I do, I always begin by asking the Holy Spirit, “Lord, what do you want to say to your readers? What do you want them to know?” because this blog is for each one of you, to bring you the love of Christ, personally. It’s not about me, it’s about him and you.
 Two thousand years ago, Jesus sent out his disciples to walk out his mission for them using the most advanced technology of their time, which was the Roman roads and the shipping lanes. Today, we let our fingers do the walking via the most advanced technology of our day – the www. of the WorldWideWeb – because God never lets any opportunity to reach his beloved ones go to waste, and he will use every tool available in every age to get his love to you.
Ten days ago, when I put together the image for this post, I got it that the “flash” of the firework is pretty cool, and it’s July in the US, when we celebrate our Independence Day – but I wondered, why does the Holy Spirit want me to use the words that connect us with social media? Is it about news? Yes. But it’s about more than that.
In this world today we are becoming more and more “pseudo-connected” to each other through information that flashes around the world in less than a second. But it seems that the faster information travels between us the less connected we become, and the more time technology seems to give us, the less time we actually have to just stop and hear ourselves think.
So after saying all that, here’s what the Lord wants you to know…As the Body of Christ, we are all connected through his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the original “internet”, where God’s Spirit plugs in to our individual spirits, and brings us together as one family and one body.
Listen to how the Message translation describes this connection to God and each other through the Holy Spirit:
 “You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
How about that! God says that everything that he calls us to do is permeated with oneness. Oneness with him, and with each other, through his Holy Spirit.
And now, here’s the Newsflash! Where the pseudo-connectedness of social media can make us feel more isolated the more connected we seem to become, the gift of our spiritual connectedness that we receive through the Holy Spirit is designed by our Creator to connect us with the limitless source of his guidance, peace, power and protection – and to connect us with each other, as we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
If you’re anything like me, you never go anywhere without your phone. And I mean, in the bathroom, on the bedside table, in the car, the office, the kitchen, the yard – it’s like an appendage!
But even so that connection never satisfies. In fact, it tends to create cravings that constantly need to be filled, and re-filled, and filled again and again. (I’m looking at you, Instagram, Amazon, Candy Crush!) And seriously, if we are dealing with an artificial craving that constantly needs to be re-filled, then isn’t that something draining us of precious energy?
This is where the good news comes in. Beloveds, God is good. All the time. And he wants to fill us, and re-fill us, with his goodness. God wants to pour his goodness into us, constantly. He wants us to taste and see that he is good (Psalm 34:8), and he wants us to develop a craving for the bounty that is waiting for us at his table. God does not drain us dry – he fills us full (Psalm 23).
Like the woman wanting to fill her empty vessel in John chapter 4, Jesus is waiting to meet us at the well, to fill us with Living Water, so that we never become thirsty for connectedness again. That lady had been looking for love in all the wrong places, until she met Love, Himself. And guess what, she didn’t have to earn it, deserve it and she wasn’t even expecting it, but when the time was right, Love came to find her.
And right now, wherever you are, the time is right, and Love, Himself, is waiting for you.
Set aside your empty vessel and receive what the Holy Spirit wants to pour into you. Jesus is closer than your phone, and he is ringing the bell of your heart. God is good. We can trust him. And as Jesus said to our sister at the well:
“…’Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life’” (John 4:13-14 MSG).

Man on the Moon: 1969 – 2019

Did you know that before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon fifty years ago, the Apollo 11 astronauts celebrated holy communion in space?
For more details on how this wonderful event took place, as well as how the world gathered together in one accord to pray for the safety of the crew of Apollo 13 and how the presence of God continued to touch the lives of the astronauts who journeyed into the vastness beyond earth's atmosphere, we hope you enjoy Paul Strand’s article “'Let There Be Light': How God Kept Appearing Over and Over During America's Missions to the Moon” at:
https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2019/july/let-there-be-light-how-god-kept-appearing-over-and-over-during-americas-missions-to-the-moon
God bless you and all the courageous men and women who inspire us by going where no one has gone before.

How to Thrive Through the Struggle: Hope in God.

Does anybody else out there feel like life’s struggles have exploded off the charts recently? Little things, big things, medium things, relationship things, money things, health things, work things, all kinds of things - shaking, breaking, turning upside down and inside out - all-of-a-sudden and when you least expect it? Lord have mercy! Help us, Jesus!
What in the world is going on? Well, Beloved Friends, God only knows for sure, but here’s an end-times prophecy = It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better (See the book of Revelation, chapters 5 – 20), because God’s ultimate plan is to make all things new and set all things right. But before he can do that, he’s going to have to stir some things up to get all the cobwebs out of the corners and out from under all the sofas and flush out what needs to be cleaned up and cleared away. There’s a mighty restoration project going on behind the scenes, and it’s kicking up a lot of dust.
Paul saw this coming when he wrote in Hebrews 12:26-27, “When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: ‘Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.’ This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain” (NLT).
Now hang on, nobody panic. It’s all going to be ok for everyone who is in Christ Jesus. And for everyone who’s not here yet, come on in and come as you are, because there is plenty of room in the kingdom of God for everyone who accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The point of needing a savior is that nobody but God is perfect. He will make a way for you. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ESV). God is good. We can trust him.
We who are in Christ have hope and help in unstable times. “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:9-10 NIV).
And I love how the Message translation puts it: “God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you’re never sorry you knocked.”
And you’re never sorry that you opened the door of your heart when Jesus knocks: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20 ESV).
The world is coming apart at the seams because it is like an old garment, and God is making a way to finally make all things new (Mark 2:21; Revelation 21:3-5). But this restoration project takes time, and for a little while we are still in the midst of the shaking and sometimes we feel battered by everything that’s happening in the world today. Because let’s be real, it seems out of control, it’s depressing, it’s annoying, it can be dangerous and scary, and it just feels too darn hard to deal with. (Can I get a witness?)
But listen Beloveds, God knew it would be this way, and that it would feel like this. This is why he sent his Son, and why Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to abide with us forever. We are not alone. And God never intended for us to face the struggles of life alone, because in Christ, God has given us hope.
Our Comforter, the Holy Spirit, instructed the prophet Jeremiah to write this for us: “I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 GW).
God didn’t bring us this far to only bring us this far. God has already made a plan to give us a future filled with hope. And that future doesn’t stop at the borders of this life but extends through the veil into an eternity filled with peace and joy in his presence. God is upholding us with his powerful right hand, and he intends to see to it that he receives all the glory due his name by demonstrating his love for his children, the beauty of his grace and the purity of his righteousness. Even when we stumble, he will not let us fall, and even when we are afraid, he never lets go of our hands to lead us out of the darkness and into his glorious light. And Beloved Ones, you can believe it, and you can rest in it, because God promised it and he cannot lie.
As Paul wrote to the Hebrews that God confirmed by an oath that cannot be broken, to we who are the heirs of the promise, “…so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf…” (Hebrews 6:18-20 ESV), as our Savior, High Priest and Advocate.
So Beloveds, even when the world is falling apart, even when it’s difficult and everything seems crazy, and especially when it’s so hard that we feel like giving up – let not your hearts be troubled, because God has got this. And not only has God got this, but God has got you. And me. And each one of us, who have been redeemed by the precious Blood of Jesus Christ, who is the most powerful being in the universe. God is Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. We can trust God and confidently place our hope in him in these troubled times. He will lead us through every struggle and into his promise of a future filled with the joyful realization of good things to come.