“For it is time to seek the Lord” Hosea 10:12

The Body of Christ is suffering greatly in every way, from violent onslaughts to emotional trauma, grief and anguish.   Some cry out to be rescued, others must pray for ways to reach them.  Many brethren suffer silently in personal turmoil and grief.  The spiritual darkness upon the world is alive, strategic, and bearing fruit.  Within our cultures and in our personal lives, we are suffering the wages of sin.  Endurance, healing, renewal and hope are the rare treasures of our day.  The world conjures up programs, pharmaceuticals, therapies and mantras, yet can find no remedy for the sick and damaged soul.  Government, Education, Health and Welfare are futile venues for change – they are often the birthplace of ungodliness.  For believers to fight in worldly arenas is like attacking a fire-breathing dragon with a toothpick.  Nothing less than the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit can enable us to “shine like stars” in this “depraved generation” and enlarge God’s Kingdom in this world.  “Apart from Me”, Jesus said, “you can do nothing”.       

To ‘take a stand’ we must decidedly face one direction, one centered focus aligning our feet, our mind and heart.  With our “hand to the plow” we cannot look back (Luke 9:62) whether it is to the world, to our losses, to deep and bitter wounds, or even joyous days past.  The runner looking back will stumble and fall, forfeiting his prize.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”

Our clarity, discernment, and wisdom are found in this singular focus and commitment.  Supernatural healing, renewal, and hope are found within the pages of the Bible – the living book that reveals the power of God and imparts it within us.  This is not unreachable.  The presence of God becomes more evident as we shut down every distraction and humbly offer Him due honor and worship.  He is faithful, worthy to seek with all our heart and wait upon with expectation, “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”   What an encouragement to know that the Holy Spirit- Who spoke the world into creation – continues to speak through the living and unchanging Word of God, through the authority of godly leadership and personally into our hearts as we cry out to Him in our own ‘prayer closet’.

‘Looking unto Jesus’ is not a call to gaze at portraits, crucifixes, or spiritual images that yield little outside of emotional comfort.  It is an active search to find and grasp ahold of the revelations of Jesus Christ in the Bible and let Him speak these truths into our lives.  As believers in Christ we are His Body, the vessels He calls into obedience, to indwell and glorify Him on earth.

We can find Jesus from Genesis to Revelation, He is revealed to us in every Book of the Bible.  Online searches of the revelations of Christ, Old Testament to New Testament may provide some insight for Bible study.  The circumstances of our life, often painful and bewildering, are often ordained to open doors of faith within us and reveal to us the power of Christ in our needs.  Within our trials and grief we find Him, “a hiding place” of fellowship and intimacy with God Himself.  Our faith in the fire testifies of Christ as the Good Shepherd, Defender, Healer, Prince of Peace and Wonderful Counselor as we cry out to Him from our wilderness, in our afflictions, and during turmoil and onslaughts.

For the Body of Christ, knowing Him is central – all else is peripheral.

‘The author and finisher of our faith…”  The literal translation of this verse (Hebrews 12:2) from original transcripts does not include the word ‘our’ but does include a definite article before ‘faith’: ‘the faith’.  From the original Greek wordage, ‘author’ might translate as:  creator/trailblazer/leader.  While modern translations insert ‘our’ into the text to personalize this faith, Bible studies such as the Bible Hub Commentaries offer notes on a more literal translation:  Jesus, the ‘first’ (Captain/Leader) and the Last (Completer/Victor) of the faith.   Jesus leads an army of faith.  Fix our eyes on Jesus, He is the Creator, Leader and Commander of the faith and as He accomplished triumphant victory so shall He lead us.  

Our greatest challenge - taking our eyes off the world and our circumstances to look upon Him with faith

Our greatest challenge – taking our eyes off the world and our circumstances to look upon Him with faith (Amedee Varint painting)

As the dividing line between believers and unbelievers widens, carnal Christians will be forced to take sides, either validating compromise or choosing to stand upon the unchanging Word of God.  As this world spins quickly toward Judgment, a fire-tested remnant will persevere and stand to testify of God’s faithfulness.  Let us be counted among them, strengthening and encouraging one another as we fix our eyes on Him.

  “But my eyes are fixed on You, O Sovereign Lord; in You I take refuge”                                     

(Psalm 141:8)   

Walking Through the Fire, Through the Flood and Through the Rainbow Parades

When, years ago, I first heard the traditional hymn, “I need thee, Lord I need thee, Every hour I need thee…” I thought it sentimental and adoring but really wondered, do they really need the Lord every hour? After all, unbelievers make it through an hour, the whole day – many their whole lives – prospering and content without the Lord.  In fact, they shun His interference.  However, as a believer in Christ, this hymn has become a frequent personal anthem. “Every hour” speaks deeply to those of us who decidedly follow Jesus.  The closer we follow Jesus, the more we need him.  As A.W. Tozer describes, this world is ‘not our playground but our battlefield’.  And, within this battle ground, the Lord has one strategy for victory:  walk in obedience and total dependence to Him.

“Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus walked.”  1 John 2:6

It is in this great Scriptural challenge – “walk” – where we often slip, trip, and fall.


In the fire and in the flood, we want relief and deliverance – we are anxious to run and make things happen.  When the flood of sin rises higher, when “good becomes evil and evil becomes good” ” many Christians plan, strategize and gear up to protest and rally.  It is a prideful delusion that draws Christians to believe that the world can change through political, social or economic arenas.  The great danger is this:  we may miss the anointing that God would bestow upon us, the “good works which He planned in advance for us to do”.

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  (Micah 6:8)

When the world around us or the personal world within us is crashing how can we walk like Jesus walked, humbly with our God?  It is easy to be sickened and shocked by grievous violence, pervasive immorality, and increasing apostasy.  But let us not be as those outside Noah’s ark, shocked when the rain began! Those who study the Word may be grieved but not shocked – we are witnesses to the prophecies that the Lord Himself proclaimed.

“Get into this Word and get this Word into you!” remains the cry of 90 year old Pastor Ben Crandall.  Walk into the Word of God, take time to digest, meditate and hear from the Lord. We are purposefully placed amidst this dark world and, step by step our mind and hearts will be renewed and strengthened from the Word.  Discernment and godly instruction often challenge and override the ‘good’ ideas and inclinations of our fleshly nature.  Jesus declared in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Now, more than ever, the Body of Christ needs to rise up as His Body.  Jesus may not lead us to the White House lawn but He may be preparing us to meet the woman at the well.  Legislation will never change our culture or the course of this world, it is as foolish as investing in a foreclosed bank.  The sad truth is, many Christians have befriended this world and now strongly ‘push back’ at the thickening darkness.  “Friendship with the world is hatred toward God” – we are not called to improve this world but separate ourselves from it.  

It is through separation that we gain spiritual strength.  We will not change the world but will have divine anointing as we walk through it in Christ’s shadow.  “Walking humbly with our God” is a divine call onto a path where He touches the sick, speaks life to the brokenhearted, and opens doors for those in bondage.  To ‘walk like Jesus walked’ is to walk in divine appointment – not knowing whom we might touch and the eternal difference it makes.

The Lord seems to overlook the influential, the politically endowed, and those with celebrity status to find the weakest, most insignificant, and unknown.  Those with a heart to obey are fully qualified. We can never renew or revive this world in any way but we can be vessels of honor in service of Most High God as He renews and revives the hearts of man for all eternity.

These are the last days before Christ returns as Judge.  Time is short and we must be in step.  The devil isn’t moved by campaigns or product boycotts.  We can boycott the whole world, if it were possible, and it wouldn’t add anything to the Kingdom of God.  The devil trembles, he loses ground, when we decide to really pray, to study God’s Word and walk humbly with Him through this world.  Along that lighted path, doors open and hearts change as people meet Christ their Savior.

Let us walk together in unity, close behind Jesus Christ through the fire, in the flood, and across the ‘rainbow parades’ in step with Him as He reaches out to those who would receive Him, those who would be set free.


From threshing, to rising, to the offering of bread…
(c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Grain is crushed for bread, but one does not thresh it forever…” (Isaiah 28:28)

While suffering, even threshing and crushing, comes equally to the lives of believers and unbelievers, those who follow Christ have great assurance through their trials, a two prong anchor: your suffering has purpose and its intensity and duration is divinely measured. It does not seem so under the weight of grief and loss, moreover, this assurance itself does not lift the darkness of torment, depression or fear. Truth is an anchor onto which we must fasten ourselves –  it does not stop the storm but sustains us to the end of it.

“Crushed for bread” is a Christian truism rarely preached in the western world. It does not fit well into much of the gospel entertainment and prosperity that prevails in many church circles. When the Lord allows, designs and orchestrates, threshing and crushing in our lives it assaults our fleshly thinking, our human comforts, our health and sense of security – sometimes all at the same time. It does not seem loving nor merciful. In fact, it may cause the deepest questions of ‘love’, ‘mercy’ and ‘God’ to arise in our soul. Yet Lord stands by the cries of anguish and even accusation – He will prove faithful if we decidedly hold fast to the anchor.

But why the fire? Why the pummeling pain of betrayal, disappointment, and confusion? Why the shaken ground, the void of peace – why indeed!

Like grain, we are shaken to remove chaff, threshed to make bread. Challenging our comfort, even all we have built as security and surety in our lives, as threshed wheat we are mixed for kneading and shaping – which leads us into a fiery furnace! While we desperately seek to dull the pain, find any exit, or extinguish the fire the Lord’s purpose remains – to reveal Himself to us in the furnace. The threshing floor and fiery furnace are painful places where divine opportunity is ever present: we can walk by faith in the strength of the Holy Spirit, surrender and defer to the Lord’s leading, and depend on Him to deliver us. If the Christian life is indeed supernatural, the Lord will shake all our natural strengths and prove them deficient.

But how do we survive through, even rise up and come forth from these trials?

Be honest with God. Forget the brave veneers, scriptural and religious clichés, and reverent formalities. Let go. “I can’t take this! ….Help me, Lord, I am sinking!…I’m not going to make it through…” Unburden your heart with expectancy and start the journey through the fire. Share your burden with brethren and spiritual authority, an elder or pastor. Consider support of godly counsel and intervention. Central to deliverance though – learn to shut in with God, unhurried and undistracted.

Study the sovereignty of God. Immerse yourself prayerfully in the Word of God and the testimonies of the ordinary men and women who fell prey to evil men, suffered great loss, were wrongly accused, deeply betrayed, tormented, grieved, anguished…yet found their pain and darkness counted greatly in the Kingdom of God. Beckon the Holy Spirit to speak through the Word to your heart, write down the very scriptures that challenge your fears, your doubts, your grief, and overwhelming powerlessness. Memorize them and decidedly dare to stand upon them in faith, they are your protective shield and winning sword. (Ephesians 6:16,17)

Decide to worship. “The sacrifice of praise” becomes a deep and meaningful as we willfully worship God even as our hearts fail from brokenness and fear. It is costly praise, valued by the Lord, a worship that declares, “Yes, I am miserable/in pain/fearful and anxious/crushed and heartbroken…but you are still God, sovereign over all and worthy of worship.” Powerful tactics of Satan, magnifying points of anguish and highlighting every possible disastrous outcome, begin to wane as we magnify the Lord and shift our thinking toward His promises of victory. Read aloud, even sing the Psalms as a battle cry.  A pastor once admonished, instead of “Set me free and I’ll worship you” resolve to “worship Him and He’ll set you free”.

Seek God’s Purpose. What is He threshing, separating, out of your life…what is He kneading into your life? What of Himself does He choose to reveal? Keep asking, keep seeking – believe that the Lord will draw near to us as we draw near to Him, “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”. What is His purpose for your suffering? As Pastor David Wilkerson often preached, “Don’t waste your afflictions!” Our suffering can produce valuable assets to the Kingdom of God, preparing our vessels for God’s Spirit to flow through and reach others who may be floundering in a dark miry pit.

Broken to be shared

Broken to be shared

Wheat must be threshed for flour, kneaded and molded for the fire and, finally, broken to be shared. When hardship and turmoil come, when emotional trauma strikes and pierces with multilayer pain, let us grasp the ‘two prong anchor’ and build on this foundational promise. Let us cry out to the Lord, seek godly avenues of wisdom and support. Decidedly worship, let your spirit gain strength as the Lord inhabits your praise. Above all, do not give up. Let us resolve that, even before threshing comes, we will stand and press on with the certainty that sovereign God will produce in us that which has eternal value.

When God Unleashes the Giants

Trials and tribulations are not giants, neither is a tumultuous storm. You will know a giant firstly by the fruits of his intimidation. Personal and deliberate, a giant arises and challenges us, often during times of calm and complacency. Like a snake bite with stored venom, a giant can surprise us with hostility.

A giant threatens to corner us....

Giants threaten to corner us….

When interference and confusion, even aggression, stand against us in our workplace, our marriage, our home, or ministry – a restrained enemy is allowed by God, even raised up and unleashed by God, with great purpose. It is God who leads us right into the battle. In doing so, the Lord sets the perimeters, determines the outcomes, and reveals Himself as defender and deliverer, One who will not fail those who trust in Him.

This truth is personified throughout Biblical accounts as God’s people, often at their weakest, must confront enemies with disproportionate strength, power, and arrogance. Moses, an elderly shepherd, became the perfect pick of God to confront an oppressive world power (Exodus 3). Unwilling and intimidated, Moses was led to the giant, surrendering to God’s supernatural power and purpose which infamously demonstrated:  no earthly or spiritual power can prevail over the weakest vessel led by God.  Later, in Numbers 13, as God pointed the Israelites to their promised land of abundance and beauty, we see the Israelites defeated by their unbelief, cowering in the shadow of giants. Their unfaithfulness slandered God as insufficient and the barren desert thus became their grave. Only Joshua and Caleb rightly gauged the power of God and gained the victory. And who, of any faith, hasn’t heard of David and Goliath?

Whether the battle consists of gigantic opposition or deceitful calculated attack, Satan instigates and influences those around us to intimidate and harm us personally, robbing our peace and confidence and stirring up flurries of fear and anxiety. Giants come with an aura and, after an initial sting, they will find any means to enlarge the threat and overshadow the arsenal of strength we have in the Lord. What is the true target in these attacks of harassment, intimidation, unprovoked hostility and slander? By raising up our flesh and weakening our faith, we become useless to purposes of God, we may lose God given ground in our life and, ultimately, dishonor the glory of an unfailing God.

And God unleashes, leads us to, such an opponent? Why?

God declared to Pharaoh, “…I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  And God, who does not change, stands ready to show Himself strong on our behalf to deliver us when, not if, attacks come upon us.

Spiritual battles target the heart and soul of the believer…and God allows them to do so. Satan inspires with a  tool box of deceit, slander, unprovoked hostility,malice, confusion and division.  When attack  comes and threatens to apprehend the God given ground in our lives, there are three possible strategies to pursue.  Firstly, we may retreat and suffer – grossly mistaking weakness, defeat and suffering for humility. Often we initially respond in the flesh, seeking support and sympathy, utilizing our own intellect, natural strengths and resources. The Lord reveals this maneuver as fleshly and futile, exalting self and disavowing His lordship; He  may well use the battle to reveal in us the state of our heart,  flushing out pride and self-sufficiency.

The only recourse that defies and confounds the wiles of the enemy is total surrender – total surrender to almighty God. Resisting temptations to repay hostility and malice and guarding our heart against resentment opens a place for God to speak His living Word into our soul. We cannot see clearly under the enemy’s shadow but under the shadow of the cross is light, strength, and victory. Our cover in the battle comes from separation – committed times of prayer and fasting – communing with the Lord who longs to reveal Himself as our deliverer.

Pray for the giants, they have lent themselves to dark influences to oppose God’s sheep. May God confound them and bring them to shame, leading them to repentance on this side of eternity.  And may God woo us to that place of separation, of dependence and deep communion, of confidence when we face a giant…

“Do not be afraid or discouraged… for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” (II Chronicles 32: 7-8).


Freedom: the great reward of surrendering to God.

Freedom: the great reward of surrendering to God.

RESENTMENT: “I Have a Right!”

Can you believe what they did to me?

Can you believe what they did to me?

Long before man invented the video, Satan himself perfected the art of rewind and replay. It seems reserved to replay acts done against us – betrayals and personal offenses – moral crimes that have somehow robbed us. Each time offenses are ‘replayed’ in our mind the details become sharper and more significant. Motives and intents emerge. The scenario worsens as offenders seem to go on with their lives, unscathed and unaffected, even prospering! Somehow, when our head hits the pillow, these acts of personal harm and indignation against us gain momentum and greater depth as accusations seem to find a megaphone.

A strong sense of self empowers resentment. In fact, it is the necessary fuel to feed the fire, “He did this to me??” It has been said, “Resentment is unfulfilled revenge”.
It is our perceived and asserted right to be offended which opens the flow of resentment and bitterness and, like a toxic river, will contaminate nearly every aspect of life. Without question, the human heart longs for relief, a salve or resolution for this harassment. Imaginary plots of revenge, even strong hopefulness of gross misfortune upon the offender, can create a semblance of relief. However, enacted ‘plots of revenge’ inevitably villainize us and wishing ‘gross misfortune’ never satisfies. Every heart challenge leads us to a fork, a place of choices, each with great consequence. Most will flow with the ways of the world, the sensibilities of self and remedies of self help galore.

There is a path rarely chosen, hardly even seen – at times only found in the dark. Narrow and difficult, unnatural to us, the one first trod upon by the Prince of Peace. This way alone holds deep healing and relief. No amount of resolve or energy can take us on this path – we embark through surrender – each step forward led and anointed by the Holy Spirit. Our world culture ‘self asserts’, ‘self defends and demands’ but the way of the cross declares….


“You have no rights”

By no means is this a rip off. It is an immeasurable trade up. We give up our rights, living for ourselves in this world, to follow Christ – and receive the indwelling of His life and His power. Our ordinary lives- mere earthen vessels – gain the potential of supernatural possibilities as the purposes of God live through us. “…we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that his all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (II Corin 4:7)

Every path, even in our thinking, has a final destination. Our sin nature – groomed and embellished by the world’s culture – will always lead us away from Christ, and like a thief, ‘will rob, kill and destroy’. The way of the cross, a supernatural path of self denial – is where we partake in Christ’s life, sharing in His riches and eternal Kingdom.

Resentment, and its inevitable seeds of bitterness and strife, threatens the fruits of Christ’s life within us. Bitterness and resentment are natural – our hearts are fertile and ready for planting – little work is needed to grow resentment! But the Word of God holds forth abundant life, life worth living, life that matters…life gained only through surrender. Repeated through the Gospels, Jesus beckons His followers, “Anyone who intends to come to me has to let me lead….Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self help is no help at all. Self sacrifice is the way, my way to saving yourself…” (Mark 8:35, The Message)

Jesus gave up His rights, His right as King and Judge, for ‘the joy set before Him’ – reconciling man to God. He washed the feet of His betrayer and all those who would forsake Him. Afterward, “The Lord Jesus on the night He was betrayed, took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat – this is my body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me…” (I Corin 11:23/24) Betrayed, yet He gave thanks.

Have you, have I, been betrayed? Rejected, wronged, used by others? Satan will rehearse and enlarge every offense in your mind and heart, sowing seeds of bitterness that grow deep and broad. Each seed will validate your right to resent, to hate, and avenge – every seed a weighty entanglement. But at every juncture stands the Savior, offering His indwelling power to forgive and be free. Forgiveness does not preclude justice or accountability. Forgiveness releases the debt, the offense, the indignation into the hand of a sovereign and Righteous Judge. It is He whom we must fear. And it is from Him we receive the power to forgive and the inner healing to restore peace.

Every path has a final destination…

The one led by Jesus Christ leads to eternal victory. While too narrow to carry baggage of bitterness, it is a path of freedom and release. “I surrender!” is the powerful prayer that starts the journey.

Useless Fire at The End of The Day

Preoccupation with self is blinding....

Preoccupation with self is blinding….

God warns of an unacceptable, contemptible ‘useless fire’ in the temple (Malachi 1:10).  It is a fire which burns an offering unfit for a King, a sacrifice that fails to honor, glorify and worship.      It is a blemished gift, leftover and superficial – without the cost of devotion.    

Burning fire, incense, sacrifices to the Lord were daily devotions in the temple.  These were acts of worship, repentance, and atonement.  In Leviticus 6:8-13, God sets forth this mandate for the priests, thrice commanding:  “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out”.  How is this relevant to us?  Speed forward to Christ. His atoning sacrifice on the cross tore the curtain of the temple from top to bottom (Mark 15:38), the old covenant now replaced with the new covenant, sealed with the blood of Christ, avails His salvation and indwelling Holy Spirit to all who would receive.  The Levitical priesthood abolished, true believers are now called “…a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (I Peter 2:9) Profound to consider, believers in Christ are now the temple of the living God, noted in I Corinthians 3:16 and elsewhere throughout the New Testament.  As God’s priest and temple, the mandate for us remains,

“The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out”.

The perpetual fire is the Holy Spirit – the offering is our self to God, our lives on the altar of God – “here am I Lord, live in me, live through me, I give you my life.”

Is the Holy Spirit bringing about the glory of God through our ordinary lives or is He a dwindling ember within us?  Our life given to God through daily sacrifice, the sacrifice of our will and our ways, holds the promise of God’s presence as we walk through this world.  

It is a sacrifice because it is difficult and unnatural.

What’s ‘natural’?   Separation from God.  It is natural to live for ourselves – to go where we choose, buy what we want, make our own plans.  Our natural place – at the center, at the helm, to reach and be reached at all times because what we have to say and know is very important.  A wide endless river, the culture of this world, flows to pump up the power of you.   Therein your fire is useless.   Wading in this river, ‘friendship with the world’, is hatred toward God (James 4:4).

Can we ‘unfriend’ the world?

We unfriend the world every time we kneel to pray and every time we open the Bible and our heart to God’s truths.  Through His temple, through our lives, God seeks to display His presence and greatness to the world – there is no higher calling.

The world calls and grooms us with a façade of power, tapping into our deepest instinct – to be our own god.  There are countless venues to converse, express, transmit, display and otherwise magnify ourselves.   At the end of the day though, we are empty – consumed by a useless fire.  The world cries “Have more! Do more! Improve yourself!” but the Lord admonishes, “No, put yourself on the altar – die to yourself – let Me live through you!”

God avails to us life that transcends the world’s empty clamor and façade. Sadly, many are content with powerless and useless fire – decidedly giving nothing of true value to God.   When we put our self on that altar- giving our lives and each day to God – we see the truth:  our temporary life, ebbing away each day, is no comparison to the eternal supernatural life He promises.  Every day is a new day to come to Him, exchange our life for His life, and let the fire of the Holy Spirit shine through our heart.  At the end of all days, a life lived for Jesus Christ will count for all eternity.

Does God Laugh?

brush over several cans

What we can find through any Bible concordance is this –  God laughs at His enemies. This, of course, is not funny but rather enlarges the truth that any nation or people that rise up against an almighty God are so foolhardy in doing so that it is truly laughable.

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His Anointed One…The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.”  (Psalm 2:2-4)

The Word of God declares here, and elsewhere, that man’s efforts to thwart God’s plans, escape His laws and judgments, are futile and vain.  Meditating on this truth will draw us further into a reverent fear and awe of God.

Not explicit in the Bible however is this: Does God have a sense of humor?  Is there ever a chuckle in a holy and awesome God?  I myself have sensed the laughter of the Lord on few occasions, most recently last week in my kitchen, as I stirred a gallon paint with chopsticks….

After 30 years, our tiny old kitchen, 12’x 8’, finally got the rehab it cried for.  I had no idea that beautiful granite, custom cabinets, and new fixtures could give me such pleasure!  Backsplash, ceramic tiles and accents all enhanced a wonderful color scheme.  However at the last touch the creative flow truly ran amuck…

“…the kitchen came out great!”  I shared, “the only task left is choosing a color for the walls.”

My co-worker shared her design secret, “Look at the granite and choose a color from it that will ‘pop out’ on the walls!”

‘Pop out’ sounded good.  Looking closely at the granite counter I could see sparse dots of blue.  “That’s it! Blue it is!”  With that contrast of color, I imagined my kitchen could impress as a sky with a rising or setting sun…

“Are you sure that’s the color you want?” asked the contractor when ordering the paint.

“Yes, it is” I confirmed.  Obviously, I thought,  contractors know little about ‘popping colors’.

When I arrived home to view my ‘sun rising kitchen’ I saw, in less than a second, that it was the worst color combination known to mankind.  All the pleasure of the kitchen was lost – I could hardly cook.  Immediate change was needed – pale yellow and fast.

Pale yellow worked well until a leak caused some damage to the ceiling and wall.  After repair, repainting was required.  Well, I figured, if pale yellow worked so well, let’s go bolder!

Paint job #3, ‘bolder yellow’, proved a mistake.  It overpowered the whole room.  I will repaint the kitchen myself, I concluded, to make this right.  ‘Tangerine Mist’ was recommended by a reliable source and I believed it –   until I painted it. At the first strokes my heart sank but I went into denial, “…this will look good once the whole kitchen is painted”.  Ha-ha.   No more sun-setting color popping bold kitchen – back to palest yellow as soon as possible.

I opened the can, color #5 and stirred with chopsticks…. “Hmm.  Actually,” I thought, “this doesn’t look like pale yellow.  Why does this look florescent?  No, it can’t be,” I decided, back in denial, “it will look good once it gets on the walls….”  While brushing and rolling I convinced myself it would look better once it dries.   After one wall I stood and stared at a yellow color that seemed to shout, “Stop! Go no further!”   Now bewildered, “How can this be?  How could one room be painted five times?”   It was not at all funny until later that night – it was hilarious.

Was God amused?  What does He – who created humor –  laugh at?  While stirring and gazing into that paint can, claiming ‘no, this is not possible’, I sensed the chuckle of God.  It might have been a hearty laugh when I stood back, with brush in hand, lamenting, “Oh no.  This even makes Tangerine Mist look good.”

Indeed the Lord holds a serious singular focus – declared from Genesis to Revelation – to reconcile and restore man unto Himself for eternity.  He opens His heart to the one surrendered, sharing from the depths of His passions – His grief, His anger, His love and mercy.  He speaks to our heart and speaks through His Word, renewing our mind and refreshing our soul.   Could laughter be one of His healing balms?  In those unexpected moments when we are surprised by humor, it may well be God laughing and inviting us in – to lift our heart, to change our view and move us forward.

Do Animals Go To Heaven?

"If only this were true for me too..."

“If only this were true for me too…”

Do Animals Go to Heaven?

After my beloved cat Remy died, I pondered this question at length.  A few days later,  while approaching a co-worker’s office,  I caught the end of her conversation with another.  They were apparently discussing heaven.

“Do animals go to heaven?   I always hope to see my dog there….”

“No,” was the reply, “They don’t go to heaven, they have no soul!”

What?  No soul?  I did not offer the objection that arose in my heart.  Obviously this sincere woman did not know Remy….nor the likes of Cookie, Scout, or Tina.  What about beautiful Kelly, our seeing eye dog, whose heart was solely bent on pleasing her family?  And Alison, her ‘co-worker’ who, in times of grief, could read my countenance and run to comfort me?  Alison….who, in her senior years of retirement, saved her family during a house fire…. no soul???

I began a Biblical search to grasp a broader understanding and, quite frankly, validate my hopes and own anticipation.  Animals are frequently present in the Bible, most often in a positive and purposeful way.  God is not indifferent to them at all, in fact He displayed His unmatched creative glory when He fashioned the animal kingdom.

The Lord’s overtures to animals are actually vast, from Genesis – where He ushered in every specie into an ark –   to the ‘lion and the lamb’, noted in scripture as present in His coming heavenly kingdom.   In the book of Numbers, chapter 22, God ‘opened the mouth’ of a donkey, letting him speak his mind to his rider Balaam.  It is obvious from this text that the donkey had more wisdom than his master.

God cares about animals, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.”  (Matthew 10:29)  “In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”  (Job 12:10)

We are but stewards of this earth and all that is upon it – God is the rightful owner of all, “….every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.”  (Psalm 50: 10-11) .  The Omnipotent and Omnipresent One knows every bird…while, according to National Geographic, man has yet to even identify 86% of earth’s species!

There is more in scripture to affirm that the Lord knows and cares for all his creation.   No Bible scholar would dispute these findings.  The question remains, do animals go to heaven?

Well known Christians such as Randy Alcorn and C.S. Lewis provide theological argument and insight supporting the presence of animals and/or pets in heaven.  Scripture describes the presence of animals, living in harmony, in God’s coming kingdom: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together….The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, the lion will eat straw like the ox….”  (Isaiah 11: 6-7)

If the soul is where the mind and emotion meet, where intellect and reason dwell, then yes, of course, animals have souls.  Who doubts their capacity to discern friend and foe, express emotions of love, anger and fear?  There is little doubt that animals communicate.  They grieve for lost members – do they not love?  Anyone with a beloved pet knows, they receive and give.  Delving deeper, do animals have a spirit?  Can they hear from God?

There are Biblical examples of animals hearing the call of God and obeying – at His call they came to the ark, at His call fish swam into nets.   They are created for the service and pleasure of man but owned and governed by their Master.  They live out the life designed by their Maker.

Jesus Christ provided forgiveness of sin to all who receive Him.  As “…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, Romans 3:23, we need a Savior.  The shed blood of Christ is the atoning sacrifice for all who come to Him in faith.  Through Jesus Christ we have salvation and life eternal,  “…God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”  I John 5:11.

What about animals?

Assuredly, the Son of God did not die for the eternal life of animals.  However, animals did not rebel against God.  Within Biblical teaching we can see that it is man who is born with a sinful nature, man who rebelled against God, man who is capable of every wretched sin conceived in the bowels of hell.  Assuredly, it is man who is in need of a Savior!  Above all, we must ask, are we reconciled with God, are we heaven bound?

We have a Savior, our Good Shepherd, who has prepared our way to eternity.  Much of what awaits for us there is a mystery.  Animals will surely dwell in the coming Kingdom of God – will Remy be there?  What about Cookie, Kelly, Scout?  Why not?

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”   (I Corinthians 2:9)

Crossing Over From Death to Life

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (Jesus Christ, John 5:24).  Death began in the Garden of Eden. God told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed His word, they would “surely die” Genesis 2:17.  Unbelief and rebellion brought spiritual death and separation from God.  “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men…” (Romans 5:12). The Bible clearly describes the ‘dead’ state of man’s soul due to his sinful nature:

“For every living soul belongs to me…The soul who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world….”  (Ephesians 2:1-2)
“When you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ”. (Colossians 2:13)

Common responses to this dead spiritual state are denial, compensation, and acknowledgement.  Lofty pride leads many to deny that they are spiritually dead and in need of God.  While ‘sin is sin’, pride is called the mother of all sin. The Bible states more than once that “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6) and “detests the proud” (Proverbs 16:6). “Pride goes before a fall”,  “Pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18) – this is the sin that aptly describes the fall of Satan from heaven to earth – and God’s proclaimed judgment upon him for hell.

As this judgment has yet to be enforced, Satan has a dominant influence over this world. He is known as the “The god of this age” who “has blinded the minds of unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4) This world is on a course, one which opposes the Word of God and ever increases man’s focus on himself, this temporal life and the ways of this world. God however, admonishes: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
Even so, heart and soul yearn for wealth, achievements, fame, status, and talent. Politics and nationalism are  a  captivating but hollow vein of influence and power.  Two kingdoms vie for man’s allegiance with no middle ground.

“…friendship with the world is hatred toward God…Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

Compensating for their lack of spiritual life, many turn to sensual pleasures.  Drugs, sexual encounters, alcohol, and entertainment are often sought, albeit futilely, to bring life to the soul. Sensual life replaces spiritual life.   Others, acknowledging their dead spiritual state, seek religious and spiritual practices. Some gain validation through religious sacraments, choosing to believe that ceremony and rites can impart spiritual life.  Religious practice may appease conscience and even improve lifestyle but in itself cannot bring about right relationship with God.

God Himself reached out to mankind through prophets, teachers, and anointed leaders. Through prophecies and divine providence, God prepared the world for His son, man’s Savior and Deliverer, to reconcile man to Himself. Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies of the coming Messiah, giving His life as the atoning sacrifice for our sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is  faithful and just and will forgive our sins…If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives…we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins….”  (I John 1:9-2:2)

Only one faith puts forth God as a Father, as One seeking those who are lost, reconciling man to Himself – establishing a personal and eternal relationship.   God’s love unveiled to us gives us new life.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ…” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Without Christ, we are powerless to release our guilt or redeem our failures. Repentance and surrender opens to us the life and lordship of Christ in us.   This life brings death – death to ‘self’, death to the ways which oppose the ways of God, death to the ways of this world and the spirit of this age. In fact, we are called to ‘die’ as Christ did:

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

At this juncture many would-be followers turn from the Lord.

The apostle Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31) in order to live for Christ, in order to fulfill the call of God upon his life.  “How can two walk together unless they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) It is not God who will agree to our standards and will, but we who must submit to His standards and His will for our lives. Only then can we, in agreement with Him, walk with Him.   At this critical crossroad we must ask, ‘Will I live for myself in this world or will I live for the Lord?’

“But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him…Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did”. (1 John 1:5-6)
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21) Jesus will “love and show Himself” to the one who obeys!

This is the Christian life, a life of salvation and deliverance, a life that glorifies God in this world. It is the one in whom Christ lives – through obedience and surrender. The Life of Christ in us thrives through the study of His Word, communion with Him in prayer and fellowship with believers. We walk with a view of eternity as we cross over from death to life in Christ.