Follow or Retreat

Follow or Retreat

By Patricia Knight

Flanked by His disciples during His three-year ministry on earth, Jesus traveled incalculable miles by foot and by boat. Wherever they went, curious crowds followed. Some people were sincerely interested in the Messiah’s message, but others were enamored with His miracles and wanted to see more. News of Jesus’ next destination spread quickly; multitudes were often waiting at a future site to meet Him. Though admirers and detractors alike surrounded Jesus, there were two places where throngs did not follow Him. For one, they were disinterested in pursuing Jesus to a secluded spot to pray.

Christ had just fed five hundred listeners by miraculously multiplying one boy’s small lunch. As soon as the meal was finished, Jesus instructed His disciples to go on ahead of Him by boat to the other side of the lake while He dismissed the crowd (Matthew 14:22-23). Jesus then walked up a mountainside to pray alone throughout the evening. He gained refreshment and renewal of body and soul for the challenging days ahead by communicating with His heavenly Father. Though we are provided no direct insight into His dialogue, we know from His instructions to His disciples, the prominence Jesus assigned to prayer.

Perhaps the crowds instinctively left Jesus by Himself during His quiet time because for them personal prayer was a foreign concept. Priests in the temple interceded for the people, but few individuals engaged in private prayer. The Lord’s messages were delivered through prophets. God created and called the nation of Israel. Laws were designated for the entire nation and the population was punished collectively for disobedience. There was little personal communication between individuals and God. By His death and resurrection, Jesus opened the way for intimate contact between believers and God the Father, the same fellowship the Son of God enjoyed. 

Calvary was the other area of Jesus’ experience where people didn’t follow. Only the Son of God could die a redemptive death on the cross for our sins. Jesus suffered loneliness and agony mankind will never comprehend. It was even necessary for His heavenly Father to forsake His Son for a period as Christ hung on the cross. Only a few of Jesus’ close friends and His mother witnessed His crucifixion. All of His disciples but John abandoned their Master, fearing retribution by association.

Prior to His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus agonized in prayer. “He began to be deeply distressed and troubled, saying, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:33b-34).Prayer to His Father was His only available source of peace and strength. The soldiers would soon arrive to arrest Him by force. It was not death Jesus feared, but the hour of crucifixion when the weight of the sins of the world—past, present, and future—would transfer to His soul. Jesus bore the unparalleled burden alone.

Crucifixion was a heinous, brutal, ruthless form of torture, reserved for slaves and the worst Roman criminals. Jesus, the Son of God, the only perfect man to walk this planet, was hanged as a common criminal. Though His enemies intended crucifixion as the ultimate means of persecution to silence Jesus forever, the cross of Calvary became a symbol of Jesus’ willing sacrifice, God’s ability to save mankind, and the believer’s commitment to follow only Christ, who willingly sacrificed His holy life for the forgiveness of our sins.

Jesus has redeemed us; believers now live for Him, infused with His characteristics and identified exclusively with Him. The cross of Calvary was the vehicle that created access to prayer. Jesus’ death and resurrection purchased eternity in heaven for every believer.

“The cross is a place where one dies to self,
enjoys no rights, and grovels in humility.
How odd for our Lord to invite us
to be crucified with Him;
but God knows the cross is a place of grace,
and the nearer one draws to Calvary,
the more abundant the peace and power” (Joni Eareckson Tada).

Imagine the colossal amount of sovereign power essential for the resurrection and ascension of our Savior. The same dynamic power is promised to believers. “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:19-20, NLT).

Jesus’ pattern throughout his demanding ministry emphasized His discipline to focus on solitary time with His heavenly Father. Quality time spent with God provided Jesus with a boost of power and joy, reinforcing Jesus’ priorities and purposes on earth. God responded by empowering His Son with love, leadership, and strength. If Jesus required frequent refills of God’s gifts, how much more often we must request our hearts be filled to the brim with all the gifts God promises. If Christ, the perfect Son of God, could not operate independently on earth as a man without perpetual refills of God’s gifts, why do we arrogantly claim self-sufficiency apart from our heavenly Father? We are commanded to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Let us evaluate our position in prayer and our trek to the cross, where there is power in the victory our Savior attained for us. Jesus assures us of blessings aplenty, including life with Him eternally. If we occasionally withdraw from Jesus, as His disciples were so quick to do at the cross, let us then emulate their future commitment displayed at Pentecost: they prayed for courage to endure, power to carry on their Master’s work, and boldness to speak for their Lord.

I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central…Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, The Msg.).

It is no longer necessary to be jostled by crowds to ensure an audience with Jesus. He is listening this moment, waiting patiently to hear from you. Follow His directions for silent, sincere, steadfast, submissive supplication (Matthew 6:5-8). Jesus encourages us to leave our sins at the cross for forgiveness and to cast our cares at Him in prayer.

Let us not retreat from the two important journeys Jesus traveled on earth, but boldly seek His presence in prayer and the power of salvation He victoriously secured for us on the cross of Calvary.

Worrywart or #Worry Not

Worrywart or Worry Not

By Patricia Knight

As recorded in the Old Testament, Abraham and Sarah lived in the advanced civilization in Ur of the Chaldeans when God asked them to leave their comfortable home, family, and friends to follow Him. They unhesitatingly obeyed God and traveled to an unknown land for an unspecified period of time, giving up all things familiar for an obscure future.

The couple worshipped God faithfully and He blessed them with wealth, expansive land holdings, and burgeoning animal herds. God himself was Abraham’s greatest treasure. God promised him further greatness, but Abraham questioned what God could possibly give him of value since he had no heir to inherit his estate. What Abraham and Sarah desired most was a son, but Sarah had remained barren all of her life.  God then promised the couple an heir and descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore.

Years passed without the promised child. Both Abraham and Sarah were aging. Abraham was 85 years old; Sarah, 75. Were they worried? Though the Bible doesn’t specify such a reaction, we can assume both fear and worry were involved. Wondering if God had forgotten His covenant to them, they decided to take matters into their own hands. Abraham fathered a son, Ishmael, with their maidservant, Hagar. For the purpose of producing a male heir, such an arrangement was acceptable in their society, but Abraham and Sarah had blatantly disobeyed God’s law. The Lord’s characteristics of purity and holiness made it impossible for Him to renege on His promises. It was important they learned that their God was unequivocally faithful.

When Abraham was one hundred years old, angels visited, promising him that Sarah would give birth to their own son within a year. It had been fifteen years since the initial promise, sufficient time to worry about how, when, or if God’s promise would come to fruition. When God’s prophecy was concluded, all details were fulfilled exactly as He promised. Because the couple had irresponsibly implemented their own plan by ignoring God’s covenant, animosity arouse between the two sons, Isaac and Ismael, extending to all future generations of their descendants, the Israelites and the Arabs.

Worry is mental distress or agitation usually resulting from a pending or an anticipated situation. One pundit explains: “Worry is useless. If you worry that a bad thing is going to happen, and then it does, you’ve been through it twice” (Anon). Who wants double trouble?  Most of us practice discipline in areas affecting our health, and yet we implement worry, a health wrecking ball. Worry compromises our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being, displacing the peace of God.

Worship and worry are mutually exclusive; they repel like similar poles of a magnet. Worry is a spiritual handicap that casts doubt on the sincerity of our Christian faith. If we profess to trust our loving God, who plans every aspect of our lives, and we worry about how the features of every day are going to develop, what does that communicate about our commitment to our Lord? As Jesus taught His disciples, “‘You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule’” (Matthew 5:3, Msg.). Why do we always wait until we are desperate to call upon God?

Worrying reveals selfishness of character, a need to have one’s own way. When we allocate our time to fretting about circumstances over which we have no control, we waste precious moments that could be spent in prayer and Bible study, both drawing us closer to God.

The Apostle Paul understood the human tendency to spiral downward as we focus on worry during stress, grief, or emergencies. He advised, “‘Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life’” (Philippians 4:6-7, Msg.). Paul urges us to concentrate our minds on things with eternal value and release our worry through prayer, leading us into deeper spiritual territory where God transform us with power and grace.

Anxiety is created from the incapacity to deal with worrisome details. If we feel we must continually ruminate an issue, God provides the productive alternative: 

“Cast all your cares upon him {the Lord}, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

The ideal remedy involves admitting our sin of disobedience, asking forgiveness, and giving God preeminence in all areas of our lives. Jesus asks, “‘Can your worries add a single moment to your life?’” (Matthew 6:27, NLT).

Worry stalls the growth and development of our personal relationship with God. Jesus advises that we not worry about what we eat, drink, or wear. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else; and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:32-33, NLT). We have all of God’s promises before us in his Word. Like Abraham and Sarah, do we catch ourselves worrying about God’s timeline and jump ahead of His plans for our lives?

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, who gives wholeness and well-being to those who trust in Him. Peace is the tranquility of spirit believers experience when they commit their troubles to God in prayer and worry about them no longer. Jesus is engaged in the business of transforming insecure lives of worry to the enduring stability of peace. He cultivates peace in individual lives. Depend upon Jesus always and in all ways! Forsake fickle, frail worry for Jesus’ promise of peace!

Sunday Praise and Worship: Psalm 139

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Today is known as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. All human life is precious and has value. As the Creator of all things, God creates life and only He should take it away. We are His creation because “You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb” (verse 13).

Psalm 139 (below) is David’s acknowledgement that God is all-knowing, that He is present everywhere, and that He is all-powerful. David wrote this psalm to praise and worship God for these attributes. Please take the time to carefully read it, especially verses 13-16. And pray for the women who have had abortions and those who may right now be considering an abortion.

Psalm 139

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

19 O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
20 For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
22 I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.


New American Standard Bible (NASB). Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

As it Begins

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As it Begins

By Patricia Knight

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace
at all times and in every way”

(2 Thessalonians 3:16).

As I sit at my desk, I stare with anticipation at the vast amount of accessible space in the new year’s calendar. With red pen in hand, I am poised to add distinguishing color to the otherwise bland pages making important days easily recognizable during the ensuing year.

In retrospect, I realize that a great deal can happen in a year, not just the daily routines, but the earth-shattering life experiences of birth, death, job promotions, health challenges, and various adventures that inevitably lead to immeasurable personal growth.  I ponder the possibility of exciting encounters during the next 365 days.

In our area of the world, January and February are positioned for a sluggish start to the New Year. Often marooned by snowstorms, our daily activities consist of snow removal, stoking auxiliary wood stoves, and observing the world from under a cloak of darkness by late afternoon each day. And yet, as mundane as those first two months of the year usually are, occasionally some exciting and energizing events have occurred. In January, we celebrate our grandson’s birthday with a party. Former college friends whom we had not seen in twenty years spent some quality time visiting with us in February one year. So now, I must adjust my thinking; anything is possible at any time of year!

When facing an unwritten twelve months, some people are fascinated by the possibilities while others experience apprehension. Enthusiasm and excitement permeate the thoughts of those who believe in God. He promises to care for them and to supply their needs. For unbelievers, there must be real fear associated with unrevealed days ahead. When a physical or an emotional crisis occurs, on whom do they depend for resolution to problems and security against the storms of life? What a risky way to live, without God as their Source of strength and power!

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I would prefer to hang on tight to the promises of God’s Word. “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11). I know that I can trust God to watch over me and design my life perfectly, revealing His plans to me in His precise timing.

What then, distinguishes between the person who relies on his own resources and the Christian who depends upon God for his daily provisions? Peace is not only relegated to world events dealing with international political stability, but peace has the capacity to reside within each heart, enabling relaxation and fulfillment when our external circumstances defy all definitions of harmony.

God is the author of peace. God’s Word reinforces the truth that God and peace are related. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever” (Isaiah 26:3-4a).

Peace and turmoil are contrasting emotions. No one chooses to live in a state of chaos and confusion. As much as possible, we seek peace of mind, of heart, and in our surroundings. Tranquil and serene scenes often evoke thoughts of peace. What happens to one’s vision of peace when the very site producing it has been bulldozed for construction or has been claimed a disaster by a tornado?  Efforts at finding peace are easily frustrated if peace is not sought in the right place.

The truth is, peace is not a place but a person. God is peace. He offers harmony and a sense of well-being, in which there are no conflicts. There is no disorder; quietness prevails; tranquility reigns. In the hush of the early morning hour, when the mist rises above the calm waters, all of nature is harmonious, God speaks to me, “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Peace is an attribute of God and a gift of the Holy Spirit to us.

I have no fear of the unknown, for my future is anchored in Jesus Christ. In Him there is an abundance of victory confidently secured in His never-changing character. Bring on the New Year with all of its uncharted waters carrying unidentified perils. I am not afraid. During the unfamiliar days ahead I am promised Jesus’ constant companionship. He already has knowledge of the purpose and outcome of each day.

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Happy 2017!

Thank you for sticking with me
in spite of all the blog breaks I needed to take this year.
I am so thankful for each of you!

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Now may the God of HOPE
fill you with all JOY and peace in believing,
that you may abound in HOPE
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:13

Cry to Jesus for Rest and #JOY

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Cry to Jesus for Rest and #JOY

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
—Matthew 11:28

Resting is not something that comes naturally to me. Back in the days filled with activities, rest came as an afterthought. How things have changed! In this season of my life I need to rest between tasks to not become overly fatigued. Sometimes I need a day or two for recuperation. Gone are the days when I could clean my entire house in one morning.

Awhile back a song kept playing itself over and over in my mind and made a great impact on me. The lyrics remind me of the immense comfort and JOY I can find in Jesus when I let myself completely rest in Him. He hears my cries and knows my pain, and I am calmed when I remember that He holds my life in His hands.

When we live with daily pain, so many hours are filled not only with pain, but toss in extreme fatigue, canceled plans and stress and you have the perfect formula for frustration.

Are you like me, thinking you can’t possibly make it through the day or maybe even just the next hour? Do you wonder if you will ever be able to lead some kind of normal life again?

Beloved, God reassures us that He is always available and waiting for us to lean on Him. He encourages us to turn to Him and let Him bear the brunt of our burdens. In return we will find rest and that peace that surpasses all understanding.

Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication,
with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God;

and the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
—Philippians 4:6-7

This song is a great encouragement for me to keep on trusting that God wants the best for me because in the end we will never feel pain again as we revel in the glorious presence of Jesus Christ, our LORD and Savior.

Please watch and listen to this great video of “Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)” by Chris Rice. Let the words and melody wash over you. As a believer in Christ Jesus, allow these lyrics to increase your JOY and hope in Jesus and His ultimate plan for you, which is to live with Him forever.

 

If for any reason you cannot view this video, you can read the lyrics here.

What is the joy of the Lord?

My quest this year to find JOY in my life everyday has been probably the best thing I can do to keep my focus on God and off of me and my problems. As I’ve written before, true JOY originates from the Lord, but what does that really mean?

GotQuestions?, one of my favorite sites, answers that question very well in this question of the week. Although I like to capitalize the word JOY and it’s derivatives, the piece below will stand as it was written by the author.

What is the joy of the Lord?

Question: “What is the joy of the Lord?”

Answer: The joy of the Lord is the gladness of heart that comes from knowing God, abiding in Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus was born, the angels announced “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). All who find Jesus know, with the shepherds of the nativity, the joy He brings. Even before His birth, Jesus had brought joy, as attested to in Mary’s song (Luke 1:47) and by John’s response to hearing Mary’s voice as he “leaped for joy” in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44).

Jesus exemplified joy in His ministry. He was no glum ascetic; rather, His enemies accused Him of being too joyful on occasion (Luke 7:34). Jesus described Himself as bridegroom enjoying a wedding feast (Mark 2:18–20); He “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21); He spoke of “my joy” (John 15:11) and promised to give His disciples a lifetime supply of it (John 16:24). Joy is reflected in many of Jesus’ parables, including the three stories in Luke 15, which mention “rejoicing in the presence of the angels” (Luke 15:10) and end with a joyful shepherd, a joyful woman, and a joyful father.

Read the rest here.