Two Little Girls

Rag DollWhile waiting in a long luggage check-in line at Seattle’s airport, I couldn’t help but notice two little girls as they passed by each other in the queue. They must have been about five or six years old. One looked like she was probably from India with her darker skin, soft brown eyes and long curly brown hair. She donned a Disney backpack and was dressed in cute floral tights and a jacket. Adorable. The other child looked typically American with her long blond ponytail, dancing blue eyes, and also wearing fashionable tights and a top. She was carrying her favorite rag doll, complete with long dangly legs, a smiling triangle face and a mop of golden hair.

What drew my attention was how these two children related to each other. What do five year olds find to talk about anyway? Of course, the doll was the icebreaker. The girl from India grinned with delight as the doll began to talk to her. It was so sweet to observe how these two little girls chattered away. No pretense, no awareness of race or ethnicity, no preconceived biases, no expectations, just two little girls having fun together, accepting each other’s differences without giving them a thought.

The Indian father glanced at them with a broad smile on his face and I kept thinking…this is how the world is supposed to be, one where we accept and respect one another, show kindness, and talk to people who don’t look like us or even hold our same values. Maybe we should start carrying a doll around with us. Looks like a good icebreaker to me.

Ps 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”

New Look at the Armor of God

Armor of GodSometimes it’s good to rethink a passage of Scripture. Recently, I read an explanation of the armor of God, and finally, someone wrote what I’ve always believed but rarely heard expressed. The armor is not something we just put on in an imaginary sense each morning. It’s so much more. Here is the meat of what it really means. See if you agree….

Eph 6:13-17. “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

  1. The helmet of salvation – you got that the minute you gave your live to Christ. You don’t have to pretend to put some imaginary steel cap on your head in the mornings. It’s already there.
  2. The belt of truth you get from studying, learning, and knowing God’s Word, not by merely whipping it out of some pretend closet.
  3. The breastplate of righteousness is also something we already have. It’s the protection we have because we have exchanged our sin for Christ’s righteousness.
  4. Your shoes, the gospel of peace – This is when you make God’s Word part of you then, as you walk and meet people, you spread the Word by telling others about the peace you’ve found. We have something the world needs.
  5. The shield of faith comes as we feed on things that make us stronger. Study God’s Word as if it were your very lifeline. Because it is. Merely, holding up an imaginary shield doesn’t cut it.
  6. The sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon. As we get to know the Word of God front to back, layer upon layer, hunger for it and breathe it, that sword will get sharper and more effective. If we don’t arm ourselves with God’s Word, it’s about as effective as that imaginary one some people take up in the morning.

We already have all the parts of the armor at our disposal. Our part is to build them into our lives so we are prepared when we need them. Many Christians are unarmed, completely unequipped. Occasional curiosity about something in the Bible doesn’t cut it. Neither does regurgitating what someone else told us. It’s a hands-on project and we are responsible to keep our armor in good condition. We are members of God’s army and that’s what a good soldier does.

(Taken from “River’s Edge,” by Terri Blackstock, pages 276-279, Zondervan, 2004)

 

A Perfect Fit

gas tank 2Last Sunday, Bill and I attended Rush Creek Bible church in Byron Center, MI where our son attends. The pastor, John Spooner spoke on the topic, “Is Jesus the Only Way?” At one point, he gave an illustration that clearly spoke to me. He talked about how, some time ago, as he was taking a girls volleyball team to Ohio, they stopped at a gas station to fill the van’s tank. Upon getting out of the van, he couldn’t help but notice a lady at one of the other pumps cursing and swearing with every breath. She had the pump handle in her hand and was trying to jam it into her gas tank. Bam, bam, bam, she rammed the diesel hose against her gas tank in her effort to force it in.

Graciously, Pastor John approached her asking, “May I help you?”

“I don’t know what I can do to get this hose into the tank,” she responded with great frustration and more expletives.

Quickly noting what the problem was, he gently answered, “I don’t think that pump is the right one for your car. There are different pumps for different cars and the one you have is the wrong one.”

“Well, which one works for my car?” she asked with a puzzled look on her face.

His obvious answer, “You have to use the one that says gas.” He helped her put the correct hose in her tank. This time it fit and filled right up.

By using this simple illustration, Pastor John compared it to religion. There are many religions in the world and they all have this in common, “Religion tries to force something into the tank of life that simply doesn’t fit,” he said. “The more you force it, the more you try, the angrier you get, the more frustrated and upset you get because religion doesn’t fit. Jesus knew that. He came to earth to be the One who does fit. He became sin so that we might fit in the heart of God. Jesus said, “No one gets to the Father,” (no one fits) “except by Me.”

I love that illustration. So often people try, try, try by their own work, their own effort to fit into heaven. It’s like trying to force the diesel pump into the gas tank. It just doesn’t work. Just as the gas pump fits a car perfectly, so Jesus is the perfect fit for our salvation. He is the only One who fits. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

Closed Door Lesson

Closed doorHave you ever begun to go in a certain direction only to run into a closed door? There are times when we think we’re on track; we pray about a situation and are not sure of God’s will so we move forward assuming if He wants to redirect, He will close the door. That happened twice to me in one week.

I had met Pam in the jail where I do ministry on Sundays. Later, she was transferred to a woman’s prison in Indy. Pam was a unique soul with whom I had invested time and felt she would be one of the few who had made a sincere commitment to the Lord. She was very focused on developing her relationship with Him. So, when we went camping last week and passed right through Indy, I hoped to stop by to see her on our way to the campground on Tuesday. Since I had applied for visitation a month and a half before, I was sure that would work. But when I called the prison, I learned that the only day they did not allow visitors was Tuesdays.

Hmmm, I thought, is that God closing a door? Not to worry, I would just stop on the way home on Friday. I had written to Pam telling her I would visit on Friday afternoon.

Nevertheless, I decided to pray about it and told the Lord that if it was not His will for me to visit her, to please close the door. On Friday, as we passed through Indy, Bill dropped me off for a visit. As the guard looked for my application, he informed me that it had not been processed yet. Forty–five days and it was not yet in the system. He graciously called his supervisor who also confirmed that I could not visit. Ok, I thought, I guess God did not want me to visit her. Interestingly, I was not disappointed. I recognized that it was God who was closing the door. He was answering my prayer and I felt He was protecting me.

Another incident in the LaGrange jail… I had been spending time with Tonya. She was scheduled to be released Wednesday but explained to me that she didn’t have anyone to pick her up and take her to a friend’s house in Shipsy. She also hadn’t heard back whether her friend could take her in for a few days until her family could arrange a ride for her to their home several hours away.  Things were up in the air so I volunteered to pick her up at the courthouse where she would walk to from the jail to meet her probation officer.

I was stressed and worried about my decision to pick her up because what if she hadn’t found a place to stay? What would I do with her? I couldn’t bring her home but where could she go? I asked for the collective wisdom of my Bible study group and they gave suggestions. My pastor also said the pastor’s association would be willing to put her up in a motel a couple nights. I began to regret that I had offered a ride. Wednesday morning, I drove to the courthouse and waited in my car at the agreed time. After about twenty minutes, I phoned her probation officer who informed me that Tonya had left some time ago. Apparently, someone else must have picked her up. After fifteen more minutes, I left. Another closed door. Again, I felt God’s protection.

But God had a lesson for me to show me all my worry was for naught. Here’s what’s interesting to me. Before supposedly picking up Tonya, I stopped by the jail to see another lady, Courtney, about something we had discussed. She began telling me that God is helping her to not worry so much. Then she recited Philippians 4:6 to me, a verse she had been memorizing. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Here she was, a new believer and God was using her to minister truth to me. I almost laughed. If that weren’t enough, when I got in my car, I turned on the radio and David Jeremiah was teaching on…you guessed it….worry. God had my attention. I had worried about being responsible for Tonya for several days and here it was a no show. What did all my worry accomplish? Nothing!

David Jeremiah quoted someone who said this: I’m an old woman now and I’ve had many troubles in my life but most of them never happened.

So true!

What Will We Do In Heaven (Part 3)

heavenWe know that when Adam was in the Garden of Eden, he was in a perfect environment, maybe like heaven. While there, did Adam have work? Yes, God instructed him to “keep it.” The Hebrew word is “shamar” which means to oversee, protect, have charge of, or tend to. Because there were no thorns or weeds, his work was joyful and satisfying.

I Corinthians 2:9 tells us that “… No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” We can speculate that what God began in Eden will be completed with work as it was meant to be. Perhaps Eden is a snapshot of what is to come. Adam had work in a perfect setting, not burdensome, stressful work, but rewarding and fulfilling work where he enjoyed good fruit from his labors. As God’s steward, he cared for the garden and named the animals. In this perfect work environment, Adam never got sick, never had a disease, or pain of any kind. His body did not tire or weaken. This is again promised for our eternal sinless state. Revelation 21:4, “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

In a parable in Matthew 25:21, Jesus said to the faithful slave,“… You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” It would seem safe to sat our faithfulness here on earth has a direct impact on what responsibilities we will be given in heaven.

We know that God is occupied with work as is Jesus who said, “…My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” That might be a new thought to you but here’s something to consider. We know that scientists have said that the universe is continually expanding or stretching. Could the triune God be creating new universes, galaxies, stars? We don’t know. What we do know, in our tiny dot called earth, is that we have a God who is constantly at work in our individual lives, answering prayers, leading and guiding us, protecting us, healing us, loving us.

Since we were created in God’s image, work is in our DNA. In heaven, work will never be drudgery but rather exciting and rewarding. Even the angels continue to work for God. Some of their specialties include being messengers and warriors in His kingdom. Angels are often found praising and worshipping as well. And we can’t forget their work as guardians as they protect and direct people on behalf of God.

Another work we will be involved with in heaven is learning. Romans 11:33-34, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?”

Unlike Hades, where “there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom” (Ecc. 9:10), heaven will be exploding with activity, planning, knowledge and wisdom. We will learn the  “…treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.”

We can begin now by storing up good treasure as we study the Bible today. The more of the Word we have stored in our heart, the better prepared we will be for heaven. It will take all eternity for us to grasp the height, breadth, and depth of God’s love for us. We will continually be learning.

So, will there be work in heaven? All indications point to “Yes.” Praising, worshipping, thanking, learning, serving, doing good and sharing plus many joyful, fulfilling, satisfying occupations that are beyond our capacity to even imagine.

(Be sure to check out Parts 1 and 2 on my blog, http://www.betsytacchella.com)

 

What Will We Do In Heaven? Part 2

Heaven2Is earth a testing and training ground for our future home in heaven? Is it critical that we embrace what God wants to teach us while we’re here? Is it important that we walk in the gifts God has given us? Choices we make here will impact our future. While salvation is a free gift, I’m talking about works after salvation, works done by faith, works Jesus calls us to do. I Corinthians 3:12-15 suggests something we might miss.

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

What does that mean? When fire comes to gold, silver, and precious stones, the gem is refined and purified, but when fire touches wood, hay, or straw, it burns up. It’s the same with our works here. In time, God will test the quality of our work here. Not for salvation, but for reward. What work, you may ask? Our work is both corporate and individual. We are all called to love, to be kind, to serve, to count others as more important than self, but there is also work that God calls us to individually, often based on the spiritual gifts He has bestowed on each of us.

Through prayer and listening to His voice, we find out what He wants us to do, how we are to occupy ourselves on earth. He may tell you to call a friend and encourage her, give money to a Christian cause, speak words of wisdom to someone, bring soup to a sick neighbor, help with a building project, teach a Bible class, prophesy, pray for healing. These and many more things are works that God may lay on our heart to do. Individual works are specific for each person.

I Corinthians is telling us these works are like gold and silver and will be rewarded. However, if we neglect them, our work is burned up and we suffer loss. We are saved, but reward or loss is up to us?

I’m talking about this because, if I understanding scripture correctly, it seems this will be the starting place as we move into eternity. What we have been faithful in here will determine the responsibility God will give us in the future. Luke 19:17, “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ (NIV) While we don’t know all that is inferred here, it appears there is a principle of faithfulness that will play a role in heaven in regards to work.

An interesting verse from Revelation 14:13 seems to confirm this idea as it speaks of resting from our labors here when we pass out of this life and that our deeds will go with us. “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” This, of course, is speaking to those who come out of the time of tribulation, those who have been faithful to the end, but the principle is for all believers. We will eventually rest from our work here and move on to different work in heaven. Revelation 22:3 affirms that “…His bond-servants (that’s us) will serve Him.” That implies work.

More tomorrow….

What Will We Do In Heaven?

HeavenA lady in my Bible study class asked a question as to whether we will have work to do in heaven. I immediately answered, yes, that I believed we would, to which she replied, “Really! What will we, as Christians, be doing?” I said we will probably do work according to our gifts and we will be full of joy. When I got home, I felt the Lord nudging me to search for a more complete answer. Here is how He led me and what I gleaned from the scriptures.

First, while her question was in regard to heaven, I need to say that we will be spending a thousand years on the new earth before we finally go to heaven for eternity. Revelation 20:6 says, “… they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” So, our first work will be during the Millennium where we will be priests as we reign with Christ.

What work does a priest do? He offers sacrifices.

What sacrifices will we offer? Obviously, Jesus, as our eternal High Priest offered up the final blood sacrifice, but 1Peter 2:9 calls us, “… a royal priesthood… so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him….”

And Hebrews 13:15-16 adds, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

It looks like part of our work will be to proclaim His excellencies, to praise, thank and worship Him, and to do good and share. How uplifting that will be! And we get to start that now while we’re here on earth. Once we have attained our immortal, glorified bodies (I Cor. 15), worship will be on a whole new level. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to worship while we’re here. Having shed our body of sin when we pass into eternity, we will fully worship our Creator with abandon as we delight in Jesus. If we hesitate to fully embrace worship while we’re here, will we be prepared to worship Him in heaven? Worship there will be wholly pure and untainted as we love God with all our heart.

I love the promise in Psalm 16:11, “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

More thoughts on this tomorrow….

Before We Say “Never Trump”

God is up to somethingBefore I give further perspective on Trump, let’s remember some things about Ronald Reagan, things that are similar to our present situation. Most Republicans feel he was the best president ever, yet while Trump married three times, Reagan had been married two times, and before Nancy, he was a womanizer with countless documented affairs. And he, too, was a Democrat before he became a Republican. Unlike Trump, he and Nancy consulted an astrologer before making any policy decisions. Putting that aside, he understood American and built our country on Constitutional principles. He was a great president.

I wanted to start there because sometimes what we expect in a president may be different than what God gives us. Let’s start praying that Trump will choose a godly Vice President, that he will surround himself with men of wisdom. Let’s be prayer warriors for the advancement of God’s goals for America even if they may not look like what we had imagined. Here’s something to think about: What if God’s best for Cruz would be a Supreme Court appointment? Could he perhaps do more good in that position?

  1. Trump has promised to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court with a conservative with Scalia’s values. That is huge. Whoever is the next Court nominee will determine the direction of our country in so many venues.
  2. Let’s look at the bigger picture. Perhaps most important to God is that Trump is for Israel. Israel, our closest ally has been trashed for 7 years. Trump has said multiple times that he will rebuild our relationship with Israel. The enemy, Satan, hates America and Israel, and our government has played right into his hand. He will do everything he can to turn America against a candidate who loves Israel. Remember Trump has a Jewish son-in-law and 3 Jewish grandchildren.
  3. Trump is willing to recognize terrorists for who they are and he has said he will destroy ISIS.
  4. One thing for sure, Trump will not go around the world apologizing for America. He will renew respect for our country. He is a business man. He understands money. Our present government does not. We are in horrible debt. If anyone could turn that around, Trump could. He gets economics, that you don’t spend more than you have.
  5. He is Pro-Life.
  6. Trump is not politically correct and will not put up with it. That alone could change a lot of things.
  7. He will restore our borders and make us a secure nation again.

Do you find it interesting that Ben Carson quickly got on the Trump bandwagon? Perhaps, as he prayed, God revealed some of this to him. Perhaps, God is about to mold Trump into His man for the hour. We can take heart that God is in complete control and has an eternal plan at work. God works in mysterious ways. His ways are not our ways. Isaiah 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

So, what if Trump, with all his rudeness, insults, and crudeness is actually God’s choice?

In Acts 5 when the authorities were going after the disciples for how they were upsetting the status quo (meaning the Pharisee’s plans), a lone voice exhorted them. Acts 5:38 “So in the present case, I say to you, … if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

Let’s stay alert, pray and wait to see what God is up to. This is not time to despair. It is a time to be vigilant. Our nation is at stake.

One final reminder: If we choose not to vote because we don’t like a candidate, we are in reality casting a vote for the other party. We can’t let that happen.

 

 

Trump, Really?

Trump 1Some of you may be disappointed that Cruz lost Indiana and has now dropped out of the race for president. This year is an incredibly important election and now, it looks like Trump will likely be the Republican candidate. Cruz represented many Christian values we applaud as he was raised in a strong Bible believing home. He also fully supported the Constitution, was Pro-Life, believed in traditional morality, supported small government,  but even with many prayers, it was not meant to be. So, we ask: What is God up to? Has He pulled back from America?

We know for sure that God puts down one and exalts another (Ps. 75:7). And there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God (Rom. 13:1).

But, even though some had hopes for Cruz, God reminded me of something that gives me hope regarding Trump. Do you recall King Cyrus, the king of Persia, mentioned in Ezra 1? Do you remember how God appointed him and used him for His purposes even though Cyrus, according to Isaiah 45, did not know God?

Ezra 1:1 -2, Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, … saying: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem….”

Isaiah 44:28 “It is I (God) who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built….”

Isaiah 45:1-5 Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointedwhom I have taken by the right hand, … “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. “I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name…. I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me;”

Several things can be pointed out. God stirred Cyrus’ heart. God appointed him. God called him “My shepherd.” God said Cyrus would do all His desire. God called him anointed. God said He would lead Cyrus. God gave him a title of honor. All this, yet Cyrus did not even know God. While we cannot judge another man’s heart, whether Trump knows God or not is his to sort out. The point is that regardless, God is perfectly capable of leading a country through anyone He chooses. The point is that God chooses.

Trump could be our next president. My prayer will be that God will establish the next president according to the scriptures in Isaiah 44, 45. I am going to pray that God will anoint His man and take him by the right hand. I’m going to claim the promises of Isaiah for America. We don’t see the bigger picture of what God is doing but I have no doubt that He has it all under control and our nation is moving toward fulfilling His plan.

New Perspective on Wheat and Tares

Wheat and taresWhat if the story of the wheat and tares, (Mt. 13), has more application than the one we’re familiar with? What if it also applies to our response when, as Christians, we hear a word from God? Is it possible that when we read something in God’s word (logos) or hear a personal word from God (rhema), that word could land beside the road, on rocky soil or amidst thorns? Does God’s Word always land on good soil and become fruitful just because we’re Christians?

Luke 8:18 exhorts us to take care how we listen. What does it mean to listen with care? In verse 21, Jesus says that His “…mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” That would indicate that if we are listening with care, we are heeding God’s word and responding. Matthew 8:16 says that our ears are blessed when we hear. Perhaps the blessing is that we will hear even more from God if we heed what He speaks to us today. After all, why would God continue to speak into our lives if we ignore what He says and never follow up? Isn’t hearing God’s voice like seed being planted?

Here’s something to consider about wheat and tares. When we lived in Kansas, beautiful golden wheat fields blew in the wind. Kansas has been known as part of America’s breadbasket because they supply much of the wheat that makes the bread for our daily table. Bread, a household staple, the fruit of a good wheat crop. In a spiritual sense, we like to associate ourselves with wheat.

But what about tares? Tares, also known as darnel, are “false” wheat. While growing together in a field, they look the same. For some, it’s hard to tell them apart, but at harvest time, wheat turns golden brown while darnel turns black. Over thirty year’s time, 250,000 sheep and 600 cattle died from consuming darnel. Here are some of the symptoms they exhibited: sleepiness, intoxication, trembling, inability to walk, apathy, and dim sightedness.

It makes me wonder…what are we consuming as the body of Christ? Wheat or darnel? Have we become sleepy and apathetic about hearing God’s voice? Surely, at times, we all have, but the good news is that we have the Holy Spirit, who is our Helper, living in us. And that’s not all. Jesus, Himself promised that this Holy Spirit would teach us all things and even remind us of all Jesus spoke to us (John 14:26). Our part is to simply listen with care, respond, and enjoy the fruitfulness God pours into our lives as we choose to be good soil.