Mary Cantell

Be steadfast

Do your efforts sometimes fail to miss the mark of your objectives? Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels like a lab rat? Do you think that sometimes little is shown by your efforts or that no one is blessed by them? We’ve all been there.

Yet the Lord’s word declares to us that while wholly serving God, there is nothing lacking or missing. When we are committed to doing his will, the labor from a pure heart is never in vain. Should our expectations fall flat, we need to remember that it’s all for Him. All that’s done for the Lord is what counts—whatever the perceived outcome. It’s not about recognition or numbers.

The world, even the church, is keen on keeping track of things. We count the number of new converts among us… we record the number of new visitors on a given Sunday… we remember how well attended our church functions have been and keep tally from year-to-year. Nothing is wrong with keeping score. Though it should not be the benchmark by way to measure success.

There are many big-name churches with large followings and lots of bells and whistles that draw people into attending. They offer multiple programs, expanded state-of-the-art facilities, and continental breakfasts. Do you think God is any more pleased with that body of believers over the small, humble church? We’re all a part of Christ’s body of believers, and in a world full of busy mega-churches, still God looks no further than our individual hearts.

While our work for the Lord is to win souls for Christ and to encourage one another to love and good deeds, we may find our spirits frayed. But this is just a distraction. God’s purpose in our labors is accomplished whether we understand it or not. Our effort to spread the gospel or minister to others is not lost on the Lord. His plans and purposes are fulfilled in the very least of us. The weight of glory that awaits us in heaven is worth everything we do for the Lord today.

 

 

What’s the purpose?

 

There is a purpose for everything God does. Whether or not we see or understand the Lord’s motivation, as believers there is nothing more valuable to us than our faith… our faith to believe we are saved, God loves us, and he has a plan to fulfill a glorious destiny for us.

But what about the here and now? What’s God doing for me lately? What’s the purpose for all of the mayhem in the world? As it stands, what he accomplished on the cross in doing his father’s will is all the grace we need. The rest of his bounty upon us is just gravy. His word tells us, “My grace is sufficient,” when a troubled Paul prayed for his physical ailments. His grace of an eternal pardon and payment for our sin is the most valuable gift we’ll ever receive and the only one that will enable us into the next world, if we accept it.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28. His purpose? It’s found in the following verse… for us to come to a saving knowledge of Christ and to become conformed to the image of his son… to become part of God’s family.

Many view the world’s troubles and try to justify them as being fair or not fair. God is not so much about the fairness, but he’s all about the justice. Was it fair that Jesus suffered for something he did not do? Is it fair that some who receive riches are not always deserving of their wealth? Does the smartest person always gain the noblest position in life? The race doesn’t always go to the swiftest.

With our hearts heavy for those who lost power in the ravages of the recent hurricanes in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, or lost loved ones in the horrific mayhem of Las Vegas and elsewhere, one thing is for certain. God is still on the throne.  We need to see the circumstances of life through God’s love and not judge God in light of our circumstances. That’s where our faith comes in. It’s all for our holiness.

Harvest time

The Lord makes everything beautiful in its time. In Ecclesiastes 3, we see there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. While spring brings life through the flourish of new buds, and summer lends its warmth… winter is when everything sleeps, and in autumn, its harvest time.

Cranberries, pumpkins, squash, and apples are just a few of the bountiful offerings plucked from gardens, orchards, and farm fields come this autumn season. While these are the provisions God lends to us, he also has his eye on a different kind of harvest. The harvest of souls. His potential bounty is to be gathered from all parts of the earth for the Kingdom of God.

Reaping souls for Christ is not an instantaneous thing. It takes prayer, time, and dedication, just the same as tending a garden. First, we prepare the soil, and then sow the seeds; thirdly, we tend and cultivate it through conditioning and nourishing with the right combination of sun, food, and water. In time, we reap what we sow.

What’s to be understood is that the process is all overseen by the master gardener, the Lord. While we’re called to do the Lord’s work as we’re encouraged always to do; it’s the Lord who does the ultimate regeneration of people’s hearts.

God employs his people to spread the seeds of good news. “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”

 

Keep your focus

When Jesus hung bleeding on the Roman cross, the book of Hebrews tells us he “despised” the shame while enduring the suffering. To despise the shame in Jesus’ mind was to consider it less than worthless and something to ignore. He didn’t let it distract him because he was on a mission and knew the joy that was set before him when he would sit down at the right hand of God on the throne.

Hebrews 12:2 instructs us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith. In Philippians 3, Apostle Paul tells us he presses on and “has set his eye on the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

There’s an old story about a farmer and his son. While out in the field he instructed the young boy on how to plow the corn rows straight; he told him to focus on something way beyond the edge of the field and remain fixed on it. Later, when he returned to inspect his son’s work, he found the corn rows skewed and curvy. “What happened?” he asked. “Did you keep your eyes fixed like I told you?” The boy replied, “Yes, father, I kept my eyes fixed on one of the cows in the next field.”

The idea of keeping his eyes fixed on a roaming object is humorous but explains why we often we fail. A racehorse is given blinders when competing so that he’s not distracted from the crowd. The runner who keeps his focus on the finish line is not deterred by the hurdles that need to be cleared along the way. These are the ways to meet the goal: keeping a fixed perspective.

For the believer, there is no other goal than living for Jesus in all that we do. Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and not the worldly distractions that so easily entangle us is the only way to win.

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Worship or bust

In ancient Israel, when David fled from King Saul while fearing for his life, he ran into a cave. While there, he sang praises in the midst of his terror (Psalm 57). He took refuge in the shadow of the Lord’s wings and kept steadfast in his love and worship toward him.

Like David, when we cling to the Lord, our lives take on a whole new dimension. While we may never have to endure the panic of someone wishing to take our lives, we have our own versions of travail, which give rise to our worries and fears.

At the heart of worshipping our Father is complete and total surrender. In a world whose goal is winning at all costs, maintaining a submissive, surrendered mindset is viewed as losing. Though in God’s economy, surrendering to him is where we find our ultimate success. Where we are weak and yielded, he remains strong.

Knowing our place under a loving God’s wings is where our true contentment and safety abide. In the family of God, we are fully and completely whole when we abide in the Lord for everything and give thanks to him for his consistent grace toward us.

God created each of us for the sole purpose of becoming part of his eternal family. Our true purpose is to bring pleasure to the Lord and to “lift his name on high.” The best way to do that is to allow the Lord to be preeminent in our lives.

Many in this world are living to worship themselves… to build monuments to their own greatness. Though when times of trial or struggle send them racing for the nearest cave, to whom will they turn? Will they find sanctuary through their reasoning or thoughts? Sadly, they will often put their hopes in their own self-sufficiency.

When surrendering our deepest thoughts and desires to the Lord, we will always be safe under his wings. “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”

May the Memory Never Die

Bright sun filled the cloudless, azure skies of Tuesday, September 11, 2001—a perfect morning in late summer. Later, at 8:46 a.m., things changed. The morning turned dark, and we all know what happened next.

The events on that fateful day have altered American history forever. While thousands lost their lives in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and also in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, many more lost their lives attempting to rescue the survivors. First responders, plus the aid of countess others who risked their own lives, are a testament to the heart and soul of America heroism.

Before tragedy hit our shores, terrorism hadn’t been so prevalent, at least, not in America. Now we bear the hurts and scars of the devastation that evil can bring. Those who don’t know the Lord and who are bent on spreading their evil are to be most pitied. What’s even more tragic is the death of these souls who may not have made their peace with God before they left this earth. Though even in the midst of a burning airplane or a smoke-filled building, God was waiting and willing to bring them salvation.

On Patriot Day, the country will once again memorialize the fallen victims of this tragedy. These service people’s efforts and dedication to put themselves at the forefront of harm’s way are a unique breed. We honor the dedication and spirit of these selfless people. Whether or not we know any of the victims of 9/11, all of America lost something that day. May the memory never fade.

 

 

Labor Day

The first Monday in September celebrates the American worker—a tribute to the contributions of strength, prosperity, and the industrious work ethic our society has achieved.

Typically, the workplace is an environment where there is a head boss or supervisor whom we report to in the course of our workday. Eyes are always watching and with some, the work is slackened when the eyes look away. Though the Bible tells us in Proverbs 18:9 that “he who is slack in work is a brother to him who destroys.” And in Colossians 3:23, the word says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart as unto the Lord and not human masters.”

While Labor Day is a time to pause and reflect leisurely on life and what’s been accomplished through our daily tasks, there is a satisfaction in knowing the results of the hard work and effort will, hopefully, be of service to others, but more importantly, a blessing to the Lord. In our reflections, it’s also pleasing to remember that the joy of our work comes at the hands of the Lord, who gives us the physical and mental strength to accomplish all we do.

This Labor Day, let’s keep the Lord at the forefront for without him, there would be no reason to celebrate this special day. Praise God for his eternal vigilance toward us and for making a way to provide compensation for ourselves and our families through our jobs. In this present economy, many are still without employment. Let’s keep the unemployed whom we know are diligently seeking work in our prayers that the Lord would enable them to find work, so they may do it to glorify Him.

 

 

Walk by Faith

There is no greater mission in life than to walk in the way of the Lord on the path he sets before us… the one we walk by faith and not by sight. Apostle Paul likens the journey to a course—at times, a race—and one that he endured faithfully, counting the cost and accepting the trials out of his love for the Lord, knowing his efforts were not in vain.

How do we walk in faith in a world that is going one way, while we, as the faithful ones, are going another? Hebrews 12 says, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith.”

If we are diligent to live for Jesus, we will endure all that comes with the journey because we know God is the source of our strength. As we cling to him in prayer and apply his word to our lives, we are harnessed by his spirit to do his will in every situation.

Our Christian walk is also strengthened through fellowship with other believers. It’s not just a faith walk between you and God on an island. We are called to bear each other’s burdens and pray for one another.

Paul expressed to Timothy in his letter (2 Timothy 4:7) – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Like Paul, may we all be able to say these words at the end of our lives.

 

 

Slaves to Righteousness or Sin?

Dealing with Temptation

 

Tempted much? The lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life can crouch at the door of all of us at times. Though in 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul says, “God will not tempt us above what we are able to bear… and with the temptation, he will provide a way of escape.”

Some believe this means God will not give them more than they can handle. Actually, God can test a man far more than that. While in Asia, Paul claims that his trials took him to the point of desperation of even life itself. Though at the same time, he shares the antidote to dealing with our struggles: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God…” 2 Corinthians 1:9.

Once saved, we have been set free from sin and are now slaves to righteousness according to Romans 6:18. Once we come to Christ through repentance and receive forgiveness for sin, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is through His power that we are able to resist sin.

While some temptations loom beyond our control, that’s the time we need to yield and ask, How do I approach this trial, Lord? Please give me your strength to respond as you would… out of my love for you, I choose your way and not my own to be delivered.

 

 

The end of America?

So what is going on? Some wonder if the end of the world is coming by what is happening in America lately.  Don’t be surprised.

The Bible’s view of end times worldliness is explained in less than glowing terms… “wars and rumors of wars, lawlessness, children’s disobedience to parents, being lovers of selves and eschewing God…” While these end time signs have been here for a long time, there is no mistaking the escalation of a lawless society. God says these are only the beginning of the “birth pangs.” He says these things must come.

While we watch rallies and marches for those in the struggle of their  civil rights choosing–whether it’s racial, gender related, sexual orientation, or women’s rights–there’s always a struggle, right? The stain of slavery now affords everyone the opportunity to cry for their own “civil” rights. Though what takes place is no longer civil. The mayhem that ensues is turning  into war.

While America values free speech in our Constitution, there are those who wish to shut it down. While progressive liberal political correctness  has allowed this censorship to thrive while calling out truth as hate speech, our society is slowly giving rise to something that America has never stood for.  Progressivism.

Progressivism is on the march, and, so far, America is the last holdout. A globalist’s dream of a new world order dominated by a few elitists is what is driving this movement where the government grows to be in charge of everything in our lives. This is called socialism. President Trump is the last stop gap measure to preventing this, and that is why he is hated. It’s not his tweets or his hair or his disdain for what he feels is fake news. It’s not his money or his uncensored tongue. It’s his policies to keep America alive. His leadership is getting in the way. So is the U.S. Constitution.

There are enemies of America who are doing everything they can to undermine his efforts. They used to be hidden, like wolves in sheep’s clothing. Now they are seen for who they truly are. They want America to die by a thousand cuts. They are the enemies from within. Scary, right?

Don’t be frightened. God is still on the throne. He’s still got his eye on America and if his people will turn to him, change will come. For now, all those who walk with the Lord can continue to pray that souls will come to him. May they see that this world can offer them nothing. All of what they’re looking for… their civil rights and more… can be found in Jesus.