Mary Cantell

A time for everything

In the wise words of Solomon, he tells us in the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes:

“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven… A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them…”

Through God’s infinite grace, we are given time on this earth. Rather than cutting off life or shutting down the world at the first sin of Adam and Eve, God graciously extended his hand outside the Garden to take care of them, despite their rejecting his command. He gave them time.

Generations later, God is still on the throne and watching from above the souls he’s created. For those who’ve come to know him personally—the days, weeks, months, and years he’s allotted—we now understand are given to us to do His will. Our time is lent to prioritize and utilize constructively, remembering always the days are fleeting, and what’s not done to glorify Him is time wasted.

When a creature is found dead in the forest, it calls to mind the circle of life. Sadly, time ran out for the creature, but now its offspring—newly born—have life. The creature’s purpose has been fulfilled. We, too, have purpose. While we know our days are numbered here on earth, in the time allotted to each of us, may we always say as with the Psalmist, “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” – Psalm 118:24.

Finding peace in chaos

Peace is something we all need. While it is eagerly sought by everyone through various means, there is only one sure way to find the real thing—that which sustains through the worst of the worse. We won’t find it in the world; the world cannot offer the kind of peace we need.  Theirs is only a knock-off.  Real peace is found in the everlasting protective arms of Jesus.

Peace is when we are reconciled to God through the saving knowledge and belief in Jesus Christ. We now have access to fellowship with the father who sits on the throne. And when we face trials and temptations that serve to take away our peace, the Lord grants us “a peace that surpasses all understanding.”

The Lord tells us that in this world we will have trials. In all degrees, this is what the world, through sin, has become—a cauldron of unrest—for everyone. Of course, there are good days and bad, but what’s good about it is that the Lord also instructs us to not focus on the bad but cling to what is good… and that “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28.

Faithful…always

 What would it take for you to walk away from God? Is there a line you wouldn’t cross to deny your Savior or break fellowship?  We may think that kind of pressure couldn’t happen in the United States, but there may come a time when your allegiance to God is challenged.

So far, we are still free in America to worship and pray to God, but for the Jews in sixth century Babylon, it was forbidden for a time. After they were taken away from their homeland in the Diaspora and made to live under foreign rule in captivity, an edict came down from King Darius that prayers were not to go to anyone but him for 30 days. Despite the forbiddance from the king, the prophet Daniel continued to devote himself to prayer to his Lord. And we all know what happened next…

Thrown to the lion’s, Daniel and his story describe a man of immense spiritual strength. He was sent to the den because he prayed to the Almighty God. He didn’t bend or sway to the king, nor did he fall away for fear of wild animals. In Daniel 1:8: “He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself or commit a blatant act of wickedness such as worshiping a false god.” His story is akin to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace where they were cast for their devotion to the Lord by not bowing down to the image of King Nebuchadnezzar.

In both stories we learn that the jealousy of the non-Jews toward those who wished to honor God ultimately led them to near-death events. In both situations, the intended result was thwarted. Both in the lion’s den as well as the hot oven, the Jewish men overcame their enemies and were delivered by the hand of God. What’s even more interesting is that God changed the hearts of the kings who ordered them to suffer. By not compromising their faith, the greatness of God shone forth and his name was magnified.

 

 

Beginning of the End…

Many would say we are in the end times. Daily, we see the moral corruption of our society as it wanes further into darkness. Just a few of hours of evening TV will point to our culture as revering sex, drugs, greed, and rebellion as something to be celebrated. How much more proof do we need to see that the American culture is pushing God out and embracing the evil one? We’ve moved from revering God to where false idols are the new role model. Where we once embraced morals and good conduct, now, what is right is called wrong and wrong is right.

As we earnestly seek the return of our Lord Jesus to earth, the Bible tells us we will not know the day or the hour of his coming back. However, in the 24th chapter of Matthew, there are signs to watch for that signal the time is approaching.

Matthew 24:6-8: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

Second Timothy, chapter three says, “This we know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” 

Increasing famines, natural disasters, and persecution of Christians are on the rise. But as the word says, do not be alarmed. The social fabric of society may be coming apart at the seams, but remember that in the midst of the chaos, our God is near. Just as in the times of Noah, God provided a way of escape for him and his family. So, too, we have a way of escape from the judgment to come through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

How do we love?

Romantic songs often speak of love and claim how easy it is to become swept up in the lyrics. It’s also easy to love those who love us back. But this kind of love is superficial and pales in comparison to the kind of love the Lord displays toward us. Humanistic love usually has something attached to it, whether it’s feelings or something else. The Lord loves unconditionally.

The Bible speaks of several types of love. In the original Greek, there is eros (erotic) and philios (brotherly); some lesser known types are philautia (self-love), mania (excessive love), and storge (familiar love). Real love in action comes out of a will to love—not necessarily for what we can receive in return. This is called agape love.

In Ephesians 4:2, we are instructed “to be humble and gentle… patient, bearing with one another in love.” First Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Let’s be totally frank. Some people are difficult to love. So how do we manage to fulfill our Godly command to love others when sometimes we’d rather not? That’s when we make the choice to yield to the Holy Spirit and “put on Christ.” Loving people in our own strength can often fail. But with Christ, “we can do all things…”

As we serve God and make his name known, the only way to fulfill our purpose is to love people as God would. As we serve him, seek the lost, and share the love of Christ with our brethren, we demonstrate his love at work. The only way to truly love is without reservation and without strings.

John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

 

 

Labor Day

Cease from all labor!

Today, we celebrate the American worker’s contribution to the prosperity and the industrious work ethic that has made America an economically bountiful nation.

While Labor Day is a time to pause and reflect leisurely on life and what’s been accomplished through our daily tasks, more importantly, it’s a time 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.

Enjoy your day!

The lad who had a dream…

The life of Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, could be defined by Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” In Genesis, we learn about young Joseph, whose dreams angered his ten older brothers. As his nightly visions spoke of his supremacy over them, they jealously plotted to do away with him.

In Egypt, Joseph became the servant of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard, and when falsely accused of misdeeds with Potiphar’s wife, he was thrown into prison. Slavery… jail time… What’s next for poor Joseph?

While locked up, Joseph interpreted dreams for his cell mates and, years later, drew the attention of Pharaoh, who summoned him to interpret his own dreams. Impressed by the interpretation of seven years of abundance, followed by seven years of famine, Pharaoh promoted Joseph to the highest office in the land directly under him.

Further in the Genesis story, we learn how Joseph eventually came face-to-face with his brothers, who came to Egypt during the famine seeking grain. They didn’t recognize him all those years later, but he knew them. Joseph’s heart seized with inward grief and he vacillated on what to do, even so much as secretly planting a silver cup in the youngest brother Benjamin’s grain sack to implicate him in stealing—as well as imprisoning the others for three days for being spies. All the while, he struggled with his emotions. When his grief waxed and eventually waned, he was convinced that his love for them would overcome all they’d done. He told them that what they had meant for evil, God had meant for good.

In the story of Joseph, we learn that we are destined for good no matter the course as we keep the love of our Lord at the forefront of our hearts and yield to him as the ultimate ruler of our lives. We’re instructed in James 1:2 to “Count it all joy…” and in 1 Thess. 5:18, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Fruit of the Vine… or just pulp?

Fruit is especially delicious when it’s been given the proper dose of rain and sunlight. Too much rain or not enough sun, the fruit trees don’t produce as well or the growth turns out mushy or tasteless.  Apples, cherries, grapes… all have their charm. However, God’s fruit—that is, the fruit of his spirit—is even more scrumptious in that it is comprised of nine different flavors or attributes. His spirit is a delightful blend of love along with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control—all in one fruit. This manifestation of collective attributes is what we need in order to live a complete and fruitful life in Jesus.

What’s good is that we don’t have to stress or strive to grow this fruit in our lives; it emanates from the Holy Spirit that works inside each believer as we are continually sanctified. God’s work in our lives, in combination with our yielded hearts, produces fruit that brings God the glory. Our yielding to the Father is the rain and sunlight.

By, through, and in Him, we are established to work for his good pleasure. As we remain in Him, we are promised that we’ll bear fruit that glorifies Him (John 15). In Acts 4:13, the disciples amazed the Jewish leaders by their insights despite not having any formal education. As we are steeped in Christ and abiding in his word, we have wisdom above and beyond our own capabilities to secure because the Lord is doing the increase in our lives.

When the world sees you bearing fruit for Jesus, they are now seeing the inner workings of the power of God’s grace. We may not be able to grow a fruit tree on our own, but with the Lord by our side, our lives can become a whole orchard by the time we get to Heaven.

Sealed with more than a kiss

There are many spirits in the world though only one of them is holy. When Apostle Paul spoke to the Corinthians, he made a point to encourage them that the Holy Spirit is what now unites all of the believers whether Jew or Gentile. Unfortunately, the Corinthians thought that with the benefits from the power of the Holy Spirit, they would no longer have to suffer and would have an easy ride. They did not realize that God’s promises extended far beyond the day-to-day temporal existence and would be fully realized at Christ’s second coming.

What God gives to Christians is not the immediate benefit of these promises but the guarantee, or proof, of them. That guarantee is God’s Holy Spirit, who is working in the life of every Christian.  It is by the workings of the Holy Spirit that when we suffer, we lean on the power of the Lord for comfort. Suffering is there to prove God’s mercy in that we can rely on him for all of our needs.

When we sign a check or a contract, there is often nothing immediately seen; however, the law of the transaction and payment is certain. So God’s Holy Spirit proves that a person has the benefit of what God has promised.

Apostle Paul describes the Holy Spirit’s work in four ways: It establishes believers in their relationship with Christ; anoints or covers us; seals us to mark that we belong to him; and is a guarantee of God’s promises.

Surrendering to win

In a world where the word surrender chafes the secular world view as one who’s not a winner or who lazily gives in to the enemy; in God’s economy, it means quite the opposite. Surrendering to the Lord is an act of the mind where we let go of ourselves and yield to the Almighty. It’s putting our faith and trust in Him alone and obeying what we know is right to do through his Word and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

The world tells us we’re crazy or not using our heads when we put all of our faith into something we cannot see. While they struggle to be strong in their own flesh… we, as children of God, choose not to take over for the Lord but to let him have complete reign—of our hearts and minds as we serve out our days on earth.

The most telling example of surrender is Jesus, himself, who on the night before his crucifixion, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane… “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42.

The word of God tells us to worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth” – John 4:24. May our hearts and minds be surrendered as we recognize the truth about who He is and give Him the honor, glory, and devotion He deserves.