Mary Cantell

We serve a great God

The greatness of God is unfathomable. Who can measure it? We believe through faith in the Christ-child, who came to earth as a human while still God, and sometimes find ourselves asking why? It leaves us flummoxed. This God-person stepped from eternity into time and space for the purpose of redeeming man from the wickedness of our own disobedience. Once again, what’s the purpose of it all?

When Jesus came to earth the first time, he came as a peaceful. loving servant. He healed the sick and caused the blind to see. The miracles he performed drew many, but the essence of who he was became an anathema to some, and so he was hung to die. Yet the greatness of Christ did not let death claim him. He had the victory because he was God!

We sing such spiritual songs as How Great Thou Art and He Lives with tears because the magnificence of such a being is so uplifting, it shatters our emotions. That we could be so loved by him is more than great. There are no words that can truly describe our Savior.

We may never know the answers to why? But that’s okay. If we are to know, one day, we will.

     He set my feet upon a rock and established my goings…and he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God. Many shall see it and fear and shall trust in the LORD ~ Psalm 40:2-3.

Rights and wrongs of rights and liberty

In the greatest nation on God’s green earth, there are laws to rein in unjust behavior. In fact, law and order have kept this nation the most free, peaceable, and sought-after place of residence in the world. This freedom speaks to what the original Constitutional framers had in mind when the government in America was first established and included three things to be sovereign and originating from God:  The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In an effort to live civilly among each other, the framers saw that sinful men could dwell in peace and harmony by the protection of these rights through a small government that was designed for this purpose. They established it to work so that the citizens would lend their consent to be governed; for no man has the authority to rule over another otherwise—only God has that power—and the framers understood this. The beauty they saw in a necessity for a three-tiered government brilliantly and presciently lent to the heart of sinful man to thwart the ungodliness of a tyrant’s rule. Freedom from religious persecution was not the least of these considerations. And God has blessed this nation, I believe, precisely for its biblical underpinnings.

Through these constructs, society is able to function orderly and lends civil rights to men against predation and chaos. By so doing, the founders have laid the groundwork for peace and prosperity for all men, which is biblically based.

Even so, still some cast a jaundiced eye toward these renown men of old. As the stain of slavery seems so indelibly etched into the fabric of our conscience, even strides to make good on past mistakes appear lacking. The stain has become a permanent reminder, and their faults continue to go unforgiven by some and, seemingly, have tainted any and all good.

While most of the apostles and disciples of the Bible are often lauded as holy men, without the power of Holy Spirit, they were anything but. Let’s be real, some of the ancient figures of the Bible were cowards, liars, and deserters. Without the workings of the Holy Spirit, through the grace of God, their words, deeds, and actions often missed the mark. It’s odd that those who may cast aspersions toward our Founding Fathers because they had sin, are slow to mention how sinful the disciples were, too.

So, as Christians, do we have rights to our own lives…our property…our freedom to worship…our bodies under the established government? Some would say that we do not have any rights and that by submitting to authority, one has to throw all rights out the window. But where does it say that these things are mutually exclusive? Scripture bears out that it’s not so cut and dried.

When accosted by authorities, apostles Peter and Paul always submitted to them to keep the peace and order, and both agreed and exhorted their fellow Jews to do likewise. While the apostles often bumped up against the King and his cohorts, they always respectfully submitted, but they did not always obey. In fact, Paul used the law to work in his favor when his rights as a citizen were on the verge of neglect.

Today, some would advocate that Christians should dismiss their own individual rights while these same advocates sanction rights to others, who call for their rights to be acknowledged, when they perceive to be insulted or defamed. Can we have it both ways?

For the sake of God’s glory, we should often turn the other cheek, be defrauded, be defamed, have our dignity insulted, even pray for those who despitefully use us, yes. But God never says we need to obey an unlawful law.

Being absent of privileges or rights, our society can easily devolve into a land of tyranny and persecution where there is no peace. War, mayhem, and every evil prevails where there is tyranny without governance and laws to protect the citizens. Our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are all from Him. Happiness to the founders meant blessed and was the pursuit of God—not worldly delights. Our rights as God’s creatures do not derive from government, nor does government own the rights of God.

Using the laws of society are still within a Christian’s jurisdiction as Paul demonstrated. Even Jesus, himself, said to “render under Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…”

The rights and wrongs of rights and liberty

In the greatest nation on God’s green earth, there are laws to rein in unjust behavior. In fact, law and order have kept this nation the most free, peaceable, and sought-after place of residence in the world. This freedom speaks to what the original Constitutional framers had in mind when the government in America was first established and included three things to be sovereign and originating from God:  The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In an effort to live civilly among each other, the framers saw that sinful men could dwell in peace and harmony by the protection of these rights through a small government that was designed for this purpose. They established it to work so that the citizens would lend their consent to be governed; for no man has the authority to rule over another otherwise—only God has that power—and the framers understood this. The beauty they saw in a necessity for a three-tiered government brilliantly and presciently lent to the heart of sinful man to thwart the ungodliness of a tyrant’s rule. Freedom from religious persecution was not the least of these considerations. And God has blessed this nation, I believe, precisely for its biblical underpinnings.

Through these constructs, society is able to function orderly and lends civil rights to men against predation and chaos. By so doing, the founders have laid the groundwork for peace and prosperity for all men, which is biblically based.

Even so, still some cast a jaundiced eye toward these renown men of old. As the stain of slavery seems so indelibly etched into the fabric of our conscience, even strides to make good on past mistakes appear lacking. The stain has become a permanent reminder, and their faults continue to go unforgiven by some and, seemingly, have tainted any and all good.

While most of the apostles and disciples of the Bible are often lauded as holy men, without the power of Holy Spirit, they were anything but. Let’s be real, some of the ancient figures of the Bible were cowards, liars, and deserters. Without the workings of the Holy Spirit, through the grace of God, their words, deeds, and actions often missed the mark. It’s odd that those who may cast aspersions toward our Founding Fathers because they had sin, are slow to mention how sinful the disciples were, too.

So, as Christians, do we have rights to our own lives…our property…our freedom to worship…our bodies under the established government? Some would say that we do not have any rights and that by submitting to authority, one has to throw all rights out the window. But where does it say that these things are mutually exclusive? Scripture bears out that it’s not so cut and dried.

When accosted by authorities, apostles Peter and Paul always submitted to them to keep the peace and order, and both agreed and exhorted their fellow Jews to do likewise. While the apostles often bumped up against the King and his cohorts, they always respectfully submitted, but they did not always obey. In fact, Paul used the law to work in his favor when his rights as a citizen were on the verge of neglect.

Today, some would advocate that Christians should dismiss their own individual rights while these same advocates sanction rights to others, who call for their rights to be acknowledged, when they perceive to be insulted or defamed. Can we have it both ways?

For the sake of God’s glory, we should often turn the other cheek, be defrauded, be defamed, have our dignity insulted, even pray for those who despitefully use us, yes. But God never says we need to obey an unlawful law.

Being absent of privileges or rights, our society can easily devolve into a land of tyranny and persecution where there is no peace. War, mayhem, and every evil prevails where there is tyranny without governance and laws to protect the citizens. Our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are all from Him. Happiness to the founders meant blessed and was the pursuit of God—not worldly delights. Our rights as God’s creatures do not derive from government, nor does government own the rights of God.

Using the laws of society are still within a Christian’s jurisdiction as Paul demonstrated. Even Jesus, himself, said to “render under Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…”

Wonderful, counselor, Prince of Peace

This season we celebrate something so miraculous, it never gets old. No, it’s not the fat man in the red suit squeezing himself down the chimney!

Though, we’re all familiar with the Christmas story, it still remains difficult to logically comprehend. An infinite God who came to earth for our sakes, yet was born of a virgin and lived a human though Godly life? It defies all logic.

This tiny baby grew to become a prophet, priest, and the King of Kings. His presence on earth created a mark in history that would forever be a turning point. Jesus became the division between the pride of the proudful and the humility of the repentant. His life’s example paved the way for believers to emulate by and through his spirit into the way of truth and life.

On that quiet night, the angels sang in heaven and the world would be forever changed.

Christ is the Lord/Oh praise his name forever/His power and glory evermore proclaim!

Jesus was tempted, hungry, and scripture says that he identified with man’s sufferings. But that he humbled himself to endure such a lowly existence for the years he walked the earth is such a study in contrasts.

With our finite minds, it’s hard to conceptualize the awesomeness of the nature of Jesus. That he always was and always will be the great God of all Creation who loves us is too magnificent to fathom. It’s not so much a matter to consume and comprehend through logic but more of a respectful apprehending through our faith.

We celebrate the Lord’s birth this season as well as every day in our hearts because He first loved us. There are so many names for him because his being is so infinite, no one name can describe, define, nor contain Him.

Still, we wonder if Mary knew she bore the Lord of all creation, heaven’s perfect lamb, and who would one day heal the nations?

May the spirit of the season give you much peace and draw you closer to the Lord as you celebrate Him.

A cancelled Christmas

The problem with Christmas is not that the word Christmas, isn’t in the Bible as some purists point out. Nor that it’s celebrated at the wrong time of year as other purists argue. It’s not even so much the fact that the name of Jesus is getting dusty and he’s more to be found in the wings, while crass commercialism and partying have taken center stage. Still, there’s another issue.

Whether St. Nick may once have been a true-to-life generous soul or just a fictitious legend, I’ve come to live with the fact that the world wishes to celebrate the fat man in a red suit. Yes, it bothers me that this bearded idol has become more important that the Messiah, and it bothers me that presents have become the mainstay, and that trees are the focal point.

Six to seven-foot trees today cost upwards of sixty-nine dollars. You have to drag the tree into the car and then the house. The pine needles go everywhere. You have to find a space for it or clear out a space, and then worry your pets might pull it down. You need to water it or it becomes a fire hazard. After Christmas, you drag it back outside to the curb, and it sits there so forlornly, that you are now sad. There are pine needles in the house for weeks afterward. Still, there’s a worse problem.

In this 2020 season of Christmas, the Covid-19 virus has been a mixed blessing. While it’s been a rough time for those who’ve succumbed to its insidious nature, there is a bright side. Now, we don’t have to worry about Santa taking center stage this year because we have a social distance policy. Sitting on Santa’s lap would not fall under that directive. It could be dangerous to the children.

Also, there’s no need to worry about drinking and driving because the restaurants will be closed. And for those who chafe at having to schlep to stores, take heart! Not all of them are open. Your local mom and pop stores have probably gone under with the lockdown crisis. So, take your pick among the big box stores for all of your needs. Nothing like a practical gift from Home Depot.

Regardless, the Christmas story offers a positive narrative to the wearying mantra of mainstream media regarding the Covid-19 which, sadly, is frightening the masses into going into hibernation and turning humanity into singular biohazards one to another. We are in a world where those in charge are going to great lengths to mandate conformity. Masks, isolation, curfews, limits. Cancel culture is the new moniker. It’s easier to control a compliant, willing populace than those who squirm. What better way to do that is to isolate us from each other for months on end and force us to wear masks—even between bites of food, yes!

The spirit of the Antichrist has been here for a long time, even since Biblical days, and has never been more palpable or predictable. Along with the heavy hand of men in high places, whose ambitions and directives fly at their own discretion—even above the banner of law they are sworn to uphold, as they assume to be a law unto themselves with their “All for Thee, but not for Me” examples, our culture is deteriorating before our eyes.

The Prince of Peace whose word provides the ultimate model of love and fellowship will prevail over the godless dictators who exalt themselves. They will be humbled, and the humble will be exalted. No governor, mayor, or any other politician has the right nor the power to literally “cancel” Christmas.

May the joys of Christmas be with you all year long.

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Be still before him…

With all of the worldly noise and chatter, it’s refreshing, at times, to be able to turn it all off. In the silence of our quiet times, with a Bible in our hands, is where the Word of God can renew and restore us. Our souls need spiritual nourishment as much as our bodies, and to allow our Creator’s word to take prominence in our hearts and minds as we struggle to silence all that would distract us, is a sure balm for whatever ails.

To be still before the Lord can take place at home, in the car, or while taking a hike in the rolling hills of Valley Forge. The silence of a forest…the rush of sea waves…the serenity of a swan on a lake—it all speaks of the Lord because he created it all! Yet being still is more than a place or position.

   For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him ~ Psalms 62:5

To be still is before the Lord is to be surrendered to him. To be still is to be yielded and open to the Holy Spirit’s direction. To be still is to seek his wisdom above our own.

Our hope remains steadfast as we rest in the Lord. May we continue to hold fast to being still before him always.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint~ Isaiah 40:31.

In God we trust or bust

We’ve been told from a young age not to trust strangers and to be discerning in dealing with people we don’t know. Unless you know someone, you cannot be certain of the person’s intentions. Appearances can be deceiving.

As with God, how can we walk in the paths he’s created and trust him if we don’t fully know him? How does one have faith in something we can’t even see? Where does the faith and trust come in?

The word tells us that our faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. As we read and meditate on his word, the more we get to know him. The more we read, the closer to God we become and the more our minds are able to dwell on what he’s all about.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:  For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God ~ Hebrews 1:8-10

 The more we get to know the heart of God, through the Holy Spirit’s revealing God’s truth, the more yielded and trusting we become. Through the reading of his holy word, the more we see the hand of God working. As a result, the less fearful we are of our future and the more surrendered we become in placing our complete trust in him daily for everything.

Hearts, prayers, and thanksgiving

The commands instructed by Apostle Paul regarding a believer’s conduct seem stringent. Pray without ceasing? In everything give thanks? Yes!

It’s an attitude of having our minds attenuated to things above and not necessarily on what we see below. Our circumstances do not dictate our mind; our mind dictates our attitudes.

We are able to rejoice always and remain content in all things by knowing we have God’s grace and His strength to draw upon…a quiet praise that transcends our circumstances.

We can pray without ceasing in that we present our lives and focus in the direction of God, repeatedly and consistently bringing our hearts before him. We’re not asked to don robes or kneel on our knees all day. It’s the position of our heart.

In everything, we give thanks when we fully trust that God is in charge and knows what he’s doing. From our earthly perspective, we may not see the pieces fitting together, but from heaven, the picture is all too clear.

Yes, rejoice, pray, and give thanks—always and in everything. It is our spiritual service toward a gracious and loving God as he molds us daily into the image of his Son.

The harvest is near

While gathered together with family and friends to enjoy food and fellowship this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s also take time to remember the ones who are suffering for their beliefs and pray that God would abundantly bless them with his peace and provision.

In America, our blessings are so abundant that even the poor are considered rich compared with others around the globe. The word tells us in 1 Timothy 6:8 that if we have food and raiment, we should be content.

With thanksgiving in their hearts, the early settlers gave praise and honor to the Lord for many things, most notably, a liberal harvest. William Bradford wrote:

“…And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair, warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving… By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty … for which they blessed God.” 

When we stop to think about all that we’ve been blessed with as believers, the list should begin and end with Christ. Having Jesus as our Lord and Savior is our fruitful bounty. Everything else is but a garnish. For the Lord is our everything, and all that we have stems from his never-ending supply of love and mercy—his grace!

May your Thanksgiving be a joyous reminder of all that is Jesus!

In every season…

To everything there is a season…winter, spring, summer and fall. Each is part of the pattern of life which God has established on earth.

The book of Ecclesiastes talks about the seasons of life. With everything under the sun, there is a time—a time to reap and a time to sow; a time to mourn and a time to laugh; a time to gather and a time to cast away.

With everything the Lord brings to us, whether to our delight or adversity, it’s for his purposes. Whether it pleases or not, there is really nothing to lose or gain compared to the fulfillment of a God-centered life, as only God brings us true contentment even apart from the situations in which we find ourselves.

Whether in good times or bad, the blessings of his hand in our lives is what sustains us. The surpassing joys or sorrows will fade in time and our spirits are sustained through it all as we remain focused on the power of his presence in our lives.

As with anything earthly, it passes. Though, the riches of the spiritual gifts designed by God for us are meant to be life sustaining and everlasting.

May the joy of the Lord be yours today and forever in every season.