now browsing by category
The other night my granddaughter, Jayme, and I were studying together. She was studying her spelling words and I was studying for this article. We took a break to sing a song. I fully intended doing this so that I could ask her what she thought the song meant. In her 10 year old mind she understood the song to say that people will sin. She understood that God doesn’t want them to sin and she said, “If they do what God says then He will save them from their sins. He also won’t remember what they did in the first place.” BINGO! She got it! The song we sang went like this:
Verse #1- Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool.
Verse #2-Hear the voice that entreats you O return ye unto God. He is of great compassion and of wondrous love.
Verse #3-He’ll forgive your transgressions and remember them no more. Look unto me, ye people, “Saith the Lord your God.
What an amazing God we have! No matter who you are, or what you’ve done, if you are willing to come to God, on His terms, then He will take you in. He will wash you white as snow. There are so many different opportunities to hear God’s word. Bibles are everywhere! There really is no excuse these days to say you didn’t know about God.
I was brought up in a Christian home and my parents made sure my three sisters and I were at church all the time. My father was an elder in the church as well as preached on many occasions. My mother taught Sunday school and she was also very hospitable (Hebrews 13:2). It seemed like we were always having someone over for either dinner or youth group parties. I knew the teachings of the Christian faith; I knew the biblical accounts that were taught in Sunday school. God had blessed me with parents that brought me up in a Christian home and I had access to the Word my whole life. But, it wasn’t until I actually started reading the Bible for myself that I realized the magnitude of the Holy Scriptures and the difference between faithful living and going through the motions.
I remember the day my life changed dramatically. It was the day my father-in-law passed away. I had never seen anyone die. I watched him take his very last breath and it caused me to take a step backward and lose breath myself. It seemed to hit me like a ton of bricks. I watched his life leave him, and I knew he was gone. Just like that, he was gone. That moment brought a change in my life that, hopefully, will last me a life time. I realized on that day that we will all die and how real it is. It would be MY turn one day and I will just lie there completely still as my father in law did. It was that time in my life that I decided to make a change. I changed my life by doing everything I could in my power to put God first. I started trying to ask myself, if whatever I was doing, would be pleasing to God or not. If it would not be pleasing to God then I quit doing it. If it was something that I thought could cause a brother or sister to stumble, I quit doing it. (Romans 14:13) I opened up the Book, began reading it, and started leaning more on what God was teaching. I knew I wasn’t going to get to heaven on my parents’ faith and knowledge, my husband’s faith and knowledge, or my preacher’s faith and knowledge. It was going to be up to me to actually open up God’s Word and learn what God wanted me to know.
Looking at biblical accounts and the many examples of women whose lives have been changed, one that really comes to mind is Rahab. Why is it that it often takes something traumatic in our lives before we will make a change for the better?
I encourage you to read the book of Joshua. It tells the account of Joshua leading the children out from their wandering and taking over the land to which they were promised. The scriptures introduce Rahab in Joshua chapter 2 as a harlot. She was a woman who could not enter into the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor.6:9-10), and because of her choices she was considered an unrighteous woman. Her sins were as scarlet, but because of her faith she became white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). In Hebrews 11:31, we read that Rahab was saved by faith, but was she saved by faith only? We read in James 2:24-26 that a man is justified by works and not faith alone. Because of that we know that Rahab made a change in her life. I wonder when the turning point in Rahab’s life began?
Was it when she had first heard about all the things that the Lord had done for the children of Israel? (Deut. 2:25 and Joshua 2:9-10) She knew full well that God was in control and that God was going to win what ever battle He was in. Was it the fear of losing all she had; her family and her home? Can you imagine what she was going through? Put yourself in her sandals. She knew she was going to lose it all. She might not have understood at that time the extent of what was going to happen and that the walls of Jericho would come tumbling down. But, because she had understood how powerful God was she knew she was going to be on the losing end unless she made a change. Do you think she had hope when the spies first came to her house to lodge? She knew that God had taken care of the Israelites and she knew that God could take care of her too. So, she went up to the roof where she had hid the spies to make an oath.
Do you think her faith grew as she sat in her house and listened to the men marching around the walls for six days? Or, perhaps, when she heard the trumpets blow or listened to the people shouting? Can you imagine how she felt when the two spies who had made that oath with her came to her door to bring out her parents, her brothers and sisters and all she had? Don’t you think her faith grew more and more every day?
Do we fully understand how much God loves us? Do we fully understand what He wants for his children and that He is giving us every opportunity to learn His word? All we need to do is have the faith that Rahab had to know that God is going to take care of us. All through the Bible it teaches how God takes care of his children. All we have to do is open up the Book and take the time to read and to learn the mind of God. Becoming a Christian was the best decision I have ever made, and I am thankful that my parents brought me up in a Christian home. I’m thankful that my in laws were such good Christian examples and will be in heaven when we get there. I’m thankful that my husband chose that he and his household would serve the Lord: (Joshua 24: 15). I’m thankful for so many things in my life but, above all, I am most thankful for my Savior and His sacrifice that can make my sins, though they be as scarlet, white as snow.
By Karen Bookout
Just recently, I was going through some old pictures and found one, in particular, that warmed my heart. I was about 3 or 4 months old and my grandpa was holding me. We were on the front porch gazing at the fresh, beautiful, white blanket of snow that covered the ground. This was the first time it had snowed since I had been born.
When I remember that photo, I think of the purity of a first snow, untouched by human footprints. I like to compare the purity of fresh snow to the purity of a newborn baby. Babies are pure, without sin, and white as snow. As we grow into adults we learn what is wrong and what is right. We are blessed if we have Christian parents to teach us how we should act as Christians and how we can become a part of God’s family. “And, ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” (Ephesians 6:4). When we understand what we need to do, we obey by repenting, confessing, and being baptized into Christ, and the Lord adds us to His family, His church. On the day of Pentecost, “Peter said unto them, repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,” (Acts 2:38). We are sin-free again after baptism and are like a new born baby. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow,” (Psalm 51:7). We should study and learn more about our Lord through His Word and grow into faithful and strong Christians. “Fear thou not, for I am with thee. Be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness,” (Isaiah 41:10). “Teach me thy way, O Lord, I will walk in Thy truth. Unite my heart to fear Thy name,” (Psalm 86:11).
Christians and snowflakes are alike in that neither is perfect and each one is unique. When Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:4, he stressed the fact that everyone is important to the Kingdom of God. Romans 5:8 states, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He loves us, because we are His children. We are not perfect and we disappoint Him at times, but He never stops loving us, and waits on us to return, if we stray. The Lord forgives us from our sins when we ask for forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” I John 1:9.
Living the Christian life is not always easy. Decisions we make that are pleasing to God may not always be pleasing to men and we could suffer ridicule. However, remember that God will help us endure hardships (I Corinthians 10:13). In times of trouble or distress we should pray for strength (Matt. 6:13). He wants us to cast our cares upon Him (I Peter 5:7). As Christians, our motivating goal is that we want to meet the Lord in Heaven. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8). Jesus said, in John 14:1-4, “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know and the way ye know.” As Christians, we walk daily, with the hope of Heaven in our sights, and being in the presence of our Lord as well as seeing many friends and family. I pray we see each other there and I’d love to introduce you to my sweet grandpa, too.
by Renae Goyne
One of my favorite songs has always been “Lamb of God” though to be perfectly honest, as a child I did not fully understand this title. It was not until later on in my life that I fully understood the great significance of this description of our Lord. When John the baptizer saw Jesus coming his way he proclaimed, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We cannot possibly understand what this means until we have an understanding of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Under the old law people would bring an unblemished lamb to the high priest as a sin offering. The priest would sacrifice the lamb so that God would forgive the sins of the one offering it (Leviticus 4:32:34). Fast forward now to the New Testament. We now live in a time where animals are no longer sacrificed as a sin offering. This is true because we have a much better sacrifice. The Hebrew writer said, “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:12-14). This describes for us the fact that Christ is now our eternal sacrifice. As a matter of fact, this very thing was prophesied about from the prophet Isaiah. He wrote a beautiful and heart-wrenching description of what our Savior was going to go through when He offered Himself as the Lamb of God. He wrote, “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:4-7). As we consider Christ as the Lamb of God, we must be thankful that no longer do we rely on a continual sacrifice of animals. Christ allowed Himself to be the perfect sacrifice once and for all. Let us always behold the Lamb of God!
by Alicia Bookout
Two little words to the average reader, yet these tiny words, when describing our Jesus, should bring us to our knees and even cause us to fall down on our faces in worship of our Awesome God! We first find the title, or name, “I Am” given by the Lord Himself in Exodus chapter 3. You will remember Moses has given up his place of honor as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter with the life of leisure and authority that came with that position after witnessing an Egyptian beating one of his fellow kinsmen, a Hebrew. After striking the Egyptian down and killing him, he consequently learns that his sin was known throughout the camp. Moses fled from Pharaoh, knowing that Pharaoh intended to kill him and settled in the land of Midian. Moses took a wife from the daughters of Jethro, and pastured one of Jethro’s flocks. It is at this time that God remembers His children and hears their cries and we find Moses tending Jethro’s flock to the west side of the wilderness and coming to Horeb, the Mountain of God.
Of course, it is not by accident that all of this has taken place in Moses’ life. It is for this very moment that this man of God was born. Little does he know, he is about to meet the Great I Am! In Exodus chapter 3 we find that “the angel of the Lord” appears to Moses from in the midst of a burning bush. Many scholars in the Lord’s church believe that this “angel of the Lord” is none other than the pre-incarnate Christ, Himself. It is also not an accident that God, the Father intended for us to have this noted in scripture. With further study you will find this very same “angel of the Lord” speaking to Gideon in Judges chapter 6, as well as standing before Joshua, the high priest and Zechariah, in Zechariah chapter 3. As the bush was ablaze with fire, the fire does not consume it.
We all remember what happens next. Moses is, of course, curious as to why this bush will not burn up even though it is furiously on fire. Exodus 3:4-6 says, “When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said also, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” Interestingly, the angel of the Lord declares Himself to be one and the same as God the Father.
Next, God Almighty declares to Moses that He has been hearing the cries of His children and He has a plan. He intends to use Moses to lead His people out of Israel! Can you imagine how Moses must feel? In awe, amazed, humbled, overwhelmed, intimidated, and even fearful that the Israelites will not believe that he is the chosen one. So Moses asks God in verse 13, “… ‘Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God answers him in verses 14-15, “… ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.’ God, furthermore said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.’”
Now jump nearly 1500 years later to the Book of John, chapter 8 where we find Jesus Christ teaching on the Mount of Olives. There we see some Pharisees trying to trick Jesus. Jesus tells them that they do not know the Father because they do not know Him. Furthermore, He tells them that unless they believe that “I am He” they will die in their sins. Of course, this leads to further questioning and the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Who are you?” Jesus tries to explain that He is from God and they are following their father, Satan, to death but they will not hear. Finally, in John 8:56-58 we read Christ’s very own testimony of His oneness with the Father. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad. So the Jews said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I Am.”
To me, this title Jesus has boldly claimed for Himself gives a sense of Being that I can completely trust to eternally exist. His power to be omnipresent, omnipotent, and all-powerful seems to ring through clearly with this title…I Am! How do the Pharisees react? Verse 59 says that, “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” The question we always ask when the word “therefore” begins a verse is, “What is the therefore, there for?” If we go back to the Old Law in Leviticus 24:16, we find that stoning was the proper penalty for blasphemy! The Pharisees knew exactly what Jesus was claiming…He was claiming to be God! He was claiming to be I Am!
We, too, just like Moses, can stand in the presence of the Great I Am! Have you ever really contemplated this gift? I sometimes read these Bible accounts and wonder what it would have been like if it could have been me. But Jesus Christ, The Almighty and Eternal I Am died for us so that we might stand in His presence for all eternity! Let us recognize the awesome privilege and fall on our faces before Him! “We are standing on Holy Ground and I know that there are angels all around. Let us praise Jesus now. We are standing in his presence, on Holy Ground!” (Lyrics & music by Geron Davis)
by Laura Warnes
Imagine for a moment that you are locked away in a dark cage with no door or gate and no hope of escape. Through small windows you can see how beautiful life is outside. You try to make your cage homey and tell yourself that living in a cage is “Just fine.” But you deep down you know that it is not fine. That living in a cage is miserable. And while you try to ignore it, you know there is a hopelessness that lives inside you.
Now imagine that I have come to your window. “I know the way out.” I whisper. “He is called ‘The Door’.” Would you listen to what I have to say? I would tell you of The Door, and why I love Him so… His name is Jesus Christ.
I love Jesus Christ because He can sympathize with us. He was born as a man, lived within a family, honored his parents and loved his siblings. And because He was human, he was tempted , just as I am tempted. When Jesus was weak from fasting for 40 days, Satan came to tempt Jesus. Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread, to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple and to worship Satan in order to gain kingdoms in this world. (Matthew 4:1-11) Now this is not the same way we are tempted…at least, I have never been taken to Jerusalem to stand on the roof of the temple and then asked to throw myself off without a parachute or a bungee cord. But the essence is the same…I am tempted. I am tempted to concentrate on worldly things rather than spiritual things; such as tending to my own housework rather than helping a friend in need. And I have been tempted to put material things in a higher priority than serving God, such as buying new gadgets for myself or my family rather than giving sacrificially to the Lord’s church.
Even more important than the temptation though, is that Jesus did not “give in”. Jesus resisted Satan saying “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of GOD.” …“You shall not put the LORD your GOD to the Test.” … and, “You shall worship the LORD your GOD, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:1-11) Jesus overcame. Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tempted and He gives us the example of how to overcome temptation without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) Even though we are tempted in different ways, I can follow the example Jesus set when He was tempted in this world. And just as Jesus overcame, I am thankful that we too can overcome any temptation with God’s help.
I love Jesus Christ because he was a passionate, purposeful teacher. Jesus knew how important it was that we understand God’s love and His will for us. He taught while walking along the road, while sitting in someone’s house, while eating dinner, when he went to the synagogue, when people were gathered on the hillside, everywhere.
Not only that, but Jesus was a teacher with authority. Mark 1:22 says “They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Jesus wasn’t some random religious guy, he had authority to speak on God’s behalf. John 3:2 says “This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus was a purposeful, authoritative teacher sent from God.
I love that Jesus not only taught us how to live but He showed us how to live, making Himself the perfect example. His compassion teaches me to be compassionate. His need to pray teaches me to take time to pray. Devoting all His time to honor our Heavenly Father, teaches me to devote all my time and energy to the Father. Whether I am serving my family by doing the laundry, taking the time to encourage a friend, or building up the family by attending worship, Jesus’ teachings and example guide my way, leading me to a better life here on earth and to a wonderful life in heaven.
Most of all, I love Jesus Christ because God and Christ first loved me. God knew me before I was born (Psalm 139:13) and He wants me to be near him. But God knew I would be sinful. Romans 3:23 tells us that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. And if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves (1 John 1:8).
Sin separates us from God. It traps each of us in a dark cage with no way of escape. Unless someone provides a way out, we are forever trapped and separated from God. Often we try to make our cages home and tell ourselves that we like living this way. But ultimately we know the truth; that we are trapped and that we are missing out on the beauty of living outside in the light. Furthermore, if we don’t get out of our cage of sinful living we will be forever separated from God. Living a life trapped in sin only leads to an eternity trapped in hell. God knew that we needed a way out of our cage of sin so He provided us with a door. He sent his son Jesus to be that way out. “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved,” (John 10:9).
Before Jesus came, people would sacrifice animals (bulls, lambs or goats) that had no blemishes or spots to God. The death and the blood of the animal would atone for their sins. Atone is defined as “to make amends for an offense.” But these sacrifices were not good enough to completely atone for sin. God, however, loves people so deeply that He sent His Son be our perfect sacrifice. (John 3:16) Jesus had no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) or “blemish”, thus making him a perfect lamb. God put our sins onto Jesus Christ and Jesus’ death and blood make atonement for our sins. (1 John 1: 17; Hebrews 2:17)
I am humbled by that fact that Jesus loves His Father and loves us so much that He submitted Himself to become our sacrifice. Jesus subjected Himself to a cruel, painful death on the cross to be my spotless lamb, to be my atonement. He could have fought back, beaten those who beat him, taken Himself off the cross, even prevented the whole thing from happening – but He didn’t. He was motivated by love. Love for the Father and for you and me. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us.” (1John 3:16) Because He loves us, He endured the beatings, the mocking, and the pain. By enduring He became my sacrificial lamb. And when Jesus became my sacrificial lamb, He became the door to my cage of sin.
Thankfully, Jesus’ life doesn’t end upon the cross. I love Jesus Christ because he was victorious. He defeated death, and defeated sin, by rising up from the dead. “Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.” Romans 6:9 That is amazingly powerful. Sometimes we hear about someone’s heart restarting or lungs that start to breathe again. But I have never attended someone’s funeral, watched that person be buried and three days later looked at their uncovered grave and then been able to touch, hug, and talk with them. But Jesus Christ did just that.
Jesus ascended back to God in heaven and I look forward to the day I can go to the home that Jesus is preparing for me. (John 14:3) I look forward to being united with my Heavenly Father. I am deeply grateful and humble for being freed from my dark cage, and even more grateful that this freedom allows me to escape the wrath and misery of hell.
The Door, Jesus, allows us the freedom to leave our cage of sin and be near our Heavenly Father. Having a door means we have a choice to make. We can choose to stay in our cage or we can walk through the door that Jesus provides and live in the light. I have made my choice – what choice will you make? Will you stay in your cage or walk through the door?
By Amy Ellis
Originally printed in the Winter 2011 Issue V4N1
Part 2 -Walking through the Door
Part 3 – Living in the Light
Part 4 – Attached to the Body