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The Little Flag that Found a New Home

Guest Post by: Christine Laporte

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ He is a new creation, the old has gone, the new is here”. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
While walking the family dog Maya one afternoon, I happened upon a small American flag lying in the grass. It’s wooden stem was broken and dirty from being stuck in the dirt. Probably not even worth $1.00, the colors of red, white and blue were dulled and gray.
As a child and throughout my life I have learned to be very respectful to the American flag and cognizant of the freedom it stands for. I confess I get visibly emotional when I hear the song, “There She Stands” written by Michael W. Smith. He wrote it after our country was attacked on September 11, 2001. The tattered flat that remained in New York was a symbol of resilience. To the soldier fighting on foreign soil, the flag represented hope and was synonymous with safety and home.
I picked up the little flag, took it home and placed it on my kitchen counter.  Later I hand washed it with dish soap and tepid water. A couple days later I found it dried on the dish rack. Although the stem remained broken and slightly tainted with dirt but not the flag. It was bright with it’s patriotic red, white and blue pattern.

Almost immediately I thought that this was a very good analogy of the way the Lord cares for us; His desire to scoop us up, take us into the family of faith, clean us us through the powerful blood of Christ, and allow us to sit a bit and “dry out” from our time spent in the murky waters of sin and this life. The best response is for us to stay close to Him, learn about His love, share that with others and love the Lord back.

For those who love the Lord, He has good plans for us “and those who are called according to His purposes”. (Romans 8:28) In another beloved Bible verse, the Lord goes on to promise that those plans are “plans not to harm us but to give us hope and a future”. (Jeremiah 29:11) God desires for us to have a new start, a fresh start with a clean slate.  He is in the business of redemption. What a comforting truth we have to hang our hat on. 

When we look at the definition of redemption at Bible Study Tools, we read: “Redemption is the purchase back of something that had been lost, by the payment of a ransom. The Greek word so rendered is apolutrosis, a word occurring nine times in Scripture, and always with the idea of a ransom or price paid”.  And like the little flag, and on a larger scale of importance, we get a new identity, a new eternal home and a new body.

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A Resting Wind

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by: Carole L. Haines

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a noise like a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And tongues that looked like fire appeared to them, distributing themselves, and a tongue rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with different tongues, as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out. (Acts 2:1-4) 

The Wind moves everything it touches. It moves the waters. It moves the trees. The grasses bend and sway to the rhythm of its melody. I sat and listened to the wind move the fallen leaves of Autumn. I delighted in the crunchy, scraping sound as they yielded to one final dance before Winter.  
I watched as The Winds swirled the leaves around into a spinning Leaf-nado. I was completely enthralled by the WInd’s invisible presence. It is no wonder that the Holy Spirit is introduced in Acts as a Mighty Rushing Wind. .

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it is coming from and where it is going; so is everyone who has been born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) 

The Holy Spirit’s work is mysterious and powerful. Yet, so much of His Work brings rest within our souls, even in the midst of great struggle As I have yielded to His handiwork in my life, I have been amazed at His ability to transform this scared, neurotic, and anxiety-driven woman, into someone who is now regularly experiencing the peace that passes understanding. 
(Philippians 4:7) God is so good, to give us His Spirit, a Resting Wind transforming our lives from the inside out. Yield to His Perfect work.
 

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Deep down in my bones

Photo by: Bruce Nevin Haines

by: Carole L. Haines

 The Lord will send His goodness in the daytime; 
And His song will be with me in the night,  
a prayer to the God of my life. 
 I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me? 
Why do I go about mourning  
because of the oppression of the enemy?” 
As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries taunt me, 
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 
 Why are you in despair, my soul?  
And why are you restless within me? 
Wait for God, for I will again praise Him 
For the help of His presence, my God. (Psalm 42:8-11) 

I am weary down deep in my bones. Have you ever felt that way? There’s a bone-aching, soul-weariness that can come over us in life sometimes. I am there right now. Life just keeps moving while every molecule in my body is seeking rest. But life doesn’t just stop for us, to give us that break. We must seek this kind of rest from God.  
This Psalm talks about the oppression of the enemy. That’s not always Satan, or a human being. Our circumstances can feel like an enemy sometimes. Stress, pressure, deadlines, loss, grief; all these things and more can bring about exhaustion within us at the deepest levels. These things cause anxiety and anxiety causes pain. 
Here is the science of bone-achiness: 

There are many reasons that people who have anxiety feel increased joint pain. Stress inflammation is one of the most common issues inside the body. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are molecules that can be released by many things, one being stress. When you have anxiety you experience long-term stress, and as a result your body continually produces these cytokine molecules. Inflammation caused by these molecules cause your joints to swell and ultimately leads to more pain in your movements. (Ten Unlikely things that cause joint pain, ANIKA, August 22, 2018) 

There is a God-given need for rest. God Himself rested on the 7th day from all His work in Creation. He placed it in His Ten Commandments, this call for a Sabbath Rest. Our bodies, minds, souls and spirits were designed for intermingled periods of work and rest. We all function poorly without enough sleep each day. I am seeking the Lord for actual breaks in my life to provide this Rest, but I can also do my part and cut out some things that are unnecessary in my life right now. If you are feeling bone-weary as I am, seek the Rest that only the Lord can provide. He will make a way for Rest to come and refresh you deep down to in your bones. 

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Come away from the Shore for awhile

By: Carole L. Haines 

I was driving in the rain Sunday and went across the Reservoir Bridge. There were several fishermen out in their boats, even though it was raining hard. I was amazed that they would be out in such weather. The call of the water and solitude must have been on them and they went out despite the weather. 

As the deer pants for the water brooks, 
So, my soul pants for You, O God. 
 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; 
When shall I come and appear before God? 
(Psalm 42:1-2) 

I hear Jesus’ call to me right now, asking me to come away from the shore for a while and sit with Him in Solitude. My soul is yearning for the Refreshment only God can bring. The shore represents all that presses in upon me in my life right now, especially my job. My heart is longing for silence and solitude, a time away with God alone. Somehow, I must find that amid one of the busiest months of my life.  

“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. (Isaiah 45:3) 

Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed by your life circumstances right now. Perhaps it feels a bit like groping in the darkness. God will meet you there. Darkness and Light are alike to God (Psalm 139). He promises to give us the treasures of the darkness we feel, when life is overwhelming us. He promises to be with us and walk through it all.  

O Faithful Father, we yearn for You. Meet us here in the busyness of life and let us find You as we seek You with all our hearts. 

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The Way of Escape

Photo by: Bruce Nevin Haines

By: Carole L. Haines 

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13) 

We are called to place our hope in God alone. 
“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. (Psalm 39:7) 

What does temptation really encompass? Are we only tempted by evil? Or can it be that we want something good, but it may not be God’s Best for us? I looked up the word tempted in the original Greek and found this definition: to test, try, entice, or prove. As I read the whole definition, I began to realize that it’s not just about evil, but sometimes our faith is being proved or tested. 

I began to sense that my hope was shifting from God onto having a particular outcome to a situation in my life right now. I was listening to a Lesson my husband was given one night, and he talked about this very thing and it made me realize that I must never want anything more than I want God’s Best for my life. God places desires, gifts, talents and many good things to enjoy. Yet we must never shift our hope to those things but keep our focus on Christ. In the opening Scripture above it says:  
God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 

God will not allow us to be tested, enticed, or tried above what we are able to handle, but will provide the way of escape for us. That way of escape is defined as an exit, a way out. I am in a situation right now that I desire to escape. It has become a very wearying and difficult task for me. But I must not seek my own way out. I must wait on the Lord to provide the way He desires me to exit the situation. I believe He will either remove me or He will change my heart’s desire to leave. I can trust Him with this, as with so many other situations from my past where He provided the way.  

That way of escape is said to be provided “so that you will be able to endure it.” God has been speaking to my heart for a few days about this, and I have been listening and praying. I will wait for His answer and not seek an escape of my own. God’s timing is perfect, and I have learned to rest in His perfect timing, even in my great struggles. Here is one of my favorite Scriptures: 

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works. (Psalm 73:28) 

If you are wrestling in a difficult place, or with a difficult task, rest in His perfect provision of the way of escape. Rest in Him and wait for it. His timing is perfect, and He will faithfully show you the way. 

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Come with me if you want to live

By: Elora C. Seniah (aka Carole L. Haines) 

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:24-25) 

I found these little leaves from one of the Succulents I have in my Bay Window. I was about to gather them up and throw them away, when I noticed these little leaves had put out sprouts, and what looked like roots, at the very bottom of each one.  They had fallen from the main plant but still wanted to live and grow on their own. It was such an amazing testament to the drive to live that God put into all His Creation.  

I’m sure many of you noticed the quote in my title as on taken from the Movie, “Terminator 2-Judgment Day.” This is one of my favorite action hero movies. Arnold Schwarzenegger is perfect in this role. I won’t go into the plot, but the drive to live and fulfill one’s destiny and calling are front and center in this movie. O, and of course, as in a lot of action movies, the fate of the world hangs in the balance. The world itself is yearning for redemption, even as we are.  

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  
(Romans 8:19-21) 

Jesus speaks to our hearts as He calls us unto Himself. Scripture is clear in the fact that Jesus died for the sins of all mankind. But only those who choose to heed His call to come, repent, turn away from sin and unto Him; will be saved.  

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:8-10) 

Even as these little plant leaves demonstrate, no matter what life throws at us, we have a strong desire to live. We are spiritual beings, not just physical, and our spirits are searching for a Savior. That Savior is Jesus, and He is speaking to each one of us saying, “Come with me if you want to live.” Heed the voice of this precious, loving and powerful Savior of the world. We wait in Hope for Him. 

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Never forsaken

by: Elora C. Seniah (aka Carole L. Haines)

God made His own Son “to be sin” that He might make the sinner into a saint. It is revealed throughout the Bible that our Lord took on Himself the sin of the world through identification with us, not through sympathy for us.  
(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest) 

I don’t dwell on the cost of My Salvation very often, and I am seeing that it would be a good thing for me to focus on it more. In the above quote, Oswald Chambers drives home the Cost of our Salvation. Jesus actually became the embodiment of sin on that Cross. I cannot imagine the weight of it, the stench of it. During Lent one year, I was reading through all the Gospel accounts of The Crucifixion. Each Gospel has a different angle of looking at it, with different details.  

The Gospel of Luke portrays the words of Jesus on the Cross as,  
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)  

The Gospel of John relates it as,  
“It is Finished!” (John 19:30) 

Yet, Matthew and Mark relate His words as, 

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 
(Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34) 

There is no contradiction of story here, just different points of view. I believe Jesus said all these things on the Cross, but each hearer remembered what was most significant to them.  I imagine the Apostle John was so relieved to hear Jesus say, “It is finished,” because that meant the suffering of Christ was finally coming to an end. But the Words I want to focus on here are, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” 

I will never have to worry about being forsaken by God because of what Jesus Christ has done for me. He promises me this. 
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5) 

The word ‘forsaken’ “means-totally abandoned, utterly forsaken, to leave helpless, desert.” (Strong’s Concordance) 
I will never have to feel these pains from the Lord, but Jesus felt every single one of those on the Cross. He was God, part of the Triune Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He had never been separated from them before. But now, becoming the embodiment of our Sin on that Cross brought about the greatest suffering of Jesus, being forsaken by the Father and Holy Spirit for a Time, so we would never have to be. 
What an indescribable sacrifice of Christ. He became sin and experienced what it is to be forsaken, so that we, His Children, would never have to. 

Jesus, words just cannot describe our gratitude and love for you, we give you our very lives, as You gave us Yours. Thank You, Jesus. 

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Except Jesus Alone

by: Elora C. Seniah (aka Carole L. Haines)

Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone. (Matthew 9:7-8)

This is from the story of The Mount of Transfiguration in The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 9. As I paused and re-read the verse, I was struck by a few things I felt I should share.
First, the disciples have just seen Jesus decked out in His Glory Robes.
His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.“(vs. 4)
Immediately after seeing this vision, a cloud formed and was overshadowing them. This reminds me of how God led the people of Israel in a Pillar of Cloud by Day, and a Pillar of Fire by night.

The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. (Exodus 13:21)
Within this pillar of cloud, God Himself was Obscured, but His Leadership was not. He was leading them in the Pillar of Cloud. Our lives are often cloudy, with the future obscured from our view and understanding. We must follow Jesus within that cloud.

Second, The Father’s Voice came out of that cloud. So often we are so frightened of the Unknown, hidden before us by the Clouds, we don’t recognize God’s Presence in that obscurity, nor do we hear His Voice above the Droning Hum of Fear. We must come away at these times and seek out silence, simply listening to God in His Word and trusting His Sovereign guidance and care. God’s voice will often speak to us in our times of Obscurity, where we feel so powerless and helpless. We must remember that God tells us this:
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12 9a)

Lastly, when God comforts us and speaks to us in our moments of weakness, all of a sudden we see how very powerful He is. Our fear begins to melt away into the ground beneath our feet. That Solid Ground is Jesus.
All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone. (vs 8)
There is a peace that passes understanding that guards our hearts and minds forever in Christ. (Phil. 4:7) We often find this peace when we look all around us and see no one is with us anymore, except Jesus alone. There is a quote I have heard, not sure who wrote it, but it says:
“You will never really know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have.”
I have found this to be completely true. In those times of Fear and Uncertainty, listen for Jesus’ voice alone. When the Clouds of Obscurity cover your view of what lies ahead, listen for Jesus’ voice amidst those clouds. Let all else fall away until you see nothing else except Jesus alone.


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The Dogpile

Guest Post by: Bruce Nevin Haines

A Spiritual Football Analogy
(some use of imagination is required here, but just go with it and I think it will be worthwhile 😊)
Watching some Ravens game highlights, I noticed there is a something that occurs without fail after a fumble.
Once the dogpile of players has formed, what I observe is this:
1)The players on the defensive team become referees.
2)They give the “First Down” signal
pointing in the direction of their goal line.
3)They don’t wait for the referees to signal.
4)They give the signal even though:· Their word doesn’t matter, and it has no bearing on what occurs next in the game.
5)They may actually know nothing about who ends up with the ball at the bottom of the dogpile.· They have an allegiance with their own team, and are more concerned with their advantage than the truth.
Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He will say or do anything to discourage us.
BUT HE IS NOT OUR JUDGE! There are times we do stumble and give in to temptation. We sin. However:
“If we confess our sins, He (Jesus) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.(1 John 1:9)

After our failures we are prone to letting those failures define who we are. We believe the accusations that we are unworthy and doomed to a path of continued failure. Satan “signals” us that he has the ball, and that there is nothing we can do about it. But here is the truth:· His word doesn’t matter, and it has no bearing on what occurs next in the “game”.· He may actually know nothing about who ends up with the ball at the bottom of the dogpile.· He has an allegiance to his own “team”, and is more concerned with his advantage than the truth.
Jesus Christ, our Savior, and mediator. By whose blood we have received payment for our sins, HE IS OUR JUDGE!
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom”.(2 Timothy 4)

Let us ignore the judgement and accusations of the enemy, Satan is the false judge who has NO AUTHORITY TO MAKE THE CALLS IN OUR LIFE! When I am faced with his accusations and discouragement, I am going to imagine him as a player in the game, not the referee, not the judge. He has no actual right to determine the outcome. If I give him that right, I have handed him he ball and he now has possession. But if I acknowledge Christ alone as my judge, I will be victorious
Hand the Ball to Jesus! After the game is over, No matter what our failures have been. He Word to us is this:

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)


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The Inextinguishable Flicker of God

by: Elora C. Seniah (aka Carole L. Haines)

Hope is the inextinguishable flicker God ignites in our souls to keep us believing in the prevailing power of his light even when we are surrounded by utter darkness. It’s the unswerving belief that better days are ahead, probably in this world and most certainly in the next. It’s the quiet resolve he hardwires into our spirit that clings to the seemingly impossible truth that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” and that, in the grand scheme of things, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:28, 37). (Lee Strobel, Investigating Faith) 

Lee Strobel’s expression of hope quoted above, just blessed my heart this morning. To envision hope as a flicker of God in the Human soul that cannot be extinguished, lifts my heart and my spirit. It reminds me of another verse about flickering flames: 

“A bruised reed He will not break 
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish. 
(Isaiah 42:3a) 
This Scripture is amidst a longer prophecy about the Messiah, God’s Messenger. Gazing into the heart of Jesus, as we are privileged to do when we read the Gospels, gives us insight into just how kind and tender He is towards us. He brought hope wherever He went. People were drawn to Him like moths to the Flame. He still has this effect on us when we take the time to watch and listen to Him in His Word, seeing every written detail of how He interacted with others. He was very inclusive of those whom Society had deemed outcasts. He was inviting, engaging, and uplifting. But there was another side of Jesus we saw when He encountered pride, hypocrisy and the manipulative tendencies of the religious elite of His day.  
Jesus spoke truth, absolute truth to whomever would hear Him. He gently drew truth out of the Woman at the Well (John 4). He rescued the woman caught in adultery, probably entrapped by her very accusers (John 8). He healed lepers, cast out demons, received and blessed children. And when Jesus departed the earth, He sent the Holy Spirit to fill us and empower us. 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 
(Romans 15:13) 
All praise be to our Savior, Lord of Hope, Prince of Peace, who continually grows us, corrects us and encourages us in our daily lives. To Him be the Glory forever and ever. Amen!

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