Nature reminds us 

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By: Carole L. Haines 

Nature reminds us of God’s faithfulness amid all the clamor and worries of our world. The Sun rises and it sets every day, without fail. The Moon fulfills all her phases, glimmering in the sky as if to smile on us. The stars run their courses; the planets stay in orbit around the Sun. The winter melts away into Spring, every year; followed by Summer and Autumn once again. The tides rise and fall at the Ocean shore. The birds sing in the early morning mists. The grass forever is growing and growing and growing. Tadpoles turn into little frogs, as caterpillars morph into butterflies. These cycles are promised by God in His Word. 

“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, 

And summer and winter, and day and night Shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22) 

Nature is going on amid this pandemic. April showers are still falling, softening the ground for May’s promised blooms. The days grow longer, the temperature warmer, the skies bluer. We can trust God’s faithfulness in the midst of all this uncertainty. He never wavers, never falters. He is always sitting on His Throne, never standing up in alarm as we do sometimes.  

The Lord’s lovingkindness indeed never ceases, For His compassions never fail.
 

 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” 

 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. 

 It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord. (
Lamentations 3:22-26) 

My soul is truly at peace, my heart rests in Him, my mind finds Him faithful, as He always is and ever will be. Rest in Him, Dear Child of God. Nature is reminding us of His faithfulness, His Sovereignty, His love and care. Rest in Him Dear Children, Believers in Christ. Breathe in His life-giving breath and let Him fill you with His peace. 

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
 

Not as the world gives, because the world can never give you peace. Only Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior can give you His Own Peace. Let the cycles of nature remind you of His unfailing love. 

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As yourself, Pt. 2 

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 By: Carole L. Haines 

It is God’s own love with which we are filled. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to love God, others and ourselves. It is He who imparts this love to us and through us: by the transformational power of faith in Christ.  

Jesus says it best in John 15 in His Sermon about the Vine and the Branches. 

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)  

The apostle John expands on this truth of Christ by making it clear to us that the practice of loving one another is the very thing that perfects God’s love in us. See the verse below.  

12 No one has seen God at any time;  

  • if we love one another,  
  • God abides in us,  
  • and His love is perfected in us.  

13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.   (1 John 4:12-13) 

I broke the verse down into its proceeding parts to make it more evident. 

It’s all connected, interwoven, like a process. When we are practicing loving one another, then God abides in us. As God abides in us, His love is perfected in us. But the catalyst of that transformation is the hard work of loving one another. It’s procedural. We can make transformation so difficult, but it all goes back to abiding in Jesus (John 15).  

Abiding in Christ, dying to our opinions, adopting God’s point of view of all things. When we adopt His view and cast out our own point of view, The Holy Spirit gives us God’s own love with which to love one another.  It is an endless source. We only run short on love, when we try to love in our own strength.  The Apostle Paul said it this way:
5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. (2 Cor. 3:5) 

This word ‘adequacy’ means competency, ability, sufficiency. The Strong’s Concordance says that this word is only used one unique time in all of Scripture, right here in this verse. I find that very telling of how uniquely we are made adequate, individually, with the power of God. Through the personality, the talents, the Spiritual gifts, etc. God uses all that He has poured into us and empowers us through His Spirit. He makes us uniquely adequate to the task of loving those around us. But he first must teach us to love ourselves by seeing ourselves only as He sees us, all other people’s opinions cast aside.  Let Him show You how He sees you, soak in His Scriptures on love. Rest and abide there.  

Let’s circle back to finish today with our Key Scripture for this study: 
37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:34-40) 

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Our Overcoming Savior 

Winter Waters

By: Carole L. Haines 

It is April 2020, and I am writing this right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was off work for three weeks, with pay by God’s Grace. I am working in teams at my job, so I will only be working 1 week out of every three. It’s crazy to think how much the world has changed in just one month. Who’d have ever thought we would have a global pandemic in the 21st Century. With all our High-Tech equipment and the seemingly endless amount of knowledge and advancements we have achieved in the Medical field just over the last Century, you’d think we’d be able to say, “We got this!” But we don’t and we can’t. 

We are brought to our knees by a tiny, minuscule virus that is wreaking havoc on our world. But for those of us who are believers, there is a sense of the over-reaching arc of the Arm of God. We are under His protection, His Sovereignty and His care.  During what is making so much of the world panic, we have peace, or at least we should, because our God really is in control and we can trust Him in everything. I have not felt much fear amid this. Frustration, Isolation, yes! But not really fear, and that’s amazing for a woman who has struggled with anxiety most of her life.  

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) 

I always say that this verse is the only Promise in the Bible most people wouldn’t put in one of those promise books so many authors compile from the Bible. But His peace in tribulation and the fact that He has already overcome all that we may face is so soothing to the soul. Tribulation demands courage, and Jesus is calling us to that. But it’s the courage to have His peace amid this tribulation, peace in the face of such uncertainty in this life. This is a trying time for us all, but especially for those who do not have access to the peace of God that passes all understanding and will guard our heart and mind forever in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7) 

I am just amazed and how deeply His peace soaks down into our soul by constantly feeding ourselves with His Word. His Word has come to me again and again amid this crisis, calming me, reassuring me, easing any fears.  If you are a believer and are finding yourself afraid in this crisis, run to His Word. He will lead you in it to the Scriptures that will calm your soul. Turn off that TV, all that news, and come away to His Word and find His amazing, calming, life-giving peace.
If you are not a Believer in Jesus, now is time, today is the day of Salvation. God is calling to You amid this tribulation and helping you see your need for Him.  This lack of control in the world is countered by God’s over-reaching Arc of Protection. Come under that protection, admit your need for God. Come to the Savior of the world and sit at his feet as He speaks to You amid all the clamor and fear rampaging through the world today. We are all sinners in need of a Savior, all of us. Admit your need for God, for a Savior and You will find Him so faithful. Come to Jesus today. 

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As Yourself, Pt. 1 

MJ2 001

By: Carole L. Haines

37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:34-40)

In order to really love God, we must embrace God’s point of view about everything; who He says He is, what He says about us and His view of everyone else. I believe one of the greatest hindrances I have dealt with in my growth in Christ, is the sense of my right to my own opinion.  We live in a culture that exalts opinion and very often suppresses truth. What is an opinion anyway? The word opinion is only used six times in the entire Bible. The first occurrence is in the famous standoff between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.
21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)

The word, opinion, used in this context means: divided in mind, a sentiment, ambivalence.  How long will you hesitate between two opinions? To hesitate is the same word in Hebrew used to describe the “passing over,” of the houses during the plagues of Egypt, in the death of the first-borns.  How long will we pass over those things in our lives that the Lord keeps laying His finger on and saying to us, “Time to decide whom you shall follow, Me or this idol you cling to?”

We cannot love God with a divided heart, wavering between two or more opinions. And if we do not love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we cannot possibly love others or ourselves.  We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  So one of the first things that needs to go from our lives, in this transformation process, is our opinions. As believers in Christ, we really don’t have the right to our own opinions, we have chosen to view everything through the lens of God. Now I’m not talking about what flavor ice cream is the best, or what our favorite color is. I’m not talking about the trivial things like that, those are tastes or preferences on non-essentials. But what is essential is His Truth. Oswald Chambers says this:

Always measure your life solely by the standards of Jesus. Submit yourself to His yoke, and His alone; and always be careful never to place a yoke on others that is not of Jesus Christ. It takes God a long time to get us to stop thinking that unless everyone sees things exactly as we do, they must be wrong. That is never God’s view. There is only one true liberty— the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.

Don’t get impatient with others. Remember how God dealt with you— with patience and with gentleness. But never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it. Jesus said, “Go…and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19), not, “Make converts to your own thoughts and opinions.” From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition

Let us sit before the Holy Spirit and ask Him to reveal anything in us that is wrong in our thinking about who He is, how He views others, both believers and non-believers. And let’s ask Him to give us His view of ourselves. He will show you and lead you in the way that you should go, or think in this case.  Have a Blessed Day.

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As Yourself: The Introduction 

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By: Carole L. Haines 

I woke up this morning with a verse mulling around in my mind, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I looked up the verse and its context: 

34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:34-40) 

Most of what we need to do can be found in these two verses; Love God and Love others. But that little phrase “as yourself” pops out here too. Love your neighbor as yourself, what does that even mean?  Jesus talks a lot about loving others. Even though the Old Testament is far longer in length than the New Testament, the use of the word love is virtually equal in how often it occurs. Approximately 250x in the Old and 234x in the NewOf the four Gospels, John speaks of it 3x more than all the other Gospels combined.  When You read John’s Epistles 1,2 &3, he writes of it almost as many times as his entire Gospel. One might say the Apostle John was obsessed with loving one another.   

Yet these were some of Jesus’ last words before He left the earth, “Love One another.” I thought this was going to be just a quick, uplifting Devotional lasting one day; but as God is unfolding it here in front of me, I’m seeing another short series like the one I just did on “The Sufferings of Christ,” for Easter.  God is so good to unfold His Word for us and take us as deep into it as we choose to go.  One of my favorite pictures in the New Testament is the conversation on The Road to Emmaus. 
This can be found in Luke 24:13-32. Please go and read this Beautiful encounter with Jesus. 

In this encounter Jesus speaks these words:
25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27) 

Just imagine the thrill of hope in having Jesus explain to them the things concerning the Christ. Yet He has given us His Holy Spirit to do the very same thing. Jesus promises this in John 14: 

25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:25-27) 

This Helper will lead us as we take a look into what is means to love our neighbor as ourselves. I am not talking about the Narcissistic, self-exalting kind of love. God’s love calls us to give up any other view of ourselves and others, except the way sees us. A call to lay aside all our own ideas of who we are, who others are; and adopt God’s view as our only view.  That is what I feel Him calling me to write to you about, and so I will. 

 

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The Glory that is Easter 

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By: Carole L. Haines 

Aaaaah, Easter Sunday! I awoke at 4:30 in the morning, not by choice, but I believe He awakened me. I lingered a bit longer and then began to gather the white linen cloth and the flowers to dress the cross. Not too cold outside for a mid-April morning. I lift the Crown of thorns and the Black drape of mourning from the cross. I carefully drape the White cloth of Life from arm to arm on the cross and hang the flowers of Life where His head had hung just two days before. It is the third day, and as the women of old, I symbolically go outside to find that He is Risen indeed. Aaaahhh, The Glory that is Easter. We will close our look at The Sufferings of Christ with the Victory that is the Resurrection: 

7 How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices,
They shout joyfully together;
For they will see with their own eyes When the Lord restores Zion.
9 Break forth, shout joyfully together, You waste places of Jerusalem;
For the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared His holy arm In the sight of all the nations,
That all the ends of the earth may see The salvation of our God.
(Isaiah 52:7-10) 

“It is finished!” Jesus said this from the cross just as He died. Now the suffering was over, the glory seed was planted and on the third day, He rose again from the grave. And the Glory of Easter is also described in detail in Hebrews Chapters 9-11, a great reflective read for Holy Week. In these chapters we learn that Jesus will never again have to suffer. He suffered once for sin and is now seated at the Right Hand of God. Because of His Perfection, He only needed to offer Himself once for all time, our Spotless Lamb has been sacrificed for us. Our Precious Savior has risen again. Sunday is here, Resurrection Day is upon us. The Sun is rising on a new day because the veil has been torn in two, Jesus has made the way for us to enter in God’s presence as His own children. He has restored all who will believe in Him through the Cross of Christ. We are victorious in His Resurrection, awaiting His Return.  

So, in summary, Christ knows what it is to be rejected, to be an outcast. He has been tempted in every way as we have, so He can show us the way to escape temptation. He has carried all our sorrows and griefs. He has suffered for our sins on the cross and taken them away. He has opened the way for us to experience God’s peace and joy. His Love and Word bring healing to Body, Soul and Spirit. He has opened the way for us to be God’s Children, He has called us friends.  This is just a glimpse of the Glory that is Easter, the rest will have to wait until we see Him again in Heaven or in His Glorious Return                  Rejoice, Dear Believer, It is Finished, He is Risen.   For Such is the Love of God.  

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The Sufferings of Christ, Pt. 5 

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By: Carole L. Haines 

I wrote a piece last Easter on this very day called, “That Confusing Saturday.” It was about how the disciples must have felt after the prior day’s events. PTSD would be a good guess. The trauma of watching who they thought was the Savior of the world, die brutally, seemingly at the hands of men, must have been extremely disheartening. It’s been hard to write this piece as well, focusing on the wounds of Christ. But it’s also been so enlightening to realize each wound had a specific purpose in the redemption of mankind. Nothing was random about the sufferings of Christ, nothing. But as the disciples sat there, numbed with grief by what they had just witnessed, I’m sure God comforted them with the memories of what Jesus said and how he many times expressed the manner and reason for his death. But that still couldn’t erase the horrible pictures of what crucifixion can actually do to a human body. 

Today we look at the last two wounds: 

1 Peter 2:24
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace fell on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6) 

We can see that Peter was probably quoting from Isaiah 53 when he wrote his first letter.  Years had gone by, the Church had grown, Peter had become a foundational part of the First Chruch. But as he wrote his letter, I’m sure he remembered visually the awful sights of Christ’s brutal exit from this world.  Let’s look at the last two wounds and what His suffering bought for us. 

The punishment that brought us peace was on Him. Chastening, correction, discipline; the correction of children by their parents. That’s what this word means. What He bore here brought us peacewelfare, soundness. He brought us tranquility, and contentment. This word for peace is so rich with its meaning.  Safe, well, happy, friendly, prosperity and rest are some of the other words used. Notice how NASB says, “fell on Him.” The other wounds cut into His flesh, perhaps this one dealt more with the mental and emotional side of sin fallout, but that’s just a possible insight, not provable, but possible. 

The last Wound spoken of is the Scourging.
67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”
(Matthew 26:67)
26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. 27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. (Matthew 27:26-31) 

By his scourging, we are healed. This is the only time this word was used in the Old Testament. I won’t elaborate on what scourging or flogging is. Most Christians know this. But what is the healing that these wounds brought to us? To sew together, to mend by stitching, this is the word’s primary meaning. To heal, to mend, to repair. This reminds me of getting stitches for a gaping wound. So, as Jesus was being torn open, He was purchasing the way for us to be sewn back together stitched up, healed of all the wounds we suffer both from our own sin and those who have sinned against us. 

O the infinite mercies of God. Every possible fallout incurred by the sin of man, was dealt with by the unique wounds inflicted on our precious Savior. So, on this Confusing Saturday, let us gaze in wonder at His love which bought us everything, while costing Him so much. Such is the love of God. 

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