Whose Shadow Are You Under?

leaf in shadowA shadow can mean different things to different people. They are beneficial to some, and ominous and oppressive to others. For example: A shadow of sickness moved across a country. A child lives under the shadow of his or her siblings, never able to achieve his own position of authority. A renowned scholar has become just a shadow of his former literate self. The eager young boy was the shadow of his big brother. The large building’s shadow provided welcome relief from the scorching sun.

In the Old Testament, Egypt was often used by God as a symbol of the world and its lavish yet oppressive systems—a world controlled by the Devil. If you followed the world’s ways, you could become quite successful (by its standards), but if you didn’t keep up, or didn’t want to follow any or all of this system, you were left behind and significantly oppressed. The Israelites (descendants of Jacob, who was renamed “Israel” by God) were just such people caught up in this system. They were brought into Egypt because of a severe famine, sustained by the storehouses of Egypt, and subsequently grew into a great body of people. But now they were stuck, because the leadership of Egypt changed. The new leadership was no longer favorable to them.

“And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour [harshness]: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour [harshness]” (Exodus 1:13, 14).

This is what happens when the world takes over our lives—we end up in bondage. We may try to get out ourselves, but, like a bungee cord or rubber band released at its fully stretched position, we snap right back.

God, in His infinite love, provided a way out of this system. For the Israelites, He provided a man named Moses. Through Moses, Israel was led out of this bondage of Egypt. The monarch of Egypt tried to detain the Israelites and almost succeeded, but God ultimately made it possible for their release and exodus out of the land of Egypt. The real problem, though, was that the shadow of Egypt continued to hang over most of the Israelites. Why? They would not let go of Egypt and put their trust in God. They regularly complained to Moses as he led them through the wilderness. They wanted the pleasures of Egypt (the world) and they wanted the freedom from bondage (to the world). The ultimate result of this continual complaining and unbelief was God denying entrance to the Promised Land for all of the unbelieving Israelites, the very land God had set aside as their ultimate inheritance. Had they let go of Egypt, their journey through the wilderness would have been significantly shorter, and they would all have been much more likely to have entered the Promised Land themselves.

For every man, woman and child (past, present and yet to be born), God provided His Son Jesus Christ, of whom Moses was a type or symbol as their deliverer. But Moses was only a human, sinful being, like we are. While he led the people of God out of the captivity of Egypt, and was very, very close in relationship to God, he could not remove the captivity of Egypt (the world) out of them.

That is why Jesus came to this earth over two thousand years ago—to fulfill all of the requirements God laid out in the Old Testament for our sins (or all aspects of the world’s system, in this case) to be removed.

Jesus can free anyone from the captivity of the world, if we allow Him to do so. He did what Moses, or anyone else, could never do. Sinful man could not eliminate his own, or anyone else’s sins. Only a sinless man, Jesus Christ, could do this.

If we continue to live under the shadow of the world, we have never truly escaped from the world. We must live instead in the shadow of Jesus the Almighty. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2 emphasis mine). We must place all of our trust in Him and His complete, finished work, accomplished through His death as a sacrifice on the cross.

Under whose shadow do you abide—the shadow of Jesus, or shadow of the world? If you have put your trust in Christ, are you resting in His shadow, letting Him do the work in your life? Or is He in your shadow as you try to do His work yourself?

The Dark Manger

dark manger

I walked down a street one evening recently where many homes were decorated for Christmas. Some had elaborate displays with a lot of lights; others displayed a simple arrangement and very few lights, or anything else that would really grab your attention. What caught my eye among all of these displays was a simple little manger scene with just the basics: Mary, Joseph, an animal and a shepherd. It was more meaningful than all of the others, because no light was shining on the manger scene, and baby Jesus was not present.* Only a distant streetlight made the display visible in the darkness, since it had no light of its own to illuminate it. Whether the darkened scene was intentional or just an oversight remains a mystery, but its current state of darkness gives it much more prominence than all of the brightest and most elaborate displays on the street combined.

Over two thousand years ago, the real manger scene in Bethlehem was in just as much darkness as this little representation is now. There was some type of light there, naturally, maybe a torch or small fire, but the type of darkness I’m talking about goes far beyond physical light. It is known as spiritual darkness, the absence of God in the heart. True joy and happiness only come when Jesus reigns in our hearts and lives. Jesus said, “…I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

When Jesus was born, then the true light from heaven shone upon the world. He was God in human flesh, or Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.”

God the Father loves us more than we could ever comprehend, even to the point that He would send His innocent, sinless Son to this earth to pay the ultimate penalty for the sins of every person on this earth—eternal death. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The more sin there is in this world, the more spiritual darkness is present as well. Evil loves darkness, and when the world is full of darkness, evil freely abounds. If the world had no real means of redemption (being free from the consequences of sin), it would be hopelessly lost to evil and sin.

When Jesus came to live in this world, He broke the stronghold of darkness. He fulfilled all the requirements of the laws God set out in the Old Testament of the Bible. He never sinned Himself, but He took upon Himself all of the sins of every person in the world (those who had previously died, those currently alive, and all yet to be born) when He died on the cross. Then, when He declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30), sin and darkness no longer reigned—they were forever defeated! But this victory is not automatic for us. We have to accept by faith that He died for us, and believe that His victory over sin is our victory over sin. We must, as well, make Him the lord or ruler over our life, and no longer let our own self remain in command. We must admit to God and ourselves that we are sinners (wrong-doers) and repent (turn completely) from our sinful ways. When we surrender our lives to Him, we become the light of the world as well as His Spirit enters into us.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

This Christmas season, are you going to continue to remain in the darkness, or are you going to let the Light of the World (Jesus) be the light of your life? Will you be ashamed to have His light shine on you because of the sins you cling onto in your life? He came to this earth and overcame the darkness forever. Now is the time to let Him overcome the darkness in your life too. For more information about the way to God, click here.

*(Ed. note: Baby Jesus was not stolen from this display, nor was His absence an oversight. Many feel that the manger display is more accurate if baby Jesus is placed in the manger on Christmas Eve, since He had not been born until then.)

Vengeance is Mine

There was a time early in my life when I believed I was treated very unjustly by my boss. I had not had a personal relationship with Jesus for very long at that point. I was trying to adjust to my new situation with Him and to practice responding to problems in a way that might be pleasing to Him. I felt that my boss should be held accountable for her actions and I poured my grievances out to the Lord. I wasn’t in a position where I could call this person to account on my own if I wanted to keep my job.

It wasn’t long before He directed me in my Bible reading to Romans 12, verse 19: “…it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

I did not recall seeing this verse before, but I knew He was using it to speak to me. Then I gave some serious thought to what it meant. I took it to mean, “I am the One who decides when revenge is called for, and when it is, I will be the one to deal with it.” Then I realized that I needed to take my hands and thoughts off of this matter and pass it on to Him, whose judgment is perfect, and let Him handle it. So that is what I did. I continued to have some resentment, but took no further action on my own.

Time passed and I did not see where God was doing anything about my grievance. But I remembered the verse and continued to leave the situation alone. A year or two later, my boss had to leave the company and return to her home state hundreds of miles away. I never spoke to her about the situation, but I knew in my heart God had taken care of it. He does not take it lightly when someone unjustly accuses or uses one of His children. But I have also learned over time that He does not usually act at once.

He gives the offender time to address the situation in a way that He can permit, and if the offender does nothing, he or she will accumulate transgressions until the Lord is forced to deal with it. It is always His desire that people will do His will so He will not need to punish them.

As I now write this, I can no longer recall what the grievance was about anymore! God not only dealt with it, He also made me to forget it. I no longer have resentment toward my former boss. I spoke to my girlfriend one day back then (who had also not know the Lord very long) about how God deals with people when they come against His children. She agreed and added, “And when He deals with them, it’s usually worse than what I would have done if I had handled it my way!” We laughed, but there is some truth to that. I would have liked an apology and some consideration of my point of view from my boss. I would not have made her leave the company and move back home! But the Lord knew the whole situation and how best to handle it. Perhaps she had done the same to others. Perhaps there were many grievances besides mine. I did not need to know about these things. I only needed to turn it all over to the Lord and be about my own business. Even though I don’t remember what I was upset about, I do remember that verse and it has come back to help me many times when I wanted to take matters into my own hands.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).

A 7th Grader Finds Law School too Easy?

girl reading

Sometime ago, I read a report about a girl who was just beginning the sixth grade. Her older brother was taking online courses at a law school, and out of sheer boredom, she began secretively studying some of the material on her own. To his surprise, she found the courses were not as boring and difficult as she thought they would be and she decided to try taking them alongside her brother. After only a few months, the girl was doing as well as her brother. In less than a year, she was doing better on the exams than many of her brother’s online classmates! When she entered seventh grade, she also applied at her brother’s law school, and after scoring high on the entrance exam, was readily accepted! She is currently taking law courses on a part-time basis, but she now finds law school to be too easy and hopes to able to enter the law school’s more advanced levels before long.

A child prodigy? No. It is all part of the law school’s new teaching methodology. According to Dr. Slipshod, dean of education, “This is a growing trend in law schoolhigher education, particularly among law and even medical schools. We have come to realize that the course material we formerly offered was considerably out of touch with the younger generation, and even individuals who could not obtain a complete secondary education. We have found that, since the new program’s inception, multitudes of students from primary schools have advanced rapidly through the initiative.”

Equally enthusiastic is Ms. I. Knowless, senior counsel, who said, “I initially was very antagonistic toward the whole concept, but after I saw the results for myself, my dismay turned into considerable joy and enthusiasm. In fact, my colleagues, who were equally skeptical, are now looking to see just how soon they can bring these young graduates into their own law firms.”

Of course, any new educational program encounters those who are apprehensive concerning its effectiveness. Mr. and Mrs. Bothersome of Lower Heights were among the many parents who have expressed concerns. “It’s an outrage that the whole legal system should be simplified to an elementary school level. Lawyers and judges who have studied and practiced law for years and years have now had their knowledlaw booksge and experience usurped by an educational system that solely seeks profit and increased numbers.” Yet, according to studies done by Meddling Research Center for Advanced Education, this trend is not likely to disappear, since sixty-two percent of those polled felt that moving to a legal system that everyone can understand is now becoming imperative. More than eighty-one percent of those interviewed by a renowned trend study think-tank desired a better level of understanding on all facets of law, to the point where even a five-year-old could be able to comprehend many of the deeper elements of criminal justice.

You might have guessed by now that this news report is fictional. But the truth of the matter is, that people today are trying to bring complex matters down to a level that even an untrained child can understand, instead of trying to rise up to develop a deeper knowledge and insight into these matters themselves. Similarly, many people today also attempt to bring God down to their level. In our finite mindset, we don’t want to try to learn more and study harder in order to understand God. We prefer for Him to operate at our low level of understanding instead. We don’t really want to leave our ‘comfort zone’ to seek Him. The Bible says, “Draw nigh [near] to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8a). It doesn’t say “Stay where you are, and I will lower myself down to your level.” This may lead some to think (or confirm what they have already suspected) that God is unapproachable, or that He is arrogant and impersonal. Yet quite the opposite is true. God wants to be in close communion and fellowship with us. But the real element of separation between us and Him is sin. It is sin that keeps us apart from Him and vice versa. As long as sin remains present and not dealt with in our lives, there will always have to be a great distance between God and us.

Sin is disobedience to God’s Word and His commandments—and not just the Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20:3-17—but all of His commandments. This means the entire Bible, not just the Old Testament. Sin is, in essence, missing the mark with God.

We, as sinful beings, do not see just how awful sin really is, especially from God’s point-of-view. Sin is so horrible that He cannot even glance at it. That is one reason why Jesus struggled with the thought of going to die on the cross. He knew that if He went to the cross, fellowship with His Father in Heaven would have to be broken, because of all of the sin that He would have to take upon Himself there for the sake of man. Jesus had such great closeness with His heavenly Father that, when He was on this earth, He stayed in constant communication with Him. Even before He was born on this earth, He already had a strong bond for eternity past with His heavenly Father.

By comparison, man’s relationship with his human parents has never been for more than 970 years (the age of the oldest known person, see Exodus 5:26, 27). Yet, for a brief time, the sin that Jesus had to take upon Himself at the cross, our sin, was so great that His Father had to turn away in temporary separation from Him. That agony was even greater for Jesus than all of the physical pain He had to suffer, up to, and on, the cross. But why did God turn away when His Son took on all of the sins of everyone—past, present and future—at the cross? He did so because He is a holy God, and in His holy state, He cannot tolerate even the minutest degree of sin. That is why we cannot approach Him as we are in our current sinful state, nor can He directly approach us.

It is because of our sinful nature, both externally and internally, that we have never been able to see God at any time in history. Even Moses in the Old Testament, one of the men in the Bible who was closest to God, could not look at Him directly.

God said to him, “…Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft [split] of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:20-23). For God to come down to our level means that He would have to fellowship with sin. As mentioned in an earlier post, if God allowed even a microscopic amount of sin in His presence, He would cease to be God. This is what the Devil has been trying to make happen for centuries, and he will continue to do so until he is ultimately eliminated.

sun and clouds

This is also why, as I stated earlier, we have to come to Him. We must move up toward His level of understanding. We can’t be content with just staying at our low level of understanding of who He is and what He has done for us. We can’t remain shallow in our mindset or expectations of Him. To put it very simply, we can’t go to Him and ask things like, “What flavor of ice cream would You like to eat?” or “God, who do You want to win the Super Bowl or the World Cup?” This is also the reason we can’t just pick up the Bible—God’s Word—and search to see if we should have a car, or a truck, or a motorcycle or even what color they should be. We need to search it for what we really need most, things like righteousness and holiness and purity.

We need to seek Him to learn how to separate ourselves from the cares and concerns of this world and its impure lifestyles, instead of trying to make Him part of them. When we try to bring God down to our level, we lower, and ultimately eliminate, our reverence or godly fear of Him.

Considering Him as our buddy or pal changes our attitude toward sin. We think, “He’ll understand, it’s just a little sin. He’s my pal; He won’t send me to Hell over something as little as that!” Yet even that ‘little’ sin is more than enough to keep us out of Heaven and the presence of God. Remember that a holy God cannot tolerate any sin. Period.

You may now be thinking, just how do I move up to His level? It’s not too difficult. First, get alone and seek Him in prayer. Prayer is the most effective way to communicate and have fellowship with Him. During this time of prayer, ask God to forgive you for all your sins against Him. You also need to repent (meaning to be sorry for doing those sins and to stop doing them and turn in the opposite direction). Second, read and then reread His Word, the Bible. At the same time, ask Him to open your mind and spirit more to understand His Word as you read it. Third, you must let Him work in your life. If you are thinking mostly of yourself and not of Him, then you are not really letting Him work in your life. Don’t be afraid to ask for a deeper understanding of Him. He wants you to ask. He wants you to press in and desperately desire to understand Him better. Fourth, begin to distance yourself from those who are keeping you from seeking Him, as well as those who don’t want to grow closer to Him. If you aren’t sure who, then ask Him to show you. If you get serious with Him, He will be serious with you. Lastly, don’t give up! Hold to what you seriously asked Him earlier. If you don’t give up on Him, He won’t give up on you!

Exit Signs

overhead exit sign

Have you ever thought about the “EXIT” signs that many buildings have placed inside rooms over the doors that lead out of the building? On the ones I’ve seen, the word EXIT is most often in red letters, lit from behind. They are readily recognizable this way, and we’ll be able to find them easily in an emergency. Then we’ll know how to find our way out—especially if the lights go out and the room is in darkness. A room may have other doors without these signs, but not all of them necessarily lead outside where we will be safe. Some could even lead us into a more dangerous area than the one we are already in! It’s easy to get disoriented when everything is dark, when we can’t see which way to go.

An “EXIT” sign reassures us that we will be able to find the way out, no matter how dark the room may be, if we will only make our way over to leave by the door under it.

This world we live in is going more and more into an emergency mode, getting increasingly dark. When Jesus hung on the cross and died, it could be said that He became a ‘living’ exit sign for us. His body, drenched in His own red blood, wasnot an exit sign hung there to show us the way out of the darkness of this world. There are other ‘doors’ that we could try, but Jesus is the only door that leads us out of this world and into the safety of our Heavenly Father’s arms, where no harm can ever reach us. There are many other doors, but none of them can lead us to Heaven. They do not have the right sign over them showing us the way to exit this dark world to safety.

Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved…” (John 10:9, italics mine). There is only one door to Heaven. That door is Jesus Christ and there is no other.

Jesus also said “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, italics mine). As things get darker and darker in this world, will you be looking for the ‘red’ exit sign so you can find your way out? Be sure you are ready.
For information about finding your way out click here.

–Alana Pangburn

Anger Management

angry man

“That idiot! Why, I’ll run him into the trees!” Geoff exclaimed with violent passion. He eased his truck up closer and closer, until he was just a couple of inches from the car that had cut him off moments earlier. Eighty-five, ninety-five, one hundred—the speedometer kept climbing on Geoff’s truck as he attempted to pass the offending car in front of him. “That fool messed with me at a bad time, and the time’s ain’t gonna get no better for him,” Geoff relished with vengeful glee. “I’ll show him what it means to cut me off, the rotten…”

Suddenly, the other car swerved over to the shoulder of the highway, nearly clipping a nearby sedan, and almost crashing into the guardrail on the side. Geoff managed to pull over quickly onto the same shoulder in front of the other car. He was going to jam the truck into reverse, then floor the accelerator in an attempt to finish the car off.

His anger was not just getting the best of him; it had already gotten all of him.

After a quick look in the rearview mirror, Geoff realized he was too far away from the other car for the effort to be worth it. He pulled back out instead and took off down the highway again.

As his anger subsided, he began to feel smug about what he had just done. Later that evening, when he was just arriving at his friend’s place, he could hear uproarious laughter emanating from the open front window. “Yeah, Geoff in his truck was all over some guy on the highway today,” one of his friends belted out. “I saw the whole thing! All the guy did was pull in front of him a little too quick. You’d think Geoff was going to knock him into the trees, the way he came up fast behind that car! What a fool!” Another round of laughter filled the room.

Geoff decided not to go in after all. “What a fool I made of myself today,” he thought as he returned to his truck. “These anger sprees are going to get me locked up one of these days, and I don’t know what to do about it!”

Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, a young lady was standing at her boss’ desk. “Julie, I know the man was wrong, but you can’t keep blowing up in anger at our customers,” her boss reprimanded her. “Three times before I put up with this, but this is the last time—you’re fired!”

Hurt and distraught, Julie left the office and slowly moved though the store to the exit, while all of her co-worker’s eyes were fixed upon her. “What can I do about this sudden anger?” she fretted to herself.

What can people like these two do about their anger? The Bible addresses this situation in Proverbs 14:29: “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.” God’s view of quick and impulsive anger has always been negative. “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). While it is not wrong to be angry at certain things on appropriate occasions, we can’t be quick to blow up in anger over every little thing that fails to please us.

statues of anger management

An “anger management” program is the most common solution recommended today. In severe cases, drugs may be prescribed. While the impulsive anger may become more controllable and even subside for a while by these methods, are they the real answer to the problem? For those who take the drug route, the drugs may very well remain a part of their life for the rest of their life. Is that the best solution? Like so many other problems today, has this really caused the anger problem to be eliminated? Just a brief review of the news today confirms that the problem has only been increasing.

Yet God had a solution, even before this problem began. It came through His Son, Jesus, as He hung on the cross. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost [His spirit]” (John 19:30).

wooden cross

When Jesus said “finished,” all of the laws and requirements that God laid out in the Old Testament were fulfilled through His sacrifice of His life on the cross.

All the animal sacrifices, all the ceremonial procedures, and everything else God had set out in the law He gave to Moses, Jesus fulfilled. This doesn’t mean that the Law of Moses has been eliminated, but rather, that it is has now all been fulfilled through Jesus. He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17).

Our sin-desiring self—our “flesh”—has to die daily in Him. This may sound awful, but it is actually good news! If we will stop trying to control our flesh by ourselves and lay the situation upon Him, if we simply take our hands off of these problems or issues, and let Him take control, we will be overcomers. Problems like impulsive anger won’t control us anymore, because we have handed them off to Jesus. But when we stop letting Him work through us, and pick these problems up again, then they will control us.

Impulsive anger, lust, lying, stealing, etc., are all by-products of our rejection of the finished work of Jesus at the cross. If we won’t accept what He has done for us, why should He choose to work through us?

This is the reason why it is almost impossible to control or eliminate these kinds of problems like anger in our lives by ourselves. By the time these problems come to the surface, we have already crossed the point of no return. It’s like trying to stop ourselves from going over a waterfall when we are at the very edge of it, instead of searching for a solution upstream long before, where all the means were available. Sure, there are all kinds of help to keep us from going over, but the waterfall is still there, and we are still right at the edge. Instead of trying to just control impulsive anger, try seeking the Lord and establishing a real relationship with Him. We need to let Him control us, instead of trying to control ourselves by ourselves.

Changing Your Destiny

divided roadway

Our ultimate destiny in life depends on only one thing. It is not determined according to how well we have served mankind or how productive we may have been. Nor is it determined by whom we know or how much we have owned. The one thing our destiny depends on is our relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? You may know Him by name. You may know a lot of facts about Him. But do you know Him? Do you know Him personally? What happens to you after you die all depends on your relationship with Jesus before you die. If you know Him as a wonderful man, or a great teacher, or a prophet sent by God, that is not enough. He did not come to earth primarily for any of those reasons. If you think He came here to be a good example for us to follow, that is still not His primary reason for coming here.

Jesus came to earth to rescue every man, woman and child from the bondage of sin. We did not become sinners after we were born—we already were that way even from the day of our conception. We inherited the disposition toward sin from our fathers and mothers.

Our destiny without Jesus could therefore only be death, because death is the wages of sin, and then to spend eternity in hell. It is not that we chose that destiny, but that it was the only one available by default—because the human race was sold out to the devil.

Jesus came down from heaven and became a man, so that He could save us from this horrible destiny. Jesus permitted man, whom He created, to turn against Him and beat Him almost to death, then to nail Him to a cross to hang there until He died—a horrible death ordinarily assigned to a runaway slave. He went as far as anyone possibly could, to do what needed to be done to give each of us a chance to escape our destiny in hell—in order to spend eternity with God in heaven. He made it possible for you to have a brand new life and a new family—the family of God. You can change your destiny by giving your life to Him. After all, He gave His very life for you.

Death is the destiny each of us should have had. We should have been executed in order to pay for our sin of rebelling against God, who is the King of the universe. But Jesus was sent to earth to take our place instead. Only a perfect man could die the death that a sinner deserves and then be resurrected by a holy God. And there is only one Perfect Man who ever lived. Therefore there was only one Man who was qualified to take our place and die for us. That Man is Jesus.

It is the desire of Jesus Christ to know each one of us personally. He did not die simply for the mass of humanity. He died on the cross for each and every individual human being. He loves each one of us so much that He would go to that extreme to rescue us and set us free, to be with Him forever, even if only one person responded. What greater love could there be than this?

What will your destiny be? With it be death and then eternity without God, like most other people will receive? Or will you be the one who stands out from the crowd and follows Jesus, giving your whole life and future unreservedly to Him? Do you know Jesus personally? Get to know Him while you can. Now is the time to determine what your destiny will be, while you still have time.Click here for more information.

–Alana Pangburn

Refuge…On a Picnic Table?

picnic table

The howling wind just would not calm down. The temperature held steady in the lower 50s, but the windchill from the intense wind made it feel more like the lower 40s, or even the upper 30s. Lou knew the screened pavilion he had sought shelter in would keep the rain and bugs away, but it proved totally ineffective against these horrid blasts. He remained hunched over in a corner beside a stack of folded chairs, where he diligently tried to read his book. He was able to get a few paragraphs in, but the wind still managed to weave its way in through the chairs. He thought about his body temperature, now dropping from remaining so sedentary while he was reading.

“There has to be some way to make it though these awful wind conditions,” he thought. Then the sky began to make some effort to clear while the sun made its way through broken clouds. Yet the winds seemed to retain an unrelenting agenda of their own. Lou’s thoughts drifted to a friend he knew across the inlet, probably still snug in bed asleep, oblivious to the raging gale outside. Yet he knew that their friendship would be greatly strained, to say the least, if he even hinted at the need to stay there for a few days. “My own brother would have let me stay for at least a night,” he murmured to himself, “that is, if I had a brother.”

“Well, I could try pacing around this pavilion,” he blurted out audibly to the stack of chairs, as if they were an active part of his situation. The trees and shrubbery were bent now at an angle significant enough to warrant real concern. The water in the inlet seemed to leap over itself, like armies of small frogs trying to escape impending doom. Lou paced and paced and paced, from one end of the pavilion to the other, with little improvement. He observed, during all this vigorous pacing, that on the corner opposite where he had unsuccessfully tried to evade the blustery air, there were solid walls—the only ones in the whole place. “Perhaps,” he thought, “these could finally be of some help.”

Crouched now in the small, walled corner, Lou tried again to finish his reading for the day. But, to his dismay, after barely making it through less than a third of a chapter, the wind and its frigid companions stumbled upon his hiding place and taunted him with irritating surges of cold air. In his desperation he burst out of the pavilion and looked toward the sky, its clouds now loosely scattered, and shouted, “Where can I go for shelter from these horrid winds!”

He walked away from the pavilion in frustration. When he reached the thick brush a short distance away, he began to notice a calm appearing in the air. He decided to try sitting on a nearby picnic table, which he had never really noticed before. Almost instantly, the blustery winds became insignificant as warm sun and calm air enveloped him. “Wow,” he exclaimed to himself, “why didn’t I call out for help sooner!”

A similar situation occurred over two thousand years ago. Jesus’ disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, attempting to cross over to the other side. When they began, everything seemed like just another ordinary voyage across the water. “And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships” (Mark 4:35, 36). Partially into the journey, the sky grew dark, the winds began to blow violently, and the waves of the sea became enormous. It seemed so bad that they feared all would be lost and their lives were about to end. The boat was becoming swamped by the waves repeatedly crashing over it. “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full” (Mark 4:37). How bleak and hopeless the scene had become in such a short time!

“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end” (Psalms 107:23-27).

One thing made this trip different from the many others the disciples had taken across this sea. Jesus was in the boat, and He was the One who had told them to cross to the other side of the sea. During all of the ensuing turmoil, Jesus simply remained asleep in the rear of the boat! He could sleep since He believed that all would be well—because He knew His time to die had not yet come. Therefore, none of His disciples with Him were about to die now either. Of course, the disciples did not know or understand this—they hardly understood who He actually was at this point! As a result, in their fear and unbelief they woke Jesus up, and then scolded Him for sleeping during the raging storm.

“And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38). Jesus maintained such complete communion with His heavenly Father that He had absolutely no fear concerning any of the turmoil that was occurring. Therefore, He returned their scolding with a stony rebuke of their unbelief, and immediately calmed the raging storm. His disciples were completely amazed at this action. They were convinced before that they were at the point of death, and now everything was completely at ease with no danger any longer at hand!

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him” (Mark 4:39-41)?

“Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven” (Psalms 107:28-30).

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). When the winds are howling or the storm is raging, Jesus will always be our source of hope and peace—if we will let Him. When we let fear, despair, or worry into our lives, they will take over and peace will seem impossible. Yet Jesus is the Prince of Peace!

“…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b). We, as the children of God, must put our total trust in our Heavenly Father, just as Jesus put His total trust in God His father. When we grow anxious and worry about the situation that we are in (whether frigid winds or a stormy sea), then we allow doubt and unbelief to come in and take over our lives. We are, in effect, saying that we know better than God does, and that He is not able to take care of His children. The result is that we sin against God.

We, like Lou, can be led to protection from the intense winds. Or we can be like Jesus’ disciples were, and let the storm drive us to the point of total doubt and unbelief to the point that we become upset or angry with God. Seek Him and ask Him to help when these trials come, and ultimately trust Him for the outcome. We need to both trust and obey. We can’t say that we are trusting in Him, and then worry about the outcome! If we let go, and let God work, He will make a way through the situation.