Articles for Edification

Easing Anxiety With the Providence of God

Scrabble tiles spell anxiety to show how even Christians can get anxious if they don't understand the providence of God.

Anxiety is real, even in believers. No matter how many times we recite Matthew 6:27, telling ourselves not to worry about tomorrow, sometimes we just can’t help it. The bad news blares at us from every available media mechanism. And, even our own spirits bear witness that we are in the last days. Things are changing fast, and the future, whether open for business or in total lockdown, is unclear. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says that there is a time for everything under the sun. The answer to anxiety is understanding that it’s the providence of God that determines when those times occur. Whatever we experience will be temporary, but the God who orchestrates our lives is eternal. Right now, there are three things we can do to ease our anxiety about the future.

The Providence of God

Bible Study Tools defines the providence of God as the “divine, sovereign, and benevolent control of all things by God.” God is in control. We are not. Yes, we make our own choices and have to live with the consequences. But, God ultimately knows what those choices will be. He uses circumstances to achieve His desired outcome with or without our cooperation. In Job 42:2, Job says, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” For believers in Christ, this leads to one of the sweetest promises in scripture. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” 

God Controls Our Times

Ecclesiastes 3:1: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven”

God has a plan. There are no accidents with God, and He is never taken by surprise. Think about the vast number of variables that had to come together for our earth to exist as we know it. There are probably an equal or even greater number of variables that will have to converge for it to end exactly the way the Bible promises it will. It’s mind blowing, really. For all of those things to happen in God’s plan, He must involve Himself in people’s lives. 

Ecclesiastes 3:2: “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted”

God chose when each one of us was born, and He will choose when we die. Likewise, there are times when the earth is ready to plant, and there are times when the earth is ready to give forth her harvest. These are just the first two pairs in a list of fourteen that show us that God is the one in control, and everything has its time. You and I were born for such a time as this, and God has numbered our days.

When we live our lives in accordance with God’s will, listening to the Holy Spirit for guidance, there is nothing to fear. Hebrews 2:15 says we have been released from the bondage of the fear of death. Philippians 1:21 says that now, “…to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Even if the circumstances of the world lead to our physical death, that is just the vehicle that conveys us to an eternity with our Lord and Savior. God controls life and death just as He decides when things are able to grow and when they are ripe for the picking.

The Rest of the Pairs

Here are the rest of the pairs from Ecclesiastes 3:2-8. I put the more connotatively positive words in blue and the negative words in red. All of these pairs represent temporary times in life. Today you may weep, for example, but don’t lose heart. There will come a time when you will laugh. On the other hand, today you may experience gain. If at some point you experience loss, you shouldn’t be devastated because you know that the time is coming again for gain in the future. Every one of these items, whether positive or negative, has a part to play in God’s sovereign plan for our lives.

We Are Not In Control

“Deo volente” is Latin for “God willing.” According to James 4:15, it’s what believers are supposed to say each time we reference what we will do in the future. For one thing, life is “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). For another, there are millions of variables that come between us and the future. Even a beautiful spring day with plenty of money in your pocket and a healthy, loving family by your side can turn tragic with a car crash. On the other hand, a future that looks completely scary and depressing (if you listen to the news) can bring blessings beyond our wildest dreams in the hands of a sovereign God with a plan.

What Can We Do

1. Choose to Trust in Jesus

We must remember that God has control over our lives, and He is for us, not against us. Psalm 31:15 says, “My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.” We can’t get worried about what might happen or frustrated when we don’t understand why things are happening the way they are. Sometimes God allows things that hurt us just to make our roots go deeper into Him.

There is an old song called Through the Fire. The lyrics go, “He never promised that the cross would not get heavy and the hill would not be hard to climb. He never offered our victories without fighting, but He said help would always come in time.” We must remember that God gives us what we need sometimes instead of what we want. There is a greater picture at stake in a tapestry with threads as innumerable as waves in the ocean. We must live our lives accordingly by following Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

2. Seek Him First

Matthew 6:31-33 says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” We must make God’s will our first priority. We must genuinely seek Him to know how to spend our time and resources. If we believe that God will one day judge the heart and deeds of man, everything we do has meaning. We must consecrate our lives to Christ. And, as His children, we must trust that He will take care of the things we need. Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” God takes care of His own.

3. Appreciate Today

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says, “I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” A good friend of mine with chronic health problems recently said that she had learned the hard way to count her blessings instead of looking at her problems. The circumstances were the same either way, but she lived a lot happier life by being grateful for what she had instead of grumbling about what was wrong. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says that we should, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

After all, everything good we have in our lives comes by the hand of God. James 1:7 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” The same thing is true of worry as it is for actual problems. We can spend our time fearful and fretful over things that may or may not happen in God’s sovereign plan for our lives, or we can appreciate the good things today and trust Him for tomorrow.

Finite Vs Infinite

Job 14:1 says that man is few of days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away…” (Job 14:2a). Life is short, and the times and seasons in it are even shorter. But God is eternal. The providence of God determines the details of our lives. Nothing, good or bad, will happen to us without His approval. We should trust Him, seek Him, and appreciate the gifts He gives us.  

Ecclesiastes 3:14 says, “I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.” God’s actions are permanent, effective and complete, and leave us totally secure in His sovereignty. The result should be that we fear God – and God alone. For He alone holds our future in His hands.

If you like numbered lists, try 4 Distractions for Christians We Must Beware. Or, try Balaam, Us, and the 3 Wills of God . In that one, we look at a story with a talking donkey and a mistake you and I have probably both made in our lives. Please subscribe in the upper right corner (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel. There, I read my blogs out loud and have a playlist of hymns from my church. Far from boring, they are fast, sassy, and anointed.

Lessons to Learn

3 Last Days Object Lessons From Shopping

This is a gold shopping cart in front of glass refrigeration doors at the grocery store to represent the last days lessons God taught me regarding shopping.

For those who are listening, God is speaking all the time. It isn’t always dramatic like an audible voice or even a dream or a vision. It might be a Bible passage that seems to come off the page or the still, small voice that speaks to our hearts. But sometimes God uses circumstances, like living parables, to teach us very valuable truths if we are willing to see them. This week, I found three such lessons involving shopping that spoke to me about how we should live our lives in these last days.

Cart Switch

This week, my husband and I went to the grocery store together. He had a small cart and spent quite some time in the produce section talking to a group of fire fighters who had come in. I was running around in other departments, getting items and putting them in the cart when we would happen to meet. When we were ready to check out, we were surprised to find squash, apples, and grapes at the bottom of the cart that neither of us had put inside, and we were missing the pack of dates and tub of buffalo chicken dip that we had actually put there.

It only took a second for me to realize that at some point, my husband had accidentally switched carts with someone else. The whole time, we were just blindly adding item on top of item without even realizing the difference. (And, either the other person didn’t notice or was too afraid to mention it because my husband is a big guy with a shaved head.)

Lesson #1: Don’t Be Deceived By Look-Alikes – Hide God’s Word in Your Heart

“And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.’”

Matthew 24:4-5

In these last days, there are many look-alikes to true Christianity. Some are easy to spot like the larger carts or the electric ones that nobody could mistake for the little cart we came in with. But some look very much like the real thing until you get up close and really look inside. That is why it is so important to pay attention and stay in the Word of God daily. The more you hide God’s Word in your heart, the more you will notice when things don’t match with it. Take everything you hear and read to the Word of God. Put on the full armor of God that starts with the belt of truth. Then pray fervently that God will keep you from deception.

Follow Closely

My kids are grown now, but when they were little, my son and daughter behaved very differently at the store. My son, Alan, would follow closely behind me, walking when I would walk and stopping when I would stop. He might look at something here or there, but he was acutely aware of my movements at all times. His highest priority was in staying with me so he didn’t get lost.

My daughter Olivia, on the other hand, was a whole other kind of shopper. Three years his junior, she would get distracted by shiny, interesting items along the way. Many times, I would look behind me, and she would be gone. I would then have to retrace my steps to find where I had lost her along the way. One time, I had the whole store of Kmart on lockdown. Security watched the doors while associates and I scoured the store for my three-year-old little girl. We found her under a clothes rack trying on shoes.

Lesson #2: Keep Your Focus and Stay Close to God

“You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”

Deuteronomy 13:4 

Many times over the years, I have prayed to God to help me follow Him “like Alan in the grocery store.” We must keep that same heightened awareness, that same focus in following. No matter what things of this world might grab our attention in a moment, ultimately, our highest priority must be staying connected to God and His plan, His path, and His way. Yes, God will never leave us nor forsake us, but there is danger in wandering off. There is an old saying that goes, “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.” There is truth there, for sure. Now, more than ever, we must be alert to what God is doing and to stay close to Him.

Put the Cart Back

This weekend while I was contemplating the other lessons learned, I was wondering if it might be my blog topic for the week. I thought to myself that if I had more shopping analogy come up, I might just have myself an outline. Just a few short minutes later, I found a quote by a celebrity named Glenn Danzig about shopping carts. His theory was that the ultimate test for whether someone was a good or bad member of society was whether or not he/she put back the shopping cart after use. He reasoned that since it was the right thing to do but there was no real punishment for not doing it, good citizens did it, and bad citizens did not. And that was enough to determine the label.

Lesson #3: Always Do What Pleases God

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Galatians 6:9

The last days are full of troubles, but we all have our parts to play for God. There are big picture items like our own personal callings and ministries. And, there are little detail items like being faithful in the things that please God. I thought of Matthew 23:23 when Jesus was talking to the scribes and Pharisees about tithing but ignoring the weightier items of the law like justice and mercy, “…you ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone.”

We can’t get so caught up in working for God that we are too tired to read the Bible or pray, too busy to check in on our elderly neighbors, or too distracted to notice a hurting co-worker. Doing the right thing all the time takes effort. Even when some of the things we know we should do don’t seem to have immediate benefits or even consequences for not doing them, we can’t get tired of doing things God’s way. God keeps very good records, and one day we want to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Shopping Lessons Learned

The Bible calls these last days “perilous times.” There are deceptions and distractions all around us, and it can be hard to maintain a solid Christian walk in the midst of them. But the cure for lies and deception is truth. We must be actively reading the Bible and checking everything we see and read against it. The solution to distraction is focus. We must stubbornly refuse to lose ourselves to the things of this world. And, the answer to weariness is keeping our eyes on the prize. We must always do what pleases God. Jesus is coming soon. Until that time, learning these three lessons will help us better navigate these last days, even in unchartered waters. 

Enjoy object lessons? Check out Spiritual Warfare: A Defeated Foe. In it, God uses a housefly to teach me about the way I should view the enemy. Or, try Message in the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change. In that one, God shows me that we don’t have to stick with bad choices once they have been made. Please subscribe in the upper right corner (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel. There, I read my blogs out loud and have a playlist of hymns from my church. Far from boring, they are fast, sassy, and anointed. I hope you will be blessed listening!

Lessons to Learn

The Secret to Waiting on God

A picture of a man looking at his watch to represent waiting on God.

Secular artist Tom Petty once sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.” Boy! Isn’t that the truth? It’s hard to wait for future solutions to immediate problems. But the Bible says we are to wait on the Lord even when it’s hard, and even when we don’t understand. His timing is not our own. The past couple of weeks, I have been experiencing some waiting. During that time, I learned the hard way that HOW we wait is just as important as the waiting itself. See, waiting on God is tied to our faith and trust (or lack) in Him. And, there IS a secret to waiting without regret.

My Waiting Story

I publish my blogs every Sunday after church, and each week I pray and ask God what He would have me to write. Sometimes the blogs are big projects with lots of research, so I will get those ideas the weekend before or by Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes, the message comes in parts, with a relevant verse or a title or a topic here or there that, like a puzzle, gets put together a piece at a time throughout the week until I have a workable outline. I just keep praying and praying until I understand (and then I pray the whole time I’m writing to be sure He is pleased with what comes out).

I have learned from experience that I just have to keep listening. It does no good for me to try to “figure it out.” In fact, one week, I was kind of straining to hear, really just trying to talk it out. That Wednesday at church, my pastor said, “You can’t hear God speaking until He actually starts to speak” or something similar. I knew it was for me, and I still laugh thinking about it. I can’t MAKE God talk to me. He does it in His time, and until then, I wait.

Last week, by that Friday, I still didn’t even have an idea. So, I started to get worried. I prayed off and on all day for my blog topic, even enlisting two of my best sister-friends in Christ to pray for me to hear. But, by Friday night when I still hadn’t heard anything, I was actually getting agitated. I knew that God had always come through for me before, but my Saturday was filled with other plans. If He didn’t hurry up, there was no way I would have time to write it and get it uploaded on schedule. Then the “what-ifs” started. “What if I did something to make Him angry?” “What if He doesn’t want me to blog anymore?” “Or What if I get the topic and I don’t have time to get it all done?”

God Came Through in His Time

Long story short, the topic popped right into my mind within just a few short paragraphs of opening my Bible for that night’s devotion. And that same night, two and a half hours after I started, I had a rough draft. All that worrying, first about not getting a topic at all and then about not having time to write was just ridiculous. God had the situation well under control. He is not in the business of hanging His people out to dry, and he wasn’t about to start with me. He also knew exactly what my schedule was like and how long it would take me to complete the project. There wasn’t a moment that was out of His control. Of course, after the fact, I felt terrible and repented for my lack of trust in Him.

Fast forward to this week. Again, I was at the end of the week with no topic. I had just learned the hard way not to question God and His timing, so I patiently waited. Friday night came and went…nothing. I refused to worry. I refused to be upset. Even when I was awake in the night, I prayed in faith that God would give me my topic in His time…and He did on Saturday morning.

We Wait Because He is Worth Waiting For 

“And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well…’”

Mark 7:37a

The whole time I was waiting, there was never a moment when I thought to myself, “Well, I will just write something on my own.” God has given me enough wisdom to recognize that there is nothing special about me apart from Him. I don’t WANT my own way of doing things. I want only the best — and that’s Him. That goes for other areas of my life too. I pray desperately for His guidance in everything simply because He knows what’s best for me. Even when I think I know, chances are that I don’t. But He always does. How ever long it takes for Him to answer or move on my behalf, it is worth it, because if it’s from Him, it’s perfect.

Waiting is Active, Not Passive

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning— yes, more than those who watch for the morning.”

Psalm 130:5-6

Waiting on God isn’t passive, like waiting for a bus. You can’t just scroll on your phone. Instead, it involves praying and watching in faith, expecting Him to act. We know that He keeps His promises. We know that He is with us. It’s just a matter of time before we see His hand move for us. So, we can’t get frustrated or weary in well doing. We must remain confident that He has everything under control and will take care of us in the way that is best for our good and His glory. 

Psalm 27:13-14 says, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” Our hearts are strengthened after we see the fruit of our waiting in hope: when God is with us and works things out for us.

The Secret to Waiting on God

“Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed…”

Psalm 25:3a

In fact, that’s the secret to waiting well. We remind ourselves that God has never failed us yet. He is worthy of our faith and trust. We can look back at all the times when God took care of our needs, despite all of our worry. One practical way that I have found to do that is with keeping a journal. Every time I notice an interaction with God (an answered prayer, a supernatural blessing, a message of love), I write it down in my journal. Those few sentences here and there add up to a big blessing on days when I’m discouraged or sad. I just read through those journal entries, and I feel close to God again.

Worry, on the other hand, will never help any situation but is simply a symptom of lack of faith in God. We have to remind ourselves to behave in a way that, when we look back, we are pleased with ourselves and not ashamed. It helps to memorize and recite Isaiah 41:10. “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God is with us. We don’t have to be distressed because He calls us His own. He has promised to help us and use His power to get us through.

Waiting on God is a Blessing

“…Blessed are all those who wait for Him.”

Isaiah 30:18d

Someone once said in humor, “Dear God, please give me patience – right now!” It’s funny but painfully true. We need His help to have patience because it is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s something that we can only bear when we are abiding in Him. We do that by trusting in His character as a good and faithful God who keeps His promises even we don’t fully understand the situation. We actively wait in hope, and when the trial is over and we move from the valley to the mountain, we can look back at our experience without regret.

Enjoy articles about lessons I have learned? Check out When Obedience Is the Sacrifice in which God shows me that it is better to obey than to regret. Or, try God Answered the Prayer I Didn’t Pray. In that one, I learn the importance of leaning on God for strength. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email in-box. at the upper right of your screen (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my churchhave a playlist of hymns.

Points to Ponder

Love Not The World: A Tale of Two Marks

A picture of two right hands. One has the word "God" and the other "The World." This red-represents the idea that we are marked by our choice. We must love not the world and choose to serve God.

God is permanent. He was and is and is to come. The world, on the other hand, is rapidly unravelling. We see it all around us. COVID 19 has created a “new normal” that is setting the stage for the end time beast system. There are new mechanisms of control in the categories of information, speech, privacy, and even movements. None of these things should come as a surprise to Bible-reading Christians, though. We know that, should the Lord tarry, we are heading toward a time of great persecution for the saints. The Bible tells us to “love not the world” and its systems, but some of us are still having trouble letting go of our white-knuckled grip. We must make a choice now, because our decision marks us either way. We can’t love both God and the world.

Love Not The World

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

1 John 2:15

The word for “world” in the Greek is “kosmos.” According to the DAKE Study Bible, it means “order, behavior, fashion, and government of this world system.” It’s the same word used in John 17:16 when Jesus says about the saints, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” And, in even stronger language, it’s the same word as in James 4:4. Here, Paul is comparing those who love the world to those who are unfaithful to their spouse (our first love, God). “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

We are in this world for a purpose: God’s purpose. We have a job to do for Him. The more we find our pleasure, our meaning, our fulfillment, and our success in the world’s terms, the further away we get from the plans and purposes of God. We’re all in the middle of a spiritual war. Getting caught up with the world is like fraternizing with the enemy. 2 Timothy 2:4 says, “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” We have to keep our eyes focused on Jesus instead of getting distracted by the world.

Three Classes of the World’s System

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

1 John 2:16

Lust of the Flesh

Galatians 5:19-21 mentions 17 works of the flesh. “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…” The verse finishes with a stern warning, “…of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” 

Looking at the list, some are obvious big-sin “no-no’s” like murder, adultery, fornication, and sorcery. But some can kind of creep up on us if we aren’t careful, like selfish ambition and even dissension. Also, some Christians today have succumbed to idolatry, putting their faith in a president as a savior. Some have embraced heresies that people must follow the Torah to be righteous (the Hebrew Roots Movement) or conquer the seven mountains of influence for Jesus to return (NAR). In any case, it is all about the here and now. It’s all about living for a moment in the physical instead of seeking for God and the spiritual.

Lust of the Eyes

This category is about wanting what we don’t or can’t have. It includes sexually lustful thoughts for someone to whom one is not married. It can also include covetousness, or wrongfully desiring things that do not belong to us like a better position or material items. Finally, it can include idolatry. This is a much misunderstood term today. People tend to think of idols as little figures the pagans worshiped in Bible times, but an idol is anything on which “our affections are passionately set; an extravagant admiration of the heart.”

In simple terms, it’s anything we love above God. It’s easy to say we love God above everything else when we aren’t in a position to have to choose between them. There may come a time when we are asked to give up our possessions, our families, or even our own lives. We have to come to terms now with Who/what comes first for us.

The Pride of Life

Pride is the original sin, according to Ezekiel 28. Of the three categories, this one seems the most dangerous to Christians. It’s all about the biggest idol of all: self. (Did you notice that idolatry is in all three categories?) This one includes position/power, riches, beauty, strength, and vanity. Now, these are not bad in and of themselves. In fact, some are great blessings from God. The problem begins when it becomes about seeking after honor and applause from men instead of giving the glory to God. This one also includes self-righteousness, the idea that being “good” makes us better than others. Of course, we all want to be obedient and right with God, but the Bible is clear that only God knows the whole story. We should never be prideful but should seek to remain humble at all times.

The Two Marks

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart…You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”

Deuteronomy 6:6, 8

Depending on where we place our allegiance, every person is either marked by God or marked by the world. The Bible speaks of a spiritual mark on our forehead representing our thoughts, our desires, and our focus. The mark on our hands represents the way we actively live and use our time, talent, and resources. We are living for one or the other whether we know it or not, and there IS a spiritual mark there.

But every day we get closer and closer to the actual end time system and the physical mark of the beast. Now some say that the church will be raptured before that system comes online. Others, however, see the scriptures as indicating that the church will be here. One thing is for certain, though. At that time, sides will be chosen, once and for all.

For Some, The Spiritual Will Become Physical

For those whose eyes are set on the world, the spiritual mark will lead them to seek for a physical one, indicating an allegiance to the beast/world system. It may come with a vaccine, a chip, or a tattoo, and it will be required in the right hand or the forehead to continue having the comfort, security, and pleasure of this world. But it will also come with damnation to to hell. The Bible says that when Esau sold his birthright, there was no repentance, though he sought it with tears. Those who take the mark of the BEAST sell the birthright of their humanity. That decision is one permanent thing in this temporary world.

On the other hand, for those who reject this world system and live for God alone, the mark of God will abide on them. Those will be hated for His namesake as they stand in opposition to the antichrist and the world. They might lose the physical comforts of this life or even have to lay their lives down, but they will retain their souls.

A Permanent God and a Temporary World

“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

1 John 2:17

1 John 2:15 tells us to “love not the world,” and Luke 14:28 says that we must all count the cost of following after Christ. This life is but a vapor. What temporary, worldly things will you be willing to give up in order to stay true to an everlasting God? Now is the time to settle it in our hearts what our choice will be. Now is the time to tune our focus even more keenly toward God and put our resources in action in obedience to Him. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. On that day, God willing, we will have crowns to lay at His feet.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the mailing list on the upper right corner (or at the bottom on a phone). If you like timely articles, try  The Fruit of the Spirit During Times of Crisis. In that one, I chronicle my friend Jason’s time in China as the Coronavirus was revenging there. Or, Instead of Fear, Choose Faith in God’s Promises. In that one, we look at the 5 basic kinds of fear and the promises from the Bible that speak to each one. Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read my blogs out loud and have a separate playlist of hymns from our talented, anointed 16-year-old-worship leader Hannah.

Lessons to Learn

Word Curses Are Real: Speak Life & Not Death

Word curses are represented by a picture of a woman's mouth speaking with little red drops covered with black skulls.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I still remember singing that song when I was little and trying with all my might to believe it. Words do hurt sometimes. They can tear you down until you feel like there’s nothing left. But, they can also make you feel comforted, lifted, enlightened, and loved. Words have power; they can help and harm. And, this week, I found out something new about words. The enemy can use them against us. Word curses are real. Time is short, and we must guard our hearts, minds, and even our mouths, in these last days.

Pride Goes Before Destruction

My story starts with a mistake I made last week at work. It was a careless touch of a button in creating one of my eleven progress grade reports for my classes at school. One little click led to a big headache for the associate principal in charge of getting all the grades done correctly and an embarrassed apology from me. Of course, I fixed things as quickly as possible and turned in my new report along with the 21 electronic grade change sheets that were required for the state to have documentation. I’ve been teaching at that school for almost thirteen years and have never made a mistake like that before, so everything was fine.

But just a few days later, I made another mistake. I was supposed to be available for a Zoom meeting for a student with special needs, but I forgot. I was trying to change my password from home, but it wasn’t working. So, I decided to take a drive up to the high school parking lot to sync my new password on the school’s Wi-Fi. As soon as I opened my laptop, I got the calendar notification that the meeting was in progress.

I hurried to get Zoom loaded and was trying to figure out what to say about being late. I couldn’t get in. The Wi-Fi was taking a minute to connect to that function. I sent a quick email from my phone to the assistant principal in charge of the meeting. I said that my Wi-Fi wasn’t working, but I was at the school trying to get into the meeting.

True Words But Hidden Intent 

Now, almost every single word of that sentence was true. The Wi-Fi wasn’t working at that moment, and I was at the school trying to get into the meeting. However, the word “but” made it sound as if my home internet wasn’t working SO I had driven to the school to try to get into the meeting. I didn’t confess to having forgotten the meeting. I guess I was still smarting about my previous mistake, so I just allowed the AP to believe that technology was the problem. At that moment, it actually occurred to me that I had spoken a word curse over myself, but I shrugged it off. I hadn’t lied. I just hadn’t told everything about the situation. People are selective all the time. If anything, I’m usually too honest and make people uncomfortable with too much information. 

I then forgot about the whole thing…until two days later, when my Wi-Fi quit working. Thirty-plus minutes with an online tech guy, a two-hour window with lots of time to think, and an in-person visit from AT&T later, and my Wi-Fi was back up and running. What had been the problem? The ground had shifted, disrupting the cable. Huh.

Repent, Rescind, and Renounce

“You are snared by the words of your mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth.” 

Proverbs 6:2

As soon as the full weight of the situation hit me, of course I repented for my deceptive words. I also sent another (rather embarrassing) apology for missing the meeting to the AP and came clean about forgetting it. Finally, I broke the contract of my words. I came out of agreement with the curse I had spoken over myself in that situation. And then I started really thinking about what had happened. James 3:6a says, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…” James 3:8 says, “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” Without me even realizing it, my words had opened the door for the enemy to attack.

Word Curses

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18:21

Words have power, especially for the children of God. The enemy has it out for us. His minions are watching for legal grounds to attack. Our words can give permission for the devil to take our spiritual rights. We can speak words over ourselves without even meaning to that can rob us of our comfort, peace, health, protection, and even life. Think about it. What binds us to Jesus? It’s faith, belief in His shed blood as propitiation for our sins. What else might BELIEF bind to us when we come into agreement with words that can cause harm?

Think about things people say all the time and the spiritual implications of them:

  • “That drives me crazy!”
  • “I’m so dumb!”
  • “I always get sick every Christmas!”
  • “I’m probably going to end up ______ just like my mother!”
  • “I’m dead!” (A lot of teens say this meaning “I just died laughing”)

Proverbs 23:7a says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” When we speak negative words over ourselves, it can have consequences, both in our thought patterns and the ways we react in certain situations. Those words can also be accompanied by demonic spirits that can be allowed to harass us because instead of resisting them, we have received them.

Speak Life and Not Death

“There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.”

Proverbs 12:18

Now think about the words we speak over others, especially as parents or as someone in authority over someone else. Even when the person isn’t around to hear those words, the enemy can take them and bind them to the person. That’s why the Bible talks about not gossiping or backbiting. But what if we took those same ideas and spoke life instead of death? Health instead of harm? 

Think about these common phrases and the alternative to them:

One day we will give an account for every idle word we have spoken. Matthew 12:37 says, “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” As Christians, we should be speaking blessings over ourselves and others. Stop and think before you speak negatively. If you slip, confess your mistake, repent, and take away the power with a blessing instead.

Search Your Heart and Go to God in Prayer

Lastly, think about the words that have been spoken over you by others. Did you have a parent, a teacher, or even a doctor say something negative to you that you took to heart? Do those words line up with the what Word of God says is true for His children?

For example, if someone called you stupid when you were young, does this line up with what the Word says about God giving wisdom to all who ask? Did a doctor say your illness could not be cured when the Bible says that by His stripes we are healed? (Now, God doesn’t always choose to heal, but believing in your heart that you will never be healed is the surest way NOT to receive healing.) Did you ever have a thought from the enemy that you weren’t good enough? The Bible says God’s grace is sufficient for you.

Maybe the words happened years and years ago, but you still think about them or allow them to guide your feelings, actions, and decisions. Maybe the enemy pounds them into your ears on a daily basis. Whatever the case, it’s time to submit to what God says about us and resist the devil’s lies. We must reject and break those word curses and replace them with blessing instead. There are articles online with step by step instructions on how to break word curses, but it is best to just go straight to God and allow Him to lead you through the process.

Start by asking Him to search your heart and bring to your mind any curses you might need to break that you have allowed to be spoken over you. Then follow His leading to repent, come out of agreement with curses, and speak blessings in their place. Don’t forget to forgive those who might have hurt you and ask God to bring to your mind anyone you might have unintentionally cursed so that you can replace those curses with blessings as well.

Guard Your Mouth

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”

Proverbs 21:23

Jesus is coming soon. The devil knows his time is short, and he is using all his manpower to hinder and harm the children of God. It is time to take the authority we have been given and use it to come out of agreement with word curses and instead speak blessings over ourselves and others.

If you like articles about spiritual warfare, try Spiritual Warfare: A Defeated Foe. In it, God uses a house fly to teach an object lesson about the enemy’s mind games. Or, try In Our Spiritual Battle, the Devi Has Cookies. That’s a blog about the spy system the enemy uses against Christians and the way to stay out of the enemy’s snares. Please subscribe to my blog via email in the top right corner. Also, consider visiting my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church’s talented 16 year old worship leader.

Lessons to Learn

Balaam, Us, And the 3 Wills of God

A picture of Balaam's donkey to teach us about the 3 wills of God.

Balaam’s story is a cautionary tale. He was the prophet in the book of Numbers who ended up getting schooled by a talking donkey. To be honest, I’ve read the story a few times and never really appreciated just how bad this guy was. After all, he sought God and never spoke a single word that God did not tell him to speak. But on closer inspection, I see that his heart was not so much set on obeying God as it was set on getting around Him. He made a critical error that I have probably been guilty of myself on a few occasions, and maybe you have, too. It involves the 3 wills of God, and it taught me a lesson this week that I pray I will remember from now on.

Balaam the Prophet of God

The name Balaam means “foreigner.” He was a Mesopotamian Gentile prophet to the Ammonites, Moabites, and Midianites. He had a reputation as one who could bless and curse with results; he was kind of a big deal. This story takes place right at the end of the forty years the Israelites wandered the desert after Moses led them out of Egyptian captivity. The Israelites were starting to gather strength. Their numbers were concerning to the kings of the nations in this area.

In fact, as the children of Israel made their way through inhabited lands, they asked permission to pass through. The Moabite king, Balak, not only refused their request, but he conspired with the king of the Midianites against them. The plan was to send an envoy of princes to the prophet Balaam with a “diviner’s fee” to ask for help in cursing the Israelite people. For all his flaws, Balak wasn’t stupid. He knew that the battle was a spiritual one more than anything else. No amount of preparation, training, supplies, or tactics would be able to help if God was with his enemy. So, he sought to take Israel out on a spiritual level before he tried anything physical. 

Balaam’s Desire

Balaam, for his part, really wanted to help Balak. He enjoyed the prestige of being a man of respect among kings. More than that, though, he was all about the money that would go along with the job. When Balak’s princes showed up with the offer, Balaam eagerly invited them to stay even before seeking God with their request. Here was God’s reply:

“And God said to Balaam, ‘You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.’”

Numbers 22:12

That was a pretty solid no. But Balaam knew where his power came from. There was nothing else he could do but to send them away. Maybe there was something in his voice, though, that gave them hope that he would change his mind. A short while later, Balak gathered even more princes and even more money and tried again. 

Balaam’s First Mistake

Here’s where Balaam made his first grave error. Instead of sending them away immediately, he invited them to stay again and went to inquire of God a second time. This time, God told him he could go, but he would have to speak only the words He gave him. Balaam agreed and eagerly arose to go with the men. On the way, though, his donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the path and refused to move. Three times, Balaam hit the donkey for disobedience until she finally just lay down under him. 

Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth to speak. Numbers 22:30, ”So the donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?’” No, Balaam had to admit. She had been a pretty good donkey up to this point. Then God opened his eyes to see the Angel of the Lord in front of him with His sword drawn. The Angel, many believe a preincarnate Jesus, informed Balaam that his donkey had just saved his life. Balaam half-heartedly offered to turn back, but the Angel told him to continue with his plan but only to speak what he was told to speak.

Four Prophecies and Two Curses

Long story short, after sacrificing a total of 42 animals on three different high places (typically used for worship of other gods) in Moab, God spoke three times through Balaam, blessing Israel instead of cursing. After Balak had had enough of Balaam’s “help,” he tried to send him home empty handed. It was then that God gave one more Word through Balaam. He spoke of the birth of Jesus Christ and the coming destruction of neighboring nations, effectively cursing Moab in the process.

“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.”

Numbers 24:17 

Balaam Didn’t Go Home

But the story didn’t stop there. See, Balaam still wanted the money. He wasn’t able to get anywhere doing it through his prophetic anointing, so he came up with another way to curse Israel without God’s help. He told the nearby Midianite women to seduce the men of Israel in order bring them into idolatry through worship of their pagan gods. We find this out later when Moses goes to war with the Midianites. Numbers 31:15-16, “ And Moses said to them: ‘Have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.’

Balaam’s Death at Age 33

In the beginning, Balaam held fast to the idea that he could only do those things the Lord allowed. In the first Word given by God, he even made the statement that he wanted to remain a faithful prophet of God. He said, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!” (Numbers 23:10b). But he didn’t stay faithful. His love of money pushed him to continue with the enemies of God’s people, even conspiring with them for the spiritual downfall of Israel.

When God took His revenge on the Midianites, Balaam was right there in the middle of it all. Numbers 31:8 said, “They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword.” Commentaries, including the Jewish Encyclopedia, say Balaam died without honor at the age of 33.

The 3 Wills of God & Balaam’s Error

Partially taken from the Life in the Spirit Study Bible, page 1066. These are the three ways that God expresses His will for people.

1. “The Will of God” – Law of God/The Word of God 

God shows us His will through the Bible. In Psalm 40:8, David says “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.” In Romans 2:17-18, the Apostle Paul said, “Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law.”

Balaam knew what it meant to be a prophet of God as per Deuteronomy 18:18. “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.” Initially, he only spoke the words that God gave him to speak, but ultimately, he didn’t follow the spirit of Deuteronomy 13:4. “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.” He might have been a gifted prophet, but Balaam’s heart was far from God.

2.  “The Perfect Will of God” – The Revealed Will 

God shows His will in His revelation of His goodness. In 1 Timothy 2:4, we learn that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And, in 2 Peter 3:9, Peter says it another way, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 

In Balaam’s case, God specifically revealed that His will was for Balaam to stay put (and stay pure) in Numbers 22:12. “You shall not go.” This was God’s will, and Balaam knew it. But Balaam didn’t stop there. He wanted to do what he wanted to do and thought, like a child, if he kept asking that God would change His mind. But God doesn’t change His mind. He simply changes His will. If we will not listen to His perfect will, He gives us over to His permissive will.

3. “The Permissive Will of God” — Often Contrary to the Perfect Will

God shows his will by allowing free will. Romans 1:28, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers.” Also, sometimes, it is God’s will that Christians suffer as a test of sorts, like in 1 Peter 3:17. “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

Balaam failed the test. He didn’t listen to God because he wanted the money. Even when he seemed to remain faithful on the surface, underneath, he was plotting ways to go around God to get what he wanted. His name became a lesson and a byword all throughout the Bible as God reminded people again and again of the “error of Balaam.” 

  • Joshua 24:9-10: “Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose to make war against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he continued to bless you. So I delivered you out of his hand.
  • 2 Peter 2:15-16: “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.”
  • Jude 1:11: “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”
  • Revelation 2:14: “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.”

My Lesson This Week

This week, just as I was finishing Balaam’s story, I had my own situation arise that seemed oddly similar. I wanted to do something to help someone, but when I went to my husband with the idea, he told me that he didn’t want me to do it. He left it up to me in the end, but I knew what his feelings were on the matter, and it would not please him if I went against his wishes. Now, it’s God’s will in the Bible that a wife listen to her husband. 

In addition, I received a dream about the situation that was confirmed with another Bible passage that connected on the same day. The situation could cause spiritual harm if I did go through with what I had been planning to do. God’s perfect will in this situation was that I refrain from helping that person at this time. As I sat there pondering the whole thing, it occurred to me that NOTHING was more important to me than doing God’s perfect will. Nothing. God knows the future. He knows the consequences of actions far better than I ever could. If God didn’t want me to do something, I wouldn’t do it. I always want to stay in His perfect will. I rebuked the enemy’s condemnation and guilt for not helping the other person, and I renewed my resolve to always do my best to discern and follow what God truly wants in every situation.

Following God’s Will

 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Balaam’s error was is refusing to obey the perfect will of God. Even with his prophetic anointing and direct access to God Himself, he allowed rebellion and iniquity to be his downfall. He left the protection of God’s plan for material gain and died dishonorably among the enemies of God.

Our job is to learn the lesson of Balaam. God’s will is what is best for us. When God tells us “No,” we need NOT to ask again hoping for a different answer — because we just might get it. The Bible shows us the 3 wills of God, but it is up to us which one(s) we follow. When we step outside the law of God and outside His perfect will, the alternative can and will cause harm. Instead, we must hide God’s Word in our hearts, listen for God’s voice, and seek to obey Him no matter what.

Enjoy articles about obedience? Check out Chastisement And an Object Lesson About Iniquity. In it, God teaches me an important lesson about doing things God’s way. Or, try When Obedience Is the Sacrifice. In that one, I choose obedience even when it cost me to do it and learn is it is much less painful than regret. Please subscribe to my blog via email in the top right corner. Also, consider visiting my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.

Closer Look at Scripture

The Red Heifer is a Symbol of Jesus & Sanctification

This is a picture of a red heifer.

Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” And, Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden led to exactly that. There was the physical death of the body, of course, but also the greater death of the soul. People are now dead in their trespasses and sins. It is only belief in the Lord Jesus Christ that can make us alive in Him. Jesus is life, and death has no part with a Living God. In fact, during Old Testament times, any exposure at all to a corpse would cause a person to be considered “unclean” and unable to participate in worship. It was only through a cleansing ritual that a person could be purified to dare approach God once again. It involved a sprinkling of living (or moving) water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer. To the Jewish people, the ritual’s specifications are still a mystery. To Christians, we can see how the red heifer is a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ redeeming His bride. The sprinkling is the on-going work of sanctification and cleansing from a world defiled by death. 

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 9:13-14

The Specifications

Numbers 19 is the chapter in which God gave Moses instructions for the red heifer ritual. There were many details that set this sacrifice apart from all others done by God’s people during Old Testament times. First of all, this was the only female sacrifice, and it was the only one that specified the animal’s color: red. The animal had to be without spot or blemish like other sacrifices to God. But, unlike those other sacrifices, this one was not to be done inside the temple. Instead, the red heifer was killed outside the camp. The entire body was burned over cedar wood, even with the blood and dung, along with hyssop and a scarlet-colored cord. 

When the ashes cooled, they were scooped into a container to be held for future use. Even just a tiny bit of the ashes mixed with a pure moving water source (like a stream or a river) would be enough to cleanse thousands of people. This water purification ritual was used for anyone who came into contact with death. A person who touched a dead body, was in a tent when someone died, or even passed through a burial area was required to be sprinkled on the third and seventh day. If the person was never sprinkled, he/she would remain unclean and would, by necessity, be cut off from God’s people. Nobody wanted to run the risk of an unclean person defiling the temple so that the Spirit of God would refuse to return.

The Color and Gender

Red in Hebrew is “adom” and is related to the word for ground or earth, which is “ada’mah.” The words “red,” “Adam,” and “ground” all come from the same root word. In Lamentations 4:7, the word is translated “ruddy.” This ties the red heifer to humanity whom God created from the earth. Through Adam and Eve, people were defiled by sin so that their physical bodies died and returned to dust from which they came (Genesis 3:19).

The heifer, meaning a female cow that has never borne a calf, is the one and only female animal sacrifice in all Judaism. Some have speculated that this serves to set this sacrifice apart as special. Some others believe that it ties into the idea that those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ are considered the Bride of Christ.

The Condition

Like all other animal sacrifices, the red heifer could have no physical deformity. Also, no yoke could have been across her neck, and no work could have been done by her. As the Jews were wont to do, though, Rabbis later added more specifications to the sacrifice through their traditions. They now look at the quality of the color of the red (must be a deep red down to the hoofs).

They also look at the type of birth (must be a natural birth and not by cesarean section), the age of the cow (has to be three or four years old according to the Mishna), and the number of hairs allowed to be another color (may not even have two black or white hairs). Also, the cow must have been born in Israel. Incidentally, the Jews believe that only nine perfect red heifers have ever been sacrificed by the Jewish people. The tenth sacrifice will happen directly preceding the building of the third temple. Read more about that from a Jewish perspective here: The Temple Institute.

The Location And Slaughter

Unlike all other sacrifices, the red heifer was taken outside the camp. The animal would be examined to make sure there were no blemishes. Then, someone slaughtered the cow while the high priest looked on. The priest would then take the blood of the red heifer and sprinkle it seven times directly in front of the tabernacle of meeting. Seven is God’s perfect number and denotes finality. Both the person doing the slaughtering and the high priest were both clean before the ritual started but would be unclean after. No bone was broken or organs removed. Then the entire cow, blood, dung, and all would be burned to ashes, totally consumed, while the high priest watched.

Because of the location, passers-by might witness the ritual. It was a “call” of sorts to all who were unclean. Unlike other sacrifices, the red heifer was paid for by the entire congregation, so it, in a sense, belonged to everyone. Even Gentiles who didn’t belong to the nation of Israel could be cleansed. Isaiah 45:22 says, “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”

The Heifer is a Symbol of Jesus’ Sacrifice

Jesus died on the cross outside the camp. He was first examined and found to have no charge worthy of death. Then, his blood was spilled seven times:

  1. Back was pierced by scourging (Mark 15:15)
  2. Brow was pierced by a crown of thorns (Matthew 27:29)
  3. Left hand was pierced (John 20:27)
  4. Right hand was pierced (John 20:27)
  5. Left foot was pierced (Luke 24:39-40)
  6. Right foot was pierced (Luke 24-39-40)
  7. Side was pierced (John 19:34) 

Jesus also did not have a single bone broken. He laid His life down willingly and became sin for us on the cross. He was consumed by death for a moment, but He was victorious in His resurrection. One day, He will return to consume the wicked until they are but ashes (Malachi 4:1,3). Both the Romans who carried out the sacrifice and the high priest, Caiaphas, who looked on believed themselves to be clean before Jesus died. After His death, they were both defiled and would remain unclean unless they were to have believed in that death and resurrection to cleanse them. Just like the open sacrifice outside the gate would draw people in, in John 12:32, Jesus says (about His crucifixion) “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

The Carcass Was Burned With Cedar, Hyssop, and a Scarlet Cord

Cedar wood was used to build the first temple. It was strong and hearty and symbolized stability or even eternity. Orthodox Christianity holds the tradition that the cross on which Jesus was crucified was made of three types of wood: cedar, pine, and cypress. This comes from Isaiah 60:13 which mentions the three trees and “the place of His feet.”

Hyssop is a symbol of faith. The Israelites used a hyssop branch to apply the blood of the lamb to the lintel and door posts in Exodus 12:22. (Faith in God caused Jews to obey this command and saved them when the Angel of Death passed by their houses without entering). Hyssop was also used in consecration and purification rituals. King David even mentioned it in relation to his own cleansing in Psalm 51:7 when he said, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Finally, in John 19:29-30, Jesus received sour wine from a sponge placed on a hyssop branch. Indeed, He drank the wine of God’s wrath to the dregs.

The scarlet cord is, of course, a symbol of the blood shed for us on Calvary. There are so many interesting mentions of scarlet threads and cords that it would be a fascinating study on its own. There were scarlet threads on the priests’ garments, the scarlet cord used by Rahab the harlot to help the Jewish spies escape Jericho, and the scarlet thread tied to Judah’s son Zerah’s arm while Tamar was giving birth. It was supposed to help them remember which twin was born first, but Perez pushed through and was born before Zerah. It was through Perez’ line that Jesus would come. 

The Water Purification Ritual

When the ashes of the red heifer were cooled, they were collected and kept for future use. One red heifer sacrifice could be enough for an entire nation plus any Gentiles who might request it. That ash was then mixed with living (moving) water. Living water, of course, alludes to the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39). It was Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that allowed the Holy Spirit to be given. It is the His Spirit who sanctifies us along with the washing of the water of the Word of God. This gradually changes us to be more like Him.

When someone became unclean by having any interaction with the dead, he/she would need to be sprinkled with this mixture on the third and seventh day. If the person disregarded these instructions and did not go through the ritual, that person would remain unclean forever.

Step 1: Sprinkled on The Third Day

In order for someone to be clean, he/she must first be sprinkled on the third day after contact with death. This, of course, relates to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on the third day. Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. When we believe on Him as our Savior, He takes our penalty (death). He also cleanses us from all sins, and becomes our righteousness. If a person refuses to believe and submit, he/she will remain “unclean” and unable to approach a holy, living God.

Fascinatingly enough, Leviticus 23 lists the seven feast days for God’s people. The third feast is Passover. That was when the blood on the door posts caused the Angel of Death to pass over the Jews who believed and obeyed. This is, of course, the symbol of the blood of the Lamb, Jesus, being shed so that death will pass us by, and we will receive eternal life.

Step 2: Sprinkled on the Seventh Day

The seventh feast day mentioned in Leviticus 23 is the 8th day of Sukkot. Also called the Feast of In-Gathering and The Feast of the Final Harvest, it was a time of dwelling joyfully with God. On that day, someone read the Torah from the Bema Seat. This is a picture of our Bema judgement that will occur after the earth’s seventh day, the Millennial reign of Christ. That will mark our new beginning with Jesus in eternity, a time to tarry with God and serve Him.

What Does This Mean For You And Me?

“Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’”

John 13:10

One Bible commentary says, “Death is like sin made visible.” In our world, sin (spiritual death) is all around us. Just by walking through our world, we pick up the dirt of defilement. Even if we aren’t actively participating in sin, we see it on the news, we read it in the headlines, and we feel it in the way people act and speak around us. This can have a great stunting effect on our spiritual awareness. We can feel heavy in worship or when attempting to praise God simply by having been near the perversity of the world.

Also, because purification is a process, we can’t get frustrated with ourselves if we aren’t perfect like Jesus immediately after we are saved. The third day brought our salvation and remission of sins, but the process doesn’t stop there. It continues even through that seventh day, that time of quietness and waiting on Him. That also means that we can’t resist the Holy Spirit when He tells us that there are things about us that He would like to change. It’s all a part of sanctification, being dedicated for God’s use as He sees fit.

Even as Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, we must come to God for spiritual cleansing on a regular basis. Just like one red heifer was enough for an entire congregation, Jesus’ one time sacrifice is enough to cleanse us forever and restore that clear awareness of God. It is what sprinkles our conscience from dead works to serve our living God until such time when we are made perfect in eternity.

Check Out These Other Articles and Resources

If you to look closely at scripture, try Three Simple Instructions From God to Us. In it, we look at Hebrews 3-4. Or, try Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28. Please do not forget to sign up to receive email notifications at the top right of this page. Or, check out my YouTube channel where I read my blogs to you so you can multitask. I also have a super playlist of hymns led by the talented, anointed 16-year old at my church called Hymns from Hannah.

Closer Look at Scripture

The Bible is a Lamp Unto Our Feet

Don’t you love it when you are reading along in the Bible, and the Lord shows you something new? For me, it’s like time just slows for a second, and I get this weighty feeling that lets me know I need to focus on a phrase or passage. Last week I was in Numbers 8, and verse 4 brought that serious, slow-down feeling. It was a description of the lampstand from the tabernacle of God, but the part that made me stop was this: “According to the pattern which the Lord had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.” Now, we know that God isn’t just in the furniture design business for no reason. 1 Corinthians 15:46 says that the natural comes first and then the spiritual. We also know that everything, in both Old and New Testament, points to the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, footnote led to cross reference led to website led to video, and before you know it, my mind was totally blown. Psalm 119:105 holds the key to the symbolism of the lampstand, but it is what you and I do with it that determines how well it lights our path.

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Psalm 119:105

The Lampstand (Also “Candlestick” or “Menorah”)

Exodus 25:31-40 gives the entire description of the lampstand from the Tabernacle of God, the original portable tent that was the center of worship for the Jewish people. To say it is specific would be an understatement. God gave each and every detail to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the same place He gave Moses the Ten Commandments. I would highly encourage you to go back and read this entire passage. Here are just a few noticeable details before we get into the symbolism.

The lampstand was BIG. If you are thinking of the hand-held size that people use today to celebrate Hanukah, you’re not getting the picture. It was made of only one piece of pure gold, hammered into shape, the weight of which was one talent. In our measurement, that would be about 75 pounds. At current market value, it would be worth nearly two million dollars today. Other than the weight, no specific size was given. But, Jewish oral tradition estimates it to have been over five feet tall. The gold symbolizes God’s weightiness, perfection, and glory. When lit, it was the only source of light in the entire tabernacle tent for the priests to see to do their work. This same lampstand stood in the tabernacle in the wilderness, Solomon’s Temple, and the Temple of Herod at the time Jesus was crucified.

The Details

Unlike the nine-candled Menorah used to celebrate Hanukah today, the original lampstand given to Moses by God had seven oil lamps on it. There were three branches on one side and three on the other, with a branch in the center. Each one of those was topped with a wick surrounded by an oil well. On each of the six branches, there were 3 bowls like almond blossoms, 3 ornamental knobs, and 3 flowers. The center of the lampstand had 4 bowls like almond blossoms, 4 ornamental knobs, and 4 flowers. Now, the word “almond” is the same Hebrew word for “watchfulness” or “wakefulness.” The almond tree was always the first tree to blossom in spring. It symbolizes life, purity, and the fresh nature of God’s on-going work.

The Lampstand Is a Symbol of the Word of God

“Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a branch of an almond tree.’ Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.”

Jeremiah 1:11-12

There are no coincidences with God. No matter what changes man might have thought he was making to the Bible over the years, God is and will always be in control. The Bible is a true miracle, and the lampstand is a symbol. But, just like the Bibles does no good as a coffee-table decoration, the lamp was still just one big fancy piece of gold without two more ingredients to make it able to bring light into the darkness.

The Lampstand Needed Oil

Pure olive oil was poured into the center branch of the lampstand. The oil then fed into the other bowls so the wicks could be lit. That center branch was translated from Hebrew as “the one who is sent,” and we already said it represented Jesus, the Messiah. It is only through belief in Him that we receive the Holy Spirit of God. 

Olive oil represents the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, prophets would pour olive oil on the heads of those God had chosen to be a king or priest. It was a symbol of an appointment to a position and an empowerment to carry out that new office. That anointing is the same thing that happens to us today when God pours out His Spirit on us, appoints us to our position as a child of God, and empowers us to live a holy life in Him.

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

2 Corinthians 1:21-22

The Priests Had to Keep the Fire Lit

Even with a beautiful lampstand and plenty of oil, the tabernacle would still be a very dark place without fire. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are the priests, and our bodies are the temple of God where the Holy Spirit dwells. It is up to us to keep our lamps full of oil and the fires lit. This just means that we must be in constant connection with God. We must listen to His voice, obey His commandments, and trust Him with even the smallest details of our lives.

We do that by praying without ceasing and hiding His Word in our hearts so that we might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). That means that we can’t just HAVE a Bible or even just READ the Bible. We have to be actively living our lives to conform ourselves to the Word of God. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Living By The Bible is More Important Now Than Ever

“For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life.”

Proverbs 6:23

Jesus is coming soon, and He is coming for a bride without spot or wrinkle. Ephesians 5:26-27 tells us that God sanctifies us and cleanses us by the “washing of water by the word.” See, when we compare ourselves to the world, we might look pretty good and even holy. But, when we compare ourselves to what the Bible tells us we should be, that light allows us to actually see what might be otherwise hidden: our imperfections and flaws.

Hebrews 4:12 says,“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” God shows us the parts of us that need to change so we can be more like Him. He also chastens those He loves. It is how we know that we are His children. 

We Must Walk In The Light

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

1 John 1:5-7

Time is short. We just can’t leave parts of us dark. We must walk in the light by reading the Bible and applying it to our lives. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” We must live our lives faithfully with a biblical worldview, and the only way we will be able to do that is by regular, prayerful study of the Word of God. We must allow it to guide our path in every situation.

If you are interested in further study, here were some of the many article links I visited this week. The Word of God and the Tabernacle Menorah, The Structure of the Menorah, The Structure of the Bible, and The Order of the Books of the Bible. If you like videos, here are two that I really enjoyed. Menorah and Bible – A Miracle. Symbol and true meaning behind the Menorah and Structure/Construction of the Bible: 7 Divisions, 49 scrolls, 70 books and the Book of Life.

Enjoy articles about the Bible? Try A Different Interpretation of the Pearl of Great Price or What Did Jesus Write in the Dust? Please subscribe to this blog in the upper right hand corner. Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud so you can do something else while you listen. I also have a playlist of Hymns With Hannah and a new section of sermons.

Points to Ponder

This I Believe About Truth

God is Truth. This is a picture of the word God made up of the word Truth.

Society today says truth is relative. That means that whatever people decide is true then becomes truth for them. So, everybody’s ideas – whatever truth people have defined – are completely equal and equally valid. Everybody is right, and nobody is wrong, even when people believe the exact opposite things. It is, they suppose, a form of tolerance and completely nonjudgmental. As Christians, though, we know that truth is objective and absolute. Truth is a Person: the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who love the truth will love Him. Those who hate the truth will not. This week’s blog is a little different. This week, I’m asking for your help. I have written an essay on truth that I’m planning to use as my example for a “This I Believe” project for my senior high school English class. I am asking you to read my short essay and pray over it. Please ask for God’s anointing so it will touch the students and teachers who read it.  

This I Believe by Angela G

I believe that there is a such thing as absolute truth. That means that on a given issue when people believe opposite things, somebody is right and somebody is wrong. There may be no way to tell at the moment who is who, but that doesn’t mean that everybody is right just because objective reality can’t be proven in the moment. Contradictory beliefs can’t both be right, and therefore, absolute truth exists.

The Story

Five years ago, a dress broke the internet. For days, social media talked about little else. What color was the dress? Was it white and gold or blue and black? People were losing their minds over it. How could the exact same picture be viewed so differently? Even worse, some of the same people who saw the photograph as white and gold one day were dismayed to find that it was blue and black the very next time they looked. What in the world was going on, and what was the actual color of the dress?

The dress, according to those who stood in the very same room with it, was actually blue and black. Through a series of polls, it was discovered that the amount of time a person spent in sunlight determined how much the person assumed light and shadows. Morning/day people saw the dress as white and gold because they mentally subtracted short wavelength light. It’s all very complicated, but the point is that after days and days of hysterical comments, not-so-scientific polls, and memes and jokes, the dress still and always was the very same color it was when the picture was taken: blue and black. There was a right answer and a wrong answer to the question of its color no matter how people’s perceptions said otherwise. Absolute truth exists.

Why It Matters

But why does it matter? What is the big deal if some want to say that they see things one way and some want to say they see things another way? Why can’t everybody be right? And, why does it drive me crazy when people say, “That is true for you but not for me”? I think it is because I love the truth. The truth sets me free to be able to measure my actions against what is reality instead of what is delusion. It’s like the difference between building your house on a foundation of sand versus a foundation of rock. Perceptions might shift and slide, but when something is true, it never changes. It just is. And then I can make my decisions from there.

Absolute truth does exist whether we can know it in a moment or not. Even if people might not be able to access the answers immediately or even in this life, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Truth is truth no matter what people think, and when you find it, you can stop looking. There is a comfort there.

Please Pray

Thank you for taking time to read my essay and ponder the ideas. I’m planning to present this to the three other teachers who work with me to use as the example to show kids how to write their own “This I Believe” essays. Please pray that the other teachers will use my essay as their example and that all the teachers and students who read it will come closer to knowing and loving Truth. In my lesson, I also included a link to this song This I Believe by Ed Sheeran for the kids to listen to. Please pray that they click, listen, and consider the gospel. Thank you!

Enjoy timely articles? Please try Instead of Fear, Choose Faith in God’s Promises. Or, try The Fruit of the Spirit During Times of Crisis. Please subscribe to this blog in the upper right corner and check out my YouTube Channel where I read my blogs and have a playlist of hymns from the talented 16-year-old worship leader at my church.

Lessons to Learn

Chastisement and An Object Lesson About Iniquity

Judgement begins in the house of the Lord. This week, while the whole world was hunkered in houses wondering what will happen next with the coronavirus, God was taking just a moment to deal with some of His children. I, for example, was spanked but good. The worst part isn’t even that it was that for an issue that He has already addressed (I guess I’m a slow learner). The worst part is that it’s the exact problem that a big Bible character had too – and not one of the “wins in the end” ones either. When all was said and done this week, I think I finally did get the message. I also got a very disgusting object lesson about iniquity that should be a warning to us all. 

King Saul’s Partial Obedience

King Saul was Israel’s very first human king. Up to that time, God had been ruling His people through priests, prophets, and judges. But the people were unhappy with their current judge’s sons who were greedy and corrupt. They looked at the nations surrounding them who had kings and wanted to be like them. So, Saul was chosen by God to give the people what they wanted. God warned them that they wouldn’t like the reality, but they didn’t listen.

Speaking of not listening, this was Saul’s problem in a nutshell. He had a nasty habit of not exactly obeying God. Just after the Prophet Samuel  anointed him as king, God ordered Saul to completely destroy the Amalek people. In 1 Samuel 15:3, Samuel told him, “’Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” So Saul did. Sort of. He destroyed every single person and thing of the Amalek – except the king and the best of the sheep and the oxen. When Samuel questioned him about his disobedience, Saul didn’t even get that he had done anything wrong.

1 Samuel 15:20-21: “And Saul said to Samuel, ‘But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me…’” Okay, so far so good. “…and brought back Agag king of Amalek…” Here’s a problem. “I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.” Good.  But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” Not good.

Saul didn’t understand the reason for God’s orders, so he obeyed the part of the order that made sense to him – and completely ignored the rest. This was my problem too. Amazingly enough, I also thought I was obeying what God had told me to do. I really did. But then God showed me that anything less than complete obedience is actually disobedience. It is error, or a turning away from the right path. It’s iniquity. (See Bible Study Tools.)

A Broken Stove and Unwanted Guests

Last May, we brought a brand new stove. Last week, it went on the fritz. Since it hadn’t even been a full year, I was sure that the warranty would cover whatever problem the flashing error “F1 EO” meant. Not so. Because the problem wasn’t a faulty part. The problem was an infestation of cockroaches that shorted out the electronic board. Gross! The cost to repair the stove was about the same price as a brand new one. My stove had been totaled.

I’m ashamed to say that my first reaction was anger…at God. “What happened to rebuking the devourer?” I exploded before I got ahold of myself. (Malachi 3:10-11: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse…And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy…”) I thought being faithful with money was a protection against unnecessary loss. But for bugs to destroy an entire electrical board in less than nine months, that felt PERSONAL. Immediately in my spirit, the answer became crystal clear. WAS I being faithful? Sadly, I was not.

Doing Things My Way Instead of God’s Way

A year or so ago, God had impressed upon me that I was not to use my credit card. I was in the habit of charging expenses and then paying them off each month, but sometimes those charges could get very high without even a whole lot of effort on my part. So, I thought to myself: “Of course, I will still use my credit card to charge NECESSARY items that I would have to buy anyway. It only makes sense to get the free points to use toward gift cards. I will just charge them and then come right home and pay the bill immediately. That way, they aren’t on the card – because God doesn’t want me to have charges on the card – but I can still get my points. Win/win.” See what I did there?

But this month, somehow things had gotten away from me. The “necessary” charges became greater than the amount of money in my account. For two days, the balance sat on my credit card before payday. Even if that hadn’t been the case, though, the charging AT ALL was doing the exact opposite of what God had told me to do. Even if it didn’t make sense to me to forgo those free points, I should have completely obeyed God and stopped using my credit card. Period. I had pulled a Saul without even realizing it.

A Disgusting Spiritual Lesson

In dealing with the fallout from all of this, I believe God also used this situation to teach an important lesson about iniquity. A few months ago when we first saw the bugs, my husband had sprayed the kitchen. We also went through and put opened food in sealed containers and tried harder to keep the area free of crumbs that might invite them. This week when I realized that the few we actually saw were nothing to the mass it would require to be labeled an “infestation,” I went to work doing some deep cleaning in the kitchen. I emptied drawers and cabinets, and I was shocked to see the evidence of those masses underneath the items that were stored there. 

For months, we had gone about our lives oblivious to what was happening at night in our kitchen. It wasn’t until we decided to set things in order and looked deeper that we found the truth of the situation. This is a spiritual picture of the seemingly small issues that may be wrong with our spiritual walk with God. Times, for example, that we choose to do what “makes sense” to us instead of the exact directive given by God/the Bible. Times when we do what we want to do instead of what would please God.

Like vermin, maybe one might not seem like a “big deal,” but where there is one, there are usually more if you take the time to look closer. The Bible calls this the deceitfulness of sin in Hebrews 3:13 because it seems so harmless but can do so much damage to our ability to hear from and be close to God.

Time to Get Our Houses in Order

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”

Matthew 24:12

We are in the last days, the days of the great apostasy, and iniquity is dangerous. Some people use it as a synonym for sin, but to me it is that and so much more. Sin is black and white. The Bible says not to lie, so we don’t lie. But sometimes little white lies – not “REAL” lies but just little “variations of the truth” — are kind. That’s iniquity. The slope is slippery when we disobey God because our way seems easier, kinder, or even “better” for God Himself.

Partial obedience in any area is disobedience. We must guard ourselves so that it never has dominion, or control, over us and our actions (Psalm 119:133). We must make the decision now to set things right, to start looking deeply into our lives for evidence of problems. It is only then that we can begin to get our spiritual houses in order. 

Enjoy articles about warfare? Check out Spiritual Warfare: A Defeated Foe. In it, God uses a housefly to teach me about the way I should view the enemy. Or, try 4 Ways to Avoid Spiritual Deception. In that one, I learn important lessons from a time when I was deceived. Please subscribe to my blog via email in the top right corner and consider visiting my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.