God in the Sanctuary, God in the Sea

As children of God, we know that He is always with us. Sometimes we definitely see His hand, and sometimes we have to trust by faith that He is there. I heard a sermon once based on two verses in the Book of Psalms. It was about God in the sanctuary versus God in the sea, and it made a lot of sense. Those times that we clearly see God working on our behalf, it can be said we see Him in the sanctuary. Other times, when our view is darkened by the mist and our ears hear nothing but the pounding waves of our lives, we may say that He is in the sea. Recently, I have had two such experiences that have taught me that whether or not I see Him in the moment, God is there.

God in the Sanctuary

Psalm 63:2 says, “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and glory.” Sometimes things happen in our lives that we just know could only have been orchestrated by God. My blogging journey started with a “coincidence” that could be nothing less His hand. For the past couple of years, a blogger friend of mine from social media named Rachel has been encouraging me to start a blog. I always told her “no” and repeated what I now believe to be the enemy’s lies. “I won’t keep up with a blog, and anyway who would read it if I wrote one?”

One day, though, it was if my internal resistance was bypassed. I had put down a payment on a WordPress site and was flipping through themes before I even really knew what was happening. When I got into the actual website, it was harder than I thought, so I asked Rachel to help. She referred me to the person who had helped her get set up a few years ago in in Michigan. We set up a time for a phone conversation for tech help, and she gave me Renee’s phone number. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the number. It was local. Since the time Renee had helped Rachel, she had moved 1,500 miles away – right to within 10 minutes of my house in Texas! We got together the next weekend, and she helped me set up my site.

Since then, I have seen God move in my blogging ministry. He is in the way I get my stories and in the people He has put into my path to support me in all areas. All those doubts and fears that the devil made me believe have dissolved away as I see that God is in this. I see Him in the sanctuary, and I know that He has a plan. But God has a plan even when we don’t see it.

God in the Sea

Psalm 77:19 says, “Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known.” Recently, I had something upsetting happen at work. I’m a teacher, and the end of the year can be a stressful time for everyone. I was helping with an after school project for an administrator to make a few extra dollars. This particular lady and I have, let’s just say, different religious and political beliefs. She has always treated me fairly in the past, but this day, whether it was my mistake or her general tension level, she snapped and rudely sent me home in front of colleagues. I was mortified and, of course, went right to the truck and cried to my Father.

When I am upset, that’s my general strategy. I cry to God and ask Him to give me a verse from the Bible. That always puts things into perspective and helps me move past any issues. No matter how upset I am, spitting and fussing and spinning around, usually one verse is all it takes to make me stop in my tracks. This time, it was Romans 8:28.

“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.”

Romans 8:28

The verse came with something else: “Do you really believe ‘ALL things’?” I do. I don’t see right now how this situation could turn into a good thing. All I see is the hurt and embarrassment that surfaces hotly when I think about the next week of summer school under this lady’s direction. I don’t know how God will use this for my good and His glory, but I believe it. I will trust no matter what happens, He will be there for me.

God was with me when I could see Him clearly moving in my blog start up. He was also with me when something hurtful happened and I didn’t understand His plan. Either way, whether in the sanctuary or the sea, God is with us in the good works He has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them, and I praise Him for it.

Interested in more articles about Bible verses? Check out Three Simple Instructions From God to Us, an encouraging article about Hebrews 3-4. Or, try Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28 where we discover the true treasure of God.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Lessons to Learn

God Answered The Prayer I Did Not Pray

From the time I was a child, I have always been an independent person. I even remember jerking away from my mother as she tried to help me tie my shoes, saying, “I do it!” In the world, independence is a good thing. It keeps us responsible for our own affairs and moving toward a life away from our parents’ couch. As Christians, though, we must remember that ultimately, it’s not always up to us to do things on our own. Instead, it is in our very own weakness that God shows Himself strong. Recently, God taught me that lesson by answering a prayer I did not pray. 

The Set Up

That day I had gone to Costco to pick up a few items, and I found a great deal on water. Getting the giant pack into my cart wasn’t hard because I was able to use gravity to swing it down from the tall stack with a thump. Getting it out of the cart would prove to be another matter. I’m not physically strong at all, and after securing everything else into my vehicle, I found myself alone in that parking lot trying to lift that water. I would strain and get the heavy pack almost up to the top of the cart…before watching helplessly as it fell back down. 

The Verse

Then the verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9 popped into my head. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’…” So I said a prayer: “Lord, if your strength is made perfect in my weakness, give me the strength to lift this heavy pack of water out of my cart.” I lifted again, harder than before, with the same results.

The Answer

After a few more tries, panting and grunting and bulging my eyes, a family pulled up a few spaces away. It was a mom, a dad, and a teenaged boy. Without any prompting, the boy came directly over to my cart and offered to lift the water. A moment later it was done, and I thanked him profusely. He even took my cart back to the corral for me. I considered the situation. I had prayed for God to give me some sort of burst of supernatural strength to lift the heavy item for myself, but I really just wanted the water in the truck. God had answered the prayer I did not pray, sending instead another pair of stronger arms.

The Lesson

I then reconsidered the verse. It’s not about God making us strong enough to do things for ourselves. It’s about leaning on His provision to get things done. He never promised to take away our weakness. He promised to meet our needs despite them. Too many times, I realized, I really just want to be able to do things myself. It’s easier, somehow, not to involve other people in my own messy life, but God doesn’t work that way. If I had been able to lift the water myself, I would not have witnessed God moving on my behalf, and that boy would not have received the blessing of helping a stranger in need. I also realized that at other times, I am the one who is blessed when God sends me to help.

I think that’s where the rest of Paul’s sentiment comes from. “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” God delights in taking care of His children and shows Himself strong on their behalf. The very weakness we see as a hindrance is sometimes just an opportunity for God to work in our lives. 

Interested in more articles about prayer? Check out Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray, a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. Or, see Hope For Lost Loved Ones: God’s Mercy in Trials, a new way to pray for lost loved ones.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Points to Ponder

It’s Not the Machine That Makes Us Clean

Many years ago when I was newly married, my husband taught me a lesson about the dishwasher that can be applied to the Christian life. It seems that on that particular day, I had wanted to clear all of the dishes out of the sink. I filled the dishwasher to capacity and then some, cramming plates and cups in here and there. When the cycle was done, we opened the machine, and some of the dishes were still dirty. My new husband then said the words that would ring in my head for many years after. “The dishes don’t get washed simply because they are inside the dishwasher. They have to be exposed to the water in order to get clean.” This analogy applies to the Christian life in three ways.

The analogy applies with church.

It isn’t sitting on the pews Sunday after Sunday that makes us saved. Someone could, in fact, go to church every single week, even twice on Sundays, and still find themselves in hell. We are saved when we are born again by the Holy Spirit of God. After that, we go to church to receive instruction from a godly pastor and have fellowship with other believers. It’s only when we listen to the pastor’s sermon and try to apply it to our lives that we experience change. We worship with our hearts and pray, but we also take that worship and prayer with us in the car, in our homes, and wherever we go. It is only then that we get closer to God. 

The analogy applies with Bible reading.

There are plenty of atheists who know the Bible well enough to mock it, and even the devil quoted scripture to Jesus when tempting Him those 40 days. Reading the Bible is important, but we have to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. We have to apply what it says to our lives. If we treat it like a textbook, taking notes of the people, places, or things, we may be able to answer Bible trivia quizzes or argue online, but that doesn’t help us get to know God any better. Reading and even memorizing the Bible is only helpful when we rightly divide it with the help of the Holy Spirit and apply it to our lives with a faith that the words are true. 

The analogy applies with prayer.

It’s not enough just to pray to God by talking to the ceiling. We have to pray in spirit and in truth. That means we have to be connected to God through the relationship formed when we believed in the truth of Jesus Christ and received His Spirit. Once connected, the Bible says the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man avails much. We have to pray with feeling, in belief that our prayers will be answered, and we have to be righteous. That just means that we live the Christian life soberly with our sins covered by the blood of Jesus through repentance.

Assembling with brethren, reading the Bible, and praying to God are all important facets of the Christian life, but none of them on their own connects us to God or guarantees our salvation. We must attend biblical churches with hearts open to instruction and take our worship with us throughout the week. We must read the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit and seek to apply it to our lives in faith. And, we must pray believing, living our lives in a habit of self-examination and repentance. It is only then that we will be exposed to the Water that washes us clean.

If you like analogies, try Message in the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change . It is an object lesson about changing for the better. Or, try The Waves of God’s Judgement and the Child of God. In it, we can see that the closer we are to God, the more protected we will be in times of trouble.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.


A Testimony of Healing After a Prayer in Faith

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but prayer can change a situation in the blink of an eye. In the both the Old and New Testaments, people requested and were granted healing. Barren wombs, leprous men and women, and a shriveled hand were all healed in both Testaments, and the raising of a dead widow’s son was performed in each. In His earthly ministry, Jesus healed the blind, deaf, dumb, paralyzed, and more. Today, untold numbers of people pray for and receive healing every single day. Sometimes it’s as simple as, “God, please let my headache go away so that I can finish my reports” – and it’s gone. Sometimes it’s as dramatic as the girl whose inoperable brain tumor disappeared when her family prayed. And sometimes, it’s somewhere in the middle. I have a testimony of healing that happened to me just a few short months ago.

It all started on a Saturday evening after dinner. I was sitting at my computer at home for a little too long, and when I went to stand up, my right foot (which was numb from sitting so long), twisted under itself, and I heard a loud “CRACK!” It hurt so badly with a piercing pain that was made worse with walking, so I stayed where I was and quickly found my insurance’s mobile app. A picture and a few messages later, the verdict was in: either my foot felt better by Monday, or I would need to go to the doctor for X-rays. My daughter had just had a similar incident with her foot and was on a peg leg for over a month. I cringed when I thought about trying to navigate my life as a teacher hobbling through the halls and down the aisles. But then it occurred to me: I serve a God who heals.

I grabbed my cell phone and quickly texted my pastor’s wife and 4-5 other strong praying Christian women and asked them to pray in agreement with me for healing. That was around 8:00 PM. When my pastor’s wife texted to ask how I was around 10:00 PM, I was still in considerable pain and limping. Right before bed, I thought to myself that no matter how things looked, I KNEW God still heals people. I went to Google and typed in “Bible verses about healing.” I read though the list out loud, affirming each one and applying it to myself. At the end, I said, “If you are willing, Lord, I know you can heal my foot.” I went to bed around 10:30 PM.

At 4:30 AM when I got up to use the restroom, I stepped gingerly on my right foot at first, but I wasn’t three steps into my journey when I realized that there was no pain. Zero. None. Zilch. Nada. It didn’t hurt when I was sitting on the bed, and it didn’t hurt when I got up and walked on it. If I pushed on it, I could get a tiny twinge of pain, but that was it. My foot never hurt one more second after that even though I had a large blue/green/black bruise for over a month. The ladies and I had prayed in faith, and God had healed my foot! 

We may never know this side of heaven why God chooses to heal some and not others. He has His reasons that are far beyond our understanding, and He knows how to make all things work for our good. But the Bible says “Ye have not because ye ask not,” and sometimes, maybe, people could be healed with just a little more faith that God still answers those kinds of prayers.

Interested in more articles about prayer? Check out Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray, a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. Or, see Hope For Lost Loved Ones: God’s Mercy in Trials, a new way to pray for lost loved ones.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Articles for Edification

7 Ways to Walk in Victory

“Have you got the victory?” my pastor asked again at church on Sunday, and I wondered about the phrase. He asks that sometimes with the beaming smile that lets you know that this is exactly the way a Christian is supposed to live. But what does it mean to walk in victory? Victory over who? And if there are winners, does it mean that there are losers too? 

Victory simply means living a life characterized by fellowship with God. We are the winners when we defeat the things that hinder our relationship with God and focus our lives on diligently seeking Him. That’s no small task for sure, but the rewards are great: peace, joy, and a closeness with our creator that allows Him to hear us and us to hear Him.

I hope you enjoy this blog roundup of seven ways we can live the victorious Christian life. It is a collection of tips and articles by a variety of Christian bloggers who know what it means to win.

1. We walk in victory when we remove the impurity of sin.

“If iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away and would not let wickedness dwell in your tents, then surely you could lift up your face without spot;
yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear.”
Job 11:14-15

Melissa from Think About Such Things says, “God has called us to be the salt of the world. Natural salt has incredible abilities. It can stop and inhibit the growth of harmful mold and bacteria by absorbing moisture. It has been used for centuries as a means to preserve, cure, and save food. That little fact alone should make us realize that we are called to be people who inhibit the growth of sin and darkness in the world. That’s a lot more than just adding flavor.”

Check out Melissa’s article “Are You a Salty Christian” where she describes the characteristics of salt (and how we lose our saltiness) as applied to the Christian life.

2. We walk in victory when we meditate on God’s Word.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Emily Darnell from Abide Deep says, “Meditating on some scripture passages, such as 2 Corinthians 13, helps us answer the question of whether we are abiding in His Word, as John 13-17 teaches us to do. Meditating on His Words will in turn help us find who we really are, understanding life as He intends us to live it.”

Check out Emily’s article “Know Thyself” in which she discusses the call to examine ourselves in light of scripture, not as a checklist to complete, but as a lifestyle of abiding in truth.

3. We walk in victory when we focus on God.

“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12-2

Rachael M Colby from Tattoo It On Your Heart says, “Stop focusing on your inability and focus on God’s ability – Christ in you.”

Check out Rachael’s article “God-fidence” in which she reminds us that our weaknesses are not too hard for God. He can turn our messes into miracles.

4. We walk in victory when we persevere through trials.

Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9-10 

Jeanette F. Chaplin from Chaplain-esque Thoughts says, “How do you keep going when everything is going wrong? Follow the example of Rachel. She overcame her father’s deception, her sister’s rivalry, and her husband’s indifference. She turned her attention to motherhood and raised a son who was known for his integrity, wisdom, and faith. Her legacy survives today in the Jewish nation, which was saved from famine because of Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt.”  

Check out Jeanette’s article “Rachel: A Remarkable Life” in which she uses the story of Rachel to encourage us to keep going no matter what. 

5. We walk in victory when we persevere in faith.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;  and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-5

Brook Ardoin from Fire and Freedom says, “In order to succeed, perseverance must remain the foundation of faith. It is only by persevering through every defeat that we ultimately triumph in victory.”

Check out Brook’s article “My Master,” a dramatic retelling of the woman with the issue of blood who had faith and determination to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. (Have a tissue handy.)

6. We walk in victory when we submit to God.

“Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.” Job 22:21

Angela G from No Longer Lukewarm says, “Jesus was our example when He said, ‘Not my will, but Yours be done.’ We are to live in submission to God simply because God knows best. His ways are higher, and He is for us, not against us. But just because we submit to Him doesn’t mean we don’t get what we want. We can pray to ask Him to make our will His.”

Check out Angela’s article “Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray” in which she uses a “God wink” story about a piece of coconut cake to show how God can guide us to want to do His will.

7. We walk in victory when we pray, pray, pray.

Pray Consistently

“…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—” Ephesians 6:18 

Tammy Dunlap from Grandma Mary Martha says, “Consistent and persevering prayer is the key to victorious Christian life. It is key to perspective, attitude, relationships, and more. Seeking our Father’s will and way, through prayer, is paramount in our Christian journey.”

Check out Tammy’s article “Answer Came After Years of Prayer, and This I Know” in which she gives some advice and encouragement about when and how to pray with consistence.  

Pray Always

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Lois McKiernan from Where Truth Lives says, “Prayer is vital. Non-negotiable. No matter how busy, overwhelmed, or exhausted you are, you CAN pray every day. And it is of vital importance that you do.”

Check out Lois’ article “How to Have Time to Pray Every Day” in which she gives 5 super ways to make prayer a way of life. 

Pray Believing

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6 

Jeanora Elgin at Daily Renewed says, “Living victoriously isn’t about being free from attacks; we have a real enemy who will take advantage of every opportunity. Living victorious is more about how we handle those attacks when they do come. Ephesians 6:12 tells us we do not battle against flesh and that our battles are to be handled, dealt with, in the spiritual realm. We need to remember not to be hurtful with others when they hurt us; we need to take it to God and pray over each situation and individual, remembering our battle is best fought on our knees in prayer.”

Check out Jeanora’s article “Attacked – We’ve All Been There” to see how prayer allows God to fight our battles and comfort us in seasons of hurt and healing.

Living victoriously in Christ is about being in right relationship with Him. We remove the things that hurt our communication, and we are faithful to do the things that strengthen it. We set our hearts on Him as we run with endurance the race set before us, and HE is our prize. 

Points to Ponder

Born Again: All About That Butterfly Life

A colorful butterfly on a turk's cap represents a born again believer.
Picture by Karen Kalb Sefkow

Butterflies don’t go around kicking themselves for the things they did as caterpillars. They are much too busy flying high and living that butterfly life. A Facebook friend recently posted this lovely picture of the butterfly. It had just emerged from the chrysalis it had made on her turk’s cap, a relative of the hibiscus shrub, and I thought about what an amazing transformation the pudgy, squishy caterpillar had to make to become that delicate butterfly. As Christians, we went through our own metamorphosis when we became born again. But how many Christian butterflies are living their lives in regret over the things they did in their former larval lives?

Caterpillar to Butterfly

Caterpillars begin their lives as eggs, laid strategically on the kind of plant they need to eat. From the time they hatch, they eat, molt, and eat some more until they are done growing to their full length and size. Then it is time for them to form themselves into the pupa, or chrysalis. They attach themselves to the underside of a leaf and spinning a protective covering around themselves. During the time inside, big things are happening. The insect basically liquifies, rearranging itself into its new form. After a set amount of time in this stage (different for each species), a butterfly emerges. No longer stuck to the leaf with a single mind to consume, the butterfly instead has a new mission to bring beauty to the earth, pollinate flowers, and continue the species.

Sinner to Christian

As Christians, we all began in sin. We spent our time single-mindedly consuming the things the world had to offer, conforming ourselves to the ways of the flesh. When we came to the end of ourselves and realized that we are in desperate need for a Savior to cover our sins, we cried out in repentance and faith, and God supernaturally changed us into a new creature. We were born again. While the outside changes may have been slight or even indistinguishable, inside a great miracle happened. We were dead, and now we are alive.

When we emerged from the born again experience in that twinkling of an eye, our whole purpose for living changed. No longer earth bound and concerned with consuming and conforming, our new lives in Christ have a completely different focus. Now located in heavenly places, we bring beauty to the world with our lights on our lampstands. We devote ourselves to bringing love for God and man wherever we go. We are servants to our brothers and sisters in Christ. And, we seek to use our testimony to win others to salvation.

Don’t Live in Regret

But what about those Christians butterflies who are still sitting on their leaves lamenting the decisions that they made as caterpillars, retracing footsteps and replaying every mouthful and molt? They aren’t caterpillars any more, but they aren’t really very good butterflies either. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, the Bible says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” When God drew us unto Himself, He gave us grace.

That feeling of great sadness for our offense against a holy God could only come from God Himself. It led to the repentance that ended in salvation. That very anguish we felt at our transgressions created in us a carefulness to avoid sin, a desire to please God, and a desperate need to be reconciled to Him. Nobody regrets that sorrow because without it, we could not have repented to salvation and become born again. But there is another kind of sorrow that too many Christians get caught up in. It’s the sorrow of the world, and that’s the kind that produces death.

Regret Can Make Us Sick

Worldly sorrow grieves the loss of worldly things. Let’s face it: sin has consequences. We can repent of the lies, the adultery, and the unforgiveness, but sometimes we are still left with broken trust, broken relationships, and lost opportunities. God’s forgiveness makes us right with Him. But, we may still be stuck in the middle of the tattered mess that sin made in our lives. Focusing on the regret over decisions made before we became Christians doesn’t get us any closer to God. We can’t go back and change a single thing.

What it can do, however, is turn into a pattern of self-criticism and chronic stress and even depression that can actually cause physical problems for us (even leading to death). According to an article from Psychology Today entitled “The Psychology of Regret,” this kind of repetitive, negative, self-focused thinking can adversely affect hormones and immune system functioning. It can reduce our ability to fight infections and even actually make us sick. And sick, sad butterflies don’t do much pollinating or propagating. 

Regret Can Open Doors For the Enemy

But sickness isn’t the only danger with worldly sorrow, because it can also open the door to the enemy. While being sad and sorry for the things we did while we were in the world was the very thing that led to our repentance, after we are born again, we should allow God to put our sins as far away from us as east is from the west. But thinking about that sin, regretting it, fretting over what might have been, and being anxious for the situation we find ourselves in at the present just plays right into the devil’s trap of condemnation. It turns us away from the peace that is found when we cast our cares upon God. Hashing and rehashing our wrongdoings only show an inability to believe that God can really erase the stains and use all things for the good of us who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus who walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Once we have confessed our sins and asked for forgiveness, John 1:9 lets us know that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. As born again believers, we are clean. We have to believe it and live like it, or the enemy will keep our thoughts turning in circles and focused on ourselves. Instead, we should keep our eyes on Christ, performing the good works that God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Break the Cycle

So how do we break free from the cycles of thinking we have built up for ourselves? Of course, prayer is the ultimate answer. We should ask God to free us from the negative patterns of thought that harm our health and faith and open doors for the enemy. We must pray for God to help us conform to Philippians 3:13-14 “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

But beyond that, I believe there is value in the lesson of the butterfly. We have to remember that after we were born again, we became a new creation. Old things have truly passed away and all things have become new. Our focus is not the same as it was, nor should it be. Continuing to live in the past just hurts us and keeps us from our purpose. We aren’t caterpillars anymore but butterflies. We need to be all about that butterfly life.

If you like analogies, try Message in the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change . It is an object lesson about changing for the better. Or, try It’s Not the Machine That Makes Us Clean. It compares aspects of the Christian life to a dishwasher.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Closer Look at Scripture

Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28

A mine shaft with a beam of light symbolizes the true treasure found in the analogy in Job 28.

Reading the Bible is an essential part of discipleship. When the Holy Spirit gets involved, things can get quite exciting. How many times have you been studying the same patch of scripture you have read 5, 10, or even 100 times and found that the 6th, 11th, or 101sttime, the verses open up to a whole deeper meaning that you have ever seen before? I love it when that happens. It’s even better when the meaning is connected to a situation in your life. That is what happened to me last week. I was driving to work when I had the thought, “Twinkly Trash.” I wasn’t sure what to make of the phrase, but I love analogies and alliterations, so I started pondering. Nothing was really connecting, though, until I got into my prayer closet that night. I found that my bookmark was at Job 28.

An Overview of Job

The book of Job, as you probably know, is about a devoted man of God. God tests Job when He allows Satan to take away his material goods, his family, and even his very health. It is all in an effort to prove that Job is a loyal and righteous man. Job does his best to keep a stiff upper lip through the whole thing. Even when his three friends show up to tell him how wicked he must be if God is allowing all this calamity. (In fact, he probably is getting off lightly for whatever terrible thing he has done). Job first tries to assert his innocence, but ends up admitting that he really doesn’t understand why God does the things He does. He wishes for a mediator between himself and God or at least that he could be dead already. Petulent, his friends are insulted that he isn’t listening to their great wisdom. They accuse him of more wickedness for his apparent lack of the fear of God.

Job responds with the last ounce of his optimism. He asserts that there IS a mediator between God and man in Job 19:35. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth…” (This is an obvious reference to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.) Then his patience runs out. Job’s friends criticize him for being wicked, and they talk back and forth. Job gets a little testy, lamenting that wicked people often seem to prosper while the innocent suffer. His cries in chapter 27 take an abrupt swerve to a new track from a literal discussion about God and man to an analogy between wisdom and mining in chapter 28.

Job 28: The Analogy

Job 28 starts with the idea of how mankind works so very hard to dig precious, sparkly items like silver, gold, and iron out of the depths of the darkness of the earth. These mines are dim and gloomy. And, often people on the surface even forget about the ones toiling away under the soil where food is grown. In fact, people find valuable items so deep that no birds of prey, even with their eyesight, can see these trails. No beasts dare to go there. The work is dangerous, too. Mankind cuts through rock, dams up streams, and digs under mountains. They excavate the mounds to find every hidden and precious thing and bring them to the light. But as hard as they work and as much as they risk, at the end of the day, all they have are temporal treasures, shiny baubles that will mean nothing in eternity.

Job 28:12 says, “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living.”Here is where we are brought back into the discussion between Job and his friends. Job makes the analogy of man digging for treasure in the heart of the earth and searching for wisdom and knowledge in the natural. Mining operations take skill and know-how. While men will spend their lives perfecting their craft, they neglect to seek after the knowledge that is really worth having.

The Lesson in the Chapter

True wisdom can’t be found in nature or in things that man says have value. But, where can we find it? It’s not in dark caverns or at the bottom of the sea. We can’t buy it with gold, silver, or jewels. It is hidden from the living, and if mankind were to dig so deep that we hit the realm of the dead, occupants there would say that they have only heard rumors of it but have no true understanding. No one, in fact, has understanding but God. He sees and knows everything. He controls the wind, the rain, the lightning, and thunder because He made them. The chapter then ends with the money shot. God says, “‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’”

The Lesson For Today

So many people these days find themselves like the minors of old. They are searching, seeking, and toiling in dark and dangerous conditions for physical wealth or earthly wisdom, an inundation of often useless information. It is all little more than twinkly trash in the scheme of things. This earth is passing away. The most valuable thing that we can possess can’t be found in any physical places. We can only receive it from God Himself, and that is the fear of the Lord. This true, reverential fear makes us concerned and alert that we don’t offend a holy God so that we turn from the sin that separates us from Him.

To fear the Lord and continue in sin is not possible. Wisdom causes us to make an earnest effort to cease from all sin and offense. In fact, 1 John 3:6 says, “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” Yes, born again, red hot believers still sin sometimes, but we keep short accounts. We ask for forgiveness immediately and examine ourselves with regularity. 

The Rest of Job

Job’s point in this chapter is that if we would spend as much effort seeking after the Lord as we do seeking after wealth and earthly knowledge, we would be a lot better off And, that is the path that he will choose to take. The rest of the book of Job has more accusations of Job’s wickedness from a fourth friend who shows up right before God has enough. Through a series of rhetorical questions, He makes sure everyone understands that He is God and we are not. Job agrees, and this pleases God so much that He allows him to intercede for his friends who have now upset God with their treatment of Job and their faulty advice throughout the book. 

One Bible commentary said about Job 28, “What God does not reveal, we can’t know.” That’s as appropriate for Job 28 as it is for the rest of the Bible itself. We must read and study God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit to get to know and understand the great and wonderful Father God who calls us His children. He is our great treasure hidden in a field and our pearl of great price. Everything else that seems to sparkle and shine is little more than twinkly trash.

If you to look closely at scripture, try Three Simple Instructions From God to Us. In it, we look at Hebrews 3-4. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Points to Ponder

Goldilocks and the Narrow Way

A narrow path in a green forest with tall trees represents the narrow way that Christians must travel, in between the two extremes.

The Fairy Tale Analogy

Most people have heard the fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” In it, a little girl wanders into the house of a family of bears that has gone out for a walk in the woods. She starts in the kitchen, first tasting Papa Bear’s porridge and exclaiming that it is too hot. She then tastes Mama Bear’s porridge, which is too cold. Finally, she tries Baby Bear’s porridge which is just right, so she eats it. After a nice breakfast, Goldilocks goes into the living room where she tries the three chairs. Then, to the bedroom where she tries the three beds. Again, there is a problem with each of the extremes. She finds herself enjoying (and destroying in the case of Baby Bear’s chair) the middle option. I thought about this story recently as it had occurred to me again how the narrow way, the very middle strip of options in between the two extremes, is the sweet spot where Christians should aim to live. 

The Character of God

Take, for example, the character of God and how we should live as a result of it. Now, God is love, and we should love our neighbors. And God is just, and we should not tolerate or wink at sin. Take either one of these to the extreme, and you get big problems. Too much love without talk of justice, and you get “greasy grace.” This makes God into an idol pushover god who will take anything people dish out in the name of love. Taking justice too far, you end up with legalism. Then you have a harsh idol god of rules and regulations devoid of love and ready to pull the giant red lever to drop people into hell at any moment. God is both loving and just. The only way to understand where the line of one ends and the other begins is by diligent study of scripture and pressing in to know Him in a personal, empirical way. 

Our Own Self Image

How about our own self-image? If we think too highly of ourselves, that’s arrogance and pride, and we know that God resists the proud. We can’t brag and boast about the things that we have only received because of God’s grace. We can’t think we are better than others when God is the sole source of everything about us that is good.

But if we think too little about ourselves, badgering and insulting ourselves in our own minds, we are hurting one of the little ones God calls His beloved. Plus, people with low self-esteem can hardly be a light for God and will struggle to move forward in ministry. We are loved and have been created for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. We need to live like it and see ourselves as we really are. That only occurs when we examine ourselves and pray for eyes to see as God sees.

The Question of Sacrifice

What about sacrifice? If we sacrifice too little, we are not taking up our cross and following after Jesus. We become lazy and self-serving. But is there a such thing as sacrificing too much? Here it gets tricky. On the one hand, nothing Jesus will ask of us is too much because we are to die to self and live for Him. On the other hand, there are ways to take this to the extreme. Either fasting and neglecting oneself become something one becomes prideful about, or one adopts such a lifestyle of sacrifice, denying oneself even the most simple pleasures in life that one can lose the basic joy of living. We are supposed to be the advertisement for God’s goodness and grace. What kind of role model to others can we be if all they see is us steadfastly refusing to enjoy the life He has given us?

Here, each person must understand his/her own limits and attitude, praying earnestly for God’s guidance to follow the narrow way. What is “too much” for one is “not enough” for another. And, Jesus is pretty clear about not us judging His servants. (It’s just something to think about when examining ourselves.)

The Message In Both

Now, the moral of the original story of Goldilocks is about respecting other people and living in such a way that we don’t harm others in pursuit of self. This, too, is another way the story can apply to the Christian life. Whatever our choices, we need to live our lives so that we become a light to lead others to Jesus. We don’t want to be the stumbling block that will cause them to fall. By diligent attention to study and prayer, we can understand the balance of God’s character, the reality of our own worth, and the measure of sacrifice in which we should conduct ourselves. In this way, we can be ever mindful of extremes and always holding out for the perfect, narrow way.

f you like points to ponder, try Goldilocks and the Narrow Way. In it, we see that the narrow strip of options between extremes is where Christians should live. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

God Winks

Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray

God’s will is paramount in the Christian’s life. In all four Gospels, Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42, and John 5:30 and 6:38, Jesus makes the statement, “…not My will, but Yours be done.” Jesus is our example that we follow. This perfect submission to God is what we strive to achieve. Nobody wants to be hurt or sick or go through trials and persecutions. But, some things are necessary for our own growth or for us to help someone else.

So sometimes what God wants and what we want might not be in perfect alignment. When that situation happens, we are to put aside our own desires and submit to God’s will. After all, He is God, and we are not. He knows what’s best, and he wants what’s best for each of us. Fortunately, this past week God showed me a little loophole for getting my own way more often using a piece of coconut cake.

The Coconut Cake

It all started with a whiff of coconut perfume in the girls’ restroom at my school just as I was leaving for the day. I thought about how much I liked the scent in perfume and lotion. I thought about how yummy coconut is in drinks and desserts. A few minutes later, I stopped by my favorite grocery store on the way home to pick up something for dinner. The trip ended (as it always does) with me standing in front of the discounted baked goods. Since Easter had just passed the previous weekend, there were lots of tasty treats on the rack. But, my eye was drawn to several pastel-colored cakes with vanilla frosting and coconut on them. One was just a couple of dollars, so I couldn’t resist. I grabbed a cake and took it home.

After dinner, I cut a piece of cake. It occurred to me that I didn’t NEED an entire cake to myself. Even if my husband helped a little, we could probably only eat about half of it before it went bad. Since I was heading out to Wednesday church service in just a few minutes, I thought of my pastor’s family. Specifically, I thought of the teenage boys who might like to share my cake. So, I texted the pastor’s wife to ask if her family liked coconut. She said they did, so I asked if I could bring her some cake. She said, “You aren’t going to believe this, but my mother-in-law just asked for coconut cake today.”

The “God Wink”

My pastor’s mother, who lives with the family, is the sweetest lady you will ever meet and so devoted to God. She had a craving for coconut cake, and God, as He so often does for His children, had seen to even her smallest desire. Yes, God moves mountains and removes kings and lifts them up. But, he also reveals Himself in the tiniest of details and pays close attention to those He loves. I thought through the events that had caused me to buy and offer the very cake my precious sister in Christ had wanted.

Why on that day, of all days, would she ask for this specific cake? A day when a girl sprayed that perfume when I happened to be near it? When the grocery story put those cakes on discount at the time I was at that store? And all on a church night when I would think of sharing with the pastor’s family instead of taking the cake to teacher friends at work? The Bible says that a man’s heart plans his way but the Lord directs his steps. When the Bible says that God is in control, it’s not an exaggeration.

The Lesson & New Way to Pray

When I thought later about the whole situation, it occurred to me that God had guided my will, and possibly even hers, to orchestrate the scenario. Yes, had I wanted that delicious-looking coconut cake. But, chocolate cupcakes or diet willpower might have won the day if not for the string of events that were all a part of God’s plan. If God could change my desires in this situation, He can change them about anything.

What if instead of praying “Not my will, but yours be done,” I could pray, “Please make Your will my will”? God would still get what He wants, but I would too. Of course, there will still be times when those trials and hardships are going to come. And, we won’t always like it when they do. But sometimes, there may be situations that could be a lot more palatable to us if God could help us change our mindset.

I have heard my pastor pray before, “Lord, change my want-to’s.” When I think about it, that’s a pretty brilliant prayer. Being submitted to God means that He will always get His way with us. But, it doesn’t have to mean that we don’t get ours. So the next time you are in a situation that just doesn’t seem to be going your way, ask God to change the way you think about it. He is kind and merciful, and you just might find that your situation looks a lot brighter when He makes God’s will your will. 

Interested in more articles about prayer? Check out  Hope For Lost Loved Ones: God’s Mercy in Trials, a new way to pray for lost loved ones. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

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Articles for Encouragement

Three Simple Instructions From God to Us

Three check marks indicating the 3 instructions from God in Hebrews 3-4: Listen, Obey, and Trust.

I don’t know about you, but I like things simple, and I love the bottom line. Recently, I was pondering the boundaries between Christ’s finished work on the cross and my own personal responsibility as a believer. After all, we can’t just get saved and then put our feet up on the couch and watch Netflix. There are some things that God requires us to do in order to show our faith and endure to the end, but what? The Bible holds instructions from God to us. In it, He reveals His will for our lives.

I believe God boiled this particular issue down for me into three clear steps when I was reading Hebrews 3-4 one night in my prayer closet, and this comforts me immensely. Life is complicated, but as hard as things get sometimes and as weak as I can be, if I can just follow these three instructions from God I will know that I’m doing His will. All we really need to do is to listen, obey, and trust. 

We Must Listen

Paul begins Hebrews 3 by addressing the brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling. True, he is talking to Hebrew believers of that time, but he’s also talking to you and me. He tells us what the Holy Spirit says. It starts with “Today, if we will hear His voice.” God’s sheep hear His voice. That’s the mark of a child of God. When we hear Him speak to us, we know we are His. But as anyone who is a parent knows, it’s not enough that our children hear us speak to them. We want them to listen to what we are saying and understand the message behind the words. As God’s children, we must be sensitive to the times when He talks to us. We must be diligent to pray until we understand clearly what He is saying and follow the instructions from God

We Must Obey

Next, the Holy Spirit draws a parallel between the exodus of ancient Israel and now. He says, “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’” Moses took the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness. Jesus Christ took us out of Satan’s kingdom and into His own. While on earth, we are basically in the wilderness. This is our “day of trial” since we haven’t hit the Promised Land, or Heaven, just yet.

As partakers of the Holy Spirit, we are the temple of God on earth. He speaks to us, and we listen to Him. Then comes the hard part sometimes: we have to obey what He is telling us to do. Even when it’s inconvenient, even when it doesn’t fit with our idea of what should be happening in our lives, and even when we just flat out don’t want to do it, we must be open and willing to obey God simply because God knows best. Otherwise, the consequence is a hardening of our hearts. We will be less able to hear Him the next time and further away from the path where we need to be.

We Must Trust

The last part of the Holy Spirit’s message is scary. “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’” The vast majority of children of Israel never entered the Promised Land because they didn’t trust in God to supply their needs. They took one look at the giants inhabiting the land of Canaan and decided that the wilderness wasn’t such a bad place to be after all. Only Joshua and Caleb, the two who believed God would give them the victory, were alive to see the day when God would lead their children into the land flowing with milk and honey. The rest perished in the wilderness in judgement for their unbelief.

Our belief is now the very thing that will get us to our Promised Land, an eternity with our Lord and Savior. We must have faith in His finished work on the cross, His blood shed for us and our transgressions. But we can’t just trust that He saved us. We also have to trust that He will supply our needs in our wilderness here on earth. He provides for His own, and we are commanded to cast our cares upon Him for He cares for us. That faith and trust in Him then becomes a resting of sorts.

Hebrews 4:11 says “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” Diligence is careful and persistent effort. It takes some doing to consistently redirect our thoughts away from ourselves and our problems and onto the one who holds our lives in His hands. We rest IN Him now, and one day we will rest WITH Him in eternity.

A Confirmation of the Lesson

While they aren’t always simple to achieve, those three little words are easy to remember. About a month after I believe God gave me this lesson, I found myself pondering yet again. This time, I was wondering about my “job” on earth. Was I doing enough for God? Was I making a big enough impact for the Kingdom? Am I pleasing to the Father? Then those three words popped into my mind again. So, I asked myself: “Was I following the instructions from God that He gave me?”

To the best of my ability, yes, I believe I was. A few minutes later, I opened my Bible app on my phone for my morning verses. There I was in Hebrews 3 again. God was confirming the lesson right on time just the way He often seems to do. God DOES speak to His children. And, when He does, we just need to listen to His voice, obey His instructions, and trust His provision for both our lives and our hereafter.

If you like to look at scripture, try Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job . In it, we see a special lesson about what God thinks is true treasure. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel: No Longer Lukewarm