Fall and Faith

Another prominent Christian fell away from faith recently, and believers around the world have been saddened by his rejection of God’s Truth.  But as tragic as his fall from faith is, we shouldn’t be surprised.  Why?  Because Scripture reminds us that these situations will occur, especially in the times in which we live:

Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to Him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal Your return and the end of the world?” Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many … And many will turn away from Me and betray and hate each other. 

(Matthew 24:3-5, 10)

Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. 

(I Timothy 4:1)

The term “fell away from faith” is often used when someone chooses to turn away from the Lord, but we don’t really hear that someone “fell into faith.” The reason for this is simple.  Faith in Jesus is a choice, not something we jump into or just happen upon.  Instead, belief in the Lord is a deliberate decision an individual makes at some point in his or her life.  Romans 10:9 explains it clearly: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Jesus offers everyone the chance to know Him and accept Him as their Savior, but He will never force anyone into that decision.  Actually, like a polite friend, He gently calls to each of us—the opening of our lives to Him is entirely up to us.  The Lord Himself put it this way, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends” (Revelation 3:20).

A friend of ours made the choice to “declare Jesus as Lord” a few weeks ago.  After years of searching, the message from John 3:16 finally rang true for him: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Our friend didn’t fall into faith—he made a conscious decision to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior.    

This singular choice changes our eternal destiny, but our faith journeys don’t end there.  Each day we are presented with choices, especially about how to know the Lord better and strive to live in a way that pleases Him.  The following reminder from Scripture reveals some important steps we can choose to take in this faith journey, and it explains how these choices can help others stay faithful too:

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.  You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.  For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. 

(Hebrews 3:12-14)

The author of Hebrews urges every member of God’s family to be careful, watching out for anything that might cause us to fall away from God.  And we also need to help our brothers and sisters in the Lord to avoid bad choices or misleading teaching.  That’s why being faithful must be a step by step, one good choice after another, kind of process.

Assisting you in your faith journey is what Sonkist Ministries is all about.  We’re strengthened by God’s Word as we write these messages, and we pray you’ll be encouraged as you read them.  We know many of you send these Sonkist messages on to other believers, and even to friends and family who are yet-to-be-saved.  We especially pray for those searching for the Truth.  Like our friend, may they believe in Jesus soon!

While there’s no falling into faith, each one of us can grow deeper in our faith this Fall.  Let’s keep reading God’s Word and fellowshipping with one another.  And may we continually uplift and encourage everyone around us during this beautiful season of Harvest.

  Thought of the Month

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. 

Ephesians 4:30-32

Summer Under the Son

For the Lord has told me this: “I will watch quietly from my dwelling place— as quietly as the heat rises on a summer day, or as the morning dew forms during the harvest.”
Isaiah 18:4

It’s hard to believe another summer is upon us, yet sunny days and warmer nights beckon us to change things up, get outside, and enjoy life in new, exciting ways!  It is also time to step out of our shoes and slip on a pair of sandals, open that great book that’s been on the shelf too long, and find a shady spot to stretch out in. 

Is it possible to find time to rest and unwind in our busy schedules? Perhaps the more challenging question is this:  Is it okay for us to relax and enjoy when so much needs to be accomplished?

The answer to both questions should be yes—most definitely yes!  Not only is it alright to take care of ourselves in this way, but we also have the Lord beckoning us to do so.  To help you consider this unique perspective, here are three recommended areas to contemplate adding to your calendar this summer:

Rest:

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  
Matthew 11:28-30, NLT 

Jesus took time to rest and get away from the busyness of His life, and He also calls out to us to rest in Him.  When we take time to relax, we will actually be more effective in our relationships and in our work.

Reflect:

O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal.  If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.  
Psalm 40:5 


Summer is a perfect season to reflect on all that the Lord has done for you.  When the sun rises each morning, thank Him for the miracles He has done for you throughout the years.  As you move through your day, consider the blessings in your personal and professional life.  And as the sun slowly sinks into the horizon, praise God for the things He helped you accomplish and the new life that awaits you tomorrow—whether you wake up here or in eternity!

Re-energize:

But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one…as for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.  
II Thessalonians 3:3, 13 


With all of the craziness in our world, it’s easy to get down and discouraged.  Yet as we rest in the Lord, taking time to reflect on the truths in His Word, He will strengthen us for the journey that lies ahead.  We need to do our part too, which includes not letting people or circumstances distract us from our real mission:  to glorify the Lord in all that we do!

These are some of the thoughts I wrote in Summer under the Son:  Daily Devotions to Bring Light into Your Life My prayer is that you will make time to rest, reflect, and get re-energized this summer—enjoying all of the blessings the Lord provides each and every day!

Thought for this Summer

Let my soul be at rest again,
    for the Lord has been good to me.
Psalm 116:7

The Old Deluder Satan Law

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”
   Proverbs 22:6 NLT



Have you ever heard of the Old Deluder Satan Law? If not, you aren’t alone. This 1647 piece of legislation from the Massachusetts Bay Colony is one of three original public education laws put into place in the early days of what would eventually become the United States.

Why would our founding fathers and mothers discuss Satan when establishing a system for public schooling? In brief, they wanted to ensure children would be able to read and understand spiritual truths to counteract the negative forces at work in the world in which they lived. As soon as a town had fifty or more families, they were required to hire a teacher to assist them with this process. Once 100 or more families comprised the town, an official grammar school was to be established based on the foundational principle of creating an intellectual, spiritually-aware populace. The hope was that some of these well-educated children would also be prepared to enter Harvard College, whose mission after being founded in 1636 was to prepare individuals for the ministry.

While our history books are often missing these amazing details about American public education, we shouldn’t miss out on the transcendent message behind this legislation from ages past. First, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to the foundation of faith established centuries ago. Our forbearers infused timeless truths into the very fabric of their community, culture, and country. Shouldn’t we, in modern times, be willing to do the same? Second, parents were considered the primary educators of their children. They were responsible for hiring qualified teachers. They were to ensure schools were established—and that those same schools fulfilled their obligation of providing superior education to the young citizens of their day.

Those original settlers were aligned and attuned with what Solomon penned in Proverbs 22:6:  “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” For those of us helping to guide the future leaders of our homes, communities, and country, that instruction is ours to follow and carry out too.

Whether we are parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, we can inspire children and young people to understand the spiritual principles God has provided for all human kind. His guidelines for great living haven’t altered with changing seasons or shifts in laws and culture. And those of us closely involved with local schools should stay connected! Whether public, public charter, parochial or private, educational institutions need our involvement and input. After all, this is one of our earliest callings as citizens of the great nation we’ve inherited.In spring, schools across America begin planning for the upcoming academic year. As they do so, let’s be in prayer for those engaged in this process. In addition, let’s carefully consider how we can assist children discover the incredible path that leads to success as well as eternal security!


We at Sonkist Ministries hope you all have a blessed start to your Spring!

  Thought of the Spring

I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
 stories we have heard and known,
    stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
    we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
    about his power and his mighty wonders.
 Psalm 78: 2b-4

“I Want to Know Christ”

Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.
From the song Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Johann Sebastian Bach, lyrics by Robert Bridges

One of the joys of the Christmas season is the beautiful music that is played everywhere.  Recently I heard the faint strains of Hark the Herald Angels Sing as I cruised up and down the grocery store aisles.  Bing Crosby’s version of O Little Town of Bethlehem greeted me when I stepped into an elevator at a local mall.  And when I tuned into satellite radio’s holiday station, I got to enjoy a melodious rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

The lyrics of the song above might not be as familiar to some, but this last movement of a Bach cantata has been played at many Christian festivities since it was written in the early 1700s.  In addition to Christmas, you may have heard it at Easter and at weddings.  The lyrics that were later added by Bridges are also striking.  They call for us to look to Jesus, the joy of man’s desiring.  His wisdom and love speak to us, drawing us into an amazing relationship that allows our souls to soar!

Friends, this is what I love most about Christmas.  In the days ahead, we can’t help but focus on Jesus.  The decorations, wrappings, food, and festivities don’t have to be distractions—instead, they can be constant reminders of what this holy season is all about! And that’s what I long for:  I want to really know Jesus more and more this Christmas.  I think Paul said it best this way:

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death.
Philippians 3:7-10

Like the apostle, my heart’s desire is to know my Lord and Savior.  I want to understand why He left the joys of Heaven in order to save us.  I long to love the way He does, reaching out to both the saved and yet-to-be-saved—sharing with them about the joy that He has given me.

Much of the music of this blessed season reminds me of His truths.  Let’s look at the final stanzas of Bach’s famous tune:

Through the way where hope is guiding, 
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding, 
Drink of joy from deathless springs.Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure. 
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown. 

Hope is indeed guiding us in this journey of life. Christmas and all its festivities merely point us back to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. So, enjoy the music! Drink in the sights and sounds of the season, and celebrate with family and friends. Most of all, get to know Jesus more through every joyful moment of the days and weeks ahead.
Merry Christmas from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!

Thought of the Winter

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord EmmanuelFrom O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks and Lewis Redner

Great Habits Help in Every Season

As I change my calendar to the month of October, I’m looking forward to the routines that lie ahead. There’s something comforting about packing away summer essentials and getting ready for the fall season.  Sandals and shorts are exchanged for sneakers and sweaters, and soon shorter days will bring cooler breezes and colorful leaves.

In our home, we also look forward to exchanging summer décor for autumn decorations.  This usually involves at least one trip to a local farm to find pumpkins as well as apples and cider to be sampled.  These routines have become part of our family’s fall regimen, which offers a reassuring rhythm to our lives.

I’ve been thinking a lot about routines and habits lately—and not simply because of the shifting seasons.  I recently read a book by a famous dancer and choreographer who penned these words:  “Even in the worst of times …. habits sustain, protect, and, in the most unlikely way, lift us up”  (Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit, p. 243).  This particular reflection happened to be about how she, as a New Yorker, coped with the tragedy of September 11, 2001—but Ms. Tharp has also found that fostering certain habits has been beneficial to many aspects of her life.

I believe the same principle is true for our walk of faith.  By building spiritual routines into our experiences, we create patterns that help us in the good, bad, and in-between times of living.  Actually, from the beginning of His ministry, Jesus made it clear that the Christian walk must be one of routine:  “Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me’” (Luke 9:23-24, New Living Translation).

What are some of these daily habits—or “take up your cross” activities— that you and I can be developing as we strive to follow Jesus?  Here are a few routines to consider:

  1. Read God’s Word each day. This involves setting aside specific time to get into Scripture so we can find out more about the Lord and how He’d like us to live. As II Timothy 2:15 encourages us: “Work hard so God can say to you, ‘Well done.’ Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means” (The Living Bible).
  2. Pray daily for the Lord’s provision, protection, and wisdom. Read how the psalmist David started his day: “Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:2-3, NLT).
  3. Attend church and fellowship with other Christians.We have the example of early believers to follow on this one:  “They worshiped together regularly at the Temple each day, met in small groups in homes for Communion, and shared their meals with great joy and thankfulness, praising God” (Acts 2:46, TLB).

The investment we make in our relationship with the Lord will always pay off, especially as we create routines that will help us know Him on a deeper, more personal level.  And I definitely believe that these spiritual habits will indeed “sustain, protect, and, in the most unlikely way, lift us up!”

May the days ahead will be filled with family, fun, and a harvest of blessings as well as lots of great habits that will help you through all seasons of life.

Happy Fall from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!

Thought of the Month

“See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.”
I Thessalonians 5:15-22 (NLT)

Good Summer Reads

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16, NASB
There’s something about summertime that spurs us to search for a good book, fall into a hammock or lounge chair, and get lost in literature for a few hours on a lazy afternoon.  The problem is there are so many books to choose from these days—how can we select the perfect one for those precious moments we’ve got for summer reading?
Below you’ll find some suggestions that will not only offer you great information but also truths based on Biblical principles. See if any of these pique your interest:For Men and Women:
A Lineage of Grace:  The Stories of Unlikely Women Who Changed Eternity by Francine Rivers
Sons of Encouragement:  Five Men Who Quietly Changed Eternity by Francine Rivers
*I’ve read many books by Francine; she’s amazingly talented and never disappoints her readers!

For Devotions:
Jesus Today by Sarah Young
*If you liked Jesus Calling, you’ll enjoy this one too!
New Beginnings:  Daily Devotions to Develop the Greatest Romance by Rebecca Wilke
*A devotional written for couples at all stages of their marriage.
Grace Notes:  Thoughts on Prayer by Laura Georgakakos
*This author shares from her heart to draw you closer to the Lord.

For Parents:
The New Dare to Discipline by James Dobson
*Everything Focus on the Family publishes is designed to strengthen families, and this book has touched millions of lives.
Straight Lines for Parents: 9 Strategies for Raising Exceptional Kids by Steve & Rebecca Wilke
*After raising our children into adulthood, we wanted to share our strategies for great parenting based on the pillars of Faith, Family, and Education.

Classic Christian Reads:
Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
*Written in the 1950s, this allegory will inspire you to think deeper about your walk with the Lord.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
*A satire that provides insights into human weaknesses—and how the enemy likes to take advantage of those.

Something Different:
The God-Shaped Brain:  How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Brain by Timothy Jennings, M.D.
*Brain research meets Biblical truths!
Everyone Communicates, Few Connect:  What the Most Effective People Do Differently by John Maxwell
*I haven’t found a Maxwell book I didn’t like—and this one helps with both personal and professional growth.

We’ve included some of our Sonkist books above, but there are many more you may wish to peruse in our Products section or by visiting Amazon.com.  Sonkist is a self-funded ministry, so our proceeds go back into publishing more faith-based resources as well as giving free materials to people and other ministries here in the United States and abroad.  Thanks again for your support over the years!

Most importantly, as the verse above from Colossians reminds all of us, let’s stay plugged into God’s Word this summer!  May His truths “richly dwell within you” so that you’ll be encouraged—and you can inspire others in your life too.

Happy Summer from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!

Thought of this Summer

For the word of the Lord holds true,
    and we can trust everything he does.
He loves whatever is just and good;
the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.

Psalm 33:4-5, NLT

The Graham Legacy

But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love Me and obey My commands.
Exodus 20:6 (NLT)

The passing of Dr. Billy Graham in February hit many people hard. Yes, he had been in declining health for some time—but for those of us who grew up during the Graham years, his departure from this earth to his heavenly home marks the end of an era.

I happened to begin 2018 by reading Anne Graham Lotz’ book entitled Why? Trusting God When You Don’t Understand. Over the past several decades, I have had the privilege of attending various events where Dr. Graham and Anne spoke, so their voices seemed to echo in my mind as I poured over each page. Much like her famous father, Anne’s focus is always on Jesus: Jesus the Son of God. Jesus who loved us so much He was willing to die for us. Jesus who rose from the grave. Jesus who wants everyone to be with Him in Heaven one day.

You see, while Billy Graham may be gone, his legacy lives on, as was evident when his son Franklin tweeted these words on February 21st:

“My father Billy Graham was once asked, ‘Where is Heaven?’ He said, ‘Heaven is where Jesus is, and I am going to Him soon!’ This morning, he departed this world into eternal life in Heaven, prepared by the Lord Jesus Christ—the Savior of the world—whom he proclaimed for 80 years.”

Billy and Ruth Graham had five children who learned about the Lord as they were raised by this devout couple. They weren’t perfect (what parent is!), and they’d be the first to admit it was difficult balancing a ministry to hundreds of millions while raising their family. Traveling the world and sharing the good news about Jesus were important—but the most significant audience was the Graham children. In a sense, Billy and Ruth strove to fulfill what was written long ago by the psalmist:

We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders.
(Psalm 78:4)

The Graham legacy continues in the lives of Billy and Ruth’s children grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The truths they taught about the Lord have allowed Anne to write a book like Why? that has helped countless people all over the world with words like these:

“Jesus died on the Cross, but praise God, He shed the grave clothes, and the Resurrection and the power and the glory followed! Don’t wallow in your ‘why’s?’ Don’t throw a pity party. Don’t remain in your misery. Don’t stop short of all God wants to do for you” (p. 133)

Dr. Graham has finally been reunited with his wife and so many other “forever family” members—and, best of all, with the Savior he served so faithfully for eight decades. My prayer is that each of us will take time this month to reflect and consider our personal legacies. What are we doing to leave behind truths of the Lord? Are there more ways we can share about His amazing gift of salvation? How are we impacting our most important legacy—our loved ones—so that they too can share this salvation message with generations yet to come?

Many blessings to you this month from the team at Sonkist Ministries!

 

Thought of the Month

Let each generation tell its children of Your mighty acts;
    let them proclaim Your power.
Psalm 145:4

What’s Better Than a Hallelujah?

Praise the Lord! Yes, give praise, O servants of the Lord.
Praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord
now and forever.

Psalm 113:1-2 (NLT) 

Amy Grant’s song Better Than a Hallelujah spoke to me again in recent weeks.  The lyrics remind me that the Lord listens to all the ways we call out to Him, like a caring parent simply awaiting our cry for help.  Yet the term “Hallelujah” is what has echoed in my mind—simply translated as “Praise Ye, Yahweh.”

Perhaps this definition is why “Hallelujah” has been tugging at me, gently making a call of its own. You see, much of my talking to God is more about me than Him. When I’m overwhelmed with life or the burdens of living in a fallen world, I ask the Lord for help in handling it all.  Sometimes I feel a lot like the psalmist who penned these words:

I love the Lord because He hears my voice
    and my prayer for mercy. Because He bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!

(Psalm 116:1-2)

Do I love the Lord merely because He listens?  Am I appreciative of Him only when my prayers are answered? How often do I simply say, “Praise You, Lord” without having any other agenda or strings attached?

Psalm 113 is one of the Jewish “Hallel” psalms, and the verses above prompt all “servants of the Lord” to lift our praises to Him.  Indeed, this psalm also reminds us that there are many reasons why the Lord should receive our admiration—now and forever:

For the Lord is high above the nations; His glory is higher than the heavens.

Who can be compared with the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high?
(verses 4-5)

The answer to “Who can be compared with the Lord our God?” should urge me to exclaim, “No one but You—Praise You, Lord!”

Who is there for me each morning? “Praise You, Lord!”

Who watches over my family and friends? “Praise You, Lord!”

Who holds the world and everything in it together? “Praise You, Lord!”

And the list could go on and on.  For this and numerous other reasons, I want my mindset to shift to a “Praise You” attitude:

Praise the Lord! Let all that I am praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord as long as I live.  I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath.

(Psalm 146:1-2)

All this processing led be back to Amy Grant’s lyrics, and I realized she too understands the importance of lifting up a “Hallelujah”:

God loves a lullaby
In a mother’s tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.
God loves a drunkard’s cry,
The soldier’s plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

Yes, God loves us reaching out to Him in various ways, and these can be better than a “Hallelujah”—sometimes.

This month, I encourage you to join me in offering more praises to the Lord—just because.  Just because He is who He is.  Just because He deserves it.

Many blessings to you from the team at Sonkist Ministries!

 

Thought of the Month

 I will praise the Lord,
and may everyone on earth bless His holy name
forever and ever.

Psalm 145:21

A Shield of Love

 For You bless the godly, O Lord;
You surround them with Your shield of love.

Psalm 5:12 (NLT)

Have you ever come across a verse or concept in Scripture that just sticks with you—and maybe you’re not even sure why?  This is what happened weeks ago after reading the verse above. I have always believed that the Lord blesses those who strive to follow Him, but what on earth did the psalmist mean by a shield of love?  The two terms don’t seem to make sense together, especially in today’s modern world.

Then I got to thinking about the author of this psalm.  David had been a shepherd boy early in his youth, yet he was elevated to warrior status with one act of exceptional bravery when he defeated the giant Goliath (see I Samuel 17:32-51). As time passed, his father-in-law, King Saul, turned against him—so David became a soldier-at-large with his band of men.  Perhaps because of such life-threatening experiences, we find David penning these plaintive lines:

O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.  Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but You. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to You and wait expectantly.

 (Psalm 5:1-3)

Like us, David no doubt dealt with the ordinary ups and downs of life.  And, as we’ve seen, he had seasons of extreme stress and uncertainty.  But David lived in very different times than we do today.  A sword and shield were everyday tools in his battle for survival.  These instruments of protection for himself, his family, and his fellow fugitives were not only familiar but also seemed fitting to explain his insights about God’s love.  For David, the Lord didn’t provide a soft, fuzzy kind of love.  It didn’t come with a Hallmark card or box of chocolates.  No, to this seasoned soldier, the love of the Lord seemed as real as his ever-present shield—capable of providing confidence as well as protection, even in the darkest hours of life’s journey.

While we may find it hard to imagine hiding out from enemy forces or facing armies like David did, we certainly can relate with other frustrations he expressed in Psalm 5: “For they cannot speak one truthful word. Their hearts are filled to the brim with wickedness. Their suggestions are full of the stench of sin and death. Their tongues are filled with flatteries to gain their wicked ends” (verse 9, The Living Bible).  It appears David also experienced the pain of dealing with deceitful people and the impact of sin in a fallen world.

Take a few minutes to consider similar feelings you may be experiencing.  Are you struggling with frustrating situations, unfriendly forces, or even fear? What problems are you facing right now that seem insurmountable? Here are a few dilemmas some of our friends and family members are battling with:

·         A drug-addicted child

·         An aging parent whose health is failing

·         Chronic back pain that medication isn’t relieving

·         Strained relationships with siblings

·         Income that’s reduced while expenses continue to rise

·         A business partner who didn’t keep his promises

And this list could go on and on.  Times may change, but the problems of living really don’t vary that much from millennia to millennia.

Perhaps that’s why the “shield of love” concept has stuck with me.  I like the idea of God’s love encompassing me, shielding me and those I care about from negative experiences that bombard us each day.  In addition, I appreciate David’s plea to the Lord as he closed out this captivating psalm: “But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread Your protection over them, that all who love Your name may be filled with joy” (verse 11).

Oh, may this be true for you today! Whatever you are struggling with, ask God to help you with every aspect of it.  Whoever may be a challenge in your personal or professional life, pray for wisdom about how to handle the situation.  Not only will God give you the answers you need, but His presence and protection will also provide you much more joy in the days ahead.

 

Thought of the Month

Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to Him for protection.
Proverbs 30:5

All Things New

And the One sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then He said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:5
(New Living Translation)

For those who are old enough to remember, May 18th of 1980 proved to be an historically cataclysmic day.  After numerous warning signs, Mount St. Helens erupted with a fury—forever changing the landscape for miles around.  In the aftermath of the devastating event, researchers began studying the area, wondering if life would ever return to this seemingly post-apocalyptic world.

What surprised many, even these seasoned scientists, was how quickly restoration came to charred land, choked rivers, and debris-filled lakes.  As authors John Morris and Steven A. Austin explain, “Early predictions had claimed it would be over one hundred years before life could re-establish itself in the poisonous ash which covered everything.  Despite the predictions, in just a few years, rain and snowfall have broken the ash into nutrients and resurrected the buried soil beneath, allowing plants to reappear in abundance” (from their book, Footprints in the Ash:  The Explosive Story of Mount St. Helens, 2003).

As we begin this new year of 2018, the story of regeneration at Mount St. Helens pales in comparison to what the Lord can do in each of our lives.  Indeed, in Revelation 21 we find that He is the One who makes all things new.  Not a few items.  Not almost everything.  No, the Lord boldly proclaims, “I am making everything new!”

This transformative process begins when we accept God’s gracious gift of salvation by believing in His Son Jesus.  As II Corinthians 5:17 explains, This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Despite whatever has happened in our past, the Lord changes all of that when we become part of His forever family.  Our old, damaged life is no more; instead, a complete renewal begins because of Him!

Of course, God also reminds us in Scripture that, along with this miraculous, life-altering development, we have a part to play:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
(Romans 12:2)

While living in this tumultuous world, our job is to avoid acting in ways that are unproductive.  This verse in Romans 12 also encourages believers to “let God transform you.”  In other words, we must intentionally allow the Lord to work in and through us, looking for opportunities to learn His ways and will for our lives.

This part of the transformative process has been mirrored in the aftermath of Mount St. Helens’ eruption: “Perhaps even more starling is the rapid adaptation of certain animals … God designed His creation in such a way that it can adapt to a variety of conditions” (Morris and Austin, p. 108).

How awesome!  God has given His creation the ability to transform, no matter how awful the circumstances.  Despite an unimaginable past, current unsettling situations, or uncertainty about the future, the Lord can and will help us through it all if we so desire.  Even if you feel that the changes you need to make are insurmountable, the One sitting on the throne has already declared, “Behold, I am making everything new!”  This process is already in motion! The Apostle Paul reminded us of this fact in Philippians 1:6: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

So, another new year is upon us.  What will we do with the opportunities for growth and change that lie ahead of us?  Will we get stuck in the muck and mire of this world, focused on what was or what could have been—or will we allow the Lord of Lord and King of Kings to transform us in new, exciting ways that we can’t possibly imagine?

Like many aspects of life, the choice for a new beginning is ours to make—and we can be confident that He who is trustworthy and true will continue His work “until it is finally finished.”

Happy New Year to you and your family from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!

Thought of the Month

This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.

Colossians 1:6