Pause and think about it!

NO PERSECUTION SHALL MOVE ME

Many American Christians still subscribe to the erroneous assumption that persecution means the absence of God’s blessing and favor in their lives. Try telling that to the Apostle Paul! Keep in mind how severely he had been persecuted, suffering so much for his precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His life had been threatened in Damascus (Acts 9:23) and again in Jerusalem (Acts 9:29). He had been persecuted and run out of Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:50) and had faced possible stoning in Iconium (Acts 14:5). He had been stoned and left for dead in Lystra (Acts 14:19). He had been opposed and made the center of controversy by the church itself (Acts 15). He had experienced the loss of his closest friend and companion Barnabas (Acts 15:39). He had been beaten with rods and imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16). His life had been threatened in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-7,1 0). He had been forced out of Berea (Acts 17:13-14) and mocked in Athens (Acts 17:18). He had been stripped, beaten with rods, imprisoned, and put in chains. His back was a lacerated, bloody, swollen mass of human flesh. We can just imagine his excruciating pain must have been (Acts 16:23-24). He knew what it was to sit long in a dark, smelly, rat and roach infested dungeon. What was his crime? Why had he suffered so? Because he was determined to be obedient to Jesus Christ, His Savior.

Paul wrote to Timothy, Yea. and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution(2 Timothy 3: 12). Likewise, the Apostle Peter wrote, Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange things happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (I Peter 4:12-1 3). It was with this spirit and this understanding that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8).

On his way to Jerusalem, Paul stopped at Miletus and called the leaders from the church in Ephesus to come to his ship. While teaching and exhorting them to watch over the Christians in their charge, he reviewed his testimony of the trials he’d been through and related that everywhere he went he received prophecy that “bonds and afflictions” awaited him. Then he uttered those all-powerful words, which reflected his true character and commitment: None of these things move me! In fact, he says, Neither do I count my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).

NO PRESSURE OF LEADERSHIP SHALL MOVE ME

Throughout the church world today, the gates of hell are openly attacking God’s chosen people, but praise God we know that they shall not prevail; in other words when all is said and done the Church shall come out victorious. Some of the attacks are brought on by ungodly attitudes and behavior and lack of faith and determination on the part of the believer. Others are brought on by the demon-master who is always prowling around ready to devour the seed of THE MASTER.

Many of God’s people are suffering from the same depression Elijah suffered after the great victory at Mt. Carmel. He had called fire down from heaven. He had killed 450 gods of Baal. Now the woman Jezebel was out to kill him because he killed her precious gods. Elijah ran and hid and began to cry out to God-just like we would do. We think our situation is unique and we are the only ones who have to bear these particular circumstances. But take heart for no test or trial comes to us that has not been suffered by others before (I Corinthians 10:13). In Elijah’s case, God told him there were 7000 others like him. These things will happen even to devout, dedicated, committed, consecrated children of God; but in your patience possess ye your souls (Luke 21:19).

Many people abort their call early because they are unwilling to bear the pressure that comes with victory. Dr. James Dobson periodically devoted his radio broadcast to preservation of the pastor. Why? For some reason, clergy and laity have become a religious caste system. When laity separate themselves from clergy, they can have higher expectations for the clergy than for themselves. They want the clergy on a pedestal so as to bow down and worship them, but in so doing they make them into a statue–an object that is cold, unmoved, non-reacting, and expects nothing from them. Upon discovery that clergy are real people with emotions, faults, shortcomings, difficulties, afflictions, trials and tribulations, they often reject them. Rather than show love, commitment, and compassion, the laity often insulate themselves with rationalizations for their actions and proceed to cut emotional and real ties with the clergy.

Recently we heard of the Pastor whose teen-age son ran away from home. The pastor’s wife became mentally ill and began heckling during the service. The congregation felt these things would not happen if the pastor were truly serving the Lord and they rallied to “put the pastor out”. (Have they read about John Wesley?) A middle-aged Pastor we know had a heart attack and was physically unable to preach for several months. The church dismissed him and hired a new man, cutting off all salary and benefits including insurance and pension. Another well-known Pastor’s three children all rebelled, got involved in sin, and none serve the Lord today. Yes, it happens everyday to laymen but how could it happen to pastors? (Read about Aaron’s sons and Samuel’s sons.) This is not a new phenomenon. These same kinds of things happened to Paul. Remember what he shared in his letter to Timothy: Demas hath forsaken me … Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil, the Lord reward him according to his works. You should be on your guard against him because he strongly opposed our message … at first … everyone deserted me … but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…(2 Timothy 4:10-17).

Leaders and people need to cry out to God for each other. All are part of the body of Christ and must stand together! If the church leadership is not of God, let God expose it or remove it–not you. Don’t be the devil prowling around, nor a railer–undermining by talking about someone (Gal. 5.17), nor a grievous wolf in sheep’s clothing drawing away disciples after yourself (Acts 20:32).

Actually, in judging another you are judging yourself. Even our modern psychologists teach what the Bible says: Whatever you criticize in another person is your own shortcoming; so look first to yourself, then be silent about the other. Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5,NIV).

NO PAINFUL DISCIPLINE SHALL MOVE ME

The prodigal son was tired of work. He was tired of being told what to do and how to do it. He was tired of being expected to do certain things. So he decided to quit! He asked for his inheritance, that which was legally his, and set out to have a good time. And so he did! He went places he had never been, did things he had never done, and was surrounded with friends. The only problem was, he didn’t think about the future-only about now. He was having fun and doing as he pleased with no one to boss him around, until reality hit, his money was gone, his friends had split. He had to humble himself and return to the only ones who might love him and accept him again-his family.

He had wasted his best years. his father’s gifts, and his ability to become somebody special. He had to start over at the beginning. Had the prodigal son stayed home, working for his father and obedient to him during this time. he would now be richer and possibly promoted to headship. The Apostle Paul understood this. He said when we enter a race, we enter to run in such a way as to win. You cannot win if you consider how difficult the track is, how much your body is hurting while you run, or all the fun you’re missing out on while you are busy training. But if we endure this hardness like a good soldier in training, we shall truly win some day. We cannot not help but experience a sense of pride and accomplishment for the Olympic contenders and winners. Millions of viewers wished they were in the races. What went uncaptured in our hearts and minds was the intense discipline that these contenders imposed upon themselves for years prior to winning the opportunity to compete at the Olympic level. They had trainers and coaches who made demands that often seemed unrealistic, even inhuman. You see, if one is able to beat his or another’s record, he has to submit himself to greater discipline and expectations than others do.

How often do we hear adults speak about their youth with regret saying “I wish my parents had made me …… As a result we have a generation of prodigal children (prodigal simply means reckless and extravagant). They give up any difficult project at the drop of a hat. If the job is too laborious, they quit. If the marriage is not meeting their needs, they seek divorce. If the church doesn’t tickle their fancy, they leave. If the children don’t do as they ask, they let them do what they wish. Oh, how we have need of patience, that, after we have done the will of God, we might receive the promise…(Hebrews 10:32). How different is this quitting spirit from the persevering spirit of Paul who, even though people begged him not to go a certain route because of the afflictions, persecutions, and chains that awaited him. he went anyway. He did not seek a way out, but sought to fulfill his call. He even sent the slave-boy, Onesimus. back to his master when he got saved. Can you imagine the outcry that would  come today if a pastor were to do that? Yes, of course, our culture has changed, but biblical principles have not!

NEITHER POVERTY NOR PROSPERITY SHALL MOVE ME

Many in the church world today equate success with growth and prosperity. If measured in these terms, Jesus and Paul were failures. In fact, the masses followed Jesus as long as he was doing signs and miracles in their midst, but when the cross went up, they were gone. Likewise, many people came to Paul’s meetings to be healed and set free, yet when he was arrested they were nowhere to be found. Christians, be on guard. When you should be standing by for comfort, strength and help, don’t leave and take as many others with you as possible to justify your actions. Jesus said, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. If we practice this, we’ll stand by each other through good report and evil report, through prosperity and through poverty.

Over the years, several great faith healers have been plagued by cancer or experienced heart attacks or have had to have surgeries. Some prominent faith teachers have had to file bankruptcy and/or sell off some or all of their properties. Nearly every viable public ministry has been tainted by negative publicity of one kind or another. Cold-Christians and unbelievers point toward these matters and say “See, I told you so!” But the proof of the gospel has never been in great numbers or in miracles, or in visible success or failure. Jesus said there would be famous, public figures who would come at the end and ask Him to let them into heaven because they have done righteous-sounding deeds in His Name: “Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? Have we not cast out devils in thy name? Have we not done many wonderful works in thy name?” His answer, Depart from me: I never knew you (Matt. 7:22). Neither perceived spiritual success nor seeing failure are proof of our acceptance by Jesus. It is something that has taken place in the heart. It is knowing Jesus on a personal level.

Once when the disciples came back from an evangelistic crusade, they were excited to report to Jesus about all the miracles they had done. He cautioned them not to rejoice over miracles, but to rejoice over the fact that their name was written down in the heaven (Luke 10:20).

NONE OF THESE THINGS MOVE ME

Let us say with Paul, I am persuaded I that neither death, nor life, nor angels, a nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-38).

 

© C. Yvonne Karl, The Alabaster Box, Vol. 7, Number 9. yvonnekarl@gmail.com

  

 

 

EXACTLY WHAT IS AN “EBENEZER?” Initially, the word appears as the name of a specific place where the Israelites had two battles with the Philistines, in the second of which the ark was captured: Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines, and encamped beside Ebenezer (1 Sam. 4:1)… The Philistines brought the ark of God from Ebenezer to Ashdod (1 Sam. 5:1).

After the battles, Samuel ascribed meaning to the word based on what had transpired:  Then Samuel took a stone…and called the name of it Ebenezer, stone of help, saying, Heretofore the Lord has helped us (1 Sam. 7:12).  He set up the “stone” as a memorial of the help received in the defeat of the Philistines. 

This passage started the wheels of my mind turning (and I’m sure the same thing happens to you), remembering the many, many times the Lord has intervened in my life and helped me through one battle after another. I was reminded of Malachi 3:16: Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord, and who thought on His name. One translation says, they rehearsed the things the Lord had done for them. When we begin to identify the victories the Lord has given us, two things happen: we get stronger and are more resolved and determined to push through the next conflict; and we are in awe with hearts full of gratitude for how He helped us overcome. There is no need for us to set up tangible monuments, rather we need to apprehend these victories with our minds, capturing them for immediate recall in times of difficulty.

EXACTLY WHAT DOES “SELAH” MEAN? It occurs 71 times in 39 psalms and in Habbakuk 3:3,9,13. The meaning of the word Selah is unknown, and a great many useless opinions have been given about it. For instance, some think it is a musical term meaning “pause” or “repeat.” Others believe it marks a change of meter or the coming in of the accompaniment. Still others think it was supposed to call attention to a peculiarly important thought, or that it designated the end of a prayer. Any of these theories is as good as the others. The Hebrew scholar, W. A. Wright, ends a long list of these opinions by quietly calling it a “hopeless subject.” Whatever its meaning, its intention is clear: selah divides the past thought from the next one. It seems to me this is exactly what an ebenezer does as well. Whenever we pause to reflect on a past victory it brings us to the threshold of a present conflict that is a mere bridge to a future victory. It gives us time to catch our breath, renew our perspective, and affirm our faith in the one True God.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing—through the experience of your faith—that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope (Romans 15:13, TAB).  My ebenezers are columns of “hope” in my life. Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov.13:12), but when I have something to inspire hope, I can deal with just about anything that’s thrown in my path. This hope is accompanied by joy and peace: I am not tense or stressed out, because I have the faith to believe that Jesus is my salvation. In fact, His track record in my life is such that hope begets hope; it just keeps multiplying. My hope is not for earthly fulfillment alone—it goes far beyond that to eternal life. As Paul said, To live is Christ; to die is gain (Phil.1:21). The power of the Holy Spirit energizes and directs my life through each and every situation. Between each season there is a Selah –sometimes short, sometimes longer—giving me time to reflect on the Ebenezer that came from the trial or battle.

And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost (1 Thessalonians 1:6). When others support us through our trials, believe the same truths, and walk according to the Word of the Lord in spite of the difficult circumstances life has imposed on us, it causes our hope to be reinforced and rewarded. We walk through these times with joy in our hearts because of our Comforter, the Holy Spirit who abides there. He keeps reminding us of the words Jesus spoke—words of Life! Again, we are able to identify the Ebenezers and pause for refreshing in the Selah season.

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice (leap for joy) with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:7-8). The songwriter understood this unspeakable joy as reflected in the hymn he penned in 1900.

JOY UNSPEAKABLE

Lyrics and music by B. E. Warren

  1. 1.I have found His grace is all complete,
    He supplieth every need;
    While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
    I am free, yes, free indeed.

    CHORUS:
    It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
    Full of glory, full of glory;
    It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
    Oh, the half has never yet been told.

    2.

    I have found the pleasure I once craved,
    It is joy and peace within;
    What a wondrous blessing I am saved
    From the awful gulf of sin.

    3.

    I have found that hope so bright and clear,
    Living in the realm of grace;
    Oh, the Savior’s presence is so near,
    I can see His smiling face.

    4.

    I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
    How its waves of glory roll!
    It is like a great o’er flowing well,
    Springing up within my soul

This joy is best framed with trials for only in the midst of those seemingly endless battles in life does the joy shine most brilliantly. Ah, the contrast is divine! The three Hebrew children understood this “fiery trial”. They were threatened with the fiery furnace and commanded to bow to the earthly king. However, their faith was not in their earthly existence but in the eternal God in whom they believed although they had not seen Him. The threat of fire did not cause them to renounce their faith nor did it scare them into worshipping the king. So it is with us. Our fiery trials generally come in the form of tragedy, persecution or affliction. The joy of knowing Jesus as our Lord and Savior far exceeds the physical or emotional pain inflicted by these earthly circumstances. As children of Almighty God, we must keep the proper perspective. Our spirit lives forever; our body does not.

WHAT ARE YOUR EBENEZERS?  What are the moments in your life when you know for a fact that God gave you a victory—brought you through some fiery trials. When compared to someone else’s trials yours may be trivial—but to you they are major! Or perhaps when compared to someone else’s trials yours may be monumental. Study your situation to find the positive things you have learned through it all. There are some to be sure. Look for them! Make them your Ebenezers, then pinpoint the Selah between struggles. God is a very PRESENT help in time of trouble. Things don’t always turn out the way we want them to, but by God’s grace, we cling to Him and He helps. Rehearse the good times. His grace WILL be sufficient to get you through EVERY situation.

____________

(c) C. Yvonne Karl, The Alabaster Box, Vol.16. No.11. November 2001.

David, the psalmist King, often reflected on his past only as a reminder of how the Lord had helped him. He used these memories to help him focus on the future with faith and hope in Almighty God.

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side! Let Israel now say—If it had not been the Lord who was on our side when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive when their wrath was kindled against us. Then the waters would have overwhelmed us,. The stream would have gone over our soul. Then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul. Blessed be the Lord who has not given us as prey to their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; The snare is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. (From Psalm124)

A plot has been devised to destroy every Christian’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but God has extended His protection, His strength, and His power to His children. David describes this plot as being like a trap set by a bird catcher. It appeared he had trapped us, but by God’s grace the snare was broken, and we escaped. Who broke the snare for us? The Lord! He’s our helper. When the snare is broken, we have to run away from it. (See Psa. 124:7)

One of the most prevalent ways the enemy traps us is getting us to take offense. Jesus said, Offenses will come![i] We cannot prevent them from coming. But we’re also told, Great peace have they which love thy law; and nothing causes them to stumble. (Psa.119:165). Whether to take the offense or not is our choice.

The Israelites were offended that God sent them the same food every day. They felt they deserved better. They blamed Him for bringing them out of Egypt—where they were slaves—to this free place where He did the grocery shopping for them every day! I can’t imagine anyone being unhappy about not having to slave in the mud to make bricks while a soldier stood by ready to beat them if they didn’t work fast enough. Yet here they were, complaining. It’s true, they left their homes behind never to be revisited, but rather than seeing their future prosperity, they took an offense toward God, became bitter, and began making their list of demands. What might have happened if they had said, “God we wish you would vary the menu a bit; nevertheless our hearts are full of gratitude that you’re feeding us and we don’t have to make bricks in the hot sun anymore. It’s okay, God. We love you. And we thank You for the manna.” With this attitude, who knows what blessings God might have poured upon them.

Like the Psalmist, I look back over my life and say with conviction, If it had not been the Lord who was on my side, where would I be? I can point to specific times and situations where I realize that nothing or no one except the Lord could have saved me. David comments that men rose up against him and his people to destroy them. I have experienced this. We have all been between a rock and a hard place. We have been pressed into doubting that God really cares at all about us. We have wondered whether He really hears when we cry out to Him. Then we understand the Psalmist’s joyous exclamation: If it had not been the Lord who was on our side… When it looked like an impossible situation, God made a way of escape.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1Cor. 10:13).The word picture here is one of a strong column or pillar that holds up an overpass. In other words, God will strengthen us and uphold us that we may be able to get through the danger zone. Many of God’s people have been on the brink of ruin only to see God intervene miraculously at 11:59 and 59 seconds!

When their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive. Why? Whenever a person allows anger to build up inside, he strikes out at his target. He shoots daggers at it. I know how that feels. I’ve been that target! I could literally feel the fiery darts trying to penetrate me. I felt like I was about to drown under the circumstances. The Psalmist understood this feeling well.

The flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away. The anger of our enemies, like water, poured over our lives. They were determined to destroy us, our comforts, and all that is dear to us. But remember what God has promised? When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they shall not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; and the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isa.43:2)

Did He not do this for the Israelites as they fled from Egypt? They stood with the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army coming upon them from behind. The Lord was on their side! He parted the waters so they could go across on dry land, and then He brought the waters back together to swallow up their enemies. Did He not do this for Daniel? He didn’t escape the lion’s den, but the Lord was in there with him and shut the lion’s mouth so he wasn’t harmed . (see Daniel 6). Did He not do this for Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego ?(see Daniel 3) They did not escape the furnace, but the Lord was in there with them and didn’t allow them to be burned. And most assuredly, He has done that for me! Of course, I would like to have avoided going through the waters and the fires, but with the Lord was on my side, so why should I fear what man could do to me? (Psa. 118:6)

Satan is seeking whom he may devour (1 Pe.5:8).  He is a thief and has come to steal our joy, our health, and our assurance of salvation; then he’ll kill us and totally destroy any evidence of our existence. He’s not content to just tear us to pieces; he wants us lost forever! But Blessed be the Lord who is on the side of His children. The victory, my friend, is in our soul! Paul and Silas were in prison and their feet and hands were placed in stocks so they couldn’t move. Their enemies had succeeded in stopping their bodies, but their souls were free! They had escaped the snare of the fowler. They sang praises at midnight when all was dark and looked hopeless. Yes, they sang praises! Those praises broke through the enemy’s territory, and God sent an earthquake and set Paul and Silas free. (see Acts 16). The Lord lives in our praises (Psa. 22:3).

OUR HELP IS IN THE NAME OF THE LORD

Which lord? The Lord who made heaven and earth (Psa.124:8). We may be caught in a situation where we have no helper but God. Rehearse the praises penned by so many who have been where you are. Think about His love. Think about His goodness. His Name is higher than any other. His name is Jesus! Jesus! Oh, how sweet the Name. Jesus! Name above all names. There’s healing in the Name of Jesus. There’s deliverance in the Name of Jesus. There’s victory in the Name of Jesus. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Up to now, we have stepped across many timelines from one day to the next, one week to the next, one year to the next. We remember with the Psalmist, If it had not been the Lord on our side, we would not have been able to walk across the bridge that took us from the edge of one time period to the brink of the next.

When the Israelites stood at the Jordan River and wanted to cross into Canaan Land, they could not look back to their failures. They had to let go of the past and forgive. They had to march forward to the land flowing with milk and honey. As a nation, they had missed the opportunity once, but they determined not to miss it again. The Lord said to them and their leader, Joshua, forget the past, press toward the future. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law… Be strong and of good courage; Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (Josh 1:9). The Lord is on our side!

We’re at the end of a year that people have been wishing away since March., and we’re on the brink of a brand-new year. Exactly what lies ahead, no one knows, but everyone hopes Covid19 will somehow disappear from the scene.

Every day is the edge of a yesterday and the brink of a tomorrow. Every day is a day of decision and choices.

If you are not a child of God, pray now. Ask Jesus to forgive your sins and come into your heart. If you have grown weary and fainted in your Christian life, repent. Confess your weaknesses and transgressions to the Lord. Give Him your failures and disappointments, discouragements and defeats of the past. Determine to serve Him with all of your might as long as He gives you life. Follow Jesus.        Acknowledge the Holy Spirit as your helper. Be sure you are on His side. Then you will have the assurance that the Lord is on your side and you can say, Whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s I know (Rom. 14:8).

That’s victory! That’s joy! That’s real living! That gives great hope for tomorrow. That’s what I did. Now I look forward to God’s deliverance in the difficult situations of life. He’s the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He goes before me and comes behind me. Everywhere I am, He is. He is the foundation upon which I build. He is the Author and Finisher of my faith. I am the apple of His eye. I am engraved in the palm of His hand.

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

Edited from The Alabaster Box Vol.11 No 01. © C. Yvonne Karl

Do you believe in angels? I do. Have you ever been led by an angel? I have. Many times. Let me share a few simple stories that profoundly impact my belief in angels.

Mom and her little girl

On the way home from a Bible study when our daughter was almost three years old, I looked in the backseat to see how she was doing – and she wasn’t there! I turned all the way around and saw an open door. With all calmness, I said to the driver, “Please stop the car; Caroline has fallen out!” It was raining, and we were in the city so we weren’t going fast. I jumped out and saw Caroline hanging onto the handle of the swinging car door with her knees pulled up to her chest. She had not touched the pavement! I checked her out and we got back in the car. Then she began to cry – not because she was hurt; she didn’t have a scratch—but because her clothes were wet from the rain. Oh, I had believed in angels before, but that day I believed in angels again!.

Time Passed

Mom and her two little ones

It was a lovely fall day. I was in the middle of a seven hour drive from Detroit to West Virginia to visit my parents. My five-year old daughter was in the back seat reading her books to me. My infant son was in the car bed secured beside me on the bench seat in the front (would not be permitted today!). Suddenly the car jolted. As I pulled off to the side of the road, there was a tin-can sound banging beneath me. I was clueless. Carefully, I opened my car door, got out, and bent down to look under the car but saw nothing. As I walked around to the other side, I saw it laying a little distance behind me. I knew enough to know it was the muffler. In those days, we did not have a phone to carry with us. What to do? Pray! Father, help! Show me what to do. Immediately a driver pulled off the road in front of me. A disheveled old man looking every bit of 80+ years old, tall and lanky. At that point, he looked into my car and saw my little ones. Without question, he knew my predicament and said: “I’ll tie it up for you ma’am and follow you to the service station up the road.” My mind was saying he wasn’t strong enough to lie on the ground and scoot up under the car to make that connection, but he brought some wire from his trunk and went to work. By then his female companion, looking every bit as old as he, had come to join us and talk to me while he was scooting under the car.

I was still in disbelief, feeling so indebted to this man who was obviously older than my grandfather, and praying he wouldn’t hurt himself. It occurred to me I didn’t have any extra cash—only enough for the trip. I told this to the lady and gave her paper and pencil from my purse to write down their address (assuming they were a married couple) so I could send them some money later. She refused, saying “Oh no! He’s not doing this for money. He just sees a lady in distress and wants to help.” I begged her to at least give me the address so I could send a thank-you card later assuring her my husband would feel greatly indebted to them for stopping to help. At last, to shut me up, she scribbled down a name and address in another state.  He completed the task and told me to follow them to the gas station and the attendant would tell me what I had to do.

At the station, he simply waved good-bye and they continued on down the road. I explained to the attendant what happened and he got down under the car to check it out then allowed me to use their phone to call my husband. I told Julius what had happened and put the attendant on the phone. He reported to my husband that the muffler was secure and would hold up just fine until I got to my parents’ house. I breathed a sigh of relief, thanked him for his help (with no charge even for the telephone call), and got back on the road.

A week later when I got back to Michigan, my husband and I wrote a thank-you note and put $20 with it and mailed it to the address the lady had given me. Within a few days, the note came back to us in the mail stamped: “No such address.” We double checked the address she had given me with what I had written on the note. Correct. We looked at each other and knew immediately that those two were angels sent by God on assignment that day—and I and my little children were the targets.

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it (Heb. 13:2).

Many times we write people off because of how they look, dress, or behave. In no way did this couple give any possible hints or clues that they could be angels. I’m convinced we spiritually discern between their actual form and how they have appeared. Their true and actual form has not been fully revealed to us. Many stories have been penned—both truth and fiction—about angels. And I’m quite sure those of you who are reading this now have already recalled times where you were convinced you were helped by intervention from angels—even though perhaps unaware of it at the time. I choose to believe.

Be careful how you treat people. You just might be unaware. They might be angels disguised as people.

Time Passed

My two little ones were in the car with me as we headed a couple of miles from our house to the church where would meet dad for lunch. Just before the railroad tracks, the back, driver’s side, tire blew out. It was flat! We had no choice but to leave the car and walk the rest of the way. Only about a mile, but it was a challenge—walking on the narrow gravel shoulder along the road and across the tracks. I had to carry the one-year old while the six-year old held tightly to my hand as we sang loudly: “All night; all day. Angels watching over me, my Lord!” That day no car stopped to see if they could help, but I’m convinced that my little daughter, as well as I, were acknowledging that the angels were accompanying us to the safety of Daddy’s arms. I choose to believe.

Years Passed

Near midnight, after visiting my husband in a hospital for several hours, I left to discover a heavy snowfall and no footprints to follow. In those days there was no car alarm button on the keys. Prayer led me to find my car in the parking lot. As I cleaned the snow off the windows, I asked the Lord to get me to the exit and show me which of two routes to travel home. Right then, a little yellow Volkswagen appeared in front of me. Its tail lights were shining brightly and since there were no visible car tracks on the road, I just followed that car. It proceeded steadily at 30 MPH and led me from one highway to another for 25 miles—right to my street. There it paused momentarily while I turned and went to the second driveway—my home. I knew for a fact that the Lord had sent an “angel out before me to keep me in the way and to bring me into the place…” (Ex.20:23). I choose to believe.

My Perspective on Angels

The above stories don’t even scratch the surface of the numerous personal stories I could tell about how angels led and protected me at various times in my life—some of them even when I was seriously injured in accidents, one of which was thousands of miles away in South Africa in 1999. I lived to tell about them, and to me that is proof in itself of “ministering angels.” I choose to believe.

In South Africa with Ruth Nortje, my hostess and the one driving when we were broadsided very close to her address after she picked me up at the airport. You can see the injuries on her face. I had a broken wrist and five broken ribs. I had been invited to speak to a group of professionals. Where were my angels? My response: I was there to share some specific biblical principals so I was on holy ground … and for sure there were angels all around. Although experiencing tremendous pain when getting up and down, it did not interfere as I fulfilled my responsibilities.

 

 

Theological Incongruity?

There comes a theological argument at this point. How, when, where and to whom does God choose to send His ministering angels? Why not in every situation? Why did my wonderful Christian loved ones die in accidents? Where were the angels at that moment? I do not have the answer to these questions. It is only that I give God thanks, praise and all the glory for those times when I was aware of their presence.

What the Bible teaches us about Angels

Throughout the Bible, we read about ministering angels who lead, guide, protect and strengthen God’s people. “For He shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways” (Psa.91:11). “But … the angels … are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb.1:13-14).

Jesus said, “I am the Way …” God says that the angel will keep us on the Way and bring us into a place—a place that He has prepared, a place of victory, a place of restoration, a secret place of the Most High—under the shelter of the Almighty (Psa.91:11).

Apostle Peter freed by angels

The Apostle Peter had experiences with angels. One specific account in Acts 12 tells how the angel of the Lord led him. He had been apprehended and put in jail with sixteen soldiers placed around him to keep him from escaping. In addition, he was bound with chains and there were other guards placed at the doors. Obviously, his enemies wanted to be sure that he could not escape. “The angel shall go before thee and keep thee in the way…”

Do you ever feel like you have guards all around you? Like your hands and feet are tied? You feel bound and helpless against the obstacles and circumstances in your life? Peter was in that situation; he knew he needed help and he trusted the Lord to send it. So he went to sleep!

Please note in verse five that while he was sleeping and allowing his body to be restored, the church was praying for him without ceasing. When we see a brother or sister in bondage, we need to pray until he/she is delivered.

“And behold the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison; and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, ‘Arise up quickly.’ And his chains fell off from his hands” (Acts 12:7).

The angel of the Lord showed up. The light shined on him in his bondage. The angel smote (slapped) Peter. That’s the beginning of cutting off the bondage. When it happens to you, it feels like you are being slapped around when really it is the angel of the Lord trying to get your attention. Peter obeyed the voice of the angel and got up. Immediately his chains fell off.

“Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him.” (Acts 12:8).

The angel didn’t say “Come here, and I will dress you.” No. He commanded Peter to dress himself and to follow him. And Peter did! He obeyed the voice of the angel!

Peter had spent time with Jesus and had been aware of the angels ministering to Him. I believe Jesus had taught Peter about the angels and therefore he just knew to obey. “Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.” (Acts 12:9-10).

The angel led Peter out of bondage, through two wards and through the iron gate. Iron stands for judgment and the Lord says that for iron He will give us Silver (redemption!) (Isa. 60:17) . The iron gate could not hold him; all the judgment against Peter just melted away. The angel had come to lead him out of prison. He led him into the city. I believe this is symbolic of Zion, the city of our God. And he led him right through a street—onto Praise Avenue! At that moment, the angel left because Peter knew where he was and could again go free.

Angels and Us today

I wonder how often the Lord has sent angels to lead us out of bondage and we didn’t recognize them. We just thought they were a yellow car, a unique circumstance, another person. But now we are free. We know where we are. Jesus said, “Blessed are you who believe and have not seen” (Jn. 20:29). The angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to us as an heir of salvation (Heb.1:14).

You are not fighting a battle single-handedly. There is a host of angels encamped around about those who love the Lord. Prepare for an angel of the Lord to lead you, to protect you on the way, and to bring you to a place of victory.  “All night, all day, angels watching over me, my Lord.” I choose to believe!

______________________________________________________________

The Alabaster Box, Vol 19 No 05 (2005) © C. Yvonne Karl

Reprinted in MUSINGS, December 12, 2020.

Feel free to reprint as is.

Write to me:

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

 

 

 

RUTH ARISTON HICKS

 

Nearly thirty-five years ago, Ruth Hicks introduced herself to me at a conference where I was speaking at Blue Water Shiloh in Ontario, Canada. A discussion ensued and I found out she was a friend of Sharon Wilson and Nola Brunelle who were on staff at our school, New Life Christian Academy. Little by little, I drew out of her that she was not only an evangelist but also an accomplished musician—both in voice and piano. That fall, we welcomed her on our Academy staff. She assisted the classroom supervisors, taught piano, directed vocal ensembles, and encouraged and inspired the staff and students every day. We were delighted to have her two grandchildren, Christina and Terri, as students.

In the summer, after three years of working in the Academy, Ruth made a tearful resignation. She was finding the days more and more tiring as her commute was long. She left home early and, especially in the winter, didn’t get back home in the evening until dark. My last visit with her was a picnic at Belle Island. We met, had lunch, and walked around the Island reminiscing about the goodness of God and her time with us. After many hugs and a tearful time of prayer, we parted–knowing the Lord had brought us together and we would always love each other.

During those three years, Ruth also attended our church and often wrote and sang a song in response to the pastor’s sermon. She was humble, but a tremendous encourager with deep spiritual roots and amazing biblical knowledge and wisdom—a truly gifted lady. Her heavenly Father called her home in 1997. 

ORDINARY PERSON (Words and Music by Ruth Hicks)

IF I HAD JUST ONE SONG TO SING (Words and Music by Ruth Hicks)

  1. If I had but one song to sing, that song would be about Jesus (repeat)

Refrain) For at that name, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (repeat)

2) If I had but one song to shout, that song would be about Jesus (repeat)

Ruth with her granddaughters and their friends at school.

Ruth’s granddaughters in Mrs. Bettega’s Kindegarten Class

A parting note

 

Ruth was truly a saint of the most high God and a treasure among us.

The Ministry of Tears

By the bottle-full or the bowl-full

Tears. Tears. Tears. Why so many tears? Why can’t everything be laughter and joy? Even when our own tears are not flowing, we know others whose cheeks are never dry. It is easy to explain a smile, but how do we explain a tear? I’ve heard a tear is made up of salt and lime and other component parts, but such an explanation falls short of expressing the emotion that actually produces the word. Tear (produced when crying) and tear (to pull apart) are spelled the same. There are tears of sorrow, tears of grief, tears of repentance, tears of embarrassment, tears of agony, tears of pain, tears of joy, and so on the list goes. Through the decades many songs have been written about the purpose of tears.

I remember as a child, often when I cried with self-pity or anger my father would bring a bottle and, with a twinkle in his eye, tell me to cry the bottle full of tears. It was many years before I realized that the phrase, “crying a bottle full of tears,” actually came from the Psalms (58:6).

The Tears of David–A Bottle-Full

David’s tears flowed freely on numerous occasions. He was sorry for his transgressions against God’s law, and he repented with tears. Often he writes in the Psalms, I cried unto the Lord…(Psa. 3:4; 31:22; 34:4; 77:1; 120:1). He was an emotional man! On one occasion, he writes to the Lord: “Tell my wanderings; Put my TEARS into your bottle” (Psa. 56.8). He knew that God paid attention to every detail. Often it is the ministry of our tears to give an outward demonstration of our inner dependence upon God. Without Him, I am nothing.

The People’s Tears of Repentance–A Bowl-Full

A psalm of Asaph asks: “O Lord God Almighty, how long will you be angry against the Prayers of your people? You have fed them with the bread of their tears. You have made them drink TEARS by the bowlful” (Psa. 80:4-5). God’s people had turned away from following after Him and ended up having to live without His provisions. Now aware of what had happened to them, they cried out to Him who is faithful to deliver! Often it is the ministry of tears to confirm our repentance and set us on the right road.

The Sowing of Tears. Reap Joy

Those who have experienced the Lord’s deliverance now pray for the restoration of others. The desire to see friends and loved ones come into the fullness of the Christian life brings forth tears. Those tears touch the very heart of God. “They that sow in TEARS shall reap in joy. He that goes forth weeping will return rejoicing bringing sheaves with him” (Psa. 126:5-6). Are you praying with tears for those you want to experience salvation and a change of heart and life-style? Then this scripture is your promise for the ministry of those tears.

The Tears of Jeremiah–A Fountain of Tears

The prophet Jeremiah experienced intense grief over the sin of his people. He cried out, “Oh that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of TEARS. I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. If only I had a traveler’s lodge in the wilderness, I would abandon my people and depart from them, for they are all adulterers, a crowd of faithless people.…” (Jer. 9:1-1). You can almost see Jeremiah’s swollen eyes and tear-stained face. How many times have you cried for someone who was enslaved by sin and just couldn’t seem to get free?

The Sinner Woman’s Tears–Repentance and Love

The whole town knew that Jesus was at the Pharisee’s house. A woman, who was known as a sinner, came to see Him, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears (Luke 7:37-38) —maybe the tears she had kept in a tear bottle. Great was her love for Jesus. Jesus preached a sermon to the Pharisees which were angry that He allowed the woman to touch Him (7:39). Jesus said, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house, you gain me no water for my feet; but she has washed my feet with TEARS, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. You gave me no kiss, but this woman since the time I came in has not ceased to kiss my feet You did not anoint my head with oil, but this woman has anointed my feet. Wherefore, I say unto you , her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much” (Luke 7:45-50). 

Jesus knows whether our tears are real or self-pity. He knows the condition of our heart. Tears of repentance wash away the bitterness, pain, and grief caused by a life of sin and abuse and invite Jesus to come and fill the void.

The Tears of Paul–Tears of Humility

The Apostle Paul was not at all embarrassed about his tears. In fact, he makes a point of mentioning them. Sensing that he may be near execution and unable to make another missionary journey, Paul called the Ephesian Church Leaders to meet him in Miletus and admonished them to watch over the church. He reminded them, “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia I served the Lord with great humility and with TEARS” (Acts 20:17-31).

To the Church at Corinth, Paul wrote: “For I wrote to you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many TEARS, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you” (2 Cor. 2:4).

The Tears of Timothy–Memories

Obviously Paul was quite moved by Timothy’s tears when he wrote to him: “Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy” (2 Tim. 1:4). We don’t really know whether these tears were simply tears shed when Paul and Timothy had to part ways, or just some experiences they had together in church services and other situations. These tears were important enough for Paul to mention them.

The Tears of Jesus

Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they didn’t “know the time of their visitation” (Luke 19:41). He had come, but they hadn’t really seen Him for Who He was. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, had called for Jesus to come, but when He arrived Lazarus had already been dead four days. In Hebrew tradition they believed that after three days the spirit left the body, so the situation seemed to be impossible. Nevertheless, the master spoke, and Lazarus came forth! I’ve often wondered if Jesus wept when He arrived there because we are to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and TEARS to the one who could save Him from death and He was heard because of His reverent submission” (Heb. 5:7). 

Warning–God is not Moved by All Tears

Said of Esau, but a warning to all those who sell their birthright: “Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears” (Heb. 12:17). For those who reject the Lord on earth, Jesus says: “…and angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the righteous, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt.13:49-50). Those tears will be eternal fountains of gushing waters of despair and agony. Tears that come too late.

The Final Tears

Apparently in our eternal home, there will be no need for the ministry of tears. It was prophesied by Isaiah: “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken!” (Isaiah 25:8). And repeated in Revelation: “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17).

There is quite a controversy going on in some circles as to whether tears will reach that eternal shore. It isn’t clear here whether the tears will be wiped away as we cross the Great Divide, or after we are there. What is clear is that God will wipe away ALL tears of those who reach their heavenly home for those tears will have served their purpose on earth.

© C. Yvonne Karl, The Alabaster Box, VOL 09 NO 10 1994; revised 1999.

yvonnekarl@gmail.com 

My daughter gifted me with this painting of Psalm 58:6 the weekend before my husband died. January 1999.

🎶No Tears in Heaven

No tears in heaven, no sorrows given
All will be glory in that land
There’ll be no sadness all will be gladness
When we shall join that happy band.

No tears (in heaven bear) no tears (no tears up there)
Sorrow and pain will all have gone
No tears (in heaven bear) no tears (no tears up there)
No tears in heaven will be known.

Glory is waiting, waiting up yonder
Where we shall spend an endless day
There with our Savior we’ll be forever
Where no more sorrow can dismay.

Lyrics by Robert Arnold

 

Help, Lord!

My Life is Like the White of an Egg

JOB 6:6

THE STORY OF JOB has been passed down through the centuries. Even folks who don’t read the Bible know about Job. You know his story, too, but let me repeat it. In Job 1:1 we meet this man whose name was job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and abstained from and shunned evil because it was wrong. He had ten children: seven sons and three daughters. A perfect family! Job was extremely prosperous–the richest man in the East.

AT A MEETING IN HEAVEN, the Lord was bragging on Job. Have you seen my servant Job? There is none like him on the earth! He is blameless, upright, fears God, and stays away from evil (1:8). Satan, who had been going to and fro seeking whom he could devour, also came to listen in on the meeting. When he heard the comments about Job, he immediately began to accuse him to the Lord, Does Job fear God for nothing? Isn’t it because You have blessed him and caused him to prosper abundantly? No! God assured satan that Job was righteous and no matter what he did to him, Job would still serve the Lord. Satan walked away from that meeting with a mission: to maim, kill, and destroy Job. 

Job was a righteous man and prayed fervently for his children. They liked to party. On this particular day, Job either wasn’t invited or didn’t want to be a part of the reveling. While his children partied at the older brother’s house, a messenger came to Job’s house to tell him that the Sabeans had stolen his oxen and donkeys and killed the servants. Another messenger came to say that lightning had struck and burned up all Job’s sheep and the shepherds with them. While he was still speaking there came another with the news that the Chaldeans had stolen Job’s camels and killed their keepers. In the twinkling of an eye, Job had lost his prosperity.

The last messenger was not yet finished speaking when another messenger came to tell Job that a tornado had leveled his eldest son’s house and all of his children were dead. Job was distraught to say the least. He did what everyone in those days did when they were grieving: he tore off his robe, shaved his head, fell down on the ground. Although he didn’t understand what was happening,

JOB WORSHIPPED THE LORD! He said he didn’t have anything when he was born and he couldn’t take anything with him when he died, so he might just as well praise the Lord anyway. Blessed be the Name of the Lord! And Job did not sin by becoming bitter and blaming God (1:22).

Satan didn’t like that response at all! He smote job with ugly, painful, oozing sores from top of his head to the soles of his feet. They hurt so badly that Job sat on an ash heap to try to get some relief. He took pieces of broken pottery and scratched the infection out of the sores. Job’s wife had reached her breaking point and finally spoke out: Job, she said, You didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, you did everything right and look at you now! You had better just forget this God of yours and go ahead and die! She couldn’t imagine that any miracle would be big enough to take care of this situation. Soon the word of Job’s tragic circumstances reached his good friends, and they decided to come to console him. But when they saw Job, they were speechless. They sat for a whole week unable to talk. When they finally did say something, it was the same thing you and I usually say: “Why?”

Job ‘s name means hated, persecuted. By whom? By satan! He’s the accuser of all the brethren. Sure, Job is discouraged. Who wouldn’t be! Material possessions are gone. Family is gone. Wife and friends have turned against him. Then he says, 

MY LIFE IS LIKE THE WHITE OF AN EGG ….

Is there any flavor in the white of an egg?(6.6) Did you ever try to eat just the white of an egg? When boiled, it’s flabby and rubbery. You start chewing it and if you don’t swallow it, you’ll still be chewing it hours later. You can take raw egg white and beat it full of air, but if you don’t add sugar to it, it’s not edible; and if you want it to retain any shape you have to add a pinch of cream of tartar. Is your life like that? Tasteless? Hard to swallow’? Bitter? Do you need some yellow nourishment? Some SonShine in your life? Job surely did. Job had the strength to make it through this difficult time in his life because he made a commitment:

THOUGH HE SLAY ME, YET WILL I SERVE HIM (13:15).

Yes, we know it was satan who was inflicting the tragedies on Job, but Job didn’t know that. We know the plans that God has for us are for good and not for evil (Jer. 29:11), yet, when problems come, all too often we waste precious time asking, Why? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo faced the fiery furnace saying We know our God is able to deliver us, but even if He doesn’t we won’t bow down… They were committed to God because He is God–not because of temporal blessings, powerful positions, wealth, and happiness. They believed there was something better waiting for them beyond this life. Job put it this way:

I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVES and in the end He will come back. And after my skin, even this body, has been destroyed, then from my flesh, or without it I shall see God, Whom I, even I, shall see for myself.. And my eyes shall behold Him, and not as a stranger” (19:15-17). I KNOW! I know that no matter what it looks like, my Redeemer lives! I know that no matter what my situation is all around, my Redeemer lives! I KNOW! I KNOW! I.KNOW! 

Paul says it this way: I KNOW in Whom I have believed and that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him…(2 Tim. 1:12). If you KNOW He is able to keep, then you’ll commit it to Him. Cast ALL your cares on Him for He cares for you! When there’s no way you can do it, it’s time to KNOW Whom you believe. .

The reason your life is like the white of an egg and is tasteless, blah, and/or you are unable to swallow what’s happening, may be simply that God is messing up YOUR plans in order to accomplish HIS purpose. Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand (Prov. 19.21). Maybe satan just knew human nature when he accused Job before God that day. As long as everything goes their way, most people will sing and praise the Lord. But let things go wrong and hardship come, they hang their harps on the willow tree and recite: “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…” Not Job! He knew God is able!  

GOD IS ABLE!

He is able to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7.25). 

He is able to keep me from stumbling (Jude 24). 

He is able to build me up and give me an inheritance (Acts 20.32). 

He is able to make me stand; to hold me up (Rom. 14:4). 

He is able to help them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18). 

He is able to make all grace abound toward me (2 Cor. 9:8). 

He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask (Eph. 3:20). 

He is able to perform what He has promised (Rom. 4:21). 

He is able to scramble my egg and give it some flavor! The white of the egg is only the outside–our body and external circumstances. It will decay and return to dust anyway. What you do with the yellow–the inside-will last eternally! That’s where the nourishment is. Are you saying today, ‘Help, Lord! My Life is like the white of an egg? Blah. Tasteless. Difficult to swallow?” Let this be the moment that you determine in your heart to serve Him and KNOW He is able to bring you through–but even if He doesn’t, let it be said of you that you died in faith believing… (Heb. 11:-39-40) so He can present you faultless before the Throne (Jude 24). I KNOW He is able!

© C. Yvonne Karl, The Alabaster Box, V10N9

yvonnekarl@gmail.com  

I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to dwell in the tents of the wicked (Psalm 84:10).

It was another beautiful morning in Ghana, when about 6:30 AM I looked out the window and saw the young caretaker cutting the grass with a small sickle—an implement consisting of a curved metal blade with a short handle. Where, I queried, was the lawn mower? Of course, there was none. This was quite a large courtyard full of lovely bushes, flowers, and nice green grass. The young man was diligently manicuring the lawn with his body bent in a 90 degree angle as he moved along as if he were a machine. I was intrigued by his thoroughness and the beauty of the well-maintained courtyard. Who was this young man who always had a big smile on his face? He was obviously full of joy and had no bitterness or resentment toward his job.

His main function at the compound was Gate Keeper. He arrived promptly at 6 AM, six days a week, and left at 6 PM, or whenever his alternate arrived. During those twelve hours on duty it was his primary responsibility to unlock the big gate when official residents arrived and departed and to make sure no unauthorized person gained access to the area. He watched over my friend and me when we walked across the alley to purchase a bag of chips. He monitored the levels in the outdoor water tanks so if the city didn’t pump enough water that week, he could warn the residents and they could order a tank-truck of water to get them through until the next pumping time. He fed and watered the dog and cat. He did the ironing for the residents (I discovered that ironing is a man’s job in Ghana) and any other job delegated to him. In addition to all this, he maintained the mango trees and all the flowering bushes and beautiful shrubs, flowers, and grass in fresh and vibrant condition reaching heavenward for the daily sunshine. In the middle of the afternoon, at rest time, he could be seen sitting on the bench with a dictionary and a Christian book—the ones I saw were dealing with theology and the Christian life.

Who was this young man, really? I had to get to know him. One morning I prepared to leave the house well ahead of my driver’s arrival. This would give me time to linger a while outside and talk with him rather than just exchanging greetings as I came and went.

NAME CHANGE

“Stephen,” I said, “I’m curious. Where did you get your name?”  Ah, the joy on his face and the thrill of being able to share his testimony with me.

His father, who had been on active military duty when he was born, gave him the name Michael after one of his close comrades. He was taken to church regularly and was taught the Bible. As he grew up he continued to participate in church services and activities and called himself a Christian. One day he landed a good job as gatekeeper for a missionary. In the compound where he worked, there was a “boys house” where those on duty could rest and eat; and he brought his girlfriend there one day when the missionary was away. However, on that particular day, the head missionary came to check on the property of the staff member on furlough. When he saw the girl there, he asked Stephen, “Are you a Christian?” to which he replied, “Yes.” Then the missionary asked, “Are you sleeping with her?” to which Stephen also replied, “Yes.” At that point the head missionary looked right into Stephen’s eyes and said: “Then you are NOT a Christian. Christians don’t do that.”

Stephen told me that the Holy Spirit spoke to him so clearly through the missionary that he broke up with the girlfriend immediately explaining to her that he wants to be a true Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Then he changed his name from Michael to Stephen after the biblical Stephen who was a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ until it his death.

That happened several years ago. Since that time, Stephen had set himself apart as a servant of Jesus Christ. He expressed his belief that the Lord has given him this opportunity to serve the missionaries as their “gatekeeper.” This was his ministry, and he was making good use of free time to study and prepare himself for whatever else the Lord may have for him in the future. Meanwhile he was joyful, content, and witnessing to all those around with his life of servanthood.

SINCERE VS PHONY SERVING

Speaking of serving, there was another story that came to me about Stephen. A couple of years earlier when the flood of the century came to Accra, Stephen had already gone home from his job. However, he knew that the missionary’s house was likely in danger of being flooded and went there to check on the property. He arrived in time to save some valuable things although it was impossible to control the water and mud which eventually permeated every part of the compound. He did what he could and realized later he himself had probably lost everything from his own modest little home. To his surprise, his neighbors had seen him leave and went to his home, pulled out everything valuable, and put it on higher ground. “In giving we will receive.”

It’s the difference between the sincere and the phony. Jim Fletcher writes, “I once accompanied a well-known author to an interview. As we were walking toward the escalators, he asked if I would refill his cup of ice, yet he was much closer to a juice cart than I was. His ego demanded that he be waited on. For me, his ministry message of love for his fellow man rang hollow.”

“Another time I saw the positive attitude. Over lunch, I visited with an author who has a different agenda. Curious about his goals as a writer, I asked the usual questions: ‘Do you think publicity is the key to fame [in publishing]? How would you like to package your books in order to really put your name out there?’ He glanced at several celebrity authors and their entourages, then looked at me. ‘Jim,’ he began gently, ‘do you remember the story in the Bible of Moses on the mountain?’ I nodded, not sure of his point. ‘Well, he found himself in that place on the rock, near God. That’s all I want, to be near God.’ This was a private conversation, and the author was never going to speak of it publicly, but his attitude made a profound impact on me. (He gets his own ice too.)”[1]

The Psalmist expressed this principle of contentment, servanthood, and fulfillment when he said: “A  day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents (palaces) of (the wicked) wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).

SERVING GOD BY SERVING OTHERS

“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand spent elsewhere.” To feel God’s love, to rejoice in the person of the anointed Savior, to survey the promises and feel the power of the Holy Ghost in applying precious truth to the soul, is a joy that thrills true believers. Even a glimpse at the love of God is better than ages spent in the pleasures of sin.

“I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

To bear burdens and open doors for the Lord is more honor than to be “somebody” in this world. Note how the psalmist calls the tabernacle the house of my God; if Jehovah is our God, His house, His altars, His doorstep, all become precious to us. We know by experience that where Jesus is within, the outside of the house is better than any place where the Son of God is not to be found.[2] Some of the Levites had the assignment to keep the doors of the Lord’s house, (see 1 Chron. 26:1). Or think of the beggars that lay at the gates of the temple for alms (see Acts 3:1). And remember the servant that was desirous of continuing in his master’s house, and serving him forever. He was brought to the door post, and had his ears bored through with an awl (see Ex. 21:5).

Like the psalmist, God’s courts were Stephen’s choice. He had chosen to be a Gate Keeper and loyal servant to the missionary; he was caring for the property as unto the Lord.  WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

The Pharisees loved synagogues well enough, provided they might have the uppermost seats there (Mt. 23:6) so they could be noticed and acknowledged. Not the Psalmist. Not Stephen. God Himself was their hope, and joy, and all. Therefore they loved the house of their God, because their expectation was from their God[3] and not from people. It is easy to imagine what pride the Pharisees took in having the preeminence, (3 Jn. 9). It is not possessing the uppermost rooms, nor sitting in the chief seats, that is condemned (somebody must sit uppermost), but loving to sit there.

Along with desiring pre-eminence comes the demand to be addressed with titles of honor and respect. The Pharisees loved greetings in the markets, loved to have people put off their hats to them, and show them respect when they met them in the streets. O how it pleased them, and fed their vain humor…to have way made for them in the crowd of market people, and to be complimented with the high and pompous title of Rabbi, Rabbi! The greetings would not have done them half so much good, if they had not been in the markets, where everybody might see how much they were respected, and how high they stood in the opinion of the people.

To give respect to them that teach and preach is commendable; but for the teachers and preachers to love and demand that respect, to be puffed up with it, and to be displeased if it be omitted, is sinful and abominable.

TRADING A TITLE FOR  TOWEL

In our early morning conversation, Stephen told me about an incident involving his pastor and dear friend. Some time earlier, his pastor at the time had a burden for his people to grow in the knowledge of the Lord and in his attempts to challenge them, he began to recite the litany of his own successes, educational accomplishments, and titles earned. As Stephen was hearing this, the Holy Spirit within him was grieved. After the service, he spoke to the pastor and told him how as Christians we should be laying down our titles and picking up the towel to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters. That’s what Jesus did. He has called us to humble ourselves and be servants as well. It may have been helpful for the pastor to share his past with the congregation, as the Apostle Paul often did; but he needed to go a step further so they would know he was not demanding obeisance. At first when Stephen talked to him, the pastor was caught off guard and took offense, but soon he came to Stephen in all humility and thanked him. Today they are good friends. That’s the mark of a humble man—a meek man, one who is teachable.

Here is a precept of humility and mutual subjection: He that is greatest among you shall be your servant; not only call himself so, but shall be so.  John Wesley’s Rule says: Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can and as long as you can.[4]

A writer for a great newspaper visited India. One day he met a missionary nurse who lived among the lepers and helped them. How tender and loving she was to the poor lepers. The porter looked upon her with amazement. He said, “I wouldn’t wash the wounds of these lepers for a million dollars!” “Neither would I,” answered the missionary nurse, “but I gladly do it for Christ. I have no thought of any reward other than His smile of approval upon me!”[5]

Stephen wasn’t interested in a title, the name of his job, or recognition for his labor. He chose to take up the towel—he was a true servant, one who served with joy and purpose in the Name of the Lord and as unto the Lord—not just in church services but equally in his everyday life at home and work. He first humbled himself and repented for his sin, in compliance with his God, and now continues to humble himself in service and submission to his brethren. He shall be exalted to inherit the throne of glory.

May all of us follow in Stephen’s footsteps and give up our demand for titles and pick up the towel of service to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Editor’s Note: A special thank you to Stephen for giving me permission to share his story.

 [1] Fletcher, Jim, “The Great Secret,” as published in The Christian Communicator, Volume 15, Number 2, p. 6. The Christian Communicator, PO BOX 110390 Nashville, TN 37222-03900.

[2]http://www.gospelcom.net/eword/comments/spurgeon/psalm84.htm

[3] http://www.blueletterbible.org/tmp_dir/c/1043514619-2131.html

[4] Knight’s Treasury of Illustrations, Eerdman’s Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 357.

[5] Knight’s Treasury of Illustrations…

© The Alabaster Box/yvonnekarl  Vol 18 No 03.

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

 

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:20)

Jesus is ALWAYS there. He will never leave you or forsake you: The problem is that sometimes we don’t “feel” His presence. A fake wall attempts to block us from realizing He is there even if we don’t “feel” Him. It is none other than the enemy of our soul who is on the prow to separate us from the one and only Savior.

How do we overcome that psychological fake wall? How do we draw near to Jesus with our mind and emotions?  James tells us:

SUBMIT yourselves, then, to God. RESIST the devil, and he will flee from you. COME near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8a).

How can you can submit yourself—your mind, will and emotions, and overcome the distance you “feel” between you and Jesus? How can you resist the devil from bombarding you with his pessimism and discouragement?

#1- Speak!

The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” -that is, the word of faith which we preach (Romans 10:8). Post verses here and there. Look at them as you pass by and read them out loud. There is something about “hearing” the words going into our ears from our own mouth that goes deeper than if we just just read them. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Yes, reading scripture is good. Yes, listening to scripture might be better. But reading or quoting scripture out loud is best. It strengthens us. It causes our faith to increase. It is strengthening us to resist the enemy’s temptations. And it helps us “feel” that Jesus is there listening!

COME near to God by speaking His Word aloud, and you will find He is there with you.

#2 – Remember, and Tell it!

I’m sure you’ve heard testimonies from others that you will never forget. They stirred your heart. Just thinking about your own stories of times Jesus intervened or spoke something specific in your life reminds you that Jesus is present—wherever you are, whatever the circumstances may be.

Don’t just remember. Also, TELL your stories. Whenever Jesus is exalted, the enemy flees. You encourage yourself just by telling your stories. If there’s no one to listen, tell them out loud to yourself! Listen to them over and over again. Eventually they will crowd out whatever negative circumstances you might be in.

The Old Testament tells us of a time when the Israelites pursued the Philistines and won. Afterwards, Samuel took a stone, placed it as a memorial, and called its name Ebenezer; he said, “The LORD has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12). What are the Ebenezers in your life? How many times has the Lord helped you? Think back. Remember them. Tell them to others again and again. It helps you to keep them vividly “set in stone” in your mind and remind yourself that if Jesus did that once, He will also help in your current situation. He is still THERE, wherever you are.

In Malachi we read: Those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name (Malachi 3:16-18).

COME near to God by remembering what He has done before, and you will find He is there with you.

 

#3 – Sing!

When you can’t “feel” Jesus near, don’t go out and get drunk …  Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18-20).

Speak to one another in songs! But also sing to yourself. Sing songs you’ve heard, Sing words that come to you seemingly out of nowhere. But sing! Whether you can carry a tune or not, Sing! Whether someone is listening or not, Sing! Sing scripture. Sing your prayers. Sing your feelings.

Listening to uplifting music can activate the presence of Jesus and give you a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (See Isiah

I grew up in church from birth and words of hymns I learned before I reached ten years of age are still engraved in my mind and heart. They have strengthened my faith time and time again. When I feel discouraged, a song will pull me out of the pit. As I sing, I’m drawing near to the Lord in my “feelings” and the devil has to flee because he doesn’t like to hear me praising my Savior. I wasn’t given a beautiful voice, but I sing when I shower. I sing when I clean. I sing when I drive.  The songs make me forget I even have a problem.

Charles Naylor was 36 years old, and had been a minister in the Church of God for 13 years when a tent pole fell on his back during an evangelism campaign in Florida, injuring his spine and kidney. A year later he was in a bus accident that made him an invalid for the next four decades. In spite of his physical impairment, he went on to write 150 hymns and publish 8 books and numerous articles. Music helped him draw near to Jesus and silence the enemy’s accusations.

COME near to God by singing hymns and spiritual songs, and you will find He is there with you

 

#4 – Pray!

Always give thanks to God the Father in everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20). One kind of prayer is prayer of thanksgiving. When you start giving thanks, one thing leads to another and you keep pulling out reasons to be thankful. Tell the Lord one of those reasons, and another will follow.

Apostle Paul says: Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18). Paul likes the word ALL—leaving out nothing and no one.

There’s not just one way to pray. There has been a plethora of books written on prayer. They talk about how to pray and how to get your prayers answered. The truth is, we don’t need to read any of them. Most people who read them are sincere in wanting to know “how” to pray and reading these books sometimes intimidates them ever further. Do not judge another person’s prayers. Just talk to Jesus from your heart. He already knows how you feel so talk to Him about it.

Pray on all occasions:

  • fear
  • mealtimes
  • car rides
  • playtime
  • schoolwork
  • church services
  • sickness
  • disease
  • operations
  • danger
  • prayer meetings
  • birthdays
  • deaths
  • weddings
  • graduations
  • ordinations
  • dedications
  • sports events
  • travel
  • financial deficits
  • emotional situations
  • loneliness
  • vacations
  • and you continue adding to the list           

Pray all kinds of prayers:

  • long prayers
  • short prayers
  • scripture prayers
  • one-word prayers
  • crying prayers
  • moaning prayers (Romans 8:28)
  • thankful prayers
  • grieving prayers
  • sad prayers
  • happy prayers
  • written prayers,
  • asking prayers
  • complaining prayers
  • seeking prayers
  • knocking prayers
  • silent prayers when necessary (He knows what you’re thinking! Psalm 139; Hebrews 4:12),
  • and you continue adding to the list.

COME near to God by praying, and you will find He is there with you.

Be proactive! We need to know how to encourage ourselves in the Lord like David did.  “David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him … but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (I Samuel 30:6).

Did he speak God’s promises aloud?

Did he remember and talk about how God had helped him kill Goliath?

Did he sing some of the songs (Psalms) he had written?

Did he pray?

Did he do all four activities?

What about you? Are you wiling to speak, tell, sing, and pray in order to “feel” that Jesus is there with you?

SUBMIT yourselves, then, to God.

RESIST the devil by using your voice to speak, tell, sing, pray; faith precedes victory, and he will flee from you.

COME near to God–speak, tell, sing, pray; and you will discover He is there — wherever you are. Jesus, the Word, is near you–even in your mouth (Romans 10:8).

(James 4:7-8a).

Heavenly Father, We love you and thank You for giving us ways to be aware of your presence and to evict the devil from our minds, in Jesus’ Name.

 

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C. Yvonne Karl – Message given at Taylors Church of God, Sunday Morning, March 15, 2020

The first formal National proclamation of Thanksgiving was given in the United States by President George Washington who declared Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. He proclaimed a second day of Thanksgiving in 1795, following the defeat of the Whiskey Rebellion.

After Washington left office, John Adams, James Madison, and others intermediately declared days of Thanksgiving. Several presidents actually opposed days of national thanksgiving, with Thomas Jefferson openly denouncing such a proclamation. By 1855, 16 states celebrated Thanksgiving (14 on the fourth Thursday of November, and two on the third).

In 1863 Abraham Lincoln established observing specific days of national thanksgiving. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed Thanksgiving from the fourth to the third Thursday in November!

In 1941, to end any confusion, President FDR and Congress established Thanksgiving as a United States federal holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, which is how it stands today. (Read the First Proclamation below.)

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The First National Thanksgiving Proclamation

By President George Washington

26 November 1789

 

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

-President George Washington

 

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Source: Wikipedia and various sites on the internet.

 

 

THANKSGIVING IN AFRICA

A REFLECTION

By Yvonne

On Thanksgiving Day in November 2002, after teaching my three classes at the Bible College from 8am to 3pm, a taxi took me about 45 minutes across the city to join missionaries who were celebrating American Thanksgiving complete with turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Although not my first time in Africa, it was my first time to celebrate Thanksgiving outside America. I was overwhelmed that day by the sight and smell of familiar food but also by the gratitude those missionaries expressed for blessings. I was thankful the missionaries were able to join together and celebrate the Thanksgiving of their homeland—one of the few days each year they had such a bountiful spread. It was a special privilege for me to be included as a member of their team and family.

That American Thanksgiving dinner at the missionary’s home was perhaps the most significant Thanksgiving I’ve celebrated in my life. They had saved up for that day. We ate at a table of plenty in the midst of a people in the village who had neither a table nor plenty. We sat on chairs whose legs rested on a tiled floor in the midst of a people who lived in huts with dirt for floors. Electricity was intermittent. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Most huts had one bare bulb hanging down in the middle of the room. Temperatures in the tropics were always hot and there was no air conditioning to ease perspiration. Termite mounds were as tall as the huts.

There was an obvious contrast to be seen between American prosperity and the lack among nearby residents, many who did not have an indoor toilet or running water. In most areas, a water pump could be found, but there was no choice of hot or cold water. Pumped water was poured into a large tub outside the hut in full view of passers by, and the children in the family were immersed and washed one after the other. For sure, in contrast to our American Thanksgiving, they had not experienced a table spread with an abundance and variety of foods from which they could eat until there was no room to take another bite. That day, the missionaries were remembering their homeland and celebrating the prosperity there.

Third world countries have struggled to empower their people across all socioeconomic groups. There are those of higher rank who live well and shop freely, yet a large percentage of their citizens live below poverty level.

On every trip to a third world country, I’ve came back to the comfort of my home in America with an overwhelming feeling of God’s mercy and provision. Why us?  I think this question was answered several years ago by a visiting teacher from Nigeria. When asked what made him want to come to the USA, he responded:

I read about America and their God and how He was blessing them. The more I read, the more I determined to come to America and meet their God. I thought perhaps I could convince Him to come back to Africa with me and prosper my country.

Those of us in America would do well to ponder the Nigerian brother’s words.

In all due respect, neither the United States or any other country can lay claim to “thanksgiving.” Verses are scattered throughout the bible reminding us to be thankful, to come to God with thanksgiving in our hearts, to give thanks for all of His wonderful gifts. Whether poor or rich with wealth, whether sick or ill in health, our hearts should be full of thanksgiving to our God for giving His Son with thanksgiving so that we might have life abundantly here and now: A life that carries us into life eternally with no distinctions between us and any other of His children who inherit eternal life.

Reflect on His grace and mercy and express thanksgiving to Him! Here are a few scriptures to fuel our thanksgiving:

With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord. –Ezra 3:11

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.Psa. 69:30

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. -Psa. 95:2

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. –Psa.100:4

From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. –Jer. 30:19

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. – 2 Cor. 4:15

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. -2 Cor. 9:11

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  –Eph.5:4

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. –Phil.4:6

 

 

 

 

 

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* https://tinyurl.com/ybzru34u

 

 

 

 

(c) C. Yvonne Karl, Reprinted 11/14/19 from The Alabaster Box, Vol. 25 No. 11.

yvonnekarl@gmail.com

 

VOICES FOR SPEAKING. Some are low, some are high. Some are deep, some are shrill. Some are loud, some are soft. Some are happy, some are sad. Some sound sweet, some sound sharp. I’ve often complained about the pitch of my voice. Since God called me to teach, why didn’t He give me a deep, commanding, soothing voice—the kind that causes people to want to listen?  I’m not sure, but we all have to overcome our dislike for what He gives us and use what we have to His honor and glory and the blessing of others.

Different voices are appealing to different folks. Some people like quiet teaching and praying. Others don’t feel like they’ve been to church if the sermon isn’t delivered in loud, forceful tones. In fact, some people confuse loud with anointing. But most of us know that volume doesn’t measure the presence of Almighty God for sometimes He chooses to manifest Himself in a “still small voice.”

VOICES FOR SINGING. I am an eclectic when it comes to music. I like all styles. I enjoy the old hymns and the new ones, the old choruses and the contemporary ones. I enjoy opera as well as guitar led praise and worship.  I’ve heard many wonderful singers with all kinds of voices that are a blessing to many in the body of Christ. I used to listen to Billy Graham crusades just to hear Ethel Waters sing “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” And I can still listen for hours to the singing of Luciano Pavarotti.

As to the voice used for singing there are many varieties and preferences. Known and unknown. Whether it is David Phelps or Jessy Dixon or Cece Winans or Vestal Goodman or Bernice Byrd or Frances Dunn, or my niece, Jennifer—all are identified with the sound of their voice.  When they sing, something happens in my mind, in my emotions, and in my Spirit. In fact, I can trace victory over a certain circumstance in my life to a moment some years ago when Cissy was singing “My Anchor Holds…in spite of the storm!”

Last year at a family gathering, my brother, sister, and I got together and sang the night away. Some precious friends had gifted my sister with a beautiful new ivory baby grand digital piano so we all took turns playing to initiate it, then our daughters invited us to sing. Memories were flowing along with the laughter as we tried to recall the lyrics of the songs we had sung so frequently when we were kids. For two or three years when we were young, we went with our dad to sing in a number of country churches. I still have the receipt for the accordion my parents bought for me to accompany our little trio. As we reminisced we realized our brother was only four to six years old during that time. No wonder the people seemed to enjoy our singing—they were obviously taken with that cute little guy singing lead at the top of his lungs. 

As I got older, I sang with friends, church groups, choirs, duets, trios, and quartets, always aware of the fact that I was NOT a good singer—I just loved to sing. It didn’t take much for me to realize that singing was not my gift. In the Bloomington Church I attended, the choir director assigned me a five-word solo part—a bridge—in the cantata, and I botched it. I know that God gives us all a “new song” and I still love to sing—in the congregation, in the choir, or in my private worship time but prefer to leave the “special singing” to others more gifted.

JOYFUL NOISE. One of my favorite scriptures on this matter is Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. In fact, six out of the seven times this command occurs in the Psalms it refers to singing:  Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands (Psa 66:1). Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob (Psa 81:1). O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation (Psa 95:1). Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms (Psa 95:2). Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise (Psa 98:4). With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King (Psa 98:6). Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands (Psa 100:1). It must be that God’s heavenly filter of love processes our off key singing so that when our joyful noise rises, He only hears beautiful music.

Before I was married, I lived alone and was accustomed to singing as loudly as I wished in the privacy of my own home. I was making a joyful noise! However, soon after our marriage, my husband asked me one day to please not sing. I was offended and asked how could I release my joy if not in song? He was serious about his request; my singing played on his nerves. Soon I learned why. Before he met me, he had kept company with an opera singer. I knew there was no way I could compete with that voice! I would just have to save my singing for times he was out of the house.

However, after a year or two of married life, we began to get out the old hymnals at home and sing through songs together—in German and in English—but it caught me by utter surprise when my husband started asking me to sing in church. By then he had grown to like my twangy voice and nasal tones—or more likely his love for me produced deafness to them! I was thankful the Lord kept our congregation supplied with many talented and capable musicians so I was simply not needed. He disagreed and began asking me to sing solos.

I suppose he became weary of my excuses so he stopped asking me in advance. Instead, after we arrived at the church for a service, he would come to me and say “I’d like you to sing this song this morning.” In obedience to my pastor-husband, I would sing (mostly not to embarrass myself or him by arguing). However, when we got home, I would say, (occasionally prefaced with “please”), “Don’t do that to me again.” He obviously didn’t hear. Before long, he was asking me to make a loose leaf folder of his favorite songs and keep them at my seat to sing on a moment’s notice. “Lord,” I prayed, “I want to be obedient to my husband, but You and I both know I’m not called to sing!” The Lord ignored my prayer. He did not deliver me from my internal conflict. My husband disregarded all my protests in spite of the many times I explained to him why “I” shouldn’t sing and preference should be given to others. The longer and the better my husband knew me, the more he seemed to like my voice.

Reluctantly I acquiesced to his requests knowing the Lord could not bless the people through a wife who held anger and resentment toward her husband. I realized it was a pride issue and gave it to the Lord. My desire to be in harmony with my husband was stronger than my desire not to sing. Sometime later, we visited another church and the pastor asked if we had a musical selection to share. You guessed it! My husband volunteered me! I nearly slid under the pew. To sing in the comfort of my own congregation who knew and loved me was very different from singing in front of people I’d never met. However, it would do no good nor would it be appropriate for me to protest. The Lord was strengthening me to respond without anger or resentment—to sing, not only as unto the Lord, but also as a gift to my husband. A few times in recent years, I have actually volunteered to sing. That’s victory!

THE VOICE OF THE HEART. Years ago I heard a story about a group of monks who every year at Easter time got together and sang the Gospel story in what was called a cantata. Because they lived in a very remote region, it was most unusual for any visitors to come by. However, one year they invited a specially trained choir to come sing the Gospel story for them. The voices were wonderful and they were thrilled with the rendition. After the visitors left and the monks went back to prayer, they heard the Lord say, “Where was my choir this year?” “Why Lord,” they said, “we brought in the best this year. Their voices were clear. They sang in tune. Their harmonies were exhilarating.” To this the Lord answered, “But I’m not looking for the best voices; I’m looking for pure hearts.” In other words, man hears the voice but God hears the heart.

In three different passages, David said: I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah (Psa.3:4). I cried unto God with my voice, [even] unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me (Psa.77:1). Both times he says, God heard him. And when he was hiding in the cave, David said: I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication (Psa.142.1). Hundreds of years later, the Apostle Paul recounted the story of David and commented that God gave this testimony: I have found David the [son] of Jesse, a man after mine own heart (Acts 13:22). When God heard David’s prayers, he heard them through the condition of his heart, not the tone or quality of his voice.

The Apostle Peter writes, For the eyes of the Lord [are] over the righteous, and His ears [are open] unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord [is] against them that do evil (1 Pe.3:12).  Again, we see that God hears the prayers of those whose hearts are in the right condition. This begins with a prayer of repentance. Many testimonies are given by people who were selfish, did not honor or worship God, yet when a calamity arose and they cried out to Him, a miracle happened. At that moment, their heart so earnestly desired to know God, that He heard their prayer.  It’s not the words we say, nor the tone or volume of the voice that moves God, rather it is the condition of our heart.

THE VOICE OF JESUS. When we sing in the congregation, we are never singing solos. Jesus sings with us! For both He that sanctifies and they who are sanctified [are] all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto You [God] (Heb.2:11-12). Furthermore, He says we will recognize His voice! Jesus says, My sheep hear my voice; and I know them and they follow me (John 10:27). The Greek word used here is akouo which means more than just listen; it means to hear with understanding

The Pharisees contended that they were the religious leaders and as such were the ones who “called the shots.” Jesus, however, neither submitted to them nor to their law. This angered the Pharisees who continually opposed Him and demanded that the people align with them and ignore Jesus.  It was in this context that Jesus describes them as false shepherds and pointed out: My sheep hear my voice. They hear their master and understand what He is saying. He calls His own sheep by name, and They know His voice and can distinguish it from that of a stranger and a stranger will they not follow. Anyone who has a pet animal understands the simplicity of this statement. The dog knows the voice of his master—how much more do we as human beings with developed mental faculties discern the various voices in our lives—including the voice of Jesus. Most of us do not hear an audible sound, but deep down inside we KNOW what He’s saying. The times we aren’t sure, it’s usually because we want Him to be saying a certain thing to us and He is not confirming it. 

It’s interesting to me that a friend I haven’t talked with for twenty or thirty years can call me on the phone, and the minute I hear the voice, I recognize it!  Voices are so unique that they are stamped indelibly in our mind. Even when we can’t immediately put a name with the voice, we remember it. Adam and Eve knew God’s voice:  they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden (Gen.3:8).

VOICE OF JOY. In Jeremiah’s day, he prophesied that the voice of praise would cease because of the iniquities and idolatries of God’s people. The voice of God’s prophets was neither heard nor heeded and therefore no longer did they hear the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride, or of the songs that used to grace the weddings. Although these are voices we love to hear, it is threatened here that there will be nothing to rejoice in as a result of disobedience on the part of God’s people. There will be no joy of weddings; no celebrations. Then I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth (joy) and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. For the land shall be desolate (Jer.7:34; 16:9).

Isn’t it still true today that the comforts of life are abandoned and everything that makes us happy and joyful disappears whenever unrighteousness prevails. Just as in Jeremiah’s time, there is no joy of prosperity when sinful acts have swallowed up our profits. As a result, people look around and see no reason to rejoice. This unfolds quickly right before our eyes. Our disobedience, and that of others, mars the joy of even the most cheerful. 

The wonderful thing about our relationship with the Lord is how quickly situations can be reversed. God intervened then, and still intervenes today, on behalf of His people: Thus says the LORD…Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know…I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me…and …Again there shall be heard in this place…the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say:  Praise the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His mercy endures forever and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD…(Jer.33:1-12).

Our voice interprets our emotions.

VOICES. Whether soft or loud, timid or bold, sweet or brash, soprano or tenor, we identify with voices. Voice inflection varies from language to language but those fluent in the language identify the spoken tones and pitches with various emotions of joy, sorrow, despair, panic, relief. Whether or not we hear God speak to us in an audible voice as He did to Paul or in a still small voice as He did to Elijah, He does speak to us. We recognize His voice—it brings conviction of sin or commendation for faithfulness such as “Enter into the joy of the Lord.” 

It is with our heart that we hear His voice, the voice of love, peace, and joy. It is with our voice that we give Him praise from our heart. And it is with joy that He hears our voice giving Him praise and worship.

Reprinted from (c) The Alabaster Box, Vol 18 No 05 1993, by C. Yvonne Karl.   yvonnekarl@gmail.com

 

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