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Archive for March, 2019

Clouds are the Dust of God’s Feet: Nahum 1:3c

One of my favorite high school teachers was the late Mr. Robert Burke. His influence on my life went far beyond that of being my ninth grade Biology teacher. He showed genuine interest in my abilities and ambitions. He set high academic standards and expected me to reach them. He pointed out errors on my exams with a smile. He served as faculty advisor to the Bible Club of which I was President in my junior year. In the final days of my senior year, I handed him my yearbook asking for his autograph. When I saw he wrote more than his name, I eagerly looked to see what wonderful words of commendation he had penned. To my consternation, I read: May there be just enough clouds in your life to create a beautiful sunset.

Up to that point, I viewed clouds and storms as companions, and I certainly didn’t want any storms in my life. For some time after this incident, I interpreted the message negatively and allowed his words to “cloud” our relationship. In the years that followed, I had many opportunities to meditate on the phrase “enough clouds in your life”.  Then one day as I was reading the Bible, I came across Nahum 1:3c: …the clouds are the dust of God’s feet. Hallelujah! Wherever there are clouds, GOD IS PRESENT!  Furthermore, I read in Scripture:

  • The Lord makes the clouds His chariot and rides on the wings of the wind (Ps. 104:3).
  • Sing to God, sing praise to His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds—His name is the Lord…(Ps. 68:4).
  • See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud…(Is. 19:1).


We have many examples of God’s Presence in the clouds. When He called Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt, the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them on the way (Ex.13:21). On a clear day, you can see forever and go where you want; but on a cloudy day you must walk by faith knowing that God is present to lead you in the way He wants you to go.

  • And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you and believe you forever…(Ex.19:9).
  • And the glory of the Lord abode on Mt. Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud…and Moses went into the midst of the cloud, up to the Mountain (Ex.24:16,18).
  • And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door; and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door (Ex.33:9-10).

In the Old Testament, there are many references to the Presence of the Lord in the cloud: leading the children of Israel, guarding and protecting them, and giving them words of direction. In 1 Cor. 10:1-2, Paul referred to this when he wrote:  For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud [under God’s leadership and guidance—see also Exodus 13:21-22; Numbers 9:15-23; 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:33; Psalm 78:14] and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea [His guidance did not fail them—He successfully led them through the sea—Exodus 14:22,29] (NIV).


Given this background, we should not be surprised to read that When Jesus was baptized, He went up at once out of the water, and behold, the heavens were opened, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on [Jesus]; and lo, a voice out from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, in Whom I delight (Matt 3:17).

Some time later, Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him up to the Mountain, and While [Peter] yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him (Matt. 17:5; Luke 9:34-35). This was God’s last speech from the clouds. After this incident, He spoke through His Son, and now He speaks by His Spirit through His Word.


One summer Sunday evening when I was 16 years old, my family was visiting with my grandparents on their estate in the open fields of Black Betsy. I heard someone gasp and say, “Look! There in the clouds!”  We all ran to the back porch and looked up to see “Jesus coming in the clouds.” The body shape we saw was a perfect duplicate of the artist’s rendition of “Jesus”.  He appeared to be walking straight toward us. We were all quite paralyzed by the sight. It seemed as if the Scripture were literally coming true at that moment:

  • Lo, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him…(Rev. 1:7).
  • He [Jesus] was taken up in a cloud before their very eyes…this same Jesus…will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven (Acts 1:9) 
  • And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory (Mark 13:26).
  • At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30).
  • Yes, it is as you say, Jesus replied, But I say to all of you: in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26:64).
  • After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17).

I thought my heart would burst within me. This was an intense moment of self-examination—no time for theological interpretation of Scripture. Even after the clouds separated and we realized this was not “THE END,” the moment of reckoning had its impact. It was a day never to be forgotten. God was out walking and we saw evidence in the clouds.


When the trials of life press in on you, look up!  Do you see clouds? Remember that the Lord walks on them, rides on them, and raises them when He pleases. He stirs them up, and He causes them to disperse. 

There are two Greek words used in the New Testament that are translated “clouds”.

(1) Nephos denotes a cloudy shapeless mass covering the heavens, hence, metaphorically it is used to refer to a dense multitude, a throng, as in Hebrews 12:1:  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

(2) Nephele is a definitely shaped cloud, or masses of clouds possessing definite form. It is used (a) of the physical element of the “cloud” on the mount of transfiguration in Matt. 17:5, and (b) of the cloud which covered Israel in the Red Sea, 1 Cor. 10:1-2; (c) of clouds seen in the visions in the book of Revelation, Rev.1:7; 10:1; 11:12; 14:14-16; and (d) metaphorically in Jude 12, and in 2 Pet. 2:17, of the evil workers there mentioned (Vines Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).

  • These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind…(Jude 12)
  • These men are springs without water and clouds [mists] driven by a storm…(gone before a drop of water falls) (2 Peter 2:17).

Some clouds that come bring neither beauty of sunset or sunrise, nor lovely blue skies. They bring neither rain or sleet, or snow; they are merely empty formless clouds called “fog”; they lay close to the ground and obstruct our view. In themselves, they are harmless, yet because of their presence many highway accidents occur. Often these are chain accidents—one loses his way and bumps into another, and so on. How much this scene relates metaphorically to spiritual “fog” as well. Sometimes this “fog” comes into our lives in the guise of people who lay close to us. They appear to be active and full of the Holy Spirit and living water, but soon we realize they are EMPTY—professing a form of godliness but denying the power of God to change lives. Their very presence has clouded our vision and our hope causing us to lose our grasp on spiritual reality. The sooner we realize the deception, the faster we’ll move out of the “fog” and back under the clouds that rise high above us.

Some clouds bring much needed precipitation into our lives. It’s the rain that brings life to the plants, trees, flowers, grass, and gardens. It’s the rain of the Spirit—fresh from on high—that brings growth to our Christian lives. Without it, we are parched and dry; drought takes its toll:

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God (Heb. 6:7). 


As we have seen by example in Scripture, not all clouds are the same. They have different shapes and different purposes. Cloudman’s Mini Cloud Atlas gives 12 Basic Cloud Classifications in four families. There is the HEAP Family consisting of Cumulus Congestus, Swelling Cumulus, and Cumulus of Fairweather.  There is the LAYER Family consisting of Cirrstratus, Altostratus, and Stratus. There is the HEAP/LAYER Family, consisting of Cirrocumulus, Altocumulus, and Stratocumulus. And finally, there is the PRECIPITATION FAMILY consisting of Cirrus, Cumulonimbus, and Nimbostratus. Each set of clouds has a description and a function. (To read more about these, go to In addition to these categories, there are simply HIGH clouds, MEDIUM clouds, and LOW clouds.

All shapes. All sizes. Many descriptions. Many purposes. It is a relatively low percentage of clouds that brings storms, yet often we see clouds as carriers of negativity. Let’s get a fresh, new image of clouds. Look at them. Analyze them. How lovely is the sky with the little cloud puffs scattered about, or with the layers of clouds forming an ascending stairway to heaven, or with the heaps of clouds that appear to have golden light or silver linings. How welcome are the clouds that dump the precipitation on a dry and thirsty ground. Even after storm clouds have come and gone, there is the refreshing, cleansing smell of “life after the storm”. 

Now transfer this picture to situations that come into your everyday life. We all need some clouds in our life. We Michiganders understand this. In the winter, a cloudless sky means the nighttime temperatures will dip low. In the summer, a cloudless sky means there will be no nighttime relief from the sweltering temperatures. Thus, we welcome the clouds! Have you ever thought how boring, barren, and colorless your life would be without the challenge and/or gift of “cloudy” circumstances? We often think life would be perfect if we didn’t have to deal with the interruptions, solve the problems, resolve the conflicts, and receive the blessings. Yet these make up the very spice of life that brings the beautiful sunrise, or sunset, as well as awesome daytime and nighttime scenery.


As one comes to the end of this earthly existence, how wonderful it will be to look back and see that the clouds which have come into life over the years are producing a beautiful sunset. They have come to cover, to rain on us, to protect, to guide us, to witness to us. They remind us that God has been walking in our lives all the time; we know, because we see the clouds. Sometimes when we want to rebuke the clouds, we need to stop and inquire as to whether the Lord Himself is riding on them!

May there be just enough clouds in your life to create a beautiful sunset!


(c) The Alabaster Box, VOL 16 NO 01 2001, C. Yvonne Karl

ECCLESIOLOGY: Faith, Family, Fellowship, Food, Fasting, Fun, Favor

Ecclesiology comes from the Greek ekklesia meaning assembly. It is a compound of the Greek preposition ek (out from) and the verb kaleo (to call). In the New Testament ekklesia is used by Paul when he addresses the church in Rome, the church in Corinth, the church in Thessalonica and the church in Philipi. Therefore, ekklesia is applicable to an assembly of believers in a specific locality. Church, ekklesia, also refers to the collective group of believers around the world. It consists of all who have been called out of atheism and other religions, but more precisely, all who have been called out of sin and who have received Jesus Christ as Savior. They are now THE CHURCH regardless of color, race, standing, or denominational label. The apostle Paul wrote about the universal church in the following words about God’s exaltation of Christ: “Christ was seated far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.

And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself “ (Eph. 1:21-23, NLT). There are several analogies for ekklesia, the Church, one of which is The Body—as referenced in the above scripture. Another is The Bride (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 21:9) for which reason much theological literature references the Church with the feminine pronoun: she, her. In the English language, for the most part, the word “Church” is capitalized when referring to collective believers around the world, and is not capitalized when referring to a local “church”—a specific assembly of believers.

How would you describe your church? What does it believe? What does it teach? What does it practice? The answers are some of the components of its ecclesiology.



Throughout the centuries, the word faith has been used and abused, dissected and debated, owned and disowned, yet it remains an essential element in ecclesiology. In fact, Hebrews 11:6 says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith.” The writer also describes the essence of faith: “Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” as He rewarded Abel, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Rahab and others named in Hebrews 11. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Heb. 11:1, NLT).  The obvious idea here (I repeat) is that faith is believing that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

Isn’t it interesting how we in the western world have faith in a light switch? We believe that electricity exists and that if we flip the switch we’ll be rewarded with light.

An even more current example is our cell phone. Even though we do not see any wires, and most of us have no comprehension of how sound can be carried from our little instrument to that of a friend thousands of miles away, we still have faith in it, and dial the number. We don’t stop and think whether it will work, how it will work, or what if it doesn’t work. We have the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. Our faith in the cell phone gives us assurance that it will work even though we can’t see how it works.

Biblical faith believes that God exists and that the Bible is true. The rest will take care of itself. That’s what faith is. How do we get it?

Faith comes by hearing God’s Word—the gospel (Rom. 10:17). That’s why we need to read the Bible everyday. Reading it out loud helps us hear it. We also hear it in church services, on TV programs, radio programs, CD’s, DVD’s, mp3’s, podcasts, etc. Romans 10 presents the need to hear in order to have faith to be saved: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (vs.13-15).

Many churches set forth in writing their “Statement,” or “Articles” of faith.  They extract certain principles from the Bible that we can expect to be emphasized in their particular local ekklesia: these are specific things they hope for and believe will actually happen.



Another essential element in ecclesiology is the concept of family. “But to all who believed him[Jesus] and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (Eph. 1:5, NLT). If God brings us into His family through believing in Jesus Christ, then we need to function as a family. Families pray together, grow together, eat together, learn together, and follow the rules laid down by the parents. Since God is our Father, He lays down the rules by which we live in His family. Therefore, in an analogical way, the local church, ekklesia, is a family.

This concept became very real to me over the years in pastoral ministry as my husband and I lived hundreds of miles away from our families. Our children were closer to church members than their own relatives. Thank God there were people of all ages to act as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was an interactive family. Of course, it’s true that you can find community in many social groups, but the church family ministers to one another on a spiritual level that cannot be received elsewhere because we are all children of one Father, God. Therefore, we rejoice to say with the Apostle Paul, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15, NKJV).

We should find a church home that preaches salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God. Unless it’s impossible because of poor health or some other valid reason, it is important to be part of the family of a Bible-believing local church, ekklesia, whether large or small, and regardless where it meets. The faithful preaching of the Word, along with the fellowship of other believers, can do wonders for our spiritual lives. It’s a place to bare our souls, find encouragement, comfort, and exhortation for daily tasks—both simple and complex, both easy and difficult. The older brothers and sisters in Christ share their many experiences with the younger ones—helping them, teaching them, and sometimes carrying them through the valleys and over the mountains of life. Ekklesia has at its root more than just an assembly; it is an assembly of believers that bond together as a family.



This “family of God” experiences fellowship when they come together. The disciples passed on their experiences with Jesus saying, “What we have seen and [ourselves] heard, we are also telling you, so that you too may realize and enjoy fellowship as partners and partakers with us. And [this] fellowship that we have [which is a distinguishing mark of Christians] is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah)” (1 John 1:2-4, Amp). Fellowship is an essential element in ecclesiology.

Our fellowship in Christ is celebrated at the Lord’s table: “The cup of blessing [of wine at the Lord’s Supper] upon which we ask God’s blessing, does it not mean that in drinking it we participate in and share a fellowship (a communion) in the blood of Christ, the Messiah? The bread which we break, does it not mean that in eating it we participate in and share a fellowship, a communion, in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16, Amp).

To “give the right hand of fellowship” is a symbol of honor or authority—a symbol whereby the church leaders acknowledged their equality with other believers. “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me” (Gal. 2:9, NIV).

Fellowship comes from a popular Greek word, koinōnia, which means association, community, communion, joint participation. It implies a partnership, comrades, and companions in like ventures. John says there is an essential glue required for being part of such spiritual fellowship: “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7. NLT). If there are those who are not living in the light of God’s Word, Paul says this glue is absent and we cannot have koinōnia with them (2 Cor. 6:14, KJV).

Someone has asked “What is fellowship?” Another answers: “Two fellows in a ship.” While that’s a clever answer, there’s so much more than that. The two people have fellowship if they are bonded in Christ, sharing in the grace made available to them by Him, and pursuing His agenda for their lives. “I thank my God for your fellowship. your sympathetic cooperation and contributions and partnership, in advancing the good news (the Gospel) from the first day you heard it until now (Phil. 1:5, Amp).



Who over the age of fifty among us evangelical Christians doesn’t remember Sunday “dinner on the ground.” Everybody brought a dish and the food was spread out under the shade of the trees, blessed, and enjoyed by all. No doubt there were many confessions of gluttony as the sun went down. But what a joyous time of celebration it was. Celebration of what? Ekklesia. Church. Family. Koinōnia. Fellowship. The sharing of a mutual Faith.

Over time the practice changed when many churches began to build extra rooms onto their church facilities and called them fellowship halls. But the concept remained the same: groups of believers sharing their joy by partaking of food. Some churches now offer doughnuts and coffee before service on Sunday morning (a continental breakfast for late risers?). Some serve refreshments after the service as an opportunity for newcomers to meet with staff and fellow worshippers. Whenever a group from the church gets together at any time or location, it seems like food is an important ingredient of the event.

This is not surprising since this is exactly what the apostles did after the day of Pentecost: “...shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved: (Acts 2:46c,47, NLT).

The Apostle Jude also took note of believers sharing food together and how sometimes outsiders came in merely to disrupt or even destroy the Koinōnia—the fellowship: “When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots” (Jude 12).

The warning here is that not all people who participate in the Lords’ Supper or a Fellowship Meal are “living in the Light of Christ,” and sharing the joy of sins forgiven and the grace of sharing it with others. That doesn’t mean we should abandon the practice of eating a meal together, but it does cause us to remember that “the devil, like a roaring lion, is seeking whom he may devour.”



Jesus implies that as believers we will put the practice of fasting into our lives for He said, “When you fast” don’t let it be known that’s what you’re doing. Wash your face. Anoint your head. Fast in secret. Don’t boast about it (See Matthew 6:15-18).  However, no where in scripture does Jesus command His people to fast. In fact, John the Baptist’s disciples came to Jesus and asked Him: “Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but your disciples keep on eating and drinking?” Jesus answered that the time would come when He would be taken away, and then His disciples would fast! (See Luke 5:33-36).

As we read the book of Acts, we cannot help but be reminded that Jesus began His ministry with forty days and nights of fasting (Matt. 5:2). No doubt modeling after Jesus, the early Church spent time in fasting and prayer after which they anointed and ordained Paul and Silas and sent them out to evangelize (Acts 13:2-3). After great success in winning souls in many cities, they fasted, then appointed pastors to oversee the discipleship of these new converts. And herein we see that fasting along with prayer is an essential element in ecclesiology.

In addition to fasting for ministers to be sent forth from the Church, Paul urges married couples to fast and pray for an unspecified period of time (1 Cor. 7). Although he does not say why they should fast and pray, the context lends itself to enriching the marital relationship—perhaps to sharpen discernment on how to deal with issues confronting the marriage?

In the New Testament, no specified length of time is given for a fast, nor is there given criteria for what kind of fast one should do. Therefore I believe it is a personal matter. Some people fast one day with water only; others fast for three days. Some fast one meal a day for a specified length of time. I know couples who fast one day a week, water-only, for their children. Several of my friends have done 40-day fasts. I personally have done several 21-day water-only fasts and many 10 day fasts. The Old Testament speaks of Daniel’s fast which consists of eating only vegetables and drinking only water for twenty-one days (Daniel 1:8-14). There are numerous variations.

One thing is sure, fasting must be accompanied by prayer; it is done for a specific purpose, and we do not call attention to the fact when we are fasting (although obviously we don’t deny it if confronted with “why aren’t you eating?”)

When our pastor calls a church-wide fast for a specific purpose, we should do everything within our power to honor that fast—remember, that’s what the Church did in Acts. We will also reap personal rewards from that time of sacrifice.



King David’s son, Solomon, who prayed for wisdom, is believed to be the author of Ecclesiastes (which in Hebrew is Koheleth, translated to Greek Ecclesiastes meaning Preacher).  The Preacher then, said: “So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun” (Ecc. 8:15). The Psalmist confirms this: “You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.

How joyful and prosperous you will be” (Psa. 128:2). And the prophet Isaiah further emphasizes: “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds” (Isa. 3:10).

I sincerely appreciate the prayer of the Psalmist: “May you live to enjoy your grandchildren (Psa. 128:6). I thank God for answering that prayer in this stage of my life. That’s why I moved from the unpredictable climate of Michigan to the hot desert of Nevada to the somewhat neutral climate of South Carolina to enjoy my grandchildren. How thankful I am for the privilege of enjoying them.

Oh, I love to have fun! And I’ve been blessed with wonderful family, friends, and church family with whom to enjoy fellowship and fun on many different levels. And in enjoying all aspects of life, we remember what the Apostle Paul said to the Romans: “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”(Rom. 12:16). This doesn’t spoil our fun, it just maximizes it. To enjoy God and life, having fun, is an essential element in ecclesiology.



We have already found favor with God in that He gave His life for us. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent, and is not willing that anyone should perish” (2 Peter 3:9).

“In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8 NLT).

Show favor to all by deferring to them in your opinions and welcoming them to share theirs remembering that it is not necessary to agree. We share how God’s favor is upon us because He gave His Son to die for us–not because of anything we have done, are doing, or will do. And we should offer the same favor to others. The choice is ours–whether to serve God and each other or to remain focused on ourselves and lose the joy of community.


Let’s be diligent to participate in all practices that make up ecclesiology: faith, family, fellowship, food, fasting, fun, and favor. Life takes on a fuller meaning and causes us to look on the needs of others and count our blessings–even if they may seem few at the time. “And our own completeness is now found in him. We are completely filled with God as Christ’s fullness overflows within us. He is the Head of every kingdom and authority in the universe!” (Colossians 2:10 TPT).


The notes above are condensed and revised from Yvonne’s teaching notes at Agape Bible College, Accra, Ghana, W. Africa, 2002, and printed in THE ALABASTER BOX #07-2008; updated 03-2019.

(c) C. Yvonne Karl,

None of These Things 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).


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).


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!


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).


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.




NAMES OF GOD: An intensive study

This is an intensive study of the Names of God based on a variety of resources as noted in the text. It may be used as is for informal bible study purposes.  Click on the title for the PDF document.

Names of God

For more information contact 

Also email Yvonne if you need this study in a Word or Pages document.


There are a number of references to windows in the Bible, but let’s focus on three of them.


In our first window the lady Michal, wife of King David, is seen standing inside looking out upon the Via  to  Mt. Zion. In her disgust, she sees her King husband dancing before the ark as it was carried toward Mt. Zion. Her emotions were intense; she felt humiliated that he would strip himself of his kingly robes and show himself to the public dressed only in his ephod. Her pride would not let her see her husband’s  heart—his spirit worshiping the Lord, reflected by playing instruments as his body danced. She despised him. The Lord was pleased with King David’s actions, but was sorely displeased with Michal’s response as she looked  through the window and mocked him. As a result, Michal had no child until the day of her death. (2 Sam. 6; 1 Chron. 15).


At our second window, we see the Elder Brother standing outside looking in on a celebration. His younger brother had taken his share of their father’s inheritance, left home, squandered all the money on worldly living, then actually had the audacity to come home. Not only had his father welcomed the younger boy back home, but he had thrown a party for him! Elder Brother was seething inside; a jealous spirit had engulfed him. He could have gone inside and joined the celebration, but he chose to stay outside and look in. (Luke 15:11-32)


We see a young man sitting in the third window—on the ledge, high above the ground—his name was Eutychus. He had come to an all-night service where Apostle Paul was preaching. Apparently, he was not watchful, or bored, and fell asleep, lost his balance and fell off of the ledge onto the street below, and died. Eutychus’ name means “fortunate,” and that he was, for Apostle Paul came and fell on him, embracing him, and the young man was raised up. He then participated in the service and was attentive during the remainder of the night as Paul preach on. At daybreak when Paul left, the people rejoiced that they could take Eutychus home alive. (Acts 20:9-12)


In each of these cases, we see where the three people could have been spared their emotional and embarrassing experiences had they participated in the service that was going. While David was playing and   dancing to the Lord, instead of watching through the window, Michal should have overruled pride and run out to join him in worshiping the God of Israel! Had she done this, God would have blessed her with children.

If Elder Brother had walked in forgiveness, he would have welcomed his prodigal brother home and rejoiced that he had come to his senses. He would have been able to forego pride, put aside his resentment, and join in the celebration.

If  Eutychus had sat up front in the service he would have found that the anointing on Paul would run right over on him and he would not only have stayed awake all night, but would have received food for his spirit and soul. I imagine that after this night, he did not try sitting on the window ledge so he could see outside  as well as inside, but rather chose to forget what was beyond those walls in the interest of receiving what God had to teach him.

Notice that those who do not get involved in a church service are usually critical of those who do. They justify their criticism with self-exaltation.

Don’t try to remove yourself from God’s people. Don’t try to keep your distance. If you’ll get right in the middle of the service, the celebration, the work, you will find yourself rejoicing, and likely more healthy and prosperous, and likeable!

Even if others criticize you, do it for Jesus!

Be drunk on the wine of the Holy Spirit.

Never mind those who sit in a window looking to criticize you.

They are the losers.

You’ll be the winner!


© C. Yvonne Karl. First published in The Olive Branch publication, January 1987. May be copied “as is” for bible study purposes. To print or publish in other publications, please contact the author to get permission in writing:

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