IMA MESS

I remember teaching my son’s that everyone they met in life were not necessarily their friends.  And sometimes their friends could get them into more trouble than they could get out of.  It was our desire for them to be discerning with whom they associated.  Of course, they didn’t always comply, because they thought mom and dad were trying to keep them from having fun, but in time they found what we told them to be true. And other times they had to learn on their own.  Some lessons cannot be taught otherwise.

Sometimes we find ourselves in messes because of our own doing, because we didn’t listen, or as in the case of my sons, we think we know better, and go ahead with what we want to do and find ourselves spiraling out of control and into a disaster because of the lack of heeding dire warnings.  Decisions have consequences and sometimes those decisions can haunt one for a lifetime.  I knew of one case like this and the situation ended with a young man’s brothers being killed.

And then other times through no fault of our own, other’s decisions, can have a bearing on our lives.

But in all decisions in life we must base them on Biblical Truths and read the examples given in Scripture regarding the sins and mistakes others have made, and if we are wise, heed their warnings.  The Old Testament was written for our learning and much can be learned from these men and women of God.

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”     (Romans 15:4)

“A woman made this startling statement: “If they had named me in keeping with the life I’ve lived, my given name would be Ima and my last name would be Mess.”

We get ourselves in so many messes our status quo can be defined as the mess we’re in.  Come to think of it, that isn’t a bad description of a big portion of our population.

We fail to figure our expenses versus our income – especially the probability of the unknown arising – and then we have debts that smother us.  This puts us in another bind, as Solomon said, “The borrower is servant to the lender.”

Sometimes we talk when we should listen.  This gets us in difficulty.  Alienates friends or expels strangers who might have become friends.  At other times we get in a mix up by signing notes and becoming the surety for another person’s debts.

The most heartbreaking messes, however, come from getting caught up in a web of sin and evil.  People don’t plan to go very far down the downward path, but it’s hard to stop anything going downhill.  At the bottom is the crash.  Nevertheless, this caution can spare one the first step which ends in the smashup:  “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

No matter what mess we’re in, we caused it.  Maybe some others helped, but in the last analysis we made the decision that put us there.  Man’s problems are manmade, but take heart – they can be God-solved, and He is saying, “Your iniquities will I remember no more.”

~ Leroy Brownlow

“The prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself:  but the simple pass on, and are punished.”     (Proverbs 27:12)

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  Be not deceived:  neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you:  but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”       (I Corinthians 6:9-11)

“Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come.  Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”     ~ Scott

 Eileen Light

 

 

Jonah’s legacy of poor attitude and distrust in God brought him to crazy circumstances that continued to further prove his poor attitude

A few weeks ago, I had an off day. My fiancé noticed I was irritable, so he attempted to help by pointing out what I was doing that was counterproductive. In my agitated state, rather than heeding his advice, I fought back. This turned into three separate instances during the day in which I dropped, spilled and even threw some things around. I thought I could do what I wanted to do without any repercussion, but that backfired very quickly.

We often study Jonah in children’s Bible classes. It’s pretty easy to teach children amazing things like a man being swallowed by a large sea creature because their minds go wild with that possibility. However, I’m afraid that may mean that we as adults believe we have heard the story enough that we no longer need to study it. Any time we believe we “know that story well enough” is probably a good time to pick it up and study again.

Jonah’s story is only four chapters long so it is a quick read. Rather than summarizing, let’s look at the impact Jonah’s attitude had on himself.

Jonah believed he knew better than God about who deserved salvation and who didn’t. Because of his attitude, Jonah spent money on a voyage he wouldn’t get to complete, wound up in a fish’s stomach and then threw a temper-tantrum over a plant. From the outside, Jonah simply looks foolish because of his attitude.

Second, God gave Jonah everything both he and the Ninevites needed. Jonah didn’t willingly accept his commission or deliver God’s message, but his spiteful delivery of that message was used for God’s glory anyway. Jonah sabotaged himself with his own attitude; he stole away the blessings God tried to give him. He neither thanked God for his blessings of safety, wellness and protection, nor did he recognize the blessing of saving an entire nation of people from their sins.

This legacy of poor attitude and thoughtless reaction to people offering their help and advice is still evident today.

In Galatians 6:1-10, God commands us to bear one another’s burdens. While bearing the burdens of our brethren is helpful to them, we must share our burdens with others as well. Far too often, we let our attitudes of pride and fear get in the way, and we steal our own peace as well as the peace of those around us.

God commands us to “put to death the deeds of the body” that we might live in Spirit rather than in flesh (Romans 8:13). Colossians 3:8 gives us a more specific list of what we are to put to death:  anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk. Verses twelve through fourteen of the same chapter in Colossians go on to give us a list of those things we ought to have instead:  compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, weakness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love. Often, we say things like, “I want to be compassionate to her situation, but I’m just so frustrated she did that!” Or, “I’m not the one making the decision, but she shouldn’t have done it that way.” We don’t even acknowledge how childish we sound by not letting things go and how we ruin the joy we ought to have in unity by tearing ourselves apart from the inside. This hurts the people who receive our actions, but it also hurts us as it rots our spirits.

Jonah’s legacy of poor attitude and distrust in God brought him to crazy circumstances that continued to further prove his poor attitude. When we are not careful to obey God today, we continue in this legacy.

Kathryn Heib

 

WHEN I STRUGGLE WITH BEING CHILDLESS

Not every woman wants children, but I think most of us do. I have a close friend that chose not to have children. She and her husband have very difficult family situations, and they made that choice.

I have another friend that chose not to have children and actually had a legal document drawn up that both she and her husband signed making it binding that he would not expect her to have a child.

Hannah did not fit into either of these situations. Hannah desperately wanted a child. She struggled with being childless. Some of you know how she felt.

Hannah’s story is found in I Samuel 1. She was one of two wives of a man named Elkanah. He appears from the text to have been a wealthy man, and he loved Hannah.

Verse 2 of our text tells us that Hannah had no children. Verse 6 tells us that her adversary provoked her. Verse 7 tells us that, in her anguish, she cried and refused to eat.

Not only did Hannah suffer for being childless; but she also had to contend with Peninnah, the other wife, constantly making comments about her not having children. Can’t you just hear Peninnah? “Look at all the children I have given Elkanah.” Look at you. You have no children. What good are you, a Jewish woman that can’t get pregnant?”

When it came time to offer their yearly sacrifice to God, Elkanah gave Peninnah and her sons and daughters portions, but to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her (verse 5). He couldn’t understand why she wasn’t satisfied with his loving her.

Sadly, Elkanah did not have the advice of the apostle Peter. Peter said, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (I Peter 3:7). He just didn’t have the understanding heart he needed. Husbands of the childless need that understanding heart in order to have the proper relationship to God in prayer.

Still Hannah grieved, and she did the only thing she could do. She turned to God. Scripture says, “And she was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly” (I Samuel 1:10 ESV).

In her prayer, Hannah made a vow to God. She promised Him that if He would give her a son, she would “give him to the Lord all the days of his life” (verse 11).

The Lord did answer her prayer, and she fulfilled her promise and gave her son to the Lord. She turned him over to the priest, Eli, to care for. He was brought up in an environment of service to God.

So, how does this relate to those of you who remain childless? Is there an answer to your struggle in the story of Hannah? There may not be total acceptance in your struggle, but I think there is comfort in her story.

First, Hannah continued to serve God. She didn’t refuse to go to worship God with her family. She didn’t blame God for her problems.

Hebrews 10:25 admonishes us not to forsake the assembly. God does not want us to neglect our worship to Him because of our struggles.

Second, Hannah did not retaliate for Peninnah’s reproaches. Hannah was an example of meekness.

There may be those that say unkind things about your situation or ask insensitive questions. Don’t resort to retaliation. Remember the words of Paul in I Thessalonians 5:15, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”

Third, Hannah prayed. When she prayed, she did not do so in anger. She exhibited humility by calling herself God’s handmaid.

When you don’t know what to pray or what to ask of God remember Paul’s words in Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

In our prayers, we must also remember the words of Paul in Acts 21:14. When Agabus foretold of Paul’s being bound in Jerusalem, Paul told those with him that he was ready to be bound and even to die. Then he said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”

We have no idea what the Lord has planned for us. If we will pray for those things we need and desire, God will hear us; but we must be willing to allow His will to be done. He knows things we don’t know.

God granted Hannah’s request. He gave her the son she desired, but remember that she had made a promise to God. She promised to give him back to God, and she did just that. She gave him to Eli when he was weaned, and she only visited him once a year (I Samuel 2:19).

Nothing can separate us from the love of God, including tribulation, distress, or persecution. We are conquerors through Jesus who loved us. If your struggle is being childless, know that God knows, and He understands. You may feel it is a trial, a tribulation, even a persecution; but don’t allow it to separate you from God.

Sandra Oliver

(Next week we will talk about the struggle of being pregnant and unmarried, the story of Mary, Matthew 1).

 

THE WORK OF GOD—Part 16 (In Prophecy)

Some of you will remember “THE HAND OF GOD—Intro” from February 16, 2017.  The following explanation is meant to further clarify that post.

Declaring future events is not the same as foretelling the future.  ‘Foretelling the future’ is generally understood to mean that God “foreordained” what was and is going to happen in the future, and then watches while the events transpire that He “foresaw or foreordained.”

The scriptures describe a very different pattern.  First, God declares that there is no one like him (Isaiah 46:9).  God is different in that he ‘declares the end from the beginning.’  Of course, this easily fits in the above pattern.  However, the next verse shows a distinct difference.  God doesn’t just watch the events come to pass but he says that he will “bring it to pass.”  He purposes future events, and doesn’t ‘watch’ them come to pass but he says, “I will do it.”  Watching something come to pass puts God in a passive mode with enough wisdom to know what will happen in the future—as if he isn’t the one who does it—but is wise enough to see what will transpire.  In these and many other passages, God purposes to do certain things and then brings that purpose to pass.

John Calvin’s doctrine of God’s Omniscience, Foreknowledge and Predestination teach that God foreordained all things from the foundation of the world.  That being true, nothing can change what God has foreordained, whether prayer, man’s human will or any response of man, whether good or evil.  Whereas the doctrine of foreordination centers on the souls who are saved and those souls who are lost, yet the doctrine encompasses a God who has foreordained all things in advance.  This is not the God described in the Scriptures.

Many confuse God’s work on earth in working all things after the counsel of his own will (Eph. 1:12, Rom. 8:28) with God’s miracles.  Anything God does is obviously above nature.  Why?  If it were naturally going to transpire, it would happen without God doing anything at all.  Thus, if God does something on earth, it is obviously more than what would naturally transpire and is thus called supernatural (by men).  If God works all things together for good, it must be something other than what would naturally transpire.  This is not the scriptural definition of a ‘miracle.’

What we call ‘miracles,’ the Lord (in the King James version) calls signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 2:3-4).  In the Greek, the word ‘miracle’ is almost always the word “indication.” Nine times the word ‘dunamis’ (power) is translated as ‘miracle.’

NT: 4592 shmeion semeion (say-mi’-on); neuter of a presumed derivative of the base of NT: 4591; an indication, especially ceremonially or supernaturally:

NT: 1411 (doo’-nam-is); from NT: 1410; force (literally or figuratively); specially, miraculous power (usually by implication, a miracle itself):

NT: 1410 dunamai (doo’-nam-ahee); of uncertain affinity; to be able or possible:

When God brings to pass an event that he foretold, it proves that his words came from him.  Men know they cannot foretell what will happen in the future.  God challenged the false prophets to show they were gods by foretelling the future.  He says:  “Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: (Isa. 41:22)” He further challenged them by saying: “Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods (Isa. 41:23):”

When God tells what will happen, and then brings it to pass, we know that the author must be the God of heaven.

A very striking example is found in the book of Daniel. God first prophesied that two kingdoms in the near future would rule over the entire earth. The first kingdom in the vision was the Chaldean nation. The second kingdom that would rule over the entire earth was specifically named, namely the Meads and Persians (Dan. 8:20). This prophecy was fulfilled 20 years later in 586 B.C. The second kingdom God named that would bear rule over all the earth was the Greeks (Dan. 8:20). This prophecy was fulfilled 275 years later when Alexander the great conquered the world in 329 B.C. He then prophesied that a fourth kingdom would be established. This prophecy was fulfilled 575 years later when Augustus Caesar conquered the world and 29 B.C. It is during the reign of this kingdom that God prophesied he would set up a kingdom that would never be destroyed. That prophecy was fulfilled 639 years later in 33 A.D. He further prophesied that “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” (Dan. 7:27) This prophecy was fulfilled during what history refers to as the Church Age/Dark Ages/Middle Ages, which lasted until about 1,000 A.D. Thus God prophesied of specific events that would involve the governing powers of the whole world for approximately 1,600 years in advance. Is there any doubt that it was God who gave this prophecy? Men have a problem prophesying even what will happen the next day, much less for 1600 years.

The fifth kingdom was to be God’s kingdom.  He said: “… in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever (Dan. 2:44).  He further prophesied that “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him (Dan. 7:27). This prophecy was given about 600 years before Christ, and was fulfilled in exact detail over the next 1600 years!

Men wonder what happened that destroyed the Chaldean, Medes, Persians and Greek nations.  Formerly historians called the time period from 476 AD through 1,000 AD the Church Age.  Then the name for the same time period was changed to the Dark Ages (because little history was written).  Finally, men have designated that time period as the Middle Ages.  Whatever that time period is called, Christianity was the major force that governed the world.

In 30 AD John the Baptist prophesied that the kingdom was at hand.  Jesus prophesied also the kingdom of God was at hand.  His prophecy came to pass beginning 50 days after his resurrection.  God’s kingdom is described in many ways, including God’s Family, a Husbandry, Christ’s body, Christ’s church, God’s church, a Vine, a Sheepfold, an Olive Tree, a Temple, etc.  Each description includes the same people as are in the kingdom of God.

Jesus further prophesied that Jerusalem and the Israelite nation would be destroyed in the lifetime of those who were listening to him (Matt. 24:15-22), which occurred thirty years later.

Who but God could foretell the future 1600 years in advance?  As God foretold, his kingdom ruled over the world.  Truly the book of Daniel must be God’s work, and not man’s!

All of these prophecies and events were God’s work, but are not designated as miracles.  The purpose of the miracles was to bear witness to the ones who wrote the scriptures (Heb. 2:3-4).  We see the same pattern in the Old Testament period.  There is no record of any man doing any kind of miracle until Moses.  Then, after Moses, we find other prophets doing miracles.  Again, like God’s witness in the New Testament, God gave his witness of miracles to the prophets who wrote the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament.  Thus the Lord has distinguished between miracles, signs and wonders, and his normal work that he does in ruling in the kingdoms of men (Dan. 4:17, 24), and working all things together for the good of those who love him and are the called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).

–Beth Johnson

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Anaya’s Victory

Little Anaya Ellick was born without hands. Before you begin to feel sorry for her, you must know that she did not allow it to keep her from doing many things. At seven years old she beat fifty other participants in a national handwriting contest. How did she do this with no hands? She balanced a pencil between her wrists and wrote beautifully!

When she emerged from the womb, Anaya was faced with a lifelong challenge. Instead of surrendering, however, she used it, with the help of her parents, to the fullest. It likely took courage, wisdom, and persistence, but just look what she gained—the hardship turned into a win.

Anaya’s victory reminds me of a parable Jesus told about talents (Matthew 25:14-30). He said the kingdom of heaven is like a man who was going to a far away country. To one man he gave five talents, to another two, and another one, according to each one’s ability. Then he went on his journey. When he returned, he called the men to whom he had entrusted his talents. The first one traded the five and earned five more. Likewise, the second man took the two and gained two more talents. The lord of those servants said, Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joys of your lord. The third man returned his one talent to the lord. He explained that he was afraid and went and hid it. The lord was not pleased and cast the wicked, lazy, unprofitable servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Our Lord has given us talents, abilities, and gifts. Some of them may come in the form of hardship, loss, or grief, but end up producing a treasure. Like raw gold refined in a fire, we come out glistening. What determines the outcome? It is how we react to it. Do we see the trial as a way to achieve spiritual, emotional, and physical growth? Hopefully we do. God expects us to use what He has given us, and when we do, He will award us a crown of righteousness!

Today’s Verses: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (James 1:2-3), Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).

Audios available at http://christianwomanaudiodevotionals.abiblecommentary.com 

By Teresa Hampton

KNOWN BY THE COMPANY WE KEEP

Are you watchful of your associates?  If you have children, do you watch with whom they associate?  It is indeed true our companions can either build us up or tear us down.  Those with whom we associate, and our children associate can lead us to sin, or build us up in the faith.

Have you ever noticed one which started down the right road and then suddenly changed directions?  They became involved with shady companions or friends and watched them slowly drift into the habit of drinking, cursing, drugs and many other sins, for sins are companions as well.  One begets another and another.  And then you watched the person slowly self-destruct.

I’ve seen it happen and some never found their way back from the degradation of their lives.  The evils continued to worsen and the root was in the company they kept.  They were certainly not their friends.

It is imperative we watch, young and old, with whom we daily associate.  Like begets like and if we are not vigilant and watchful of whom we associate, we too will spiral downward.  Make no mistake about it nor deceive yourself into thinking those involved deeply in sin will not influence us for evil if we make companions of them.

I know of a sad situation in which this happened.  A wife, mother and abuse of prescription drugs, evil companions and the descent into arrests for illicit drug use.  A sure recipe for destruction not only of the physical but the spiritual as well. The woman is married to a drug addict just released from prison for the same.  And it all started looking for drugs, becoming involved with those who trafficked in them and evolved into stealing, fornication, drug use, arrests, and jail and prison time for such.  It was very sad to hear of such a case.  I knew her husband.  A decent and honorable man lost his wife because she had not discernment nor discretion nor the fortitude to just say no.  There is much safety in the word “no.”

God gives us instruction and warning against evil companions.  May we drown out the world’s voice and listen to His.

“Here is one of the most thoughtful questions you will ever answer:  Are your friends and companions pulling you up or pulling you down?  A degenerate companionship is like a dirty dog who dirties those he rubs against.  Evil association can steal more than time; it can be the thief of character.  But wholesome association makes bad people good and good people better.

As a general rule, we know a person by the company he keeps, for like attracts like.  Wolves go in packs, cattle graze in herds, and people run with those of similar views and goals.  This being true, tell me the company you keep, and I’ll tell you the person you are.”     ~ Leroy Brownlow

“Be not deceived:  evil communications corrupt good manners.”      (I Corinthians 15:33)

“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise:  but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”    (Proverbs 13:20)

“Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.”   (Proverbs 14:7)

“But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat.”    (I Corinthians 5:11)

“Keep people in your life that truly love you, motivate you, encourage you, inspire you, enhance you and make you happy.”      ~ Unknown

Eileen Light

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Old?

The long planter holding a small collection of sedums at the edge of the patio really isn’t all that old. It was hand-crafted from portland cement, peat moss and sand about five years ago.

The pitted, aged appearance is deceiving. It comes from the holes and crevices left behind as the chunks of peat moss decayed and disappeared.

The process, known as hypertufa, was developed to mimic tufa found in nature as limestone formations develop from calcium-rich water such as a spring.

My planting trough has not only aged, it has started falling apart. The corners on one end developed a crack. Normally, hypertufa is very strong when made right, but I was a novice and didn’t reinforce the huge piece.

The sedums don’t seem to mind much, as they don’t require much water. In spite of the obvious flaw, I’m still pretty pleased with this piece. The broken end seems to add to the overall appearance of age and wear.

Garden art isn’t the only medium in which an older appearance is sought after. I never understood why my teenagers wanted to wear jeans with worn spots and holes in them, much less spend money on “new” ones that looked worn!

Then there is the “shabby chic” trend in home decorating. My husband restored an old Hoosier kitchen cabinet, and we considered a chalk paint treatment that would make it look old and worn.

We did opt out of that one, since I just couldn’t get myself to take an old, worn cabinet and make it look old and worn. Plus, all my artistic efforts are confined to the garden; interior decorating is beyond my areas of expertise!

The Scriptures point us to the “old paths.” Going back to the first century A.D. to restore God’s plan for our work and worship is the sure way to get it right. Many “reformers” have come and gone down through the ages since the Bible was written, but reforming something flawed is not the same as restoring it to the original condition.

“Thus says the Lord,
‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, “We will not walk in it.”

‘And I set watchmen over you, saying,
“Listen to the sound of the trumpet!”
But they said, “We will not listen.”

‘Therefore hear, O nations,
And know, O congregation, what is among them.

‘Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people,
The fruit of their plans,
Because they have not listened to My words,
And as for My law, they have rejected it also.

‘For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from Sheba
And the sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable
And your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me’” (Jeremiah 6:16-20, NASB).

These people who were rebuked so harshly were not without religion. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices just weren’t acceptable to the Lord.

“We will not listen” (verse 17) might not come out of our mouths, per se. We might want to “improve” on God’s plans by adding innovations that were not authorized. If it pleases us, and brings in people who like these innovations, shouldn’t God be pleased as well?

Well, no; not according to God (Proverbs 30:6).

In reality, when we follow our own way instead of the “old paths” of Scripture, we may as well be saying “We will not listen.”

Listen up, and seek the old.

Christine (Tina) Berglund

WHEN I STRUGGLE WITH TEMPTATION

I hope you have completed your list of things that cause you to struggle. We all have difficulties, and my hope is that we can learn how to cope with those things that cause us problems by looking at examples from scripture.

The first thing I want us to examine is that of temptations. I suspect that is something on everyone’s list. We are tempted every day. Sometimes we resist, and sometimes we give in.

The first woman of the Bible gives us our first example of women who struggle. She struggled with seeing that which appealed to her eyes, knowing that it was forbidden, believing a lie, and finally giving in to her desires. She gave in to temptation.

God gave Adam instructions about the food He provided for His human creation. God said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

The direction God gave to man was clear. There was no question as to what God expected. According to Genesis 3:2-3, the woman also knew what God’s instruction was concerning the eating of the fruit of the tree that was in the middle of the garden.

When the serpent (the devil) went to visit Eve, he offered her the kind of temptation difficult for a woman to resist, a chance for knowledge of something special. He appealed to her pride (verse 5). He challenged the authority of God. He told her, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). He lied to her. Then he discredited God with, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (verse 5).

We learn from Genesis 3 that she not only ate of the fruit, but she gave it to Adam; and he ate the fruit as well. He willingly, knowingly took the fruit and ate it. The apostle Paul told Timothy in I Timothy 2:14, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Adam knew what he was doing.

Eve had to live knowing that she had changed the direction of her life through her disobedience to God. Not only did she change her life, but she brought sin into the world. Nothing could ever be the same.

What could Eve have done? She could have sent the serpent away. She could have believed God instead of being so eager to believe a lie. She could have…but she didn’t.

When temptation comes to us, it will come in one of three ways—lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and pride of life. The devil knows that he can get us with one or all of these. He even tried this on Jesus in Matthew 4.

What often surprises us is that there are consequences for sin, and one of the greatest consequences is that of memory. When we sin, we will carry the memory of that sin with us for the rest of our lives.

Think of the memories Eve would have had of that day. The words of God would have been in her mind all of her life. She received her punishment first. “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

Next, God spoke to Adam. “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19).

Eve had to live with the knowledge that she had changed the direction of her life through her disobedience to God. She had been responsible for Adam being tempted to do wrong, and she had brought death into the world.

So how do we avoid temptation? When we do sin, what do we need to do?

• First, we need to study God’s Word to learn what is right and what is wrong. II Timothy 2:15 tells us to “rightly divide the word of truth.” Our first responsibility is to know what God wants us to do. We cannot avoid what we don’t know to avoid.
• Second, we need to do what God’s Word tells us to do. Peter and the other apostles told their tempters in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
• Third, we need to weigh the consequences. Paul says in II Thessalonians 1:8 that God will take vengeance on “them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
• Fourth, if we are not in the family of God, we need to be obedient to His commands. Read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. Everything you need to know about becoming a Christian can be found in that chapter.
• Fifth, if we are Christians, we should pray for God’s forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9)
• Sixth, we need to live like Paul told Titus. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Titus 2:12-13).

Eve went on to have children and live out her life with Adam outside the Garden of Eden. One of her sons killed the other, and that happened because she brought sin into the world.

May God help us to see Eve as an example of someone we do not want to emulate, but an example of how temptations can come into our lives in the most unexpected ways.

Lastly, may we remember, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13).

Sandra Oliver

(Next week we will study The Struggle of Being Childless, the story of Hannah in I Samuel 1).

THE WORK OF GOD—Part 15

There is a strong movement among progressives in the church today denying that God is working in the human heart.  The argument contends that anyone who allows that God is working today is of Pentecostal or Holiness persuasion. The Lockwood-Deaver debate centered in this very problem.  We do not want to side with any man on any issue because we want only the truth of God from his word.

Hebrews 2:3-4 tells us that God bore witness in New Testament times but no longer bears witness to men today.  In Acts 8:18 we read that the apostles and Cornelius household received the Spirit directly from heaven.  In 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, the Lord informs us the gifts would be done away when the scriptures were given.

We have to appreciate the zeal of men who are fighting the false claims of the charismatic people; however, we do not appreciate denial of the truth of God.  Unless I believe that God is working today, I can not go to him (Heb. 11:6).

The problem with the Lockwood-Deaver debate was that both men took an extreme view.  Lockwood could not or would not admit that God was working in any specific way even in providence.  His view was always a nebulous ‘providential’ working that could not be explained.  If he admitted God works today, Deaver could say it was miraculous.  If he had admitted God works miracles today, he could be accused of being no different than the Pentecostals.

Deaver, on the other hand, claimed that the Holy Spirit was working today.  IF the Holy Spirit is working today, God has not revealed how he is working.  I believe that He is, but he is not bearing witness in miracles as he did in New Testament times.  Jesus said he would abide with them forever (John 14:16), but he is not bearing witness in miracles as he did in NT times.  The Holy Spirit’s work is unseen by men.  Deaver claimed there were two works of the Holy Spirit: miraculous and non-miraculous supernatural.  That is, God is working today in a non-miraculous supernatural way.

Unless I believe that God is working today, I can not go to him (Heb. 11:6).  No one sees Satan in his work but we all know he is working hard (1 Pet. 5:8-9).  Satan blinds men’s minds, but no man can see his work (2 Cor. 4:3-4).  No man saw Jesus open the apostles’ understanding, but he did (Luke 24:44).  In similar fashion, God gave Satan permission to stir up Judas to do his evil work (John 13:2).

We have seen but a few of the ways in which God has worked in times past.  God was working, but not one of the events we studied is placed in the listing of miracles.  God is working all of these things together after the counsel of his own will (Eph. 1:11).  God’s witness through miracles has ceased, but God has not ceased working all things on earth together for good through his non-miraculous works (Rom 8:28).

God is alive, well and active today.

–Beth Johnson

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Overshared

That’s the word I use to describe some of the losses that have occurred in the garden. Sharing plants is actually good insurance against losing a plant permanently, and I’ve experienced a few times when I’ve been asked for a piece of a plant that was previously shared with me.

But when my favorite iris dwindled down to one rhizome, I knew I had to take action. It was languishing in the shade of a peach tree, having been crowded out by stronger irises when the peach was smaller and let in more light.

A few years ago, my Yard Boy was busy digging out a whole bed of irises for Brad and Melinda, who had just purchased a new house. What a perfect time to dig out this special, fragrant iris and move it to the newly emptied space!

The next day, I looked for the small clump of roots and rhizomes at the edge of the bed. They were gone! GONE!

Brad was now out of town with his job, and the irises we had given him were stored for a while. There was no way to find out which one was the iris I meant to save for our own garden, if it even survived.

So the hunt began for a suitable replacement. Two years ago, I found it!

Someone had sent me a link to a page with photos of a strikingly beautiful garden. As I opened one, I drew in a sharp breath and held it — there was the identical flower!

Unfortunately, this garden was a two hour drive away. I sent a message to the owner, Angie, telling her about my “oversharing” mishap and explaining that I would gladly pay her for a piece of this pretty purple and white iris.

Angie graciously invited me to her stunningly magnificent garden. I now count her as a friend, a “sister-of-the-dirt” as it were.

This week, the new/old iris finally bloomed! It was a special delight to know that the journey that brought it to my garden was accompanied by not only additional new flowers, but by new friends.

When we mourn our losses, we have no idea where the road leads while we woefully trudge along its rocky and dismal course. We are so busy setting one foot in front of the other, that we don’t even take the time to look ahead.

And that’s okay.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4, NASB).

God is not unaware of what makes us tick (Psalm 103:14). He made us. He understands. While the Holy Spirit is described as a “comforter” (John 16:7, KJV), he also can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30).

Jesus was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).

God the Father grieves over us when we leave him. As the parable of the prodigal son demonstrates, he waits and watches for our return (Luke 15).

While I had little hope of my favorite iris returning, I hoped that one like it would make its way back into my garden. It is more precious than before, because it was lost and now it is restored.

It now carries the reminder not only of the original giver, Maryanne, but now reminds me of Brad and Melinda, Angie, and even the Yard Boy husband of mine who erred on the side of generosity by accidentally giving it away.

“Redeemed” must be a little like that. We are more than what we were before our own Maker bought us back!

Christine (Tina) Berglund