Archive for My Faith Journey

Sign of God’s Eternal Covenant: The Rainbow

Photo by Luanne Johnson

It was a beautiful evening. Late afternoon storm clouds darkened the sky to the west and north over the James River. The gentle breeze that blew all day became brisk and the yellowing leaves on the birch trees fluttered to the ground. A gentle rain watered the earth.

Just before dusk, the sun burst through the clouds and the sunlight glistened off the still falling raindrops creating a stunning huge, tall, full rainbow in the east. There actually was a double rainbow although the second one was not as brilliant. I didn’t see it at first as I was more focused on the sun reflecting on the roofs of the silos.

If you look closely you can see the faint rainbow to the right of the brilliant one.

I remembered God’s promise and the sign he gave us a reminder. I said aloud, “God I remember”.

Genesis 6-9 tells the story of Noah and the great flood that destroyed every living creature and all humans on earth except for Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives. Why would God do such a drastic, awful thing? It was judgement for the violent, evil, and godless culture that had turned against him. Noah and his family were saved because they were righteous, the only ones in the whole earth. It took them one hundred years, but they built an ark with God’s direction and they along with two of every kind of animal that God brought to the ark were saved. It is a fascinating true story.

One hundred and fifty days later, the flood had subsided and the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. Noah and his family along with all the animals came out of the ark into the clean, fresh earth bursting with lush green plants and trees. Noah immediately built an alter and worshipped God. God set a brilliant rainbow in the sky-probably the first ever seen. God told Noah that he was establishing a covenant with him and all future generations and living creatures. Never again would the earth be totally destroyed by a flood. God gave the rainbow as a sign of the covenant. And God said, “When I see the bow, I will remember my covenant.” The rainbow is not only a reminder for our benefit but also for God to see and remember.

I turned to walk back into the house and behind me the west was also blazing with God’s glory of a different hue, the stunning beauty of the setting sun.

Several years ago we visited the Ark, a full-scale replica of Noah’s ark in Williamstown, Kentucky. It was an incredible experience to see, feel and think about what it really was like for Noah. I highly recommend this adventure.

Noah’s Ark

Our Elisha House: Janet’s Story

Even though this story happened thirty-three years ago, it is as fresh in my mind as if it had happened yesterday.  As I share it, it is my desire for the focus to be on the faithfulness of God and the power of His protective hand. It is a story worth sharing.

In the early spring of 1989, Tom, a customer who shopped at our business and I only knew on a name basis, approached me, and asked if we would consider taking a woman from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Petersburg where he worked into our home. Immediately my brain said no.  I did not have to even think. As he began to list reasons our family farm would be the perfect place for this troubled 40-year-old woman, I was mentally composing a list of why it would not be a good idea to take her in. I had no experience with drugs or alcohol addictions and had no desire to take on someone with that kind of problems, plus we had two adolescent children.  Tom explained that this woman had twice tried to commit suicide by jumping into the James River and was recovering from a severe drug/alcohol addiction. But then he threw in the clincher. As her counselor, he wanted this special woman to have one more chance at life.  He knew we were Christians and hoped we could share our faith with her. That evening at supper I told Gene about the conversation and to my surprise he was open to the idea.  With Tom’s support and encouragement, Janet entered our home and lives about a week later.

Janet lived in our small upstairs apartment that we called our “Elisha House” based on the story in II Kings 4.  She helped with the outdoor farm chores, milking and in our retail farm supply store.  Because we would not allow her to smoke or have her large black poodle dog in the house, she got a small camper that was parked out back which became her smoking room.

For six weeks things went exceptionally well.  She seemed to blossom in the warm spring sunshine, took pride in her work and wormed her way into our hearts.  She even went to church with us once!  Occasionally we learned tidbits about her sordid past, but it was mostly a closed door.  It had been years since she had contact with her family and was deeply bitter and resentful about her upbringing in the Mormon faith.

One Sunday while we were at church, she stole our truck and fled. We were stunned.  We had guests that Sunday and we didn’t miss her or the truck until about 3 in the afternoon.  We called the sheriff. He put out an AP bulletin and within the hour she was stopped near Charlotte, NC for drunk driving.  She was arrested for driving without a license and possession of a stolen vehicle.  The next morning, she posted bond with the money she had stolen from us and became a “wanted” missing person.  Gene and one of the men from church, Bill Schaefer, drove to North Carolina and picked up the truck.  We were shocked at the load of stuff that she had stolen from us, and we had not even missed it.  Her intentions were to disappear into the wild west and return to a life of homelessness, drifting and self-indulgence.  I began to pray and ask God to literally stop her feet, turn them around and bring her back. I began to sort through her belongings she had left behind, looking for a clue to her family, past or where she may be headed.  I had no clue. Amazingly, I found her birth certificate, which gave me the names of her parents and the city in which she was born.  After a word of prayer, I called information for Pocatello, Idaho and asked if they had a listing for this family. They did.  With a pounding heart, I called the number, and a man answered the phone.  He affirmed he was Floyd and, yes, (his voice faltered) he had a daughter, Janet.  Yes, that was her birth date.  This sad father had not heard from his troubled daughter in years. We had a sad but wonderful talk.  He was so relieved to know something about his daughter and that she was still alive even though she was in trouble with the law. 

Two days later the phone rang, and it was Janet.  She didn’t know why she was calling but …..   Gene got on the phone and talked with her, and she agreed to not run and to let us come get her. She gave us the address of a street corner she would be at.  The next day, with the local sheriff’s permission, Gene and Tom drove back to North Carolina to pick her up.  The sheriff allowed her to stay with us that night before turning herself in the next morning.  It was a night of much talking, tears, and laughter.  I shared with Janet how I had contacted her parents and their deep concern and love for her.  For the first time in years, Janet picked up the phone and tearfully called her mom and dad.  It was a night of reconciliation I will never forget.  Janet ended up spending three months in jail and then because of our desire to forgive her and to give her another chance, the judge allowed her to come back to us on probation.

Several months later, Janet decided to fly home and spend the Christmas holiday reuniting with her family.  But flying back to Virginia, she yielded to the lure of alcoholic beverages being served on the airline.  Her breath reeked with a sweet sourness when I picked her up from the airport. That began a tailspin that she could not pull out of.  We learned that the bondage of alcohol is an evil taskmaster, even stronger than drugs and caring friends become the enemy.  I remember one particular night when Janet was severely depressed, drinking heavily and had totally closed us out. She was breaking all our guidelines, refused to eat supper with us or allow me to enter to camper to talk. Things were not going well, and we did not know what to do.  I awoke in the wee hours of the night with a heavy sense of evil foreboding that I was unable to shake.  I got up and checked on the children, prayed for them, laid hands on the doors of our house, and asked for protection over our family and home.  Janet was still in her camper, so I knelt in prayer, lifting Janet to our Heavenly Father before returning to bed.  The next day Janet was much improved, and it seemed that life was returning to a sense of normalcy. With counseling, she seemed to be getting her drinking under control.  One evening, several weeks later, while we were playing a game, Janet suddenly paused, looked at me and said, “Do you remember that night when …….  I was going to take your gun, go the back pasture and shoot my dog and then myself.  But something would not let me do it.”  Stunned I said, “Yes, I remember.”  I was then able to share with her what happened to me and how God had protected her because I had prayed!  It was a powerful moment.

Several weeks later on Super Bowl Sunday, the lure of alcohol again ensnared her. We awoke early Monday morning to the sound of our pickup speeding out the driveway.  Gene leaped out of bed and called the sheriff.  When we contacted our insurance company, we discovered-much to our horror- that the insurance company had accidentally removed the truck from our policy almost a year prior when we added another vehicle. We again began to pray that Janet would stop and call home. After three days, she contacted Tom, who told her to give up the truck immediately.   She stopped at an AA Group in Amarillo, Texas and they turned the truck in to authorities while she disappeared into the big wild west.  This time Gene flew to Texas and drove the truck home.

Numerous times through the years Janet has called or emailed, but she is always very careful to not reveal her location.  She is living the life of a fugitive, hiding from the law, scared she will get caught, and ensnared to the evil taskmaster she has chosen to serve.  A year or so after fleeing, she had a powerful, short-lived, conversion at a street church she was drawn into from the street. She called and asked for our forgiveness.

In 2004, Gene and I decided to fly west and drive to Alberta, Canada.  After debating between flying into Seattle or Salt Lake City, we chose Salt Lake. It was almost a straight shot north through Utah, Idaho and Montana to Canada.  When we were plotting our route on the map, we realized we were going directly through Pocatello, Idaho, Janet’s hometown.  We wondered, what would be the chances of connecting with her!  It was a week before we were to leave, but I decided to try and make email contact and see if by chance she was in her home area. Each time she had emailed through the years she had a different email address. I decided to use her last contact info from a year previous.  I wrote expressing our love for her and our desire to see her again.  I assured her this was not a setup but a desire to see “our” Janet.  As I sat at the computer I prayed, asking God to miraculously send the email to her.  I pushed the send button.  I left the internet on as I worked at the computer to see if the email would balance back to me.  I was stunned when about 30 minutes later I had a response from Janet!!!!  I didn’t expect God to work that fast!!! She sent a newsy letter about herself and a man she was living with from Uganda, but her answer was no, she could not run the risk of seeing us– she was afraid we would betray her.  As I continued working at my computer and debating about how to respond, I got the second letter.  It very simply said, “My friend says if you are the people, I say you are, I should not be afraid.”  And she named the city she was in.  I could hardly believe it. It was the other city we had chosen not to fly into.  It was too late to change our plans and we did not get to see Janet.  Apparently, it was not God’s timing.  We did stop along the road at the Pocatello sign and took a picture of the sign and the narrow valley of houses along beside the mountain ridge. I figure probably one of the houses we were looking at was her home. I know that God desires to draw Janet to himself.  My email caused her to reflect on and remember her time spent with us.  It caused her once again to have to deal with her past and verbally process it with another person. 

I have often wondered what has happened to Janet. Is she still alive? She would now be in her mid 70’s. Is she still living as a fugitive, hiding in fear of the law? Was she ever able to make something of her life and have a purpose for living? Was she ever able to overcome the demons of alcohol and drugs? I do know for a while she went back to her home but that did not go well and she again hit the road, living as a tramp.

Janet stretched us, and we had to put our faith into action in a way we had never experienced before.  We experienced God’s supernatural protection, faithfulness, and divine intervention.  We learned about forgiveness- not once but many times over. God wrapped his arms of peace around us and gave us the opportunity and the grace to continue to open our Elisha house through the years to numerous other persons. Gene would always state that he had just one request, “Just don’t steal my truck!”

David and Goliath

Earlier this week (February 23, 2022) Fox News had a very insightful comparison between the military might of Russia and Ukraine. The graph speaks for itself, but I instantly thought, this is like David and Goliath! All week I have been praying with that thought in mind. Today I have heard several news reporters use the same comparison and at church today one of the men shared his concern for the situation and asked for prayer, referring to it as like David and Goliath.

The story of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17 is fascinating. David was anointed king of Israel by Samuel at a very young age, but it would be fifteen years before he was inauguration King of Israel. In the meantime, he tended his father’s sheep and went to Saul’s palace to play the harp whenever an evil spirit came over Saul. The Israelites were preparing for war as the Philistines had surrounded their nation and was threatening to attack.

One day Jesse, David’s father, sent him to check on his three older brothers who were in Saul’s army and deliver a care package from home of dried grain and ten loaves of bread and ten cheeses for the captains of the army. When David arrived, he found the army hyped, shouting, and ready to attack in battle formation with the Philistines on one mountain and the Israelites on another with a valley in between.

The champion of the Philistine army was a tyrant, a giant named Goliath, who stood between 9-10 feet tall. He stood on the Philistine’s side of the mountain dressed in a full body bronze armor yelling taunts and challenging the Israelites to a fight. His spear was approximately 13′ long and weighed about 33 lbs. Whoever lost would be the servants of the other. The Israelites were dreadfully afraid and quaking in their army boots.

The young lad David saw Goliath’s insults as defying the armies of the Living God. David’s words were reported to Saul who asked to speak with David. David presented his case and said, “Let no man’s heart fail because of that giant. I will go and fight him.”

Saul was horrified. He said, “You are a youth and this man has been a warrior since his youth”. I don’t know how David managed to convince King Saul but God was with David and Saul finally let him go. Suddenly the whole future of Israel was squarely on the shoulders of a young lad versus a menacing giant.

David took his shepherd’s bag, staff and sling and on his way stopped by a brook and picked up five smooth stones.

Gebhard Fugel (1863-1939), “David and Goliath” (photo: Public Domain)

When Goliath saw David coming, he was filled with rage and disdain. Goliath yelled, “Am I just a dog that you come to me with a stick. Come on, I will feed your flesh to the birds and wild beasts”. And David said, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. This day God will deliver you into my hand and I will strike you.”

I think of the song we sang as children…. “Only A Boy Named David”. David put one little stone in the sling and it went round and round and the giant came tumbling down. It only took one stone!

Is this a David and Goliath situation? I am praying for the people of Ukraine to trust in God and stand even when it seems impossible. I saw a picture of Christians in Ukraine kneeling in front of their capital praying.

I saw a video on fb of Ukrainian Christians in Kiev who sought protection in an underground subway tunnel singing hymns. I read a clip on that said Ukraine sends out more missionaries to other European countries and Eastern Asia than any other country.

The military facts are startling and there seems no way Ukraine can humanly win against the haughty, mighty Russian army unless…. unless they (we) call on the name of the Lord against the one who has defied Him before the whole world.

David versus Goliath. It’s not just a cute children’s story. We know Ukraine is a corrupt country but so is every nation in the world. What if the impossible could happen and the name of God could be lifted high for the world to see. What if the tyrant could fall because of the prayers of Christians? What if….

Some things I ponder:

  • What is the heart of Jesus in all this conflict and aggression.
  • How do I respond to and pray for the Russian people who are against the position of their leader and the aggression against the Ukraine?
  • How would I respond to war in my land, against our home and government?
  • As a Christian who believes Jesus taught peace respond when a tyrant boldly attacks innocent people and destroys their homes and livelihoods?

These and others are hard questions. We need to seek the heart of Jesus, maybe not so much to seek our answers but to seek his response. I pray especially for the Christians on both sides of the conflict.

When Covid Hits Home

I guess it is time to write this post. I just didn’t have it in me to write earlier. Gene has Covid and has been really sick but I am so very grateful he is now improving. Here is our story….. it has been quite a trip.

This past Thursday Gene was admitted to St. Francis Hospital with pneumonia in both lungs and low oxygen levels due to Covid. We knew he had Covid, he was under a doctor’s care and had tested positive, but he just didn’t seem to be getting better. During the ten Covid days, he had two different rounds of antibiotics for the fluid in his lungs which was settling into pneumonia. It turned out he had viral pneumonia and the antibiotics were doing no good. He was running fever, coughing, had congestion, and no energy. They were trying to keep him out of the hospital. He was watching his oxygen levels and on Thursday morning it was 82. Under 90 is danger. It was time to be admitted to the hospital.

We have now experienced the current state of the art health care experience! After checking him in I had to leave. It is hard leaving when your man looks so rough. The staff was really nice and did their best but there were no rooms available. He spent Thursday morning until Saturday evening in his “suite” in the ER. That had its own challenges and was not pleasant but at least he did have medical care. The bed in the ER is not comfortable, there are no personal toilets, you are under the care of emergency care staff not experienced Covid professionals and there was almost no room for your personal belongings. Your personal stuff had to lay on your bed. He was tattered to the bed so trying to use a laptop or keep his phone charged was challenging. The ER is equipped for stabilizing emergencies and getting the patient into the hands of the proper medical professionals. By Thursday evening they had not given him anything to eat. His blood sugar spiked because of the steroids they were giving him and lack of food. I went to Arbys and got him two roast beef sandwiches and curly fries. They don’t normally feed patients in the ER and weren’t in any hurry to find him some! I slipped into the ER and asked the staff to give Gene my care package which they did. I was not allowed into the hospital so I could not stay with or help him. I mostly understand but hate the policy as it is so vital for a family member to help loved ones with their care. They need an advocate, encourager and someone to pick up the Gatorade that just fell off his bed or plug in the lap top to charge.

Finally, on Saturday evening he was given a room on the Covid floor. That was so much better. The nurses actually had answers to questions and were not evasive. They knew the symptoms they were looking for and what to do. They were reassuring and encouraging. His nurse said, “I have never lost a patient that was vaccinated. I have lost some who weren’t.” It was amazing how positive that statement sounded. Gene had his vaccinations.

This afternoon oxygen was delivered to the house and I got to bring him home. He has to quarantine for twenty-one days. We think most of that is to protect him because I do not have to quarantine any more.

Meanwhile, I was at home answering the phone, text messages, emails, and keeping the home fires burning. It is amazing how many extra small things I had to do or think about. Tim is having to adjust his time to feed the cows, Steve took calves to the livestock market and beef to Farmville to be butchered. Daughter Jill came to keep me company and be my moral support. We played “Splendor” and put several puzzles together.

Mom’s Pantry-1000 piece puzzle
Yoga Cats-1000 piece puzzle

The ironical thing is there are nine people in my immediate family that have Covid right now. None of our three families have been together.

Getting Covid leaves its own set of questions with few answers. All are affected differently, all have different symptoms even within family units. The vaccinated and unvaccinated, masked and unmasked, young and old all get it. Health status, gender or age does not seem to matter. And would you believe, it does not know the difference between a Republican and a Democrat!!! Was Gene’s serious case lessened because he was vaccinated? Why haven’t I gotten it from Gene? Now we wonder if the sinus congestion I had five days before he got sick was Covid. It is very suspicious, especially since I haven’t gotten it from him. If I did, no one else who was around me got it. We wonder why we have been sick more this winter than we have in years and years. Several weeks ago we both had a Covid scare but tested positive for Type A Flu. I was even vaccinated for the flu and pneumonia for the first time this year. Did they make a difference? In September I had Cough Asthma. I have never had Asthma. Why now? The questions are many and the answers are few. Who knows? Who knows?

There is one thing for which I am so grateful and that is a loving supportive family, friends and church family. When we are ill, we pray for one another. There is so much comfort and strength that comes from the care of other people. When Gene was admitted to the hospital our family and church was very concerned. Our church called for a time of prayer at 2 that afternoon for him. I was amazed how quickly that information spread and I heard from friends from all over Virginia and Pennsylvania and beyond who joined the call to pray. God hears, He knows even before we pray. Things don’t always work out the way we wish even when we pray, but that doesn’t mean God has turned a deaf ear. God tells us to bring our petitions, desires and needs to Him. Yahweh God, the great “I Am that I Am” is also the God Who Sees and Hears. (Genesis 16: 11-14)

In my devotions this year I am centering on names and attributes of God, Jesus, and their meaning. This week I have read the following script multiple times, soaking in the truth and reality of who God is. I reaffirmed my trust, faith and praise in the eternal God, my Heavenly Father. I expressed my desire for total healing for Gene. But if that was not to be, I said I would still trust, praise and have faith.

I can not claim authorship of this piece or even give credit to who wrote it, but I can claim its truth. I did find it on the Bible.org website; no author is attributed to it.

God is….

God is Lord Almighty, Omnipotent King, Lion of Judah, Rock of Ages, Prince of Peace, Kings of Kings, Lord of Lords, Provider, Protector, Paternal Leader, Ruling Lord and Reigning King of all the universe.

He is Father, Helper, Guardian, and God. He is the First and Last, the Beginning and the End. He is the keeper of creation and the Creator of all He keeps. The architect of the universe and the Manager of all times.

He always was, is, and will be: Unmoved, Unchanged, Undefeated, and never Undone. He was bruised and brought healing. He was pierced and eased pain. He was persecuted and brought freedom, He was dead and brought life, He is risen and brings power. he reigns and brings peace.

The world can not understand Him, the armies can not defeat Him, the schools can not explain Him and the leaders can not ignore Him. Herod could not kill Him, the Pharisees could not confuse Him, the people could not hold Him! Negro could not crush Him, Hitler could not silence Him, the New Age can not replace Him and Donahue cannot explain Him away!

He is light, love, longevity, and Lord. He is goodness, kindness, gentleness, and God. He is Holy, Righteous, mighty, powerful, and pure. His ways are right, His word is eternal, His will is unchanging, and His mind is on me! He is my Redeemer, He is my Savior, He is my guide, He is my peace, He is my joy, He is my comfort, He is my Lord and He rules my life.

I serve Him because His bond is love, His burden is light, and His goal for me is abundant life. I follow Him because He is the wisdom of the wise, the power of the powerful, the ancient of days, the ruler of rulers, the leader of leaders, the overseer of the overcomes, and the sovereign Lord of all that was, is, and is to come.

And if that seems impressive to you, try this for size. His goal is a relationship with ME! He will never leave me, forsake me, mislead me, forget me, overlook me, and never cancel my appointment in His appointment book!

When I fall, He lifts me up. When I fail, He forgives me. When I am weak, He is strong. When I am lost, He is the Way. When I am afraid, He is my courage. When I stumble, He steadies me. When I am hurt, He heals me. When I am broken, He mends me. When I am blind, He leads me. When I am hungry, He feeds me. When I face trials, He is with me. When I face persecution, He stills me. When I face problems, he comforts me. When I face loss, He provides for me. When I face death, he carries me home!

He is everything for everybody, everywhere, every time, and in every way. He is God. He is faithful, I am His, and He is mine. My Father in heaven can whip the father of this world, and so, if you’re wondering why I feel so secure, understand this: He said, I believe it, and that settles it.

God is in control, I am on His side, and that means all is well with my soul.

“Could Life on Mars Be Lurking Deep Underground?”

Mars-The Red Planet from pixabay.com

Oh, really? Do scientists really believe we are that stupid? 

Mindy Weisberger wrote an article, “Could Life Be Lurking Deep Underground” for Live Science that caught my eye as a headliner on a news website. And just to see what she had to say I read the article.

It basically says that since life has not been found on the surface of Mars (how shocking is that?) it must be deep underground.  Is she trying to infer that since there is no life on the surface, aliens or humans, whichever you prefer to say, have morphed into rodent-like creatures that have tunneled deep in the interior of Mars and left not a clue on the surface? Now she didn’t say rodent-like creatures but how else could life get there without leaving a trace of infrastructure on the surface. She actually refers to them as “microbial Martians congregating underground”.  Maybe this microbial life is still evolving and after all these billions of years is still just microbial.  The whole concept would be totally laughable except that it is sad that people actually believe and promote such lies.

Surface of Mars-From pixabay.com

I have no problem believing microbial organisms could be there but she ties it to “a window into our own origins 3.8 billion years ago”.

Depending on your “source” of truth as to how you believe the earth was created.  Science interpreted through the lens of the inspired Word of God sees the Creator God actively speaking and forming the world into existence in six days. If you read Genesis with an open heart you will see that there was a beginning to the heavens and earth. You can see the Spirit of God moved over the vast nothingness and then God spoke and it was created. No billions of years of evolution there!!! You can see God created man differently from the rest of creation; God knelt, formed and breathed into man the breathe of life.

God created Mars and all the other planets to be just that, Mars, Pluto, Saturn, Venus and Jupiter. He created the heavenly galaxies to be just that, galaxy after galaxy of stars and planets light years away. This is not too difficult for my God and neither is it to difficult for me to believe. God created earth to be different; it is the only planet created to sustain life with oxygen, forage, trees, tillable fertile soil, animals, marine life, birds and humans. Why would a human in his right mind trade the beauty of earth for the harsh, barren nothingness of another planet? God created earth ready to live in with everything man needed for survival and to thrive.  It is to earth that He sent His Son Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice for sin.

The evidence of God’s handiwork is on-going and always presence: the beauty of a sunset, the vastness of the universe, the delicacy of a flower, the minuet detail of an atom, complexity of the human body, the wonder of birth, the vast array of color, detail and variety of plants and animals and the list could go on and on.

You will not physically see the form of God on this earth but by faith you can know, understand and experience the presence of God. Romans 1 says that we can know the unseen attributes of God because they were plainly revealed to us at creation and are clearly seen in observing the amazing creation of God’s hand.  It is so clear that it leaves us without excuse and we can not say we did not know.

….for what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have seen clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse…

Romans 1:19-20

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “let there be light” and there was light….

Genesis 1:1-3a

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Hebrews 11:3

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding He established the heavens; By His knowledge the depths were broken up and clouds drop down with dew. My son, let them not depart from your eyes, keep sound wisdom and discretion.

Proverbs 3: 19-21

Is there life on Mars? No.

Has there ever been life on Mars? No

Will humans ever populate Mars? Time will tell. They may try for a short period of time but I seriously doubt it will succeed. I can guarantee they will leave their trash behind. Seriously, now tell me, who wants to look at the above picture and say they really want to live there?

God’s Heart

The other evening several of us were sitting at mother’s bedside singing some of the old familiar precious hymns of faith and hope; “Solid Rock, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Shall We Gather at the River, I Love to Think of My Home Above, Oh Come Angel Wings, Blessed Assurance, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, Power In the Blood, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, Near To The Heart of God, Sweet Peace the Gift of God’s Love (mother’s favorite)…..” mother was singing along and it was a binding together time of worship, hope, love and faith. The hymns spoke to and of our heart need.

Mother’s time on earth is drawing to a close and yet as a family we could sing songs about gathering together some day in heaven. I mentioned to mother to stand by that grand river and watch for us to come. Music has a way of binding us together and connecting us with God’s heart. Scriptures says “He inhabits the praises of his people” (Psalms 22:3). To think that when believers sing together it moves the heart of God in a special way and He literally comes near. A holy, almighty, loving, Father God settles himself in our midst. Do I really comprehend how tender and precious that is. Maybe we should sing all day long!

As we were singing, I was reminded of another precious time when a song ministered to me through my granddaughter Lauren. She was sitting on my lap in church when a song touched and moved her even at the tender age of 18 months. I have never forgotten the experience. As I watched my ninety-two year old mother attempting to sing along and my dad moping his eyes, I knew we were on holy ground. It was a moment to be treasured and remembered.

Below is the blog post I wrote July 6, 2003.

By Cleland B. McAfee

There is a place of quiet rest, Near to the heart of God:

A place where sin cannot molest, Near to the heart of God

Chorus:  O Jesus, blest Redeemer, Sent from the heart of God,

Hold us, who wait before Thee, Near to the heart of God

 

There is a place of comfort sweet, Near to the heart of God;

A place where we our Savior meet, Near to the heart of God

 There is a place of full release, Near to the heart of God;

A place where all is joy and peace, Near to the heart of God.

Sitting on Grandma’s lap in church is a very special privilege and one my granddaughters relish.. On this particular Sunday, it was 18-month-old Lauren who reached out her arms to me after Sunday school. As we worshipped in singing, Lauren amused herself by quietly flipping the pages of the songbook When the chorister started to lead “Near to the Heart of God”, she pushed the book aside, turned around on my lap, wrapped her arms around my neck and laid her head on my shoulder. With her little heart quietly beating on mine, Grandma and Lauren shared a very special bond for the entire song. With my head resting gently against hers, I gently rubbed her back hoping to not break the specialness of the moment. Suddenly the words of the song took on new meaning. It was as if Lauren knew and understood the words to that precious song. Tears welled in my eyes as I vividly saw my Jesus gently rocking and holding me tight. It was a holy moment to be near to the heart of God and my granddaughter unknowingly showed me how precious it is.

Meeting Jesus in a quiet place is a special privilege that only His children know. Words cannot convey the pure love of the moment when my heart beats against God’s heart and He wraps His arms around me, holding me tight. That moment doesn’t happen accidentally.

Psalm 73:28 says, “It is good for me to draw near to God.” God is always there, but I have to turn and give God a squeeze. It is a “place of full release, where all is joy and peace, near to the heart of God.”

Show Me Your Path

This morning I was running an errand and I was pleading out loud to God, “God show us your way, your path through this difficult time.” My mind immediately went to Psalms 25: 4. David cried out to God the same prayer.  I do not know what David was going through when he penned these words, but it was not a calm, peaceful day. His enemies had galvanized an army to find and kill him. He was afraid and desperately needed to feel God’s presence, protection, and truth. He needed a way, a path through the mess that was totally engulfing him.

Psalms 25:4-6

(A Psalm of David)


Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.

Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses,
For they are from old.

When we face difficult times or tough situations, we feel like we are “between a rock and a hard place”, squished between two boulders that you can not wiggle your way out of.  The only way to look is up because in that situation you cannot see your feet! David looked up and pleaded with God to show him, teach him God’s path forward. He knew there was a way, a path forward, and he wanted to be led in truth, a truth that saw the broader picture, a truth that was beyond the muddled, jumbled mess in his brain. Sometimes paths meander through flowers and meadows with a cascading stream and mountain top views. But often it is through rough terrain with rocks, mud, briars, and danger lurking on all sides. Sometimes it seems impossible to move forward. The path is there, even when we can’t see it or it is too difficult to walk. 

I enjoy reading books about the adventures of people who hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. The 2,190-mile trail is a hand-hewn, well-worn path through the forest, across meadows, rivers, and up and down the mountain ranges. Even though the trail is marked with white blazes, hikers tell of crossing a meadow and not being able to find the continuing trail or suddenly not knowing where the trail you were on just disappeared to.  They tell of being stopped in their tracks because a rattlesnake is relaxing and enjoying his day curled up on the trail or a black mama bear with cubs steps out of the dense forage.  Their heart pounds when the path is a narrow ledge on the side of a cliff or there are only rocks to jump crossing a stream or river. They are constantly on guard against creepy crawly things, roots and rocks.  To see the beautiful wild flowers, colorful birds and sweet berries growing in the wild you have to look beyond your feet. They have to be ever vigilant, brave, strong, and preserve with their eye on the finish line.

The Appalachian Trail is marked with white blazes, which are painted on trees and rocks so hikers don’t lose their way. (Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN)

And so, it is with life. Our eye must be on the goal, the finish line, but in the meantime we navigate the path.

David had an personal relationship with God; you are my God, and I am going to sit before you and wait. He reminded God of his mercies and loving kindnesses from times past. When we remember the past, we can see from a different perspective the faithfulness of an ever-present, ever-faithful God who knows the way. When we come to God and lift our heart pleas to him, confirm our trust, He will show us the way and in the rough times, we will see the flowers and eat sweet berries.

Bye Mommy

When loved ones are dying, it changes our life perspective and makes us think about heaven… a lot. We watch them cling to the earthly while the heavenly begins to pull stronger.

I was reminded recently of a blog post I wrote about my granddaughter Lauren in January 2004. It seems appropriate to post now.

Lauren was running as fast as her little legs could carry her to my house.  But every few steps she would stop, turn back towards Mommy standing on her front porch just across the drive, clinch and unclench her fist to wave, and say, “Bye Mommy.”  The pull to the comfort and love of Grandma’s house was huge, but to leave Mommy for even a small time was also a big deal. The moment she was in the door she no longer looked back.

It reminds me of our life struggle. My desire to see Jesus and to live with Him forever has me running full steam ahead while the love of the present has me strongly anchored to earth’s soil.  God has prepared a heavenly city with precious stones.  A mansion is waiting with streets of gold.  There is a river of life flowing with crystal clear, nourishing, everlasting water.  The banquet table, laden with food, is set. There is a tree bearing life-giving fruit every month.  The heavenly garments are washed pure white.  But my shoestrings are firmly knotted to my anchors. 

How can one say goodbye to loved ones?

How could my family get along without me?

Who will complete my unfinished work? 

Who will cherish my treasures?

I want to see my granddaughters grow up and hold their babies.

I love my husband and cherish our time together.

I still have things to do, places to go and words to say.

The pull towards the comfort of my heaven home is huge.  Father God is there. I often look to the sky and wonder when Jesus will return.  To leave earth is also a big deal even though Scripture reminds us over and over that our time here is temporal and fleeting. I am strongly rooted and attached to the things of this earth. God has created within us a desire for fellowship and belonging.  God blessed the creation of male and female and commanded us to be stewards of the earth, to be fruitful and multiply.  Jesus commanded us to make disciples in every nation.   I am grateful it is not for me to decide when my task is done.

Titus challenges us to keep a proper perspective while on earth, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)  When God beckons, my shoelaces will snap and I will go; I will not look back for I shall see His face.

I Tell You the Truth

When someone says, “I tell you the truth” you have one of two thoughts; either they haven’t been telling the truth and now are or they want you to listen up, this is very important.

There are 76 times in the New Testament Jesus says, “I tell you the truth…” (NIV).  Depending on the translation, it may say “Verily, verily I say unto you…” (KJ) or “most assuredly I say unto you…”  (NKJ). A number of years ago, Bill Iazzi preached a message on some of Jesus’ statements of “I tell you the truth…” This became a challenge to me; I decided to find and write all 76 down. It makes an interesting read. Jesus is telling us to listen up, what I am saying is very important. Let Jesus’ words speak…..

Matthew:

  1. (5:18) I tell you the truth, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one title will by no means pass from the law till it is fulfilled.
  2. (5:25-26) ….I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
  3. (6:2) So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
  4. (6:5) And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
  5. (6:16) When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have their reward in full.
  6. (8:10-12) I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel which such great faith.  I say to you that many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  7. (10:15) I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
  8. (10:23) When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.  I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
  9. (10:42) And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.
  10. (11:11) I tell you the truth:  Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
  11. (13:17) I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
  12. (16:28) I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
  13. (17:20)  Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.
  14. (18:3) I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
  15. (18:18) I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
  16. (19:23) I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
  17. (19:28) I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
  18. (21:21-22) I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, nor only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
  19. (21:31-32) I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.
  20. (23:35-36) And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.
  21. (24:2) I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another, everyone will be thrown down.
  22. (24:33-35) Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
  23. (24:46-47) It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
  24. (25:11-12) Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’  But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’
  25. (25:40) “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
  26. (25:45) “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
  27. (26:13) I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
  28. (26:34)” I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

Mark:

  1.  (3:28-29) I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.  But whosoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.
  2. (8:12) He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.”
  3. (9:1) And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”
  4. (9:41) I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
  5. (10:15) I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.
  6. (10:29-30) “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in the present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields-and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.
  7. (11:22-23) “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself in the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.
  8. (12:43-44) Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.”
  9. (13:30-31) “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
  10. (14:9) I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
  11. (14:25) I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.
  12. (14:30) “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today-yes, tonight-before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”

Luke:

  1. (4:24) “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
  2. (9:27) I tell you the truth, some of you who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.
  3. (12:37) It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.
  4. (12:43-44) It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
  5. (18:17) I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.
  6. (18:29) “I tell you the truth, Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
  7. (21:3) “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.
  8. (21:32-33) I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
  9. (23:43) Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

John:

  1. (1:51) I tell you the truth, hereafter you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
  2. (3:3) I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless one is born again.
  3. (3:5) I tell you the truth, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
  4. (3:11) I tell you the truth, we speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.
  5. (5:19) I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.
  6. (5:24) I tell you the truth, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
  7. (5:25) I tell you the truth, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.
  8. (6:26) I tell you the truth, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.
  9. (6:32) I tell you the truth, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
  10. (6:47-48) I tell you the truth, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.  I am the bread of heaven.
  11. (6:53-54) I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
  12. (8:34) I tell you the truth, whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.
  13. (8:45-47) But because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me.  Which of you convicts Me of sin?  And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?  He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore, you do not hear, because you are not of God.
  14. (8:51) I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps My Word, he shall never see death.
  15. (8:58) I tell you the truth, before Abraham was, I AM.
  16. (10:1-2) I tell you the truth, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
  17. (10:7) I tell you the truth, I am the door of the sheep.
  18. (12:24) I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
  19. (13:16) I tell you the truth, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.
  20. (13:20) I tell you the truth, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.
  21. (13:21) I tell you the truth, one of you will betray Me.
  22. (13:38) Will you lay down your life for My sake?  I tell you the truth, the rooster will shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.
  23. (14:12) I tell you the truth, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
  24. (16:7) Nevertheless I tell you the truth.  It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
  25. (16:20) I tell you the truth, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.
  26. (16:23) … I tell you the truth, what you ask of the Father in My name He will give you.
  27.  (21:18) I tell you the truth, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.

Hebrews-Old & New Testament Covenants

The book of Hebrews in the Bible is rich in theology. Theology may sound like a big, intimating word that is just for scholars but it is really just an explanation of the foundation and meaning of our faith.

Hebrews 1:1-2

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son (Jesus), whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom al He made the worlds….

Augustine said, “The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.” In early history, God revealed Himself to man through the law, rituals and the sacrifice of animals. In the New, God completed his revelation through grace by laying down his life as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Hebrews brings together the Old and New Testaments in a way that makes sense. The Old Testament has rich mean and foreshadows the coming of Jesus the Messiah.

I love reading and studying Hebrews. Hebrews is the story of faith, the faith of our spiritual forefathers, many who struggled unimaginably hard circumstances and some even died for their faith, but in the end were overcomers, listed as men and women of faith.

Hebrews presents to us Jesus, the Son of God, who is our High Priest interceding to the Father on our behalf. It challenges us to faith, believing in what we can’t see but knowing it is true. It exhorts us to be faithful, obedient and to treat one another with brotherly love. It promises that if we endure, we will win the race and have eternal life with Jesus forever and ever and ever.

Below is a chart I created to help show how the New Testament reveals the fulfilment of the Old.

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