For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
Romans 8: 19 ESV
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting.
Romans 8: 19-25 The Message
This statement by the apostle Paul is both striking and encouraging. And it fits the time we are living in.
Over the summer I have been studying the epistle of 1 Peter. Peter describes Christians as sojourners and provides instruction for how we are to live. This fall our Pastor will be teaching from Romans and my precept Bible study is on the book of Romans. I am excited to be spending time learning from Paul the essentials of faith in a culture that is hostile.
We need grounding from the Word of God and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Then we can shine the light of truth, pointing to Jesus.
If you look up fear in a Bible concordance you will find hundreds of entries. Mentions of fear can be divided into two categories: things we should not fear and the instruction to fear God.
Recently the zika virus has been in the news. Photos of babies born with microcephaly are being shown on TV and social media. Pregnant women are being urged to avoid mosquito bites.
It is helpful to get a little perspective on microcephaly. Many people are unaware but the cytomegalovirus has been linked to microcephaly for decades. Because of my nursing knowledge I looked for recent articles about cytomegalovirus. This article was published in February of this year. You can read the complete article here.
In the US, about 1% of the 4 million babies born every year are infected with CMV, per the Congenital CMV Disease Research Clinic and Registry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. While most of them—about 90%—won’t show any symptoms, the rest may have at least one of a variety of abnormalities, including hearing loss and microcephaly. That’s around 4,000 affected babies.
For perspective, only 17 of the roughly 400 microcephaly cases confirmed by Brazilian health officials so far have conclusively tested positive for Zika infection, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.
So what about all the media attention on zika and mosquitoes?
It makes sense to use mosquito repellent and to get rid of standing water around our homes. But we don’t need to live in fear. We still do not have a complete understanding of the zika virus and its role in birth defects. An article in the Tech Times suggests that the outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil could have been caused by the use of a neurotoxic pesticide that got into the water supply. Read the article here.
Suggestions are being made in the media that microcephaly is a reason to support late term abortion.
We live at a time when we value individual autonomy and complete control over the events in our life. The truth is that we don’t have absolute control. The Bible gives guidance for sanitary and dietary measures that support health. At the same time it teaches us that we don’t have absolute control.
We should be informed and wise in the actions we choose. For the Christian, security is found in God. We fear and trust God. If we are touched by disease or crisis, God will help us.
Here are the words of Isaiah:
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
The traffic on the expressway was light and I was enjoying the book on tape. Suddenly a road sign for a town that was past my destination appeared. I had missed my exit. I had to keep driving until another exit came up. Then I pulled over to a small shopping center to figure out where I was.
My husband has reminded me many times that my i-phone has a map application. So I pulled out my phone and typed in the address of my destination. I had two choices: turn around and back track on the expressway or reduce the mileage by taking county roads. I chose the county roads.
The scenery was nicer than the expressway. The road wound through farm country and trees that made an archway across the two-lane road. I became anxious when the weather changed. Dark clouds rolled across the sky and a sudden down pour obscured my vision.
I had to check the map periodically. I am directionally challenged and can easily turn left when I should turn right or vice versa. So I went along with periodic pauses, pulling over when it was safe to verify my route. I breathed a sigh of relief when I began to recognize the street signs. I was so glad to reach my sister’s house safely.
Isn’t this like the believer’s life? Events in life can take us to a confusing place. We don’t know what is true or how to respond. We feel like God is far away. We need to take out God’s word and spend some time in prayer. We need direction from the Lord. The Psalmist expresses this for us.
Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map, So I can find my way to the sacred mountain, To the place of your presence, To enter the place of worship, meet my exuberant God, Sing my thanks with a harp, magnificent God, my God.
Psalm 43: 3-4 The Message
Send out you light and your truth, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, And I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
Each day, as I listen to the news I am deeply saddened. What is happening in our country? The reports of violence and death shake our sense of security. I think about my grandchildren and the world they are growing up in.
Social issues and politics have become so divisive. It seems to me that it is hard to get to the truth on polarized topics.
Yesterday I posted a link on Facebook to an article about the HPV vaccine, stating one of the researchers disagreed with widespread use of it in the U.S. The vaccine prevents a sexually transmitted infection, human papillomavirus. Almost immediately a friend posted a link with an opposing opinion. So I did some more internet searches and found an article written by Dr. Harper, the researcher in question. The article, Next Generation Cancer Protection: The Bivalent HPV Vaccine for Females, details the medical research and includes this paragraph:
Prophylactic HPV vaccination will have little cancer-reducing effect in the general screened population, but may prevent cervical cancer among those with no screening opportunities. Prophylactic vaccination may help decrease the numbers of women who develop abnormal cytology screens among those who are screened. Modeling indicates that HPV vaccination will prevent potentially 17% of the abnormal Pap tests based on current knowledge of HPV type distribution (Figure 3)  and only a very few cancers that Pap testing would not have detected [74, 75], not enough to lower the population incidence of cervical cancer lower than what screening already accomplishes .
I believe that knowing the truth about vaccines (benefit and the risk), and making informed decisions is important. In so many areas of life we need to pursue truth.
While Jesus was on earth he talked about truth many times. His counsel and prayer with the disciples in John 17 speaks to my heart and gives me courage.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17: 15-21
Jesus prayed in the days leading up to his sacrifice for us. We have the opportunity to lift our prayers to the Lord. Thomas R. Kelly highlights the importance of prayer throughout each day.
Use what little obedience you are capable of, even if it be like a grain of mustard seed. Begin where you are. Live this present moment, this present hour as you now sit in your seats, in utter, utter submission and openness toward God. Listen outwardly to these words, but within, behind the scenes, in the deeper levels of your lives where you are all alone with God the Loving Eternal One, keep up a silent prayer, “Open Thou my life. Guide my thoughts where I dare not let them go. But Thou darest. Thy will be done.” Walk on the streets and chat with your friends. But every moment behind the scenes be in prayer, offering yourselves in continuous obedience.*
* Thomas R. Kelly “Holy Obedience” (lecture, 1939)
It was good to hear President Obama quote from Ezekiel 11:19 during the memorial service for the slain Dallas police officers. He was expressing the hope that the people of this country can come together and put aside past hurts and prejudice to resolve our problems. I share this hope. It is helpful to look at the larger context for this verse.
The prophet Ezekiel is speaking to Israel.
Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And when they come there, they will remove from it all the detestable things and all its abominations. Ezekiel 11:17-18
God is our redeemer and healer. We need to turn to God for help. We cannot solve the problems of this age on our own.
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds on their own heads, declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 11: 19-21
Repentance. We need repentance. We need to see where we have strayed from God’s precepts and direction for living. We are self-centered by nature, yet God asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is easy to carry a grudge, but Jesus instructs us to forgive as we have been forgiven. Life is a precious gift given by God—do we honor all life in word and deed? It has to begin within the Church. It has to begin with me.
Search me and try me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:16
Show me my prejudice and my lack of love. Forgive my sins, and tenderize my heart towards the hurting. Be at work in my life so that I can be an agent of healing.
I followed my granddaughter along a rocky path, as waves pounded the shore of Lake Superior. A light wind brushed against my face. The leaves on the birch trees rustled gently.
There they were, bluebells, growing in a crack between the rocks. God created the majesty of Lake Superior and the delicate beauty of the blue flowers—setting them side by side.
I was so blessed to spend time at a favorite park with the grandchildren—exploring the rugged coast of this great lake. It was time to pause and take in God’s creative power. It was a break from the news of sad and violent events taking place in our country and throughout the world.
The Psalms come to mind and the beautiful rhythm of faith displayed in the words of the Psalms. We read heart wrenching prayers and confessions. We are instructed to spend time in the Word. Still, the Psalmist takes time to pause and observe God’s power and sovereignty. He sees God’s majesty in nature giving him the glory.
The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; The Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; You are from all eternity.
The seas have lifted up, O Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; The seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty.
Your statutes stand firm; Holiness adorns your house For endless days, O Lord.
What is better than singing praise to God with 7,200 women? The only thing I can think of, is praising God with all of the redeemed in heaven. It was so good to be at the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference last week. Women from all 50 states and 38 countries were in attendance.
Each of the speakers focused on a portion of 1 Peter. Over the course of three days they taught all the way through this epistle. Some of the terms that come up in this book are: sojourners, exiles, royal priesthood, God’s people. One of the threads running through the book is suffering and persecution. The other is a living hope!
Peter begins his letter with these encouraging words:
According to God’s great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1: 3-5
God keeps us in his sight! I am memorizing these verses.
Throughout each day Keith and Krysten Getty led us in worship. They introduced songs that are on their newly released CD, Facing a Task Unfinished. One of my favorite songs is, He Will Hold Me Fast. God is faithful and will keep His people in his care.
Jen Wilkin’s message touched a sweet spot. As Christians we are called to give the message of God’s love that offers new life. She compared our Christian role to that of midwife and lactation consultant. Our desire is to nurture growth in new believers.
Peter has instruction for women. And it includes the word submission. We may have trouble with this word, but the truth is that God gives us guidance for relationships. God provides order for healthy relationships. I was a little slow in learning this lesson. My husband and I have a good relationship, but it could have been better sooner. We disagree and argue from time to time but we communicate better when I show him respect.
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 1 Peter 3: 5-6
At the conference I heard that last phrase and paused. Do not fear anything that is frightening. God invites us to trust him completely. I do not have to fear the outcome of the current election—but I will participate in the process as a citizen of this country.
The first epistle of Peter applies to the current time. I encourage you to read through 1 Peter. You can also listen to the messages given at the conference. The sessions are available on-line. Click here.
Eberhard Arnold (1883 – 1935) wrote Innerland: A Guide into the Heart of the Gospel. In the following quote he was commenting on life in Germany in the years leading up to WWII. It speaks to the current time also.
The great agitation in the world of today makes it more and more urgent to gain inner strength in those quiet encounters with Christ that make it possible for us to remain under his rule and authority. Situated as we are in the midst of a world that is so terribly unpeaceful, we need constant nourishment for our inner life. In short, if we want to avoid suffering inward shipwreck in the storm of public opinion and chaos, then our hidden inner being needs daily the quiet haven of communion with God.
We need the quiet haven of communion with God today! We also need to know His Word. The Bible is God’s way of speaking to us.
The Apostle Peter gives us sound instruction in his epistle.
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they may accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2: 11-12
But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3: 15
We are blessed when we spend time in God’s Word. We gain a little bit more of His perspective. We are reminded of the faithful people of God that have gone before us. The first epistle of Peter is a good book to meditate on. I am finding Dee Brestin’s study guide helpful. The title is A Woman’s Journey Through 1 Peter.
Lily of the valley is blooming in my backyard. I saw the delicate bell shaped flowers when I returned from a visit with my mother. She was placed in a nursing home last week.
The transition to the nursing home is a huge change. New environment. New people. Changing shifts for caregivers. Physical therapy. Occupational therapy. It is not surprising that she is exhausted.
On Sunday morning I wheeled her to the hymn sing taking place in the activity room. We joined a circle of wheel chairs. Favorite hymns were played on the sound system and the words to the lyrics appeared on a large screen. At first Mom was nodding off.
I took her hand and clasped it in mine. Her hand was cool and soft. Gradually she returned the clasp. She looked up and began to softly song the words to hymns that she remembered. One of the hymns was “The Lily of the Valley” by Charles W. Fry (1881).
I have found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me, He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul; The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole. In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay; He tells me every care on Him to roll.
He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star, He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.
I have a vase filled with stems of lily of the valley on my kitchen table. This song continues to play in my heart as I pray for Mom.
These verses in Revelation give hope and comfort. Jesus is the Bright and Morning Star.
Behold, I am coming soon . . . I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the root and offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star. Revelation 22: 12a, 16
For more than 20 years I have participated in Precept Bible studies. I started with the women of Faith Community Church, and have continued for many years with women at Village Church of Barrington. We meet every Tuesday morning, September through May. We have become friends through our time together, reading the Bible and discussing it, sharing prayer requests.
Currently we are studying the three covenants that God made: with Abraham, with Moses (Israel), and the New Covenant. Today our topic was the covenant with Moses (Israel) or the law. After God rescued the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, he made a covenant with them and gave them the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 19 & 20)
No one is able to keep the law. We all fall short. The purpose of the Law was to show them (and us) our sin and need for a Savior.
For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20
After the Ten Commandments were given on tablets of stone, Moses was given very specific instructions for a tabernacle. (Exodus, chapters 25 – 31) The tabernacle was a sanctuary for God. It was also designed to point to Jesus.
For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1: 17
When my husband and I toured Israel we visited a model of the tabernacle, built to the specifications in the Bible. Here we are in the outer court.
Just inside the gate (entering the outer court of the tabernacle) is an altar. The altar is for sacrifice and symbolizes the sacrifice that Jesus became for us as he offered himself on the cross in payment for our sins.
Beyond the altar is a bonze basin for washing. The basin symbolizes the cleansing we receive by the Word of God.
Inside the tent the first room, called the Holy Place, contains a table with bread (Jesus, the bread of Life), a lampstand (Jesus is the light of the world) and an altar of incense (Jesus continually intercedes in prayer for believers).
A thick veil stands before the inner room that holds the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. The Ark contains symbols of God’s faithfulness: Aaron’s rod that budded, manna and the tablets of stone. The mercy seat is the throne of God.
Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Hebrews 9: 3-5
The veil enclosing this room was torn when Jesus was crucified giving us access to God. We can approach God with our prayers.
God has reached out to us and has told his plan of salvation through his word. He has given us symbols that illustrate his plan. The Old Testament of the Bible points to the New Testament. The longer I study the Bible, the more I see God’s love.
After our discussion we have coffee and treats. Today I made an apricot bread to share. It was enjoyed–here is the recipe:
1 + ¼ C. dried apricots
½ cup reserved water (from simmering apricots)
½ cup honey
¼ cup coconut oil (melted)
2 large eggs
½ tsp. baking soda
2 + ¾ C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup coconut (I prefer unsweetened)
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9” x 5” x 3” loaf pan.
Place the apricots in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Let them stand in the hot water for an additional 20 minutes and then drain off the water, reserving ½ cup. Chop the apricots.
Add the reserved water, melted coconut oil, honey and eggs to a large bowl. Mix well with a whisk. Then add the apricots and baking soda. Mix. Add flour, baking powder, salt and coconut. Mix well. The batter will be thick (biscuit dough consistency). If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time.
Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes. The bread should be golden brown and when a knife or toothpick is inserted, it should come out clean. Cool on a rack; then turn out of the pan and slice.