Divided Loyalties

5If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. [James 1:5-8, NLT]

I had turned to the book of James looking for a scripture about “faith and works”. I thought it would be the foundation for my new post. But, I didn’t get there. Instead, my eyes were caught by the above passage which I had highlighted in my Bible several years ago. As I read it, I gained an entirely new insight. One I would like to share with you.

James 1:5 begins, “If you need wisdom…”. Are you kidding me? “If” I need wisdom? Oh, how I’d like to think every decision I’ve ever made (or will make) was wise! And that means no matter how large or small the subject was, or will be! But, we all know better. However, I think that’s what triggered my new thoughts about this scripture.

James goes on to tell us that if we need wisdom, to ask for it and God will give it to us. Sounds great, but there is a, “…But”. “But, when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.” (Emphasis mine). Does anyone one else see a problem here?

We have all experienced times when we have prayed; and (at least to date) have not gotten a response—or at least one we recognize. So, let’s go back to that, “But… be sure your faith is in God alone” passage. It continues (paraphrasing now), …a person with divided loyalty… should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

And this is where the light came “on”! I’m my own worst enemy. Or, I (with Satan whispering into my ear) am my own worst enemy. Here is what I mean…

I’m going about my day and doing just fine. Everything is going my way. Then I notice a minor problem out there on my horizon. It’s O.K., I see it and there are several ways this can play-out. “All I really need do is ‘such and such’ and I can easily head it off.” So, with that done, I’m again doing just fine, “thank you”. It was just one of those routine issues that catch-up to you from time-to-time. You know, just “…part of life.”

A week later and with no warning, that “minor problem” is back BIGGER than I ever thought possible. But, this time I get smart. I ask God to help me implement my new and improved ‘such and such’ plan. I also tell God that I’m trusting in Him to ensure that it works this time. Now, with God’s help I can’t fail! Or, can I?

Yes, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I have an ego issue. And in a situation like this my loyalties are definitely divided. My first loyalty is to ME. I want MY plan implemented. And, my saying I’m trusting in God is just a sham. Three messages being delivered—loud and clear!

Well, James certainly points out the problem; and Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verse 6, gives us the answer:

6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.”[NLT, emphasis mine]

That said, I will always make some of my own plans. After all, I do pray for wisdom; and, I think God gives me a “certain amount” of wisdom. But neither do I want to leave God out of my plans. So my solution is to make time to talk to Jesus multiple times per day. I talk about everything going on in my life, good and bad. I include any plans I have made. I hide nothing. (Do I have to ask if you think you can hide anything from God)? I ask Him to correct my errors in judgment and show me how to proceed. I thank Him for His presence and all He has accomplished in my life. And finally, I stay ever vigilant for any warning signs of misplaced ego and other sins.  No it doesn’t always go exactly like this; but I keep working on it.

Heavenly Father, It’s obvious to me that you are always at my side. However, this thing about my free-will trumping your intervention in the consequences of my actions is, …inconvenient. I know I need the resultant lessons. Yet there are times I wish you would just dump all the wisdom I’ll need for this life into my hard- head, all at once. But, that would probably kill me. Besides, I do know you have already given me access to all the wisdom I’ll ever need, through your Word and prayer.

Lord, teach me to be thankful for the lessons; and, quick to avail myself of the resources you have freely provided. I love you,

Avery Goodday

To my readers:

Thank you, for your time. My next blog will be the one I had in mind when my “focus got shifted”. It’s title: No Other Way

Fear of God/Jesus?

Let’s start this post with two short definitions of the word, “fear”. We will be dealing with both:

    1. …to be afraid of something or someone.

    2. …profound, overwhelming awe and reverence.

Over the years I have had many opportunities to talk with non-believers about Christianity. Some have been “Seekers”. They know their life is off-track. But they don’t know what to do about it. These people are usually anxious to talk about religion, even though they often come out of those conversations more confused than they were going in. These people we can help.

The “Confused or Disillusioned”. Frequently the next stage after seeking, for those who don’t find true Christian help. They may think it’s too late for them because they believe they have done things God would never forgive. Or, they have such low self esteem they think God just doesn’t want them.

Others have tried living the Christian lifestyle (on their own) and failed miserably. Many of these are, or were followers of Christian denominations. Others are those who seriously do not understand God’s plan; but think they do. They may have grown-up in a home with Christian parents—faithfully attended Church, were baptized, and are now living a good and successful life, even helping others here and there. And then there are those who say, “…of course I believe in God. God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. So, all religions, if followed faithfully, will lead to heaven.” And, some have seen people who claim to be Christians, quite obviously not following a Christian lifestyle. They may or may not be Christian. That is between them and God. I will point out that when you become a Christian, you do not automatically become perfect. The Christian walk is a process that you will work on for the remainder of your life on earth. So do not let someone else disillusion you.

We also have those who have heard the Holy Spirit’s murmuring but have taken no action—for one reason or another. Probably the most common reason is they are quite comfortable in their current lifestyle and do not know what to expect, “…if God gets a hold of them”. After all, they don’t want to end-up somewhere in Africa, or South America. They are afraid of the unknown.

And then there are those who have also heard the Spirit’s murmuring; and just flat-out said, “No”. They are Atheists or Agnostics.

If this describes you, OK. It is your choice to make; you have free will. But I encourage you, if you still hear those murmurings, open your mind enough to reconsider your position. e.g., Who, or what, triggered the Great Expansion resulting in the Big Bang? How did life come into existence? Why are more and more scientists accepting that there had to be a grand design/designer. You are in a particularly dangerous position. If you continue to deny God, the murmurings will cease, …and it will be too late. (Jn 12:39-41). God is Love. But, God is also, …Just. You can’t ‘flip God off’ forever. Please think about it.

You should NOT be “afraid” of God! Instead let the following seven characteristics of God show you why.

  1. God is the designer and creator of the universe. God is a spirit. He does not have a body. He is omnificent—meaning unlimited in creative power. He is omnipresent—He can be any place at any time; He is omnipotent—almighty with unlimited authority. He is omniscient—all knowing. (Gs 1:1-31; 2:7; 18-24). Please pause and consider each of those characteristics.

  2. God loves His creation, especially mankind, who He created in His image. (This does not mean that we are spirits, or omni-anything!) However, God did give us free-will. We can reason; we can communicate with one another—and, with God. (Jn 17:3). It didn’t take much time for Adam and Eve to “get the hang” of using their free-will. They committed the original sin by disobeying the only rule God had given them, and mankind has sinned ever since. But what is sin? Who has sinned? And what’s so bad about sin? These verses will answer those questions. (Jas 4:17; 1Jn 3:4) (Rom 3:23; 5:17) (Rom 6:23; Is 59:2).

  3. God created you—and, He wants to have a personal relationship with you. In order to have that relationship, God sent His son Jesus, to the earth to be the only possible sacrifice for forgiveness of our sins, restoration in God’s family, and eternal life with Him in Heaven. (Jn 3:16-21; 14:6).

  4. But, we must personally respond to The Spirit’s call by believing in and trusting in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. God will not force anyone to become a Christian. It is your choice. (Rom 10:9-10; Jn1:12).

Now that is a lot to take in—but, there is more.

  1. In number “1.” above, I said that God is a Spirit. And while that is true, God also has all the attributes of a person: He thinks, He speaks, He communicates, He loves, He becomes angry, He grieves, He is compassionate, and He experienced sorrow. He feels what we feel! (Mt 1:20-23).

  2. So, no matter what you have faced or will face, He understands! He even understands our temptations. And, He stands ready to forgive us once, and for all time! (Acts 2;21; Heb 5:9).

You say you can’t get your mind around all that? Yeah, well neither can I! What you are likely experiencing is FEAR! Profound awe and overwhelming reverence.

Summary:

Yes, a lot of people are afraid of God/Jesus. I was one—quite a few years ago. I always pictured God/Jesus standing up there in heaven; long white hair, long white beard, stern look on His face, looking down on me, and just waiting for me to make a mistake. I knew my “sin-list” had to be long. Maybe even, record setting. But, you know, when you actually develop that relationship with the entire God-head—meaning, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit (who lives inside you after you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior)—God is anything but scary. (Jn 14:16-20. It is empowering and, …liberating.

After reading Jn 14:6, some will say that Christianity is arrogant and intolerant. Consider this. Christ is God’s appointed means of salvation. Only Christ died for our sins. Only Christ rose from the dead. We are saved only by God’s grace—in no way do we deserve it. Yet God offers His free gifts of salvation, restoration, and eternal life to anyone and everyone on planet earth who chooses to believe in Christ, turns to Him and asks Him for salvation and a new life. Arrogant? Intolerant? …Really?

Finally:

Look at those seven characteristics again. That’s exactly who I want on my side. You do begin a new life. And, yes, you are going to change in ways beyond what you could ever have dreamed. And, yes again, God has plans for you. Trust Him. He always wants what is best for you, and knows you better than you know yourself. And remember—no religion can save you.  Only Jesus can do that.  It’s truly just about you and your relationship with God.

Abba God,

Every time I think my awe and reverence for you can’t be stretched any further, you show me something in nature, or about myself, or a miraculous happening that often leaves me in tears.

Father, search me and you will see that I truly want as many of your creation as possible to come to a saving knowledge of you—and accept your free offer of eternal life. Yet, I have also read in Your Word about the world events that will usher in the end times—and, I believe I am now seeing them. And, while I look forward to our meeting in the sky, my heart is troubled for those who will not join us there.

So I ask Lord, that you use me to help all those who come under my sphere of influence.

In the name of Jesus, your son, my savior, I pray. Amen.

Avery Goodday

Jude

Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.” [Jude 1:3. NLT]1

Who is Jude? Well, Jude is the author of one of the shortest books (actually, it’s a letter) in the New Testament. Therefore, it is quite possible you’ve never noticed Jude’s letter, because it normally takes-up only a bit over one page—sandwiched between 3rd John and Revelation.

Jude, the brother of Jesus and James, wrote this letter to Jewish Christians in approximately 65 A.D. I believe God also meant it especially for all Christians living in the United States, …today.

If you want to know what is wrong in America, don’t bother with the network news, the morning paper, the internet, or any other over-the-air or print media. Read the 25-verses of Jude.

After his greeting, Jude immediately began to discuss apostasy—when people turn away from God’s truth and embrace false teachings. Hmm, sound familiar? Not a man to mince his words, Jude reminds us that while our God loves us beyond measure, our God is also a just God. He does not look the other way when people sin. He cannot allow sin to enter into heaven. There will be heavy consequences for those who defy God’s authority and scoff at things they do not understand (or don’t want to understand). False teachers who lead people into sin, will stand particularly harsh judgment.

Next, Jude issues a call to all Christians to remain faithful. To support one another with prayer and encouragement. And, to show mercy to non-believers, while being careful not to become influenced by them.

Above all, we must stand our ground. We owe it to every Christian who has preceded us. And, especially to all those who have given their lives for their Christian belief. We must not fail in our duty to God.

When are we going to say, “We will not support your false teachings! We will not abide by any legislation that requires us to ignore God’s word. It is not about what you try to pedal as ‘fair’ or even a ‘right’. It is about legislating sinful behavior. Our government is not the source of truth. Nor is the ACLU or the GLBT crowd; or any other group, or individual, that tells us to ignore God’s word!”

We need to say, “I do not have to, nor will I, ignore God’s word. Christians have constitutional rights as well.” Then we will see if the Supreme court will grow a back-bone—and defend our rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

When Christ ascended into heaven, He left His church (of approximately 250 or so, believers) in the hands of twelve men. They stood their ground, …against the Pharisees (and, their established church), many false religions, and even against Rome. Of the twelve disciples, all were martyred but one—John; who was beaten many times and spent many years in almost complete isolation on the small, barren and rocky island of Patmos. Yet, look at all that has been accomplished! Yes, there are now a great many Christians. But strong forces are being arrayed against us. We have inherited a great responsibility. The Great Commission2 is now in our hands—and God is watching.

Father, Abba,

I know that no man (or woman) is going to heal this nation. Only you can do that. And, for the life of me, I’m not sure why you would want to—given that so many are working so hard to “throw you out”. But, I also know you work in mysterious ways; so I will vote for the people I deem most likely to do the least damage; and, hopefully, you will be able to do something positive through those who are willing to place themselves under your will.

Lord, I know that you have ultimate control of all events on this planet. My world view, on the macro scale, is very positive—because I have read and believe your word—including Revelation. So bring it on, Lord. I know that no matter how hard things get, you will always be at my side, and ultimately I will be in your presence, …forever. I am looking forward to that!

I love you Lord. Please continue to show me your ways, guide me in your truth, and teach me. I will give you all the praise and glory.

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

  Avery Goodday

_____

1    NLT: Scripture quotations marked [NLT] are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007.   Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinoise 60188. All rights reserved.

2    The Great Commission:  18 Jesus  came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach each of  theses  new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with your always, even to the end of the age.”   [Matthew 28:18-20, NLT.]  This occurred after Jesus’ resurrection. And, over time it  has become known as: The Great Commission.

It’s Our Choice…

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” 1 [Deuteronomy 30:16. NLT] 2

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. [Romans 12:2. NLT]

7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and He will come near to you…. [Romans 4:7-8. NIV] 3

Had God not given us free will, we would be living in a very different world. We would be living on a planet designed for us. A planet God called, “…very good!”. (Genesis 1:31). In fact, it was a perfect place for man. But, for man to be perfect, he has to be imperfect! Yes, you read that correctly.

Suppose you never miss-spoke; or made any other mistake—at all, …ever. Suppose you didn’t even have to think about, or research, anything. You would just automatically do the perfect thing—every single thing, every single time. You would be the perfect, …robot. Not a god; but, neither would you need to seek the One True God. And, let’s be honest, wouldn’t your existence as a robot be incredibly boring? I thank God that He did not intend to populate the earth with robots. Instead, He gave us free-will. And, “Yes.” It is both a great gift, and something of a curse.

Without free-will Adam and Eve would not have committed their “original” sin. Obviously, I don’t know how living on earth would actually be, had they not eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Nor does it make any difference. They did, and that’s that.

We now find ourselves living on a broken planet, in a broken culture. But, as Christians we do not have to live broken and defeated lives! God made a wonderful way for us. A way that conquers all sin, for all time. That way is to get next to Jesus, and stay there. The longer you do, the more control you gain over sin. Over time, it will become the exception rather than the norm in your daily life.

How does this actually happen? Well, there are two things at work. While God gives us control of our lives, He actually wants us to turn that control over to Him. At first, we are either reluctant or don’t understand the process. We maintain control until we crash and burn. (Note: God does not cause it to happen; He will however, allow it to happen). Why, because He now has you in a “teachable moment”. God knows our strengths and weaknesses—as does Satan. God wants to help you, Satan wants to exploit you. This is where you must use your free-will to turn it over to God! Actually, the best time to do that is before “take-off”. So, again, “…get next to Jesus, and stay there”.

I said there were two things at work. The first is, God will use your stumbles as opportunities to grow your faith—but, only if you let Him. The second thing is that the closer you are to Jesus, the further Satan will be from you. And that, is a fact! So, what choices are you making?  Choose God!  Choose new life, eternal.

Thank you, Jesus, for providing the way for us to conquer sin. Thank you for growing my faith over so many years, …and yet, I still have my share of hiccups, stumbles, and the occasional “crash and burn”. Thank you for your patience. And, Jesus, please keep me within arms-length, for I would be totally lost without you. And, we both know how close I came to that!

Jesus, I pray for everyone who reads this post; that they will “grab onto you for dear life”, because that is exactly what we get from you, …for eternity.

Jesus, direct us into a life of honoring and serving you. Let your light shine through us, so that the unsaved will want what we already have.

In your name I pray. Amen

Avery Goodday

1Moses is reminding the people he led out of Egypt of God’s will for them. This was shortly before they crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land.

2 NLT: Scripture quotations marked [NLT] are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

3 NIV: Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervon publishing House. All rights reserved.

Where Is Your Focus?

This post was originally posted in November, 2012 Yet, I keep coming back to it. The first revision was in November, 2015. That one was a major edit. This time I have returned to the original; cutting some information, and adding new information. I do not like bringing politics into a post. But, it is a big part of our culture—and, God has quite a bit to say about culture, so here we go….

Political Conventions and a Presidential Election lay ahead of us, and already there is so much dirt and misleading information in the media, I hate to turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or read any print articles. Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I surprised? No. I did hope that we could talk about issues and solutions without resorting to personal slander, half-truths (the same as whole lies), and other dirty political practices. I was wrong; and again, it looks like we are a nation deeply divided.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if we had a truly viable third party. A party of men and women who care more about their country than they do a political party and their next election. I have observed time and again, that there are not enough of these patriots in either party to be able to govern. Would there be enough patriots in the voters pool to elect these rare politicos? I’m not sure. I hate to say it but, there are far too many voters that vote only, “Who is going to give the best handouts”. It’s a sad reality. Yet, there are politicians waiting in line, who are willing to promise these parasites “what ever it will take” to get their votes. And then, they will borrow the money (perhaps, from our good friends the Chinese) in order to keep their voters—whom they cry for—enslaved.

Anyway, suppose we were to find these patriots who are not reflections of our culture; and we get them elected? How much can they compromise in order to govern? Think about it. What principles, or values, would you not compromise on? Where would you absolutely draw the line? Know what? I’ll guarantee you, a lot of the people you know will differ with you. Some may be far to the right, or to the left! Others, up or down. In fact, more and more people will tell you that there is never a hard and fast line (or rule) about, …anything”!

It’s called Relativism. Relativism posits that there is no absolute truth; no black or white. What there is, are shades of gray. NO absolute law is even possible. It depends on multiple factors. A quick example: As you read this, how fast are you moving. If you say you are not moving, you are sitting still; I could say, “…you lied”. You are on the surface of the earth and it is rotating at a speed of approx. 1,037.56 mph—at the equator. But, if you are not at the equator, your speed around the earth’s axis would be faster. Then we must consider that the earth revolves around the sun. which is moving through space within the Milky Way Galaxy. So, you may be sitting at your PC; but, you are also, most certainly moving. It’s all relative. Now, try to apply this to our legal system. You will quickly see why the courts are so screwed-up. There is no hard definition of right or wrong. It’s all relative.

The reality of the situation in the United States, and a significant part of the rest of the world, is that this is where we are headed; and, we are picking up speed. I am living my 73rd year. (I’ll start my 74th before the next president is inaugurated). Oh, Yes! I’ve seen change. Some of it good. Much of it, in my opinion, …bad. Am I surprised? Not at all. The Bible is very clear that this will happen. Evil is being taught as good. Good is being taught as evil.

And that is why in our society, kids, beginning in Grade School and continuing through High School have to make decisions about drugs and sex. It is also why so many of these kids make the wrong decision! It is why the divorce rate is so high. Why so many husbands are cheating on wives; and, vice-versa. Rising rates of spouse abuse; legal abortion, including in the third trimester; and “partial birth” abortions. Even the selling of body parts from aborted babies!!! (Over 56-million babies have been killed since 1973, when the Supreme Court decision on Roe vs Wade, made abortion legal in the US). Why do we have so many home invasions? So much fraudulent this, and fraudulent that? Embezzlement? Child abuse? I could go on, …and, on.

Now, consider this? Our form of government is a Representational Democracy. Our government is (and should be) a reflection of our society. It should, therefore come as no surprise that in a society that is selfish, prideful, greedy, dishonest, and with no moral “North Star”, …we see the same characteristics in our politicians! OK, there are exceptions—and that’s the problem—they are the exceptions!

Is there a solution? That we have control over? I doubt it. The United States has turned away from the only source of absolute truthGod. The only one qualified to tell us what is right and wrong is the Creator of the Universe. He set it in motion, He knows exactly how it works. He created life, He knows how it should operate. It should come as no surprise therefore, He would also give us a guide book for living on earth. Our society, in turn, chooses to mock and make fun of Him; and, His guide book, …The Holy Bible. If that doesn’t change very quickly I think the United States will continue it’s decline until….

Nowhere in apocalyptic scripture can I find any reference or prophecy that I can interpret as applying to the United States of America. This tells me that our country will become a non-player on the World Stage, before the End Times. Don’t look now; but we already have a strong start down that path. What will happen to the USA? I can’t say. I don’t know. But I can think of a few scenarios.

1. The moral and spiritual condition of America continues to decline—until it implodes. This could lead to a complete breakdown of society, including riots, collapse of economic systems, energy systems, etc. The USA would not be the first Super Power to experience such a collapse. The Babylonian Empire, The Persian Empire, Greece and then Rome—all, the super-powers of their time. “Ancient history”, you say? And, I respond, “So what”!

2. Terrorists make a dirty bomb and set if off in a major city such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston or Atlanta. Remember, it doesn’t have to obliterate the city. It only needs to kill a significant percent of the population from radiation poisoning, and make the city, and a large area down-wind unlivable as well. This could easily lead to panic and the collapse of our debt-weakened economy.

3. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. A flash of light 300 miles above Wichita, KS—near the geographic center of the USA—electronic systems all over the USA, and parts of Canada and Mexico, stop working. Computers, are dead. (And what government, major corporation, financial institution, hospital, small business, etc. doesn’t rely on computers). Anything, having an electronic control system (the entire electrical grid, for instance) will be down. Goodbye tele-communications and cellular systems. Vehicles; ships, trains, planes, buses, trucks, and automobiles-all inoperable. The distribution of food, and other materials stopped! (Look around, what items can you identify that did not spend time in a box-car or truck). Emergency systems, police, fire and medical–heavily dependent on electronic equipment, or electronically controlled equipment, are severely handicapped. Even home furnaces and all forms of refrigeration systems and generators will be inoperable. In seconds the US is thrown back in time by 250 to 300 years. There would be “relatively few” immediate deaths. But, multiple-millions will die over time. Mostly from starvation, disease, and exposure. (Oh, the missile was launched from a cargo ship 30 miles off shore. It’s flight time too short for effective defense.)

God is a just God. He will not put up with our sinful behavior forever. We want to drive Him out of our society… He will withdraw. Personally, I believe that process is also well underway. Does this scare me? Yes, and no. I do not fear for myself and my loved ones who are followers of Christ. Obviously, I think about this from time to time. But, I also know Jesus is, and always will be, with us. He will never abandon us. I trust Him to bring us through whatever happens. For others? YES! For them I am greatly afraid. And they should be, too.

What can Christians do?

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountain-side by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” [Matthew 14:22-33. NIV]1

First, we need to heed Jesus’ words and stop focusing on the “wind and waves.” We need to focus instead, on the only One who can really save us. Then, we need to get about doing His business here on earth. We need to model Christian behavior, and lead as many non-believers as possible, to their own personal, saving relationship with Christ Jesus.

The best outcome I can see is either He calls us home; or, the Rapture occurs before God decides He has had enough of this nation’s rebellious behavior. Regardless, only He will be able to bring us through what lies ahead. And, for those He loves, He will.

Abba Father,

In these times Father, it seems like it becomes easier and easier to loose sight of You among the distractions of everyday life. Current events seem to ensnare me. Media blasts me from every side. There seems to be more and more demand on my time. In reality, I know it is Satan—up to his usual tricks. I forget that I can turn off the TV. I can put the computer to sleep. I can even ignore the cell phone calls, or texts, for however long I desire. I can shift my attention from the enticements of this temporary world, to the truly valuable work of God’s eternal Kingdom.

Thank You for reminding me that You Are In Control. That we will get the government that fits Your plan for this nation. If we get what we deserve, …well, I’d rather not go there, again. Perhaps, You will find it in your great Love and Compassion, to give us better than we deserve.

I really don’t know how to pray for this nation as a whole. I know I would like to see a great revival. I place my trust in You, Father. And ask only, that You use me as you desire.

Thank You, Father. Amen.

Avery Goodday

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1 Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervon publishing House. All rights reserved.

Who is God?

Just who is this God we believe in? And how do we go about finding out?

I believe the best source of information on the topic simply has to be the book He has given us. So, we will be digging into the Holy Bible, …but, not too deeply. And, I have a couple of reasons for that. First, you can hardly read a single page without learning something about God; and there are a lot of pages! Second, I think we can learn the basic and most critical information pretty quickly by looking at just a few of God’s names.i The names God reveals in the Bible are meant to show us His true nature.

Elohim is the first name we come across. “In the beginning Elohim created the heaven and earth”. [Genesis 1:1]. The Hebrew root of this word means “strength” or “power”; and, it is in the plural form. I’m sure that “plural form” business was an interesting mystery and topic of conversation for thousands of years. It was not totally explained until the New Testament times when we learned about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Elohim is used more than 2,300 times in the old Testament; and is sometimes merged with other names. For example: Elohim Chaiyim—Living God.

YHWH is the name used by God when He first presented himself to Moses in the burning bush. At some point in time the ancient Jews stopped pronouncing the name out-loud. So we know neither the exact spelling or the exact pronunciation. The best guesstimate (and generally accepted spelling is YAHWEH). It means “I AM”, or “I AM WHO I AM”. It is usually translated as LORD. God also told Moses, “’…This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.’” [Exodus 3:15. NIV]ii YAHWEH name is also, sometimes, combined with other names. An example being: Adonai YAHWEH—Sovereign LORD (over all the hosts (powers)).

El is another name for God in the Bible and is used to define other characteristics of God. Here are some examples: El Shaddai—Almighty or all sufficient. El Olam—the Everlasting God. El HaNe’eman—God is Faithful. Elohay Selichot—God of Forgiveness. Elohay Yishi—God of my Salvation.

That is just nine names from the Old Testament. And, here are four more from the New Testament: Yeshua—Jesus. YHWH told Mary what to name her son. Jesus then claimed himself to be YHWH in John 8:56-59. And, Jesus also referred to himself as “The Son of Man” and, “The Son of God”. Then in the Book of James, written by a brother of Jesus, James refers to God as the “Father of the heavenly lights”. The entire scripture reads: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows”. [James 1:17. NIV]iii

So, what can we learn from these names? Speaking for myself, I have learned this:

There are times when I think that the only constant on this planet is “change”. But then I have to remind myself, …that is false thinking. God’s truth, God’s love, God’s faithfulness, do not change.

In fact, NO characteristic of God will ever change! Think about it. Just from this page of names we know that God is a spirit, not from this universe. Instead, He is the all powerful Creator of this Universe. We know that God is a triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know that God is God, and there is no other like Him. We also know He is all sufficient, meaning that we need no other God. In fact our God is sovereign over ALL other powers. He is alive and will be for eternity. Best of all, He is the God of Forgiveness and Salvation; and every good and perfect gift is from Him. And, He is forever faithful.

These are some of the names of the God I not only believe in; but also trust for my salvation, and provision. By His very nature God cannot suddenly “pack-up and pull-out” leaving me alone. He literally cannot. So why on earth would I ever look for any other!

Heavenly Father,

Again I approach you in fear and awe—You are so much beyond my understanding.

I know, ultimately, I had only two choices. To accept that which I will never fully understand; or, to reject it and continue as I was—which you know was an “ugly mess”, getting worse all the time, and one that would have ended in eternal death.

While I don’t fully understand your thoughts and ways Lord, I will be eternally grateful for the new life of freedom from sin you have given me. And, Lord, when in Heaven I’m perfected, maybe then I will understand. Although, just being in your presence for eternity will be quite enough, I’m sure.

Thank you, Lord. I will forever praise your name(s). Amen

Avery Goodday

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i    The Bible (in its original languages) provides many names for God. That’s because God called himself different names at different times. Most English translations translate YHWH, as “LORD” (Large and small capitals). Adonai is translated “Lord” (Capital and lower case). When the two names occur together, they are translated “Sovereign LORD”. Other names, which have little meaning today are typically rendered to convey the sense of the Hebrew. This is often further explained in footnotes; and is done to decrease misunderstanding, and increase clarity and readability.

ii   NIV. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervon publishing House. All rights reserved.

iii  Ibid.

Ascension!

After he (Jesus Christ) said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” [Acts 1:9-11. NIV]i

Let’s go back a little over a month before this event. Before Jesus could ascend into heaven, He had to first walk out of the tomb; and, before that He had to die on the cross and be placed in the tomb.

If Jesus had not carried our sins to the cross as a sacrifice for all mankind, for all time… and, had He not walked out of his tomb three days later, …there would be no “Good News” message. There would be no forgiveness of our sins. There would be no reconciliation with God. And, there would certainly be no alternative to death, …for anyone. Digest that!

But, …He did! Which brings us (40 days after He arose) to his ascension—which we just read about. How important is that? Extremely! For two reasons. First, had Jesus Christ not gone back to heaven (and His Father) we would not have gotten the Holy Spirit. I think you would agree that our lives would be very different had not the Holy Spirit convicted us of our sins; and then sealed our relationship with God as He (the Spirit) took up residence within us when we first became Christians. If I try to imagine life without the Holy Spirit, …I can’t. It is simply too ugly and far too depressing.

The second reason the ascension is so important is the notice, and vision, we have been given of Christ’s return. Or, what is usually called, “the Second Coming”. It will happen very near the end of the Tribulation. Which means that (hopefully) we will not see it.ii (Although some people think we may actually be part of it.) The point is that Christ’s return will mark the end of the earth as we know it. We will stand the only judgment we will ever stand in heaven; and it will be in front of Jesus. It will not be to decide if we will go to Heaven or Hell. That decision was made when we accepted Christ as our savior. At this judgment, we will be given our eternal rewards—built up over our lives as Christians.

Jesus,

Thank-you for this never ending story. I live in awe of it’s simplicity, and yet, …complexity. And, how it all comes together for me and everyone (anyone) else who simply believes and asks for your love and mercy. You are the one, true, great, mysterious, loving, triune-God. Your eye is on everyone.

Thank-you for choosing me. On my merit, I certainly did not deserve it. In fact, I deserved death. I can earn nothing of eternal value. My faith and my hope is in You. And, while I’m sure I have failed You more times than I ever care to think about; Your love and provision have never failed me. Words fail….

Thank-you, Lord…

i    Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervon publishing House. All rights reserved.

ii   I think that the Rapture—which is not to be confused with the Second Coming—will happen shortly before the beginning of the seven years of Tribulation. Some think the Rapture will occur at the mid-point of the Tribulation; and still others say, “very near its end”. I certainly hope it will be “before,” since the Tribulation is going to be a horrific time for most people on earth; and, especially for those who are (or become) Christians during the Tribulation. And yes, I do believe non-Christians will be able to become a Christian during the Tribulation.