Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings Series Part 4 – Abraham and Isaac

The story of Abraham’s (almost) The crosssacrifice of his son Isaac is one of those awe inspiring faith builders that initially inspired me to write the blog series “Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings.” If you’ve questioned whether or not the Bible is truly the Word of God or wondered about the relevance of the Old Testament to your own life, I hope this story will show some links between the two testaments.

Parallel 1:

  • Abraham and Isaac: God promised Abraham’s family line would be more numerous than the stars in the heavens (Genesis 15:4-5 and 21:12). This promise was fulfilled through Isaac many years later after almost a lifetime of anticipation.
  • Jesus: The long awaited promise of the coming of Isaac can be paralleled with Old Testament prophecies of the anticipated coming of the Messiah.  For example: the prophecies in Isaiah were written more than 500 years before Christ’s birth (Isaiah 43 and many other references).

Parallel 2:

  • Abraham and Isaac: The Bible says Sarah laughed when she realized she was pregnant at the age of 90. Abraham was 100 years old. Abraham and Sarah were too old to have children naturally; therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude the birth of Isaac was miraculous. Amazingly, Abraham and Sarah had several more children after Isaac’s birth!
  • Jesus: Mary, who was a virgin, became pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:34-38).

Parallel 3:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, his only son whom he loved.
    • Isaac was a direct ancestor to Jesus.
    • Abraham also had a son named “Ishmael”, but out of impatience with God, he was born to the servant named Hagar. Therefore, Ishmael was not part of the line of Jesus; however, God blessed Ishmael’s family line because he was also Abraham’s son (Genesis 21:14; 22:2).
  • Jesus: Father God called Jesus His only beloved Son (Matthew 17:5).

Parallel 4:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Isaac was offered as a burnt sacrifice (Genesis 22:2).
  • Jesus: Jesus was offered as the sacrifice to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

Parallel 5:

Parallel 6:

  • Abraham and Isaac: In addition to Isaac, Abraham took two men with him to Moriah (Genesis 22:3).
  • Jesus: Jesus was sacrificed beside two thieves (John 19:18).

Parallel 7:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Isaac carried the wood to be used for the burn offering (Genesis 22:6).
  • Jesus: Jesus carried a wooden cross.

Parallel 8:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Abraham bound Isaac and laid him upon the wood (Genesis 22:9).
  • Jesus: Jesus was nailed to the wooden cross (John 19:17).

Parallel 9:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Isaac knew his father was going to offer him as a sacrifice, but he willingly went to the place of his death (Genesis 22:7-8).
  • Jesus: Jesus could have freed Himself or called down the angels to rescue Him. He was God after all! Instead, He willingly offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins (John 12:23-24).
    • “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

Parallel 10:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Isaac was offered as a sacrifice at the end of a three day journey to the mountain in Moriah. He was essentially dead to Abraham the moment God commanded him to sacrifice his son. But because of God’s promise to make Isaac’s family line more numerous than the stars, Abraham trusted God would raise his son from the dead if he was sacrificed (Hebrews 11:17-19).
    • Instead of allowing Abraham to sacrifice his son, God provided a ram as a sacrificial substitute. The ram redeemed Isaac, essentially bringing him back from death (resurrection from physical death).
    • Although Abraham told Isaac that God would provide the lamb, a ram is given by God as a sacrifice. Did Abraham have it wrong? No. The use of the word “lamb” foretold the story of Christ who would become the “Lamb” according to John 8:56 which states: “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
  • Jesus: Jesus was dead for three days and on the third day He resurrected, eventually returning back to His Father. Jesus was the Lamb who was sacrificed as the substitute for our sins and redeemed us from spiritual death (Matthew 12:40, Matthew 17:23, and Acts 10:40).

The comparison above was first mentioned to me by a good friend of mine who is an amazing teacher of Biblical truths. She taught me how to look for parallels between the Old and New Testament.  As a result, this type of research has greatly strengthened and reinforced my faith and ignited a passion for studying the Word. Thank goodness for wonderful friends who help us grow!

I hope this comparison and the “Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings” series will ignite the same passion for you!

A Respecter of All People

As a Christ follower in the Western World, I amfriends talking regularly reminded Christianity is not the only faith around me. I know people who are Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and some who are nothing at all. I also have friends who are Universalists. In case you are wondering what a Universalist believes, in some religious Universalist circles “religion is a universal human quality, emphasizing the universal principles of most religions and accepting other religions in an inclusive manner, believing in a universal reconciliation between humanity and the divine.” (Wikipedia)

Society frequently demands for me to accept all other faiths and religions as equal to mine. I’m told I’m not loving people if I don’t share the belief of the equality of other faiths, but this is not something I can do. I base this stance on Jesus’s own words: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) In many ways, I feel if I accept all faiths as equal, I’m stating Christ died for some people but not for all. But I believe He died for everyone. For me to deny the importance of His death and resurrection would be a betrayal of confidence in His promise. If I trust Him, I must believe Him.

“If I trust Him, I must believe Him.”

Now, I’m not suggesting at all that my disagreements with the idea of religious equality gives me the free license to bash others or their beliefs. In fact, such behavior is abhorrent because it is not the heart of Christ to behave this way. I base this belief on the teachings of Paul in his writings to the church in Corinth which states: “Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14) and in Galatians 5:22 which states: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” How else do I share the love of Christ with others who do not know Him if I never wear His nature as my mantel?

How do we walk the fine line of sharing the love of Christ with others and offending them? This is a hard and careful line to walk on some occasions. It is important to be a respecter of all people even when we disagree when it comes to beliefs. I believe sharing the love of Christ with others is so much more than witnessing. Love people. Do good and be patient with others. Show compassion and mercy. Exhibit the qualities of Christ. Be a reason for others to see Christ in you so much that people feel the words that Christ spoke about Himself when they look at you: “If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” (John 14:7)

What Divides Us is not as Powerful as What Unites Us

The body of Christ is going through a “division crisis.” I call it thepraying_on_bible_red “Sneetches on the Beaches Affect” after the Dr. Suess story about creatures called Sneetches who divide themselves into groups based on who has stars on their bellies and who does not. As a friend likes to remind me, if we continue to divide ourselves into smaller and smaller groups over things that make us different from our neighbors, eventually we will find ourselves alone. There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement because we will likely never completely agree all the time on every issue.

Why do I bring this issue up?

In our culture, it is easy to define ourselves by all sorts of things. We like our niches — customizable digital radio stations, anyone? We like being comfortable around others who talk like us, look like us and sound like us. This seems especially true within the body of Christ. Did you know there are approximately 30,000 Christian denominations? That number is staggering, especially since Jesus and Paul were extremely concerned about unity within the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:12-13; 3:4).

Why are we so divided?

It seems we divide ourselves over just about anything within the body of Christ (Church): traditional vs. contemporary, style of music, formality of clothing, instruments used, preaching style, church adornment, rituals and sacraments and all sorts of other things (In case you’re interested, I’ve also written about this topic from a different perspective in a previous article: “Unity“). However, one topic seems to divide more sharply and cut more deeply than most issues within the Church — social issues and politics.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I think social and political issues are important; but no matter how important these problems/differences are, they distract from the message of Christ. Before we separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters, shouldn’t we consider the impact of such a divide on our non-beliving family, friends and neighbors? Perhaps, our judgmental, unforgiving reputation is well deserved when we allow ourselves to become a disorganized bunch of hypocrites who backbite each other and point out each other’s flaws in a merciless manner. I recognize not everyone fits into this generalization, and there are lot of truly wonderful Christian people around the world. However, based on some fairly common sterotypes I see in the media and society in general about Christianity, I’m standing firm on my view about how we are perceived by many non-Christians. Let’s change that view.

And before it is suggested, I’m not insinuating we should ignore sin. I’m simply suggesting we change our primary focus to be more Christ-centered above all else. If we, the body of Christ, modeled ourselves after Jesus, would society see us differently? Would they see us as less judgmental and feel like they wanted to be part of the Church if we were more unified, less divisive and more welcoming to non-Christians than we are currently?

Christ is Our Model

Jesus’s primary mission on earth was to demonstrate the depth of the love of the Father and to provide the ultimate sacrifice to cover our sins by dying on the cross. He also healed the sick, set free the oppressed and cast out demons. Everything He said and did was rooted in love. He showed mercy instead of judgment. He released grace upon people who didn’t deserve it. Shouldn’t we strive to do the same even if we disagree with our neighbors?

Our Challenge

The challenge to those of us who claim to follow Christ is simple: love without conditions. Welcome others with open arms. Stop being shocked by the actions of people who don’t know Christ — of course they won’t align with all of your values — love them anyway. Throw aside pride and disagreements within the Church. Be the difference. Be a person of substance and character. Watch the world change around you one person at a time as they see the truth of Christ in your life.

Why Does God Allow the Innocent to Suffer?

Introduction

When I watch the news and read persecution stories, I’m bombarded with images of injustice and pain around the world. I likely don’t have to convince you evil exists because we see it all around us, but why? If God is real and He is always good, why do bad things happen? Why does God allow the innocent to suffer and injustice to reign?Staring out the window

As I thought about this topic, I was reminded it is deeply personal and based on experiences. I want to be sensitive to your experiences and not be flippant or over simplify this discussion. I don’t have all of the answers, but here are some thoughts I hope will bring you comfort.

The Debate

If God exists, did He create evil? After all, He created everything, right? This question frequently surfaces in discussions about God and why some people believe a basic flaw exists in the Christian faith. Although this question seems to bring attention to a paradox, I believe it can be answered. My thoughts: God didn’t create evil. Evil and our imperfect world result from our poor choices and a fallen world. I realize this is a highly controversial statement, but let me explain.

In the story of Adam and Eve, we learn God created mankind in His image and gave them the option to maintain a perfect existence without suffering or death; however, He also gave mankind free will. Free will means we have the ability to choose between right and wrong. Just as we can choose love, peace, joy, patience, kindness and other good things, we can choose the opposite. We can choose to reject. We can choose to hate. We can choose to do the unspeakable: destroy, murder and hurt others. Free will exists in full range of good and bad choices from the seemingly insignificant to the most extreme; and there are consequences that result from every decision we make.

In discussions I’ve had with others, I’ve been asked the question, “Why would God even give us the ability to do bad things? Why not just make us perfect?” This idea sounds great on the surface, but would we really be free to be who we are? Would God truly have created us to have a loving relationship with Him if we were forced to love Him back or to make the right choice? Would we be robots? It seems our free will is deeply interwoven with our humanity and who we are individually.
One of my friends likes to use a wonderful analogy about free will. When you choose to have a relationship with another person; but they don’t want to love you back, it is his or her choice to leave. No matter how painful it is to let the person go, if you really love your significant other, you let them go — even if that means your beloved ends up with someone else. You wouldn’t force him or her to stay because you want that person to love you. If you imagine why God gave us free will in this analogy, it seems we were created out of absolute love: given the ability to completely reject the One who created us even as He knew it would cause Him tremendous pain to watch us walk away.

Life and Our Freedom to Choose

Yes, terror and tragedy at the hands of another are terrible things. We are never promised life will be easy; many times it isn’t. We are only promised He will walk alongside us, sharing our burdens and our sorrows; and we know this life isn’t the end of the story. Evil reigns temporarily, but it doesn’t have the final say. Also, we may have no ability to change what others have done to hurt us; but we have free will to make our own decisions about how we will affect others. If you feel paralyzed by the immensity of suffering in this world, remember Jesus’s example. Be the difference. Do what is right. Show mercy and love even when it is hard. Pray. Always do your best to choose to what is right.

Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings Series Part 3 – Sodom and Gomorrah

What pops into your head when I mention “Sodom and Gomorrah”? Do you think of social/sexual Bibleissues, fire and brimstone and Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt? This Genesis account is frequently used to explain how angry God is with sinners; but this one-sided view of God troubles me because it leaves out God’s mercy. How do we reconcile the story of Sodom and Gomorrah with Psalm 100:5 which states God is always good?

As I researched this topic, I began to realize one reason why this story appears one-sided is due to the emphasis we as a society place on certain elements in the story. What if instead of fire and brimstone, the story’s true focus illustrates God’s redemption of a good man who made poor choices? Is it possible to see the God of the Old Testament as the God of Love even in a story like Sodom and Gomorrah? I believe the answer is yes. Context and emphasis are key to fully grasping the depth of this story and the characters involved. Let’s take a closer look.

The Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah begins with two men named Abraham, the patriarch of the Hebrews, and Lot, his nephew. As with many stories in the Bible, God’s relationship to His people takes center stage, and the places and events that occur during the around the main characters frame the story. The Bible states Abraham obeyed God with his life and his decisions. In contrast, Lot made plenty of poor choices. Both men are referred to by the Scriptures as “righteous”, but Lot’s lapses in judgement nearly get him killed and followed his family line throughout history. Below is a timeline of events.

Timeline of Poor Decisions, Consequences and Mercy:

Lot Chooses the Best Land for Himself: Early in the Genesis account, we learn Abraham and Lot were forced to divide the region in which they lived because their wealth, herds and households had grown too large to share the same land. When Abraham gave his nephew first pick, Lot chose the lush and fertile land stretching towards Egypt. This region included the large, glamorous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. This poor decision would be the first of many as it positioned Lot closely to the temptations he found hardest to resist — the lure of fame, fortune and acceptance among the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Lot Tries to Fit In: Lot moved his home to Sodom, hoping to find favor with the people who lived there; however, he never really “fit in” because they knew he wasn’t like them.  Instead, they thought of him as a hypocrite.  Peter tells us in the New Testament Lot was “distressed…” and “tormented…” by the people of Sodom (II Peter 2:7-8). This attitude reveals a lot about Lot’s righteous character. The Bible describes the people there as prideful; gluttonous; willfully ignorant of the plight of the poor, oppressed, orphaned and widowed; adulterous; dishonest; unjust; and wicked (summarized from Ezekiel 16:49, Jeremiah 23, Isaiah 1, and Amos 5).

Lot Becomes a Prisoner of War: Almost immediately after Lot moved to Sodom, war broke out among the neighboring kings. As a result of the war, the invading kings conquered and took Lot prisoner and stole all of his possessions.

This part of the story is interesting, because according to cultural experts, Abraham was not required to rescue Lot due to the circumstances surrounding his capture. However, out of mercy and love, Abraham reclaimed and restored his nephew, the city’s captives and all of Lot’s stolen possessions.

Abraham’s Christ-Like Plea: At the climax of the story, the Lord tells Abraham the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah was so great He sent two angels to bear witness, and if they agreed, He would destroy the cities. In response, Abraham begged for mercy on behalf of the people living there because he cared about them but also feared for Lot’s safety (Genesis 18:16-33; 19:1-29). God agreed to spare the cities if there was even one righteous person living there. However, since there were no righteous people except for Lot living there, God vowed to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because their wickedness had become too great. The Bible says God “remembered His promise to Abraham” and sent His angels to rescue Lot.

Lot Offers His Daughters to an Angry Mob: When the angels arrived in Sodom, an angry mob of men pressed against Lot’s front door and demanded for Lot to allow the crowd to gang rape them. In Lot’s day, it was a customary norm and obligation to protect his guests at all costs. As a gesture to appease the men, he offered his daughters to fulfill the sexual desires of the mob. Thankfully, the mob refused Lot’s daughters. This part of the story was likely included for us an example of the level of depravity and darkness that filled the people’s hearts.

If you are wondering at this stage how the Bible can still refer to Lot as righteous, you’re not alone. As we’ve seen up to this point in the story, Lot has seemly committed an unforgivable and egregious crime against his own family, but God saw a man who believed in the coming Messiah and was worth saving despite his failures. If you want to read more about this section of the story, check out this link: http://www.gotquestions.org/Lots-daughters.html. I found it very helpful when trying to understand the context and cultural influences.

Lot is Rescued by Angels: Since Lot refused to present the angels to the angry mob, they became infuriated with Lot and beat on the door of his house and lunged at him, requiring the angels to blind the men and pull Lot inside to save his life.

During the night, the angels informed Lot that God intended to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their level of wickedness and he needed to flee with his family as soon as possible.

The next morning, the angels took Lot and his family by the hands and fled from Sodom. Although Lot hesitated, the Lord was merciful and spared his life and the lives of his family. Unfortunately, although the angels warned the family not to look back upon the cities as they fled, Lot’s wife was unable to resist the temptation to look a final time upon the city she loved. As a result, the Bible says she became a pillar of salt.

Lot Gets Drunk and Makes More Poor Decisions: And if you thought Lot’s decisions couldn’t get any worse, the story ends with Lot getting drunk and sleeping with his daughters. As a result, the two nations produced from this incestuous act have been a thorn in the side of Israel throughout history (GotQuestions.Org, http://www.gotquestions.org/Lots-daughters.html).

Lessons Learned: The story of Lot gives me hope. The Bible points out Lot’s numerous character flaws to teach us about His grace and about the importance of good decision making as a person of God. Lot was blinded by the temptations of wealth, the “big city” and positional stature. He temporarily walked away from his godly lifestyle for the sake of appearances; but in his heart, he longed to escape the sin that trapped him. As a result, he suffered the consequences of his choices by losing his wife, status and all of his material possessions; but his life was spared from destruction. In summary, Lot made poor decisions, but God chose to redeem him in spite of his failures.

Parallels: In some ways, this story parallels Christ’s work on the cross. God had mercy for Lot and saved his life because of the pleas of his uncle to spare him.

God always choses mercy over judgment, completely consistent with His character; and it is another lesson on how we should treat others who fail us.

Does physical evidence of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed by fire still exist today? Here is an interesting argument on the issue: “Is there any evidence for the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction by fire and brimstone (sulfur)? “, ChristianAnswers.Net

Peace, love and hope to you always,

The In-Place Missionary

Love Beyond Understanding

This blog post was written by my better half.  May it bless you and remind you of God’s promises, love and mercy. – The In-Place Missionary

One thing I will never understand is how much God loves us. I cannot begin to comprehend the depths of His love displayed by sending His son, Jesus, to earth to die for us. He is God. He didn’t have to do that. We definitely didn’t do anything to deserve that love, grace, and mercy.loch_oich_rainbow

I have been reading through the Bible starting from the beginning, Genesis, on forward. As I have made my way through the Old Testament, I am struck by God’s love and mercy. He could have given up on man after Adam and Eve sinned. He could have destroyed mankind with the great flood, but he chose to spare us through Noah and his family.

He made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, but they constantly rebelled against Him. They constantly whined while traveling from Egypt, where God rescued them from slavery. When Moses went up the mountain to get God’s commandments, the people made an idol. When they got to the promised land and settled, they constantly worshipped other gods and idols. God always brought them back to Himself.

This brings us back to the cross. The place where God made a way for all who would believe in Him to have a relationship with the creator of the universe. After we make that decision to repent and give our lives to Jesus, we still sin. We still turn from God. But just like in the Old Testament, God is faithful. He still loves us and wants a relationship with us. It is a beautiful thing, this relationship. I cannot begin to describe it. I just hope you believe and experience it for yourself. Then you will know true love, joy, and freedom.

rainbow

Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings Series Part 2 – Noah’s Ark

Old Testament stories like Noah’s Ark ( Genesis 6:5-9:17) sometimes conjure thoughts of an angry God fatally sweeping away humanity and life in a torrent of water. Sound familiar? Although the logistics of the story of Noah’s Ark are hard to imagine, it seems the impossible task of gathering pairs of animals and rainbowcramming them into a large boat is not the number one issue that bothers people. Instead, the most difficult piece of the story seems to be the not-so-obvious answers to perplexing questions about our Divine Creator: “Why does God seem to oscillate between two extremes — the angry, jealous God of judgment of the Old Testament and the loving, merciful Father of the New Testament?”, “Did God change His mind about humanity and decide we weren’t worth the grief we caused Him?”, “Does God hate humanity?”, and “What signs and symbols of mercy, if any, exist in stories like the one about Noah?”

God’s Character

Hollywood movies and the mainstream media sometimes typecast God inaccurately as a tyrannical master who can’t wait for humanity to slip up so He can wipe them off the face of the earth; but I encourage you to consider how Old Testament stories like Noah’s Ark reveal God’s grace and mercy and can be paralleled with Christ’s death and resurrection (like many other Old Testament stories believe it or not!).

God does not enjoy the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). As the ultimate loving Father, He always provides hope and a way out of judgment. If you read closely enough, you will realize the Biblical account of Noah is a wonderful story filled with signs and symbols of a gracious and merciful God. As the Divine Creator, God could have chosen to wipe mankind from the earth, especially since the Bible says our wickedness was so great it caused an outcry from the heavens. The Scriptures say it deeply grieved God that His creation had become so morally bankrupt that no one except Noah was found to be righteous. How great is our God that He allowed man’s legacy to continue through Noah’s family line (Genesis 6:5-8)? Why would He do this? Although man’s wickedness grieved God, He loves us and promised to repair our broken relationship with Him (Isaiah 53:5-12).

Symbols of Grace – The Ark

floodAlthough God promised the flood would come, He also promised Noah a way to escape destruction onboard the Ark. The Ark provided complete protection from the flood in the same way the blood of Jesus covers us and provides grace over judgment. God invited Noah and His family into the Ark and sealed them inside to secure their protection (Genesis 6:9-7:24).

Symbols of Grace – The Raven

After several days of floating around on the flood waters, Noah released a raven. The Bible says the raven flew back and forth in the sky continuously until the Ark found its resting place in the mountains of Ararat. When I first read this statement, I was somewhat perplexed. In modern times, the raven is often used to symbolize death. I suppose it could be said the raven could not perch on anything because the earth was covered in water which symbolized death while the waters existed. Also, ravens were considered to be unclean birds because they feed on the dead (“Genesis 8 – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible”, Bible Gateway).

Is it also possible there is a dual meaning to why the raven was sent out? In my research about Noah’s raven, I found several websites that indicated the bird is often used as a symbol of provision (see “1 Kings 17 – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible”, Bible Gateway, “Vincent of Saragossa”, Wikipedia, and Luke 12:24). I have to wonder if the raven is meant to symbolize God’s provision for Noah, his family, and all the living creatures on the Ark while there was only death everywhere else upon the earth.

Symbols of Grace – The Dove and the Olive Branch

The dove shows up in many different passages of the Bible to symbolize the Holy Spirit, purity, peace, and new life. In the story of Noah’s Ark, the dove was sent out three separate times to find dry land. The first time the dove and olive branchdove was sent out, it flew back to Noah because there was nowhere to land (death upon the land). The second time the Noah released the dove, it returned with an olive branch, symbolizing peace. When the dove was released a third time, it did not return, symbolizing freedom and deliverance after the world’s submersion). Just as Noah’s Ark is often compared to the finished work of Christ, the dove can be compared to a believer’s baptism after salvation, signifying the Holy Spirit being with a follower of Jesus (“Why is the dove often used as a Symbol for the Holy Spirit?”, Got Questions.Org).

I love this interpretation from the Biblical Research Institute:

One could also argue that the dove is, in this particular case, a symbol of deliverance. The dove as a symbol of the love of God appeared, telling us that, as with the Flood, the storm of sin is not powerful enough to keep us permanently separated from the Father. Our planet is now connected with heaven through Christ. In accepting His Son, God signifies to us that we are also accepted in the Beloved through faith in the provision He made on our behalf.

Symbols of Grace – The Rainbow

The rainbow is a symbol of God’s covenant with Noah that He will never destroy the earth again by flood. The rainbow is a sign to God’s people of His enduring faithfulness (“Christian Rainbow: Christian Symbols Illustrated Glossary” by Mary Fairchild, Christianity.About.Com).

If you are interested in the meanings and symbolism of the colors of the rainbow, I would highly recommend the article found on Bible Study.Org titled “What does a rainbow mean in the Bible?”. There are multiple layers of meanings and so many interesting things to study on this topic that it would be easy to make a whole other blog post about it (and I just might!).

Parallels to Christ’s Work on the Cross

The parallels to Christ’s work are incredibly rich and detailed, and I would encourage you to explore the web and study it on your own. You won’t be disappointed. Here are a couple of interesting sites I found while I was doing some research:

“Noah’s Ark: Bible Story, Lessons, and Questions” by Jack Wellman, Christian Crier

“Seeing Jesus in Noah’s Ark” by David Armstrong, Looking into God’s Word

Confessions of a (Mostly) Reformed Control Freak

Okay, I admit it. I’m hopelessly addicted to trying to control my own situations and the outcomes — or at least I was. Now, I’m jumping into the abyss with both feet, and I’m learning how to not be afraid to fall.

Take a dive

People who don’t know me well may perceive my new found disregard for over-planning and over-strategizing to be reckless or naïve, but I assure you this assessment couldn’t be further from the truth. After years of trying to do things my own way, I’m finally learning to let go of my controlling death grip one finger at a time and just trust God. He is constantly faithful even when I fail to trust His plans and timing (Psalms 136:1-7).

My over-planning antics aren’t working so well. I have spent the majority of my life meticulously planning, strategizing, and implementing all sorts of scenarios, attempting to anticipate the outcomes. I feared the “what ifs?” of life, and anxiety was usually the root cause of the need to feel in control. Although I no longer battle the same level of unhealthy anxiety I once did (see blog post “My Encounter with the God of Love“), I’m hardheaded enough to still demand to do things my own way; and, as a result, I cause needless turmoil for myself along the way. I want to live a life without surprises and without heartache; but God continues to lovingly remind me that I’m never really in control no matter how hard I try (James 4:14-15).

Sometimes, painful experiences amplify spiritual immaturity or weaknesses. The biggest revelation regarding my control freak issues occurred within the past couple of years. I was confronted in my spirit that my struggle for control over the little things in life have caused me to be less willing to relinquish control over big things. In essence, I was indirectly demanding for God to take a backseat while I handled whatever the issue of the day was on my own. In my blog post “He is Worthy to be Trusted, Part 1: My story of hope during financial crisis”, I described the terrifying situation when my husband’s job and the family business was simultaneously lost shortly after he and I married. This was one of many circumstances God used to show me just how out of control I am and how sovereign and trust worthy He is. Glory be to the God who hears our cries and lifts us from the miry clay of our circumstances. As difficult as some situations can be, I don’t regret the out of control moments. The most spiritually growing times of my life have occurred in the midst of trial or pain.

God is a loving father. Do I believe God caused the job loss or the turmoil surrounding the situation? No, I have never believed He would do harm to His children, but I do know that He will use a bad situation to strengthen us, to teach us how to trust, and to grow closer to Him. Also, I believe the submissive act of relinquishing control allows God to use us. If you are willing to trust, He’ll never fail you, and you’ll never be too afraid to jump (Romans 8:28).

In Summary. I’m not trying to suggest with this blog post that planning and strategizing are bad efforts. They are good practices for aiding us with achieving the optimal goal. After all, you will rarely go anywhere without first planning to eventually end up somewhere. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes we don’t have all the answers and we need help. Sometimes, life is difficult and a situations get out of control. The good news is that God knows every situation and its outcome; He is always in control. The only way to know for sure if what God says about being worthy of trust is true is to hold you nose and take the plunge.

When He calls you to walk upon the water with Him, will you trust Him to guide you atop the violent waves of this life? The most liberating decision I ever made was just to trust God at His word and let the rest go.

 

 

 

Man’s Greatest Power

“Man’s greatest power is his ability to influence others.” – Leslie Hardin

Fisherman

Sometimes we think we’re powerless because we’re “ordinary” or don’t have the ability or access to influence the masses like a president, the Pope, or a CEO of a highly successful company; but even the least of us have the ability to influence others.  Want proof?  Look at the apostles.  Some of the apostles were fishermen and one was likely a tax collector (See “Who were the Twelve Disciples?” on Bibleinfo.com).  Fishermen were considered by many people of the day to be lowly and ordinary, and tax collectors were loathed by their communities.  Status, fame, and fortune are not necessary ingredients for impacting people.  You have the power to not only impact the people in your immediate circles, but you can also impact people around the world thanks to technology like blogs, other forms of social media, etc.

Below are a couple of personal stories to illustrate the power of “ordinary” positive and negative influence:

Story 1 –

I’ve wanted to be a missionary since I was twelve years old, and I remember allowing someone else to snuff out the burning desire to fulfill such a calling.  His words were harsh and left an impression on me. “You can’t be a missionary.  Only men can fulfill that role,” he said firmly.  I outwardly disagreed with him, but I lost interest in pursuing my dream for several years because the passion of his words stung.

When I think upon that memory, I realize something even more profound than what was right or wrong with the man’s statement — I subconsciously allowed him to influenced my decisions.  Now that I’m older, his words remind me to think about the words I speak to other people.  Am I encouraging or discouraging someone who trusts my opinions?  Am I speaking truth?  Is there a hidden motive when I provide council to others?

Story 2 –

Recently, a good friend of mine watched in horror as a little boy on his bicycle slid sharply down a hill and plowed into a hedge, scraping his feet and legs. When it was obvious no one else in the neighborhood would help, my friend intervened, scooped him up, and carried him back to his house.

After helping the child, she realized the importance of caring for the neighborhood kids and releasing compassion and love on the people living around her.  The boy’s accident opened her eyes to the need to build a community and turn strangers into friends.  As a result, she plans to hold block parties to learn about her neighbors.  She also plans to meet the boy’s mother and be involved in the child’s life if she allows it.

My greatest hope is the little boy will never forget the kind-hearted woman who showed compassion and carried him home when no one else came to his rescue.  Perhaps one day when he grows up, he’ll show similar compassion to someone in need.  After all, there’s no greater influencer than someone who is willing to experience inconvenience, personal sacrifice, or suffer for the sincere desire to serve others.  My friend may have considered her gesture insignificant, but sometimes we never truly know the depth of imprints we leave on other people’s hearts.

Over and over again, I’m reminded of the power we have to influence people.  The words we speak and the actions we take can encourage, empower, and bring truth, love, or mercy; however, we can also bring condemnation, lies, hate, and judgment.  It’s our choice on how we choose to release words over people and show the love of Christ. How will you influence others?

Speak life!

My Encounter with the God of Love

I suffered from an anxiety disorder most of my life. In addition to this disorder, I felt shame and unworthy of God’s love and grace even though I had been a Christian for almost 20 years. But now, I can’t deny I’m loved.

In September 2012, I found myself sitting in a prayer service thanks to the strong urging

Joy and freedom

of a good friend. I remember listening to the live praise music and other Christians around me worshiping God with a love and adoration I didn’t yet understand. I felt nothing. After months of crying and begging God to pull me out of a desperate situation that had only deepened my anxiety and depression, I was completely drained.

“I know you’re real and powerful God, but where are you?” I remember thinking.

The prayer service message that night was all about oppression, mental and physical bondage and how our spirits are affected by these things. As the prayer director spoke, I realized I was the person who needed to hear the message.

“What an odd coincidence,” I remember thinking. But now I know it was a divine appointment.

When the message concluded, there was an opportunity for prayer and worship before we were dismissed. That’s when I felt a tug on my heart as if God was saying, “Go ask for prayer” – so I went to the alter. As the prayer director began to pray over me, she motioned for an intercessor to join us. The girl who assisted didn’t know my story, but immediately said words I’ll never forget, “God wants you to know He hears your cries. You think He’s not listening; but He hears you, and He loves you. He calls you His precious daughter.”

After the young intercessor spoke, the prayer director placed her hand on my forehead and prayed for God to break the hold of spiritual oppression and restore my joy. Suddenly, I was overcome with an immediate feeling of immense love and joy. It struck me so hard and so fast that I felt like I might stagger backwards during the prayer, and that’s when the surprise giggles started — and I could stop, but I didn’t want it to end. During prayer, joy and happiness overpowered me, and the silly giggles increased into laughter. I felt the love of the Father completely engulf me, sweeping away the pain and the darkness I suffered for so many years.

When the prayer ended, I realized I was a different person. My anxiety disorder was gone and peace had replaced it. I undeniably know God loves me. I will never question His love for me again. For the first time in my life, I have learned to trust with my whole heart.

Thank you for reading my story, and I hope it has encouraged you.