These Uncertain Times

by Chris Thomas

I think if I hear that phrase one more time, I’m going to throw up. It was inspiring the first 200 times we heard it but now it’s one of those phrases that you want banished from the earth, like “Y2K”, “reach out”, or “transparency”.

So. I’ve decided that from now on when I hear that phrase, instead of getting angry, I’m going to let it remind me to think of the things that I AM certain of. Like, my health is good, my job is great, my home is safe, my family is healthy, my friends are the best, and my salvation is secure.

What’s certain in these uncertain times? No matter what is happening down here, God is still on His throne! Jesus is alive! He is risen! He’ll be back! I am glory-bound! God is in control. 

Wait. What do you mean, God is in control? If that’s the case, why is all of this happening? Because we live on earth, not in Heaven. Because Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Because He gives us free will. Because it’s a fallen world but fortunately, we’re falling right into His hands. (That’s helpful only if we let Him catch us!) I am certain that whatever I go through, He is beside me. He laughs with me and He cries with me. He is ALWAYS there for me. And you. He will use our choices, good and bad, to bring us closer to Him, and to bring Him glory. There may be pain along the way, but with God in your heart, it will always end well.

Be aware of what is happening in the world today. Don’t hide from it or agonize over it. I have memorized and lean on Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

I also find comfort in Romans 15:30: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

No, “this world is not my home, I’m just passing through.”

And of that, I am certain!

 

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Is He Safe?

by Keith Bortner

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.’” (Matthew 16:24)

There’s a passage in C.S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, in which Susan, speaking of Aslan the Lion, asks “Is he — quite safe?” In this allegorical story, Aslan is the King of Narnia and, as such, represents God.

And so the question stands: “Is he safe?” Is our God safe? We like to think so. We have numerous songs, devotions, and sermons talking of being safe in His arms and resting safe in Him. While those things are true, it’s also true that sometimes following Him isn’t safe. Sometimes following Him means going out of our comfort zone and talking to someone we wouldn’t normally talk to. Other times it might mean turning the other cheek and not retaliating in an attack, leading to personal physical harm. Many have followed our Lord and have endured hardship and death.

Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He had the power and means to command legions of angels to put an end to everything he was going through, but He didn’t. He chose what was most unsafe, to endure the beatings and whippings, to endure the suffering of the cross, and to ask His heavenly father to forgive those that injured and then killed him.

Is He safe? In Mr. Beaver’s reply to Susan, Lewis answers that question better than I ever could. “Safe? …Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. May we be willing to follow him that far.


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Control

by Deb Trojak

“Do not be anxious about anything.” That phrase has followed me this year—plagued me in some ways. Sometimes I have no idea what God is trying to teach me. Other times I feel like everywhere I turn there are flashing neon signs pointing to the area of my life He is working on. For 2020 it was “be anxious for nothing.” You may already know this about me but in case you don’t…I am a control freak. And what this past year has taught me is that I am NOT in control. Not even a smidge.

One of the things I love doing most is buying a new planner and filling out all the events for the year to come. (Yes, I am a nerd.) I still prefer paper to digital and Josh laughs because I need three different calendars. (My yearly planner, my monthly desk calendar, and my weekly calendar on the fridge. Have I mentioned I have an issue with control?) When the pandemic hit and we had the initial two-week shutdown, I remember crossing all the things off my calendar and then gazing at future months wondering if anything that I had planned for the year would happen.

Throughout 2020, I kept coming back to these verses: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7) Not knowing what is coming makes me super anxious. But the more I have come back to these verses, the more I have realized that whether my calendar is filled out or not, I don’t actually know what the future holds.

This is both absolutely terrifying (as a control freak) and wonderfully freeing (as a child of God). Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps.” In my small, human wisdom, I think that I have everything planned, sorted, and in its appropriate place. Then life happens and I realize that my tiny human perspective is far outstripped by my God’s all-knowing one.

Pre-2020, I had fooled myself into thinking that I could hold everything together. Now I live with the knowledge that I can plan, but it is ultimately up to God what happens. I don’t need to be anxious, even though I don’t know what the future holds, because I do know the God who does. He has complete control and He wants what is best for me. (Which ultimately is to give Him control.) 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34)

 

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Take Heart

by Carlos the Coconut

Greetings everyone, from your favorite D.R. coconut friend, Carlos! You may have seen me on social media a time or two since I’ve returned with your D.R. Mission Team almost a year ago. And most likely, you haven’t seen me without my favorite instrument – its almost like we’re physically stuck together or something!

Ironically, a little known fact about me is my favorite type of music. Being a coconut with such a hard exterior, I often enjoy a style of music that can break through this hard shell and really reach me in my inner most being. Which is why I typically prefer the instrumental and vocal stylings of heavy metal rock music.

One of my most favorite of songs is called, “The Finisher” by the band Oh Sleeper. This song’s lyrics are essentially a monologue of God giving warning to Satan, stating that He is the ultimate power and authority in heaven and on earth, and He will not stand by and let His children be subject to his evil anymore. It is essentially the final, victorious battle of God over Satan. And it is performed in a way so that you can really sense God’s passionate love for His people and anger towards the continuous evil of this world.

I once heard a speaker, actually from this RightNow Media resource I’ve heard Pastor Todd and Pastor Josh talk about so much, who stated something along these lines: God’s love and devotion for us, and His anger towards anything that would seek to turn us away from Him, are the two sides of the same coin.

We are God’s children. We know of His unconditional love, grace, mercy, and justice for us. But His justice is also one that cannot let evil go unpunished. As Revelations reads, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgements are true and righteous.” (19:1-2) Just as we earthly fathers will fight for and defend our children against anything that seeks to do harm, so too will our Heavenly Father fight for us and bring about His justice on our behalf.

This song (though perhaps not for the faint of heart to hear) reminds me of God’s power and that He is ultimately in control. And while we may face sufferings, trials, and temptations, He has not left us to face them alone and He will rise victorious in the end. Proverbs 21:31 reminds us, “the horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord.” So, too, let us take heart and remain steadfast in His love for us, putting on His armor each day and trusting that He will bring about His glory in the end.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)


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Firewood Abolished

by Joe Becker
 

From the setting of our mid-winter’s kitchen, I said to Vicki, “Today I’ll devote my time to moving some firewood.” Just then, I was reminded of our yearly Lenten Devotional here at CABC and realized my contribution to it.

Three decades ago, the five acres we built on had numerous trees growing on the fringes of the property. Since then, many more trees were planted and additional trees have grown up on their own. In most years, we’ve been able to supplement our firewood needs—a woodstove and a fire bowl. I can still remember how, early on, the thick understory of wild vines and brambles had caused me to recall, “The ground will produce thorns and thistles for you.” (Genesis 3:18)

But today I found myself curiously looking for Scripture in reference to firewood. It was interesting to me that most Old Testament references have all to do with burnt offerings and sacrifices. It impresses me to understand how great the need for firewood must have been—firewood for the kitchens and the altars of the Temple(s). It also strikes me to see how precious and few are any New Testament references to firewood. Indeed, they are practically nil. Why such little mention of what was probably a commodity?

In Psalm 40: 6-8, we are given passage to the heart of the matter of firewood, not for altar fire, woodstoves or fire bowls, but of Priestly Duty:

…Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
But my ears you have pierced; but a body you prepared for me;
With burnt offerings and sin offerings
You did not require; you were not pleased…

The Author of Hebrews repeats David the Psalmist/Prophet in Hebrews 10:5-7, and further presents all that is entailed within that Chapter. Until at last it culminates in explaining how, because of the obedience of Christ our High Priest, there is no more need of firewood. There is simply no place or function for it in the Temple. Hence, no direct reference to firewood in the New Testament.

Dear Father, as we focus this day on your provision for our need of a priest, we are fervent in prayer for our remembrance of the Blood and Body of Christ, who is our High Priest forever. For it is in that blood, not of bulls and goats, that we find the Comfort and Hope of Forgiveness. This season, approaching Easter Morning, cause our recall of your Word O God, our Salvation. Amen.


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Scripture Focus: Philippians

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
 
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to
his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
 
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
 
(Philippians 2:5-11)

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