Monthly Archives: September 2012

This Is Our God

How would you answer if someone asked you, “Do you trust God?” and followed up with, “What is God like?” Your answer to the second question will determine your answer to the first.

In my spiritual re-charge times this week, I’ve been reading in the book of Isaiah. I love that book! It’s a mixture of warnings to and judgments of God on the nations, including his own chosen people; prophetic words about the coming Messiah, promises from the Creator to His children, reminders of the frailty of mankind, and a mosaic of the magnitude and glory of the God of the universe.

In Isaiah 36; the city of Jerusalem was threatened by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, who had been successfully attacking and conquering all the fortified cities of Judah. He had also conquered major cities of Samaria. Envoys came with a message from Sennacherib to persuade King Hezekiah to surrender Jerusalem peacefully to the Assyrian army, in order to avoid unnecessary slaughter.

The messengers added a warning to the people listening from the top of the wall of Jerusalem: “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you! Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord . . .”

The diatribe against the Lord continues in verse 18:

 “Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Have the gods of any nations ever delivered their lands from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries have been able to save their lands from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”

There was truth in what the messengers were saying; the other cities of Israel hd fallen to the Assyrian siege. It appeared that no one could stand against Sennacherib’s armies. God had allowed the Assyrian conquerors’ victory . . . for a time . . . to punish His own people for their apostasy; for their idolatry. Sennacherib had taken the glory for himself and his military might.

But Hezekiah was a man of prayer; a king who knew what God was like, worshiped Him, and believed in the power of the Living God. And it was to God that he turned in this time of trouble.

In Isaiah 37:16-20 we read Hezekiah’s prayer:

“Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim,you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see;listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 

Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God.”

In answer to that prayer of faith, God sent a message to Sennacherib that his victories and his days were numbered.

 Isaiah 37:29: “Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.”

The angel of the Lord was sent forth and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrians camp that night. When Sennacherib got up the next morning and saw the devastation, he broke camp and withdrew, returning to Nineveh; Jerusalem was spared, as the Lord God has often done, both in Scripture times and in more modern times.

One day not long after this encounter with the Living God, as Sennacherib was worshiping in the temple of his ‘god’, Nisroch, two of his own sons “cut him down with a sword”. Apparently Sennacherib’s ‘god’ could not save him.

In chapter 40, Isaiah describes the majesty and kindness of God to remind us all that He is worthy of our trust, as He had proved in answer to Hezekiah’s prayer:

 Is. 40:9-14:

You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, Here is your God!

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?

Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?

Who can fathom the Spiritof the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?

Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way?

Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?

Is. 40:25-29  “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.  Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?  He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”

This was Hezekiah’s God and this is our God.

Do you know Him? Do you trust Him enough to turn to Him when your “city” is besieged by the enemy of your soul? A final word from our Father: “Be still and know that I am God”

©2012, Marcy Alves

Religious Defenders or Opportunists?

There has been quite a stir in the news for the past several days regarding the militant Islamic uprisings at various American embassies and on military compounds in Muslim-controlled countries in the Middle East and North Africa, purportedly over a B-rated movie made in the US by an Egyptian immigrant. Militant Muslims in other countries, such as France and Australia have jumped on the bandwagon. The movie, entitled Innocence of Muslims, depicts the Islamic prophet Muhammad in a negative light.

Although there is rationale to support that some of the attacks by militant Muslims were not spontaneous, but pre-planned to correspond with the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and other places in the US in 2001, the “feet on the ground” in Egypt, Afghanistan and Tunisia belong to mobs who attribute their anger to the defamation of their prophet, the writer of the Quran.

I have thought a lot about this totally illogical reasoning that has led to the terrorist attacks by these Islamic radicals. If they really believe that Allah is God and Muhammad is his prophet, why do they, mere humans, have to defend them?

There have been quite a few movies in the past few years which have depicted Jesus Christ the Son of God, as a mere man with a God-complex, a homosexual, a lustful man fantasizing having sex with a women, a self-seeking radical; a family man who married the converted prostitute, Mary Magdalene, and probably other films that I, thankfully, am unaware of. Though I am troubled by hearing of such depictions of my Savior, and saddened that there are demonized people making such movies, I have never thought of becoming violent over those films, nor with the ones who made them. I simply chose to boycott the movies and to influence others to do the same.

That a large number of Muslims would become violent over the film about Muhammad is totally lacking in reason. And to blame a whole nation for the deeds of one man is incomprehensible. That’s why I believe that these militants who are making such a fuss are using the movie as a smokescreen for a festering hatred of America that has been smoldering for a long while under the surface. Several mid-eastern countries seem to have a love/hate relationship with America – they accept our help and our financial and military support to gain their freedom from long-term dictators, but take vengeance on America with very little provocation. It seems they resent us for having accepted our help.

I am a Christian. I worship and serve the Creator, the Master of the universe, the God above all gods, and his Son, my Savior, Jesus the Christ. He is a big God. He does not need me to defend Him or to threaten others who try to defame Him. He is God and He is in control. He does not need me to do His work. In fact, He tells me to forgive others, to pray for them.

Here’s my dilemma, why would the followers of Muhammad feel that they have to defend their prophet or Allah, their god? What makes them think that he is not enough of a god to defend his own honor? Is he a god of fear? Are they afraid of him? Is he a god for whom men and women have to kill themselves and others in order to please him? Is he a god of hate? Is he a god of violence? Who would want to follow a god like that? Are we getting an accurate picture of Muhammad and of Allah through these militant Muslims? If not, why aren’t the peaceful Muslims stopping such violence in the name of their god?

I would honestly like to dialogue with a committed Muslim to find out how they see their god and how they see their relationship to him. It sounds quite different than my Christian belief in my loving Father God. Is love a part of Allah’s kingdom? If not, how can a person follow a god who does not love them as his children?

I would be glad to hear from anyone who is a committed Muslim to discover how you think about your faith and your god. If any of my other readers have a personal relationship with a sincere Muslim who would care to comment, please refer them to my blog site.

In the meantime, anyone can discover my faith-basis by reading the New Testament – particularly the 4 Gospels, the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and the book of First John. The other NT books are also important, but the ones I mentioned will give a good picture of the God of love that I both worship and adore.

Meanwhile, Hebrews 12:14 offers some good words for all of us:

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

©2012, Marcy Alves

Teamwork: Getting the Job Done

Are you a team player? Or are you a control freak? Does your individualism or perfectionism get in the way of teamwork?

We’ve all seen teamwork’s amazing results on the football field, basketball court, and baseball field, but how about in your church, at your job, and in your home?

We have had the privilege recently of working on a video project for our local church association conference. It has taken quite a few people and many man-hours to video tape, participate on-camera, edit, polish, critique and re-mix, just to do a 10-12 minute DVD. And no one person can take credit for the finished product. It took teamwork.

Teamwork takes not only hours of time, when sometimes any one of us would rather just “do-it-myself”. But effective, God-pleasing teamwork takes grace, patience, kindness, understanding and willingness to compromise. It also involves faith in team members – in their abilities, integrity and character. And it takes unity of purpose and direction.

In His prayer for the disciples in John 17:11b, Jesus prayed that His followers would be a team:

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”

This theme of unity among followers of Christ was also spoken of by the Apostles Paul:

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Eph. 4:3-5 (Paul)

In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul compares the church to a physical body that has many parts, yet all the parts are necessary and work together in perfect harmony. No one part is better than or more important than another, and teamwork is essential for the proper functioning of the body. All the spiritual gifts given to the body were for the whole body, not just he person chosen to deliver or operate in a specific gift.

Jesus also called us to teamwork with Him in Matthew 11:29-30:

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This principle of yoked teamwork proves itself in the world of nature, as with oxen teams: two oxen, yoked together, can pull more than double the weight that one ox can pull alone.

Teamwork allows for the “learning curve”. Hopefully, as we grow, we are learning how to be better team players and giving grace for immaturity and lack of experience in our teammates, as they also grow and learn.

There are marriages and families where teamwork is missing. Sadly, there are many Christian marriages/families which fall apart because members are not pulling together, each person wanting his/her own way and not willing to submit to Christ or to each other.

Often, individual churches in the church at large are not pulling together. Jealousies, self-concerns, superiority or inferiority complexes, and controlling spirits hinder the work of Christ on earth.

In a world where teamwork and unity of purpose are so needed, in order for the kingdom of God to affect the culture around us, Satan often distracts believers from the real work of faith, drawing them off by petty differences or selfish ambition.

A friend from Kentucky forwarded to me a message by Pastor Ken Klaus from a radio broadcast of “The Lutheran Hour”. The message included an excellent example of what teamwork, operating in faith can do.

“The cause of Christ cannot be accomplished in retreat and the world can never be turned upside down for Jesus when God’s workers are wracked by retreat, defeat, indecision, and indecisiveness.

Will the negatives, the naysayers, the re-interpreters of God’s salvation have the final word? Will Christianity leave the battlefield for men’s souls without ever having engaged the enemy? God grant that not be the case. May He bless those who are willing to come together to take a stand; who are willing to take a stand like . . . like the friends of Herman Ostry who lived near Bruno, Nebraska. From what I was told, a number of years ago Herman purchased a piece of property and put up a barn. Things went well until the nearby creek flooded and put the floor of Herman’s new barn under 29 inches of water. Those of us who hail from the city may not know this, but 29 inches of water on your barn floor is not a good thing.

Inspecting the mess, Herman joked to his family that if they only had enough people, they probably could lift the barn and carry it to dryer footings. Herman’s son, Mike, took him seriously. Using his calculator, Mike estimated the barn’s weight at 19,000 lbs.; further, he guesstimated that in order to move the barn they would need 344 people who could lift 55 pounds each. 344 people seemed a doable number.

Mike moved forward in faith and devised a web of steel tubing which he nailed, bolted, and welded to the inside and outside of the barn. On June 30th Herman had his 344 volunteers – 344 people ready to lift that barn and move it. Herman shouted, “One, two, three — lift!” To everyone’s astonishment, the barn went up. Then, moving as one, they, with shuffling steps, took that barn 143 feet, uphill, and three minutes later placed it on its new foundation.

A few people, committed to a cause went forward in faith and made a change.”

It took both faith and teamwork to accomplish what was impossible for one man’s family working alone, but committed teamwork got the job done.

David and I have learned through 33 years of marriage how important teamwork is, and how important the other elements are to that teamwork: grace, patience, kindness, understanding, willingness to compromise, and faith in each other’s abilities, integrity and character. Both in our individual and personal challenges, we are in this together – equally yoked, pulling the plow as a team.

How about you, are you a team player? Gotta go now, David and I are doing yard-work this afternoon – as a team.

©2012, Marcy Alves

Rude Awakening: What Was That Sound?

Have you ever been awakened out of a sound sleep by a loud noise that sets your mind buzzing? Like, “What was that? And what do I need to do about it?” I had one of these heart palpitating awakenings recently.

I had a hard time getting to sleep the night before. Unlike my husband, who can fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow – which can cause some interesting marriage dynamics, as I am more likely to use those brief moments before he passes into dreamland to debrief from today’s phone calls, personal encounters, discoveries (“What did you order online yesterday and on which card?”), etc. Plus, I usually have to read a novel for at least half-an-hour before sleep creeps up on me.

Anyway, I turned my light off around 12:30, but had trouble getting to sleep. I could not find a comfortable sleeping position. I threw covers off, pulled them back on; went to the bathroom, tried again to find that perfectly comfortable position, all to no avail. At 1:45 a.m. I was still awake. Finally, after taking an anti-acid, which contained just enough calcium to encourage sleep, I entered unconsciousness.

The next morning I was startled out of a deep, peaceful sleep by a loud noise. What was that sound!?

My half-awake brain registered the sound of the squealing brakes of the garbage truck. I suddenly came totally awake! I had forgotten to gather the trash and the re-cycles the night before, to be put out to the end of our driveway. Jumping up out of bed, adrenalin kicking in, I dashed around the house gathering trash from some 13 or so trashcans, recycle bins, and garbage containers. Fairly running down the stairs to our walk-in basement where our offices are located, I enlisted my husband’s help and got the trash out to the curb minutes before the garbage truck arrived.

God speaks to me through all sorts of situations, like this one. I try to stay tuned to His wave-length so that I don’t mistake life events for “stuff that randomly happens”.

The Scriptures say that God speaks – present tense.

 “I will listen to what God the Lord says . . .” Psalm 85:8a

“For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it.” Job 33:14

When the Lord speaks to me, some of the applications are poignant, and this was one of them. He caused me to reflect on how the sound of the garbage truck had led me to take action.

Because God does not desire that any will be lost when earth-time is over, even now He is speaking a warning to this sleeping world to spur people to action:

In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword.

Sometimes God speaks warnings to us, like a parent will call out to a child, “Susie, No! Come back here!” when the toddler is about to step in front of an oncoming car.

We have just come through a horrific season of draught, storms, fires, tornados and even earthquakes – plus there are many hurricanes and tropical storms predicted for this fall. Not to mention the fluctuating  stock market affecting economies around the world; the jobless rate here in the States; escalating food and gas prices are with no promise of their dropping.

God has already sent all sorts of warning sounds to cause people to wake up to the truth that this world is on a collision course with destruction. There is a law of physics called “the second law of thermonuclear dynamics” – which simplified means that the universe tends toward “maximum entropy” – in other words, the universe is wearing out, winding down, losing energy.

The warnings are all around us that time is running out, but not many seem to be paying attention to the destiny of their souls. There are those who act as if they will live forever, even ignoring the physical signs in their bodies. For all creatures of flesh, death will come in one way or another. All of this that we now know as “life on planet earth” will come to an end.

When our resurrected Lord Jesus returns to earth, everything will be changed. There will no longer be world governments contending with each other for control of the planet and outer space; for the forces of heaven will be in control, with Christ as the head.

At the last moment, there will be several warning sounds to awaken earth’s inhabitants; even the dead will hear these sounds:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

For the Spirit-born followers of Christ from every nation who may be asleep in their beds when this event occurs, there may be some fuzzy-headed sense of “something is happening here that I need to be awake for”. And then the awareness will burst forth, “This is what we have been preparing for! This is the return of our Lord Jesus!”

Unfortunately, there will also be people from every nation who will not know what is happening when they hear all the noise; it will be like waking into a nightmare, instead of waking out of one. There will be many who have heard and have rejected the message, thinking that all religions lead to God; or those who thought they were “good enough” to get in on the deal, or those who figured they had plenty of time left to do something about it.

The time to get ready is now. It’s time to take out the garbage – to get clean inside . . .

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

. . . and to receive the gift of Spirit-life that can only be gotten from God Himself.

“And this is the testimony: that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:11-12

When I was a young teenager, I heard about the return of Christ. I dreamed one night that the Lord had returned and I looked out my window and saw that He was taking people up to be with Him, but He was leaving me behind. I woke up from that scary dream, got on my knees by my bed and prayed, “Lord, please don’t leave me here when you come back. Show me what I have to do to be ready for you.” Within the next few months I was led to the Lord, confessed my sin and received His gift of life.

How about you? Have you heard the sound of the garbage truck yet and gotten rid of your accumulation of garbage? If so, it’s time to start listening for the loud command, the voice of the archangel, and the sound of the trumpet call of God.

©2012, Marcy Alves

%d bloggers like this: