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The world seems to be falling apart. Hate is rampant, pain spreads rapidly, depression smothers and violence rises. All of this junk amasses together until it’s a heavy burden that we, as humans, often feel obligated to carry.

That might not paint the most encouraging picture, but I think it’s a fairly accurate depiction of our times. We need only glimpse at the news to read or hear about the most recent tragedy or law. More and more, I find myself getting so frustrated at the world and at the people who spew hate. But really, more than anything, it hurts my heart, and I sometimes think I can feel my soul deflate.

Even as Christians, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with restricting anxieties, feelings and thoughts — to believe the darkness has won, to have our hope stifled and to allow our light to dim. But it’s in those times that it’s so important to remember God’s promise to us.

“Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20 KJV)

I’m sure most of us have heard and read that verse before. But God recently showed me just how relevant those words are now, in 2019. I read yet another news story that detailed a world teeming with hate and injustice, and it really bothered me — my emotions, my heart, my soul, everything.

In that moment, God’s quiet voice whispered to me, spreading through my soul like the soothing Balm of Gilead: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

Even when everything seems to be going wrong. Even when good is considered evil, and evil is considered good. Even when you don’t think you can take another step. Even when you don’t know where your next breath is coming from. Jesus said, “Yep, even then. I’ll still be with you.”

Maybe you feel like you’re at wit’s end, unable to continue on, stuck in the mire, about to give up. Maybe you think God doesn’t care anymore or that He’s abandoned you and everybody else on earth.

Maybe you’re discouraged by the perilous times of the last days, where humans are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV)

But Jesus said, “Even unto the end of the world.” And I believe those words hold real meaning for this generation of Christians that are facing the tumultuous times leading up to Christ’s return.

God still cares, and He hasn’t forsaken us.

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6 NKJV)

God will not fail you. No matter where you are right now, He sees you. Even though you don’t know what’s in front of you, He does. He is already there. No matter what you’re going through — be it loneliness, discouragement, fear, confusion, disease or whatever — lean on Him. No matter what’s going on in the world around you, He still loves you. He is your peace and your refuge. He is your hope and your salvation.

So, trust Him. Give Him your hopes and aspirations, your wants and dreams, your doubts and worries, your fears and anxieties. Put those in His hands and turn your focus on sharing His joy, love and peace with a world that is hurting and desperate for hope.

 

Article by Jennifer Englishjensrandommusings.wordpress.com

 

A little girl was invited for dinner at the home of her first-grade friend. The vegetable was buttered broccoli and the mother asked if she liked it. “Oh, yes,” the child replied politely, “I love it!”

But when the bowl of broccoli was passed, she declined to take any. The hostess said, “I thought you said you loved broccoli.” The girl replied sweetly, “Oh, yes ma’am, I do, but not enough to eat it!”

Do you love others? “Of course I do!” We all would say that! It’s the only right answer. But what do you mean by love? So often we love like that little girl loved broccoli: We love in the abstract, but when it comes right down to it, we don’t want to get too close.

The Apostle Paul’s famous chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, tells us what biblical love looks like. Paul makes the point that the use of their God-given gifts would amount to nothing if the Corinthians did not make selfless love their priority.

In addition to cultivating our relationship with Jesus Christ and serving the people He has placed in our life (husband, children, family members, friends), we have also been commissioned to sacrificial love for people we’ve never met in places we’ve never been. This is not a special call for certain Christians. It’s the result of being like Jesus.  This is what Jesus does.  This is what love looks like.

Listen to how He described the ministry He was sent to do: “…He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; (Luke 4:18 NKJV).  And then He tells us,As the Father has sent Me, I also send you. (John 20:21 NKJV).

The only way to achieve this kind of love is to serve.  Because the truth is, we will serve somebody.  Either we serve others with grace, or we serve others with a grudge – or we can serve ourselves and love will wither. The greatest love is rooted in service to others.  Love is a verb that does!

Hudson Taylor once made a statement that stirs my heart:

“It will not do to say that you have no special call to go [to the mission field]. With the command of the Lord Jesus to go and preach the gospel to every creature, you need rather to ascertain whether you have a special call to stay at home.”

While God may not ask you to live in a foreign country, all of us are called to adopt a missionary heart no matter where God has placed us.  Ask Him to show you where and how to start being His hands and feet. Though the need around the world is staggering, He often wants to cultivate sacrificial love within us by starting with one person.  Right here.  Right now.

Allow God to stretch you beyond what is comfortable and easy. We lead full lives and may feel we don’t have much time or energy available to serve others. But we must remember that what God calls us to do, He equips us to do.

 

TAKE THE NEXT STEP

Do you find it difficult to find the time and opportunity to obey the command to love your neighbor?  Don’t forget that kids have a great ability to break down people’s defenses and to open lines of communication. Here are a few ways that children can help us know and love our neighbors in the middle of busy days:

  • Starting Conversations. It’s easier to start a conversation with someone at a community event if our kids are playing together. I’ve also found many people start conversations with me when my kids are with me, simply asking how old they are and where they go to school.
  • Meeting New Neighbors. While anyone can bake cookies and knock on a neighbor’s door to say “welcome,” there’s something about having a child with you that makes this less intimidating.
  • Spending Time Together. If you meet neighbors with kids the same age, it’s easy to make plans to get together at a park, to go on a walk together, or have a playdate at one of your houses.

Life Reference: Genesis 1:27, 5:3; Luke 20:19-26

Focus Verse:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (Exodus 20:45).

Have you ever walked down a hall of carnival mirrors? The first mirror shows you pencil thin. Wow! This is not too bad. You move to the next mirror. You are grossly overweight. Move on. As you stroll down the hall, your reflection undergoes wacky transformations. Each optical illusion is a shock—bulging Atlas muscles, an inflated head, exaggerated limbs. Mirror after mirror distorts your image into comical, coarse figures.

Life Reflection:

Are you satisfied with your physical image? What about your social or professional image?

How much time, money, effort do you spend trying to improve your image?

Whose Image?

The goal of the chief priests and scribes was to distort Jesus’ image. They constantly tried to trap Him into saying something politically incorrect. One trick question was, “Should we pay taxes?” (Read Luke 20:19-26.)

Had Jesus said no, the Romans would have put His name on the no-fly list. Had He said yes, the Jews would have labeled Him a traitor.

In reply Jesus called for a coin. “Whose image and superscription is on it?”

Staring at Jesus’ accusers was Caesar’s engraved image—his pointed chin, his hard forehead, and his dead eyes. It was Caesar’s autographed picture.

Jesus said, “Give to Caesar the things that bear his image and to God the things that bear His image.” Zip! Jesus’ accusers’ mouths were shut.

Bottom line: We belong to the one whose image we bear.

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him” (Genesis 1:27).

What an image! Beautiful! Perfect! But Self squeezed between God and His creation distorting Adam’s and Eve’s vision. When their focus blurred, they lost their paradise.

“And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth” (Genesis 5:3).

First, God created Adam in His perfect image, then Adam begat children in his distorted image. After the birth of Adam’s grandson Enos, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26). They yearned for what Adam had lost.

Life Reflection:

What did Adam lose in the garden?

What were the differences between Adam as created in God’s image and the sons of Adam as begotten in Adam’s image?

Fake Images

Satan excels at distorting man’s vision with smoke and mirrors, making unholy appear holy, evil appear good, and dirty appear clean. Even as God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, Satan played mind games with the Israelites, tricking them into thinking that they could fashion an image of God.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5).

While studying to teach the second commandment to children, I did an Internet search on “idol,” looking for a picture of Buddha and his buddies. Can you guess what I found? Hundreds of links to American Idol.

We Christians do not bow at the shrine of carved sculptures. After all, we are sophisticated, civilized, and educated. But so is Satan. His mission has been the same since the Garden of Eden, and he is smart enough to match his methods with the times.

Life Reflection:

How is Satan attempting today to distort the image of Christ? The image of Christians?

What images are sophisticated, civilized and educated Christians tempted to worship?

Name some methods Satan uses to seduce us into idolatry.

Generation Image

“I am Generation Image. The generation that speaks in images is making itself heard.” This advertising slogan by Nikon, a leader in the imaging product business, raises a red flag for Christians.

Do we hear the message Generation Image is screaming from the pages of social media sites? Do we get the picture? It’s all about self—self-image, self-promotion, self-deification. It is the so-called New Age doctrine that is as old as the Garden of Eden. Self-worship is the root of idolatry.

Like Israel in the time of the judges and kings, the idolatry is engraved into our culture. The only difference is the form of images. Instead of worshipping carved idols, we revere bulging portfolios, velvet voices, pigskin-carrying quarterbacks, and enhanced figures. We imagine making a million (or billion) like him. Starring on YouTube like her. Dictating to subordinates like that guy. Power. Pleasure. Possessions. Popularity.

What images do our children idolize? Whose pictures are posted on the walls of their rooms? Who are their heroes? Whom do they spend hours watching on YouTube? Whom do they dress like, walk like, and talk like? Our children will become like what they worship.

Do we envision our children becoming Hollywood stars, country-and-western artists, NFL champions, or American idols? Every day we read about the tragic end of the lifestyle of the rich and famous—perversion, addiction, and suicide. Stop. Reality check. Are we so enamored by the images flashed before us that we unconsciously glorify them by our conduct and conversation? Do our unrealistic expectations pressure our children to live up to a certain image?

One of the leading causes of death amongst teenagers is suicide. The Centers for Disease control report that it is the third leading cause of death, behind accidents and homicide, of people aged 15 to 24. Even more disturbing is the fact that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14.

Taken from http://teensuicidestatistics.com/ Accessed 1/3/19

 

We stand in danger of being drawn into Israel’s cycle—prosperity, idolatry, immorality, bondage. As we glory in our prosperity, we teeter on the edge of a dangerous precipice, one step away from idolatry. Let us carefully consider our position lest we lead the next generation over the cliff into immorality and bondage.

“So these nations feared the Lord, and served their graven images, both their children, and their children’s children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day” (II Kings 17:41).

Read that verse again. They feared God, yet served idols? Is this possible? Did they go through a form of worship? Showing up for the ceremonies, shouting “Hallelujah” at the right time, bowing their knees, but not their hearts? Yet bringing their sacrifices to the groves, indulging in the sexual perversion, rejoicing in their freedom from the law? Does this sound familiar?

Revival came to Israel only when they tore down their idols. So, it will come to our lives when we tear down the images that our culture has built upon every high place. The idols must go!

Jesus, the Master Teacher, often used images to teach eternal lessons. Satan, the great imitator, is not about to let the visual teaching tool gather dust in his tool box. Consider the effect of pornography on our culture and the recent rise in sexting among teens. The master of deceit is still flashing images before our eyes, attempting to infiltrate our minds with his message.

We would do well to adopt the psalmist David’s consecration: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me” (Psalm 101:3).

Life Reflection:

Is there a connection between preteens’ and teens’ perceived images of success and the suicide rate among them? What can we do to protect our children from the distorted images portrayed by our society?

It is possible to engage in a ritual of worship in church, while bowing to idols on our computers, iPads, smart phones, and cameras? Discuss.

Are there idols in your home or life that need to be torn down? When do you plan to do that?

The Image of God

For generations mankind struggled in vain to regain the image God created—to be perfect, to be godlike, to be super-heroes. But nothing man did was enough. The carnal man prevailed. Then Jesus came.

“In whom [Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God. . .” (Colossians 1:14-15).

“And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10, New International Version).

Jesus, God revealed in flesh, the image of the invisible God showed us the way to put off the old man and be renewed into the image of our Creator—the image that Adam lost in the garden.

Let Me Lose Myself
(These words are as I remember them.)

Many years I longed for rest
Perfect peace within my breast,
And I often sought the Lord alone in tears.
But I could not pay the price,
Would not make the sacrifice;
So I wandered on and on for many years.

Then one day while knelt in prayer,
Jesus whispered to me there,
“Take up your cross and follow Me to Calvary.”
Oh, how hard it was to die, and all self to crucify,
Just to lose myself and find it, Lord, in Thee.

Let me lose myself and find it, Lord, in Thee.
May all self be slain, my friends, see only Thee.
Though it costs me grief and pain,
I will find my life again.
If I lose myself, I’ll find it, Lord, in Thee.

Life Reflection

Whose image do others see in me?

Life Response

Surely God is displeased with the distorted reflections displayed in Generation Image’s mirror. Let us tear down the idols in our lives and worship only at the feet of Jesus.

We belong to the one whose image we bear.

My Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me recognize the tactics of the enemy and resist his attempts to seduce me into worshiping at the altar of self. May Your image be reflected in my face, my attitude, and my action. Make me in Your image.  

More Life with God References

Romans 8:29
Hebrews 1:1-3

Written by Barbara Westberg
This Bible study is a revision of an article published in the Pentecostal Herald. It is reprinted here with permission.