A fabulous hope

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As we close out this troubled year of 2021, I am also finishing up reading along with the Daily Audio Bible.  Reading through the Bible in one year is such an amazing experience.  It shows you God’s plan from start to finish.  The Bible starts off with God’s creation of a spectacularly beautiful paradise inhabited by a perfect but untested human being.  We know the story well.  From the moment Adam and Eve made that fateful choice through all of the stories of ancient times and the prophets, there seems to be nothing but trouble with just a few interludes of repentance and hope.  There is of course the awesome life of Jesus and the hope that He brought to our world, but even his flawless life is followed by much rejection and further predictions of judgment.  As one reads through chapter after chapter of trouble and judgments, it is sometimes difficult to carry on with the readings.  It’s helpful that each day’s readings end with something from the Psalms and Proverbs.

Then, as you approach the final days of the year in your Bible reading, you finally reach Revelation 21.  Here we are once again with two chapters showing God’s kingdom, the ultimate in beauty.  It becomes so clear to the reader that throughout history, God has constantly, without ever once losing His focus or momentum, been working towards this magnificent grande finale.  It’s incredibly amazing to end the year with such a hope, even as we see so much trouble in the world.  We can see that God begins His Book with a fabulous garden and yet He ends it with an even more glorious earth.  The magnificent man who at the start was beautiful, yet untested, has somehow produced many who have been tested and used their freewill to choose righteousness and the true life of the spirit over the naturally attractive life in the flesh.

It seems to me that this Book, God’s Bible, is really an invitation.  By living it, we can each accept our part in bringing in this new and more glorious creation.  Like a Phoenix rising out of the ashes, we can help our world rise above its troubled past (and present) simply by loving God our Father and putting His Word into practice in our lives.  It is clear that God’s heart is to save as many as He can and to restore this world, not just to its former beauty, but also to go far beyond even that, to make it a place where He Himself with all of His glory can feel comfortable to dwell.

Let’s not allow ourselves to be dragged down by the depression of our worldly circumstances or of the world and its circumstances.  We have a dazzling hope and whatever happens in 2022 can help us fan the flames of that hope and let it grow.

Best wishes for a beautiful, prayerful and hope filled new year!

Perfect peace?

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee.

Because I do not yet have grandchildren, I love to spend a little time with my grand nieces and nephew.  Taking them to their bus on Friday mornings is a great way to see them each week.  They go to two different magnet schools that are about a twenty minute drive away from our town (if traffic is good).  Last Friday, I did not have time to read a Scripture before leaving my house at 6:50 to get them to the bus stop on time, so my husband read one to me.  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee.”  One of my favorite ones!  Okay, Lord!  Yes! 

Several minutes later, after picking them up, we headed towards the high school parking lot where the busses would take them to their schools.  On the way up a hill, a large flatbed truck pulled up and began to back into a building with a very small door for such a large truck, blocking the road in both directions.  He backed up and pulled forward, backed up and pulled forward again.  On and on it went.  A worker in a yellow vest was making sure that all traffic was stopped.  Very quickly, I lost my cool.  I opened the window.  “I have to get these children to the bus stop!  They can’t be late for their bus!”  I knew that if they were late for their bus, I was in for a long drive and a big inconvenience to my busy day.  Inside, I was frantic.  Help!  Such a roadblock was not in my plans.  One driver somewhere in line behind me pulled around me and zoomed past both the traffic guy and the truck.  In order to do so, he even had to drive over the sidewalk.  He was clearly angry.  I tried to calm down and told the children that we would pray, but actually, I had already lost it.  In the end, after what seemed like an eternity, the truck finally pulled to the side of the road and let us go by.  Shortly afterwards, we arrived at the parking lot and …. the bus was late.

After the children got on their busses, I had plenty of time to reflect about my attitude and actions.  Wow, it had not taken me long at all to throw everything out the window and basically freak out.  God was clearly showing me something that I need to work on.  It’s really true that I hate to be late, but keeping my mind stayed on God means that I trust Him whether it turns out positive or negative.  If I have to drive them to their schools, isn’t God big enough to arrange my day so that it works out?  There have been other times when I was somehow able to keep my mind on him and, as a result, felt that rare kind of peace that passes understanding.  That special variety of peace doesn’t make sense to our natural minds because it is in such complete opposition to the situation in which we find ourselves.  We cannot find that kind of peace in difficult circumstances on our own unless we truly are connected to Him.

When we dedicate our day to the Lord and tell Him that we love him, we can’t know ahead of time if a big truck (or some other obstacle) is going to interfere with our plans during that day, but we CAN pray for patience, wisdom and insight into what is happening to us.  We can make an effort to recognize the kinds of situations that give us the most trouble.  We can learn to count to ten, recite a Scripture, or do whatever it takes to maintain our calm and keep our mind on Him.  That’s how we know that we trust in Him.  We can make that connection with Him each morning and strive to maintain it so that He’s with us throughout the day.   That’s where such peace comes from – Him.

There really is a peace that passes understanding.  It doesn’t make sense to our natural mind because of the crazy situation that we may be in.  It’s a peace that comes from God our Father.  It’s His peace, and He will give it to us if we show that, no matter what the outcome of the situation, we trust in Him.

 

Isaiah 26:3  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Philippians 4:7  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 66:12 For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream

Why, Lord?

Recently, some difficult things have come into my life, as they do in all of our lives. The most recent event was the sudden death yesterday of my cousin’s 13 year old granddaughter in a mountain bike accident. The whole family is devastated as she was dearly beloved and had such a promising life ahead of her. Those closest to her immediate family are completely distraught.

With this tragic news and with so much difficult news all around the globe these days, I find myself feeling the questions of so many. “Why, God?” Why is this happening to us? Some may be angry at God for allowing hardship, but others may sincerely and deeply want to know why. When I ask God why He has allowed things in my own life, He often gives me an answer if I am sincere in my question. When we consider the difficulties of others, we cannot know the reason for each specific situation. It’s not ours to know, but overall there are some basic answers for all of us.

Since the days of Adam, we have all been placed in situations where we have to choose – good or evil? Adam and Eve chose and so it has gone on down through the generations. It is part of our free will. We often find ourselves in the middle, in a valley of decision. Sometimes we literally choose a good or evil object or situation, but other times the choice is in our attitude towards the situations we find ourselves in or towards the events that happen to us. Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and they seed may live:” God always wants us to choose the good and high road. Even in our grief, we can choose to love God, to continue on in faith and to know that somehow the things that He allows will draw us closer to Him.

Jeremiah 30:3 says, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” To me, those are some of the most beautiful words in the Bible. Everything God is allowing to happen in our lives, as difficult as it is, is drawing us closer to Him in some way. We may never be able to see those ways, but thankfully God has a higher perspective than we do.

I cannot begin to fathom the grief of my cousin’s son and his wife at the loss of their daughter. However, my faith says that somehow their daughter is okay. She is in God’s hands. Their grief will lead them on a long road and they will always miss her, but hopefully, in their grief, they will find God and when they do, they will also find His comfort and love. I don’t know why we as humans so often need tragedy to drive us into God’s arms. We often just live life and enjoy the pleasures of this earth and forget who gave them to us. Difficult circumstances and tragedy jolt us out of our everyday living and open our eyes to the greater purpose of life.

It sounds selfish of God to want us to love Him above all else, but that’s just our earthly point of view. I believe that His love is entirely selfless. He knows that when we love Him, He can lead us and draw us ever closer to Him and then one day, when we have continued to overcome up to our last breath here on earth, we can join Him in His heavens and be eternally useful to Him.

Today, I’m praying for my cousin’s family and for others who face unimaginable circumstances. Lord, let them find you through their tears and lead them to a higher place, Lord. Send them comfort and love and most of all, let them eventually find a greater love for you. And God, take care of Lily and keep her until someday (not too soon please) her family can join her.

Extreme heat

Summer started just a little more than a week ago, but already it is scorching many parts of our world.  Let’s keep people in British Columbia in our prayers.  They normally do not have such extreme heat and so many up there do not even own an air conditioner.  It was 49.6 C (121.3 F!) there on Sunday.  That is simply unheard of.  Dozens of people have died from the extreme heat there.

When God created this world, it was spectacularly beautiful.  He put man (and woman) in charge of taking care of it.  So, to what can we attribute our current situation?  He did not create the situation we now find ourselves in.  We did it.  So, when we’re passing around the blame, it has to stop with us.  However, we can stop the blame and start the change.  Personally, I believe that returning to living godly principles, adopting a simpler lifestyle, and using simple agricultural methods such as described in the wonderful documentary (available on Netflix) called “Kiss the Ground” can turn this world back into the paradise it once was.

Concerning the godly principles, think of it: Would you rather have ten laws to obey in your life or thousands?  The Ten Commandments encompass all aspects of a person’s life here on earth and they can be summed up in a few sentences taught by Jesus.  Love God first and then love your fellow man as much as you love yourself.  Most people have heard of the Golden Rule and cultures all over the world have some form of it.  Treat others the way you would want to be treated.  Living these principles would bring God’s blessings back.  We can’t expect to be blessed by Him when we’ve kicked him out of everything.  Living the ten commandments is not beyond any of us.  We can do it.  Once you get started with it, it just gets easier.

Considering our natural world, there are many farmers who have proven that regenerative agriculture works and when it is implemented, it doesn’t take the earth too long to respond and improve.  Just by using leaves, grass clippings, and compost, I have seen a dramatic change in my own little home garden.  It doesn’t mean that I have no challenges out there, but the improvement is amazing.  As the end of “Kiss the Ground” shows, there is much hope for the future of our world, but we must make a change.  It’s up to each one of us.

“Male and female created He them”

Millions upon millions of people know that the Bible begins like this: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”  The first chapter of the book of Genesis goes on from there to describe how God created our world.  At the end of nearly every phase of His creation, God said, “and it was good.”  Therefore, we know that everything He created was good.  Then verse 26 says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”  Next, verse 27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

It is clear that men and women were created in God’s image.  Why did He create them in His image?  The next chapter tells us that God breathed the breath of life into the man and man became a living soul.  The end of the same chapter says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  God’s thoughts are so much higher than ours.  Isn’t that a good thing?  We have messed things up so badly, but it’s comforting to know that He is way smarter than us and knows what He is doing.  So, what are we to get from these verses?  Why are they included in the Bible?

I am (and  you are) a descendant of Adam and after God created my many times multiple great grandfather, He said, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”  God is again making it clear that He created me perfectly for the life that I need to live while I am in this world.  He gave me everything I need, the personality that will be best, and the family (with all of its positives and negatives) that will be best for what He needs to get out of me.  “And God saw that it was good.”  Therefore, shouldn’t I embrace what He has given me?  It’s perfect!  Philippians 4:11 says, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  In this life, I am a woman.  Should I not embrace that?  In my little neck of the woods, that is the life that will be most useful for others and yet will also make me the happiest when I find the direction and the meaning for my life.

We are losing so much of our humanity in this world today.  Many young people are not content with how God created them.  They are listening to voices that are telling them they would be happier if they were something else.  We no longer have two genders that God created, but gender seems to be a fluid continuum and people seem to move from one thing to another with just the flick of a finger.  I would like to present the idea that these new ideas cannot truly make people happy.  True happiness comes from finding your true God life inside of yourself and being content with that.

It’s quite tricky to discuss this idea these days because everyone assumes that you are a hater if you say something that does not fit the “new norm.”  I would state the opposite.  I love people and it is profoundly sad that so many do not know who they are and think that if they could just change their outward appearance from a man to a woman or from a woman to a man, that then they would find happiness.  I understand that some people truly don’t know if they are male or female because this world has become very confused.  There are so many synthetic hormones in our environment and those hormones do affect people.  We can never know truly why people choose to change their gender identity, but I firmly believe that many today have simply not tried or have not been able to find the God life within themselves.  They are looking for happiness in all the wrong places and that is truly a tragedy, but that does not mean that we should embrace all of the new gender identities and turn our backs on God instituted marriages between a man and a woman.

It’s also a tragedy that Christians are afraid to say anything to oppose the tsunami of opinions and political correctness that paint Biblical Christian ideas as being “hate speech.”  That is simply not true.  I would also add that if we continue to keep silent about this issue, it will quickly become outmoded or even illegal to believe in the Bible and in the holiness of living the truth of the Bible.  So many anti-Christian ideas are already being taught to little children, our children and our grandchildren.

We need to pray for the next generations and we also need to be able to at least maintain our beliefs without fear of governmental or societal reprisals.  What would you say that Christians can do or need to do in order to help our world turn back to God?  Can we turn back to Biblical principles and show the world that it is love, not hate, that motivates us?

You are enough

My students plagiarize. I teach ESL to adults at a local community college. Plagiarism has been an ongoing problem, but since the onset of Covid, it has become a major plague. Spring semester 2020 began in late January and was humming along normally (albeit with some worrying news from Asia) until suddenly Covid made a grand entrance into our lives in the U.S. You know the rest. Immediately after our spring break, all classes went completely online. Up to that moment, we had already been using computer programs and sometimes did assignments online, but in the blink of an eye everything changed and ESL students, especially adult immigrants with families who are frequently already stretched to the limit, found themselves struggling just to keep their heads above water. During the following fall semester and into spring semester of 2021, class sizes diminished dramatically. This semester especially, classes seem to be at an all time low. My current class started with just nine students (versus 24 a year ago). Three of those nine have since withdrawn from the class, two of them because they were going to fail anyway. There are yet two more of the remaining six who are still failing.

So, why are those two continuing to fail? Because they plagiarized. Why did they plagiarize? Because it’s convenient when students are already working online and because they are insecure about their abilities to know the right answers to questions on an online test and because they are not confident enough to think that they can express themselves. How many other students have either plagiarized by copying phrases from the Internet without me catching it or by asking their fluent relatives to write their online homework for them? I don’t know that, but again, why do they plagiarize? Because they don’t believe that they are enough.

It’s easy to catch them most of the time. Suddenly there is a word that I know they don’t know or maybe just a way of phrasing something that an ESL student wouldn’t do. I can copy and paste too. I just google it and presto, there it is. It’s easy to find fault with them, but many of us do the same sort of thing in our lives. It’s easy for God, or even someone we know, to catch us at copying someone else’s inspiration or life. Suddenly, they see us do something that doesn’t fit in with our character or we’re talking about a topic without being genuine since it’s not our life. Do we also think that we are not enough? I think that we could all ask ourselves that question. What happens in our daily lives that we feel is too much for us? Are we accusing God our Father of requiring too much of us? I have to ask myself that question. Is God not able to strengthen us? Do I trust his life in me? Honestly speaking, it’s often easier to look at what others are doing and copy their inspiration or their way of doing things instead of praying for my own inspiration and listening for God’s answer. Isn’t that the same as plagiarism? Plagiarizing is copying what others have said or done. Am I plagiarizing the lives of others? To rely on God in my own life to give me inspiration and guidance can seem daunting. It’s so much easier to follow the leader or to simply do what my neighbor is doing.

However, God is not asking me to be like anyone else. If he wanted me to be like my neighbor, why didn’t he just make a whole bunch of clones? But no, he didn’t do that. Not only did he give us unique personalities and gifts, but he also let us be born into different cultures and circumstances. We all have different life experiences and outlooks on life. He made each one of us unique and gave us gifts and talents that can be useful in the situations that we find ourselves in. Because I don’t have to live your life and you don’t have to live mine, I shouldn’t try to be like you or do things the way you do them. What is God inspiring in my life?

Some personalities in the Bible never appeared to lack confidence. They seemed to know innately that God’s life in them was enough. Joshua and Caleb declared to the children of Israel: We are well able to defeat the giants in the Promised Land. David knew beyond the shadow of doubt that God in his life would slay Goliath. He demanded, “who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Sa 17:26) In Philippians 4:13, Paul writes: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

In the end, we are all well able to take on God’s plan for our lives if we believe that he has given each one of us, his children, the right gifts and talents to do the things that he wants us to accomplish in our lives. He didn’t give me the talents to accomplish what someone else needs to do. He gave me the talents to accomplish events and plans along the road in my life, and what he is asking of me is not so far off that I need to plagiarize someone else’s life or reach into the sky or into google or ask Alexa for the answer. No, his answer is very quiet and close at hand. It’s right in my mouth and in my heart. It fits right in with the personality and interests that he gave to me. Truly, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?  Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?  But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14

A milestone birthday

Today is my dad’s one hundredth birthday! Yes, he’s one hundred years old! That’s hard for me to believe or perhaps it’s hard to register that in my brain. He has lived a long, amazing and productive life.

Sometimes we don’t know why God allows someone to live such a long life. Some people live long in spite of being life long smokers. Others live long and nasty lives. However, the Scriptures do tell us, “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long upon the land that the Lord your God gives you.” That’s one thing that my dad did quite well, honor his mother and father. Even as a young child, his mother made him responsible for his younger brother who had developmental challenges. As a young man, he was responsible to work and help his parents with expenses. As an American citizen, he was responsible to his country and joined the army before Pearl Harbor to serve. Then came marriage and his responsibility to his wife and children. As his mother and brother aged, he became responsible for their well-being and took care of them until they each passed on.

Last year I was talking to Dad on the phone. He told me that he was looking forward to seeing my mother again. She had passed away two years before that and he was missing her terribly. Immediately after telling me that, he added, “But I have to think about my children.” I nearly burst out saying, “But Dad, we are all mature adults now with our own houses and families! We are doing fine!” I didn’t say that though, maybe because he was so innocent in the expression of his thought. It’s just the way he is, very responsible.

So, I believe that God has allowed him to live this long and beautiful life because of that fifth commandment spoken so long ago. It is a testimony to us that the Ten Commandments are still very current and important in our lives. They never expire. The keeping of them gives us life and hope. You can be sure that life was not always easy for him. He married Mom just a few short weeks before he shipped out to England. They were separated for two long years. Troubles and heartaches came and went over the years. When my mother broke her hip and they could no longer live in the same house they had lived in for more than fifty years, he just gave it all up in a day and moved with her into my brother’s house up north. He left everything he was used to and moved to a colder climate. Everything changed in an instant, but he never looked back. He didn’t want to go out and do things by himself because he wanted to be there for her.

So, I am wishing my dear dad a very happy birthday today and am looking forward to as many more birthdays as the Lord will give him until he leaves us to rejoin Mom.

Dad at Meadowbrook Hall on 70th anniversary

God will rescue us (if we let Him).

This morning’s Bible reading was from Deuteronomy 4. In that chapter, God is pleading, even begging, His people to keep his commandments and remember how he took them out of Egypt with mighty miracles. He asks them a few questions:

  • Is there any other nation that God is so close to?  No!
  • Is there any other nation that has such righteous statutes and judgments as have been given to this nation?  No!

His questions got me thinking.  Is there any other nation that God absolutely went in and dragged them out (even if kicking and screaming) with such incredible miracles?  Not to my knowledge.  He even reminds His people that the mountain burned with smoke and was covered with thick darkness as they heard His booming voice giving them the Ten Commandments.

He implores them not to make a graven image of anything that He created. This one has been a trial for mankind since the dawn of time.  Our Father’s creation is so beautiful that men/women fall in love with the creation rather than with the one who created it.  He continues on by explaining what will happen to them if they do such things.

However, even though it sounds grim, He doesn’t leave them hopeless. He reminds them that if they end up in tribulation, even in “the latter days,” if they turn back to Him, He will remember them and rescue them.  Are we in those “latter days” at this time?  The love of many is growing so cold.  It is becoming hard to hang onto our faith, hard to maintain a constant connection and prayer life with our Father.  In a fulfillment of the story of the frog who jumped into a pot which slowly heated up until he died, much of Christian belief is being slowly turned into “hate speech.”  It’s no longer politically correct to speak your mind and no one will even listen to a differing opinion, especially if it’s a Christian point of view.  In their eyes you are a “hater.”  How can God’s love for humankind, His best hopes and love for them have turned into something that people call hatred?

We must be in those latter days.  And yet, even so, God is reaching out.  If we turn to Him, humble our hearts, and ask His forgiveness, He will always rescue us from the pit that we have dug for ourselves.  Is there any pit so deep, or perhaps dark, that He can’t find us and drag us out of it?  NO!  We all find ourselves in all sorts of pits from time to time.  The pit of depression, of despair, of self pity or of pride, insecurity or anger.  No matter what it is, all we need to do is turn back to Him.

As I was driving along later this morning, God, the best DJ in the universe, inspired someone to play this song on the radio.  I hope you enjoy it.  (Sorry, I could only paste the link here.  It’s a Lauren Daigle video.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYR0xP1j4PY

Back to God

This is a song for our time. We are all (and when I say all, I mean the entire world!) wondering about these strange times that we live in. Politicians do not have an answer. They can send us money, give us vaccinations, tell us to stay home, require us to give up our gatherings, but they do not have an answer. Giving us money is only a short term fix for some, but it further increases a national debt that we will never be able to repay. Giving us vaccinations may protect us, but how long will it last? Will there be long term side effects? Will this plague ever go away completely? Staying home creates such incredible loneliness and spells disaster for small family owned businesses. We need each other. We need companionship. We need community. People are so needy these days.

This morning my husband and I were out on a walk in the neighborhood. As we walked a few streets away, we were admiring some of the Victorian style architecture and the large covered porches where people used to gather. Suddenly, a woman came out onto her porch and began telling us all about the roofing job that had just been completed on the house closest to us. She went on to introduce herself and her husband and in the end, invited us to come back one day to sit on her large front porch and have tea. She said, I am human. You are human. We all need each other. How right she is and how terribly heartbreaking. People need companionship. Not only was this short chat heartbreaking, but it was also incredibly uplifting. She was so needy and yet so welcoming and thoughtful. We need each other. We would love to go back in the spring and sit on her porch and have a nice cup of tea with this neighbor who rushed out to greet us on a cold winter day with such a warm welcoming spirit.

Yes, we are all human and we need each other. However, no amount of money or government intervention will ever fulfill our heart’s needs. What we really need is God. We need God Himself, not religion. We each need our Father in heaven for ourselves. We need to have a conversation with him and pray that He will be with us and guide us. We need Him personally in each of our lives. If we have grieved him, we need to apologize and make it right. We need to ask His forgiveness and change. He is so longsuffering and kind. He will come swiftly when he hears a humble and repentful heart. Others can feel it if our love for God and our fellow humans is true. People are looking for true, sincere, and righteous lovers of God. When they feel that kind of love, they look up and take notice; it gives them a kind of divine jealousy. They want to get whatever it is that person has. True love is contagious and will spread. We gotta give this world back to God.

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
Gotta keep on praying
You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving
Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
We gotta give this world back to God

The most valuable book ever written

It is an outstanding gift to be able to read the Bible from cover to cover in a year. There are many apps that help us to accomplish it these days, making it very available to us in several formats.

As your year of reading begins, you read the story of how God created the world. By his word, he proceeded step by step, and each of those steps added to the creation of an amazingly beautiful world. He put the man and the woman in the garden of his creation and gave them an apparently simple restriction. Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because if you do, you will surely die. Although that seems simple enough, along came the evil one lying, making insinuations and creating doubt in the woman’s mind. We all know where that led to.

At the end of your year of reading, you arrive at the book of Revelation. In it, God shows the culmination of mankind’s journey from the state of sin, through the process of overcoming, leading to his/her salvation and the ultimate return to God’s paradise. When we read the last chapters of Revelation, the paradise that is described appears to be similar to the first, but when you compare it to the first, this paradise seems more glorious than the first. The first one had a garden, everything that mankind needed to live, trees that were pleasant to the sight, and a river that split into four rivers. Most importantly, God Himself liked to walk there. In the paradise in Revelation, sits God’s throne and the throne of the Lamb, and from that throne comes a river, but this river is the water of life, clear as crystal. On either side of that river of life is the tree of life. There is no more curse in this place and no more night. God’s servants will see God’s face in this place and there is not even a sun because God Himself gives them light. You can see that this paradise is clearly even more magnificent than the first.

In between the first paradise and the last, all the pages of the Bible tell the story of sin and its consequences and mankind’s struggle to overcome it, the life stories of men and women who succeeded and of those who did not. It tells of overcomers, prophets, evil kings, good kings, simple people and so much more. We read of Abraham, Jacob and Esau, King David, his son Solomon, Manasseh, Moses, Samuel, Rahab, and so many others. Each of their lives added to the human story, both good and bad. Those whose lives demonstrated overcoming added to the river of life and showed the way of salvation to those who would come after them. Those who succumbed to satan’s ploys added something important as well. They gave us an image of what not to do, how not to live. Looking at the whole, we see a grand snapshot of God’s eternal plan of salvation and the final restoration of Adam’s descendants. We see God’s compassion and kindness and learn from the mistakes of those who went before us.

Through the richness of the Bible, we learn that we do not have to live as some have lived, but we can live following the example of the most amazing life ever lived, the life of Jesus. What an awesome and splendid story we find in the life of Jesus. We can read his life’s story over and over again and learn more from it each time. Even today, in the midst of a world that seems to have gone mad, we can still find his words jumping out from the pages of this book, beckoning us to live them and make them our own. This book tells us of those who did it. They lived his words. In their lives they succeeded and showed us that we can too. Jesus showed us that God is his father. We are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, whose father was God. That makes God our father as well. That means that we can all find the path to salvation if we desire it. With the life of Jesus and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we are well able.

Best wishes for a successful overcoming life with Jesus in 2021!