• Articles

    6 ways you can prepare your heart this season

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I can’t believe that the holiday season is already upon us. It felt like just a few short months ago that l pulled down the mistletoe, swept up the last remaining pine needles, and boxed up my Christmas decorations. 

    And yet, overnight, the world has set its alarm clock for the holiday countdown. In response, l find myself getting caught up in the frantic pace of getting the house holiday ready, planning festive meals, and buying and wrapping presents. 

    Years of experience have made us adept at preparing ourselves physically for the Yuletide period, but how much attention have we paid to preparing our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ? 

    If you too are getting swept up in the madness of the holiday countdown, the following are 6 ways that will help you to take a step back and prepare your heart this season.

    1. Remember what Christmas is really about

    It’s easy to get tunnel vision from the commercial enticement and the societal expectations of the holiday season. Every wreath-festooned street and festively dressed shop window is an ongoing reminder for us to participate in a global enterprise of consumerism and culinary indulgence. It is a sharp comparison to the humble entry of Jesus, who was born in a stable and placed in a straw-filled manger.

    However, as Christians, we know that greater is He who is in us than He that is in the world (1 John 4:4). So, although it’s lovely to participate in holiday traditions, we need to remember that this season is about more than a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, expensive presents, and a sumptuous Christmas Day banquet. It is a time where we can commemorate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. For without His Ministry on earth and consequent sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, we would still be held in eternal bondage by sin. 

    Although the build-up to Christmas may last weeks, Christmas Day is just that – a day. However, the relationship we have with God through the death and resurrection of His precious Son is eternal. Jesus is Immanuel – God with us (Matthew 1:23).

    Photo credit:  Walter Chávez on Unsplash

    2. Focus on your Provider instead of only providing for others 

    At the beginning of every holiday season, l  start formulating to-do lists of all the things l need to prepare for the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. It’s important to me to provide my family with a wonderful holiday experience, and l want to make sure that l haven’t forgotten anything.

    However, in the process of making endless preparations, l can easily lose sight of the One, who provides me with life, peace, and all my needs – not just during the holidays, but every day.

    At such times, l need to take a breath and re-set my mind to what should be my most important priority – honoring and worshipping God. 

    Therefore, if you also tend to get swept up in the frenzy of holiday preparations, switch your focus to God by making Him a priority. By doing that, you’ll see that He will provide you with peace, energy, and joy for the season. 

    Photo credit:  Raychan on Unsplash

    3. Have an attitude of gratitude

    The holiday season is a time for many of us to enjoy the fruits of what we have achieved during the year. We have our homes and our families, we have a bulging fridge full of food to eat on Christmas Day, and we have financial resources to buy presents for our loved ones. 

    However, there are people around the world who experience the holidays differently. Many spend Christmas alone feeling abandoned and neglected. Families who have hit hard financial times are having difficulty providing their children with a happy Christmas experience. Too many people are living on the streets without the opportunity to enjoy a hot Christmas meal and a stable roof under their heads.

    Therefore, as you enter the holiday season, take a moment to thank God for all the ways He has blessed you and your family this year and say a prayer for those who are struggling during this period.

    Photo credit:  Freshh Connection on Unsplash

     4. Spend time with God and the Word

    Regular routines go out the window during the holiday season, including spending regular time with God. However, seeking God’s presence is exactly the thing that can bring us peace, charge our batteries, and keep our eyes on Him amidst the flurry of social engagements and holiday planning.

    For that reason, make it a priority to allocate time every day for God. During that time, spend time in prayer, worship, and thanksgiving for the upcoming season. You can even sing some Christmas songs!

    In your quiet time, also delve into God’s Word by reading scriptures that will encourage you to have peace (John 14:27), feel joy (Proverbs 17:22), and inspire you to love others (Romans 12:10).

    Additionally, scriptures that herald the coming of Jesus (Matthew 1:23), declare His glory (John 1:14), and speak of God’s promise of Salvation through Jesus (John 3:16) will keep you focused on what Christmas is essentially about – the birth of Jesus and His gift of eternal righteousness with God that He gave us. 

    I also like to follow an Advent reading plan from YouVersion, the creators of the BibleApp. Additionally, l read Advent devotionals, such as the ones offered at Crosswalk.com.

    Photo credit:  Joel Muniz on Unsplash

    5. Enjoy the whimsy of the season

    The holiday period brings with it an infectious atmosphere of fun, gaiety, and anticipation. It is the home stretch to a celebratory ending of an old year and the anticipation of a promising and eventful new year.

    Children can be our best teachers in embracing the frivolity of the season. When experiencing the abandoned delight with which children embrace holiday experiences, it is easy to see why Jesus says that we should become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).

    So, take a leaf out of your child’s book and wear a cheeky Christmas tie to work or don a pair of Christmas bauble earrings (mine are pink). Crank up your favorite Christmas song and prance around the house like Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen. After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly!

    Photo credit:  Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

    6. Bring the Good News to others

    Our priority during the holiday season is to look after our families and provide them with the ultimate holiday experience. 

    In the Kingdom, we are all God’s children, yet many people are unaware of the Good News of the Bible and that Salvation through the grace of Jesus is available to them. 

    In Luke 17.21, it states that the Kingdom of God is within you. Therefore, reach out to someone, who needs to know about the message of hope, love, and Salvation that Jesus came to share with us. 

    Ask your neighbor over for a holiday cup of candy cane coffee and Christmas cookies, or ring up a friend whom you haven’t heard from in a while and ask them how they’re doing. Invite someone, who is alone, to spend Christmas Day dinner with you and your family. 

    Sharing the Gospel is not only done through biblical instruction, it is also conveyed when we share with others the love of Jesus that resides in us. It is the ultimate form of worship, especially during the holiday season.

    The holiday period is a season to be enjoyed with all that it has to offer. It’s a time of love, laughter, and joy. All the more reason that we need to prepare our hearts by remembering the ultimate expression of love from God – His gift of Salvation through the death and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ.

    Photo credit:  Jon Tyson on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    The grace of God

    Written by Onome Ogbajibrede

    Thought of the Day:

    Grace knows no boundaries and when the human effort fails, grace elevates. A fellow that carries grace can never be disgraced by any foe.

    ‘‘But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.’’ (KJV)

    I Corinthians 15: 10 (KJV)



    A few years ago, in my homeland of Nigeria, there was this incidence of a lady, whose compound was infiltrated by armed bandits.

    Having witnessed her neighbors being robbed, the lady placed her tithe card on her doorstop, reminding God of her faithfulness in tithing. Did you know that she was not robbed by the bandits? She had grace for exemption, and God was faithful to her. To God be the glory! Through grace, the race is won.


    Apostle Paul is one Bible character I have cherished so much. As an unbeliever, he persecuted the Church of Christ a great deal and was committing people to prison with reckless abandon. The persecutor became the preacher, and he was able to acknowledge the grace of God upon his life in our above Bible reference. The life he lived became solely for Christ (Galatians 2:20), and he was always recounting the grace of God upon his life. This same grace became sufficient for him, and he was able to accomplish his Christian race to the finish line (2 Timothy 4:7).


    The God of all grace is the giver of strength to the weak, and He has all humankind at heart. He knows that all mortals have limited strength, and He is always on standby to help all. God Almighty wants us to always call on Him to give us grace daily to live above sin and to conquer each day. When we do that, He will always respond to our clarion call, and He will send us His grace speedily from His sanctuary. God is too faithful to fail, and He will continue to renew our strength each new day.

    The grace of God is the divine grease that governs the life of all mortals. Let us always ask for grace in all that we do, and above all, let us ask for the grace to make it to Heaven, which is the fulfillment of our destiny.


    Prayer:

    Dear Lord Jesus Christ, I acknowledge You today as the only original Savior, for I cannot help myself. Release upon me Your fresh grace daily so that I can succeed in all that I do. Amen.

    Delve deeper:

    Spend time today remembering all the ways that God has given you favor and showed you mercy. A personal reflection on God’s faithfulness to us will help us to understand His grace better.

  • Devotionals

    The Lettuce

    Written by Lynne Phipps

    Thought for the Day:

    “Salvation is God’s way of making us real people.” 

     St. Augustine

    “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

    Hebrews 4:16

    As I grabbed my ringing phone, I heard my daughter saying that Frank was in the greenhouse.  Dropping the receiver, I made a dash out of the house and arrived at the greenhouse to discover Frank had indeed broken in and was contently munching all the tender lettuce plants down to their roots.

    Frank is my miniature horse. He is extremely nosy and very determined.  Unaware of my arrival, he was chomping away when I asked him what he was doing.  He almost leapt out of his skin and then gave me one of the guiltiest looks I had ever seen.  Who knew?  A horse could look guilty? Not until I caught him red-handed.

    Trying not to laugh at this unexpected reaction, I chastised him and pointed my finger for him to get out, which he at least had the humility to obey.

    Frank is not the only one who gets caught out in his sin though.  The Holy Spirit is pretty adept at catching me as well and then pointing the way out and the way to go.  And the way out and forward is through God’s grace in Christ: Grace which allows me to acknowledge my sin, be forgiven of it – as well as the guilt of it – and then go forward with a clean slate to set things as right as possible concerning the situation.  Not that I deserve forgiveness but because God’s grace is undeserved.  He extends it freely to all those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— “

    Ephesians 2:8

    This marvelous gift of grace is something that I am becoming more and more aware of as I age, due to the fact that I am often awake during the night.  

    And during these periods of wakefulness, the Holy Spirit brings things to my mind.  I remember occurrences of sin from years ago, even though I was often not aware that they were sin at the time.  They are not huge things but rather those everyday instances when I did not love my neighbor as myself.  I acted hastily, rudely, and in an unthinking and unkind manner.  I did not take the time to help when I could and should have.  I used harsh words or a manner which was totally uncalled for.  I left undone what I should have done. All these things I either justified at the time or was simply blind to.  

    And yet, God was aware of them and because He loves me so much, He wants me to be holy in Christ, which also means becoming aware of any ungodliness within and dealing with it, through His grace, which I am obediently doing step by step, as He lovingly catches me out.

    Prayer: 

    Father God, thank You for Your grace through Jesus Christ.  Thank You that it is always available to us through faith that we might not only be forgiven of our sins but also the guilt of them that is so often the cause of depression, discouragement, and hopelessness.  May each of us learn to accept and rest in that grace that we might become more and more like You.  In Christ’s name. Amen.

    Delve Deeper:

    How about you?  What does God’s grace mean to you? 

    How aware of it are you in your daily life? 

    Have you been saved by grace, through faith – if so, this is not from yourself, it is the gift of God.  And if not, ask yourself, why not?  For one day, we will each be found out, much like I found Frank out.  Our life will come to its earthly end, and we shall stand before God.  And how we have accepted or refused His grace in Christ will be the judge of our eternity.

    This devotional was published on the 5th November 2019 on PresbyCan Daily Devotional.

  • Jacob's Ladder Artist's Page

    An interview with Land & Salt

    Jacob’s Ladder Artist’s Page is a space on our blog, which we have dedicated to showcasing Christian ministries that express themselves through creative mediums such as music, literature, photography, painting, and more.  

    We are humbled and thrilled to be able to come together with the British duo Land & Salt and share their music ministry with you.  

    We hope you enjoy learning more about them and their missional call to spread God’s Word, and we pray that their music will provide you with further revelation of God’s love, grace, and mercy. 

    Jacob’s Ladder: Thank you for being a part of our Artist’s Page. We are so grateful to have this opportunity to get to know you!  

    Charlie: Thanks for inviting us! (laughs) 

    Let’s start at the very beginning: Who is Land & Salt? 

    We are husband and wife – Charlie and Marie Collis. Music was the beginning of our relationship and we began playing music together long before we were married.  

    What does Land & Salt mean?   

    Land & Salt was a gift to us; in fact, it actually has a few meanings for us.  We prayed for a name that was grounding and strong. ‘Salt’ was the first word that God spoke to us. Where we live, we can see an estuary that fills with thousands of tonnes of seawater each day. The land literally shifts and changes twice a day.  ‘Land and Salt’ are the backdrop to our lives, so it seemed fitting.  

    Also, salt being the preservative and flavoring described in the Bible sat well with us. We felt the term ‘Land and Salt’ really was our calling – to go out into the world carrying the Good News from place to place and then to ‘land’ and add ‘salt’ to each life we come across. 

    I like how God spoke your band name into your hearts. So, how did you and Marie meet? 

    We met at music college; music really was the beginning of our friendship and our lives together. 

    What instruments do you both play?  

    Our core is acoustic guitar and vocals, but we both play other instruments. We like our songs to be able to ‘stand alone’ as good songs without having to add anything at all, so we begin with guitar and vocals.  

    When we record, we might add some concertina, banjo, piano, extra guitar, or percussion. We worked with a gifted violinist Robyn Welsby on our last EP Salve, and we love working with other musicians. Our time with Robyn was an incredibly blessed time of prayer and worship, and we are so thankful for these sessions. 

    When did you and Marie start playing music? 

    We are both from musical backgrounds. Our heritage spans from opera singers and orchestral players to Irish singers and country pianists.  

    Marie began singing in public at the age of 11, with her father’s traveling Irish and country band. She had a very raw introduction to having to capture people’s attention quickly. 

    As for myself, l  became enchanted by music the day my father bought me a harmonica from the fair at the age of four.  

    How early on in your musical career did you feel God’s influence? 

     All in all, God began a work of creating music in us long before we could even begin to perceive how He would bring it to fruition.  

    We both worked for many years as musicians in the secular music industry doing session work and writing for projects, until we set up our own label for independent artists. Although we were thriving, we were unhappy musically. Our lives had become self-driven. We were striving and playing for the wrong reasons, and we knew that something was wrong. We were burnt-out and longed for peace. 

    After taking a break from touring, we discovered that we were expecting our first child and this incredible news began a work in us that would very soon lead us to meeting Jesus in a powerful way.  

    And how did your encounter with Jesus lead you to your current ministry?  

    As I explained, we were musicians working in the music industry well before we became Christians, and we had well and truly given up music for what we thought was indefinitely. Music was driving us to compete with others, drive ourselves, and sell ourselves, and we didn’t like it. The more success we experienced, the further we drifted from our own sense of integrity.  

    We feel that the moment we gave up music all those years ago was ironically the moment our calling began, which sounds very upside down. However, our striving for our own ends was the thing that was holding us back from God.  

    Looking back, God had been tapping at our door for a long time. We both experienced very thwarted religious upbringings, we both came from homes with difficult marriages, and we both experienced the painful and sudden loss of a parent by the time we were teenagers. But through these difficulties, God gave us two constant things to cling to –  the ability to cry out to Him in prayer and the ability to play music. We hadn’t yet met Jesus, but we knew there was a God.  

    When we finally gave our lives to Jesus, it took a few years to discern what the calling on our lives was. We looked into missionary work, ordination, and other spheres of ministry, but in our hearts, we knew it would be music that God used in our lives. 

    Can you describe Land & Salt’s sound to us? 

    We are English hymnals. We are folk and blues – this is the genesis of our sound. Really, ‘folk’ is a stretch of the musical term, because our sound is more ‘cooked-up’ than that. We blend blues, fingerpicking, folk, and early gospel together to create an accessible way of ministering to the community around us. We like to describe ourselves as ‘gospel led folk for gospel led folk’, because we really are living a ‘gospel led’ life.

    Folk music has always been an aural expression of our surroundings, our past, our purpose, and above all, our culture. This is what Land and Salt is born from – we are just allowing God to use what He has shaped us into so that we can spread the gospel through music. 

    What creative roles do you and Marie assume in Land & Salt?  

    We both love using all of God’s gifts and so we balance out lots of creative roles together. Marie generally writes the melodies over guitar parts that I string together. We do our own artwork, photography, and filmmaking. 

    What is your music influenced by?  

    Foremost, Jesus. (smiles) We are so grateful that He has chosen us – firstly to know Him, but also now to create in His name. It’s mind-blowing that we get to play and sing to His glory, and He is honored by it.   

    How does the Holy Spirit inspire you creatively?  

    The Holy Spirit is so creative. We get to explore this every day in so many ways: We have six children, who inspire us; we live in a wood on the banks of a river, which inspires us; we have so many good people in our lives, who give and share even though they have little or nothing, which also inspires us. Also, seeing friends, who are facing a crisis with calm and love – well,  that inspires us as well. All of this fills our songbooks, knowing that the Holy Spirit is the author in all of this. 

    Do you have a key Scripture that motivates you to create?  

    God speaks through His Word in so many areas. Of course, the Psalms are our best friend for ancient lyrics, but we don’t have one scripture in particular – it is all thirst-quenching. 

    What are the creative challenges you face?  

    We are challenged by the practical parts of bringing our music to people’s ears and finding the time to spread our music so that it can reach new people and minister to people in the right places. The internet can be a blessing and a burden in this area, and it takes a lot of our time promoting and approaching radio stations and magazines.  

    But we are very blessed to be able to do all our own management from home so that we can balance out the calling of family and ministry. 

    What is the name of your latest album?  

    We released our debut EP – Salve in August of this year.  

    Salve is a beautiful name – so soothing. Can you tell us a bit about the EP? 

    Salve is a work of grace. It was written on our hearts for many years as we lived out our lives. This album really became a ‘salve’ for us: We were wounded from our former musical lives, and it took many years for God to convince us that we were being called back to create music once again. Salve is the culmination of this calling. 

    What song from Salve do you feel has made the most impact on your listeners?  

    ‘Homeless Hearts’ certainly has had some amazing responses – from being played in hospitals for the terminally ill to receiving airplay in Bible colleges in America. We have had some very warm invites to visit the USA and certainly feel it has a role to play.  

    Additionally, “Homeless Hearts” has reached the UK top ten charts and receives a lot of airplay on the radio.  

    That’s amazing how God has been working in the lives of so many people through “Homeless Hearts”. 

    Absolutely! It has been a real gift from the Lord. 

    “Homeless Hearts” has reached the UK top 10 charts.

    Do you have any upcoming material? 

    We have just begun recording our first album, which is due for release early next year. It’s all about being a follower of Jesus in today’s world, and how we can look beyond ourselves – even when facing difficulty – to bless those around us, by the blessings given to us.  

    Your new album sounds inspiring – I believe that people will be greatly encouraged by your new music. 

    It’s all in His word – we just proclaim it, set it to harmonies, and add the rawness of ‘gospel folk’. 

    What is the inspiration behind your new album?  

    It is a calling. We simply feel the Holy Spirit has inspired this new album. Each song is a gift, and we are still amazed that we have such a huge body of work ready to record. We even have the next album written! (laughs) 

     All of a sudden, we have been able to write, write, write….in the car, whilst cooking, or tending to the children, whilst working, or driving, or sitting waiting outside the library or shop. We can’t not write at the moment and that is the Holy Spirit at work in us.  

    What message has the Holy Spirit put in your heart to spread with your new material? 

    What God has brought out in this new work is really the ‘living out’ of this life that He calls us to; how as followers of Jesus, we can live and love, although every part of our ‘old self’ is still present in our being. The album also addresses how we treat one another and the people around us and what that says about Christians today. 

    We hope these songs reassure people of the promises God makes, the help He gives, the peace He has won, and the life to come – despite our broken ideas. 

    What was the spiritual journey you took to make this album?  

    It has not been an easy journey: We started on our knees, crying out for wisdom. There has been a lot of waiting, feeling confused, and then feeling blessed. And that is not over – it repeats itself again and again.  

    This week, we have just finished a song that talks about how we can drift away from prayer and talking with God, but He always waits faithfully until we come back to Him and cry out in prayer.  

    How do you incorporate the Word into your music? 

    We let the Holy Spirit be our guide and inspiration from conception to completion on all of our songs. We work on a passage of the Bible and see where it leads. The results are always interesting and often lead us in a completely different direction to what we first envisaged. 

    It’s worth mentioning that we really enjoy playing music as worship, and this encourages us because it’s a mark of the Holy Spirit – doing something for the Lord should bring deep joy. 

    I totally agree with that! (laughs) Do you believe in incorporating Scripture clearly in your music, or do you prefer to portray your message more discreetly?  

    It’s all in His Word! (pauses) His Word is power and we believe in using the power of God to change lives, so yes – using Scripture directly is the most precious thing we can do.  

    That being said, sometimes expounding the Word can be helpful to portray the meaning of it and to bring it to people, who are not really Bible readers. One of the greatest joys so far has been that non-Christians are listening to our music. Knowing that they’ve been spending time with God’s Word really amazes us. 

    How much does your choice of musical genre influence the Gospel that you wish to portray to your listeners?  

    We simply feel that God uses all that we are, including the parts of us we are personally challenged by.  

    Bringing Land & Salt to life meant just saying ‘yes’ to God and letting go of what we feel we should be doing musically. It’s through this trust that He can reach out and touch lives. We pray we can reach ears and touch lives with good music that speaks, especially to those who have not yet heard the Good News. 

    The musical genres of folk and blues speak with strength into people’s lives, regardless of the message. We really feel a call to use the power of this music to speak to folks who need to hear the Good News; whether in joy and triumph, or sadness and failure – it’s needed. 

    What role does social media play in informing the world of your ministry?  

    This is a good example of one of the things we’ve had to say ‘yes’ to, when we were called. We’ve always avoided social media, and it’s been both a learning curve and an eye-opening experience. 

    It’s abundantly clear that social media is a mission field in itself. We have been able to connect and have relationships with people all over the world – that’s been truly incredible.  

    We feel that social media should be used with caution – for all that is good with it, it can be a dark place. However, the thing is, it is essential that Jesus should be present in all places to shine light in the darkness, and social media is an effective vehicle for that. 

    What challenges do you face as a Christian artist, who is trying to make their mark in a mainstream industry?  

    Happily, we are not looking to make marks in the mainstream – we revel in being a part of the most incredible musical heritage – hymns and sacred church music of the past.  

    The Christian music industry only fails when it tries to mimic the secular one, which is a shame, as it doesn’t need to. We strive to encourage others to use their gifts for the glory of God and not for the glory of ourselves. 

    As Christians, we have our own inspired and inspiring culture; we need to be ‘culture makers’ not mimics. It is important for all Christian musicians to remember that we are building a Kingdom, not an industry.  

    That being said, we have seen that the larger Christian record labels and artists will get more airplay and coverage for obvious reasons, as in the secular music world, but we have also come across some really helpful people, who do want to encourage and introduce new independent Christian music.  

    I really like your response to this question, as this is a great reminder for Christians to keep their focus on furthering the Kingdom, and not get caught up in abiding by what their mainstream colleagues or even Christian contemporaries are doing. 

    Definitely! (smiles) 

    What is your listener profile?  

    I’m not sure that we have a ‘profile’, but many people have remarked that they can happily do creative tasks like painting or writing with our music on. And many have remarked that they use our music to ‘soak’ in God’s presence in their quiet and prayer time. We have also had people from all corners of the world listening and contacting us. 

    We are told in the Bible to ‘encourage’ each other, so along the way we try to always encourage other Christian musicians, and we appreciate and treasure any encouragement and comments we get; nothing is wasted. 

    How do you interact and respond to your audience?  

    We love to perform, but in this season of our lives with young children, we are concentrating on recording and releasing music. However, we feel that in the future, God is looking to use us in a setting of intimate worship and fellowship that gives glory and brings people closer to the presence of God.  

    That’s great that God is calling you to go out and reach people through live music in future. 

    It has been on our hearts for many years to find other settings to do ‘church and ministry’ and that taking the ‘church worship’ out into the world will help to reach more hearts. We have always been moved by the simplicity of the ‘Early Church’ to break bread, read God’s Word, pray, and sing songs. 

    We think this mode of simple itinerant worship is so powerful, for it begins in the most loved place of our lives – our homes – and pours out into the world through creativity. Where talking and preaching can fail, Art can speak.

    Do you have any upcoming events?  

    We have a few radio interviews that we are excited about. We will post more details on our social media links as they happen.  

    But mainly the upcoming album is the focus for us right now. This journey is like driving in the dark and the fog with the headlights on: God only wants us to see what is right in front of us so that we trust His navigation for what lies ahead, and don’t get too overwhelmed with the view. 

    Where is your music available 

    Our music is available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon, Deezer, Tidal, iHeartRadio, and a few other platforms. We also put our videos on YouTube on our channel “Land & Salt”. 

    However, we appreciate our sales going through our  Bandcamp page, as it is a great independent music site that needs more support. 

    Additionally, our website is where we have our music and videos to listen to, but we also use the following social media handles: 

    Facebook: 

    www.facebook.com/landandsalt 

    Instagram: 

    www.instagram.com/landandsaltmusic 

    Twitter: 

    www.twitter.com@landandsalt1 

    “Tree to Tree” has been nominated for the JUMP Release Music Video Awards 2019 in 2 categories.

    What advice would you give someone, who would also like to start an artistic ministry?  

    Seek God’s wisdom in all things, and although other people can often offer some good advice, God’s calling on your life is an intimate thing.  

    Pray and spend time with Him alone until you can discern your direction. And look at your gifts – not just your current ones, but those God has blessed you with since the beginning of your life.  

    It is often when we look back over our lives that we begin to decipher God’s plan through the footprints that we have left behind. (smiles) 

    I like your last comment! Finally, what message would you like to pass on to your listeners that will encourage them in their faith walk?  

    Choose trust. (pauses) When you face obstacles and want to fear – instead choose to trust. When you cannot see the end of a problem – choose trust. When you doubt – choose trust. When you are angry and can’t forgive – choose trust. When you are ashamed or guilt-ridden – choose trust. When you are in need of something – choose trust. 

    In every situation we can choose to trust Jesus, for He is trustworthy: He has proven that in His actions here on earth.  

    Our old self wants to trust in our own feelings and emotions, but we have been given another choice – to trust in Jesus instead of feeling fear, hate, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, and bitterness. For we are told that in ALL things He longs to ‘prosper’ us and give us hope (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) – but it is our choice that makes the difference. 

    Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today and for sharing the ministry that God has placed on your hearts. We wish you all the best for your upcoming album, and our prayers are with your ministry. 

    Thank you! We too, wish you all the best with your ministry, and our prayers are with you too! 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Three: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6

    God does His best work in the silence

    Part Three – Studying God’s Word

    Welcome to the third and last section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6. 

    In an extended version of Part One – “Understanding God’s Word”, we joined the Israelites as they stood before the impregnable walls of the fortified city of Jericho in the land of Canaan.  

    Having been promised the land as their heritage by God, the Israelites still needed to believe that God was with them and would bring them victory against a superior enemy – the Canaanites.

    By obeying God’s commands and praising Him before they saw one stone be dislodged from the mighty wall of Jericho, the Israelite’s kept their faith and endured when the odds looked heavily against their favor.

    The result – God made the walls of Jericho fall down! 

    In Part Two – “Living God’s Word”, we explored the ways that we can partner up with God, the way the Israelites did, in order to live out the blessings and promises He has for our lives. 

    Part Three – “Studying God’s Word “ is intended as a study guide for those of you who would like to delve deeper into the biblical and life themes presented in Joshua 6.  

    If you would like to know more about the benefits of studying the Word of God, then l recommend that you read our page “Why study the Bible?”

    The aim of this study section

    This study section is intended as a guide to promoting discussion and reflection on Joshua 6.   

    As a start, I suggest that you read Part One and Part Two of this Bible Study on Joshua 6, in order to fully appreciate the lesson portrayed in this biblical account and to consider the chapter’s themes.   

    For whom is this study section intended? 

    You can apply this section within a group setting, such as a house group, a Bible Study group, or a prayer group.  

    Alternatively, you can also study on your own. If this may be the case, l have written some suggestions below in the section “If you are studying on your own” to assist you in your learning.   

    I encourage you to customize this study preparation by taking out of it what you wish and adding your own ideas and insight. Have fun with it!  

    What you will need:

    • A Bible, preferable a study Bible. I personally use the  “The Everyday Life Bible” from Joyce Meyer Ministries  
    • An exercise book or journal and a pen  
    • As an alternative to pen and paper, you could use a tablet or a similar electronic device 

    This study section composes of six parts:

    1. Discussion questions  

    2. Testimony  

    3.Praise and Worship 

    4. Suggested reading   

    5. Journal writing  

    6. Prayer

    These are just guidelines to help you structure your group time. Feel free to add or take out elements as you see fit! 

    Additionally, talk with your group and ask them for suggestions about what they would like to do. The more ideas, the merrier!  

    If you are studying on your own

    If you are not in a group and you would still like to apply this study section of Joshua 6 to your own private study of the Bible, that is also great! Quiet time with God is valuable time, and you can learn a lot about Him during it.   

    The following are a few suggestions of how you can adapt the 6 sections of this study guide for private study purposes:  

    1. Discussion questions:  

    You could start a journal and write down your thoughts to the listed discussion questions.   

    1.Testimony  

    You could use our suggested topics in the Testimony section as stimulation to write down all the wonderful things God has done in your life by starting a testimony journal or a blessings jar.  

    3.Praise and Worship 

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes. 

     4. Suggested reading   

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    5. Journal writing  

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    6. Prayer  

    You can speak the prayer at the end of this section over yourself. Your words have power, especially if you speak them over yourself:  

    “ So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;  
        it shall not return to me empty,  
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,  
        and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  

    Isaiah 55:11  

    Let’s look at the 6 sections of our study guide. 

    Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

    1.Discussion questions

    The following are some discussion topics l have thought of to assist you in delving deeper into the themes of Joshua 6.

    There are no right or wrong answers to these topics; they are merely suggestions to stimulate conversation and an exchange of views within your group. Also, feel free to ask others if they have ideas regarding this topic that they would like to discuss and go with it!  

    As each person experiences a different walk with God, it is interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and thereby learn from each other and grow together as a Christian community. Happy talking! 

    Possible discussion topics on Joshua 6

    1. As their first place of conquest in Canaan, God sent the Israelites to the most fortified city in the entire land – Jericho. There was no way they could avoid this if they were to take possession of the land. 

    Why do you think that God sent them to Jericho? How does this correspond to a difficulty that you are currently facing? 

    2. Watching the Israelites march around their walls for 7 days, the Canaanites must have thought their military strategy to be ridiculous. Most likely, they even jeered and mocked the Children of God.  

    Have you been met with disbelief whilst in the process of acting in obedience about something that God has put on your heart? Have others even mocked you for it?

    3. In Joshua 6:21, the Israelites destroy every living thing in Jericho according to God’s commands. 

    Considering what we learned in Part 1.3  about the devoted things – charam in ancient Hebrew – what do you think about God’s punishment of the Canaanites? 

    4. God told Joshua of the promise to bring down the walls of Jericho, however, He also made it clear that the Israelites were to do their part and fulfill His commands in absolute obedience (Joshua 6:2-5).

    Do you think that God would have brought the walls of Jericho down if the Israelites hadn’t obeyed Him?

    How much is our own obedience dependent on God’s fulfillment of His promises over our lives? 

    5. Whilst marching around the walls of Jericho, the Israelites refused to get distracted by the enormity of the challenge that lay before them. Instead, they kept their hearts and minds on God and focused on what He could do to help them (Joshua 6:8-16). 

    What are ways that we can keep our focus on God when faced with adversity, instead of becoming distracted by the enormity of our situation?

    6. Are you waiting on God to work in a particular situation in your life right now? Is He working in a way contrary to how you thought He would work? Is His solution to your problem far better than the solution you were originally hoping for?

      7. The Israelites praised God before they saw a change in their situation (Joshua 6:5Joshua 6:20). 

     How important a role does praise and worship play in your quiet time with God? Have you experienced a major breakthrough after dedicating time to God in praise and worship? Share this experience with the other members of your group. 

    8. We know that God makes the impossible, possible. He provides us with signs, wonders, and miracles (Hebrews 2:4). With one shout of praise, He made the impregnable walls of Jericho fall down (Joshua 6:20). 

    Could it be that when God blesses us with signs, wonders, and miracles in our own lives, that it still comes as a surprise to us? Why is that so, do you think? 

    Photo by Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash

    2.Testimony

    Sharing your life experiences and the victories that God has vouchsafed you is a verbal expression of your gratitude. It gives not only our Father glory, but it encourages fellow Christians who may be going through the same trial that you have undergone.   

    “I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
        in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

    Psalm 22:22   

    Possible testimony topics on Joshua 6

    1. Aware that the Israelites were outmatched physically and that they lacked military experience, God gave the Israelites victory at Jericho through unconventional means – faith, obedience, endurance, courage, and praise. 

    Give a testimony of a time when God used unconventional means to give you victory in an area of your life.  

    2. Upon entering the land of Canaan, God gave the Israelite’s what looked like an impossible challenge – overcoming Jericho, a fortified city that was famous throughout the land for its impregnable walls.  And yet, God chose this city for the Israelite’s to conquer, when He could have made it easier for the Israelites to claim their inheritance. 

    Have you also faced what seemed like the biggest challenge in your life? How did you keep your eyes on God during this difficult period? Are there any Bible passages, books, or worship songs that you can share with the group that helped you and which will encourage others? 

    When God brought a breakthrough in your situation, what did you learn about Him from your experience? What did you learn about your own faith walk? 

    3. Prior to them entering Canaan, the Canaanites had already heard of the Israelite’s faith and knew of God’s power and provision for them (Joshua 2:9-11). The Israelite’s reputation as children of God preceded them.  

    How do you think that people recognize you as being a follower of Christ? What are some of the actions or mindsets you have that can encourage someone, who doesn’t know Christ, to pick up their cross and follow Him? 

    Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

    3. Praise and Worship

    Spending time with God in praise and worship is an integral part of every Christian’s faith walk.  By praising God, you are honoring His majesty, His goodness, His love, and His kindness.  

    By worshipping God, You are honoring His presence and are inviting Him to be a part of your life. Also, praise and worship is an expression of thanks for the many times He has offered you grace when you were undeserving of it. Alone for His gift of Salvation, He is worthy of our praise and worship! 

    Basically, if you love God, praise and worship is the way to show Him it! 

    The Bible calls for us to praise and worship God: 

    “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, 
        and his courts with praise. 
        Give thanks to him, bless his name.” 

    Psalm 100:4  

    “Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; 
        worship the Lord in holy splendor.” 

    Psalm 29:2 

    In Revelation 4:11, it states that we were created for the purpose of praising our Creator: 

     “You are worthy, our Lord and God, 
        to receive glory and honor and power, 
    for you created all things, 
        and by your will they existed and were created.” 

    Revelation 4:11 

    How to praise God every day

    So, how do you praise God?  

    As you would start a church service by giving thanks to God through praise and worship, you can start off your day, as well as your prayers, by thanking Him for all the wonderful things He has done for you, as Psalm 100:4 commands us. Also, you can thank Him throughout the day for the mercies He gives you, no matter how big or small they are.  

    Additionally, you can start a gratitude journal. I highly recommend “The 5 Minute Journal” from Intelligent Change. 

    How to worship God every day

    Worship is a physical manifestation of your praise. You can express yourself by dancing, marching around your home and praising Him loudly, playing an instrument, or singing to worship songs. Alternatively, you can bow down on your knees to Him and worship Him that way. God is pleased with every form of worship you express to Him. 

    Finally living a God-intentional life, where we do our best to abide by His commands, walk in love with others, and honor Him by respecting our bodies, hearts, and minds, is the best form of praise and worship that you can show God. 

    How to implement praise and worship in your Bible study group:

    You can start off your Bible Study session by each member of the group expressing gratitude to God for something that He did for them that week. 

    Following that, you can play some worship music and sing.  If someone in the group plays an instrument, it can be used as a musical accompaniment. Together with a tambourine, you have the making of a great worship session!  

    Alternatively, you could play worship songs from the internet or a CD. 

    Play worship songs with our Jacob’s Ladder Blog account on Spotify!

    If you would like to have a ready-made list of worship songs available to you at a mouse click, l have set up our own public Jacob’s Ladder Blog account on Spotify.  

    The music in our account is organized according to our themes for transparency, but feel free to jump between playlists as you please. 

    To find our account, type in Jacob’s Ladder Blog in the search bar at the top left hand corner of your Spotify screen.  

    If you don’t have Spotify and you would like to download it, here is the link to their main page. They offer free and premium accounts. 

     Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

    4. Suggested reading

    Reading the Word of God teaches us about how much God loves us and gives us guidelines on how to live the life He wants us to live – a life of victory and joy. 

    The following is reading material that relates to the themes we have been discussing in Joshua 6. 

    Scriptures:

    Listening to God in the silence 

    The voice of God 

    Resting in God’s presence during adversity 

    Obeying God 

    Partnering with God 

    Faith 

    Courage 

    Endurance 

    Praise 

    Bible chapters on trusting God in the silence

    Interesting online articles relating to Joshua 6:

    charismamag.com, “How to Recognize God’s Still, Small Voice,” Dr. Mark Virkler.

    crosswalk.com, “How to Obey God, Even When You Don’t Feel Like It,” Dawn Wilson. 

    shegznstuff.com, “Identifying the Strongholds in Your Life (5 Areas to consider),” Segun Aiyegbusi. 

    ymi.today, “Three ways to push through a dry season,” Madeline Twooney.

    Inspirational quotes relating to Joshua 6:

    • “I believe that a trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. You see, when you let go and learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient. Patience is not just about waiting for something… it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting.” – Joyce Meyer 
    • “I believe if you keep your faith, you keep your trust, you keep the right attitude, if you’re grateful, you’ll see God open up new doors.” –  Joel Osteen 
    • We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Theresa 
    • “God will meet you where you are in order to take you where He wants you to go.” – Tony Evans 
    • “God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile.” – Max Lucado 

    Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

    5. Journal writing

    Writing down all the good things that God has done in your life is a very powerful tool for a Christian. Not only does it help us to remember what God has done for us; reading over God’s past victories and blessings over you provide encouragement and empowerment in times of trouble. All you need to start is an empty exercise book and a pen. Alternatively, you can keep a digital journal.   

    There are a number of forms of journals, where regular writing in it will strengthen you in your walk with God:   

    •  A testimony journal   
    •  A dreams and visions journal   
    •  A blessings journal   
    •  My favorite –  a gratitude journal   

    Try to write once a day in your journal. All you need is 5-10 min to jot down everything good that has happened to you during the course of your day, no matter how trivial.    

    Meditate upon what you wrote and acknowledge that it is God who was responsible for these good things happening today, and not you or your own works.    

     ‘”Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’   

    Zechariah 4:6 (NIV)   

    Journaling in your group:

    You can e.g. allot 10-15min for journaling in your group, and afterwards share your written thoughts with each other.   

    An alternate suggestion is to incorporate journal writing as part of your quiet time with God, then discuss your results when you meet as a group.   

    Journaling on Joshua 6

    1. From our reading section, write down 5 key scriptures that resonated with you. Read these every day for the following week and try and commit these to memory (Psalm 119:11).  

    2. Rahab was the only inhabitant of Jericho who sought repentance in the Lord when the two Israeli spies did a reconnaissance of Jericho. Her Salvation meant that she and her family survived the slaughter at Jericho and that her progeny carried the line of David, and ultimately Jesus.

    Write in your journal of your own journey to Salvation. How has being in a relationship with Jesus changed your life for the better? What blessings and opportunities has He provided you with that would not have been realized if you hadn’t have given your life to Christ? 

    3. Are you currently going through a season of adversity? Are you weighed down by worry, ill health, or fears for the future?  

     Write down all that is troubling you, and hand it over to God. Then, leave a few lines free at the end of your entry and place a bookmark or some kind of place marker on the page. 

     From personal experience, God will work in your situation and will give you breakthrough in the specific situation you have written about. Use that space that you have left free to write the date of that breakthrough and write down how He worked in your situation.  

    I assure you, that feeling of relief, victory over triumph, and confident reliance in God is amazing! Remember that feeling and tap into it when you are confronted with your next challenge. It will fortify your faith that God has helped you before, and He will do so again!  

    4. As an extension of No. 3, start a journal, where you can record every breakthrough that God has given you. I call mine my “Miracle Book”.

     As a friend once described it, writing in this book is akin to giving a deposit in the bank; every time you are feeling worried or overwhelmed, you can read over your previous entries and gain encouragement from all the times God has helped you in the past. By doing so, you make a spiritual  “withdrawal” that will fortify your faith that God will help you in your current situation.

    I do this and it gives me comfort and encouragement to keep my eyes on God, and watch with hope and expectation for His timing. He is a way maker and a miracle worker!

    Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash

    6. Prayer

    What is your personal Jericho? What situation are you currently facing that is burdening you and where you can’t see a feasible solution in sight? 

    Let us bring your concern to God in prayer, for what is impossible for man, is possible with God! 

    Normally l write prayers that can be read aloud in a study group; however this time around, I have written this prayer to be prayed over individually, out of respect for the sensitivity of individual situations. 

    That being said, if you are seeking God’s help as a family, or a church group, then feel free to use this prayer in a corporate capacity. 

    Some final pieces of advice before you speak our prayer:

    *Be specific in your prayer request. Tell God exactly what is challenging you currently. He, of course, knows what is going on in your life, but He wants a two-way communication with you.

    +Additionally, tell God how you are feeling. Give all your emotions to Him. In 2 Kings 20:5, it states that God hears our prayers and sees our tears; He will heal us.

    Prayer:

    Merciful Father, wonderful Savior, 

    Father, You came to me in the darkness, when l was dead to You in sin. You saved me through the blood of Your precious Son, in order that l may become Your child, a son or daughter of the Most High. 

    And now, that l am Yours, You will not loosen Your hold on me. You will not fail me nor forsake me in my hour of need. For my heart is heavy with worry, and my soul is weary with carrying around the burdens of the problems l face. I look around for a solution, but all l see are walls; l yearn for even the slightest sliver of light to fill me with hope of a better future.  

    Therefore, l come to You and lay my situation before You.* All the worry, fear, and anxiety that is threatening to overwhelm me, l lay at Your feet.+ I will cast my care on You and trust in You to help me.  

    Tell me how l can best obey You during this season of my life; teach me to walk with faith and trust that You are working in my situation, even when l don’t see any change. Give me courage to face each new day and provide me with endurance to keep on fighting the good fight, even when the odds seem against me.

    And lastly, put a new song in my heart every morning, in order that l may sing Your praise before l see the victory that You have already planned for me. 

    Precious Lord, You always make a way, where there is no way, for nothing is impossible for You! We thank You that by Your Spirit, You will make the walls that are surrounding me fall down.  

    In Jesus’ name, 

    Amen.

    Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

    We hope that you enjoyed our Bible study on Joshua in our series Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies.   

    For our next theme, we will be studying 2 Samuel 9 and exploring the theme of grace through King David’s act of kindness to Mephibosheth, the son of David’s dear departed friend, Jonathan.   We would love for you to join us!   

    Until then, my friends, be safe and may God’s love and blessings be upon you!   

    Sources:

    bibleorg.com, “5. Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)”  

    enduring word.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho”  

    thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?”  

    christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”   

    desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan”  

    gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?”  

    thejc.com, “What is Pesach?”  

    ligonier.org, „Why Did God Command the Children of Israel to Kill Every Man, Woman, and Child in the Promised Land?” 

    biblehub.com, „1 Kings 16:34“ 

    churchofjesuschrist.org, „Joshua 1-24” 

    answersingenesis.org, “The Walls of Jericho” 

    focusmagazine.org, „Devoted Things” 

    compellingtruth.org, „Why did God give the Mosaic Law? What is the purpose of the Mosaic Law?“ 

    rccg.org, „First fruit offering“ 

    biblestudytools.com, „First fruits“ 

    openbible.info, „Tithe In The New Testament” 

    compellingtruth.org, “What does the Bible say about spiritual strongholds?” 

    gotquestions.org, “Spiritual strongholds – what is the biblical view?” 

    christianity.com, “What Is a Tithe? – Meaning and Importance of Tithing in the Bible” 

    biblestudytools.com, „Tithing in the Bible“ 

    ryanhart.org, “27 Inspiring Bible Verses About Tithing and Offerings” 

    crosswalk.com, “Tithing in the Bible – Is Tithing for the New Testament Believer?” 

    gospelweb.net, “Partnership with God” 

    mmnbs.com, “Lesson 6 – Joshua 6” 

    studyandobey.com, “Inductive Bible Study on Joshua 6“ 

    foundationsforfreedom.net, “Bible Study Questions on Joshua 6,” Paul J. Bucknell.

    ministrymaker.com, “What is the Purpose of Praise and Worship?” Dr. Gary Linton.

    winninggodsway.com, “Winning God’s way” 

    allaboutgod.com, “All about…Praise and Worship” 

    biblestudytools.com, “Obedience Bible Verses” 

    bible.knowing-jesus.com,  “30 Bible Verses about partnership” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Book Reviews

    JL Book Review: “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom

    “You are my hiding place and my shield;
        I hope in your word. “

    Psalm 119:114 (NRSV)

    In choosing which book to review for our theme “Trusting God when He’s silent”,  The Hiding Place  seemed the ideal choice for me.  

    The Hiding Place was written in 1971 by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. It is Corrie’s personal memoir of her life growing up in Holland and her family’s involvement in helping persecuted Jews find refuge from the tyranny of the Nazis, who had occupied her country during the Second World War.

    Corrie’s personal account of trusting and relying on God through the horror of the Nazi occupation, as well as the brutality and despair of imprisonment and a German concentration camp, is a true reflection of the power of God to shine a light in even the darkest places of human suffering. It is a testimony that God is with us in the silence and does not fail us nor forsake us. 

    The plot of The Hiding Place

    Cornelia, otherwise known as Corrie, begins her true account in January 1937 in Haarlem, Holland, in the childhood home she shares with her sister Betsie and their elderly father, Casper.  The mood is festive, as the family watchmaking business is celebrating its 100th birthday. The entire village is participating in the festivities that will take place in the little in-house watch shop.  

    The birthday party takes a rather somber turn however, when Corrie’s brother Willem brings a Jewish man, who has recently fled from Germany after being attacked on a street corner in Munich.

    Corrie continues her narration by reminiscing on past incidents she had experienced while growing up in the narrow house that the family nicknamed the Beje.  One such memory she shares is of her trepidation of her first day of school. Understanding her fears, her father read aloud Psalm 119, where God provides a hiding place for His children (Psalm 119:114).  

    Corrie and her sister Betsie reach adulthood and lead a quiet but happy life as spinsters in their childhood home under the loving guidance of their father. The daily routine of the three occupants of the Beje provide them with the same comfort as the familiar ticking of the many clocks that surround them. However, their tranquil regularity is forever disturbed when the Nazis invade Holland in May 1940.  

    Life in occupied Holland takes on a sinister turn. However, the most alarming element of the Nazi occupation is the persecution of the Jews. After witnessing the Nazis ransacking a Jewish shop across from the Beje, the ten Booms begin to offer persecuted Jews asylum in their home, until they can be safely re-located to the countryside.   

    Thus, begins the family’s involvement in the Underground movement, an illegal resistance network system that helps Jews escape the tyranny of Nazi persecution.   Corrie becomes the head of the Beje branch.  

    However, on February 28th 1944, the ten Boom’s participation in the Underground movement comes to an abrupt end. Exposed as national traitors, the family faces extreme peril at the hands of the Gestapo.

    As they enter the darkest chapter of their lives, the ten Booms need to rely on the goodness of God and seek refuge in the spiritual hiding place He offers them.

    The meaning behind the title The Hiding Place

    Casper ten Boom’s reading of Psalm 119 provides an eloquent introduction to the meaning behind the title of this epic book. God is our spiritual hiding place, our refuge in times of trouble.

    Corrie is confronted with this during her time in a German concentration camp, in particular through her sister Betsie, who always chooses to keep her eyes on God, regardless of how appalling their circumstances are.

    Additionally, the hiding place refers to the safe house of the Beje that the ten Booms create for persecuted Jews; in particular, the secret room they use to hide their jewish contemporaries in during Gestapo raids.

    My reaction to reading The Hiding Place

    This book is admittedly a somber read, but it entails important information that every Christian, or anyone seeking Christ, should be aware of. 

    We live in a world that is just as broken and unjust as the Nazi occupied Holland described in this true account. Acts that transgress the decency of humanity occur unfortunately every day.  

    The Hiding Place is a necessary reminder that God is at work even in the darkest of situations, though we may not see it. He is with us as we fight the things that threaten to hurt us; He will never fail us nor forsake us.  

    However, on our part, we need to believe that God can make a way where we see no way. We need to put our faith and trust in Him and keep our eyes on Him, and not on our circumstances. We too, can take refuge in God as our own hiding place. By doing so, we can experience hope and encouragement under even the worst circumstances.  

    This book also encourages us to show compassion for those who seek to hurt and destroy us, especially when they do not know the love and mercy of Christ. Knowing that we cannot reach this level of love on our own, The Hiding Place describes how God meets us where we are; He bring us to a place of peace and ultimately, forgiveness – the latter of which is a constant theme of this book.  

    While reading The Hiding Place, your faith is tested – how can God have allowed such travesties to occur? And yet it shows such wondrous examples of God’s love for His children.  If you didn’t believe in signs, wonders, and miracles before reading this book, you will by the time you turn the last page. 

    Would l recommend The Hiding Place?

    I would highly recommend The Hiding Place for anyone, who is struggling with adversity and feels like God is not hearing their pleading and their prayers. This book will assure you that not only does God hear you, He is right there with you in your situation and is guiding you through it. 

    Put your faith and trust in God, and let Him be your refuge – your hiding place – while He works everything out for your good. 

    Where can l purchase The Hiding Place?

    You can purchase The Hiding Place through Amazon.com,  Goodreads, Christianbook.com, or inquire at your local book store. 

    What else has Corrie ten Boom written?

    Corrie ten Boom has written several faith-inspiring books such as Tramp for the Lord , In my Father’s House,  and  Marching Orders for the End Battle: Getting Ready for Christ’s Return

    I have also read Defeated Enemies, which l particularly enjoyed and can highly recommend. 

    Where can l learn more about Corrie ten Boom and her family?

    It is possible to visit the ten Boom house in the Netherlands, which has been transformed into a museum. For more information on guided tours, visit the museum’s website at Corre ten Boom House

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Two: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6

    Partnering with God to live a victorious life

    Part Two: Living God’s Word – Applying Joshua 6 to everyday life 

    Last week, we finished an extended Part One of our Bible commentary on Joshua 6. We discovered how the Israelites penetrated the impregnable walls of the city of Jericho and thereby took over the city from the hands of their enemies, the Canaanites (Joshua 6: 20).

    Although they were outmatched in military experience and weaponry, the Israelites had an ace up their sleeves that assured them victory before the battle had even begun – the blessings and favor of God.

    The Israelites knew that God had promised them the land of Canaan as part of their inheritance. However, they also knew that the land was occupied by their enemies, who owned the land. In order to come into the fulfillment of the plans that God had laid out for them, they needed to trust God, obey, have faith, and praise Him before they saw victory.

    Now that we have studied Joshua 6, let us explore how we can take the lessons of this phenomenal Bible chapter and apply them to live a victorious life full of faith, praise, and fellowship with God.

    Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

    See with the eyes of faith

    “For we walk by faith, not by sight”

    2 Corinthians 5:7

    Before the Israelites approached the formidable walls of Jericho, the Bible states that Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, was by the city (Joshua 5:13).

    Looking over the arid plains to the formidable fortress walls of Jericho, one wonders what Joshua was thinking. For to the human eyes, Jericho could not be compromised – especially not by a nation of former slaves with no military experience and inferior resources.

    However, God encouraged Joshua to look at his situation with eyes of faith. He himself came to speak to Joshua – what is known as a theophany – who proclaimed that Jericho had already been given into the Israelite’s hands (Joshua 5:13-15, Joshua 6:2).

    By God’s spirit, the walls of Jericho would fall down, but Joshua not only had to believe it for himself, he had to convince the entire Israeli nation to believe it too. They had to see the walls of Jericho flattened to the ground by faith, before they saw it with their human eyes.

    This is exactly what happened:

    “By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.”

    Hebrews 11:30

    As a modern translation of this principle, living a victorious Christian life not only means to have faith that God exists and that He loves us. It also means that we need to believe that God can make all things work out for our good – especially when the odds look like they are against us. We need to see with eyes of faith.

    God does not think like the world does. He is not bound by the expectations of society, nor is He motivated by likes on Instagram or thumbs ups on Facebook. God always has the final say in our lives – not people, not bad breaks, and not adversity.

    So, the next time you face a difficult situation, don’t worry about how it’s going to work out. Don’t spend sleepless nights trying to figure out a solution. Like God promised the Israelites a favorable outcome with Jericho, so He is promising you a favorable outcome to your dilemma. However, you need to accept that promise and believe it will come to pass – you need to see with eyes of faith.

    The power of the believer’s weapons

    “For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

    2 Corinthians 10:4

    The battle the Israelites faced as they stood in front of the walls of Jericho was not a physical one. If so, they would have failed dismally in penetrating the impregnable walls of the fortress city. They were former slaves, who had spent the last 40 years wandering the desert; their lack of military expertise would have cost them their lives at the hands of the Canaanites, who were seasoned warriors and armed to the teeth in weaponry.

    No, this battle against the Canaanites was a spiritual one. Therefore, in order to incur a spiritual victory, the Israelites had to engage in spiritual warfare.

    The warfare we face today is also spiritual: sickness, financial struggles, marital discord, just to name a few.

    They are brought on by an enemy – the devil – who wants to see us live a life of defeat and misery.

    “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

    John 10:10

    However, God wants us to live a victorious life, full of joy and fulfilment. Look at the second part of this Bible verse:

    “I came that they may have life,  and have it abundantly.”

    John 10:10

    God provided the Israelites with spiritual weapons to fight, and we can use these same weapons to live out the blessings and promises that God puts in our hearts.

    Let’s explore what these weapons are and how we can wield them:

    Faith

    We talked in the previous section about seeing with eyes of faith. Joshua and the Israelites acted in faith by following God’s plan to walk around the walls of Jericho for 7 days.

    As a further step to seeing, God wants us to step out in faith. This means that we follow a course of action with the belief that God is going to make things right, even if we aren’t sure how the end is actually going to pan out.

    Instead of fretting and plotting our own course through the landmine of troubles in your life, hand over your situation to God today. God is faithful: If you reflect on past problems, did they not all work out in the end? That was not the result of luck or coincidence – that was the favor of God in your life.

    Therefore, put your faith in Him again – if He’s helped you once, He will do it again!

    Courage

    Often in life, situations arise that can daunt us. People can say things that can make us feel threatened or afraid. The pain of past experiences makes us fearful of stepping out of our comfort zones.

    As they walked around the walls of Jericho, the Israelites had to gather their courage. They had a prime view of the defense fortifications of the walls, including a 28 ft stone tower. The Canaanite giants were kitted out in weapons and were probably within distance to launch offensives from the safety of the parapets. However, the Israelites just kept on marching, because they knew that God had their back.

    When faced with adversity, we too need to confront the problem with courage and confidence that God is with us. He will not allow us to face a difficult situation on our own. In fact, He goes with us.

    One particular Bible verse that gives me courage is Deuteronomy 31:6:

    “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”

    Obedience

    Listening to God and fulfilling His instructions is not always an easy thing to do for us. God has given us free will, and as humans we are accustomed to being in charge of making our own decisions in our everyday lives.

    However, God is omnipresent: He can see situations from multiple perspectives simultaneously and is not hindered by space or time. So, when He asks us for example, to wait, or to not follow a certain path, He is only doing it out of  concern for us.

    Obeying God doesn’t always mean it makes sense to us.

    The Israelites didn’t likely understand why they had to walk around for 6 days around the walls of Jericho – in silence. However, they did it. When God told them to shout on the 7th day, well they did that too. And what happened? The walls of Jericho came tumbling down!

    God knows what is best for us. So, the next time God asks you to do something and you don’t understand the point of it, just remember that He is asking you to trust Him. Put your human reasoning behind you and just try obeying Him. You will be amazed at how things turn out bigger and better than you thought they could ever be!

    Endurance

    Do you know the excitement you feel, when you start a new project or even a new diet? You’re full of enthusiasm and can almost reach out and grab that positive future picture you have of yourself.

    However, as time goes on, the project ends up consuming all of your free time, and the lack of significant progress frustrates you. Eating green salads for every meal becomes monotonous; you start fantasizing about eating carbs again. You begin to doubt whether you have what it takes to keep going to realize your goals.

    Can you imagine how the Israelites felt walking around the formidable walls of Jericho for 7 days, especially when it didn’t make any sense to them? I wonder if some of them got up on day 4 and thought, “Do l really have to spend my day walking around those blasted walls, getting jeered at by my enemies, who are obviously stronger and bigger than us? I mean, what’s the point? Everyone knows the walls can’t be breached.”

    And yet, the Israelites continued to get up every day for 7 days and walked around the walls of Jericho. They endured through their adversity and their endurance paid off.

    What would have happened if the Israelites had stopped walking on day 6? They would never have known that their victory was waiting for them the next day.

    Be like the Israelites: Keep on persisting when you don’t see a change in your situation, keep on enduring when you feel like giving up. You never know, you might be on day 6 of your own walk. Endure through it and walk into day 7, where your breakthrough is waiting for you!

    Praise

    This particular weapon is something that God has been especially putting on my heart this year.  He has been teaching me the importance of praising Him before l see a breakthrough in my convalescence with depression and burnout. Why? Because He wants me to remember that He is greater than illness, or any problem on this earth, for that matter.

    ”Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

    1 John 4.4

    After 6 days of walking in silence, God asked the Israelites to give one almighty shout on the 7th day, as they stood positioned in front of the walls of Jericho. So, as the low bellowing sound of a single ram’s horn reverberated throughout the Israelite formation, the children of God raised their voices in praise – and the walls of Jericho fell down.

    By praising God during the midst of your current strife, you’re showing Him that your focus is on Him and not on your problem. It tells Him that you trust Him to make a way for you where you see no way. It shows God your faith.

    There are other situations in the Bible where people praised God before they saw a breakthrough in their situation.

    In 2 Chronicles 20:22, the combined armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir turned on each other, when King Jehoshaphat of Judah appointed singers to praise and worship God.

    In Acts 16:25-32, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God in prison. In response, God brought about an earthquake that shook the foundations of their confinement, released captives from their chains, and brought a Philippian jailor to Christ.


    If you too are looking for a breakthrough, l can only recommend that you lift your hearts, voices, and hands and praise the Lord, the One who makes all things possible and that no spirit, might, or power can stand against!

    I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
        I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
     I will be glad and exult in you;
        I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

    Psalm 9:1-2

    Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

    Tear down strongholds

    “Now Jericho was shut up inside and out because of the Israelites; no one came out and no one went in.”

    Joshua 6:1

    When the Canaanites first discovered that an attempt was being made to besiege them, they shut themselves in – physically and spiritually.

    Firstly, they positioned themselves behind a physical stronghold – the fortified walls of Jericho – so that the Israelites could not compromise their position.

    Secondly, they set up a spiritual stronghold of pride in their hearts, refusing to repent for their idolatry and adamantly refusing to accept Yahweh as their one true God.

    So, what exactly is a spiritual stronghold and how does it apply to us today?

    A stronghold can mean two things. It can be a fortified place to take refuge in whilst under duress. In  Psalm 27:1, David makes us aware of the importance of making God the stronghold of our lives in times of adversity:

    The Lord is my light and my salvation;
        whom shall I fear?
    The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
        of whom shall I be afraid?”

    However, a spiritual stronghold can also be a mindset, philosophy, or opinion that goes against the knowledge of God.

    As we mentioned earlier in our section on seeing with eyes of faith, the warfare we wage today is spiritual. And although we have an enemy who wants to see us live a life of defeat and fear, we can’t always give him the blame for everything that goes wrong in our lives. There are times when our mindsets, more explicitly, our thinking or belief systems, can also cause problems in our lives.

    So, how can our mindsets cause us problems?

    First of all, strongholds find their origins in pride. We are all prone to it.

    Furthermore, we can make life difficult for ourselves when we prioritize the things of this world over God’s values. This includes pursuing materialism, giving too much importance to our appearance, or even seeking to further ourselves instead of helping others.

    As long as we continue to follow such thought patterns, we are erecting spiritual strongholds in our mind that prevent the truth of God to come in.

    Paul accentuates the need to tear down such strongholds and make ourselves obedient to the will of Christ in 2 Corinthians.

    “For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

    2 Corinthians 10:4-5

    Therefore, in order to be able to hear God more clearly and fulfil His wonderful plans for your life, try looking inside yourself today: See where there are any mindsets that you are insisting on pursuing that go against God’s Word. 

    Photo by Micheile Henderson @micheile010 // Visual Stories [nl] on Unsplash

    Seek God’s voice in the silence

     “Be still, and know that I am God!
        I am exalted among the nations,
        I am exalted in the earth.”

    Psalm 46:10

    The world we live in is a busy one. As soon as the alarm goes off, it is a race to get out the door, pack the kids in the car for the school run and rush off to work for that first meeting. When we try to put aside time to spend with God, we get distracted by our phones or by the nagging mental to-do list that we need to work through.

    As a consequence, God’s voice gets drowned out through the noise and hectic of our lives.

    The Scriptures say that the voice of God is small and still. Elijah the prophet experienced this firsthand (1 Kings 19:12 (KJV)).

    Therefore, in order to hear God, we need to find a quiet moment of the day and slow our minds down in order to receive His Word.

    “For God alone my soul waits in silence,
        for my hope is from him.”

    Psalm 62:5

    The Israelites knew the importance of seeking God’s presence in the silence. While they marched around the walls of Jericho, they literally didn’t say a word – not even the children in tow.

    Instead, they used that time of marching to keep they eyes on God, listen to the trumpet fanfare that represented His voice, and seek His presence.

    So, how can we develop our own cone of silence to hear God’s voice?

    Set aside time in the day for God

    God time is also known as “quiet time”. Therefore, block out a specific amount of time in the day to spend with God and guard that time preciously. During this time, put your phone away, disconnect the house phone and encourage a quiet atmosphere around you.

    Let other people in your household know that this is your time with God and that they should not bother you during it. You can also encourage the entire family to use that time for their own “quiet time” – even the children. Everyone can go to their own designated area of the house and develop that routine of spending time with God.

    Alternately, you could get up 30 minutes before the rest of your family does, or have your “quiet time” after everyone goes to bed.

    Create a peaceful space

    In order to promote a feeling of stillness and quiet, make your space peaceful and tranquil. That could mean setting up some big cushions on the floor or lighting a few candles. Make your designated space a haven that you look forward to going to every day to be with God.

    Prepare yourself for God’s voice

    Get yourself mentally prepared to hear God’s voice by playing some worship music. Also, read some verses from your Bible.

    By doing this, you slowly lay aside the hectic of the day and prepare yourself mentally and spiritually to receive God’s voice.

    Pray

    Prayer is communicating with God. For me personally, l talk to God like l would to my own biological father – simply and directly.

    l always start my time with God by expressing my gratitude to Him for all the good things He has done for me that day or that week. Following that, l praise God for the many ways He is good – His mercy, His grace, His understanding of my weaknesses, to name a few.

    “Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
        and his courts with praise.
        Give thanks to him, bless his name.”

    Psalm 100:4

    Write down what God tells you

    Have a pen and a journal on hand and write down what God speaks to you about.

    How do you know when God speaks to you? It’s like a sudden idea that pops into your head, or a spontaneous flow of thoughts. They are great, encouraging, and beyond what you would have thought of on your own.

    Read back regularly what you have written down and most importantly, act upon it! These are in part the plans and promises that God has blessed you with. He wants you to live them out!

    Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

    Give God your first fruits – the importance of tithing

    “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”

    1 Chronicles 29:14

    In ancient times, God proclaimed laws to the Israelites through Moses. These decrees became known as the Mosaic Law.

    These decrees were designed to give God’s children revelation of who He was, how to worship and honor Him, and live in a manner that was pleasing to Him. However, the laws had also been written to protect them and set them apart from other nations.

    One of these laws was the law of tithing. According to the Old Testament, God required His people to set aside the choicest agricultural produce of the new harvest – the “first fruits”.  

    Why the first fruits of the harvest?

    Gold or other forms of currency were not given as offerings, as it was about giving God the first and best of the agricultural fruit from the promised land of Canaan, the inheritance given by God to the Canaanites.  

    “The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.”

    Exodus 34:26

    The amount of their produce that the Israelites were required to set aside for tithing purposes was 10%.

    “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.”

    Deuteronomy 14:22 (NIV)

    In fact, the word “tithe” derives from an Old English word to mean “a tenth”.

    Is tithing still relevant today?

    There is dispute amongst Christians today, as to whether tithing is still relevant according to the covenant of the New Testament.

    However, Jesus states the following:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.”

    Matthew 5:17-18

    The New Testament doesn’t command us to tithe, as was the case in the Old Testament. Instead, we are encouraged to be “cheerful givers”.

    “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

    2 Corinthians 9:7

    Tithing for us today is done with our finances – we are no longer required to offer animal sacrifices and many of us don’t earn our living through agriculture.

    Giving a financial offering is an act of gratitude towards God – a thank you for all He has done for us. The more we grow in our faith walk, the more we want to show God our appreciation for His salvation, His provision, His mercy, and His grace.

    With increased revelation of God, tithing becomes less of a duty and takes on a quality of joy. You honestly become happy at the prospect of giving back a part of what belongs to God in the first place.

    For me personally, l know that everything l have in my life – my home, my loving husband,  my little one-eared pussycat, the food that l eat and the clothes that l wear – are through the grace of God. By tithing, l show Him how much His love and provision mean to me.

    One reason people tend to tithe is because they believe God will bless them over and abundantly for their sacrifice.

    I personally believe that God does honor our offerings:

    “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”

    Malachi 3:10

    This promise of abundance is repeated in the New Testament:

    “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

    Luke 6:38

    That being said, l believe that tithing is best approached from a position of gratitude and not entitlement (Luke 18:9-14). Tithe because you love God and you want to show Him that – not because you want something in return from Him.

    How much do l tithe?

    This is a good question. As we have already established, under the Mosaic Law, the amount of offering was pre-determined at 10%

    However, since we have a new covenant with Jesus, the New Testament does not specify an amount. Instead, we are encouraged to give with our whole heart.

    “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    Matthew 6:21

    What does this mean? Whether we give 10% or any other amount, is not so important as showing God our heart to honor Him.

    Consider the following Bible verse, where Jesus watched people tithing:

    “He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.  For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

    Mark 12:41-44

    Although the poor widow tithed less than her wealthier contemporaries, her sacrifice cost her more to make, as it was literally the only money she had. And yet, she gave it all to God.

    Now, no one is saying you must give your entire next month’s paycheck as a tithe. But if you do, seek God in prayer and then do it with a heart of love for Him. The same goes for any amount of money you offer. Remember it’s not about the amount, it’s about the heart.

    My former pastor used to say about tithing, “Give an amount that hurts a little to part with.” I have remembered these words of advice every time l tithe, because it is that point of discomfort, like the widow experienced, that makes my financial gift a worthy sacrifice to God.

    To whom do l tithe?

    I think it’s good to give your tithe to your church. After all, it is the place that gives you spiritual nourishment, and it’s where you have experienced good fellowship.

    Churches need funds to keep running. The flyers and pamphlets they give out, the communion bread and wine (or sometimes it’s grape juice!), the cleaning of the church and the monthly electricity bill all need to be paid for.

    Tithing to your church does require trust, as you don’t have a direct say in how the funds are being used. However, as a giver, your commitment is to honor God. The church’s commitment is to use the funds you give in a responsible fashion to promote the spreading of God’s Word.

    Therefore, give your tithe to your church in faith. If you want to give financially to an additional ministry, then you can always make the decision to make another offering in that direction.

    If you haven’t yet found a church, then l suggest you give your tithe to a ministry that is dedicated to bringing others to a knowledge of Christ.

    Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

    Partner-up with God

    “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    1 Corinthinans 1:9

    When Jesus chose His son to be the bearer of our sins, it was so that we would enjoy eternal fellowship with Him.

    God performs many good works, but He chooses to perform them through us. So, in order to do that, He needs us to partner-up with Him.

    God’s military plan to bring down the walls of Jericho was contingent upon the willingness of the Israelites to carry out His instructions. He didn’t need them to show the surrounding nations His might and power; nevertheless He wanted His children to be the vessels through which the enemies of God would bow down in awe and acceptance of Him.

    Also, God doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves during times of trouble. Just as He helped the Israelites with His favor, so God helps us today, if we call on Him for help.

    God offers you a partnership – it’s up to you whether you take it or not.

    God has great plans for your life, and He also has great plans that He needs people to carry out for Him here on earth – but He won’t force you to live all these out if you don’t want to.

    That being said, if you have the chance to live a more fulfilled life than what you are living at the moment, if you have the opportunity to be a source of hope and encouragement to others who are suffering, wouldn’t you want to partner-up with the One, who can make all that possible?

    Partnering with God is like being one half of a ballroom dance couple – one person needs to take the lead. In order to live a life of victory and fulfillment as a Christian, let God lead you as you dance through life together. Seek Him in prayer, listen to what He tells you, and put that guidance into action.

    I assure you, if you work together with God from today, He will open doors that no man can shut and make your future paths direct and straight.

    In order to partner-up with God fully, we need to surrender ourselves to Him. Let us discuss this in our last section.

    Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

    Accept Jesus’ gift of salvation

    “Because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

    Romans 10:9-10

    Being a Christian is more than going to church or praying. It is more than trying to live a moral life and giving regular donations to the poor. All those things are important, but these things aren’t what make us Christians.

    God isn’t religion – He is a relationship.

    This relationship is made possible through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the Cross of Calvary. Before His crucifixion, we were all condemned to be eternally separated from God, as we as humans are sinful and God cannot be near sin.

    However, Jesus willingly came to earth and died for our sins.

    “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

    2 Corinthians 5:21

    Jesus’ blood that was spilled was the ransom He paid for our transgressions – past, present, and future. It is this gift of salvation that enables us to enter into a relationship with God.

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

    John 3:16

    Here’s another verse that further proclaims this:

    “And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.”

    1 John 4:14

    God wants to be in a relationship with you today. He loves you and considers you His precious child.

    In order to enter into this relationship, all you need to do is accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.

    There is no complicated ritual involved: All you need to do is ask God out loud for forgiveness of your sins, acknowledge Him as your Savior, and ask Him to enter into your heart.

    “God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

    God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”

    1 John 4:15-16

    In order to make it easier for you, l have prepared a prayer that you can speak over yourself; it includes the necessities you need to declare in order to be saved.

    What is important, is that you speak these words with faith, for it is by grace that you are saved, not by works.

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—  not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

    Ephesians 2:8-9

    If you have been unsure for a while, whether you want to give God a chance, make the decision for Him today. I promise you, your life will change so much for the better!

    By being in a relationship with God, you will experience peace, know joy, and have revelation over your life in ways you never can imagine. Most importantly, you will know what it truly feels like to be unconditionally loved.

    Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

    This concludes Part Two of our Bible Study on Joshua 6 – Living God’s Word.

    If you have been enjoying the series so far, we hope that you can join us for our upcoming third and final part of our Bible study – Studying God’s Word.

    Until then, l wish you peace, joy, and an abundance of God’s blessings.

    Sources:

    bibleorg.com, “5. Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)” 

    enduring word.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho” 

    thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?” 

    christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”  

    desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan” 

    gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?” 

    thejc.com, “What is Pesach?” 

    ligonier.org, „Why Did God Command the Children of Israel to Kill Every Man, Woman, and Child in the Promised Land?”

    biblehub.com, „1 Kings 16:34“

    churchofjesuschrist.org, „Joshua 1-24”

    answersingenesis.org, “The Walls of Jericho”

    focusmagazine.org, „Devoted Things”

    compellingtruth.org, „Why did God give the Mosaic Law? What is the purpose of the Mosaic Law?“

    rccg.org, „First fruit offering“

    biblestudytools.com, „First fruits“

    openbible.info, „Tithe In The New Testament”

    compellingtruth.org, “What does the Bible say about spiritual strongholds?”

    gotquestions.org, “Spiritual strongholds – what is the biblical view?”

    christianity.com, “What Is a Tithe? – Meaning and Importance of Tithing in the Bible”

    biblestudytools.com, „Tithing in the Bible“

    ryanhart.org, “27 Inspiring Bible Verses About Tithing and Offerings”

    crosswalk.com, “Tithing in the Bible – Is Tithing for the New Testament Believer?”

    gospelweb.net, “Partnership with God”

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part 1.3: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6

    Victory, first fruits, judgement, and salvation –  The occupation of Jericho



    Part 1.3: Understanding God’s Word – Bible commentary on Joshua 6

    Bible passages being discussed: (Joshua 6:21-27)

    In our previous instalment of our Bible study on Joshua 6, we learned that the Israelites were preparing to launch at attack on the fortified city of Jericho in Canaan. God had assured them victory at this first point of their three-part military plan to conquer the land (Joshua 6:2), whose occupation God had promised to them as their inheritance (Genesis 5:18-21).

     And yet to the human eye, the odds were severely stacked against the Israelite’s favor. Not only was Jericho considered impregnable, but the Canaanites were experienced warriors with an expanse of military resources at their disposal. The Israelites were former slaves, with no military experience, who had been wandering the desert for 40 years.

    However, God makes a way, where there is no way. He had a plan to thwart the military expertise and reinforcements of the Canaanites. However, in order to realize this plan, the Israelites were to obey God, trust Him, have faith, and praise Him with a great shout at the imposing walls of Jericho, before their victory was even realized.

    All this they did and as God promised, the walls of Jericho fell, and they were able to charge into the city and capture it (Joshua 6:5).

    “By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.”

    Hebrews 11.30 (NRSV)

    However, although victorious, the Israelites still had work to do in Jericho, if they were to maintain their strategic advantage and take the land God had promised them from the hands of their enemies.

    God exacts His judgement on Jericho

    What the Israelites did after taking over Jericho was in accordance to the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 13:12-18:

    „If you hear it said about one of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you to live in,  that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” whom you have not known,  then you shall inquire and make a thorough investigation. If the charge is established that such an abhorrent thing has been done among you, you shall put the inhabitants of that town to the sword, utterly destroying it and everything in it—even putting its livestock to the sword.  All of its spoil you shall gather into its public square; then burn the town and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It shall remain a perpetual ruin, never to be rebuilt.  Do not let anything devoted to destruction stick to your hand, so that the Lord may turn from his fierce anger and show you compassion, and in his compassion multiply you, as he swore to your ancestors,  if you obey the voice of the Lord your God by keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God.

    The Mosaic Law had been provided to the Israelites by God to give them revelation of who He was, how to worship and honor Him, and live in a manner that was pleasing to Him. However, it had also been written to protect them and set them apart from other nations.

    God wanted the law to teach His people and others that He was mighty, holy, and to be feared. For that reason, there were ironclad decrees in place for anyone or anything that violated the holiness of God and the sanctity of His ways.

    This was especially the case for anyone or anything that had been set aside as being “devoted”. Devoted has two meanings: The ancient Hebrew noun cherem translates devoted as a “devoted thing” – a pleasing offering to God. The verb charam on the other hand, means “devoted to destruction”, God’s judgement.

    Because the Canaanites had indulged in wicked practices and had refused to devote (cherem) themselves to God, He declared them to be devoted (charam) to divine judgement. Canaan was God’s property to do with according to His will. God had made His decision and Jericho, with its inhabitants, buildings, and resources was doomed for destruction.

    Let’s us look at the ways that God instructed the Israelites to carry out his divine judgement on the Canaanites – the devoted.

    God commanded the Israelites to destroy every living creature in Jericho

    Prior to causing the walls of Jericho to fall down, God specifically instructed the Israelites to destroy every living thing that lived within the refuge of the fortress city walls in His name.

    “The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction.”

    Joshua 6:17 

    Why would a God, who is supposed to be merciful, demand that the Israelites execute His death sentence on the people of Canaan?

    If you notice in the above verse, the word “devoted” is expressed. God had a reason for hardening His heart towards the welfare of the Canaanites.

    God punished the Canaanites for their spiritual disobedience

    The slaughtering of the inhabitants of Jericho admittedly raises some challenging issues for Christians and non-Christians alike.

    The fact is, God cannot be in the presence of sinners. And the Canaanites were sinners, who kept idols and followed practices such as child sacrifices and sacred prostitution that were an abomination to God. Hence, God exacted a punishment for their spiritual disobedience. And this meant death.

    As we mentioned earlier, the Mosaic Law had specific instructions for any violation of the Holiness of God. Observe the following decrees:

    “No human beings who have been devoted to destruction can be ransomed; they shall be put to death.”

    Leviticus 27:29

    Exodus 22:20 provides further confirmation of this:

    “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the Lord alone, shall be devoted to destruction.”

    The presence of the Canaanites also posed to spiritually sully the Israelite’s faith. The Israelite’s were God’s chosen people – His children. Thus, in order to sanctify them and maintain their spiritual virtue, God needed to eradicate the Canaanite threat. Hence, he made them devoted (charam).

    Burn the city and curse it

    God demanded that the Israelites burn the city. This was to not only ascertain the complete destruction of the city, but to also offer a burnt sacrifice (charam) to God.

    “All of its spoil you shall gather into its public square; then burn the town and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It shall remain a perpetual ruin, never to be rebuilt.”

    Deuteronomy 13:16

    Furthermore, Jericho wasn’t supposed to re-built (Joshua 6:26): On God’s instructions, Joshua laid a curse on any man who tried to re-build the city.  Hence, a spiritual cleansing was necessary to prevent revenants from returning and resurrecting the city – which actually  happened when Hiel the Bethelite attempted to resurrect Jericho, most likely under the patronage of King Ahab (1 Kings 16:34).

    The Israelites were to stay away from the property of the Canaanites

    God specifically instructed the Israelites to keep their hands off any idols or any other objects that God had declared as accursed (Joshua 6:18). They were devoted artefacts and were meant to be destroyed. God knew that having such objects in their possession would taint the purity of the Israelites.

    Additionally, according to the Law, God would turn His anger upon anyone who violated this specific request: They in turn would be devoted.

    This is exactly what happened.

    Following the victory at Jericho, 3000 Israelites were sent to attack the city of Ai. However, they were forced to retreat by the inferior numbers of the men of Ai, who slaughtered 36 Israelites in the process (Joshua 1:5).

    It was an unnecessary loss, but one that occurred because one of the Israelites Achan had stolen a devoted object during the destruction of Jericho. By this act, he had caused God to remove His compassion and instead, incur His judgement (Joshua 7:11-13).

    Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

    Was it necessary for God to incur such merciless wrath on Jericho?

    It is true that the fate of the Canaanites at Jericho was harsh, but there were unique times in the Bible when God did this, for example with He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:23-25).

    Moreover, the Canaanites were not only shut-in physically behind the city walls, their hearts were closed to God. Not at any point did the Canaanites consider surrendering to the Israelites, nor did they sound a parley. There weren’t even any deserters.

    In fact, the Canaanites were well prepared for a siege. The attack on the city took place around harvest time (Joshua 3:15) and within the walls was a spring to provide water for the inhabitants. There was no way that they were going to budge.

    If the Canaanites had repented, there may have been a chance that God could have spared their lives. After all, He spared those of Rahab and her family (Joshua 6:23). God always offers each of us a chance to enter into a relationship with Him – but it is up to us to take it.

    God didn’t want the Canaanites to become a future threat to the Israelites

    Whereas we have a limited perspective of our lives, God’s perspective supersedes ours. And He knew that if the Israelites didn’t clean up the city of Jericho when they claimed it, then the threat was real that any Canaanites could return to challenge their conquest of Canaan. This actually happened, as the Israelites spared the lives of a minority of the Canaanites, thinking that they might prove useful as servants.

    Instead of focusing on the wrath of God in this situation, it is important to remember that God is indeed good. Remember that He sacrificed His one and only son, in order that we may know Salvation and enjoy a loving relationship with God for all eternity. The biblical accounts that declare His love, mercy, and grace far outnumber God’s acts of judgement.

    Additionally, God offers to save anyone who comes to Him and repent (Romans 10:13). Only one person in the entire city of Jericho was prepared to open her heart for God – the prostitute Rahab.

    Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

    Rahab’s salvation paves the way for our own redemption

    Just as God commanded that the Israelites destroy Jericho in its entirety, so He also reminded them to honor their promise to Rahab and spare her life and the lives of her family (Joshua 6:17).

    Rahab had faithfully followed the instructions of the two Israelites by binding a scarlet cord to the window of her house. When the Israelites entered the city to kill the inhabitants, the cord at the window was a sign for them to spare the inhabitants of the people who were inside.

    Rahab’s house was built against the north side of the city wall, so there is postulation as to whether that part of the wall remained intact or if the wall somehow fell outwards.  Scientists claim that the entire wall construction consisted of an inner and an outer stone retaining wall, with Rahab’s house being part of a mud wall that had been constructed on top of the outer wall.

    Whatever the case may be, Rahab and her family survived the fall of the wall and the Israelites brought them out of the city and set them outside their camp. They were saved not only by Rahab’s kindness, but by her faith.

    “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.”

    Hebrews 11:31

    Rahab’s salvation and ultimate survival had a more consequential effect on the Israeli nation than anyone at the time could ever have imagined. Rahab secured the line of David when she married Salmon and had a son Boaz, who was David’s grandfather. Jesus was born out of David’s genealogy, which is why He is sometimes referred to as “the son of David”. 

    Therefore, Rahab’s salvation made it possible for us to know redemption from our sins through Jesus.

    The importance of giving God your first fruits

    Earlier in this Bible study, we discussed the difference between cherem and charam – the devoted things.

    Whereas the Canaanites had been set aside as charam – to be destroyed – God required that the treasures of Jericho be devoted to him as cherem – a pleasing offering. This offering was called the first fruits. Hence, the Israelites had to set aside all the gold, silver, and iron and bronze vessels and dedicate them to God’s treasury.

    “But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.”

    Joshua 6:19

    This decree of offering first fruits is established again in the Book of Leviticus:

    Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.”

    Leviticus 23:10

    So, where does the term “first fruits” actually come from?

    It derives from providing God with the choicest agricultural produce that your harvest brought in. It was about giving God the first and best of your blessings, as everything was created by Him and belongs to Him.

    “The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.”

    Exodus 34:26

    Many of us know this as tithing, which we are encouraged to do in the New Testament, for example in Matthew 5:17-20 and 2 Corinthians 9:7.

    Although the city of Jericho had been given into the Israelite’s hands, it was not theirs to benefit from the riches of the spoils of war. God did not want them to use what belonged to Him to further themselves. God had enabled their victory and all the honor and glory belonged to Him.

    By giving the first fruits of Jericho to God, the Israelites would remember that it was not by their might nor power that Jericho had fallen into their hands, but by God’s spirit.

    “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

    Zechariah 4:6

    Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

    This concludes the final part of our Bible commentary on Joshua 6. We hope you enjoyed reading our extended 3-part analysis of this fascinating Bible chapter.

    Next week, we will be moving on to Part Two – “Living God’s Word” of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6.

    If you would like to know how you can apply the lessons of Joshua 6 to your everyday life, then feel free to join us for our next instalment, which is coming soon.

    Until then, stay be blessed my friends.

    Sources:

    bibleorg.com, “5. Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)” 

    enduring word.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho” 

    thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?” 

    christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”  

    desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan” 

    gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?” 

    thejc.com, “What is Pesach?” 

    ligonier.org, „Why Did God Command the Children of Israel to Kill Every Man, Woman, and Child in the Promised Land?”

    biblehub.com, „1 Kings 16:34“

    churchofjesuschrist.org, „Joshua 1-24”

    answersingenesis.org, “The Walls of Jericho”

    focusmagazine.org, „Devoted Things”

    compellingtruth.org, „Why did God give the Mosaic Law? What is the purpose of the Mosaic Law?“

    rccg.org, „First fruit offering“

    biblestudytools.com, „First fruits“

    openbible.info, „Tithe In The New Testament”

  • Devotionals

    Take a breath, and allow God to make a change

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Thought of the day: 

    Instead of procrastinating, l need to take a breath and allow God to make changes in my life. He will make all things work together for my good. 

    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

    Romans 8:28  (NRSV) 

    This past month, l have known little peace. It feels like one thing after another is changing in the lives of my husband and l. Each day brings something new to deal with, and l feel like my head is spinning uncontrollably in an effort to keep up.  

    I understand that God is leading us through a series of transitions in order to bring us into a higher understanding of Him, as well as bring us closer to fulfilling the dreams that He has put in our hearts.  

    However, this month, l have been too pre-occupied with the here and now, with the challenges that are confronting us. l have not been able to think about the future benefits that our transitional period will make possible for us.  

    Yesterday afternoon, l went out to my garden with my little one-eared pussycat to catch the last rays of sun for the day. The wind was blowing gently in my face, and l drank in the tranquility and stillness that my green oasis always gives me.  

    I watched my pussycat stretch out on the grass and close his eyes contentedly; above him, a few doves had landed on the neighbor’s roof and were drinking from a rain pipe. People across the road were laughing as they hugged each other goodbye.  Everyone in my direct vicinity was at peace and allowing things to happen as they came – except for me. How could this be? 

    Then, l felt like God told me to take a breath – just take a breath and allow Him to make the changes in our lives that He wanted to make. He loves us and will make all things work together for our good. I need not be afraid, for we were safe with Him.   

    So, l did what God asked me to do – l took a breath, breathed out, and gave Him permission to do what He needed to do in our lives. 

    When l woke up this morning, l felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. I had been holding on so tightly to what God wants to change, that l had failed to see that He had been holding on tightly to me this entire time. By handing my pain over to Him, He had given me peace and renewed my faith. 

    Prayer: 

    Loving Father, thank you that You always meet us in the midst of our insecurities. Forgive us when a lack of faith makes us hold onto things that You want to change in us. Teach us to let go and trust in You, for You make all things come together for our good. Amen. 

    Delve deeper: 

    Are you resisting changes that God is making in your life? Do you crave peace during this period of transition? Spend time with God in prayer, and ask Him to help you let go of what you’re holding tightly on to. Trust that all things will work together for your good because He loves you.  

    This devotional was published on the 2nd October 2019 on PresbyCan Daily Devotional.

    About the author:

    Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and blogger. She has written articles for SheLovesConverge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.comChristianity.com, and YMI Magazine.

    In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance Special Effects Makeup artist, and she loves dancing to Sister Sledge and Stevie Wonder whilst cooking. Madeline is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat. You can contact Madeline at madelinetwooney@gmail.com or tweet her at @MTwooney

  • Jacob's Ladder Artist's Page

    An Interview with Eyes Like Elijah

    Jacob’s Ladder recently caught up with London-based worshippers Eyes like Elijah to discuss their call to ministry, their approach to worship and branding, the dilemmas created by the social media age, and their forthcoming debut mini-album Beware Of The Wide Gate.

    Jacob’s Ladder: So, who is Eyes like Elijah?

    Abrahams: Eyes like Elijah is a Christian electro and synth-pop duo that compromises of myself – Abrahams – and my wife, Ladidi.

    What are the creative roles that you and your wife assume in Eyes like Elijah?

    So far, l’ve been responsible for most of the writing, playing the keyboards, and programming the sequenced parts of the tracks.

    However, Ladidi is increasingly becoming more involved and has written a couple of songs, which we’re hoping to complete by early 2020. One song in particular is partially sung in the West African language of Hausa, and is accompanied by various traditional West African instruments, which is inpsired from Ladidi’s West African heritage.

    It sounds like you guys are expanding on your sound.

    (laughs) Oh yes, we do keep evolving!

    Do you consider yourself a band or a duo?

    Neither really. I see Eyes like Elijah as being an electro-ministry. We are the antithesis to being a musical act, with little concern for album sales, touring, or merchandising.

    If you follow the format of being a band, or duo for that matter, then there is a risk that your primary focus will be on yourselves and not God. Our focus is on worshipping God, and introducing people to Jesus. 

    How did Eyes like Elijah come into being?

    There wasn’t a particular “aha” moment; it certainly wasn’t the road to Damascus….

    When the Spirit spoke to me I think I was actually on a train going to Croydon! (laughs)

    The Eyes like Elijah worship has been an evolving journey: I was in various bands when I was younger, but I guess as time went by, I lost interest in making music, due to the usual pressures of a career and living in a busy city.

    What changed?

    About 10 years ago, I started to write music again, although initially without any particular focus. Then, the Holy Spirit gave me a message: “Don’t leave them behind.”

    How did you translate the Holy Spirit’s message into what is now your worship ministry?

    I have a lot of secular friends that like electro music, and I do talk to them about Jesus. But I don’t think any of them has given their life to Christ yet.

    I believe that the Holy Spirit was telling me with this message “Don’t leave them behind” to reach out to my friends – and others – through electro worship music, instead of relying upon conversation to spread the Gospel.  

    Also, my wife and l both attend Hillsong Church in London, which has a strong culture of making excellent worship music, so the notion of using music to both worship God and to reach out to the world seemed to fit with what I felt the Holy Spirit had said about Eyes like Elijah.

    How did you come up with the name ‘Eyes like Elijah’?

    Eyes like Elijah is just another way of saying that we should have faith, or vision, like the prophet Elijah.

    Could you explain how this image of Elijah is applicable to us today?

    Yes of course! Imagine you have been invited to a BBQ by some secular friends. In a modern day application of (1 Kings 18:20-40), the host is having trouble lighting the BBQ, when one of the guests sarcastically suggests that you should light it because surely God would help you!

    Would you lean on your faith, or would you resort to worldly solutions like adding lighter fluid to the BBQ? What if you poured water on the BBQ and then started to praise God, just as Elijah did (1 Kings 18:31-38)? I can just imagine the shocked looks on the faces of the other guests! 

    So, you don’t get invited to many BBQ parties then? 

    (laughs) Sadly not!  But all jokes aside, Elijah is one of the superheroes of the Bible, and we wanted to make that central to our worship ministry.

    In what way?

    When people think of superheroes, they often have images of say, Iron Man – he’s courageous, equipped with extraordinary powers, and he’s an overcomer. So, we based the Eyes like Elijah logo around that type of superhero image. 

    Eyes Like Elijah logo

    What material have you produced so far?

    I would say, that one of our most popular tracks thus far is “Heaven”.

    However, our biggest achievement is our forcoming mini-album, Beware Of The Wide Gate, which is our debut.

    What is the inspiration behind your forthcoming mini-album?

    Well, the title is inspired from (Matthew 7:13). To be honest, the story behind the conception of our mini-album Beware of the Wide Gate is a little embarrassing! (shakes his head and laughs)

    Do explain!

    As I have previously mentioned, I started writing about 10 years ago. The songs on our mini-album originated during this time. At one stage, Beware Of The Wide Gate actually had the working title No More Procrastinating, because I had written something like 70 songs and not actually recorded any of them! (laughs)

    But you obviously overcame your procrastination and recorded some of those 70 songs!

    (laughs) Yes, we have now recorded 10 of them, most of which we want to use as our debut mini-album early next year. So far, 5 of these have made it onto YouTube, although it is likely that the versions that appear on the mini-album will be different mixes.

    That sounds like you’ve been on quite a creative journey.

    Yes, we have! (pauses) God always has a bigger plan though: All of our hard work has paid off, and we have just been asked to appear for the next 12 months at the Saturday Night Life worship event in London hosted by justworship.org.uk. They invited us after having heard just a couple of our tracks on YouTube!

    It must be an amazing feeling to be able to take your music live to the public.

    (nodding in agreement) It definitely is! And the great thing is, because of our extensive repertoire, we are now in the position of having quite a selection of songs to perform. Therefore, we’re currently concentrating on recording some of these, plus working on rehearsing the live performance side of our worship. 

    What is your listener profile?

    In terms of reaching out to the world, our worship has a very retro-electro style. In fact, somebody commented recently that we sounded like one of the bands from 1982! (laughs) Lots of these bands are now reforming and embarking on comeback tours, so there’s defiantly an interest in the retro-electro genre.

    That being said, we find that our music appeals to a broad age range: Some of our listeners grew up in the 70s/early 80s listening to artists such as Jean-Michel Jarre, OMD, or Kraftwerk. On the other end of the spectrum, we have younger audiences, who include secular artists such as Christine and the Queens, or Chvrches in their listening repertoire.

    Regardless of their demographic, our listeners mean a lot to us. I really hope that anyone that hears our worship will be touched by the Holy Spirit and brought to Christ. It might not be an instant conversion, but I do hope that it might be the beginning of a glorious journey for some secular listeners.

    I really hear your heart for ministry in your words.

    Oh absolutely! (pauses) I know this will sound like a cross between a cliché and a car sticker, but it really is about “Don’t follow me – follow Jesus”.

    To build on what I said about using music to both worship God and reach out to the world, I guess that the worship element should be based on the Word of God – to be pleasing to God. Most of our work quotes directly from the Bible, and I hope we are achieving that objective. 

    Your debut mini-album is entitled “Beware Of The Wide Gate”. What was the spiritual journey for you in making the tracks?

    For me, it is always wherever the Holy Spirit leads me. Sometimes that can be with a simple riff that can be hummed or whistled; other times there can be a specific Bible verse that I feel the Holy Spirit guiding me towards, which we then marry together with a tune that we’ve been working on. Either way, I always feel guided by the Holy Spirit – even down to minute details, such as when to take a break for ten minutes! (laughs)

    Talk to me about the sound of your forthcoming debut mini-album.

    Beware Of The wide Gate will have a very retro-synthesizer sound. Although the retro genre of synth music is something of a niche, we feel that it is our specific calling.

    Could you elaborate on that?

    In the Bible it states that we are all called to go out into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).

    As Eyes of Elijah, we believe that we have been sent as disciples into the genre of retro-sounding synth music.

    To some, synthesizer-based worship music may seem very unconventional, and a far cry from the traditional image of worshippers strumming accoustic guitars – dare I say possibly with a tambourine or two in the mix. And that’s great that God has sent disciples into those music genres.

    However, there are whole swathes of people that listen to retro-synth music in the secular world, with some of the secular acts filling huge arenas and even stadia globally. Our calling is to introduce them to Jesus.

    How much does your choice of musical genre influence the Gospel that you wish to portray to your listeners?

    Although the synthesizer sounds are really important to us, they are only being used as a vehicle for delivering the message – and that is the Word of God.

    Hence, we always quote the biblical inspiration alongside the song title. Sometimes the title is a direct quotation, such as our track “Iron Sharpens Iron” (Proverbs 27:17), whereas others may be less direct, such as “God’s Telephone Number”, based on Matthew 6:6, which tells us to go into a room alone to pray.

    So, making that transparent connection to Scripture in your songs is an integral part of your ministry?

    I think it is important to give the Scriptures origin, as it enables people to read further. It also keeps us as artists in check; we don’t want to meander and start offering our opinion – we want to spread God’s Word.

    In recent years, some Christian artists have broken out onto the mainstream charts with music that expresses a more discreet biblical message. What influenced your decision to compromise commercial acceptance for the Gospel?

    I did initially wonder if directly referencing Scripture would make the tracks commercially unviable – which actually convinced me that it was the right approach! However, we don’t want to start making compromises – you should never compromise when it comes to God!

    The whole purpose of our ministry is about worshipping God, not about gaining acceptability – especially commercial acceptability. You cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:24).

    That is an admirable approach to serving.

    I think there’s a differentiation between being a musical act singing about Jesus, as opposed to being a worshipper. I’m not being critical – we all have different callings – I’m just noting the different approach.

    An alternative approach would have been to introduce the Bible by stealth – sort of, “Do you like our track? Hey, great! By the way, do you know it is based on scripture?”

    I think that approach is fine, and quite a few other artists take that route. It just wasn’t the way I felt the Holy Spirit lead me with Eyes like Elijah. Jesus tells us, “Those who deny me before men, I will deny before My Father” (Matt 10:33). It has to be about Jesus first.

    I guess the ‘Jesus first’ guides everything about Eyes like Elijah?

    Definitely! But there’s been lots of dilemmas along the way. As I say, we don’t compromise…but many decisions have shades of grey as opposed to clear black and white demarcation. For example, giving the band a name could risk taking focus away from Jesus, hence we felt compelled to have a scripture-based name. We’re not anonymous, but we’re not overly forward about identifying the members of Eyes like Elijah, because it isn’t about us – it is all about Jesus.

    Deciding how and when to promote ourselves is another dilemma. For example, we do have merchandise, but it always has a strong Christian theme – and we tend to give a lot of it away anyway! 

    Eyes of Elijah merchandise

    What role does social media play in informing the world of Eyes of Elijah?

    Ironically, the dilemma we struggled with most when forming our ministry was social media. We recognized that this was an important way to spread God’s Word, but it is also an area of the internet filled with numerous pitfalls. There seems to be an obsession in society with obtaining social media ‘likes’. Worship is for God, and I don’t think He uses the thumbs-up icon on social media! (laughs)

    So, what online platforms do you use?

    In the end, we decided to only use LinkedIn for networking, and YouTube for making the worship tracks available.  Additionally, we will also have links to all of the tracks on the mini-album via our own website www.eyeslikeelijah.co.uk  


    Where can l download or purchase your music?

    Again, we were influenced by the biblical principle of not serving both God and money, so we decided to just release our tracks free of charge via YouTube, as opposed to charging for them.

    We’re hoping we can maintain that approach with the mini-album – although we may have to consider how we would pay for the cost of production if we release it in CD format.

    Of course, having a retro style, it would probably lend itself towards being issued on vinyl and cassette!

    Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today and for sharing the ministry that God has placed on your hearts. We wish Eyes of Elijah all the best in their future endeavors, and our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Thank you for having us on Jacob’s Ladder! We too, will be praying for your ministry!

    Eyes like Elijah will be appearing in London at the Saturday Night Life worship event hosted by justworship.org.uk on Saturday 19th October 2019. Tickets for the event are available from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/saturday-night-life-tickets-65101041969

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part 1.2: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6

    Faith, obedience, endurance, and praise – the secret behind God’s military plan 

    Part 1.2: Understanding God’s Word – Bible Commentary on Joshua 6

    Bible passages being discussed: (Joshua 6:3-20)

    In the first instalment of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6, we started this month’s study by reading about the pivotal events and preparation that led to the Israelite’s victory at the city of Jericho, where God caused the walls of this fortress city to fall down and the Israelites to establish themselves as the new rulers of the land of Canaan – the Promised Land. 

    We started our Bible commentary with Israelite’s successful crossing into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. Though Canaan truly is the land of milk and honey, as God promised them, it is also occupied by their enemies, the Canaanites.  

    As part of their 3-part military strategy to possess the land of Canaan, the Israelites are about to embark on what no one has done before – they are planning on conquering the impregnable military fortress city of Jericho, which had been strategically built to defend the access point to the central mountain ranges that divide the land from east to west.  

    However, the Israelites are not going against the seasoned warrior Canaanites alone – God has been preparing His people for victory by re-instigating His covenant with them and insisting on traditions and customs being observed that had been discarded in the wilderness. In addition, God has planted a weakness behind the enemy lines in the form of Rahab, a prostitute. Moreover, the Israelites believe in God’s promise to deliver Jericho into their hands (Joshua 6:2). If God says it’s a done deal, then it’s a done deal! 

    Now that their preparation is complete, the next thing that the Israelites need to do is carry out God’s plan to overcome Jericho – a plan that tests the boundaries of human logic and military expertise, because it simply does not make sense to us. And yet it worked!  

    Would you like to know what this plan was and why it led the Israelites to the capture of Jericho? Then keep on reading! 

    However, before we begin, let us take a quick look at why God chose Jericho, a city whose defenses were considered impenetrable, as a first point of victory for the Israelites in their military campaign on the Promised Land of Canaan. 

    Photo credit:  Adam Zvanovec on Unsplash

    The victory at Jericho was designed to give God glory and establish His might

    The victory of Jericho was going to be monumental, not only for the Israelites to drive a wedge into Canaan and set up a new ruling dynasty in the land, but for God to show His people, the Canaanites, and the surrounding nations how mighty He was.  

    This was God’s battle, and He was going to choose a divinely superior method of deliverance that would display His power and establish for the Israelites and the surrounding nations that He was the source of the Israelite’s victory – not man’s carnal intelligence or expertise at wielding weaponry. 

    So why did God seek out Jericho specifically? 

    Although it is true that the city of Jericho posed as a major obstacle for the Israelites in their pursuit of claiming the land God promised them, what really offended God were that the city’s inhabitants were worshipping pagan idols and holding occult practices that were offensive to Him (Joshua 6:18). This spiritual disobedience was an abomination to God and needed to be stopped and the Canaanites made an example of.  

    For that reason, God chose to pitch His people, who were inexperienced in warfare and ill-equipped for battle, against the Canaanites, who were superior to them in military experience and resources, in order that all would recognizable that the Israelite victory could only come through God’s might and power and not through human strategizing.  

    Additionally, this plan was unique in that it had never been implemented before, nor would it ever be used again to conquer a city. 

    Now, let’s find out what God’s military strategy for defeating the Canaanites at Jericho was. 

    Photo credit:  Juan Jose on Unsplash

    The art of war – minus the weapons and the fighting

    The Art of War” is one of the most renowned military treatises ever written. It is attributed to the ancient Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu. 

    When it came to ancient warfare, Sun Tzu and his contemporaries used their experience on the battlefield to form innovative and crippling strategies to gain victory over their opponents. These strategies were documented, resulting in the famous publication we know today. 

    Sun Tzu’s treatise includes tactical advice in conquering a besieged city, however the people of Ancient Palestine were also seasoned in this type of warfare. 

    The strategy behind invading a besieged city such as Jericho would have covered a timespan of weeks, if not months. There were various options that an attacking army could implement to force their enemy to surrender: 

    • They could starve the city inhabitants into surrendering 
    • They could assault the city with battering rams, moving towers or catapults 
    • The integrity of the fortress walls could be compromised by tunneling or using fire 
    • A dirt ramp could be constructed by heaping earth until it reached the most accessible point in the parapets 

    God’s military plan for the overthrow of Jericho

    However, God does not strategize as man does. First of all, His military plan was designed to achieve a victory in 7 days – an impossible timeline in ancient warfare. God reveals further details of His strategy to Joshua: 

    ‘”You shall march around the city, all the warriors circling the city once. Thus you shall do for six days, with seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, the priests blowing the trumpets. When they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and all the people shall charge straight ahead.” 

    Joshua 6:3-5 (NRSV) 

    Let’s break down God’s plan: 

    • The Israelites needed to march around the walls of Jericho once each day, for 6 days 
    • At the front of the cavalcade would be 7 priests bearing 7 trumpets made out of ram’s horns 
    • The priests were to walk ahead of the ark 
    • On the 7th day, the Israelites were to walk 7 times around the city walls 
    • At the sound of the priests blowing the trumpets, all of the Israelites were to give an almighty shout  
    • The walls of Jericho fall down 

    God’s presence is a formidable weapon

    God’s plan did not involve weaponry or a convoluted military strategy. It didn’t even require the Israelites to build trenches or erect battering rams. God’s plan comprised of a very simple strategy that entailed two key symbols of God’s presence: 

    The ark 

    The ark was to play a prominent role in the victory of Jericho.  God was showing His people that He was with them, leading them to victory. Seeing the ark before them would also have reassured the Israelites, reminding them of how they crossed the Jordan (Joshua 3:2-43:8-14). God also wanted the ark in front of them to keep the Israelite’s hearts and minds on Him, and not on their upcoming battle. 

    The trumpets

    The trumpets that the priests used were not the silver instruments traditionally used in ceremonies. These trumpets were designed to be used in battle. They were made out of ram’s horns and only ranged a few notes, which evoked spiritual overtones. When blown into, they emitted a dull, penetrating sound, which was designed to make the Israelites associate it with God’s voice.  

    Can you imagine how these trumpets sounded and the effect it had on the Israelites? And what about the Canaanites? The sombre resonance being emitted from the ram’s horns would have intimidated the Canaanites watching from the walls above them, making them think that the time of their doom was nigh. Talk about an added bonus!  

    What is also so unusual about this plan is that every Israelite was involved – not only the non-soldiers such as women and children, but also the priests, who traditionally were excused from warfare. God wanted a group effort for a group victory. 

    I wonder what Sun Tzu would have thought about this plan? 

    One thing is for certain: Though this strategy challenges our logic (and even our survival instincts), it is evident that God factored in details in His plan that we as humans may otherwise not have considered. Let’s find out what they were. 

    Photo credit:  Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

    Don’t fight the enemy his way – fight your way

    The Israelites could not engage in direct warfare, as they were ex-slaves and nomads, who had wandered the desert for 40 years. They were not warriors like the Canaanites, and they certainly did not possess battering rams, catapults and such to even launch such an assault. Their few swords and slings (though these were very effective – remember David versus Goliath [1 Samuel 17]?) would be of little use against the fortified walls of Jericho. And God knew that.  

    Therefore, God wanted the Israelites to fight with what they had. Let’s see what the Israelites had in their strategic assemblage.  

    Photo credit:  Michael Uebler on Unsplash

    The weapons of our warfare are spiritual, not carnal

    Based on what we’ve just read, this was always going to be a spiritual battle, not a physical one. Hence, instead of using the meagre supply of weapons in their arsenal, the Israelites were going to fight with far greater weapons – their faith, obedience, courage, and endurance.  

    Faith

    The Israelite’s declaration of faith in God’s assurance of victory starts with Joshua. He not only listened to what God told him about the imminent fall of Jericho, he believed that God would deliver the city into the Israelite’s hands (Joshua 6:2). 

    Then, with continued faith, Joshua told the plan to the Israelites, who in turn, accepted this untried and illogically-sounding strategy with their own faith. This was highly commendable on their part, considering that Joshua intentionally only told them God’s plan in increments. Joshua wanted the Israelites to focus on God and be dependent on Him throughout every part of the process to achieving victory and the prize of capturing the city.  

    Thus, the Israelites marched around their enemy’s camp trusting God’s promise, which only Joshua had heard directly. They believed in the battle plan. 

    This was a tremendous leap of faith for the Israelites, for they didn’t have the reassurance of a tried and tested strategy to gauge their odds, nor could they rely on their limited experience in warfare. They had to put their trust and reliance in God.  

    Courage

    Despite the battle plan being fraught with danger – walking around a highly defended city being observed by battle-hardened giants for 7 days – the Israelites gathered their courage and walked.  

    Going around and around the city walls, the Israelites would have been able to see clearly what they were up against – giants armed to the teeth in weaponry, impenetrable walls with ramparts wide enough for chariots to ride across, and a looming stone tower that rose 28 ft above them.  They also would have made themselves vulnerable to attack from the Canaanites. And yet, the Israelites refused to let themselves be intimidated. They walked in courage, knowing that God was Jehovah Nissi – their battle standard. 

    Obedience

    Joshua and the Israelites followed God’s strategy down to the last detail. For 6 days, every man, woman and child walked in absolute silence around the walls of Jericho in the cavalcade that God had decreed – even when they saw nothing happening.  

    It was only on the 7th day, that the Israelites shouted once – again in obedience to God at Joshua’s command. 

    The Israelites demonstrated their obedience by fulfilling Joshua’s instructions as he issued them, without having an overview of God’s strategy.  

    Additionally, the Israelites most likely would have marched on the Sabbath. However, they chose to obey a God, who didn’t allow Himself to be restricted by His own laws, as opposed to strictly following a religious practice. We see this repeated in Mark 2:23-28, when Jesus countered the Pharisee’s accusation that His disciples plucked at heads of grain to still their hunger on the Sabbath.  

    Instead of relying on their own human logic and carnal strategizing, the Israelites chose to completely obey God, without questioning His plans, nor His timing. 

    Endurance

    The Israelites exhibited tremendous endurance by persisting in following a plan day by day that didn’t make sense to them. This was remarkable, especially when you consider that walking around the walls of Jericho only exposed the Israelite’s apparently futile situation to the Children of God, which could only have attempted to whittle away at their insistence in obeying God. 

    These elements, together with the presence of a mighty and powerful God, made up the winning military strategy required to make the walls of Jericho fall down. 

    Photo credit:  Joshua Earle on Unsplash

    The sound of silence

    Have you ever heard of the phrase “Speech is silver, but silence is golden?” Well in the Israelite’s case, silence played a key role in their victory. 

    Although it doesn’t specifically state in the Bible why God wanted the Israelites to march in silence – He could have equally required of them to sing and dance in worship, or march around praying loudly – the Israelite’s observation of silence demonstrates an important precedence for us all to come to God in silence. Instead of running around trying to solve our problems with our own strength, we need to come to rest and be still in God’s presence and draw on His strength.  

    “Be silent, all people, before the Lord; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” 

    Zechariah 2:13 

    In addition, by being silent, while at the same time not exactly being told why, was a further act of obedience from the Children of God. 

    Finally, through the silence, the Israelite’s could better hear the trumpet fanfare that represented the voice of God, which helped them focus on God’s promise of victory for them. 

    Photo credit:  Kristina Flour on Unsplash

    On six and seven* – the significance of the numbers 6 and 7 in the Bible

    When you read about God’s strategy for the Israelites to conquer Jericho, did the number 7 keeping popping out at you?  

    • 7 days 
    • 7 trips around the city walls 
    • 7 priests 
    • 7 horns 
    • The Israelites shout on the 7th day 

    Well, that is not a coincidence on God’s part. Numbers play a significant role in the Bible.  

    The number 7 is found 735 times in scripture. It represents completeness, perfection and the foundation of God. 

    When you think about what you already know about the number 7 from Sunday school or your own study of the Bible, the significance of this numeral makes sense: God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th – the Sabbath. Passover is celebrated in Israel, according to biblical tradition, for 7 days.  

    The number 7 is also represented in other ways in the Bible: 

    • According to the Hebrew calendar, God created Adam in the 7th month 
    • The bible is divided into 7 divisions:  

    1) the law 

    2) the prophets 

    3) the Psalms 

    4) Gospels and Acts 

    5) the (general) epistles 

    6) Paul’s epistles 

    7) The Book of Revelations 

    In comparison, the number 6 symbolizes man and his weakness: 

    • God created man on the 6th day 
    • In ancient times, Hebrew slaves were to serve 6 years and be released in the 7th year 
    • 6 (x3) is associated with Satan 

    For 6 days, the Israelites walked around the walls of Jericho and nothing happened. It was only when God intervened on the 7th day, did the walls fall down, thus completing the Israelite’s victory. 

    God has given the Israelites a purpose in Canaan, as well as a plan by which they can claim the land of milk and honey for their own. The Israelites know that they have to accept God’s plan with faith and carry it through with obedience, if they have any chance of conquering Jericho. However, there is one final thing they need to do, before they see the walls of the city fall down. 

    They needed to give an almighty shout of praise to their God! 

    *(From Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde) 

    Photo credit:  Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

    Praise God before the breakthrough

    Every Israelite – from the 7 Levite priests before the ark to the smallest child – obeyed God and walked in absolute silence around the walls of the fortified city of Jericho for 6 days. 

    The city encompassed an area of about 6.5 acres, so it didn’t take the Israelites long to march around the perimeter. However, it did give them ample opportunity to do a thorough reconnaissance of their enemy’s layout.  

    Being so close to Jericho’s infamous impregnable walls, the Israelites were confronted with just how colossal the task ahead of them was. Their proximity to the walls would have most likely put them in danger from an airborne attack of spears, slings or arrows from the Canaanites manning the parapets. At the least, the Israelites probably had to endure ridicule and jeering from the Canaanites, with the intention of intimidating them. Yet through all of this, they did not break their silence. 

    Until the 7th day.

    On this day, God wanted the Israelites to shout – just once – before He made the walls fall down. And the shout was to be a response to the sound of the ram’s horn, which was supposed to be akin to His voice.

    Why did God ask His people to that?

    We established earlier that this was a spiritual battle and that God wanted to use the victory of Jericho to set a precedent for the surrounding nations.

    God didn’t need the Israelite’s help – but He did want their partnership, which required them to show Him a visible sign of their faith. And what better way to show God your faith than by praising Him before you see a breakthrough?  

    This is what the Israelite’s one and only shout symbolized – that they believed God would keep His promise of victory, before they saw one stone from the wall of Jericho being dislodged and that He was their Lord, who would never fail them, nor forsake them. 

    Praising God before a breakthrough is also demonstrated in other biblical accounts: King Jehoshaphat sent men to sing and praise God before his battle against the combined armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir (2 Chronicles 20:20-22). In Acts 16:25-32, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God in prison. In response, God brought about an earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison, released captives from their chains, and brought a Phillipian jailor to Christ. 

    And so, the Israelite’s raised their voices on Joshua’s command and shouted their praise to the Lord in faith: 

    So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it.” 

    Joshua 6:20 

    And in response, God caused the walls of Jericho – the infamously impregnable walls of Jericho – to fall down.  

    Photo credit:  Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

    However, the lesson of God’s promise doesn’t end here. The Israelite’s still need to fulfil God’s final commands in the captured city of Jericho, before they can claim their inheritance as the new leaders of the land of Canaan.  

    If you would like to learn more about what the Israelite’s get up to in their first days as the victors of Jericho, then feel free to join us in our next and final instalment of Part One of our Bible Study on Joshua 6, which we will publish soon.  

    In the weeks to come, we will be publishing the remaining parts of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6: In Part Two – Living God’s Word, we will share with you how you can implement the lessons learned in Joshua 6 in your own life. In Part Three – Studying God’s Word, we will be offering study and discussion questions, reading material, and a prayer that you can use in your own small group or adapt to your own private study of Joshua 6. 

    Until then, stay blessed my friends! 

    Sources:

    bibleorg.com, “5. Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)” 

    enduring word.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho” 

    thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?” 

    christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”  

    desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan” 

    gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?” 

    thejc.com, “What is Pesach?” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part 1.1: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6

    Before the walls fell down: The promise and the preparation 

    Part 1.1: Understanding God’s Word – Bible Commentary on Joshua 6

    Bible passages being discussed: (Joshua 1- 5), (Joshua 6:1-2 

    The fall of the city of Jericho in Joshua 6 (NRSV)  is one of my favorite biblical accounts, as it provides a wonderful testimony about what God can do when we act in obedience and faith. It also gives a clear insight into the difference between how we perceive our circumstances, in comparison to how God sees them.  

    We start this epic biblical account in the land of Canaan. Under the anointed leadership of Joshua, God has brought His people, the Israelites, out of their 40-year wilderness period in the desert of Sinai, by crossing over the Jordan River into Canaan (Joshua 3). Safe on the other side, the Israelites have set up camp in Gilgal, which borders to the east of the fortified city of Jericho.  

    The land of Canaan is significant to the Israelites, as it is the Promised Land, the heritage of the Israelites, that God had promised to Abraham when He made a covenant with Him (Genesis 15:18-21).  

    The only things is, the Promised Land is still occupied by the Canaanites, who are their enemies. In order to stake their claim as the new owners of the land, the Israelites need to defeat the Canaanites by taking the city of Jericho and claiming the fortress city for themselves. 

    The momentous task is the final and decisive step for the Israelites on a long journey to receiving the promise of God’s inheritance.  

    The Israelites had been enslaved in the bronze fetters of Pharaoh for 430 years in Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41). After their exodus from Egypt, they were then nomads for 40 years in the wilderness, which severely tested their faith (Numbers 32:13). Their steadfast leader Moses died and didn’t get to see the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34:1-8), and all males who had been born in the desert had to be circumcised, even the adults (ouch). 

    One the other hand, the Israelites had also experienced signs, miracles and wonders of God’s provision: God parted the Red Sea for them so they could escape Pharaoh and his army (Exodus 14), and He provided them with manna and quail in the desert when they were hungry (Exodus 16). Through Moses, He gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments and the Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized God’s holy presence amongst His people.  

    Finally, God promoted Joshua, Moses’ second-in-command and one of the original 12 spies who scouted Canaan (Numbers 13:1-16), as the new leader of the Israelites. It was Joshua’s faith and obedience towards God that played a monumental role in the Israelite’s triumphant campaign in conquering Canaan, which lasted a total of 7 years.  

    Now, the Israelites are about to bear witness to another of God’s miracles – He is going to give them the city of Jericho – a fortress city which is reputed as being impregnable (Joshua 6:2-5) and is manned by a race of people well accustomed to warfare.  

    However, despite God’s promise of victory to make the walls of Jericho fall down, the Israelites still need to prepare themselves spiritually by obeying God’s laws. Moreover, they need to exercise their faith by holding on tightly to the promises that God has made them. 

    As an exception to our conventional layout of the Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies, this month, we are going to break down Part One further into three sub-segments, with each part analyzing a section of Joshua 6.  Many of us are going through adversity right now and it is on our hearts to explore in depth how God is in fact with us, making walls fall down and providing the path to breakthrough, when all the while we hear is His silence.  

    We hope that this deeper analysis of Joshua 6 will give you comfort and encourage you that God hears your pleading and prayers, and has already made a way when you don’t see a way.  

    We will post the two remaining sub-segments on Thursday and next Monday respectively. In the following weeks we will also be looking at Part 2 – “Living God’s Word”  and Part 3 – “Studying God’s Word” to complete our Bible study series on Joshua 6.

    Photo credit: eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

    The importance of Jericho for the Israelites

    So, before we look at how the Israelites overcame Jericho, we need to know why, out of all the cities in Canaan, did the Israelites choose this particular city as their first launch of attack in their campaign on the Promised Land? 

    Conquering Jericho was important to the Israelites for two reasons: 

    1. Jericho was part one of a three-part military campaign on Canaan

    The northern and southern parts of Canaan were separated by a ridge of mountains running east to west. Jericho was situated at the gateway to this mountain ascent. In order to prevent a hostile approach into the hill country from the east, the city had been built as a military fortress with 12-17 ft walls, which were wide enough to cater chariots as an added defense feature. Inside the walls was a stone tower about 28 ft high. 

    The first part of the Israelite’s military strategy was to capture Jericho and thereby gain control of the central mountain ridge. This would effectively divide a wedge between the northern and southern parts of Canaan, thus dividing their enemy’s army in two. It would also ensure that the Israelite’s didn’t have any enemy forces right at their back once they entered the high country.  

    Map Courtesey of: Free Bible Land Maps – New Testament Christians.Com, “Conquests of Joshua.”

    Following their conquest of the center of the land, the Israelites planned on executing the second part of their campaign, which was to attack the Canaanite armies to the south. Their third and final military goal was to overcome the more remote armies to the north.  

    2. God uses the fall of Jericho to show His power and that He keeps His promises

    Ancient warfare tactics required weeks or even months to capture a city, however God delivers Jericho into the Israelite’s hands in just 7 days based on: 

    •  His power  
    • His promise to His people to give them every place where they set foot and to always be with them (Joshua 1:1-5
    • The Israelite’s faith in God and their obedience in following His instructions 

    This is especially significant when you consider that the Israelites had previously failed to enter Canaan and confront their enemies due to a negative reconnaissance report from Moses’ spies (Numbers 13:25-29). They feared the Canaanites, believing them to be physically superior to them and their cities to be well fortified (Numbers 13:28). The inhabitants of Jericho were also seasoned warriors, armed to the teeth with military resources, whereas the Israelites were a nation of ex-slaves with no military experience. 

    This was indeed all true, but God uses these odds to show that the walls of Jericho can only fall down through His power and not by man’s prowess or strategizing. This should be an unusual achievement, a unique triumph that highlights the majesty, goodness, and might of God. 

    The victory of Jericho should not only be to encourage the Israelites that they can face anything that opposes them in Canaan, but it is to also send a message to the other nations of the glory and power of God. 

    God also wanted to show the Israelites the fulfilment of His promise that they would inherit Canaan, the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey (Leviticus 20:24). And God always keeps His promises.  

    Photo credit:  Valdemaras D. on Unsplash

    Why the battle was won before it even began

    When God leads you to experience a breakthrough or enter into a new level of spiritual promotion, He will line everything up in your favor. In the case of the Israelites, we see in three ways, how God had been laying the groundwork for their victory at Jericho long before they arrived at the fortified walls.  

    1. God has already given us the victory 

    The Israelites are preparing themselves for what could be the most impactful battle of their lives. Looking up at the walls and seeing their enemy leering down at them from the high parapets, l guess we can safely assume that they are feeling just a little bit nervous about the outcome of their undertaking, despite their faith in God. It’s only natural right?  

    However, God is totally relaxed, because He considers the battle to be already won. He says the following to Joshua: 

    ‘“See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers.”’ 

    Joshua 6:2 

    Did you notice how God said, “I have handed Jericho over to you?” (emphasis mine). God is reassuring the leader of the Israelites that He has delivered Jericho in their hands, before they have even left their camp in Gilgal! 

    Hebrew scholars refer to this term as the prophetic perfectIt is a literary technique, which is most distinguishable in Hebrew and Aramaic translations of the Bible, where a future event is so sure to happen, that it is referred to in the past tense, as though it has already occurred.  

    This reassurance of God is a gift, an unmerited expression of God’s mercy and love. However, in order to receive this gift, the Israelites need to obey God’s commands to the letter.  

    2. God renews His covenant with the Israelites and prepares them for victory

    God likes to plan – we just don’t always see it.  Sometimes, when it appears that God has instantaneously answered our prayers, He has actually been preparing us for His provision and grace.   

    Since arriving in Canaan, God is preparing the Israelites spiritually for their onslaught on Jericho and consequently the rest of the land. Not only does He want the Israelites to commit to a covenant relationship with Him, He wants to train them to put their faith and obedience in Him. This is how God achieves this:

    God instructs the Israelites to set up 12 memorial stones in Gilgal 

    The Canaanites regarded the River Jordan as a natural defense. However, not only did the Israelites chose this route to enter into Canaan, they wanted to cross it during the harvest time, when the banks of the river were flooded over.  

    When God separated the waters and dried up the river bed in order for His people to cross over (Joshua 3:16-17), He instructed the Israelites to set up 12 memorial stones where they first set foot in Canaan, which was Gilgal. The stones were to serve as a reminder for future generations of the miracle of the River Jordan crossing and to let all the people of the earth know how mighty and fearful God was (Joshua 4:20-24) 

    God requests that all males born in the wilderness be circumcised.

    The rite of circumcision was first performed by Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14), establishing the covenant relationship between God and Israel. However, the Israelites who had left Egypt had not continued with this covenant tradition in the wilderness.  

    Therefore, it was necessary for the Israelites to undergo circumcision in their camp at Gilgal, in order to seal a covenant with God and distinguish themselves as His chosen people. God also wanted to remove any taint of their former lives as slaves (Joshua 5:9). For this reason, Gilgal means “rolling”, as it was here that God rolled away the Israelite’s past.  

    Though undergoing circumcision meant that the Israelites needed a time-out in order to heal from their wounds, God was more concerned with establishing a spiritual bond between Himself and His people, rather than having the Israelites go to battle without His presence.   

    The Israelites were to observe the Passover

    The Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the Israelite’s from Egyptian slavery, as well as their new-found liberation as a nation. It comes from the Hebrew word Pesach, which means to pass over.  

    It was first observed while the Israelites were in Egypt, where God passed over the blood-smeared doorposts of the Israelites to kill every firstborn – human and animal alike (Exodus 12:1-28). It was God’s tenth and final plague against Pharaoh, a judgement issued to Egypt because Pharaoh refused to release God’s people from the bonds of slavery (Exodus 11:4-8). With the demise of his firstborn son, Pharaoh conceded defeat and released the Israelites from their bondage (Exodus 12:31-32).  

    39 years had passed since the Israelites had last observed the Passover, which had taken place in their second year in the wilderness. However, before the Israelites could face their enemies at Jericho, God required them to take up the Passover tradition once again (Joshua 5:10). 

    Not only did God want the Israelites to obey His laws as He had decreed them when the Israelites were on the brink of freedom, He wanted His people to remember how He had delivered them from their enemies in Egypt, before doing the same at Jericho. 

    God stopped providing manna and quail

    As part of the keeping of Passover, the Israelites were required to have a feast. While they were in the wilderness, God had provided them with manna, which was similar to bread, as well as quail from heaven (Exodus 16:12). However, for Passover, they ate the rich produce of the land. From then on, God ceased providing them with manna and quail. 

    Why did He do this? For 40 years, God had generously provided the Israelites with a constant, albeit limited food source. Now, God was teaching them that there was abundance to be had in Canaan, but instead of it being presented to them every morning and twilight, God was training them to be self-sufficient (Philippians 4:11-12). 

    Joshua receives a Heavenly visit

    This point is an important one. In Joshua 5:13-15, a Man with a drawn sword appeared near Joshua, as he was by Jericho. This was no ordinary man, but an angel of God’s army. Theologians call this kind of encounter a theophany, which is a heavenly visit from God in the Old Testament, where He takes the form of, but is not limited to, a human. Similar theophanies are to be found in Judges 6:12-22 and 2 Kings 6:17

    Joshua needed to take his shoes off, because he was standing on holy ground. Moses experienced the same in Exodus 3:5 when he was on Mount Horeb. Being on holy ground meant you were in the presence of God in the Old Testament, which was a rare and privileged experience.  

    Not only did the angel appear to reassure Joshua in his role of leader, but He wanted to make it clear to Joshua, that He was not there to be on the Israelite’s side; rather, the Israelites needed to side with God if they wanted victory.  

    The angel also wanted to make it clear that this was God’s battle and consequent victory and would therefore be won on His terms, for His glory (Joshua 6:16-17).  

    Photo credit: Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash 

    God has already planted a weakness behind the enemy lines

    If Jericho had been nigh impossible to penetrate in the past, it was even more so now. On seeing the Israelites, the inhabitants of the fortress city have gone into lockdown mode.  

    Word of the Red Sea parting and the miracle of the Jordan River crossing have reached the ears of the citizens of Jericho (Joshua 2:10). Though the Israelites may not be seasoned warriors such as themselves, the Canaanites acknowledge that the Israelite attack is not to be taken lightly.  

    The people of Jericho don’t want to follow God, and yet they know of the promise He has made to the Israelites to take their land away from them, which has them shivering in their leather sandals (Joshua 2:9).  The entire city of Jericho is determined to shut the presence of God out – literally and spiritually and is thereby on full alert.

    However, what the Canaanites don’t know, is that God has already compromised the impregnable defences of the city in a manner that no one could have reckoned with – through a prostitute named Rahab.  

    After Moses’ failed attempt at a reconnaissance trip (Numbers 13:25-29), Joshua sent two men on a second scouting expedition – but this time in secret (Joshua 2:1)).  The presence of the two spies was quickly found out and the king of Jericho issued orders for the men to be found. 

    At the risk of her own life, Rahab offered the two Israelites refuge by hiding them on the roof of her house under stalks of flax. When the king of Jericho sent his men to Rahab with the request to hand over the men, she told the king’s officials that the Israelite’s had already left. 

    God literally placed a weakness in the wall, as Rahab’s house was built into the defensive stone exterior (Joshua 2:15). After the city’s gate had been shut for the night, Rahab let a rope out of her window, which the two Israelite’s used to flee the city.

    Why did Rahab decide to help the spies?  

    • She was the only one in Jericho that understood that God reigns supreme above all powers in heaven and on earth (Joshua 2:11
    • She knew that with God on the Israelite’s side, the fall of Jericho was inevitable
    • With that in mind, Rahab wanted to switch sides and declare her allegiance to God in faith (Joshua 2:11
    • Rahab was securing her family’s survival: In return for helping the spies escape the city, Rahab wanted the Israelite’s promise that they would spare her life and the lives of her family once Jericho was theirs (Joshua 2:13).  

    Due to Rahab’s assistance, the 2 spies were able to make it back safely to the Israelite camp and pass on the intel they had gathered, including Rahab’s allegiance. They now had a (wo)man on the inside! 

    Photo credit: Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash

    We hope you enjoyed reading Part 1.1 of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible commentary on Joshua 6 “Before the walls fell down: The promise and the preparation”.

    If so, feel free to join us when we post Part 1.2 “Faith, obedience, and praise – the secret behind God’s military plan”.

    Until, then may God’s blessings be upon you!






    Sources: 

    enduringword.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho”

    blueletterbible.org, “The fall of Jericho”

    bible.org, “Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)”

    thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?” 

    christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”  

    desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan” 

    gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?” 

    thejc.com, “What is Pesach?” 

  • Articles

    3 ways that God is using a dry season to strengthen my faith

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Three years ago, l entered a dry season regarding my health. Until that time, l had been a private school teacher for 14 years. I had worked 75 hours a week, including on the weekends and during school holidays, until my body and my mind gave out and l had a breakdown. Consequently, l was diagnosed with burnout and depression and had to resign.


    During the first weeks of my convalescence, l was optimistic that with a bit of rest l would soon get back on my feet. However, as time has passed, it is evident that the damage to my health is greater than what l had initially realized.


    Completing everyday tasks overwhelm me. I get panic attacks in open spaces and have therefore been diagnosed with agoraphobia. Severe headaches leave me bedridden, and l experience stabbing pains in my left arm. I fall into deep pits of depression that last for weeks, and l have become a social recluse.


    Although l regularly seek the advice of a psychotherapist and other medical experts, l believe ultimately in the power of God to heal. Thus, through prayer and thanksgiving, l lay out my petition of a full recovery to God (Philipians 4:6) every day. However, it’s like the sky over my head is made out of bronze (Deuteronomy 28:23), because l can see only a little improvement in my health.


    Jesus says in John 10:10 that He has come in order that we may enjoy life until it overflows, so l just don’t understand why God isn’t healing me. In my darkest moments, l even despair whether l will ever experience what it feels to enjoy a healthy, joy-filled life.


    However, after much struggling and griping, I have come to realize that God is using this journey in the wilderness to teach me to completely trust and rely on Him, because l can’t recover unless l put my absolute faith in Him.

    Here are three ways that God is using my current dry season to strengthen my faith:

    Praise God before you see a breakthrough

    When l feel afraid or fall into a miry pit of depression, l raise my hands and thank God for healing that l haven’t seen manifest yet. The effects are instantaneous: My spirits lift, and l feel a sense of peace wash over me. I remember that God is in control, as l keep my eyes on Him and not on my circumstances.


    To emphasize the importance of praising Him before a breakthrough, I believe that God has been showing me the spiritual foundations behind the Israelite’s victory over the fortress city of Jericho in Joshua 6.


    I find it amazing how the Israelites, commanded by Joshua, shouted before the walls of Jericho fell down: This took more faith than shouting in jubilation after they had seen God give them the city (Joshua 6:16). I admire how the Israelite’s believed that God had given them victory over their enemies before they actually saw it.


    This season has taught me that words have power. If l voice my praise to God preceding a victorious recovery, l know that my words shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish the purpose of reviving my health (Isaiah 55:11).

    Photo credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    Get to know God by studying the Word


    During this dry season, there have been times when l have wandered around aimlessly as the Israelites did in the desert. I was confused and doubtful as to whether my circumstances would ever change. Like Job, l felt that God had left me alone to fend for myself (Job 23:8-9).


    However, God has been with me the entire time in this arid wilderness: My mind and heart just weren’t attuned to hear His voice. Thus, instead of hoping for rain, l had to dig deep inside myself and ask Jesus to stir up His living waters in me (John 4:14).


    Studying the Bible has been a revelation for me: It’s been like discovering a Get-to-know-God manual (2 Tim 3:16). Through His Word, God gives me courage when l am afraid (Isaiah 41:10), strength when l am weak (Isaiah 40:29), and corrects me when l mess up (Hebrews 4:12). On days when l feel disheartened, God meets me where l am (Matthew 11:28).


    Knowing the Word helps me realize that l am fearfully and wonderfully made in Christ and that l shouldn’t believe the lies of the enemy that say otherwise (John 8:44).

    Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    A dry season is an opportunity to grow spiritually

    Last summer, l started working out at the gym. At first, l found it strenuous, and my body felt stiff and sore after every workout. Nowadays, my body is accustomed to the physical exertion, and l can see muscle definition forming.


    Similarly, l feel like God is using this dry season to grow my spiritual muscles. When l get a panic attack or become depressed, l am learning to hand the situation over to God, instead of allowing it to overwhelm me.
    Though it’s hard, l appreciate that God is using affliction to purify me of emotions that aren’t serving me, such as fear (Isaiah 48:10). I believe that God wants me to start a writing ministry, and is using this time to build up my resilience to tackle future trials and teach me obedience as preparation for His promotion.


    When l first became sick, l was convinced that this trial was designed to fail me. However, the further l push through this season, the more l see God cheering me on, as l learn to seek His face. Through this process, He has renewed my fallen spirit, given me a heart that is hungry for Him, and changed my mindset from that of a victim to that of a victor.

    If you are experiencing a dry season right now, let me encourage you that your time in the wilderness is a temporary layover, it is not your final destination. Stay the course, keep your eyes on God and ask Him to show you what you need to learn from Him to move on through. On the other side of your trials lies the Promised Land, with all the blessings for your life that God has planned for you.

    You’re going to make it!

    Photo credit:  Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash

    Blog banner:  Alexei Scutari on Unsplash

    This article was first published on YMI Magazine on the 11th February 2019.

  • Devotionals

    My soul will be still, for the Lord is in control

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Thought of the day:

    When faced with adversity, l will be still and rest in God’s presence, knowing that He is in control. 

    “Be still, and know that I am God! 
        I am exalted among the nations, 
        I am exalted in the earth.” 

    Psalm 46:10  (NRSV)

    One of my favorite experiences in church is Praise and Worship at the beginning of each service. Our church worship team plays contemporary songs with concert flair, complete with visual effects and loud beats, which enhances my worship experience. I love it!  

    Last week, the worship team played Be still by Hillsong Worship.  In the past, l found the song encouraging and the lyrics poignant, but l didn’t ruminate past these initial impressions. However, on this day, something shifted inside of me as soon as the first words of the song reached my ears: 

    “Be still and know
    That the Lord is in control
    Be still my soul
    Stand and watch as giants fall”

    These past few months have been extremely difficult for me healthwise. I have experienced a severe relapse in my convalscence from burnout and depression that has left me feeling emotionally drained, physically weak, and spiritually vulnerable to lies and accusations from the enemy about who l am in Christ.

    When l am feeling particularly morose, l question whether l will ever travel again to distant countries, take part in social interactions, or even be able to laugh out loud again – activities which require the physical and mental vitality that l haven’t possessed in years. Sometimes, l get really frightened that l will always be watching others enjoy their lives, while l waste away behind an invisible mental barrier of depression, fatigue, and loneliness.

    And yet, when l heard the words of this beautiful song, l felt like God was telling me to stop what l was doing – to stop feeling melancholy and afraid – and just be still in His presence.  

    “I won’t be afraid
    If You are here
    You silence all my fear”

    God assured me that He sees my situation, and He is working in it.  He reminded me that when l had faced adversity in the past, He had been there to support and guide me. Every time, He had brought me out of the valley.

    God had been in control then, and He was in control now. He is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow:  I did not need to be afraid. 

    Hearing this message in the heightened atmosphere of corporate worship instantly comforted me.  I felt like the doubts and fears that had slithered into my head were silenced by God’s reassurance of His love. Out of nowhere, I had a sudden surge of hope that everything would work out for the best. It was an unfamiliar sensation to experience – and yet, it felt comforting.

    Later that day, l spent some quiet time with God and played “Be Still” again.  For the first time in a long while, l actually felt the stillness of being in His presence. Finally, I could rest.   

    “Surely love and mercy
    Your peace and kindness
    Will follow me
    Will follow me”

    I learned an important lesson last Sunday: I need not search for God’s love, mercy, and kindness, for it is always within my reach – in fact, it follows me. It is a gift that God gives me, together with His peace, which transcends all understanding.

    All l need to do is stop, be still, and rest in the Lord.

    He will take care of the rest.  

    Prayer: 

    Loving Father, thank you that we can find true rest in the stillness of Your presence. When troubles overwhelm us or we feel doubtful and afraid, help us to remember that You are in control. You will not fail us, nor forsake us. Amen.  

    Delve deeper: 

    If you need to rest in the stillness of God’s presence today, spend time with Him in prayer.  Ask God to show you how you can lay all your problems and your busy schedule aside and just rest in the love, mercy, and kindness of His presence, where you will find peace.

    Blog banner:  Adam Zvanovec on Unsplash

  • Personal testimonies

    Solid as a Rock – When Life Crumbles

    Written by Sarah Keith

    “Oh Lord, preserve my faith. Preserve my faith, O Lord!”

    I found myself praying that prayer – again. You see my husband Bob, of 32 years, fainted and fell October of 2013; he sustained a traumatic brain injury. Twelve days later my mother died.

    My world crumbled. The grief was unbearable.

    I thought l would die of a broken heart. During those dark days it was almost impossible to think, let alone pray. Most days, l could only utter a one-word prayer, “Jesus.” I pleaded with God to heal Bob, but l also found myself praying, “Oh God, preserve my faith.”

    I wrestled and struggled with doubts about what l believed. Did l really believe all that l had taught or had written to encourage others in their faith?

    But where could l go? To whom could l turn?

    Who else is there besides the Lord?

    And who else has opened the gates of heaven to sinful mortal souls and holds the words of eternal life?

    Then God in His providence preserved my husband’s life, and over the course of seven months brought him back from death’s door.

    Bob still has many physical and mental deficits. He can’t be alone. Even so, he has made much progress, and this gives me hope!

    But it is not clear whether he will be completely restored on this side of heaven. I question, “Are you there Lord? Do you care?”

    My daughter has been urging me to do something for myself. So, l took her up on it. She would “watch” dad, while l went for a bike ride – something normal!

    I took my familiar route to the ocean inlet. It was a beautiful morning with bright, clear blue skies, puffy white clouds, and an easy breeze for biking. As l peddled, l prayed, “Lord, preserve my faith. I need you to help me. I can’t do this!”

    When l reached the inlet pathway, l noticed it had been re-landscaped. It was beautiful but now unfamiliar. At the mouth of the inlet, just before it spills into the ocean, sits my prayer rock. When l stepped onto it, a thought came to me, “Everything else might look different, but my rock hasn’t changed. It’s fim and secure. And is this not what the Scripture says about God?”

    My soul groaned deep within, and l cried out, “Lord, l need to hear from You; I need to know that You are there, and that You care. Please let me hear from You today. Don’t remain silent! Please Lord, speak to me!” Then, as is my custom, l turned to the passage in Psalms that matched the date – Psalm 31.

    I read:

    In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
        let me never be put to shame;
        deliver me in your righteousness.
     Turn your ear to me,
        come quickly to my rescue;
    be my rock of refuge,
        a strong fortress to save me.
    Since you are my rock and my fortress,
        for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
    Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
        for you are my refuge.
    Into your hands I commit my spirit;
        deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

    I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
        as for me, I trust in the Lord.
     I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
        for you saw my affliction
        and knew the anguish of my soul.
     You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
        but have set my feet in a spacious place.

    Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
        my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
        my soul and body with grief.
    My life is consumed by anguish
        and my years by groaning;
    my strength fails because of my affliction,
        and my bones grow weak.
    Because of all my enemies,
        I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
    and an object of dread to my closest friends—
        those who see me on the street flee from me.
    I am forgotten as though I were dead;
        I have become like broken pottery.
     For I hear many whispering,
        “Terror on every side!”
    They conspire against me
        and plot to take my life.

     But I trust in you, Lord;
        I say, “You are my God.”
     My times are in your hands;
        deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
        from those who pursue me.
     Let your face shine on your servant;
        save me in your unfailing love.
     Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
        for I have cried out to you;
    but let the wicked be put to shame
        and be silent in the realm of the dead.
     Let their lying lips be silenced,
        for with pride and contempt
        they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

     How abundant are the good things
        that you have stored up for those who fear you,
    that you bestow in the sight of all,
        on those who take refuge in you.
     In the shelter of your presence you hide them
        from all human intrigues;
    you keep them safe in your dwelling
        from accusing tongues.

     Praise be to the Lord,
        for he showed me the wonders of his love
        when I was in a city under siege.
     In my alarm I said,
        “I am cut off from your sight!”
    Yet you heard my cry for mercy
        when I called to you for help.

     Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
        The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
        but the proud he pays back in full.
     Be strong and take heart,
        all you who hope in the Lord.

    Psalm 31:1-24 (NIV)


    Had l ridden my bike the day before or after the 31st of the month, the passages in Psalm 30 and Psalm 1 say nothing about a rock.


    But God in His mercy reminded me that He knows what is happening – and cares!

    He is teaching me to trust that He is the One in whom l can rest and depend! He is working out His plan – in His time.


    Dear friends, if you too are walking an unfamiliar path in life. I urge you to step onto the Solid Rock. Call on the Lord Jesus, take refuge in him; He is our Sure Foundation!


    Update:

    It is now the summer of 2019. Bob has come a long way in speech, understanding, and the ability to walk. Yet, he still cannot be left alone. These past five years have continued challenging my faith.

    I struggle with doubts, insecurities, fear, and burnout from care-giving. My health has been adversely affected too. Even so, God continues to show up in unique and undeniable ways. He continues preserving my faith when l think l can’t take one more step.

    The Lord continues to prove His faithfulness, even when l am faithless – because as the Scriptures promise, “He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

    That’s God’s promise to His children when we are weak in our faith!

    This article was first published by Sarah Keith on her website The Sunday School Network.com. Also, check out the website’s vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.

    Blog banner:  Will van Wingerden on Unsplash

    About the author:

    Sarah Keith is the founder of SundaySchoolNetwork.com. She has been writing Christian adult devotionals and Bible curricula for teachers of children since 1999. In 1981, she graduated with honors from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a degree in Psychology and Religion, and she holds a degree in Fine Arts from Palm Beach State College.

    Sarah is passionate about the importance of teaching children about Jesus, having them memorize God’s Word early and often. She has worked in children’s ministry for over 30 years

  • Articles

    9 Hopeful Truths for When God Seems Distant

    Written by Madeline Twooney 

    Two months ago, l felt like l experienced a breakthrough in my 3-year convalescence from burnout and depression.

    I was trying to fall asleep when l felt like my head opened up, and all the heavy, dark thoughts and anxiety came out and drifted upwards. It was like l was handing all of them over to God. I remember thinking, “Papa, l think you’ve healed me!” Shortly afterwards, l fell into a deep, restorative sleep. 

    Unfortunately, my recovery only lasted for about two days. The depression and anxiety returned, and God’s presence, which l had felt so intensely that night, remains but a beautiful memory for me now.  

    “Where is God?” l have been asking myself since my heavenly encounter. “Why does He feel so far away?” 

    If you’re like me, and you’re feeling like God is maintaining radio silence, l hope that these 9 tips will give you encouragement that God is very near – in fact, He’s closer to you than you think.  

    God is close to the broken-hearted 

    “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
        and saves the crushed in spirit. ” 

    Psalm 34:18 

    We have all encountered sorrow and loss at some point in our lives, may it be a family estrangement, receiving a negative doctor’s report, or the passing away of a loved one. It’s a heartbreaking process to go through. 

    God’s empathy for our heartache is demonstrated through His Son. When Jesus first began His ministry, He stated that the Lord had sent Him “to bind up the broken-hearted” (Isaiah 61:1). 

    Jesus Himself experienced great sorrow on earth. His feelings upon hearing of the death of His friend Lazarus are demonstrated with two words – “Jesus wept” (John 11.35 NIV).  

    Furthermore, knowing that His moment of sacrifice was nigh, Jesus said to three of His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34 NIV). 

    In addition to His own personal experiences, Jesus showed compassion for those who suffered, through His many acts of healing.  

    Photo credit;   Alex Boyd on Unsplash

    God promises to never fail us, nor forsake us

    ‘ “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” ‘

    Deuteronomy 31:6

    It is repeated throughout the Bible that God will never leave us to fend for ourselves. 

    Therefore, when it feels like God is far away and we’re feeling vulnerable and alone, God is actually right there with us, protecting us and keeping us safe in the midst of what we are going through.  

    God will not let anyone or anything harm us, and He will not leave us to face difficult times on our own – that is His promise to us.  

    Photo credit:  Dan Meyers on Unsplash

    God’s assurances that He is with us are reflected in His names

    ‘ “Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord.” ‘

    Jeremiah 16:21

    God is known by many names in the Bible. Here are a few that apply directly to His character: 

    • Yahweh, meaning “The Lord” (Genesis 2:4
    • Abba, meaning “Father” (Mark 14:36
    • Jehovah Rapha, meaning “The God who heals” (Psalm 147: 3
    • Jehovah Jireh, meaning “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14
    • Jehovah Nissi, meaning “The Lord is my banner” (Exodus 17:15
    • Jehovah Shalom, meaning “The Lord is peace” (Judges 6:24

    If you would like to learn more about the names of God and the relevance of their meanings for us today, then click here to read our article on this topic.

    God’s many names reflect an assurance that He is always with us. They bear a promise that God will always protect us and provide for us.  He is not only the Lord God Almighty, He is our Father, who loves us and brings us peace.  

    Photo credit: eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

    God is working behind the scenes

    ‘At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.”’

    1 Kings 18:44

    Sometimes, we feel like God is far away because we don’t see a change in our situation or an answer to our prayers. In such times, God is actually behind the scenes, working in our circumstances. 

    This was the case for Elijah in 1 Kings 18. After three years of famine in Samaria, the prophet told King Ahab to expect an abundance of rain. However, despite Elijah sending his servant six times to check for signs of precipitation on Mount Carmel, not one drop was to be seen.  

    Though it looked like nothing was happening, God was sending a cloud as small as a man’s hand out of the sea towards Samaria. Only after Elisha’s servant checked a seventh time, did he see a visible manifestation of God’s promise of rain. 

    Photo credit:  Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

    God wants to test your faith

    “Because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance;  and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”

    James 1:3-4

    The Greek transliteration of the word “test” in the scriptures is peirasmóswhich means a trial or a proving. When we feel like God isn’t near, it is actually when He is closest to us; His apparent absence can be a test designed to strengthen our faith.  

    How can that be? 

    Testing is associated with purification – to cleanse out those things that aren’t serving us and produce perseverance by strengthening our belief that God is greater than any adversity we face (1 Peter 1:7).  

    Testing is designed to bear fruit by bringing us up to a mature level of faith. For that reason, James assures us that “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). 

    Photo credit:  Ronaldo de Oliveira on Unsplash

    God adheres to His own schedule, not ours

    ‘ “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” ‘

    Acts 1:7

    TV evangelist and author Joyce Meyers once quoted, “God is never late, but generally  He isn’t  early either.” 

    The omnipotent power of God transcends space and time. Whereas we have plans that we want to achieve during our short visit on this earth, God’s agenda spans all of eternity.  

    God’s schedule runs differently to ours, so when we wonder why He isn’t responding to our requests, prayers, and petitions, His assumed distance can only mean He is sorting things out in His own perfect timing.   

    In Acts 1:7 it states that it is not for us to know God’s timing. However, He does assure us that all things work out for good by Him because we love Him (Romans 8:28).  

    Photo credit:  JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

    God makes a clear declaration that He is with us

    ” Do not fear, for I am with you,
        do not be afraid, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

    Isaiah 41:10

    When thoughts and emotions start to rise to the surface that God is far away, His Word assures us with bold declarations that He is always with us and that we should not fear, neither should we be dismayed.  

    In Psalm 46:1, God even encourages us to seek refuge in His strength when we face troubles, for He is always with us.  

    What is so wonderful about God is that He not only offers us the comfort of His presence in our time of need, He always helps us over and above our expectations.  

    Photo credit:  Alexei Scutari on Unsplash

    Remember all the times that God was with you in the past

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

    Hebrews 13:8 

    I keep a journal which l call my “Miracle Book”. In it, l record all the times God has touched my life with His supernatural favor, mercy, and kindness. 

    During times when l feel that God is far away from me, l get out my “Miracle Book” and l read my previous entries. Not only do they encourage me that God is indeed working in my life, they remind me that what He has done in the past He will do again, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  

    Photo credit:  Angelika Spanke on Unsplash

    Feeling distant from God has helped me connect with others in my situation 


    “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

    Galatians 6:2

    When l first got diagnosed with burnout and depression, l was optimistic that with a bit of rest and a change of lifestyle that the Great Healer would make me whole. However, as the months went by, it became obvious that my convalescence was going to take longer than l thought.  

    Three years later, I sit in church and hear regular praise reports of people who have been healed from depression, and l ask God sometimes, why l can’t be one of those people whom He miraculously heals. I start to criticize and question myself if my faith is strong enough to warrant a full divine-appointed recovery. 

    However, God works in mysterious ways. He has been using my infirmity to reach out and be a comfort to others, who are also waiting on God for their healing – either through my writing as a blogger and writer or in my daily interactions with people. In return, these wonderful people comfort and encourage me in my faith.  l feel truly blessed that they are in my life. 

    I’m not saying that if l had the chance at a do-over that l would choose to be sick again. Nor am l saying that l would voluntarily choose to go through those feelings of doubting God’s presence and enduring self-chastisement again. However, if l hadn’t gone through all of that, l wouldn’t have been able to connect with the people who have enriched my life and l theirs. 

    God does not only show us His presence during good moments, such as through a glorious sunset, the carefree chuckle of a child’s laughter or the blooming of a beautiful rose. God is always near – in the valley and on the mountain top.  

    However, when we start to doubt this, we need to hold onto God’s promises that He reveals to us in the Bible – that He loves us, He will never leave us, and that He will fulfil His purpose over our lives with His perfect timing for our good.  

    God never goes back on His Word.  

    This article was first published on Crosswalk.com on the 14th June 2019.

    Photo credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    Blog banner credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    About the author:

    Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She has written articles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and YMI Magazine.

    In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance SFX Makeup artist and dances to Sister sledge whilst cooking. She is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat.  

  • Devotionals

    The Trust Factor

    Written by Lynne Phipps

    Thought for the day: Trust in God is first and foremost a fact and not a feeling.   

    Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
        therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
    For the Lord is a God of justice.
        Blessed are all who wait for him!”

    Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)

    Every day, my seven canines get a treat to help them maintain strong and healthy teeth. They never receive the treat at the same time on any given day. I hand them out when l fill up their food bowls for the evening meal. Sometimes, l do this early in the day, sometimes later.

    My seven canines used to be eight. And it was this eigth one that reinforced a valuable lessone for me, day in and day out, the older he got. By the time he was twelve, he was totally deaf. And by the time he was fifteen, his sight had greatly deteriorated. His cataracts were so thick, l doubt that he was able to see very much. He was such a happy little fellow though, always full of joy right from the first day he came to live with me and was still quite spry at the age of sixteen.

    And every day when it was treat time, even though he was deaf and basically blind, he always seemed to know. I would reach for the biscuits from the cupboard and turn around – and there would be seven dogs gathered around in expectation. I would dole out the goodies one by one until l had one left, which was Casey’s.

    And where would number eight be?

    Always sitting, waiting patiently in complete trust behind everyone else. He never barked or whined or tried to get his treat first, even though it would have been easy for him to walk under the bigger dog’s legs to get to the front of the line. Rather, he had learned over the years that he was never forgotten and he was never left out – he would receive that for which he hoped.

    Casey died just before Christmas, shortly after his sixteenth birthday. He suffered a stroke during his sleep and though it did not take him, the time had come to say goodbye.

    Now, every day when l turn around with the treats in my hand and see all of my friends gathered in anticipation, l remember the wonderful gift Casey left me: the trust factor.

    I also remember that the Lord longs to be gracious to me, for the Lord is a God of justice and blessed are all who wait for Him.

    Perhaps today, you may be feeling left out or forgotten. The Lord seems to be blessing everyone else but you. You feel that God has been silent and wonder will you ever hear His voice again. If so, fear not. Instead, embrace Casey’s gift: the trust factor. Trust in the promises and the goodness of God. Wait patiently for Him, and you will not be disappointed with the blessing He has in store just for you.

    Prayer: Father God, thank You so much that You long to be gracious to us, Your children. Thank You that You show compassion and are a God of justice. Thank You that we are blessed when we wait for You, for never will You leave us nor forget us. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

    Delve deeper: There is probably not a single Christian in all history, who has not struggled with trusting God when He seems to be silent, no matter how hard we try to reach Him. But trusting in God is not so much about our feelings but about standing upon the facts of Scripture.

     Consider these verses: 


        For I am with you, and I will take care of you.
        I, the Lord, have spoken!”

    Jeremiah 1:19 (NLT)

    Great is his faithfulness;
        his mercies begin afresh each morning.

    Lamentations 3:23 (NLT) 

    I will never leave you nor forsake you.

    Hebrews 13:5 (ESV) 

    So today, if you are struggling because God seems to be silent in your life, remember Casey and the trust factor. Then, begin to dwell upon those Scriptures that promise God is faithful. He is with you and will never forsake you!

    Additionally, think upon all His faithfulness to you in the past, and begin to praise God for His continued faithfulness, not only for today, but also for all the days which lie ahead for you throughout eternity.

    This devotional was originally published at PresbyCan Daily Devotional on 11th March 2019.

    Blog banner credit:  Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

  • Personal testimonies

    Be still

    Written by JJ Ollerenshaw

    ‘And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.’

    Genesis 1:3-5 (NIV) 

    Isn’t it interesting that God created light before he created the sun and the moon? Nothing can live without light. Plants need light to turn green, and they produce the oxygen that we need to breathe. We can’t grow without light. Have you noticed how fast children grow in the summer months? Physical life needs physical light. We also need emotional and spiritual light.   

    When I was a fairly new Christian, I attended a women`s prayer meeting in hopes of shedding some light on my inner turmoil. My two children were in school all day and it was time for me to return to work. I had been a legal secretary, but times had changed. Computers were now in use, but I didn’t know how to use one. As well, I doubted that I could sit still all day when I had been so active for the past several years. I did not want to go back to school, but neither did I know what else to do. 

    As I fretted about this, and prayed, my mind going around in circles, it seemed to me that the room was filled with wind. Did someone open a window? I opened my eyes, expecting to see the curtains blowing about. But nothing moved – and no one else seemed to have noticed. All heads were bowed, all eyes were closed. There was a quiet female murmuring beneath the whoosh of the wind.  

    Then I heard the Voice. Gentle, loving, but nonetheless the Voice of authority: “Be still ….”  Years later, I learned that the proper translation of these words (Psalm 46:10) is a reprimand, not an invitation or suggestion. That was exactly how I heard it – a command. 

    I obeyed. The Voice stopped me in my tracks. I have never forgotten it. Awed, I had a new respect for God. He spoke to me! I began to ask, what did God want me to do?  

    Shortly after this, I began a completely new career in home nursing, something I had never before considered. It suited me completely. Ten years later, however, I was burned out from trying to be Superwoman. We had moved and taken up farming while I did shift work in a nursing home. My job was physically tiring and stressful. At home, the livestock needed tending and the house needed renovations. The farm was isolated. Our teenagers vied for my car. And I was so angry with God.  

    I felt that I had done everything “right”, the way I was supposed to. We were active in church and raised our kids in Sunday school. This was not what I expected in return. I was tired, unhappy, and literally had no hope for the future. As I blamed God and did a freefall into severe clinical depression, other voices filled my head. I wanted nothing more than to be in the dark – quiet and alone.  

    Depression is not just a human illness. We had two beautiful German Shepherd dogs, not from the same litter, but born two months apart they thought they were brothers. They roamed our farm at will and delighted in chasing the occasional car. As they grew, one dog became bolder and took to chasing chickens as well. When his nose was on a level with our table, he stole food off our plates. Eventually he got himself into big trouble and had to be put down.  

    His brother moped. Obviously in a dark place, he lay on the step and refused to eat. So, I spent time with him, teaching him to catch a ball and walk on a leash. He became my shadow. I saved his life. And when I fell into the depths of despair, he saved mine.  

    God was the mastermind. Anti-depressant drugs are wonderful but work slowly. Meantime, I had to rouse myself in order to let Jasper in and out of the house. How could I resist those soulful brown eyes and not walk with him and throw his precious tennis ball? He needed me and I needed him. As the saying goes: What goes around, comes around – we reap what we sow. He sighed and patiently rested his chin on my knee when I sobbed. 

    What do we do when morning comes but our life is in darkness?  How to rid the gloom of long grey winter days when so many suffer from SAD? We don’t want to talk. We tentatively part the curtains – and close them quickly. Exercise? We can’t force ourselves. We paint the walls green, blue, and yellow. We bring the outdoors in: flowers, bird houses, pictures of beach scenes and boats. We might head south. But there’s only one solution: turn on the light! 

     “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

    John 8:12

    One day I was startled to suddenly see everything around me as if through rose-coloured glasses. I recognized that as the day I began to heal. Jesus is the light that banishes spiritual and emotional darkness. He calls himself the Light of the World, and actually gives us the same description, saying that we are the light of the world as well (Matthew 5:14). Our job is to let Jesus shine through us. We’re to go and find dark places, and start shining!

     

    Eventually, obeying that still, small Voice again, I headed back to school and another new career. My faithful canine friend departed this world at an old age, and I have long since retired from work. But whenever I start to fret and worry, God’s Spirit reminds me: Be still, and know that I am God. We can be assured that God is in control. He wants what is best for us, and has a plan. He will shine a light on it when we still our fretful minds and seek only His will for us. 

    ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

    Jeremiah 29:11

    Prayer: Jesus, shine Your light on our problems and show us the way. Help us to reflect Your light and move towards the people and places that need You. Amen. 

    Blog banner photo credit:  Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

    About the author:

    JJ Ollerenshaw is British but migrated to Canada at the age of 19. She enjoys the outdoors, but only in the summer months, hence her travel destinations have only been to warm countries. She enjoys reading, studying the Bible, and writing. She is an animal enthusiast. 

    JJ’s  writing career is diverse: She has written devotionals, short stories, as well as articles on travel and cattle (Yes, cattle!). Additionally, JJ has written a Sunday School curriculum, pioneered a political party newsletter, and has written an account of her and her husband’s genealogy, going back to the 1700’s.  

    JJ is a retired wine merchant, but still keeps active through renovating the family cabin and spending time in her garden. She has 8 beautiful grandchildren. 

  • Articles

    Lord, are you there?

    How God spoke to Elijah in the silence

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I’m sure like me, you are no stranger to hardship. For my part, I have gone through a fair share of adversity: death, illness, financial struggle, and my own family turning their back on me.

    Now, this is not a “pat on the back, admire me for what l have gone through” kind of article.

    Not at all.

    This is a shout-out to all of you who have gone through something or are going through something right now. In the midst of your strife, you’re seeking God, but you just can’t find Him.

    Know that you are not alone.

    Being in the valley is a lonely place, full of darkness and insecurity. You wonder why God allowed such things to happen to you. Moreover, when you call out to Him to help you out of your mess, your prayers and petitions are met with silence. God doesn’t seem to answer you back.

    Or does He?

    Being a Christian does not mean that our life turns into some kind of continuous happy-clappy revival, complete with outbursts of “Hallelujah!” and angel song in the background accompanying us all the livelong day. It certainly does not mean that as Born Again Christians  we are destined to walk around with goofy smiles plastered across our faces, as we react to prejudice, injustice, and racial slurs with glorified meekness.

    Being a Christian is hard. It means that life is still going to come at us with its arsenal of ill-intent; more so, because we are living ambassadors of the Most High God on earth.

    Jesus confirmed this when He addressed His disciples:

    ‘“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution.”’

    John 16:33 (NRSV)

    So, if Jesus warns us that we will experience trouble on this earth, why doesn’t God seem to answer us when we ask Him for help?

    Could it be that we just aren’t listening hard enough for His voice?

    The Bible contains numerous accounts of biblical heroes, who doubted God’s presence in the midst of adversity: Gideon asked God three times for divine confirmation of his calling to lead the Israelites against the Midianites (Judges 6). Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, doubted that Christ had been resurrected from the grave until he saw physical proof (John 20:24-29). After extensive torture and calamity at the hands of Satan, Job doubted God’s goodness (Job 7:20).

    However, in this article, l want to turn our focus onto Elijah the prophet, as his experience of Queen Jezebel of Samaria in 1 Kings 19 provides a beautiful example of how God reaches you in the (literal) silence .

    In the previous chapter of 1 Kings, Elijah had proclaimed God’s glory through a series of events:

    Firstly, Elijah had participated in a show-down in Samaria at Mt. Carmel against 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Idol worship in Israel was rampant at that time, so Elijah was bold in his faith in making a stand against it. Through God’s miraculous intervention, Elijah was able to prepare an eye-popping sacrifice that declared God to be mightier than Baal or Asherah (1 Kings 18: 30-38) .

    Secondly, with divine authority (Deuteronomy 13:5), Elijah had slain the 850 priests. These were men carefully chosen by Jezebel, the resident evil queen of Samaria, to serve her and promote her desire of idol worship in the land (1 Kings 18:40). Therefore, it took a lot of guts cutting down the Queen’s prized lackeys.  

    Most impressively, where a severe famine had already raged a 3-year course across the country, Elijah had prayed for rain and God had heard his petitions (1 Kings 18:44-45).

    However, instead of celebrating God’s victories with a much-awaited dip in the now bursting banks of the River Jordan, Elijah freaked out after receiving an ominous message from Queen Jezebel. Apparently, she hadn’t taken too kindly to Elijah slaying her anti-God squad and she wanted Elijah dead. Full of fear, Elijah took flight.

    You’d think that after all the miracles that God had bestowed upon Elijah in 1 Kings 18, that one death threat from a human would be small fries in comparison. However, this message really unhinged Elijah. Granted, Jezebel was a truly evil woman and a formidable queen, who had her husband Ahab twisted around her little finger (I Kings 21:1-16). Mind you, Ahab wasn’t exactly a saint either. Still, who was Jezebel compared to the might and power of God, the almighty Yahweh of the Israelites (Exodus 3:14-15)?

    However, it is not uncommon to experience a crushing setback after a victory. It has happened to all of us, and Elijah was as human as any of us. So, Elijah hot-footed it towards Beersheba of Judah, which was over 80 miles out of Jezebel’s jurisdiction. That still wasn’t enough distance for Elijah, and he kept on moving.

    It states in the Bible that Elijah “went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (I Kings 19:4). In the Bible, the wilderness symbolizes a dry season or a time of trial and testing. A good depiction of this is the Israelites sojourn in the wilderness for 40 years, which represented not only a physical dry season but a spiritual one – a result of their continuous doubt of God (Numbers 32:13).

    Elijah must have been exhausted after the previous chapter’s events and then he had the added stress of Jezebel to deal with. Hence, he took rest under a broom tree where angels ministered to him (I kings 19:5-8). Even while on the run, feeling lonely and afraid, God was with Elijah.

    However, it was when Elijah was in a cave that the Bible states that “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9). Away from the distractions of his current situation, Elijah was able to hear God speak.

    In your own experience, have you ever realized that you have more perspective over your situation, when you mentally step away from it?

    God further proves that He is with us in the silence. He went past Elijah as a great, strong wind that battered the mountains, as a trembling earthquake and a raging fire; and yet the Bible states that the Lord was not in any of these things (1 Kings 19:11-12).  

    Where was God then? He was in the still, small voice that came afterwards:

    “(A)nd after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice.”

    I Kings 19:12 (AMPC)

    Why did God choose to speak to Elijah in a still, small voice? He could have spoken to him in conversational tones or boomed His message across the heavens, so that the mountains quaked and trembled at His very name.

    But no, God chose to whisper to Elijah, because He was close to him the entire time. The devil needs to scream and shout at us to scare us into keeping our focus on our problems. But God, in His permanent proximity to us, only needs to whisper in the silence to reassure us that He is God. He is always with us and will never fail us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

    At the reassurance of God’s voice, Elijah was able to receive comfort and further instructions for the next phase of his ministry, which included choosing Elisha as his disciple (1 Kings 19:19-21).

    Though we may be subjected to adversity in our life, God never intends for us to fend for ourselves. He is with us when we pass through the waters, and ensures that when we walk through the fires we will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2). If we doubt God’s presence during  trials, it could just be that we can’t hear Him through the confusion, pain, and tension of our current circumstances.

    Before l conclude, let’s go back briefly to that statement that Jesus made to His disciples in John 16:33 – however, this time, l am going to add the second part of the Bible verse.

    ‘”But take courage; I have conquered the world!”’

    John 16:33 (NRSV)

    Did you notice how Jesus stated that He has conquered the world? No matter what measure of ill launches an attack against us, it has to get through God first. So, even if something starts out as an attack against you, God will use it and turn it into a victory for you.

    So, next time you find yourself surrounded by silence, know that it is part of God’s greater plan for your life. Instead of running from Him, convinced that He has abandoned you, stand still and listen attentively for His still, small voice in the silence.

    Trust me, you will hear it.

    You can also read this article on  The Sunday School Network.com. Additionally, check out the website’s vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.

    Sources:

    gotquestions.org, “What does it mean to have a wilderness experience?”

    brockwaychurch.com, “Biblical characters who doubted God”

    www.learnreligions.com, “Elijah – boldest of prophets”

    YouTube video: “The power to choose” from Pastor Steven Furtick

    Blog banner photo credit:  Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    How to trust God when He is silent

    Written by Onome Ogbajibrede

    Thought of the day: Trusting in the living God is the living spring that opens the floodgate of divine help from above.

    ‘‘And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.’’    

    Psalm 9:10 (KJV)

    In one of the editions of our monthly crusade held in Abuja, Nigeria, which was organized by the Redeemed Christian Church of God Nigeria, a lady gave a testimony that boosted my faith again, and it is really a known fact that if we depend on God without looking elsewhere for help, He would come to our rescue.

    According to this lady, she said she delivered her baby inside the car, and the baby had catarrh in the nostril. At the hospital, it was diagnosed that the baby had a particular disease.

    It is only a mother that can explain the pains of motherhood in clean terms. Therefore, she took up this challenge upon herself. Every Sunday she was always giving a seed offering unto God concerning the baby’s health issue. This she did continuously, and God healed the baby: The disease was taken away by God Almighty who is our Balm in Gilead.

    Everyone who makes God a sure pillar of support and trust in Him will not be put to shame. God has never failed, and He has not forsaken His dearly beloved ones.

    Sometimes, in life, it may seem that God has abandoned us, and that He is silent concerning our case. This He does to see if we will give up on Him. But if we still hold on, it is then He appears from nowhere to calm our troubled storm.

    What a mighty God we serve! He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and when He comes, every other lion runs away.

    How can we trust God even when it appears He is silent concerning our case sometimes?

    Firstly, it is to be born again by accepting Jesus as the only true Saviour. Furthermore, by building confidence in God through studying His Word regularly, through constant prayers, by believing God for the impossible, and by listening to testimonies of how people trusted in God and God did not fail them.

    Prayer

    Dear Lord Jesus, Increase my faith in you, so that I can have absolute trust in you daily and rely on your help always. Amen.

    Delve Deeper: Recount the stories of people who have trusted in God – they were not disappointed. In our daily living, trusting in God will help us survive the storms of life.

    Photo credit:  Joshua Ness on Unsplash

    About the author:

    Onome OGBAJIBREDE is an Evangelist and a Christian Devotional Writer, who inspires and encourages people to come closer to God. He holds a Degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution from Nigeria. Onome lives in Abuja, Nigeria, and can be contacted via devotionalembassy@gmail.com He loves researching into new ideas.

    Some of his devotionals can be accessed from the following links.

      Link 1  https://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=71709

      Link 2   https://christiandevotions.us/viewauthor/450

      Link 3   https://presbycan.ca/author/onome-ogbajibrede

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Three: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part Three – Studying God’s Word

    Welcome to the third and last section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1 “Knowing who you are in Christ”.  

    In Part One, we studied Paul’s epistle to the church at Ephesus. We discovered that Paul was writing to the Ephesians to encourage them in their faith in Christ and to remind them that they are forgiven, loved, and chosen to be adopted by God into the Body of Christ. 

    God’s endgame to unite all nations under Jesus Christ through the church is also revealed. 

    Paul continues to tell the Ephesians that upon receiving salvation that they – and by extension, us – are stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit, who comes to reside in us. The Holy Spirit provides us with a portion of the blessings, which is known as a pledge,  that we are to inherit as children of the Most High God.  

    Finally, Paul establishes Jesus as the Head of the Church, whose authority is greater than any entity or dominion and whose power is independent of space and time. If Jesus is the Head of the Church, then we as a community of Christians, are His body.  

    In Part Two, we explored the ways in which we can apply our understanding of God’s promise of love and blessings to our everyday lives. We also discussed how we can be ambassadors of Christ and spread the gospel as individuals and as churches to the nations.  

    Part Three of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study is intended as a study guide for those of you, who would like to delve deeper into the biblical and life themes presented in Ephesians 1.  

    If you would like to know more about the benefits of studying the Bible, then l recommend that you read our page “Why study the Bible?” 

    Blog banner credit: ditya Saxena on Unsplash 

    The aim of this study section

    This study section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series is intended as a guide to promote discussion and reflection on Ephesians 1.   

    As a start, I suggest that you read Part One and Part Two of the Bible Study on Ephesians 1 that l have already posted, in order to fully appreciate the lessons portrayed in this epistle and to consider the chapter’s themes.   

    For whom is this study section intended? 

    You can apply this section within a group setting, such as a house group, a Bible Study group, or a prayer group.  

    Alternatively, you can also study on your own. If this may be the case, l have written some suggestions below in the section “If you are studying on your own” to assist you in your learning.   

    I encourage you to customize this study preparation by taking out of it what you wish and adding your own ideas and insight. Have fun with it!  

    What you will need: 

    • A Bible, preferable a study Bible. I personally use the  “The Everyday Life Bible” from Joyce Meyer Ministries  
    • An exercise book or journal and a pen  
    • As an alternative to pen and paper, you could use a tablet or a similar electronic device  

    This study section composes of five parts:  

    1. Discussion questions  

    2. Testimony  

    3. Suggested reading   

    4. Journal writing  

    5. Prayer  

    These are just guidelines to help you structure your group time. Feel free to add or take out elements as you see fit! 

    Additionally, talk with your group and ask them for suggestions about what they would like to do. The more ideas, the merrier!  

    If you are studying on your own  

    If you are not in a group and you would still like to apply this study section of Ephesians 1 to your own private study of the Bible, that is also great! Quiet time with God is valuable time, and you can learn a lot about Him during it.   

    The following are a few suggestions of how you can adapt the 5 sections of this study guide for private study purposes:  

    1. Discussion questions:  

    You could start a journal and write down your thoughts to the listed discussion questions.   

    2. Testimony  

    You could use our suggested topics in the Testimony section as stimulation to write down all the wonderful things God has done in your life by starting a testimony journal or a blessings jar.  

     3. Suggested reading   

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    4. Journal writing  

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    5.Prayer  

    You can speak the prayer at the end of this section over yourself. Your words have power, especially if you speak them over yourself:  

    “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;  
        it shall not return to me empty,  
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,  
        and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  

    Isaiah 55:11  

    Let’s look at the 5 sections of our study guide. 

    Photo credit:  Green Chameleon on Unsplash 

    1.Discussions questions

    The following are some discussion topics l have thought of to assist you in delving deeper into the themes of Ephesians 1. There is no right or wrong answer; these topics are merely suggestions to stimulate conversation and an exchange of views within your group. Also, feel free to ask others if they have suggestions regarding this topic that they would like to discuss and go with it!  

    As each person experiences a different walk with God, it is interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and thereby learn from each other and grow together as a Christian community. Happy talking!  

    Possible discussion topics on Ephesians 1:  

    1.  God loves us unconditionally. How do you define this kind of love? What are some examples of how God has demonstrated His unconditional love for you? 
    2. Paul writes to the Ephesians that we have been foreordained, pre-chosen to be sons and daughters of God.  Does that mean that those who aren’t believers of Christ have not been pre-chosen to be in a relationship with God? What role does free will play in all of this? 
    3. God’s great plan is to unify all nations under Jesus Christ. That means having an end to all religious conflict in the world. Considering the extent of religious disunity, persecution, and acts of terror that occur in the name of religious conviction, do you see global unity under one God and one church as a possibility? 
    4. God considers us holy and blameless in His presence (Ephesians 1:4). Considering that we are all sinners and are constantly trying to find our way, what does this mean to you? 

    Note: These topics might be a bit sensitive for people to address, so introduce it into a group situation at your discretion. 

    Photo credit:  Christin Hume on Unsplash 

    2.Testimony

    Sharing your life experiences and the victories that God has vouchsafed you, is a verbal expression of your gratitude. It gives not only our Father glory, but it encourages fellow Christians who may be going through the same trial that you have undergone.   

     I will declare your name to my people;  
        in the assembly I will praise you.”  

    Psalm 22:22   

    Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives us reason to be joyful, for God declares that not only are we loved and forgiven for our sins, He lavishes us with His grace, blessings, and invites us into His family as His adopted children.  

    Possible testimony topics on Ephesians 1:  

    1. How did you come into a relationship with Christ? Share your story of salvation with the rest of the group. Give a testimony of a time when God blessed you abundantly – over and above your expectations. 
    2. It is stated often in the Bible that we should seek God, for example, in Matthew 7:7. However, in this epistle, Paul makes it very clear that God seeks us out.  Share with the group of an encounter you had with God when He sought you out at a time when you needed Him the most.
    3. When we give our lives to Christ we are stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit and He comes to reside in us. How do you feel the Holy Spirit working in you since you have entered into a relationship with Jesus?  

    To help you with your answer, refer back to Part One of our Bible Study under the section “Signed, sealed, and stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14)”. 

    Photo credit:  Wesley Eland on Unsplash 

    3. Suggested reading

    Reading the Word of God teaches us about how much God loves us and gives us guidelines on how to live the life He wants us to live – a life of victory and joy. 

    The following are some scriptures you may enjoy reading about how much God loves you and that He always has your back. 

    Scriptures:  

    Reading the remaining 5 chapters of  the Book of Ephesians will give you more depth and insight into God’s unconditional love for you and the plans He has for you as an individual, as well as for the church.

    • Ephesians 2 – God raised us from the death of a life of sin and has sat us in High Places with Him. It is by faith that we have been saved, not by works. Paul discusses the foundation of the Church, which are the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as her cornerstone.
    • Ephesians 3 – Paul declares from his confinement in Rome of his role in revealing God’s eternal plan for His children.   The power of God is greater than any other authority, and the Church under Christ should reflect His glory. Paul prays that the Ephesians have an encounter with Christ that embeds itself in their hearts. 
    • Ephesians 4 – In this chapter, Paul lists the spiritual gifts that God has given us to fulfill His vision of a functioning Church. Additionally, Paul reminds us to live in humility and morality that honors the Holy Spirit, such as to not steal, be obscene, or allow the sun to go down on your anger. 
    • Ephesians 5– God is love so we should also walk in love. Again, Paul gives us instructions on living a Christian life that reflects God’s will for us. He also talks about the role of men and women in a marriage. 
    • Ephesians 6– Paul gives instructions about family life, specifically the role of both parent and child in the home. Lastly, Paul teaches us that we have a spiritual enemy, Satan, and that we must put on spiritual armour daily to fend off the enemy’s attacks.  

    Interesting online articles relating to Ephesians 1:  

    theprayingwoman.com, “God has your back” Sophia Vilceus 

    www.joelosteen.com, “Claim Your Inheritance” Lisa Comes 

    www.crosswalk.com, “Teaching Life Skills: Practical Outreach for Any Church” Chris Bolinger 

    https://ymi.today,  “5 lies to stop believing about yourself” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com,  “Are There Some People God Will Not Save?” 
     

    Inspirational quotes relating to Ephesians 1:  

    ‘God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, “I love you.” ‘- Billy Graham 

    “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.” C.S. Lewis 

    “The life of success is one of going forward to posses our possessions. It has been said that God’s will does not send a man to where His grace cannot sustain him. God’s will and His grace go hand in hand.” – Benson Andrew Isahosa 

    Photo credit:  Josh Applegate on Unsplash 

    4. Journal writing

    Writing down all the good things that God has done in your life is a very powerful tool for a Christian. Not only does it help us to remember what God has done for us; reading over God’s past victories and blessings over you provides encouragement and empowerment in times of trouble. All you need to start is an empty exercise book and a pen. Alternatively, you can keep a digital journal.  

    There are a number of forms of journals, where regular writing in it will strengthen you in your walk with God:  

    •  A testimony journal  
    •  A dreams and visions journal  
    •  A blessings journal  
    •  My favourite –  a gratitude journal  

    Try to write optimally once a day. All you need is 5-10 min to jot down everything good that has happened to you during the course of your day, no matter how trivial.   

    Meditate upon what you wrote and acknowledge that it is God who was responsible for these good things happening today, and not you or your own works.   

     ‘”Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’  

    Zechariah 4:6 (NIV)  

    Journaling in your group:  

    You can e.g. allot 10-15min for journaling in your group, and afterwards share your written thoughts with each other.  

    An alternate suggestion, is to incorporate journal writing as part of your quiet time with God, then discuss your results when you meet as a group.  

    Journaling on the Bible Chapter Ephesians 1 

    1. In your journal, divide your page in half to form two columns. In the left column, write the title “How the world sees me”. In the right column, write the title “How God sees me”.  

    Fill out in the left column how your family, colleagues, friends, and neighbors sees you. Include not only roles and job descriptions but also personality and behavioral traits. 

    Example: “mother”, “husband”,  “reliable”, “shy” 

    In the right column, write a list of everything that God says about YOU

    Example:  “beloved Child”, “forgiven”, “redeemed” 

    As an extension, consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down the great things God is doing in your life every day. I personally love using the Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change.   

    Photo credit:  fotografierende on Unsplash 

    5.Prayer

    If you wish, you can read the following prayer aloud as a group, or one person can read it aloud on behalf of the others.   

    Prayer:  

    Oh, Great and Almighty God, 

    You are the Alpha and the Omega, the God who is, who was, and who is to come – You are the Almighty and the Ruler of All. 

    I come to You today full of awe and humility. I lay myself at Your feet, overcome by the love, grace, and mercy that You lavish upon me. Your acts of kindness towards me are countless, as are Your blessings which are as numerous as the stars in the night sky.  

    Precious Lord, l thank you that You chose me to be your child, before l was even in my mother’s womb. Thank you, that when l was swayed by the temptations of this world and dwelled in the darkness of spiritual death, Your love was a light that shone out and brought me back to life through the redeeming blood of Your son Jesus Christ. 

    Now, l am seated in heavenly places with You, adopted into the Body of Christ as Your child. I am Yours, marked with the stamp of the seal of the Holy Spirit that denotes me as belonging to You and You alone. Your grace and love fill me with wonder that You would have chosen me into Your heavenly family.  

    Father, teach me Your ways, in order that l may live the life You have planned for me. Instruct me in the ways of Your love and grace and imprint it on my heart, in order that l do not sin against You. For without You, where l would l be? 

    Mature me in my gifts through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, in order that l may serve You well in my church and help further Your great plan to unify all mankind under the leadership of Jesus Christ, Your son.  
     

    To You be given all the honor and the glory, for You are worthy to be praised. 

    In Jesus’ name, 

    Amen.  

    Photo credit:  fotografierende on Unsplash 

    We hope that you enjoyed our Bible study on Ephesians 1 in our series Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies.  

    In August, we will be studying  Joshua 6, which describes the fall of Jericho, a fortress city in the land of Canaan. We would love for you to join us!  

    Until then, my friends, be safe and may God’s love and blessings be upon you!  

    Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

    johnkking.wordpress.com, “Applying Ephesians to my life” 

    withalliamgod.wordpress.com, “Application Of Ephesians 1:3-11 in Local Churches Leadership” 

    www.gotquestions.org, “What is a blessing according to the Bible?” 

    www.lsmradio.com, “What is God’s Blessing?” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com, “10 Effective Ways To Spread Christianity” 

    http://www.crosswindschurch.com, “Bible Study Basics – Ephesians 1” 

    http://dsntl8idqsx2o.cloudfront.net, “Ephesians Small Group Series Lesson 1 – Introduction to Ephesians & Chapter 1 The Extent of God’s Love and Power” 

    biblesummarybychapter.blogspot.com, “Ephesians Bible summary by chapter” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Two: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part Two: Living God’s word – Applying Ephesians 1 to everyday life 

    Last Friday, we started Part One of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1, which is an epistle that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus.

    In this letter, Paul tells the Ephesians that they – and by extension, us – are loved. His blessings are ours through Jesus’ blood sacrifice at the Cross of Calvary, and we receive them when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We are His children, adopted into the body of Christ. 

    Furthermore, Paul tells us that God has foreordained us for salvation and holiness. His reasons for choosing us are according to His will and purpose. Upon receiving salvation, we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, which identifies us as belonging to God and enables us to receive a portion of our divine inheritance while we are on earth.  

    Additionally, God’s wishes for His children are reflected through Paul’s prayers over the Ephesians:  

    • wisdom and revelation of God 
    • an awareness of our blessings as recipients of God’s inheritance 
    •  comprehension of the omnipresent and immeasurable power of God, which not only shows itself in us but through us. 

    Finally, God’s secret plan of bringing all things of the world under the unification of Christ is revealed. Paul makes us aware that with Jesus being the Head of the Church, we, as a community of Christians, are the body who can spread the Good News of the gospel to the rest of the world, in order to bring God’s plan to fruition.  

    Not only reading and studying the Bible is an integral part of every Christian’s God walk; we should also try and apply its messages to our daily life. Lukes aptly states in his gospel:

    “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  

    Luke 11:28 (NRSV)   

    Now that we understand the message behind Ephesians 1, let us explore in Part Two of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series, how we can take the lessons that Paul imparts on us and implement them to live blessed, purposeful lives as children of the Most High God, the beneficiaries of the divine blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven! 

    Additionally, let us explore how we can be ambassadors on earth through our churches and also as individuals in spreading the Word of God.

    Stop condemning yourself 

    God’s greatest message that He wants to share with us, is that He loves us. However, self-condemnation can prevent us from receiving God’s unconditional acceptance of us.  

    Why? 

    Because we see only our weaknesses and failings. We focus on all the times we messed up and the people we hurt and let down. 

    We need to see ourselves as God sees us. We are forgiven, chosen, and unconditionally accepted by Him. Nothing that we can do, no power or entity, can ever separate us from the love of God, which is given to us through Jesus Christ. Paul confirms this for us in the Book of Romans, another of his epistles: 

    “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

    Romans 8:38-39 

     God knows what is in your heart and He still loves you.  He is omnipresent through space and time (Revelations 1:8): He knows the mistakes you have done, are doing now, and will do in the future, and He’s still there for you. God doesn’t condemn you – why should you condemn yourself? 

    Photo credit:  Sydney Sims on Unsplash

    Know that you are unconditionally loved

    This is the point that Paul wishes to emphasize the most with the Ephesians.  

    God loves you. Unconditionally. Unrequitedly. Uncompromisingly.  

    His love cannot be earned, nor can we lose it when we mess up in life. God loves us because He chooses to.  

    God went through the lengthy process of adoption through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ, in order to bring you into His family.  

    Now, that is love! 

    God chose you – yes you – to be a part of His family. He knew you and chose you to be His child before you were even a twinkle in your mother’s eyes.  

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
    and before you were born I consecrated you; 
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

    Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV) 

    God set you apart, not only because He loves you, but  because  He has a wonderful plan for your life, a life of abundance until it overflows (John 10:10). 

    When you have God in your corner loving you and cheering you on, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. If someone doesn’t like you, breaks up with you, or doesn’t appreciate you, you don’t need to let their treatment of you influence how you live your life. God’s opinion of you is the only one that matters, and He thinks you are precious and worthy! 

    Hold on to that! 

    Photo credit:  Bart LaRue on Unsplash

    You have God’s grace – accept it!

    Paul began his letter to the Ephesians by wishing that grace and peace be theirs: 

    “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

    Ephesians 1:2 

    As we learned in the first part of this Bible Study, “grace” is derived from the Greek word charis, which means charm.  

    One can interpret that in a few ways. It can be a quality which endears you to someone, or it can be a quality that you express towards others. 

    In the case of God, l believe it is a combination of both. God’s expression of grace towards us is one of His most beautiful personality traits. It is His gift to us, a token of love and favor that we don’t deserve because we are sinners.  

    For that reason, God’s gift of grace is one of the qualities that cause us to love God even more. It humbles us, stirs us, and has us in awe of the majesty and benevolence of our Creator; especially when we consider that God’s greatest act of grace was His gift of Salvation. 

    “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.” 

    Ephesians 1:7-8 

    God wants us to accept His gift of grace. He loves you so much, and you are His greatest treasure.  

    Nevertheless, many of us are unwilling to accept it because we feel ashamed about our past mistakes or feel like we are not worthy enough. 

    However, that is not who you are in Christ. Jesus went to the cross to die for your sins, He took your shame, your mistakes, your regret – from the past, present, and future – and He nailed it on that Cross so that it would never have a hold over you again.  

    Therefore, accept God’s gift of grace, and live your life knowing you are forgiven, loved, and cherished! 

    Photo credit:  Kirill Pershin on Unsplash

    Blessed to be a blessing

    God’s blessings are a point that Paul emphasizes in his epistle.  

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” 

    Ephesians 1:3 

    The Greek word for “blessing” means to speak well or voice a positive utterance. In Hebrew, “blessing” can be translated in two ways: It can mean barak, which means to compliment or praise, as well as esher, which can be translated as happiness.  

    God literally spoke blessings to His people throughout the Bible. He blessed Abraham, declaring him to be the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4). He blessed Mary with the promise that she would bear the Savior of the world (Luke 1:31-33). God even blessed Paul as being the instrument through which He would bring the gospel to both the Gentiles and the Israelites (Acts 9:15).  

    When God blesses us, it is an expression of an act of favor or a declaration of His will for us. These blessings may come in the form of talents, health, opportunities – even material and financial acquisitions. In whatever form they may manifest themselves, God’s blessings are meant to enrich us.  

    However, these blessings are not given to us with the purpose of self-fulfillment.  God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.  

    Numerous verses in the Bible instruct us to bless others. Here are just a few: 

    Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 

    Philippians 2:3-4 

    “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contraryrepay with a blessingIt is for this that you were calledthat you might inherit a blessing.” 

    1 Peter 3:9 

    And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” 

    Hebrews 10:24 

    So, how can you bless others? You can use your talents to help others in your church and community. In my case, l am a fluent German speaker. In the church l attend here in Bochum, Germany, l offer my services in the Translation team, where we translate the church services from German into English.  

    Additionally, you can give financial gifts, volunteer in local charity organizations, host people in your home by preparing a meal or doing a Bible Study, or give food and clothing donations to a local shelter.  

    And of course, the most powerful blessing you can give someone is to pray for them.  

    Photo credit:  zhang Mickey on Unsplash

    Embrace the gifts of the Holy Spirit

    When we give our lives to Christ, God confirms the transaction by stamping us with the seal of the Holy Spirit. We are now beneficiaries of the promise of a divine inheritance.  

    The Holy Spirit comes to reside in us and provides us with a portion of our heavenly inheritance. In the Ancient Greek business world, a down-payment or “earnest” known as arrabon was considered a part of the purchase price of a good. In the same way, the Holy Spirit provides us with a pledge, or a down-payment of the blessings we are to receive once we are in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

    “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” 

    Ephesians 1:13-14 

    The pledges of the Holy Spirit are varied and many. Here are a few: 

    The thing about these pledges, is that they come in seed form. That means, that these provisions will become stronger in us the stronger we become in Christ.  

    When we give our lives to Christ, we become new creations – we start anew. Just as a human baby grows by progressing from milk to solid food, so too do we need to grow from “baby” Christians to mature Christians. 

    “And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.” 

    1 Corinthians 3:1-2 

    How can we do this? By spending time with God in prayer and quiet reflection, by reading the Bible and being in fellowship with other Christians. In Part Three of our Bible Study, which we will post tomorrow, we outline ways in which you can strengthen yourself in Christ and grow as a community of believers.  

    The potential to become a mature, formidable man or woman of Christ lies within you. If you are feeling undernourished, spend time with God today. Ask Him to show you through the Holy Spirit, how you can tap into the gifts and blessings He has placed inside you. 

    Photo credit:  Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

    Church leaders – be encouraged

    Paul places great emphasis on the role of the Church in furthering the Word of God. As an apostolic missionary, Paul was well aware of the vocation and responsibility involved in braving the outside world and sharing the gospel with people who didn’t know God or believe in Him. 

    The church is of vital importance to Jesus. As her head and cornerstone, He has great plans for the church where each of us has designated roles to fulfill in furthering the gospel. Paul talks more about this in Ephesians 4

    Being a church leader in the modern-day church comes with its challenges. In a time where more and more people are  turning away from God and dedicating themselves to the pursuits of the world, church leaders are under pressure to preach the Word of God, while at the same time not rocking the boat with messages or values that can deter people from wanting to enter their church doors.  

    Paul wants to encourage the Body of Christ that Christ’s power is greater than any authority, power, and dominion in this world and beyond.  

    “God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” 

    Ephesians 1:20-23 

    Jesus created the church to stand out amidst the brokenness of the world, to be a source of light when others sit in the darkness of unbelief and lack of knowledge of God’s redeeming love.  

    Therefore, church leaders need not fear reproach or rejection for telling the infallible Truth of the Word of God. It is their divine-appointed calling, endorsed by the power of the Name that is above all Names, under which every knee must bow – not just in this age, but for all ages to come.  

    Jesus has your back! 

    Photo credit:  Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

    Go out and spread the Word

    As we stated in the segment above, Jesus is the head of the Church. That makes us, as the Body of Christ, His movable body parts. 

    God’s application of His great plan of unity amongst the nations is through the church. This means, that we all have a role to play in making God’s endgame come to fruition. We need to be the mouth, hands, legs, heart, and spirit of Christ on earth. 

    God calls us to go out and teach the gospel to the four corners of the world, He wants us to bring people into the family of God through salvation. We call this the Great Mission. 

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

    Matthew 28:19-20 

    As Christians, we need to be identifiable as a vessel of Christ in today’s broken world. DL Moody, the great Christian theologian famously said, “A man ought to live so that everybody knows he is a Christian… and most of all, his family ought to know.” 


     So how can be known as God’s messengers on earth? 

    We can reflect Christ’s personality through our own behavior

    When l gave my life to Christ, people noticed an immediate change over me. I thought before l spoke, l was quieter, and l stopped swearing (and l used to swear a lot!).  

    People notice that Christ is in us in subtle ways, such as through our behavior, what we choose to talk or not talk about, how we react in situations that are challenging.  

    Reminding ourselves that Christ is in us and going out into the world with a spirit of patience, grace, kindness, and humility will have more of an effect on others than grand, sanctimonious gestures. It will show others who Christ’s true personality is. 

    We can pray 

    Praying is our most formidable and effective tool in making spiritual change. 

    “For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 

    2 Corinthians 10:4-5 

    Not only can we pray for our friends, families, and neighbors, but we should be praying for our nation’s leaders and the spiritual stability of our countries and the cities we live in. Through prayer, chains of pride and disbelief can and will be broken! 

    Have you heard of the film “War Room”? Miss Clara, one of the protagonist’s, had set up her closet as a prayer room. She wrote down everything that was on her heart that she wanted to pray over – may it be requests for herself or requests that were on her heart for others.  When Miss Clara went into her War Room to pray, she was on a divine mission from God to stir things up in the spiritual realm! 

    We can take action

    It is impossible for people to hear about the Word of God if we don’t bring it to them. In Hosea 4:6 it states “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” 

    For that reason, we can make the gospel accessible to others in different ways. Here are a few suggestions: 

    • plant a church 
    • Start a Bible Study in your home 
    • Invite a friend or neighbor who doesn’t know Christ to church 
    • Speak about Christ when you see an opportunity 
    • Start a blog (that’s what l did) 
    • Share a favorite Bible verse on social media like your Facebook or Instagram account 
    • Take flyers from your church and leave them in public places (l leave mine in the locker room of my gym and doctor’s waiting rooms) 
    • Have a Bible app on your phone and show people Bible verses when the situation comes up. This also provides an example for how others can have the Bible always at their fingertips.  I highly recommend the YouVersion Bible App, which was  designed by Craig Groeschel, the pastor of Life.Church and his team. (My husband even offers to download the app for people on their phone, right in that moment.) 
    • Invite people over for a Christian movie night. One of my friends regularly invites others to watch The Shack, the film adaptation of Wm Paul Young’s famous book. If you don’t know what the book is about, you can read our book review on The Shack here

    Photo credit:  Jon Tyson on Unsplash

    This concludes the second part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Ephesians 1 “Knowing who you are in Christ”.  To see Part One of our Bible study of Ephesians 1, click here

    If you have enjoyed the series thus far, we would love to have you join us on Saturday, when l will post the third and final part of our series.  

    Until then my friends, take care and God bless!  

    Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

    johnkking.wordpress.com, “Applying Ephesians to my life” 

    withalliamgod.wordpress.com, “Application Of Ephesians 1:3-11 in Local Churches Leadership” 

    www.gotquestions.org, “What is a blessing according to the Bible?” 

    www.lsmradio.com, “What is God’s Blessing?” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com, “10 Effective Ways To Spread Christianity” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part One: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part One: Understanding God’s Word

    Bible commentary on Ephesians 1

    Prior to choosing a Bible chapter for this month’s theme, “Who l am in Christ”, a dear friend recommended that l read Ephesians 1 during my private time with the Lord.

    I am so glad l took his advice, for this chapter was a beautiful reminder for me of God’s declaration of love. We are cherished, set apart, and fore-ordained to be in a relationship with our Father, full of blessings, grace, and purpose. I knew l had to take the teachings of this chapter and share it on our blog with all of you.

    Ephesians 1 explains how not only have we been forgiven and redeemed, but we have been chosen by God to be adopted as His sons and daughters. On the occasion of this adoption, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, identifying us as belonging to Christ and who is a down payment of our eternal inheritance. 

    Additionally, Ephesians 1 provides us with revelation about the church, which is the Body of Christ with Jesus at its head, as well as our calling to teach and proclaim the Gospel. 

    However, before we begin with studying this pivotal chapter of the Bible, let us find out more about who wrote it. 

    A brief Jacob’s Ladder history lesson – Who wrote the Book of Ephesians?

    The book of Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, in present-day Turkey. Ephesians is one of 13 epistles, or letters, that he wrote to various churches or followers of Christ.  

    Whereas some of the Pauline epistles were written to address issues that had arisen in certain churches, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written to give revelation to the most important themes of Christianity – kind of a grand summary of what it means to be a Christian.  

    Hence, scholars have referred to the Book of Ephesians as “the Queen of Epistles” or “the crown of Paulism”, just to mention a few terms. It is also known as a “prison” epistle, as Paul wrote this book while under a 2-year house arrest, as he awaited trial in Rome for spreading the Gospel.  

    Upon studying this epistle, some scholars believe that Paul’s intended audience was not limited to the church in Ephesus, as a few of the ancient manuscripts show a blank space instead of the location of Ephesus. 

    Instead, they surmise that this letter was actually written as a circular for various churches across different cities.  

    Despite this postulation, Paul’s affiliation to the city of Ephesus is rather evident: He had come to Ephesus as an apostolic missionary and established the Church at Ephesus, which became head of the Seven Churches in Asia minor. Ephesus became the third renowned Christian city after Jerusalem and Antioch. 

    The first 14 verses of Ephesians 1 are important, as they set the tone for the rest of the book.  

    Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians in Ancient Greek, so l will be referring to the odd Greek term that Paul used in the ancient manuscripts, as it gives a vivid portrayal of his sentiments and provides us with an insight into the tone of that time. 

    Photo credit:  Paola Aguilar on Unsplash

    Greetings to the Church at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1-2)

     Paul begins this epistle with his customary greeting to God’s people. In his salutation, he establishes his only two worthwhile credentials: 

    1) He is an apostle of Jesus Christ, sent out in His service

     The word “apostle” is derived from the Greek verb apostellein, which means to be sent out.  

    2) Any authority that Paul possesses has been delegated to him through Divine appointment 

    Paul is an apostle through God’s will, blessed to be a vessel to spread the Word of God by God’s grace and mercy. From the time he first gave his life to Christ (Acts 9:1-19), Paul was in constant amazement at the mercy and grace of God to use him as a vessel to spread the Gospel.  

    Paul continues his greetings to the Ephesians by wishing that “grace” and “peace” be theirs. These two words hold great significance in Christian faith.  

    The word “grace” is derived from the Greek word charis, which means charm. Grace is a gift that is only available from God, man cannot attain this for himself by earning it or deserving it. Therefore grace is the underserved merit of God. 

    The word “peace” comes from the Greek word eirene, but a Hebrew translation of the word is shalowm. In the Bible, peace does not necessarily mean the absence of trouble. It is a state that is independent of your surrounding circumstances. Hence, the only true peace a Christian can find is through God. 

    Photo credit:  Sunyu on Unsplash

    Blessed and chosen by God (Ephesians 1:3-6)

    Paul wants to accentuate some major points in these Bible passages:

    God’s blessings are ours  

    God blessings are ours through Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary. We receive them when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. These blessings are spiritual, which far outweigh any material blessing or temporal joy that we can experience.  

    Gods wants to, nay, He seeks to bless us abundantly with everything available in the Heavenly realm, for we are His children. 

    God has chosen us  

    God has chosen us, though we are undeserving of His benevolence, for we are sinners. God’s reasons for choosing us are beyond our ability to comprehend, but what we do know is that God chooses according to the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:5) In the Amplified version, this explanation is extended in brackets – (because it pleased Him and it was His kind intent). 

    God’s plan of adoption 

    Paul explains that it has always been God’s plan to adopt us as His own into the Body of Christ, before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)  to be a part of His family. 

     In Rome, where Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians, there was a strict law for adults adopting children, as it was considered a serious responsibility. The process of adoption was ceremonial and exact, involving a “father” selling his son twice through the use of a symbolic scale and then buying him back twice. For a third time, the father sold his son, but instead of buying him back, the father had to go the local praetor, a principal Roman magistrate, and plead for his son’s adoption.  

    Once the praetor had agreed to the adoption, the child gave up his rights to his old family and received all the rights of his new family, being recognized as a legitimate son. Any debts or obligations that were connected to his old family were wiped clean.  

    In the same way, God’s adoption of us wipes us clean of our old sins. Our old lives are no more – we can start a new life as new creations in the Body of Christ. 

    Foreordained for salvation and holiness 

    God has foreordained our adoption as His sons and daughters so that we may not only know salvation, but that we may be holy and blameless before Him. The Greek word for “holy” is hagios, which carries the meaning of difference and separation, like a temple is separated in its categorization from other buildings through its purpose of holiness. To apply this to today, a Christian needs to be identifiable as a vessel of Christ in today’s broken world. 

    Paul wonders that God should choose man and not the other way around. This grace is a further blessing from God, given freely to us and one which we should give God praise and honor for.  

    Photo credit:  Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

    Deliverance as an ultimate expression of God’s grace (Ephesians 1: 7-8)

    Paul reminds us that it is God who has delivered us from our sins, by sending his son Jesus to pay a ransom for our transgressions with His precious blood.   

    The word deliverance comes from the Greek word apolutrosis, which originates from the verb lutroun, meaning “to ransom”. This implies the liberation of a man or an entity from a situation he was powerless to free himself of, by means of payment. 

    Redemption is only possible through the Father; it is impossible for man to earn through his own works or earn by his own merits. It is an expression of God’s ultimate grace and a reflection of His loving, merciful nature. 

    Photo credit: Jason Betz on Unsplash

    God’s secret plan for mankind is revealed (Ephesians 1:9-10)

    In these verses, Paul reveals God’s secret plan for mankind that had been previously kept hidden.  Now, God wants to reveal His secret to us, or as the Apostle puts it, “He has made known to us the mystery of his will. (Ephesians 1:9)”. 

    It is a plan that God has been setting into motion throughout the course of history; the passage of time has been used to arrange and guide events, so that God’s plan can come to fruition at His designated time. Paul uses the Greek word oikonomia to describe this, which means “household management”.  In Ancient times, the oikonomos was the steward of a household, whose duty it was to organize the family’s affairs.

     Yep, God has an end plan for us and He has been working on it for a long time! 

    Would you like to know what God’s secret plan for mankind is? To bring together all things of the world and unify them under Christ.  

    This means a few things. Most importantly, God wants us to know that His Gospel of love, hope, and salvation is available to everyone, Gentile and Jew. Until the coming of Christ, the teachings of the Bible were restricted to the Jewish nation. As a consequence, all tensions between the nations, regardless of their backgrounds, are to be resolved in Christ so that there is unity amongst mankind. Additionally, all rights are to be wronged and every dispute is to be resolved under Christ’s jurisdiction.  

    God’s plan is a plan that will glorify Him and set His children free from the bonds of decay and futility (Romans 8:18-22). 

    Sounds like a good plan, right? 

    Such unity was unheard of during Paul’s time. Now, Jesus wants the church, as His bride, to do their part in contributing to this unification process by spreading the good news of the gospel. 

    Photo credit:  Kristina Flour on Unsplash

    Signed, sealed, and stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14)

    Beneficiaries of God’s inheritance 

    Paul tells the Ephesians in this part of his letter that they (and us by extension), have an inheritance in God when we receive His salvation.  

    God has chosen and appointed us as the beneficiaries of His heritage and portion long before we were even aware of it. In Jeremiah 1:5 it states, 

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
    and before you were born I consecrated you; 
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

    Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV) 

    As Paul has stated previously in verse 5, God’s reasons for choosing us are His own and are centered around the purpose of His will.  

    Ultimately, those who have chosen to trust God, have been destined and appointed for the praise of His glory (verse 12)!  

    Stamped with the Divine seal of approval 

    For those who have heard God’s Word and received it into their hearts by calling upon Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, God literally confirms the deal by stamping us with the seal of the Holy Spirit.  

    Just as a seal or a stamp denotes ownership, so too does the seal of the Holy Spirit on us denote us as belonging to God.  

    This is especially important when considering that we live in a broken world that tries to lure us away from God with the temptation of material and superficial goals, as well as giving in to our flesh. In such times, we need to remember that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4.4). It is also important when considering spiritual warfare, as Satan constantly attacks us with lies and tries to deceive us into thinking that we are not worthy to God  (John 8:44). 

    So, what does it mean to be stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit? 

    It means that the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) and does the following: 

    The Holy Spirit does more, but this gives you a working idea of how the seal of the Holy Spirit over us changes us into a new creation in Christ. 

    In the Ancient Greek business world, the term arrabon, meaning “earnest”, was the term for a down-payment or installment. On purchasing goods, this pledge was considered part of the purchase price. It was paid in advance as a guarantee that the full price would be paid in due course. 

    In the same way, Paul is stating that the experience of the Holy Spirit we receive on earth is a pledge of our total inheritance, a down-payment of the fullness of God blessings we are to receive in Heaven (2 Corinthians 1:22). 

    Photo credit:  Gian Cescon on Unsplash

    Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians reflects God’s wishes for us (Ephesians 1:15-20)

    Paul acknowledges the Ephesians love of Christ and His saints. This mention of the word saints is a reference to Christians as being “set apart” through their vocation of leading holy lives in the presence of God.  

    Although Paul had lived with the Ephesians, it seems that news of their continuing faith after his departure had reached him in his confinement in Rome.  Greatly encouraged by these glad tidings, Paul wants to assure the Ephesians that he continues to hold them in his prayers. 

    Paul lists three desires in his prayers over the Ephesians. These desires can also be seen as a reflection of what God wishes for us to also experience: 

    1. Paul prays for a spirit of wisdom and revelation of God which will lead to a deep and more intimate knowledge of him (Ephesians 1 1:17
    1. Paul wishes that the Ephesians have a revelation of their vocational calling in Christ “with the eyes of your heart enlightened”. Additionally, he prays that they are aware of how blessed they are by being recipients of His divine inheritance (Ephesians 1:18). 
    1. Paul desires that the omnipresent and immeasurable power of God is comprehensible to the people of Ephesus, which not only shows itself in us, but is available for us, as God mightily demonstrates to us in our lives (Ephesians 1:19). 

    Paul wants the Ephesians, and by extension – us, to know that we are so precious to God and that His power is great and available to those who believe in Him.   

    It is this same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and has raised Him above any earthly and spiritual rule, authority, power, and dominion for now and all eternity. And this same power works in us as God’s believers. 

    Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:21-23)

    As a continuing expression of the magnificence of Christ’s power, Paul tells us that all things are under Jesus’ feet and that God has appointed Him as the universal and supreme Head of the Church (Psalm 8:6).  

    If Jesus is the head, then we as a community of Christians make up His body.  

    What does this mean? 

    God’s plan of reconciliation for all the nations was through the life and death of Christ. However, God requires followers to spread this message of love and unity. 

    Each part of a living organism has a function. The head is the cerebral center of the body, whereas the legs have their own function, as do the hands etc. And yet, together, all the individual parts work cohesively as one unit.

    The same applies to us in our function as the Body of Christ. Jesus is the Head, the spiritual center, however, He requires us to be His voice to minister, His hands to pray, and His feet to go out and spread the gospel. Together, we unleash the full potential of Christ’s glory out into the world and fill the voids of this world wrought by brokenness and disunity.  

    Photo credit:  Aaron Burden on Unsplash

    This concludes the first part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Ephesians 1 – “Knowing who you are in Christ”. 

    I hope you have enjoyed reading about Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. 

    If so, feel free to join us next week Thursday, when l post the second part of the series.  

    Until then friends, be blessed!  

     Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

  • Articles

    Why we must purposefully pursue peace

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    We are all no strangers to trials and tribulations. It can be a confusing and even difficult interval in our lives that we have no choice but to endure.


    Sometimes these times means that a new chapter is being opened for us, other times it heralds the end of a significant period and the need for closure.


    When our circumstances change, God will always help us and provide a solution. However He is more interested in the changes He can make in you.

    “Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing;  rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.

    1 Peter 3:3-4 (NRSV)

    No matter what is going on in our lives, God encourages us to be at peace.

    Where does this peace derive from?


    From the Prince of Peace himself, Jesus Christ.

    For a child has been born for us,
        a son given to us;
    authority rests upon his shoulders;
        and he is named
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
        Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

    Isaiah 9:6

    In the Book of John, Jesus states:

    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

    John 14:27

    Jesus gives us the free gift of His own peace. It is a present that He handed over to us, before He left to be with the Father. That’s not just any peace. This is a level of peace that has withstood open criticism from the Pharisees, trials in the desert from the devil, public prosecution, degradation, pain, suffering, and even death.


    No wonder that Jesus goes on to say:

    “Not as the world gives do l give to you.”

    John 14:27

    Is there any treasure on this earth, which can be comparable to the peace that Jesus gives us? With Jesus’ peace inside you, you don’t need to feel fear anymore, you can stop worrying. Nothing can intimidate you.


    In fact, Jesus tells us that these negative feelings have no more place in us:

    “Therefore, do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

    John 14:27

    Now that is one special gift.


    So, if peace is already in us then why must we pursue it?


    When we experience difficult times, we often get distracted or even overwhelmed by the given situation. We start to fret and get annoyed. We become emotional. Consequently, we start making wrong decisions that can make the current situation even worse.


    l used to feel miserable, scared, and defeated when I found myself in a bad situation. Only when l actively sought to be peaceful in such times, did l discover a new interpretation of how l could live my life.


    I realized that living a life filled with peace begins with a choice.
    The conscious choice to pursue it.


    The purposeful pursuit of peace is something we as Christians need to be exercising. It is, with the other Fruits of the Spirit, a ready arsenal that can make not only our own lives, but the lives of our family, friends, and others who interact with us, all the more richer and victorious.


    Ok, so let’s say you’re in the peace zone. What happens next?


    Well, once you have peace, you have to maintain it.


    Think about Exodus 14:14 (KJV):

    “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. “


    God is telling us that not only should we aspire to acquire peace, but that we also need to stay in peace through trials and tribulations. He will deal with the issue at hand, but we need to do our part and be at peace and rest, being confident that He will provide us with the best outcome.


    Holding our peace is telling God that we trust Him.


    I am so grateful to the Lord for showing me the importance of pursuing peace, while He deals with my present circumstances.

    Currently, l am experiencing a severe relapse in my convalscence from burnout and chronic depression. Panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed, and extreme social anxiety are daily battles l have to face, as well as depressive episodes.

    However, in the deepest depths of the darkest, miry pits, l can only stretch my hands out and rely on the grace and goodness of my Father, who promises to never fail me, nor forsake me. He walks with me in the shadow of the valley of Death. He is my light in the darkness, and His peace is a gift that l can accept and rely on, as He walks through this period of illness with me.


    The intensity with which we experience pain and suffering is subjective to each individual. No one can understand what you are going through as well as God.


    Put Him first, do your part and hold your peace and He will do His part and help you. He loves us all so much and He will never ask us to do anything we couldn’t do.

    “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”

    Colossians 3:15

    I wish you peace brothers and sisters in Christ. Whatever storm you are in at this moment, it too shall pass.

    Blog banner credit: Simon Migaj on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    How God showed me His love through a song on the radio

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Thought of the day: In every situation, God is with me and comforts me. He shows His love for me in many unexpected ways.

    “Let your steadfast love become my comfort
    according to your promise to your servant.”

    Psalm 119:76 (NRSV)

    My childhood was an unhappy one. My parents beat me, and they constantly fought with each other. l lived in constant fear of them and felt unsafe and unloved.


    Being confined to close quarters with my parents was always stressful, so l wasn’t pleased when one day, my parents decided we should all go on a day trip. It was the early 80’s, so my father always had a mixed tape of songs he played in the car, in order to while away the journey time.


    However, during this trip, he turned on the radio. The opening twangy notes of a pedal steel guitar filtered through the car’s speakers, filling the car’s cabin with the melodious overtures of the song “Missippi” by Pussycat.


    My father had once told me that this song had stormed the UK charts in 1976, in the week l was born. We had been living in London at the time, so in celebration of my birth, he had gone to Selfridges, to buy the single on 7” vinyl.


    I used to enjoy the times my father would play the song, because l associated it with the few memories l had of his pleasure at my existence. However, this was the first time that l had ever heard the song on the radio.
    I may have been only a child, but sitting in that car, l knew that the timing of this song, through this particular format, was no coincidence.

    Unbeknown to them, l had been praying for someone to come into my life and protect me from the violence and mental anguish that l felt at the hands of my parents.


    Then “Missippi” came on and through the sweet-toned harmonies, l heard a still, small voice telling me that l was not alone. God was here, and He knew my suffering: He would protect me and keep me safe.

    God kept His word, and l managed to cope with my parent’s maltreatment until l was old enough to leave home.


    Lately, as l have been struggling to recover from burnout and chronic depression, l have been needing God’s comfort and assurance of love more than ever. Then, the other day, God showed me His love again through the radio.


    I was in the kitchen with the radio blaring as l prepared dinner. Suddenly, l heard the familiar twang of the opening bars of “Missippi”, greeting me like an old friend. I couldn’t help but smile, because even if nobody else saw it, l knew that God was telling me that He was keeping the promise He made me years ago, to look after me.


    God shows me His presence in many ways, however, the radio has become our own personal means of communication. Every time l hear “Missippi” on the radio, I am reassured yet again of God’s love for me.

    Prayer:

    Merciful Father, thank you that You are always with us. Your love is steadfast and always provides comfort in every situation we face. Help us to see Your presence every day, and show us how we can experience You in unexpected and delightful ways. Amen.

    Delve deeper:

    Are you wanting God to show you His presence in your current situation, but you can’t see Him?
    Maybe He is showing Himself to you in an unexpected way. Spend time with Him today, and ask Him to open your eyes to the manifestation of His love and comfort in your life today.

    Photo credit: Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

  • Jacob's Ladder Book Reviews

    JL Book review: “He Heard Me” written by Brenda Vargas

    In choosing which book l wanted to review for this month’s theme “Who l am in Christ”, the choice was easy –  He Heard Me, written by Canadian writer and poet, Brenda Vargas. 

    I first met Brenda through PresbyCan Devotionals, where she wrote me an encouraging comment to a devotional l had submitted to the website.  

    From that initial contact, a wonderful friendship has ensued. I am thankful to God every day for bringing this kind-hearted, generous person into my life, and l am grateful to learn more about myself and my own faith walk from her passionate love for Christ and her ability to see the good in all people. 

    He Heard Me is a tangible extension of Brenda’s intimate relationship with God. It is a loving testimony to the blessings, mercy, and miracles that God has given to her through the power of His infinite grace and mercy.  

    After reading this book, you will be filled with renewed faith, be grateful for God’s favor and blessings over your life, and be ignited with hope in experiencing the same miracles and revelation that Brenda has experienced.  Furthermore, Brenda’s words will rekindle your desire to discover a deeper relationship with God. 

    Brenda shares her inspiring spiritual journey through a compilation of personal testimonies and self-composed poetry. 

    Her introduction to the book begins with her testimony of salvation. The successive 11 themed chapters highlight situations in Brenda’s life where God has revealed Himself to her. Each chapter is complemented with Scripture.

    One favorite testimony of mine is to be found in the chapter “Trust and Obey”, where God gave Brenda favor with her bank by replacing a sum of money that had been owed to her.  

    Brenda also provides testimonial accounts of her friends and loved ones. One such account is given by a lady named Karen, whose testimony of recovery from lymphoma cancer, despite negative doctor’s reports, is just a beautiful confirmation of the power of God to heal and restore.  

    Within each chapter are self-composed poems, which supplement the chapter themes with their moving declarations of revelation and praise of God’s goodness. 

    What l also love about this book is Brenda’s attention for details. What first caught my eye about this book is the glorious sunset portrayed on the cover. The wash of golden, amber, and bronze hues evoked a feeling of peace and happiness in me.  

    When l asked Brenda about her inspiration behind choosing this photo, she informed me that the photo was taken on Pico in the Azores Islands, from a local photographer. Pico holds a special place in Brenda’s heart and is where she and her family spend a few months of the year to escape the harsh Canadian winters.  

    Inside my book l also found a bookmark, with the same beautiful sunset photo depicted on it, as well as the book’s title and author.  

    Brenda’s keenest desire is that people who read her book will have their eyes opened to see how God’s hand is present in every part of their daily lives. She has certainly achieved this! 

    I highly recommend reading He Heard Me. It is a book that will revive the spiritually fatigued, motivate the new believer in Christ, and give hope to those who are yearning for a meaningful relationship with God but just don’t know how to connect with Him 

    You can buy Brenda’s book on Amazon.com. Brenda also stocks her books in selected bookstores. To find out more, you can connect with her on Facebook.  

    About the author: 

    Brenda Vargas started writing poetry at a young age for special occasions and to communicate the things on her heart.  She has continued to write since that point, with encouragement from friends and family. Brenda currently lives in Ontario with her family and escapes the Canadian winters in Pico in the Azores Islands. 

    Blog banner credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

  • Articles

    How my worship of God is challenged by a world full of choices

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I love spending time with God. My worship of Him is such an essential part of my day; l need it like the air that l breathe. In the same way, being in church is the highlight of my week, because l  can refuel my spiritual tank there in praise, worship and service. 

    It has taken a lot of trial and error, as well as a huge amount of discipline, but over the years l have formed a routine where l set aside time every morning to worship God through prayer, music, bible study, and journaling. 

    In John 4:23-24 it states that we should worship God “in the Spirit and in truth”, and l try my hardest to abide by this. My time with God has become my dedication of thanks to Him, to show Him how much l love Him and to grow in my relationship with Him. His presence fills me with strength, gives me peace, and reminds me that God is always looking after me. Consequently, when l come out of my time with God, l am strengthened in the assurance of His love and that with Him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)! 

    That being said, making time to worship God and commit myself to Him with my entire being isn’t easy. The world offers values, distractions, and pursuits that tempt me to take my eyes of God. It’s like the world is calling out to me to use my time of worship to pursue endeavors it considers more “important”. Hence, l am constantly being challenged to make a decision between the selection of choices that the world is offering me and my choice to spend time with God in worship. 

    1 John 2:15 warns us to not love this world, not the things it offers us. But unless you’re an uncontacted community, entirely cut off from the influence of modern-day society, what the world offers to entertain us, advance us, and ease our everyday lives can be pretty enticing.  

    Through trial and error, l have learned to recognize in what ways l am being distracted by the world and have accordingly worked on those areas to re-focus my attention back to God, when l find myself being challenged to worship Him.  I am still a work in progress, but l am getting better! 

    Here are 3 of my most pressing challenges to worshipping God in a world full of choices: 

    1. Caught between serving two masters: Technological distractions verses God

    I remember receiving my first mobile phone in the late ’90s. Before that, l was hightailing it to a pay phone every time l wanted to ring someone when l was on the go. Similarly, l am grateful for the invention of the internet. Teaching myself make-up application from YouTube tutorials jumpstarted my freelance career as an SFX and Make-up artist.  

    However, at some point, my life began to revolve around my devices, apps, and feeds. I was more intrigued by the scintillation of the internet and social media than being in God’s presence.  

    When it got to the point that l was tempted to check my WhatsApp messages during church services, l knew it was time to cut the digital umbilical cord. 

    It is almost scary how easily we allow the digital world to rule our lives. God says in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot serve two masters.  When we can’t stop scrolling through social media feeds or we just have to play one more game of “Candy Crush” on our phones, then we’re relying on technological advancement to get through life and we’re not relying on God.  

    These days, instead of looking at my phone when l get up in the morning, l thank God for the day He has made (Psalm 118:24).  During my worship time with God, l turn off all my devices. If someone wants to get in contact with me during this time, they can leave a message. In church, l switch my phone off before the service starts.  

    Photo credit:  Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

    2. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

    Every day when l get up in the morning, my focus is to spend those first hours of the day with God in His presence.  

    However, more often than not, by the time l give my one-eared pussycat his breakfast and start brewing my first cup of coffee, my mind starts formulating a list of all the activities l want to do that day. I start to get so nervous at the thought of not experiencing any of these events, that l become tempted to exchange my delegated worship time for the pursuit of my other endeavors. 

    Today’s fast-paced society is derived from an oversaturation of choices. Our anxiety at missing out on an experience is making us run from pillar to post – we’re suffering from FOMO. 

    In such times, l go back to the Bible for guidance. Matthew 6:33 highlights seeking God’s kingdom first above all things. After that, God will provide us with everything we need, including experiences. l have learned that God has to be the encounter l need to have FOMO about – not the pursuits of the world. 

    Photo credit:  Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

    3. We worship the things of this world, instead of God

    One of my favorite recreational pursuits is to go to the gym. Although l work out to promote a healthy lifestyle, a part of me is very aware of the “body goals” that are being portrayed on Instagram and splashed across the celebrity pages of magazines. Sometimes, when l lift weights, l question myself as to whether l should be striving to attain the highly sought-after peach emoji booty instead of accepting the body that God gave me. 

    The pursuit of a certain aesthetic, acquiring the latest version of the iPhone or constantly showing off photos of our dream partners and our exotic holidays on Facebook – these are portrayed as “goals”. However, in reality, they are societal pressures engineered by the world to woo us into worshipping them, instead of worshipping God.   

    Romans 12:2 encourages us to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by a renewing of our minds. When l find myself going down the rabbit hole of superficial pursuits, l need to stop and remind myself that the only truly worthy pursuit is that of seeking God’s presence. 

    We are only temporary residents in this world, but God’s love for us is eternal. When we consider that Jesus made the ultimate choice to give His life for us at the cross, then making the decision to spend time with God in worship and praise suddenly becomes a lot easier, and the choices of the world begin to quickly pale in comparison.    

    Photo credit: Nick Fewings on Unsplash

    This article was published on YMI Magazine on May 15th 2019.

    Blog banner credit:  Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    My trust is in the name of the Lord

    Thought of the day: In God do l put my trust and confident reliance and not in the world. 

    “Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
        but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

    Psalm 20:7 (NIV)

    A few months ago, l stopped going on social media. I got to the point where l could not see another Instagram pose, you know the kind with the phone held up in front of a mirror, hip to the side, complete with a pouty lip? Or the photo exemplifying a person’s posterior, with a peach emoji next to it?

    We live in a society that encourages self-promotion and narcissism as a measurement of popularity. Unrealistic beauty and partner ideals, material acquisitions, and exotic travel locations are blatantly advertised as “goals” that should be achieved in order to live an accomplished life. Failing to fulfill any or all of these requirements leaves one feeling insecure, worthless, and constantly comparing.

    However, where is God in all of this? Why isn’t He presented as a “goal” to social media followers, especially to the more easily impressed youth?

    Turning off my notifications has brought a stillness into my life. Free of distractions, l can hear God more clearly. He tells me that He loves me, He is my provider, and that His Truth guides my way.

    I may live in this world, but l don’t have to yield under its pressures. In God do l put my trust and confident reliance and not in superficial conformities. With this revelation, l feel set free from society’s expectations.

    Prayer: Wonderful Lord, help us to not prioritize the ideals and expectations of this world; instead let us hold You first in our hearts, for You give us Love, Truth, and Life.

    Delve deeper: Do you live your life according to how society says you should live it? Do you go on Facebook or Instagram and compare yourself to others? Do you constantly check how many likes your latest tweet or post received?

    Friends, if you find that the things of this world are taking priority over God’s values, spend time in prayer with Him and ask Him to help you re-focus your eyes on Him. What the world says about you is not important; only God’s opinion matters!

    This devotional was published on PresbyCan Devotionals on 26th May 2019.

  • Personal testimonies

    Slave no more

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I don’t know about you, but l have a fantastic relationship with my doctor. When l was living in Cologne, Germany, for 17 years, Dr. Reiner Frenken was not only my physician for this period, he also became a trusted friend.

    Reiner Frenken is a multi-talent: He is a medical practitioner as well as a rock musician, who writes, sings, and produces his own songs. He has brought out four albums Utopia I, II, III, and IV, the proceeds of which all go to supporting “Doctors without Borders”.

    About three years ago, Reiner asked me if l would be interested in writing some lyrics for an album he was working on at the time, Utopia III. I had written reams of poetry during high school and university, so l was interested in discovering whether l could reawaken the dormant bard within. Thus, l agreed.

    One of the lyrics l wrote for Reiner was for a song he had composed titled “Slave no more“. As a Christian, the title evoked my experience of coming to Christ and how He broke me free of the chains of my past. I wanted the lyrics to reflect this.

    This is what l came up with:

    Slave no more

    I’m a slave
    Trapped in chains,
    In the spaces of my mind
    Searching for peace l cannot find
    Won’t let the darkness smother me
    No more
    I wanna break free
    l gotta break free


    No more a slave, no more a slave
    The taste of freedom is what l crave
    I’m no slave, l’ll be saved
    No more a slave, that’s the promise You gave

    I’m a slave
    Head bowed low
    Living in sorrow, bearing the shame
    I need You to take away the pain
    Only Your love is my breakthrough
    I know it’s true
    I wanna break free
    Help me break free


    Take me to a place
    Where the sunlight reaches me
    Where l feel my spirit’s free
    Touch my heart from deep within

    Accept my fall from grace
    Only You can break these chains
    Raise me to my feet again
    Your love is power, l just can’t explain.

    Reiner amalgamated these lyrics to the melody he had written, and the song “Slave no more” became a part of the album Utopia III. You can listen to the song here.

    If you would like to find out more about Reiner Frenken’s music and charity work, then visit him on Facebook or click on his YouTube channel.

    Photo credit:  Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

  • Articles

    Made in God’s Image

    Blessed to Be a Blessing, Created to Be Creative

    Written by Sarah Keith

    Have you ever heard someone say, or maybe you’ve said it, “I’m not very creative; I can’t even draw a stick figure!” While it’s true that many people can’t draw, the visual arts are not the only measurement for determining creativity. In fact, I believe creativity is a hallmark trait of being made in God’s image.

    When God created Adam and Eve, He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” Genesis 1: 26-27 (ESV).

    As Christians, we understand the term, “us” in Genesis 1 as a direct reference to the triune* nature of One God, who is manifested in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the other hand, there are those who would say the “us” is a reference to God’s heavenly court, meaning God and His angels. However, this presents a problem, because people are not created in the image of an angel.

    We—human beings, male and female, and not any of the other animals—are created in God’s image (tselem in Hebrew) and in His likeness (demuth in Hebrew). This image-likeness must refer to inward qualities such as our eternal nature, our intellect, our morality, our social nature, and our ability to love and be loved, all of which has been damaged because of the Fall (Genesis 3) because sin has marred our God-like image. Yet, because of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection, we can be restored by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, to be conformed into the image of Jesus, who is the exact representation of our Father God (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 1:3).

    The words “create”, “created”, and “made or make” are used interchangeably throughout Scripture, and are sometimes used to explain the same event, as referenced in Genesis 1, above. The Old Testament Hebrew word for “create”, bara’, means God-shaping, God-forming, or God-fashioning what was “not there before” (Latin, ex nihilo, out of nothing.) The Hebrew word for “made or make” in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man. . .” is ‘asah, which means to fashion, accomplish, make, work, produce, prepare, to make an offering, appoint.

    Only God can bara’, that is create something from nothing, but both God and people can ‘asah, make things.

    In Genesis 1:26-27, bara’ and ‘asah are used interchangeably and refer to God’s work in creation. In Exodus 25-28, God instructed Moses to have the children of Israel make (‘asah) Him a Sanctuary, as well as all the components within the Sanctuary: candlesticks, a wooden chest, curtains, frames, and hooks, to name a few. They were to make things (‘asah) from existing things that God had created (bara’) from nothing.

    Throughout the Old Testament ‘asah may refer to making a cake, a garden, a crown, or even making an agreement. There are a lot more! In fact, there are over 2000 references of ‘asah; some pertain to God-making or doing, and others to people-making or doing.

    In Psalm 51:10 David pleads, “Create (bara’) in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” David knew in order to have a clean heart, it would be God’s doing. David couldn’t “make” his heart clean! But he also knew there was a purpose in having a clean heart:

    “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.”

    Psalm 51:13.

    The equivalent New Testament Greek word for God’s creative work is ktizo or ktisis, meaning to create, form, or shape, making something from nothing. The Apostle Paul tells us that those who are in Christ are a God-created work:

    “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (ktisis); the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

    2 Corinthians 5:17

    And like David who understood that having a clean heart was not just for his benefit, God’s children are made into new creatures for a purpose.

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created (ktizo) in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”

    Ephesians 2:8-10.

    Because we are made in God’s image+, it makes sense that creativity would be part of our DNA. Of course, not all of us can sing well, write a novel, play a musical instrument, or even draw a stick figure. But these are too narrow a definition of creativity!

    Consider what you can do!

    • Can you make (‘asah) a cake?
    • Can you make (‘asah) a garden?
    • Can you make (‘asah) an agreement—can you be agreeable?
    • Can you make (‘asah) a friend?
    • Can you make (‘asah) a card to send to someone who is sick or suffering?
    • Can you make (‘asah) a prayer?
    • Can you make (‘asah) order out of chaos—by helping a friend in their time of need?
    • Can you make (‘asah) your witness for Christ known?

    All of us can make (‘asah) something and do it with the purpose of bringing God’s kingdom to others. And we can do it with the knowledge that we have God’s creative DNA working in us to will and to act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:13). Our good works reflect God’s image, His likeness, to the world!

    My good friend and editor, Kit MacLeod, shared her experience of volunteering at an elementary school, and how God’s creative DNA was available to her.

    She wrote, “I realized a lot of the things I’ve done were more spur of the minute inspired, rather than planned. That goes back to the concept of being open to God’s inspiration, praying for it, and believing it will flow according to His perfect plan. I remember reading the book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen to a group of second graders, and seeing that there were some children who were not very engaged. That particular book has the owl’s “whoo-whoo-whooo” repeated throughout.

    After I read it dramatically the first time, on a whim I encouraged them to join in with me. As I continued reading, even the most reluctant students became more and more engaged. They were hanging on every word, waiting for their next chance to dramatically hoot, grinning all the time.

    When we finished reading, they applauded, delighted with the story and their part in it. I believe the inspiration to engage them that way was just God’s creativity flowing through me, showing me opportunities to enjoy and share enjoyment of His creative Spirit.”

    So, let us begin thinking of ways to put God’s creative intellect and power to work in our lives, so that others may believe, be encouraged, and grow in their faith! And when you tap into your creativity, I believe you will discover a deep joy and a Divine creative flow at work within you!

    *Jewish scholars reject the idea of a triune being. However, they must still deal with at least the duality of God and his Spirit, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth . . . and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” Genesis 1:1-2. (See also, Genesis 6:3, Exodus 31:3, or Numbers 11:25 to name just a few.)

    + According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance:
    “Image,” the Hebrew term, tselem, is from an unused root meaning to shade; a phantom, i.e. (figuratively) illusion, resemblance; hence, a representative figure, especially an idol — image, vain shew. (We are not to make “graven images,” “tselem,” “carved idols.). And “Likeness,” the Hebrew, demuth, is to “model, shape, fashion, to resemble, liken, consider.”

    From the editor:  Thank you, Sarah, for sharing this informative article. If you would like to read more articles from Sarah Keith, visit School Network.com.

    Also, check out the website’s vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.


    Sources

    bibletools.org, ” Bible verses about Asah” 

    crosswalk.com,  “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance” 

    answersingenesis.com, “Did God Create (Bara) or Make (Asah) in Genesis 1?” 

    sunnybrookpub.com, “Asah in Genesis – The Work God Did” 

    creation.com, “Made in the image of God” 

    About the author:

    Sarah Keith is the founder of SundaySchoolNetwork.com. She has been writing Christian adult devotionals and Bible curricula for teachers of children since 1999. In 1981 she graduated with honors from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a degree in Psychology and Religion, and she holds a degree in Fine Arts from Palm Beach State College.

    Sarah is passionate about the importance of teaching children about Jesus, having them memorize God’s Word early and often. She has worked in children’s ministry for over 30 years

  • Devotionals

    My strength comes from the joy of the Lord

    Thought of the day:
    When God is leading me through a transition, His joy for me is my source of strength.

    “Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
    Nehemiah 8:10 (NRSV)

    Being in a period of transition is a stressful time for me. When my circumstances start to change and l experience growing pains, it can affect my ability to see the situation for what it is – as God testing and purifying me so that He can prepare me for the next level of His wonderful plan for my life.

    At such times, I hand over the situation to God, but emotionally, l can’t help but see changes in our family’s circumstances as portents of doom. I admonish myself constantly for allowing my fears to overpower my faith.


    My husband, Solomon, on the other hand, is the kind of person who can always tap into God’s joy, despite what is going on around him. He interacts socially and generally enjoys his life, while l sit at home lamenting over what l perceive as a downward turn of events.


    In order to cheer me up, Solomon encourages me to go out for a coffee with him or to meet up with friends. However, l get too caught up in the cinema playing in my head to take on his suggestions. In such times, my husband reminds me that the joy of the Lord is our strength. God knows our current dilemma and is preparing us for promotion and blessings. In the meantime, we should rejoice in each day that God has made.

    Maybe l am not as spiritually mature as my husband, for l have never really understood what Nehemiah meant when he told the Israelites in Nehemiah 8:10 that God’s joy strengthens us.

    Then, a few days ago, l watched an online sermon that gave me a revelation of this Bible verse.


    The pastor preached on Psalm 23:6, where God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. As l listened, l began to understand Nehemiah’s words better. Sure, life would be more joyful if l could foresee how we were to persevere through our adversities, but true joy comes from the strength that only God can give me.


    Revelation rained down on me: God takes joy in me as His child – I am loved, cherished, and protected. Though changes may be whirling around me in a chaotic cyclone of fear and doubt, l can be confident in the presence of it, fortified in the knowledge that God has my back.


    With this in mind, l will heed Nehemiah’s words to the Israelites to eat, drink, and not grieve. I need not fear change, nor should l condemn myself for feeling it. Instead, l should lift my eyes to Jesus and remember that my joy comes from above. God will do the rest.

    Prayer:
    Wonderful Father, thank you that You love us and take joy in us as Your children. As You lead us through changes, help us to remember that Your joy is our true source of strength which overcomes fear and doubt. Amen.

    Delve deeper:
    Are you currently finding it difficult to experience joy in the midst of your present circumstances? Is God leading you through a period of transition, which is making you anxious and worried?

    Remember that your help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth! In prayer, ask God to show you how you can tap into the strength that comes from the joy He feels for us, His beloved children.

    Photo credit:  Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash

  • Personal testimonies

    How l withstood the heat -Bushfires and the Holy Spirit

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    When l was six years old, l experienced my first bushfire. I grew up in Victoria, Australia, in a set of low rural mountain ranges called the Dandenongs, about 35 km east of Melbourne.

    That summer had been a real scorcher, with little rainfall and strong winds. The threat of bushfires breaking out was very real: The majestic eucalyptus gums that surrounded our neighborhood were particularly flammable due to their abundant foliage and high oil content. Many houses backed onto steep gullies that could sweep a bushfire upwards towards us at an alarming speed. Everyone was tense with dread and anticipation.

    Then, the threat became a reality. My family and l were at home when we first saw the fire alert on TV, but we could already see billowing clouds of smoke moving towards us from a distant mountain, turning day instantly into night in its wake. Instead of evacuating, we unanimously agreed to stay and defend our home.

    Everyone had their houses fire-prepared as standard protocol. The air was already thick with smoke as my mum hosed down the patio areas and my dad confirmed the levels of water in the gutters on the roof one last time.

    I ran around the garden, checking that the buckets placed around our property were full of water. The fire was near: My eyes were stinging, and l could taste feathery flakes of ash on my tongue. Panic rose in me as my lungs started to fill with smoke, making me cough and splutter.

    Afer we had completed our final inspections, my parents and l went into our house and shut the windows and doors that had been already secured with metal mesh screens. The phone lines had jammed hours previously, and the radio waves were spitting out static. The TV was our only lifeline and we stayed glued in front of it, watching and waiting.

    About an hour later, the bushfire swept through. We remained safe and our house received only surface fire damage. However, the aftermath of that natural disaster had diabolical effects on our community: Many of our neighbor’s houses were destroyed, local vegetation was razed to charcoal, and only a small percent of native fauna survived.

    Afer the firefighters had left, l looked out onto the charred landscape of what had once been my backyard, with big eyes filling up with sooty tears. I may have been a small child, however, l understood that fire was a cataclysmic force of nature. It was a bitter lesson to learn.

    It was only a few years later in a Geoscience lesson in school that l discovered how bushfires play an important role in the rejuvenation and continuation of Australia’s environment. Natural ecosystems are dependent on periodic fire to cleanse out undergrowth, unleash stored nutrients in the soil, and encourage the germination of seeds and pods, which can only be released through heat.

    Sitting in that classroom, it dawned on me, that what fire initially destroys can be the necessary preparation to refine and give re-birth to the new.

    As a Christian, the application of fire manifests itself in the same way when we enter into a deeper relationship with God. Fire is a symbol of God’s presence, where the Holy Spirit is represented as tongues of fire:

    “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. “

    Acts 2:3-4  (NRSV)

    l experienced this baptism of the fire of the Holy Spirit, after l gave my life to Christ over 10 years ago.

    I recall the encounter vividly.  It was like a thermostat had been turned up, and l experienced a wave of heavenly fire wash over me. Like gold or silver, l was made to withstand the heat, and l felt myself being cleansed of my past, as well as of my guilt and regrets ( Zechariah 13:9). I knew that the fire had purified and refined me.

    Since then, l have never been the same. I feel such a burning in my heart for God – a true passion that has stirred up my entire being. Though l am naturally shy, l have a boldness to talk about my faith – with friends and strangers alike – and l have a burning desire to spread the gospel.  

    I have spent most of my life drifting, with obscure goals and fickle dreams. However, 12 months ago, l started freelancing as a Christian writer and blogger. Furthermore, last month, l started an online ministry through this blog! I am also currently writing my first novel.

    l have the Holy Spirit to thank for instilling all of these dreams in me and for being my source of inspiration. He is guiding me, just like He guided the Israelites through the desert as a pillar of cloud by day and as a pillar of fire by night.

    “The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”

    Exodus 13:21-22

    Most importantly, through the fire of the Holy Spirit, God has breathed new life into me through the blood of His son Jesus Christ. When l sat in the darkness of indecision and despair, God’s light set the wilderness inside of me on fire, and l became a new creation, His child. I could start a new existence in right standing with a loving, forgiving Father. Hallelujah!

    All of this was as yet unknown to me at the age of six, as l stood in the aftermath of that bushfire that had turned my childhood memories into a burnt out, blackened wasteland.

    However, in the months that followed the fire, l did witness the bush come slowly back to life. Green shoots began to tentatively burst out of the ground in clusters, pushing the scorched earth behind them as they reached out for the nurturing light above.

    Additionally, I caught the occasional glimpse of a kangaroo with her joey hopping amongst the singed and blistered tree stumps. My ears pricked up at a melodic burst of almost forgotten birdsong.

    Fire, which l had formerly seen as devastating, was a necessary part of the process of living. The season of re-birth had begun.

     

    You can also read this testimony on shelovesmagazine.com.

    About the author:

     

    Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and blogger. She has written articles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and YMI Magazine.

    In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance Special Effects Makeup artist, and she loves dancing to Sister Sledge and Stevie Wonder whilst cooking. Madeline is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat. You can contact Madeline at madelinetwooney@gmail.com or tweet her at @MTwooney

  • Articles

    Life sucks? Here are 3 reasons why you need to stick with God right now

    This post is a shout out to all of you who are going through something really hard right now.  

    First of all, l’m sorry that you or someone close to you is in pain and my heart goes out to you.  

    It’s always a blow when you get confronted with a difficult situation. However, God does not expect you to bear through times of hardship alone. He wants us to turn to Him, because He is the only one who can get us out of our difficulties. Not the bank, not another human being, and certainly not a stroke of good luck.  

    What you are going through is important to God, and He wants you to come out of this trial stronger and trusting Him all the more.  

    God doesn’t do things by coincidence. He doesn’t favor some people and not others (Acts 10:34). God loves us all the same.  

    God loves YOU! 

    Yes you! 

    The following are three reasons why you need to stick close to God when life isn’t treating you right. 

    Blog banner photo credit: AbsolutVision on Unsplash

    1. God knows you and has a great plan for your life 

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    and before you were born I consecrated you;
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

    Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV)

    Who knows you better than He who created you? Not only does God know us the best, He loves us with a perfect love, a love infused with His grace, mercy, and selflessness.  

    You were made unique.  Know that you are precious to God and are ordained to do great things. 

    These pitfalls you’re experiencing will at some point be over.  God knows what is going on in your life right now. He knows that you are in pain.  

    Nothing that happens to you comes as a surprise to Him. 

             “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

    Jeremiah 29:11 

    Instead of focusing on your problems, remember that God has a marvelous plan for each of us. He wants you to live a bountiful and fruitful life and will help you through tough times to make that a reality for you. 

    Photo credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    2. Jesus has tremendous compassion for our suffering 

    Jesus knows firsthand how difficult life can be. His time on earth was punctuated with trials, disapproval, death plots, and suffering. 

    Jesus feels our emotions. He hurts when we are hurting.  

    In John Chapter 11, Jesus’ close friend Lazarus dies from sickness. Jesus shows great empathy for Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ two sisters, as they mourn their brother’s demise: 

         “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” 

    John 11.33

    Though Jesus knows He is about to raise Lazarus from the dead, His sorrow upon seeing the sister’s and other mourners grief is evident:  

              “Jesus wept.” 

    John 11:35 (NIV)

    This is one of the shortest, most powerful verses in the Bible. Jesus’ tears demonstrate the extent of His compassion for our suffering.  

    Jesus is with us, sharing our pain. When you are at your lowest, call out to Him. Jesus is right there, always beside you. 

    Photo credit:  Matt Collamer on Unsplash

    3. Sometimes God makes you wait for your breakthrough

    We’ve all been in a situation that we want to see change for the better.  

    You could be experiencing financial difficulty. Or you’re in a job you don’t like. Maybe you have been trying to get pregnant but to no avail. You could also be sick and desire to be healed. 

    You may have been asking God for a while now to help you, but you still haven’t seen things turn around.  

    So, why isn’t God doing anything to improve your circumstances? 

    We may ask God for His help with a strong sense of urgency, but God’s timing is different to our own. It is not unusual for God to want us to wait for our breakthrough.  

    Why? 

    •  To build our faith 
    •  So that we learn to trust Him  
    •  God sees the whole picture, whereas we don’t 
    •  God is more interested in changing us than our circumstances 
    • God will sometimes say no today, in order to give you a  better yes tomorrow. 

    Don’t lose hope. Your time of victory is coming! 

             “For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
        it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
    If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
        it will surely come, it will not delay. “

    Habakkuk 2:3

    God knows the hand you’re dealt with. He also knows that you can handle it, because He has equipped you with His love and His strength to go through it. 

    “ I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

    Philippians 4:13

    Don’t get disheartened because you don’t see any change in your life today. Trust Him and wait. 

    God ALWAYS comes through on His promises! 

    God’s love and power is indeed a great comfort and source of strength for us.  

    Still, you may ask yourself – Why does God let bad things happen to us?  

    That is admittedly a difficult topic. I am not a counsellor, nor am l a psychologist, therefore l am hesitant to venture a response that might not provide the answer you are looking for, nor give you the comfort you seek.  

    However, I can give you an account of a difficult situation l’ve been through.  

    l lost a beloved member of my family four years ago to cancer. I don’t know why it happened, but l know that God is a good God. Only He knows the whole situation and what He has truly spared us from. l still bear the scars of suffering and loss today – but God has taken me on a slow but patient journey of healing. And He can do it with you too.  

    God has not abandoned you to your suffering. He has not forgotten you either. He sees everything, from its origins to its solution, whereas we only see the immediate threat. 

    Live the miracle of seeing God work out everything for your good, to His glory; believe that He is always with you, starting from today. 

    My heartfelt prayers go out to you my brothers and sisters and may God’s peace and mercy be upon you. 

    Blessings, 

    Photo credit:  Xu Haiwei on Unsplash

    Are you in a difficult situation and need someone to pray for you? Then write us an email with the Heading “Pray Request” or leave a comment below and we will gladly pray for you here at Jacob’s Ladder Blog!

  • Devotionals

    The Worry Habit

    Written by Linda Washington

    Thought for the day: Worry is a habit we can overcome through the power of the Holy Spirit.  

    Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

    Romans 12:2 (NRSV) 

    I’m a worrier. Whenever I feel sad, afraid, or overwhelmed, anxious thoughts tumble over and over in my mind, like clothes in a dryer. Even after praying, I still worry over problems. 

    Recently, worry escalated when my niece began to have epileptic seizures out of the blue. I felt cold all over when my brother texted me these words: unresponsive . . . at hospital. Thankfully, he’d been home when she had a seizure. He’d called 911 and off they went to the hospital. 

    She was released when the doctors couldn’t find any reason for the seizure. Everything was good, right? I didn’t have to worry about her any more, right? Wrong. A week later, she had another seizure, which required a hospital stay.  

    As you can imagine my worry meter was off the charts. Even after my niece received excellent care at the hospital and was released, I still worried to the point of sleeplessness.  

    After praying about it, I realized that my constant state of worry showed my belief that problems were bigger than God’s ability to handle them. I needed to be transformed. This brings to mind Paul’s advice in Romans 12:2: “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” Sounds impossible, especially if I have to do it on my own. But I don’t. God can help me to change.  

    Recently, I took the first steps toward that change:

    (1) Admitting that I wrongfully chose worry over trust in God; 

    (2) Asking God to forgive me and help me change. That’s part of being a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) – putting wrongful habits to death. I want to be a prayer warrior, instead of a worrier. 

    Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. I need to “persevere in prayer” as Paul suggests in Romans 12:12, seeking God for help whenever I’m tempted to worry. I also need the truth of God’s promises to “hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9), instead of to worried thoughts. They also remind me to “rejoice in hope” and be “patient in affliction” (Romans 12:12). 

    Prayer:

    Lord, forgive me for the time I wasted worrying. You are bigger than the biggest problem I will ever face. I’m grateful that I can always count on you. You are my helper, the One who will never forsake me, as Hebrews 13:5-6 tells me.  

    Delve deeper:

    Got a worry habit? Allow God to transform you “by the renewing of your mind.” Instead of letting worried thoughts tumble over and over, consider Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8: “[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable . . . think about these things.”  

    About the author:

    Linda Washington received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Northwestern University and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has worn many hats: textbook editor, senior project writer, manuscript reviewer for several publishers, ghostwriter, and a freelance developmental editor. She has authored or co-authored fiction and nonfiction books for kids, teens, and adults.

  • Jacob's Ladder Book Reviews

    JL Book Review: “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young

    General information about The Shack

    The Shack is a Christian-themed novel by Canadian writer William Paul Young (often referred to as Wm. Paul Young or Paul Young). The book portrays theological topics and explores themes such as redemption and forgiveness through Mack, the protagonist, who spends the weekend with God in an abandoned shack, the crime scene of his youngest daughter’s murder. 

    Wm. Paul Young never actually intended The Shack to be published publicly; he originally printed 15 copies of his book for his friends and family at an Office Depot. When he did make the decision to broaden his reading audience, Young was rejected by Christian and secular publishers alike, until two former pastors formed Windblown Media and self-published the book in 2007.  

    One year after its publication, The Shack sold 1 million copies and made the USA Today Bestseller list.  It was also No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list from 2008-2010. The book even received “The Diamond Award” by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association after it reached sales of over 10 million copies. 

    Since then, The Shack has sold over 20 million copies and has been published in 41 languages. The novel was adapted into a film in 2017. 

    What audience was The Shack originally targetted for?

    Wm. Paul Young originally wrote The Shack as a Christmas present for his 6 children as an expression of his journey of atonement, healing, and transformation through his relationship with God. He once quoted, “I didn’t want my kids growing up with the God that I did—white, distant, unreachable, unknowable, the darkness behind Jesus that needs to be appeased.” 

    Young chose the title The Shack as “a metaphor for the house you build out of your pain.” This makes sense when you consider the plot of the book.  

    The plot of The Shack

    Mackenzie Allen Philip or “Mack” is living under what he calls “The Great Sadness”. Four years previously, his youngest daughter Missy was abducted by a serial killer at a camping site during a family holiday.  

    Though the killer left his signature ladybug pin at the scene of the crime, Missy’s body was never found. However, when the authorities found a blood-stained dress in an abandoned shack in the heart of the Oregon wilderness, Mack identified the dress as belonging to his daughter. 

    One day, to Mack’s surprise, he receives a letter in the mail from God, inviting him to spend the weekend with Him in the same shack where Missy had been brutally murdered.  

    Full of skepticism, and yet curious, Mack makes a trip up to the shack expecting to confront his deepest, darkest pain. Instead, he encounters God and leaves the shack at the end of that weekend filled with peace, forgiveness, and hope for a better future for himself and his family. 

    The core theme of this book is one which all Christians grapple with: Where is God when we experience pain, loss, and suffering? Why do we struggle to feel His presence in this world that is dictated by evil? A second important theme is forgiveness and redemption. 

    The book does challenge the reader from the offset. The topic of child murder is not an easy one to stomach, however William Paul Young continues to keep his readers on their toes with his portrayal of God as an African-American woman named Elousia but who is referred to as Papa, the Holy Spirit as a wiry-built Asian woman named Sarayu, and Jesus as a Middle Eastern labourer.  

    Wm. Paul Young also meets theological topics head-on through pages of dialogue between Mack and the Triune, which are not only relevant to Mack, but affects both Christians and non-believers, such as free will, the Church, and forgiveness. 

    Reader’s reactions to The Shack

    Readers of The Shack appear to be rather polarized in their opinion of the book. Some are touched and uplifted by the message of God’s love, while others are convinced that the book is theologically misrepresented and borders on heresy.   

    Though it may be true that certain topics do raise question marks, what stands out for me is Young’s message that God is inherently good, He loves us and is always with us. He is our Father, our Papa.  

    Yes, the world is full of evil, pain, and suffering. I am no stranger to that, and neither are you, precious reader. However, if we can believe in the goodness of God in a broken world, then we can trust Him no matter what comes upon us.  

    What else has William Paul Young written?

    Other books that Wm. Paul Young has written are Cross Roads and Eve.

    Would l recommend The Shack?

    I read this book ten years ago, when l first gave my life to Christ. A friend of mine, who was strong in her Christian faith, gave it to me to help me understand God’s love, mercy, and grace. It was on her heart for me to know that God seeks a relationship with me and that l can trust Him as my Father.  

    My friend was absolutely right (Thank you, Goose!). Until l read The Shack, l hadn’t experienced what it was like to have a parent-child relationship of love, security, and absolute trust. Reading The Shack opened my eyes to the revelation that God loves me, l am His child and that He is my Father. Since reading this book, l call God Papa.  

    l didn’t get caught up in the theological correctness or lack thereof that has been discussed amongst readers and critics alike when l read The Shack: l approached the storyline from an emotional level. After reading the last page, not only had l found that emotional connection l was looking for, but the book’s message of God’s love had embedded itself deep in my heart that l feel to this day.  

    If you are looking for a reason to trust  God, if you are seeking a relationship with Him,  then l highly recommend this book. It will touch you and enlighten you, and you will receive such a wonderful revelation of the goodness, grace, and love of our Father.  

    Ok, you’ve convinced me to read The Shack. Now, where can l buy it?

    If you would like to purchase the book or any other products related to The Shack, then visit the official Windblown Media website theshackbook.com or Wm. Paul Young’s own website wmpaulyoung.com

    Alternatively, you can purchase The Shack through Amazon.com or Goodreads

    Blog banner photo credit: Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

    Book cover photo credit: Goodreads

  • Articles

    How you can let God fix a broken you

    Life is hard.  

    Now, I’m all about being positive, but as we say in Australia, where l grew up, we call a spade a spade. And the truth is, life is hard.  

    Sometimes we get dealt a bad hand, other times we make foolish decisions. And then there are the times where we make the worst mistakes we could ever make, and spiral down, down, until we feel like we won’t ever know again what it is like to be normal.  

    We’re all searching for a way to make things better for ourselves. It is our nature to want answers to life’s questions. However, in the meantime, we cover the pain of living by self-abusing ourselves:  We spend money we don’t have, we enter abusive relationships, we watch porn. Some of us even turn to drinking and taking drugs because we can’t cope.  

    If you’ve been looking for answers and haven’t found them, maybe it’s because you’ve been looking in the wrong place. 

    God is your answer. 

    Some of you might be thinking now, “Hey, l don’t have time for that religious stuff. You’ll never see me in a church!” or ”God doesn’t exist. If He did, l wouldn’t be in the situation l am right now.” 

    I am here to tell you that God does exist. God isn’t religion, God is love. It is all about having a relationship with Him; a loving, healing relationship.

    And as to why you’re in the situation you’re in right now, l can’t answer that question. But l do know, that God is the only one who can help you out of it.  

    The truth of the matter is, without God, we cannot solve our own problems. We can’t come out of debt on our own. We can’t get out of that abusive relationship on our own. We can’t beat that addiction on our own, no matter how many times we’ve tried.  

    Without God in our lives, we’re broken. 

    The good news is, God loves you and wants a relationship with you. It hurts Him to see you suffering. In fact, you are so important to Him, that He sent His own son Jesus to die for your sins, so that you can be re-united with Him again. Through the blood that Jesus shed for you on the cross, your transgressions are forgiven.  

      “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

    John 3:16 (NRSV)

    God’s redemption, by His grace, will heal the brokenness inside of you. You will be saved, living in eternal victory with Him! 

    So, what do you need to do to have a relationship with God?  

    Admit that you are helpless without Him in your life and ask Him for forgiveness for all the sins you’ve committed in the past. Then accept His offer of salvation, His gift to you.  

     All you need to do is speak the words aloud and truly believe in God’s ability to change you. It is an act of faith on your behalf. With the conviction of your sins and a heartfelt desire to have God enter your life, you will be saved by the grace of God. If you don’t know exactly what to say, I have written a Salvation prayer to help you. 

     I gave my life to Christ at a time when l felt very alone. I was battling depression and was struggling to cope every day. I was single and lonely for a partner. I was working as a primary school teacher, and l loved working with the kids and thoroughly enjoyed the company of my colleagues. However, after 10 years of working 12 hour days, on weekends and on holidays, the workload had taken a severe toll on my health. 

    Giving my life to Christ changed my life. God has revealed Himself to me as my true Father, who loves me, who would never hurt me, and on whom l can always rely on. For this reason l call God “Papa”. 

    God has also reignited my desire to be a writer, and l am now living my dream job of writing Christian articles, novels, and being a blogger. Finally, God led me to my wonderful husband Solomon, who is also a Christian. We have been married now for over four years. 

    After reading this article and you’re still not sure whether God is for you, think about this: You’ve tried everything else to make things better, and they haven’t worked out. So, what do you have to lose in giving God a try?  

    You are of the upmost importance to God – you, as an individual, you the person reading this article right now. It doesn’t matter to Him what you have done in the past or what you will do in the future. He knows all that and loves you anyway. You are enough.  

    God doesn’t care if you thought or spoke ill of him until now. He knew you from the moment you were conceived in your mother’s womb and He delights in you (Jeremiah 1:5). 

    You are His child and He loves you. 

    God wants to heal your hurt and pain. He wants to give you a fresh, new start so that you can live the life you deserve to live: full of hope, joy, and happiness. And it is possible to start over, if you give everything over to Him: the debt, the addiction, the fears, the doubt, and allow Him to enter your heart. 

    ‘” For surely I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”‘

    Jeremiah 29:11

    The choice is up to you.  Do you want to start over? 

    Photo credit:  Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

    Would you like to enter into a relationship with God and need someone to talk to? Write us an email with the subject heading “Salvation” or leave a comment below. Your fellow readers and the team at Jacob’s Ladder Blog will be happy to help you!  

  • Devotionals

    A new acquaintance brings a fresh perspective

    Thought of the Day:  I thank God for bringing new acquaintances my way, for they give me a fresh perspective on my life.  

    Iron sharpens iron, 
        and one person sharpens the wits of another.” 

    Proverbs 27:17 NRSV 

    When my husband and l moved to a new city over a year ago, it was hard for me to leave my friends.  Many years of shared joys and tribulations have made us a close-knit group. In particular, l appreciate my friend’s loyalty and support while l convalesce from burnout and depression.   

    Making friends in an unfamiliar environment hasn’t been easy: l have made some acquaintances in the city and in our apartment building, but our initial interactions haven’t blossomed into anything more substantial. Being unable to lay social foundations has negatively affected my ability to acclimatize to my new environment; I have felt socially isolated, leaving me with regret at having made the decision to move.  

    About two months ago, l started group counseling for depression, where I  was delightfully surprised to find the other participants eager to make their acquaintance with me.  

    In a pleasant turn of events, I now go for a weekly coffee with some of the ladies in my therapy group.  Their knowledge of the city and their willingness to show me its cultural highlights have positively influenced my attitude about living here. In turn, they enjoy picking up make-up tips from me based on my experience as a freelance make-up and SFX artist. 

    I am grateful to God for the fresh perspectives of the city that my new acquaintances give me.  Most importantly, l consider myself blessed to have not only my dear lifelong friends but to also have the opportunity to make new friendships.     

    Prayer: 

    Merciful Father, thank You that You have created us to enjoy fellowship with You and our fellow man. We are grateful for the fresh perspective that a new acquaintance brings into our lives. Amen. 

    Delve deeper:

    Is there anyone that you know of — an elderly neighbour, a colleague or even someone at church — who needs someone to talk to, or even a friendly word spoken to them?

    Ask God to show you how you can reach out to them today. Your efforts will be a gateway through which God’s love can flow into their lives and will give you a fresh, new perspective on your own life.

    Photo credit:  Simon Maage on Unsplash

    Published on PresbyCan Daily Devotional on 22nd April 2019

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Three: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part Three – Studying God’s Word

    Welcome to the third and last section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32 “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”. 

    In Part One, which we posted on Monday, we joined Jacob on his journey back to his homeland of Canaan. 20 years previously, Jacob had sought asylum with his uncle Laban, in order to escape the wrath of twin brother Esau, from whom he had stolen the latter’s birthright.  

    On the eve of his reunification with his brother, Jacob wrestles with an angel, who is in fact God.  It is in the throes of combat that God breaks Jacob of his self-dependence and craftiness. Only when Jacob finally concedes defeat that God blesses Jacob with a new identity as well as a new name – Israel. 

    In Part Two, which we posted on Wednesday, we explored the ways that we can apply our understanding of Genesis 32 to our everyday lives. 

    Part Three of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study is intended as a study guide for those of you who would like to delve deeper into the biblical and life themes presented in Genesis 32. 

    If you would like to know more about the benefits of studying the Bible, then l recommend that you read our page “Why study the Bible?” 

    The aim of this study section

    This study section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series is intended as a guide to promote discussion and reflection on Genesis 32.  

    As a start, I suggest that you read Part One and Part Two of the Bible Study on Genesis 32 that l posted this week, in order to fully appreciate the lesson portrayed in this biblical account and to consider the chapter’s themes.  

    Photo credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

    For whom is this study section intended?

    You can apply this section within a group setting, such as a house group, a Bible Study group, or a prayer group. 

    Alternatively, you can also study on your own. If this may be the case, l have written some suggestions below in the section “If you are studying on your own” to assist you in your learning.  

    I encourage you to customize this study preparation by taking out of it what you wish and adding your own ideas and insight. Have fun with it! 

    What you will need:

    • A Bible, preferable a study Bible. I personally use the  “The Everyday Life Bible” from Joyce Meyer Ministries 
    • An exercise book or journal and a pen 
    • As an alternative to pen and paper, you could use a tablet or a similar electronic device 

    This study section composes of five parts: 

    1. Discussion questions 

    2. Testimony 

    3. Suggested reading  

    4. Journal writing 

    5. Prayer 

    These are just guidelines to help you structure your group time. Feel free to add or take out elements as you see fit!

    Additionally, talk with your group and ask them for suggestions about what they would like to do. The more ideas, the merrier! 

    If you are studying on your own 

    If you are not in a group and you would still like to apply this study section of Genesis 32 to your own private study of the Bible, that is also great! Quiet time with God is valuable time, and you can learn a lot about Him during it.  

    The following are a few suggestions of how you can adapt the 5 sections of this study guide for private study purposes: 

    1. Discussion questions: 

    You could start a journal and write down your thoughts to the listed discussion questions.  

    1. Testimony 

    You could use our suggested topics in the Testimony section as stimulation to write down all the wonderful things God has done in your life by starting a testimony journal or a blessings jar

     3. Suggested reading  

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes. 

    4. Journal writing 

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes. 

    5.Prayer 

    You can speak the prayer at the end of this section over yourself. Your words have power, especially if you speak them over yourself: 

    “ So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; 
        it shall not return to me empty, 
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, 
        and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 

    Isaiah 55:11 

    Let’s look at the 5 sections of our study guide. 

    1.Discussions questions

    The following are some discussion topics l have thought of to assist you in delving deeper into the themes of Genesis 32. There is no right or wrong answer; these topics are merely suggestions to stimulate conversation and an exchange of views within your group. Also, feel free to ask others if they have themes regarding this topic that they would like to discuss and go with it! 

    As each person experiences a different walk with God, it is interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and thereby learn from each other and grow together as a Christian community. Happy talking! 

    Possible discussion topics on Genesis 32

    1. Have you experienced a situation in your life where you tried to fix it yourself, yet only made it worse? Did you finally ask God for help? How did His intervention make your situation easier? 
    1. Are there areas in your life that aren’t serving you, such as fear, pride, or unforgiveness that you are finding difficult to let go of? Why do you think you are holding on to them (e.g. fear of change, conflict aversion). 

    Note: This might a be sensitive topic for people to address, so introduce it into a group situation at your discretion. 

    Photo credit: mentatdgt from Pexels

    2.Testimony

    Sharing your life experiences and the victories that God has vouchsafed you, is a verbal expression of your gratitude. It gives not only our Father glory, but it encourages fellow Christians who may be going through the same trial that you have undergone.  

     I will declare your name to my people; 
        in the assembly I will praise you.” 

    Psalm 22:22  

    Jacob’s testimony after his struggle with God was the acquirement of a new identity and a new name – Israel. With God by His side, Jacob could embrace a happy reunification with his brother (Genesis 33).  

    Possible testimony topics on Genesis 32

    1. Do you have a testimony of how God wrestled you free of something that you were holding onto, like a poor mindset, a toxic relationship, or even an addiction? How has He blessed you since?  
    1. Have you learned to lean more and more on God in your life? How has your quality of life improved by relinquishing your self-dependence and instead, putting your trust and reliance in God’s hands? 
    1. Share a testimony with your group of a blessing that God has given you this week. 

    Photo credit:  Jason Hogan on Unsplash

    3. Suggested reading

    Reading the Word of God teaches us about how much God loves us and gives us guidelines on how to live the life He wants us to live – a life of victory and joy.

    Scriptures: 

    Bible chapters about God blessing broken people 

    • Job 42 – God blessed Job twofold for what he had lost  
    • Acts 2 – Peter, who had renounced Jesus three times, was baptized in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and preached to the crowd, which commenced the movement of Christianity 
    • 2 Samuel 7 – After about 15 years of exile and persecution, God made David King of a united Israel and blessed him, his kingdom, and his progeny with love, rest from their enemies, and prosperity. 

    Interesting online articles relating to Genesis 32: 

    Crosswalk.com, “How wrestling with God will change you forever,” Dena Johnson Martin. 

    Desiring God, “Will you wrestle with God?” Jon Bloom 

    Inspirational quotes relating to Genesis 32: 

    “God is not looking for brilliant men, is not depending upon eloquent men, is not shut up to the use of talented men in sending His Gospel out in the world. God is looking for the broken men who have judged themselves in the light of the Cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to the end of themselves, whose confidence is not in themselves, but in God!” – H.A. Ironside 

    “Whenever God means to make a man great, He always breaks him in pieces first.” – Charles Spurgeon 

    “God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” Vance Havner 

    Photo credit:  Bethany Laird on Unsplash

    4. Journal writing

    Writing down all the good things that God has done in your life is a very powerful tool for a Christian. Not only does it help us to remember what God has done for us; reading over God’s past victories and blessings over you provides encouragement and empowerment in times of trouble. All you need to start is an empty exercise book and a pen. Alternatively, you can keep a digital journal. 

    There are a number of forms of journals, where regular writing in it will strengthen you in your walk with God: 

    •  A testimony journal 
    •  A dreams and visions journal 
    •  A blessings journal 
    •  My favourite –  a gratitude journal 

    Try to write optimally once a day. All you need is 5-10 min to jot down everything good that has happened to you during the course of your day, no matter how trivial.  

    Meditate upon what you wrote and acknowledge that it is God who was responsible for these good things happening today, and not you or your own works.  

     ‘”Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’ 

    Zechariah 4:6 (NIV) 

    Journaling in your group: 

    You can e.g. allot 10-15min for journaling in your group, and afterwards share your written thoughts with each other. 

    An alternate suggestion is to incorporate journal writing as part of your quiet time with God, then discuss your results when you meet as a group. 

    Journaling on the Bible Chapter Genesis 32

    1. Are there mindsets, people, or situations that you need to separate yourself from, but you can’t seem to do it? Write them all down in your journal, and pray for God to break you free of these things that are holding you back. 
    1. Write down in your journal three great ways that God has blessed you this week. 

    As an extension, consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down the great things God is doing in your life every day. I personally love using the Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change.  

    Photo credit:  Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

    5.Prayer 

    If you wish, you can read the following prayer aloud as a group, or one person can read it aloud on behalf of the others.  

    Prayer: 

    Sovereign Lord, thank you that we can come before You today with our imperfections and weakness and lay them before You at the Cross.  

    Please expose the thoughts and purposes of our hearts to us.  Give us the humility to hand those things over to You which aren’t serving us in order that You can create a clean heart in us and renew a right spirit within us.  

    For only then when our spirits are contrite and our entire being is reliant on You, can we walk in the fulfillment of Your wonderful purpose for our lives.  

    Thank You Lord that Your ways are always good, for You are a good Father who will never fail us, nor forsake us.  

    In Jesus’ name, 

    Amen 

    Photo credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

    We hope that you enjoyed our first Bible study on Genesis 32 in our series Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies

    In July, we will be studying  Ephesians 1. We would love for you to join us! 

    Until then, my friends, be safe and may God’s love and blessings be upon you! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Two: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part Two: Living God’s word  

    Applying Genesis 32 to everyday life

    On Monday, we started Part One of our Bible Study of Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestles with an angel all night, only to find out that the angel is God.   

    Jacob, who for all of his life has schemed and been dependent on his wiliness, struggles to relinquish these qualities, which is demonstrated symbolically through his wrestling match with God. However, it is only when Jacob realizes that God is stronger than he is, can he let go of his past and allow God to bless him with a new name “Israel” and the identity and life that he deserves. 

    Not only reading and studying the Bible is an integral part of every Christian’s God walk; we should also try and apply its messages to our daily life. Luke states aptly in his gospel: 

    “’Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” 

    Luke 11:28 (NRSV)  

    Now that we understand the message behind Genesis 32, let us explore in Part Two of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study serieshow we can learn to let go of qualities, habits, and ways of thinking that aren’t serving us and instead learn to rely on God as our source of strength, salvation, and refuge. 

    Like Jacob, how can l learn to rely on God in my daily life?

    All of us have blemishes and imperfections – after all, we aren’t perfect.  They might be small foibles such as being untidy, not being able to align your shirt buttons to its corresponding buttonhole (that’s me) or always forgetting to check whether the stove is off before you run out the door.  

    Or, they could be more serious character flaws such as pride, selfishness, or an unwillingness to forgive others.  

    The first few examples are mere eccentricities: They may make our lives a tad more difficult, but they are not a reflection of our moral or spiritual fiber. The latter examples, however, can hold us back spiritually from being able to receive the blessings that God has spoken over our lives.  

    How? Because they lead us to focus on ourselves and keep our egos and our needs as the motivating force of our lives, instead of fixing our eyes on God and having Him as the nucleus of our existence. We become self-dependent, thinking that we can handle life ourselves, when in reality, we can’t. 

    This is the lesson that Jacob painfully learned and one that we would do well to keep in mind ourselves.  

    So, how do let go of those qualities that keep us from having a more intimate relationship with God? What do we have to do to become dependent on Him? 

    Photo credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    Learn to trust God every day – not just when you’re in trouble 

    When we face difficulties, our nature is to try and figure out everything out for ourselves. We lay awake at night tossing and turning, churning out possibilities. Only when we have run out of options, do we turn to God for help. 

    However, God wants us to rely on Him in our daily life and not just when we’re in trouble. So, whether it’s deciding on what to buy in the supermarket to leaning on Him while you or a family member goes through a serious illness, learn to trust God in the mundane things and the life-changing events of your life.  

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, 
        and do not rely on your own insight.” 

    Proverbs 3:5 

    If you’re going through a difficult period in your life, and you’re struggling with making that leap of faith to trust God, try speaking to Him today about what is on your mind. God will meet you where you are at, and He will help you. All you have to do is seek Him.  

    “Do not fear, for I am with you, 
        do not be afraid, for I am your God; 
    I will strengthen you, I will help you, 
        I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” 

    Isaiah 41:10 

    Photo credit: Japheth Mast on Unsplash

    God should be your source of strength

    Life is tough and there are many hard lessons that we learn from it. Having survived hard times, we tell ourselves that we’re stronger as a result of what we’ve gone through. We wear our experiences like metaphorical medals of valor, grittily proud that we have survived warfare. We take the pain that we endured during those battles, and we tap into it as our source of strength. 

    However, our real source of strength should be God, not the resilience of our hearts and bodies to take life’s knocks. 

    “My flesh and my heart may fail, 
        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” 

    Psalm 73:26 (NRSV) 

    By relying on God as our source of strength, we are already in His presence when challenges and adversity come. We can take refuge, knowing that we are where we should be – safe in the hands of our Lord who protects us. 

    “God is our refuge and strength, 
        a very present help in trouble.” 

    Psalm 46:1 

    Photo credit: Amar Yashlaha on Unsplash

    Allow God to change and refine you

    It is not an uncommon belief, even amongst Christians, that God punishes us when we do something wrong. That could be farther from the truth. Though we are sinners, God loves us and has forgiven us for all of our transgressions – past, present, and future – through the blood of Jesus Christ. 

    “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” 

    Ephesians 1:7 

    That doesn’t mean that God won’t sometimes allow us to go through seasons of adversity. However, these times are not designed to ruin us, but as in Jacob’s case, it is God’s way of refining us and breaking us free of qualities, habits, and attitudes that are not serving us.  

    “So that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 

    1 Peter 1:7 

    Thus, when God allows us to experience difficulties, He does so because He loves us. He wants the best for us and wants us to live the joyful, abundant life He has planned for us. However, He knows that we can only do that when we let go of those things that hold us back. Therefore, allow God to change and refine you, for it comes from a place of love, not wrath. 

    Photo credit: Hannah Gibbs on Unsplash

    What can l do this week to rely on God more?

    Here are three things you can do this week to help you to rely on God more: 

    • Surrender yourself to God 
    • Give yourself grace in the process 
    • Seek God in prayer 

    Let’s look at these three points in some detail.

    Photo credit: Noah Silliman on Unsplash

    Surrender yourself to God

    There is a difference in saying to God, “Change me and refine me, Lord!” and actually surrendering yourself fully to Him.  

    After praying and asking God for help, Jacob still sent Esau a portion of his livestock as a present to appease him. Jacob was able to surrender his possessions, however, he wasn’t able to surrender himself to God and allow Him to do His will in Jacob’s situation. 

    Open yourself to God during your quiet time, or even when you’re going about your day, and tell Him you are ready to give yourself, your situation, and your family into His loving Hands. Don’t be afraid, for He will make all things come together for your good. 

    “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” 

    Romans 8:28 

    Photo credit: Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

    Give yourself grace in the process

    Learning to surrender and trust God completely isn’t going to necessarily happen overnight, so don’t give yourself a hard time over it.  

    Strengthening yourself in the Lord is a gradual thing, and we can be thankful for the grace that He shows us as we become more like Him, from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18

    Therefore, give yourself some grace during the process of completely trusting God. Joyce Meyers, the co-founder of Joyce Meyers Ministries, sums it up so aptly when she says, “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be.” 

    Photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash 

    Seek God in prayer

    God likes it when we communicate with Him. Whatever is bothering you, whatever you know is weighing you down and preventing you from receiving God’s blessings of a joyful life, know that you can lay it all before Him in prayer. 

    “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 

    Philippians 4:6 

    Thank God for all the wonderful things He has done for you, and ask Him to show you the areas in your life where you still need to let go of those things that aren’t serving you. God hears your prayers and will always help you because He loves you!  

    “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 

    1 John 5:14 

    Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that God is a little old benevolent man who is watching us from the lofty heights of Heaven, just lingering around until we need Him. 

    However, God is not like that at all. He is Emmanuel – God with us. He is Yahweh – the Great I AM. God wants to not be just on the outskirts of our lives, He wants to be the center of our existence. He is the Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, the One who sees all and knows all. 

    God wants a relationship with us. He wants the best for us because He loves us. And sometimes, that means He has to refine us by helping us relinquish those things that are damaging us. Instead of wrestling with God to hold onto those things that aren’t serving us, let us start from today to surrender ourselves to God and allow Him to change and refine us. Let us put our trust and confident reliance in God, for He is always good! 

    Photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash

    This concludes the second part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32 “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”. 

    To see Part One of our Bible study of Genesis 32, click here.

     If you have enjoyed the series so far, we would love to have you join us on Friday, when l will post the third and final part of our series. 

    Until then my friends, take care and God bless! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”

  • Devotionals

    A little cloud of hope

    Thought of the day: During trials, l will wait expectantly on God for a sign that He is working in my situation.

    “At the seventh time he said, ‘Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.’”
    1 Kings 18:44 (NRSV)

    Three years ago, l was diagnosed with burnout, anxiety and severe depression. Formerly a full-time teacher, my days suddenly revolved around doctor’s and psychiatrist’s visits, taking medication and trying to cope with mental lows and fears.


    I felt weak and frustrated, yet I was determined to make a full recovery. I prayed and praised God for my deliverance. I believed that l would get well. Yet months went by and l saw little progress.


    Did l get discouraged? Yes. Did l wonder secretly in my heart if things would ever get better? Sometimes. However, l remained insistent that God would heal me.


    Furthermore, I started to get severe headaches. In response, I delved into scripture, l fasted and kept on praying. I concentrated on keeping my eyes on Jesus and thanked him for healing me. I imagined myself being well and whole again.


    Then, one day, the headaches suddenly stopped.


    It was my little cloud of hope, a small but significant sign that carried a loving assurance from God, that more healing was coming. Since then, l have been making continuous improvement in my recovery.
    God pours out great blessings from small beginnings. And it all starts with a little cloud of hope.

    Prayer: Wonderful Lord, thank you that when we wait on you in faith, you will send us a little cloud of hope: the beginning of a great outpouring of your blessings. Amen.

    Delve deeper: Friends, if you are deep in the midst of strife and don’t see any end in sight, ask God in prayer to show you His presence. Let Him guide you to that little cloud of hope, that assurance that He is moving in your situation.

    Published on PresbyCan Daily Devotional on the 8th May.

    Photo by Dallas Reedy on Unsplash


  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part One: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part One: Understanding God’s word  Bible commentary on Genesis 32

    Brokenness is the path to blessings

    As l was deciding on which Bible chapter l should choose in order to kick of our Bible study series, l wanted to focus on a biblical account that portrayed how the power of God can transform us.

    You see, God will change our situation, but He is more interested in changing us first. However, we as humans resist God’s attempts to change us, for it is our nature to trust ourselves. We take pride in our self-dependence and hold our ability to make our own decisions in high regard.

    However, God knows that it is only when we submit to Him that we can receive His blessings. For that reason, He at times need to break us, for it is only when we lose to God, that He can bless us as we cling to Him in recognition of our need for Him.

    Brokenness is the path to blessings.

    This is the powerful lesson that Jacob learned in Genesis 32. Over the course of this week, we will be studying how Jacob changed in one night from a self-dependent opportunist to experiencing God’s blessings, power, and a new identity. He did this by losing in a contest of wills against God Himself. 

    This bible commentary is part one of three in our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32. Part Two will come out on Wednesday and Part Three on Friday. 

    Before we delve into Genesis 32, let us form a brief character analysis of Jacob.

    Photo credit: by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

    Jacob the supplanter

    All of his life, Jacob had schemed and stolen to gain favor.  

    Jacob came into the world grabbing his twin brother Esau’s heel (Genesis 25:26) . Years later, he tricked Esau into exchanging his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34). As a consequence, Jacob received his father’s blessings, a great honor that was reserved for the first-born son and which was essentially Esau’s to claim.

    Jacob also tricked his uncle Laban into giving him the goats and sheep of his choice from Laban’s vast flocks (Genesis 30:25-43).  It is no wonder that Jacob’s name meant “Supplanter” or “Usurper”.

    Photo credit:  KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

    God sends His angels ahead of us (Genesis 32:1-2)

    After working for his uncle Laban in Haran for 20 years, Jacob is returning to his homeland of Canaan. 20 years previously, Jacob had entered his uncle’s household in order to find himself a wife and to escape the wrath of his brother Esau, who had threatened to kill Jacob for stealing his birthright.

    Now, Jacob is coming home, with two wives, 11 children, and vast herds of livestock and servants. He is the epitome of the self-made man.

    However, despite his success, Jacob is still apprehensive about entering the land of Canaan, as he remembers his twin brother’s death threat against him. Jacob presumes that Esau still carries vengeance in his heart against him and is dreading a reunification.

    We see in Genesis 32:1, that angels meet Jacob as he is on his way home. Jacob recognizes and is comforted by them, for he calls them “God’s army” and names the place of his encounter with them Mahanaim (two armies). It is good to know that God is with us to comfort us and provide for us, as we go through difficult situations.

    Photo credit: Raychan on Unsplash

    Jacob prays to God for help but essentially relies on himself (Genesis 32: 3-20)

    Jacob sends messengers ahead to Esau, who lives in Edom, which is a land south of Canaan. This is the news that he sends with them:

    Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now and I have oxendonkeysflocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’” 

    Genesis 32:4-5 (NRSV) 

    Jacob’s motivation in informing his brother of his good fortune is not intended as bragging. Jacob wants Esau to know that he has not come to take anything from him, like he had done in the past – he has more than enough. Instead, Jacob hopes to lower his brother’s defenses by letting Esau know in advance that he, Jacob, poses as no threat to him.

    However, when messengers return with the information that Esau is already underway to meet Jacob and that he has 400 men with him, Jacob becomes very afraid (Genesis 32:6-7). 

    As a man of faith, Jacob prays to God for deliverance from Esau’s wrath. (Genesis 32:9-12). However, it is interesting to see what Jacob does both before and after he prays to God for help.

    Prior to praying: Prior to praying, Jacob divides his company, including the animals, into two groups (Genesis 32:7-8).  Where he has two God-blessed, superior armies at the beginning of this chapter to support him, Jacob now carves two human parties consisting of women, children, and livestock, who are dependent on him.

    Following his prayer: After he prays, Jacob sends Esau droves of livestock as gifts ahead of himself (Genesis 32:13-20).  

    Jacob’s action before praying to God is a defense tactic, a way to preserve at least a part of his hard-earned acquirements if Esau is indeed intent on attack his party. His action after praying is an appeasement tactic.

    Though Jacob loves and trust God enough to ask Him for help, his default setting is to be reliant upon his own strategies and scheming.

    Photo credit: Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash 

    Jacob fights God and loses (Genesis 32:21-30)

    Sending his brother Esau gifts does not make Jacob feel any more at ease about is impending meeting with his brother: He spends the night in his camp but sleep eludes him. He gets up in the middle of the night and sends his entire family, including his two wives, eleven sons, and servants over the ford of the Jabbok, where they will be safer. 

    Jacob is left alone in his camp, but not for long. An angel comes and wrestles with him until dawn (Genesis 32:24). 

    Jacob, having fought for everything he considered of value in his life, fights for his life against the angel. In fact, Jacob fights so resolutely that he and the angel are locked in a wrestling stance the entire night until daybreak. It is only when the angel touches Jacob’s hip and injures him, does Jacob finally concede defeat (Genesis 32:25). 

    Although God refused to reveal His name to Jacob, Jacob is very aware that he has wrestled with the Almighty and has been defeated by Him (Genesis 32:29). Jacob calls the location of his encounter with God  Peniel, meaning “the face of God” (Genesis 32:30). 

    Although God refused to reveal His name to Jacob, the latter is very aware that he has wrestled with the Almighty and has been defeated by Him (Genesis 32:29). Jacob calls the place where his encounter with God took place Peniel, meaning “the face of God” (Genesis 32:30). 

    Photo credit: Ian Espinosa on Unsplash 

    Why being defeated by God meant that Jacob could be blessed (Genesis 32:24-26)

    Jacob believes that his biggest adversary is his brother Esau. However, God wrestles with Jacob to show him that it is actually himself, who poses as his greatest opponent.  

    Jacob fights his inner man when he fights God. He fights the self-dependent schemer who seeks to take advantage over everyone under ever circumstance, instead of trusting God and handing the situation over to Him. 

    God knows that Jacob cannot enter into a proper relationship with Him until the young man realizes his own weaknesses. However, God allows Jacob to grapple with Him the entire night, in order to show Jacob the power of his own self-will.

    God wants to see whether Jacob will surrender himself to Him. However, when Jacob refuses to yield, God breaks his will with just the slightest touch on Jacob’s hip (Genesis 32:25). It is in this moment, that Jacob realizes that he is defeated.

    Broken and weak, Jacob clings to God, but this time in desperation. He recognizes his own weakness in the presence of God’s greatness. He is made meek by the revelation of how easily God has humbled him when he thought the fight had been evenly matched.  

    Though God asks Jacob to let go of him, he refuses. Being delivered of his own self-will and self-reliance has given Jacob a revelation of his need to keep God first and foremost in his life. He knows that he cannot face Esau without God by his side, especially as God has now crippled him.  Therefore, Jacob calls out, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).  

    Photo credit: Ravi Roshan on Unsplash 

    Jacob is given a new name and a new identity (Genesis 32:27-32)

    God wants to bless Jacob, but before He does that, He wants to make sure that Jacob can admit who he really is. God asks Jacob to state his own name (Genesis 32:27) in order that Jacob acknowledges who he is, with all his weaknesses, and with all that his name stands for.

    It is after this confession that God gives Jacob a new name and with it, a new identity. In Genesis 32:28, He says to Jacob, “’You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’” Consequently, God blesses Jacob.  

    As a reminder of his life-changing encounter with God, Jacob has the memorial at Peniel, as well as a permanent limp. 

    Jacob is ready to meet Esau (Genesis 33). He may be limping, but Jacob is now approaching his brother with God’s strength and in acknowledgment of his own weakness, which is more powerful than had he gone to his brother based on the strength of his meager self-reliance and craftiness.  

    As a reminder of Jacob’s life-changing encounter, many Jewish people to this day abstain from eating the area of the thigh where Jacob obtained his permanent injury (Genesis 32:32). 

    Photo credit; Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash 

    Be aware of falling back into old patterns

    Jacob in turn, asks God His name. However, God refuses to answer Him. Maybe God refuses to grant Jacob this request, because the question is being asked out of a fleeting curiosity. Alternatively, maybe God sees that Jacob is in danger of falling into old patterns of manipulation: By asking God for His name, Jacob could be trying to create an opportunity to try and control God for his own advantage in future. God wants to prevent Jacob from falling into the temptation of reverting back to his old self.   

    This situation shows us, that even when we have been humbled at God’s hands, we still need to be aware of our need to continue to submit to Him, rather than use Him as and when we need Him. The apostle Peter states:

    Discipline yourselveskeep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls aroundlooking for someone to devour.” 

    1 Peter 5:8 

    Coming into the presence of God means being confronted with our personal weaknesses. Because our flesh is resistant to change, God needs to wrestle with us at times to make us see that we need to let go of those characteristics which aren’t serving us.

    Only then, when we cling to God in acknowledgment that He is our source of strength, our salvation, and our refuge, can we be in a position for Him to bless us with the wonderful plans He has for us to live a life of abundance. 

    Photo credit:  NeONBRAND on Unsplash

    This concludes the first part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32 – “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”.  

    I hope you have enjoyed reading about Jacob’s journey of self-discovery and revelation of God. 

     If so, feel free to join us on Wednesday, when l post the second part of our series. 

    Until then friends, be blessed! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”
  • Personal testimonies

    Can you see the presence of God in my life?

    Written my Marilyn McAvoy Clark

    I was born in 1947 in Niagara Falls, New York. My mom and dad were 40 and 45 years old respectively when I was born. I have two much older siblings and then my brother who is 4 years older than me.


    My God is an awesome God, and He is always with me and you. However, I didn’t really know that when I was growing up – l only realized it later.


    My family was Catholic, and we went to church every Sunday morning for 7:30 am Mass. Later, we changed to the 5.00 pm mass that took place on a Saturday evening. In the summer we stood for the sermon, as it was 3 minutes long, so we were in and out of church in 20 minutes. I also attended a Catholic grade school.


    My earliest impressions of God the Father was that He was to be feared, because of a very large painting of Him that was on the front of our church. It was maybe 20 feet high, and the Father was portrayed as an old man with a long white beard and looked quite stern. Below the Father in this painting was Jesus on the cross, and below Him was the white dove portrayed as the Spirit.


    Though l was afraid of God the Father, I did, however, love Jesus. What I loved about Him was the feeling I had when l thought of Him – l felt warm, fuzzy, and safe. I still feel these feelings and more now. I finally came to know the Holy Spirit about 15 years ago.

    Can you see how God first touched my life?

    My childhood was a difficult one. By the time l was 5 years old, l had gotten myself into quite a bit of trouble. When I was 2 years old, I climbed up an advertising billboard that had a latticework backing (you won’t see that style anymore). I thought it would be grand to walk across the top, until I fell off and broke my left hip. I spent my third birthday in the hospital because of the injury to my hip, which led to a further complication of a bowel obstruction from the break.


    I used to constantly get lost trying to follow my brother to school, and at least twice l was brought home by the police after searching for pollywogs* in the creek a few blocks from home. You see, my Dad had to work a lot, my brother was at school, and my mother was busy sewing in the basement in order to supplement our family’s income. I have also fallen into empty tar bins, walked through cement and have been brought home by a kind-hearted truancy officer after finding me in a bar.

    Can you see how God preserved me, despite my mishaps?

    When l was 9 years old, everything went further downhill. My mother started going out to work, and my brother started a paper route. l was left alone in the house a lot, so my brother-in-law used to come and visit me. I was 10 years old when he molested me for the first time. He often told me not to tell anyone about his visits or I would be sorry. However, I knew what he was doing wasn’t right.


    Therefore, in defiance, I told my mother. She responded by saying that I would have to learn to protect myself from my brother-in-law’s advances. She didn’t want to tell my dad, as she was afraid that he would kill my brother-in-law. I will never forget how let down I felt from her: It was such a sinking feeling and sense of loss.


    So, in an attempt to defend myself, I took the spare key from its hiding spot so that my brother-in-law couldn’t get in the house, and I listened to him as he pounded on the door. It was totally nerve-racking for me. Therefore, in order to get away from him, I did something else. Our church used to have 7:30 am mass on Saturday’s and that’s where I went. I stayed in church until I thought it was safe to go home. I did this for 2 years.

    Can you see how God rescued me?

    I still had to see my brother-in-law, as he and my sister, as well as their 3 sons, came to visit us every Sunday. Another time, l was left alone with him during a 30-mile car journey. I was terrified the entire time and clung onto the car door handle for dear life. I was determined to jump out of the car if need be, but God kept me safe.

    Finally, when I was 12 years old, l managed to be completely free of my brother-in-law. l became a stock girl at my mother’s place of work, as she needed my help. The job was 30 miles away from home, and l went there every Thursday after school and spent all day Saturday there as well.

    Can you see how God looked after me?

    In my late teens, my life continued spiraling downwards. I discovered how good alcohol made me feel. By the time I was 27, I had cirrhosis of the liver, and I was on the verge of having “wet brain”, which is a form of brain damage that is caused by repetitive and heavy exposure to alcohol.


    Finally, I was hospitalized for 3 weeks in a general hospital and then immediately taken to an alcoholic rehabilitation floor in a psychiatric hospital, where I discovered Alcoholics Anonymous. I got sober and actually celebrated my 43rd anniversary of sobriety this May. While l was in that program l renewed my belief in God.

    Can you see how God freed me from my chains and gave me a new life?

    However, despite my faith, it has been a long road for me to travel spiritually, especially between the ages of 27 and 69. I tried going back to church but it was difficult for me.


    15 years ago, l joined a course which guides you into an introduction of the Christian faith. I asked a few people I knew about this course and since signing up, l have not looked back.

    Can you see how God never forsakes me?

    I have an amazing relationship with my God now. He has picked up this lost sheep, and He has carried me on His shoulders to a new life filled with His joy. He has been with me when I broke my neck and fractured my jaw. He has been with me when my l broke my leg, and I was in a wheelchair for 18 months. He has been with me through 2 alcoholic husbands and the birth of my wonderful son. He has been with me through back surgery on my spine. He has been my refuge and my strength.

    “God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.”
    Psalm 46:1 (NRSV)

    Can you see how good God has been to me all my life?

    He has blessed me with gratitude, peace, patience, and joy. I have a smile on my face now when I greet people – all because God loves me. My hope comes from Him, for He alone is my rock and my salvation.

    “For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
    He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
    On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
    Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.”
    Psalm 62:5-8

    I would like to tell you today, that you too can have all this – and more. Just ask God or like in my case, beg Him for help. God hears you, He walks beside you, and He cries with you. I trust God for everything now. I know I will still face problems but I am not alone. I am His child, and He will never leave me!

    “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
    And l shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long.”
    Psalm 23:6

    *tadpoles

    About the author:

    Marilyn McAvoy Clark is a reformed Christian who has an intense love for the Lord. She lives in Ontario, Canada, although she is technically American-Canadian, as she was born in Niagara Falls, New York. She attends Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Ontario and has a son. If you would like to get in contact with Marilyn, you can write to her at marilynjclark1947@gmail.com.

  • Articles

    9 mighty names of God and how their meanings are relevant for us today

    God is not revealed to us in the Bible as being called just God. He is referred to by other names, each which reveal a certain aspect of His character.  

    In the Old Testament, names held significance as they did not only fulfill the purpose of identity, they explained characteristics and even occupations. 

    Therefore, God reveals not only who He is by His many names, but also who He is to us as we learn more about the different aspects of His nature.  

    Though most of these names may have been revealed to God’s people in the Old Testament, the meaning behind them denotes God’s power, love, and mercy that is just as relevant for us today as it was for believers of the ancient world.  

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever 

    Hebrews 13:8 

    Here are 9 of the most well-known names of God and what they mean. 

    1.Yahweh 

    Meaning: “The Lord”, “God”

    These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.  In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.”         

    Genesis 2:4

    Yahweh is found in the Hebrew Bible and holds particular significance in Jewish tradition as a covenant name of God, the holiest of names, and it is held in the highest esteem. In fact, it is considered to be too holy to be even spoken aloud (Exodus 20:7 NRSV). It is derived from the Hebrew word “I am”. 

    With that in mind, Yahweh first appears in Genesis 2:4. However, God first revealed His covenant name to humans, Moses specifically, in Exodus 3:14-15, when Moses was commanded to tell the Israelites the name of the One who had sent him to lead God’s people out of Egypt. On recognizing the ultimate power and authority behind the name Yahweh, the Israelites would know immediately that Moses had the blessings and strength of God behind him. 

    The spelling of Yahweh is modern, as it includes vowels to aid with its pronunciation. Yahweh is actually the transliteration of the Hebrew word YHWH, which is known as the Tetragrammaton, meaning 4 letters. 

    The word Adonai (Lord) is sometimes used as a substitute for YHWH. As a consequence, early English translations of the Bible have amalgamated the two words into Jehovah, which is in common usage even today. 

    2. Adonai

    Meaning: “Lord God”, “Master” 

    “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.” 

    Exodus 34:23 

    Adonai comes from the plural form of adon (Lord). Hence, Adonai is a reference to the Trinity, as well as a reference to God. When the singular form adon is used, it is usually referring to humans in a position of power, such as King David (2 Samuel 3:21) or the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 2:19). 

    As a remnant of their tradition of esteemed reverence for the covenant name Yahweh, modern Jewish believers will substitute the word Adonai when reading the scriptures aloud. For that reason, most English versions of the Bible might translate YHWH as “Lord”.  

     3.Elohim

    MeaningFather God / God the Creator 

        “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,” 

    Genesis 1:1 

     Elohim reflects the sovereignty and absolute power of God. He is the God who created heaven and earth, He is the Almighty and ruler of all. His omnipotent decree is declared in the first verse of the Bible and occurs a total of 2000 times in the scriptures.  

    The name Elohim is a glorification of the awesome power of God that is displayed through nature. He is mightier than any other gods or false idols that govern the world today, such as consumerism and self-advancement. He is the one true God under which every star, animal, rock, and human must bow to. 

    So, the next time you watch a sunset or even see a beautiful flower in full bloom, remember the One who created all things.  

    4. Abba

    Meaning: “Father” 

    “He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”’ 

    Mark 14:36 

    The name Abba was vocalized by both Jesus and Paul in Aramaic in the New Testament, which reflected their deep and personal relationships with God. It is actually mentioned only three times in the Bible – by Paul in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6 as well as by Jesus in Mark 14:36 in the garden of Gethsemane on the eve of His crucifixion.  

    However, despite its minimal representation in the scriptures, the name Abba is widely acknowledged as being one of the most intimate names for God.  

    Through this name, we can see how God cares for us as a father cares for a small child. It is a name that we can call upon when we are in need of assurance, comfort, and protection, knowing in childlike faith that our Father will hear us and look after us. 

      5. Jehovah Jireh 

    Meaning: “The Lord will provide 

    ‘“So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”’ 

    Genesis 22:14 

    The name Jehovah Jireh is only found once in the Bible – in the Book of Genesis. It is used by Abraham to name the place on Mount Moriah where God provided him with a ram to sacrifice as a replacement for his son, Isaac.  

    This is a beautiful name for God because it reflects His faithfulness and how He keeps His promise that all things will work out for His good (Romans 8:28).  

    God knows exactly what is going on in our lives – the good and the bad.  As in Abraham’s case, He will never fail us nor forsake us when we are in need (Hebrews 13:5-6). His help comes with perfect timing. 

    6. Jehovah Rapha

    Meaning: “The God who heals” 

    “He heals the brokenhearted, 
        and binds up their wounds.” 

    Psalm 147:3 

    The name Jehovah Rapha is a particular favorite of mine and one which l call upon when l need God’s hand of healing over my life.  

     It is a name that not only reveals the power of God to heal, repair, and rejuvenate the areas of our lives that are not working in His perfect timing, calling upon the name Jehovah Rapha gives incredible comfort in the knowledge that it is God’s intent to make us whole.  

    Therefore, if you are waiting on healing, call upon the name of Jehovah Rapha “The God who heals” in your quiet time with the Lord, today. 

    7. Jehovah Nissi

    Meaning: “The Lord is my banner” 

    “And Moses built an altar and called it, The Lord is my banner.” 

    Exodus 17:15 

    There are numerous instances where God spread His hand of protection over His people and kept them safe from their enemies: 

    • In Exodus 14:26-29 when God caused the parted waters of the Red Sea to return and drown the armies of Pharoah, however, the Israelites crossed over safely on a dry river bed. 
    • In Judges 7:16-23 God kept Gideon and his 300 men safe, who were armed only with trumpets and torches inside empty pitchers, as they attacked the Midianite camp numbering 135,000 men.  
    • In 1 Samuel 17:37 God protects David, a shepherd boy, from the prowess of the giant Goliath of Gath, who is a seasoned warrior and the fear of the entire Israelite army. 

    Jehovah Nissi is a name that proclaims God’s declaration and promise to always protect His children and to deliver them from their foes. 

    In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, it states that our adversities do not come in the form of flesh and blood but are spiritual.  

    That means, the issues that rise against us today, such as financial lack, health, and relationship issues all have spiritual roots that can be addressed by calling out to God in prayer and declaring Him as our protector and deliverer – Jehovah Nissi.  

    8.Jehovah Shalom

    Meaning: “The Lord is peace” 

    Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace 

    Judges 6:24 

     Gideon, a Judge from the Old Testament, learned a lot about being in the peace of God as he led a military campaign of 300 hundred faith-filled Israelites against a Midianite army of 135,000 soldiers with no military experience.   

    The name Jehovah Shalom appears only once in the Bible in Judges 6:24. And yet, this characteristic of God is both powerful and essential to our daily existence.  

    Where the world is urging us to hurry, as we set our routine to the rhythm of alarm clocks, deadlines, and 40+ hour work weeks, it is important to know that God is not only peace, He has already given us this peace through Jesus Christ. 

    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” 

    John 14:27

      9. Quanna 

    For you shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” 

    Exodus 34:14 

    It’s incomprehensible for us to think that God could get jealous, right? But He does!  He is the One who breathed life into us and who promises to never fail us, nor forsake us, neither loosen His hold on us (Hebrews13:5-6).   

    Whereas we see jealousy as a negative characteristic, God’s jealousy for us is based purely on His encompassing love for us. He sees the broken world in which we live in and knows that there are forces at work to distract us and lead us away from His love and protection.  

    For that reason, God sent His only son to pay the bond price for our sins in order that we may be reunited with Him and be in eternal fellowship with Him. 

    Considering all that God has done for you in your life up until this point, isn’t it understandable that He gets jealous? Doesn’t He deserve our praise and adoration? 

    I have listed 9 names of God, however, there are many more. For example: 

    If you are interested in learning about more names that God is known by, l believe the links that l have provided at the end of this article will help you. 

    God’s propensity to love us is addressed by many names. He really is everything we need – His many names prove that. 

     Whatever you are going through in your life today, l recommend that you call upon the name of the Lord in supplication: Jehovah Rapha if you are waiting on healing, Jehovah Shalom if you are desperately needing peace over a situation. 

    Though the names that God is known by may be different, they all explain one thing: God is always powerful, always unchanging, and always good. His presence is an unwavering banner in a world that is constantly bowing down to ephemeral trends, transient movements, and shifting expectations. For greater is He that is in us, that He that is in the world (1 John 4:4).  

    God and His name – all of His names – and what they stand for, are as relevant for us today than ever before. And thank goodness for that, for what would we be without Him? 

    The Sunday School Network has published this article on their website. Also, check out their vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.

    Sources: 

    1. Blue Letter Bible, “The Names of God in the Old Testament”

    2. God TV, “Do you know these 14 Hebrew names of God?”

    3. iBelieve.com, “10 powerful names of God (And what they mean for us today)

    4. Bible Study Tools, “The Wonderful Implications of God being Our Abba Father” 

    5. Active Christianity, ”Why God has to be a jealous God”

  • Devotionals

    Not my way, but God’s way

    Thought of the day: Rather than struggle to find solutions in my own strength, I will follow God’s purpose for my life.

    “The human mind may devise many plans,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.”
    Proverbs 19:21 (NRSV)

    Since l was a child, it has been a dream of mine to be a writer. I wrote my first poem at age ten and continued writing throughout my teens. During my university studies, some of my work was published in one of the campus’s magazines.
    After graduating, l started writing a novel while l drifted from job to job. When the opportunity presented itself to teach at a private school, l accepted the position without much thought.
    I was optimistic that l would be able to write in my free time, however, my career took over my life. I worked 80 hours a week, on weekends and in the school holidays. My half-finished manuscript lay forgotten and started to accumulate dust, along with my childhood aspirations.
    When a diagnosis of burnout forced me to leave the teaching profession, l knew that l had to make a lifestyle change. This time, l consciously sought God’s advice through prayer and petition. In response, He put it in my heart that l should become a Christian writer and blogger.
    To be honest, this was not the answer l was expecting to hear. However, with the gift of hindsight, l realized that making decisions independent from God hadn’t worked out well for me in the past. In Hebrews 13:5, it states that God will never fail us nor forsake us. Maybe, the time had now come for me to act in faith and follow God’s way.
    Fast forward to today, l am currently sitting in my favorite café enjoying a steaming cup of coffee while l write an article for a Christian magazine on my laptop. Choosing to trust God and launch a new career as a Christian writer and blogger has changed my life. I relish being my own boss and being a creator invigorates me. Stress and drudgery are things of the past.
    I am so grateful to God for revealing His purpose for my life. It has taught me that His way is always designed with our well-being in mind, because He loves us and knows what’s best for us.


    Prayer:
    Sovereign Lord, You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Teach us to not rely on our own understanding, but to trust in the wonderful plan You have for our lives, for only You know what is best for us.

    Delve deeper:
    If making your own decisions hasn’t worked out well for you in the past, maybe it’s now time to choose God’s way. God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly over all that we ask or think, so trust in Him and trust in His process of doing things. He will always keep your best interest at heart and make all things beautiful.

    Published on PresbyCan Daily Devotional on 13.06.2019.

  • Personal testimonies

    One more step along the world l go

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
        when he delights in our way;
     though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
        for the Lord holds us by the hand.

    Psalm 37:23-24 (NRSV)

    Education was always  an important theme for my parents when l was growing up. I was born in England, but my parents, who are Sri Lankan, moved with me to Melbourne, Australia, when l was three years old.  

    From an early age, my parents instilled in me the significance of studying hard and acquiring good grades. It was their fim belief that the only viable career path for me was to become a doctor or a lawyer; not only would these professions assure finanicial succes, but they would also bring prestige to our family.

    However, my dream since childhood was to become a writer. Netherless, parental pressure obliged me to view writing as a hobby and pursue their dream instead.

    When l was 13 years old, my parents took me out of the government-funded high school l had been attending and enrolled me at an Anglican private school. My father was a chef and my mother an artist, so their earnings were somewhat modest.  For that reason, l appreciated their financial sacrifice in investing in my education and was determined to study hard and make them proud.  

    For the 2 years l visited that school l was very unhappy. The other kids in my year level either bullied me or completely ostracized me. What made my time in that school more bearable was the kindness my teachers showed me and the interesting lessons they taught.  

    One subject l particularly enjoyed was Religious Education. The lessons were taught by the school’s chaplain, Reverend Mc Chrioch. The chaplain was funny and entertaining, and I looked forward to his weekly teachings of the Bible.  

    Apart from teaching, Reverend Mc Chrioch fulfilled other pastoral duties at our school. Every Monday, when the entire school gathered for its weekly assembly, Reverend Mc Chrioch would speak a prayer over us and lead us in singing hymns. Over the course of two years, l learned a variety of beautiful hymns such as Amazing Grace”, “Be thou my vision, and Jerusalem.  

    On one particular Monday, Reverend Mc Chrioch asked us to sing a hymn titled “One more step along the road l go”  by Sydney Carter. As soon as the lyrics reached my ears, they resonated with me immediately: 

    “One more step along the world I go,
    One more step along the world I go;
    From the old things to the new,
    Keep me traveling along with you:
    And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
    Keep me traveling along with you.”

    That Monday morning, God became very real to me. He was more than the omnipotent, omnipresent Almighty l had read about in class – the God who had released a great flood upon the earth, made the walls of Jericho fall, and spoke from inside a burning bush.  

    Instead, He was a sympathetic God who knew l was feeling rejected and alone in school. He was my Father who saw how my parents tried to make me into being somebody l wasn’t and could never be.

    And yet, God accepted me for who l was. In fact, He loved everything about me because He had created me and declared that His work in me was good, right down to the last hair on my head.  

    Sitting in that school auditorium, with the hot December sun streaming through the large paned windows behind me, l learned who God was to me: He was my comforter in my pain, my guide through the darkness, and my hope for a better future.  l believe that it was on this day that God sowed the seed that led to me giving my life to Him 20 years later. 

    I left the school at the end of that academic year. Though my time there had been fraught with trials, my parents were content with the extensive knowledge l had acquired through my studies.  

    However, the most important lesson l had learned was the revelation that God had given me about Himself through the words of a song.  That information was life-changing, not the training l received for a life of financial prosperity and prestige. 

    As a further outcome of my encounter with God, “One more step along the world l ago” became my means of seeking Him when l was confronted with change and adversity. During such times, I would sing the song and walk down the street, imagining that Jesus was holding my outstretched hand as l took one more step on my life journey.  

    I ended up finishing my secondary education at another private school, where l was very happy. However, in my senior year, I didn’t make the grades to qualify for a place at a law or medicine faculty at university.  Instead, l ended up studying German, English, and English literature at a university in Melbourne, which l enjoyed.  

    My parents were disappointed that l wasn’t going to become a lawyer or a doctor, so l did a minor in Economics to appease them, but it wasn’t what l was really interested in studying.  

    I never ended up using that Economics minor, though my languages degree proved to be very useful. I moved to Germany where l reveled in immersing myself in a new culture. Additionally, God provided me with a position as a German teacher at an English private school. As l stood in front of my first class, Jesus was by my side.  

    “Round the corners of the world I turn,
    More and more about the world I learn;
    All the new things that I see
    You’ll be looking at along with me.”

    Being a teacher was rewarding, however, 14 years of working 80-hour weeks under immense performance pressure took their toll on me. Three years ago, l had a breakdown and was diagnosed with burnout and depression. I was forced to leave my job in order to convalesce. Again, Jesus was there, comforting me when my life as l knew it irrevocably changed.   

    “Give me courage when the world is rough, 
    Keep me loving though the world is tough;” 

    Today, as l go through the ups and downs of recovery, God is with me. He pulls me out of the dark, miry pits of depression when they want to envelop me; His love is my shield, my glory, and the lifter of my head when l feel overwhelmed and afraid. He guides me through the valley. 

    “As I travel through the bad and good, 
    Keep me traveling the way I should,” 
     

    Furthermore, God has given me a new direction for my life. He has put it in my heart to spread His Word by becoming a Christian writer and blogger. I may not have met the university requirements to study medicine or law, but God has qualified me, as He has qualified all of us, to be a disciple for all the nations (Matthew 28:19).  

    “Where I see no way to go, 
    You’ll be telling me the way, I know.” 
     

    Looking back, l can see how God has been guiding my steps throughout my life, to get me to where l am now. My childhood dream of being a writer has come to pass, something that l would never have had the courage to pursue in my own strength. 

    How glorious that God had set my path before l was even born, and neither man’s expectations nor societal pressure could deter me from it! How reassuring to know that all things work out for good by Him! For when God is for us, who can be against us? 

     May God continue to guide me, and may l continue to travel along the world with Him, for He is a good, loving, and merciful Father!  

     
    “You are older than the world can be, 
    You are younger than the life in me; 
    Ever old and ever new, 
    Keep me traveling along with you.” 
     

    About the author:

    Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and blogger. She has written articles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and YMI Magazine.

    In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance Special Effects Makeup artist, and she loves dancing to Sister Sledge and Stevie Wonder whilst cooking. Madeline is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat. You can contact Madeline at madelinetwooney@gmail.com or tweet her at @MTwooney

  • Articles

    Who is God, actually?

    Whether you believe He exists or not, the word “God” carries significance. His name makes up part of our daily vernacular, and the world comes to a standstill due to cyclic traditions that are celebrated in His honor, such as Christmas and Easter. The acronym OMG has become an internationally recognized catchphrase.
    As a Christian, God is more than a buzzword or a reason to enjoy a bank holiday. He is our Father, our Creator, and the anchor of our faith. With around 2.3 billion people declaring themselves to be believers, God has more followers than any social media presence on earth.
    That’s a lot of love for someone you can’t see or get autographs from.


    So, who is God, actually?


    These 6 points will hopefully give you a clearer perception of who God is.

    1. God is the Creator of heaven and earth

    “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”
    Genesis 1:1-2 (NRSV)

    The book of Genesis is the first book of the Old Testament. It is known as the “book of beginnings”, not only because it introduces the entire Bible, but because it records the story of Creation – how God created heaven and earth. Genesis continues to record God’s creation of day and night, the sun, moon, and stars, as well as vegetation and man. It also reveals man’s need for a redeemer and consequently, the foreshadowing of Jesus’ coming.
    Science claims its own theories for man’s existence, such as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, or the origin of the universe, such as the Big Bang Theory.
    However, the thing about the Bible is, is that it requires faith to believe it. God’s word is infallible. In fact, the whole basis of believing in God is faith. In 2 Corinthians 5:7 it states, “for we walk by faith, not by sight”.

    Photo by Robert Koorenny on Unsplash

    2. God is the great “I AM”

    “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’’”
    Exodus 3:14

    When God revealed His name to Moses in the Old Testament, He referred to Himself simply as “I AM”.
    In the Old Testament, a person’s name was a reflection of their character or even their calling in life. Abraham, for example, means “Father of a great multitude” which makes sense, as God promised Abraham that his offspring would be as countless as the stars in the sky (Genesis 22:17).
    God is known by many names – Elohim, Adonai, Jehovah, Emmanuel – just to name a few. Though His names may change, God’s character stays the same, throughout the ages, regardless of our circumstances. In Revelations 1:8 it states “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’”
    Hence, God is the great “I AM.”

    Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

    3. God is part of the Trinity

    ”The Father and I are one.”
    John 10:30

    “For through Him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
    Ephesians 2:18

    In the hymn “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty”, one of the lines of the lyrics goes as follows:
    “God in three persons blessed Trinity”
    The Trinity refers to the existence of God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as a triune God.
    During Jesus’ 3-year ministry, Jesus referred to Himself on numerous occasions as belonging to God – not only as His son but that they were one and the same.
    The connection between Jesus and the Holy Spirit is quite evident in the New Testament. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove and God spoke out, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17).
    Jesus also tells the disciples that though He is leaving them, the Holy Spirit will come to reside with them instead (John 14:26).

    Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

    4. God is love

    “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
    1 John 4:8

    Our definition of love is not the same as God’s definition. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 describes God’s love – a perfect love for us that surpasses any human capability to love another person.
    When the Bible says that God is love, it is declaring God’s character. God loves us because that is who He is. He can’t and won’t stop loving us – even when we make mistakes or commit a sin – because that is simply not His nature.
    God does not force His love on anyone. It is because He first loved us, that we seek a relationship with Him in response to His offer of love.

    “We love because he first loved us.”
    1 John 4:19

    Photo by Olga DeLawrence on Unsplash

    5. God gave us His only son

    For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
    John 3:16

    When Adam ate the apple from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, it resulted in the fall of Man. Since then, we are separated from God through our sinful nature.
    However, God does not want to be separated from us. He created us in His own image, in order that we would be in fellowship with Him, love Him, and glorify Him.
    However, as long as we are held captive by sin, we cannot be in the presence of God (Isaiah 59:2). Therefore, He sent His son Jesus to us to pay the ransom price for our freedom, in order that we may be reunited for all eternity with Him (Romans 5:8).
    Jesus, who we have already established is God, additionally assumed the mortal coil of man, complete with our human frailties. He took on all of our past, present, and future sins and brought them to the cross of Calvary where He was crucified.
    With the blood that He spilled on the cross, Jesus broke the chains that sin had kept us in, thereby freeing us to have eternal life with our Father (Isaiah 53:4-5).

    Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

    6. God’s grace saves us

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”
    Ephesians 2:8-9

    What is so beautiful about God, is that He offers salvation to everyone. It doesn’t matter what mistakes you have made in the past, whether you have followed another religion, or even if you are a kind natured person who regularly helps elderly people cross the road.


    God’s salvation is a gift that He freely gives – it cannot be earned.


    In order to receive the gift of God’s salvation, we need to recognize in faith that it is God’s grace that saves us. We need to acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross for our transgressions, for it is only through Him that we can enter into a relationship with God (John 14:6). We must repent for our past mistakes and inequities (Romans 3:23).
    If we do all of this, we are born again. Not only does God forgive us for all of our sins, but we can start a new spirit-filled life in a loving relationship with God. He is our Father, and we are His children.

    God is just as relevant for us today as when He first created us out of dust and breathed life into us. In a broken world, His grace is a way out of the darkness; His love is a lamp at our feet and a light on our path as we walk in eternal fellowship with Him.

    Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    On the wings of eagles

    “But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
    they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.”
    Isaiah 40:31 (NRSV)

    Thought of the day: When l am weak, I will wait on the Lord, for He gives me strength.

    The temperamental spring rains have bidden their farewell where l live in Bochum, Germany. In their place, summer has heralded its arrival, with fresh breezes rippling through lush grasses scattered with colorful bursts of dahlias, petunias, and hydrangeas.
    I have embraced this change of season by making my first attempts at gardening. For the last three years, l have been in convalescence from burnout and depression. Consequently fighting fatigue, fear, and low mood has been a daily struggle. Recently, however, l have felt strong enough to venture outdoors. Being in the fresh air, with the rich dark earth sifting through my fingers and the sun caressing my face is extremely therapeutic. While l work, l thank God for His goodness, and l trust Him with further improvement in my health in His perfect timing.
    Yesterday, the cheerful chittering of birdsong drew me outside to the garden. As l drank my morning coffee, l watched the swallows flying above me, fascinated by their dipping and soaring. I saw a similarity between my feathered friends and myself: Just as the birds rely on God to keep them airborne, so too will l continue to put my life in His hands.
    Furthermore, as l wait in faith, God will continue to renew my strength until l too, like the birds, will soon mount my wings and triumphantly soar, fully recovered and ready to start a new exciting chapter of my life under the loving provision of the Lord.


    Prayer:
    Precious and loving Father, thank you that when we are weak, we can find refuge in You. Teach us to wait faithfully in Your presence, while You strengthen us in Your perfect timing. Amen.

    Delve deeper:

    Are you waiting for a breakthrough in your life? Seek God’s presence where you can find rest from your toil. Wait in faith, for with His perfect timing, God will fill you with a surge of revival, and you will soar with His strength and love into a new and exciting season of your life.

    First published on PresbyCan Daily Devotional on 2nd April 2019: https://presbycan.ca/2019-04-02/eagles