Family Resemblance

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…” ~ Romans 8:29

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 2:5

During these unprecedented days (for most of us, in our lifetime) of quarantine and social and economic changes, necessitated by what has become a global health issue, I’ve seen several different challenges and posts on social media sites. People have more time than they know what to do with and are coming up with all kinds of creative ways to share and to socialize. Some of the challenges say to post landscape pictures; one specifically said it should be of the ocean; some say you should be in the picture, and others want only the landscape.

One challenge that intrigued me and now has prompted this post is people posting pictures with their first child and asking if you can see a family resemblance. All of the ones I’ve seen have daughters as the first child. My first child is a son. People have said we look alike, others think he looks more like his dad. I’m the first child of my parents. Some people think I look more like my dad, some people think I look more like my mom. Some people think my brother and I look nothing alike, and some people think we look very much alike. Besides the obvious genetics that contribute to what we look like and who we resemble, I started thinking about other things that are also factors.

My mom commented recently on a picture from my daughter’s wedding last summer and said I really look like my grandmother (her mother) in that picture. That made my heart smile! 🥰 Many people have said my daughter and I look very much alike, but she and I can’t see it as much. One friend of hers several years ago said it’s our smiles and our mannerisms, our laughs, that really make us look alike. Interesting. As I began making a collage of pictures to post for this family resemblance challenge, I thought about all of these things. What makes us look more like one family member or another at different times in our life? Is it more than just genetics?

All of us who have lived even a short time in adulthood know that life changes us and affects us. Hopefully we’re growing and maturing and learning and heading in the right direction. Some of life’s lessons and hardships leave traces in our hair color, in fine lines on our face, perhaps in our health. It can change our appearance, maybe even our attitude or our behavior, and it all contributes to which family members we look more like.

As these thoughts were tumbling over each other in my mind, it made me also think of our spiritual “family resemblance.” Do we who profess to be true, blood-washed believers look like our Heavenly Father? Are we growing and maturing and reflecting the image, the character, of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do people look at us and know or at least wonder if we might be a Christian? When they ask and we answer that we are, does it surprise them or do they nod and say, “I thought so.” As much as we resemble our parents or grandparents, may we also have a burning desire to resemble our Savior; to be a reflection of His nature and a testimony to those around us. Pastor Philip Vos, now Home with the Lord, was our pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Hickory, NC, when our family lived in the area several years ago. Very often he would ask the Lord to please make us much more like Himself and far less of what we are by nature. I love that! I have prayed it many times through the years.

As part of our family devotions when my brother and I were growing up, my dad had us memorize different hymns, one of which I would like to share part of: O To Be Like Thee.

O to be like Thee! blessed Redeemer;
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

*O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

O to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wand’ring sinners to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer, others to save.

Lyrics:Thomas Obediah Chisholm (1866-1960) Music:William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921)

IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS

*Written by my mother, Judith B. Moravek, February 21, 2000.

When I first wrote this I changed the names, but here I will use the correct names. This is a true incident that our daughter DeLaine shared with us.

“Oh no, not again!” First it coughed then it sputtered. The van’s engine was acting up. DeLaine wondered if she and her three children would make it to Sunday School and if they did, would they be on time. Her husband was away for the day. He was asked to help with the church service at the local children’s home. He and DeLaine knew it wouldn’t be long before they would need to replace their old, well-worn mini van. It had served them well, but it was fast coming to the place of retirement. Perhaps this coming Spring they would be in a better position to get a newer van.

“I think we’d better pray for the van, guys,” nine-year-old Preston announced to his six-year-old brother Jonathan and his seven-year-old sister Alina. While their mother was trying to keep the van going, the three children bowed their heads and Preston offered up a prayer for help from The Lord. Amazingly, the van never cut out but kept right on chugging along. Although they arrived ten minutes late, they did arrive safely. God answered Preston’s prayer, which made him very happy.

A few days later, DeLaine gathered up her children for a visit to the dentist. “Okay, everybody in the van, we don’t want to be late for our dentist appointments.” The van started out fine and ran without any difficulty for a while. It was too soon, however, to think all was well. One sputter led to another then to another. “Oh, no!” DeLaine would have really been upset again if she hadn’t heard Jonathan behind her seat say, “Preston, do you think we should pray for the van?” Looking in the rearview mirror, DeLaine saw her three children bow their heads, as first Preston, then Jonathan, then finally Alina prayed. Peace and a smile replaced the frustration and a frown, as she thought, “I thank The Lord the van had a problem because it caused the children to pray and to trust God for an answer.”

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I Thess. 5:18

“…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
Matthew 6:8

Personal note: As I mentioned in a previous blog post, “The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving,” I’m so thankful that God’s Word says to be thankful in everything, not for everything. Realizing the difference will encourage your heart!

A Matter of Perspective

Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings. (Psalm 17:8) ~ Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me. He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth. (Psalm 57:1-3)

All of us have seen a situation on TV or in a movie where one character can see something ahead that another character cannot. Usually the character who can’t see the danger gets upset with the one who can because they don’t understand their actions or why they might have said what they did. When we as viewers also have the perspective of seeing what’s going on, we want to tell the character who is unaware yet, “Just wait, buddy; don’t get upset at him. You can’t see what he sees.”

Very often that is exactly the situation we find ourselves in when things happen in our life that frustrate us or we don’t understand. Sometimes things don’t make sense to us and we wonder, “Lord, what are You doing? Why is this happening?” We may know intellectually that God knows everything and He knows what’s best for us, but the day-to-day application is sometimes difficult for our frail nature. My dad summed it up so well one time when he said it’s almost as if when we go to bed at night all of the lessons of faith we learned during the day are somehow “reset” during the night and we have to start all over the next day. Hopefully we don’t quite lose everything we learned. 🙂 But often it is true that we forget too easily what God has taught us. We seem to think that even though He has proven to be faithful as He said He would be, this new trial is a little worse; more challenging.

When it seems as if God has allowed us to be knocked down by circumstances, we must trust His plan. He knows the end from the beginning. He has unlimited sight into our future. So why are we fretful when our sight is limited to right-here-and-now? We can’t even see one minute into the future. Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.”

No matter what we face, we can have full confidence in the love of our Savior. We can have complete peace in the all-knowing, all-wise God Who created everything and Who cares about every detail of our life. Everything He does is for our good and for His glory. That is the perspective we can rest in!

*modified from an 8-27-12 Facebook post

Thankful For the Ditch

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:8-9

My son, Jonathan, was visiting a friend in the Charlotte, NC, area on a Saturday evening in March 2014, having driven from Knoxville, TN, where we live, and planning to return home the next afternoon. As he was leaving and backing out of the driveway later that night, his car went into a shallow drainage ditch. The house is in rural setting with no street lights, and it was an unfamiliar setting to Jonathan. He was able to drive out of the ditch okay but found out later that he had bent an axle on his car. His first thought was how thankful he was that his recent plan to buy a newer car had not worked out.

Jonathan called someone in Monroe, NC, who he knew would be able to help with car repairs, and the Lord allowed him to drive there safely on Sunday; approximately an hour from the hotel he stayed at Saturday night. He was able to do some work that provided much-needed help and income for the repair bill. The repairs kept him in North Carolina two extra days. It turned out that not only was the axle bent, but because his car was older, the bearings were bad and there was a slight oil leak. The leak he knew about; the bearings he didn’t. Had those bearings “given way” on his trip back through the mountains, it would have been more costly, much more inconvenient, and perhaps a dangerous situation. It seems that God used that small ditch to delay the return to Tennessee for several reasons.

Being thankful for “the ditch” that comes along every now and then in our lives is not easy. Our human nature most often whines and gripes and focuses on “the bent axle” or the change to our plans rather than on the safety God provided. We forget to be thankful for the opportunity to earn income for the repair bill. We forget to look for what it is God wants to teach us in that moment.

This mama is very humbled and thankful still as I write and reflect on this memory for a vivid, loving reminder from my Heavenly Father that He DOES love me; He has NOT left me to figure things out on my own; and His plan is FAR greater than my finite mind can even begin to comprehend. My emotions, fears, and confusion at times are results of my own weakness and lack of faith. I am so thankful for a merciful, loving Savior Who knows the fallibility and limitations of our human nature and loves us still! Lord, please help me always to remember to praise You for “the ditch!”

*modified from a 3-25-14 Facebook post

God Is Enough

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [to shun or avoid] evil? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” (Job 1:6-11)

As many times as I have read these verses, I still wonder every time if Satan goes before God to accuse us by name as he did with Job. We know from Revelation 12:10 that he is “…the accuser of our brethren…, which accused them before our God day and night.” Let that sink in for a moment. I have to ask myself, am I living in such a way that Satan would bother mentioning my name? He brought up Job’s name to God with the accusation that Job’s worship and devotion were only because of the great wealth God had blessed him with. If you’re familiar with the story, you know that God allowed Satan to afflict Job, allowed him to take away everything but his life.

Life is rarely easy or fair, and it’s likely that every person is going through some kind of trial at any given time. Trials are to strengthen us, to prune away what isn’t pleasing to the Lord in our life, to show us “what we’re made of,” either that we’re stronger than we realize in some ways or that we’re not as fully surrendered in other ways as we might think we are. God doesn’t have to prove anything at all to Satan, but Satan basically told God that Job only worshiped Him because he had been blessed with so much. God already knew Job would pass the test, but Satan didn’t. So not only did it foil Satan’s theory, but it proved to Job that God was – IS – still worthy of his praise and devotion, without material things, even without his children and his health. That is encouraging to me: to think that God is “counting on me,” in a sense, to prove to Satan that my Heavenly Father IS worthy of my praise, my thankfulness, my loyalty and devotion, no matter what! I pray that I’ll be worthy of having my name mentioned before the Lord as one He can depend on to be put to the test.

For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound [contribute greatly to] to the glory of God.  For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (II Corinthians 4:15-18)

The Most Important Gift of All

Soon after the excitement and goodwill of Christmas have passed, many people may still be thinking about the gifts they received, the time spent with family and friends, and the “warm, fuzzy feeling” that surrounds the holidays.  All too soon after the decorations have been put away, the regular work schedule has resumed, and children are back in school, life returns to the usual routine.  There is one gift that should never lose the ability to keep us in awe of its effect on our lives, and that, of course, is the gift of eternal life.  

I never want to assume that everyone who claims to be a Christian has truly been saved and transformed in their spirit by the power of the Gospel.  Some people have been “raised in church” and say they’re a Christian because they know all the Bible stories, or because they were baptized, or perhaps they even know what the Bible teaches about salvation.  As good as all of these things may be, they still do not make a person a Christian.  There must be a time in a person’s life when he truly and honestly confronts his own need for salvation because he knows he is a sinner and believes that there is absolutely nothing he can ever do in and of himself to obtain forgiveness and eternal life.  Most religions teach that good works are the way to earn a place in Heaven.  If that were true, then Jesus Christ would never have needed to come to Earth and die on the cross as the final, perfect payment for sin.

Titus 3:5 – Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.  

Ephesians 2:8, 9 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. 

Consider what the Bible says about us, as sinful human beings:

Romans 3:10 – As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.  

Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. 

Romans 5:12 – Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.  

Wow!  What a depressing state to be in IF it was left at that.  Thankfully that is not the case.  God made provision for our sin to be paid for!

Romans 5:8, 9 – But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  

I Peter 1:18, 19 – Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  

One perfect Lamb was the final payment for our sin!  This is not something that has to ever be repeated, week after week or through any religious ritual.

Hebrews9:12 – Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.  

Hebrews 10:10-14 – By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:  But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;  From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.  For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.  

Romans 10:9-10, 13That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I John 5:13 – These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. 

It’s that simple, yet so profound.  Please don’t let another day go by without knowing for sure that you have accepted the most important gift you will ever receive!

The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Colorful leaves.  Cooler temperatures.  Earlier sunset.  Fields of bright orange pumpkins.  Fall is well underway in the Northern Hemisphere, and for those of us who live in the States, we are anticipating another Thanksgiving.  Many people begin posting online things that they are most thankful for, and it’s a blessing to read those heartfelt sentiments.

By nature it’s fairly easy to be thankful when everything is going our way and the sun is shining.  But what about when nothing seems to be going right and the sun is not shining?  Has God suddenly withdrawn His blessings from us in those times?  Of course not.  Too often, though, our actions and our thoughts convey that we believe He has.

Recently I had a day when it felt like things were falling apart and my attempts to be cheerful sounded hollow.  I was asking the Lord to please help me to trust Him and to have a better attitude, and I Thessalonians 5:18 came to mind: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”   As I quoted the verse in my mind, the Holy Spirit impressed on me the thought that God hasn’t asked us to be thankful for everything but to be thankful in every thing.  There’s a difference.  I hadn’t ever seen it that way before, and it was encouraging.  In a way it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

I decided to study this a little further and found seven places (there may be more) where the phrase, “the sacrifice of thanksgiving” is found: Leviticus 7:12-13 (twice in these verses); Leviticus 22:29; Psalm 107:22; Psalm 116:17; Amos 4:5; Jonah 2:9.  What does that mean?  One definition of the word sacrifice is: the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.  Ahh…..exactly!  The Lord Jesus Christ surely has a “higher or more pressing claim” on the lives of every one of us because He shed His blood on the cross of Calvary to pay for our sin.  By nature, we are selfish, prideful creatures, and our self will and ego cause us many problems.  When things in our life are not going the way we think they should, that pride and selfishness quickly surface.

A sacrifice of thanksgiving, then, is when we surrender our will to God’s, making a conscious choice to be thankful and to praise Him regardless of our current circumstances.  It doesn’t happen easily or automatically.  It takes discipline and a decision on our part that having the right attitude is more important than our own desires.  It really is a liberating concept, in a sense.  God has not asked us to be thankful for the trials and heartaches of life, but rather to be willing to be thankful in those things.  In the midst of our tears, heartache and frustration, being thankful for who He is and for what He has done for us glorifies Him.  When our attitude is right, suddenly the circumstances we’re facing seem a bit less daunting and overwhelming.  The bills will probably still be there; the sickness may not be cured right away or at all; the family issues may not be resolved quickly; but our spirit is strengthened when we keep God in the place where He belongs as our focus.

I pray that this will be an encouragement to many and that you and your family will have a blessed Thanksgiving!