Divine Creation

Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Maybe you sew or cook, garden or build, paint or make music. These are all ways we create things of beauty, or things to use and enjoy. However, we start with fabric and ingredients, seeds and wood, canvas and instruments. We can’t make something from nothing, unlike our own Creator.

The first five words of the Bible in Genesis say “In the beginning God created”. In Hebrew, the word for create is “bara,” used only for divine design, to shape, to fashion, to create. ‘Bara’ is used three times in Genesis the first chapter. The first time is for the origin of matter, “God created the heaven and the earth.” The next is the origin of life, “God created every living creature that moveth,” and third the origin of man’s soul, “So God created man in His own image.”

Only human life, by God’s divine design and plan, has His image. It is more precious and unique compared to any other life, worthy to be nurtured and protected.

What God spoke into existence in the beginning has continued to this day. The more we learn about the universe in which we exist , the more we    marvel at the miracle of life. Amazing God that formed the planets and the stars, the seas and the mountains, also created our bodies with intricate physiology and with all the systems functioning as a whole. Our bodies move and breathe, think, see, touch and taste; performing processes every second, many of which we are not even consciously aware.

All of us have learned about the human body in school and some have gone further and studied in greater detail in preparation for a vocation. This knowledge does not prove the truth of God’s Word, but rather confirms our faith that only God’s divine design created life.

One such example is the protein laminin which is part of our extracellular matrix. Laminin are cell adhesion molecules, an integral part of the structural scaffolding of cells inside our body’s tissues and organs. Essentially it ‘glues’ one cell to the next and holds us together. Without laminin we would literally fall apart. This is amazing in itself, but then if you look at the molecular diagram of laminin – we see a     familiar shape: the shape of a cross. God’s Word tells the story of creation, of choices and the plan of redemption He had from the very beginning. Psalms 139:14 says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. In Colossians 1:14-17, it tells of creation and redemption, all part of God’s perfect plan.

The very powerful God who created us and knit us together in the womb, has that same power to redeem us and sustain us, and hold our lives together through His grace.

By R Trauger

To Trust In Jesus

“‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His Word; just to rest upon His promise; just to know, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!  Oh, for grace to trust Him more!”

We are living in perilous times in this great nation. Daily, we must apply strength, courage, and an unbreakable trust in the Almighty God. We must keep the principles and virtues that made us a great nation if God is to continue favoring us. One of those principles is unwavering trust in Him. Proverbs 3:5 encourages us to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

Louisa M.R. Stead composed the lyrics to the above hymn during the lowest time in her life. Accompanied by her husband and 4-year-old daughter Lily, they traveled to Long Island, New York. During a family picnic near the banks of water, they heard a drowning little boy’s cries for help. Her husband quickly swam out to rescue the little boy. Tragically, they both drowned as Louisa and Lily looked on in horror. It was from this tragic experience that she penned these words: “I’m so glad I learned to trust thee, precious Jesus, Savior, friend; and I know that Thou art with me, wilt be with me to the end.”

Do you have the courage to place absolute trust in God like the songwriter?  It is easy during pleasant times, but how about when it is time to stand for what we believe? The Bible tells us that we will suffer persecution – but to be of good cheer. When we live pleasing to God, we can wholeheartedly place our confidence and reliance in Jesus.

Another verse in the hymn says, “Yes, ‘tis sweet to trust in Jesus, just from sin and self to cease.”  He cares for us, but we are expected to do our part. I John 2:28 “And now, little children abide in him; that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” Full trust in Jesus is built over time and comes from a life that trusts Him not only for the little things but also for life’s larger issues.

Isaiah 26:3-4 – “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” Indeed, it is so sweet to fully trust in Jesus.

By C Smith

Unity Through Christ

The Church of God at Connoquenessing is made up of many members. We attend services and take part in many activities together. However, we are not “cookie cutter” people. We have come from very different walks of life and have a variety of interests and opinions. Yet, the beautiful part is that there is perfect unity between us. Unity is more than going to the same church or acknowledging a love for Jesus. This sacred oneness with Christ is only possible through the full plan of redemption.

One cannot be unified without first being holy. The divine power of Salvation and Sanctification, the two works of grace taught in the Bible, are the bond that joins us together. It makes worship and service to God more than a ritual as it joins members together into the  family of God. A person’s personality, race or gender makes no difference– for it is salvation that makes an individual a member in God’s church. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

An onlooker might assume the combination of so many variables would lead to chaos within the pew, but that is not the case. There is no debate over what we should or should not  believe each year, for we share the same beliefs. The ebb and flow of society’s morals do not cause rifts in the congregation for we are fixed upon one faith. Our doctrine is forever settled for it is founded upon the unchanging Word of God. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

Unity causes us to work together for the cause of Christ. We are not pulling in multiple directions or in competition with one  another but rather combine our efforts for one purpose: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unity through Christ gives us a genuine love one for one another. When one person suffers or goes through difficulties, they are faithfully carried to God through our prayers. On the other hand, when one member rejoices, we also share in their joy.

Each member contributes to the service of God in different   capacities. Some sing in the choir, some are prayer warriors, some are teachers and some take care of the church property. One is not more important than another, nor is one less useful than another. The Bible compares the family of God to the   physical body in I Corinthians 12:17-18 “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” Each person is valuable to the work and success of the congregation.

Consider the job of a songwriter who brings multiple elements together to produce beautiful music. If we only heard one part it may not sound like much at all, yet the end result is a lovely  harmony. This is a wonderful parallel to the Church of God. We are many members blended together to glorify God! Our children’s choir sings this chorus describing the beauty of unity – “Living in harmony, part of God’s family, singing a melody of praise to the Lord. Traveling this narrow road, helping to bear the load, ‘til we are safely home in heaven’s reward.”

By J Shick

The Gift of Life

Life is a gift that we should always view as precious. There is nothing more sad than a wasted life. By  reading God’s word we come to realize the value that God places upon each soul. We live in a time when so many simply do not value life as He does.

To understand the value of something, we often look at its cost. Our souls were so valuable that God gave His Son to buy us back from the power of the devil. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

When we think of the number of lives ended by abortion, cut short through suicide, or totally wrecked by sin, we can only imagine the God’s frustration. “Hell and destruction are before the Lord: how much more than the hearts of the children of men?” (Proverbs 15:11). These things do not go unnoticed by God. Every soul is valuable to him. In Matthew 10:31, Jesus tells us that God notices even the birds of the air by saying, “Ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

What is the measure of a life? There are many philosophies regarding how life should be spent. Some say, “You only live once! Do what feels good!” For some, this is their whole purpose. They are constantly chasing the next thrill, until they realize this never brings lasting satisfaction. Sadly, many of these lives end in depression and sometimes suicide.

Pro-choice advocates insist that life is a choice of the mother, rather than a gift from God. They feel they have the right to accept or refuse the gift of life. They view life as something a mother can choose to terminate out of convenience. So many mothers have chosen this path only to find their conscience haunts them for years.

Those who chase careers, money or fame will not find true happiness. A reckless attitude toward life is always a disgrace.

We need to look to the Word of God, rather than man’s opinion. Acts 5:29 says, “…We ought to obey God rather than men.” In Genesis 4, we see that God was very grieved and punished Cain for murdering his brother. In the book of Exodus, we read the Ten Commandments which include, “Thou shalt not kill.” No matter how you reason it, abortion is murder, and is not approved by God.

A life with heavenly purpose is the only one that will satisfy! In John 4:14, Jesus says to the woman at the well, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Thank God for the gift of life. Let us always view it as something precious that we dare not waste. Every soul has value. Ecclesiastes 12:14 makes plain our purpose: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

by C Karns

Are You Keeping Your Promises?

The blue-collar work ethic of Americanism remains a virtuous strength of our land. The drive and desire to achieve and accomplish has long fueled the machine of human progress. Someone waxing poetic and patriotic fails to see that unbridled ambition can easily become an indulgence. While dreaming, working, and conquering are evidence of those who envelop American spirit, can a focus on personal accomplishment blind us to the purpose of our Creator?

One such man whose ambition caused him to fail to follow God’s purpose was Samson. A Nazarite from birth, he had taken a vow to abstain from immorality and to conform to a strict code of conduct. This oath included not shaving any hair on his head, abstaining from wine and alcohol and avoiding being near a corpse. As long as Samson was faithful to this vow, God showed him his divine favor – and he accomplished many wonderful acts as a judge of the Children of Israel.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Our ways can seem right to us as long as we get what we want. But getting our own way is never a true indicator of God’s approval.

As Samson matured into a young man, his appetite for pleasing himself increased. His abilities and strength spoiled him into expecting only the result of his will. As the appetite of his desires grew, Samson’s vow and God’s purpose soon had little influence over the decisions he made.

Samson’s decisions established a path that led away from God and toward a road of broken vows and disappointments. On this road, he found honey in the carcass of a lion. Breaking his vow, Samson found sweetness amid that which was dead and crawling with maggots. He found love among his enemies and he lost his eyesight as he lost his vision of God’s plan for his life. He also lost his life.

This way of self-will remains a well-travelled road. Too many decide to traverse this path and ignore God’s direction. They give little thought to God’s will or to the promise they gave to serve God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. The vows of serving God, being faithful to a marriage or honest with their fellow man are quickly abandoned because a more convenient, self-satisfying option is made available. Therefore, many decide, and go and do with little thought for God’s purpose or approval.

James 4:15 reminds us that we “ought to say, if the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that.” When was the last time you bridled your ambitions and considered God’s plan for you? It takes time to consider, listen, and wait upon God. This solemn time of seeking God exhibits a pure desire to please Him and not ourselves. In finding and doing His will we will find “the blessing of the Lord maketh rich and he adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)

by M Karns

Our Christian Duty

As our country faces unprecedented times, it calls  upon us all to take a closer look at life. The future is uncertain and basic values seem to be fading into   obscurity. Principles that were once taught in schools have been replaced with modern ideology, painting the dependence our founding fathers had in God as a mere fairy tale. The unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are gradually being washed away with new legislation.

Is this the opportunity to let your voice be heard in some march or display of protest? Or is it more appropriate to sit idly by and watch the downfall? Neither option is the answer.

Consider Ephesians 6:10-13 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Today is the day to stand up for what you know is right, holding to godly morals and clinging to the Lord. Live in such a way that others have no question what you believe. “If we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything.” – Irene Dunne on America’s Town Meeting of the Air, May 1945

At times, it may be easier to go with the flow, but what can this approach accomplish? Having a “coexist” attitude only gives silent approval to things you may contradict. Do you agree with all the things that are considered the new “normal” in our     society? What does God think about the wickedness that is   being approved, even legislated? As Christians, we cannot put our approval upon these things. We must remain faithful to the principles we hold dear, no matter what the consequence may be.

In Daniel 3, the three Hebrew children knew they would face the fiery furnace if they did not bow down to the golden idol. This did not change their determination to be true to God, whom they faithfully served. They held their ground and were marvelously delivered unharmed!

Follow the example of these men and have the same determination to be faithful. Standing up for righteousness is not a loud or showy display. It is having confidence in the One you serve. Yes, stay loyal to your country, but more importantly, keep your  allegiance to God!

“Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us.”  – John Hancock

~  S. Shick

Consecrated to God

Do you know the full plan of salvation? First, it means to be saved from sin. The person you once were has been cleansed and you are made new. This transformation is so amazing it is almost like having a new identity. Bad habits and vices have been forgiven and you no longer wish to do those wicked things. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17) Yet, there is more to this wonderful plan! The second work of grace, called Sanctification, is the culmination of the Christian experience.

Sanctification (or sanctify) means to set apart as holy, to consecrate. Some will argue that people cannot be holy, that perfection is reserved only for God. Yet, the scripture says, “…be ye holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16) The Bible would not set forth an unattainable guideline for man to follow. That would be like dangling the proverbial carrot in front of the horse’s nose.

Being holy does not mean you no longer make mistakes or errors, but that your heart is made perfect. Sin is no longer a part of it; the Holy Spirit enables you to stay that way, if you choose. This is the true evidence of the Spirit of God in one’s life. It is not to speak in an unknown tongue, as some will claim; but to have the power to live pure in the sight of God.

Pastor Karns often reminds us, God does not find pleasure in supposed holy water, beads or statutes; He delights in hearts that are clean and holy! Men and women that love God supremely and are truly dedicated to following His will for their life. That reverent dedication does not hide one away in a monastery or a convent, but uses the opportunity to be a light to those around them. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

In a recent sermon, our pastor also likened the sanctified heart to clay in the potter’s hands. Physically, the potter molds the clay into the shape he needs. The clay does not demand to be made into a vase or bowl, but is submissive to the potter’s design. In like terms, God knows when, where and how you need to be used. He has a specific design that He needs you to become. The second work of grace brings a desire to “… be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (II Timothy 2:21) After experiencing the miracle of salvation, the least we can do is willingly give our lives back to God, to be used in whatever capacity He chooses. To be as clay in the Potter’s hand requires Sanctification.

So many today have twisted values, “… and worshipped the creature more than the Creator…” (Romans 1:25) For this second work of grace to be truly effective, God must be one’s chief joy and main priority in life. We live in a society with ever-changing opinions and trends. Many prefer to chase their own ambitions and goals but forget about God’s opinion.

The sanctified heart considers God with every move, asking for His guidance and desiring to stay in His will. The song “Consecration” by Mildred E. Howard beautifully details the sanctified life.

~ J. Shick