More

When my life

was threatened

 

I learned

 

that I truly love You, God,

more than my life

 

When I gave up meals

to fast and pray

 

I learned

 

that I truly want You, God,

more than food

 

When I denied myself

and I wanted to be first

 

I learned

 

that I wanted You above all, God,

more than myself

 

And when I surrendered my will

bowing low

 

I learned

 

that I long for Your plan, God,

more than mine

 

And the longer I walk with You, God,

the more I want to be near You

 

The more I know of You, God,

the more I want to know

 

The more I see of You, God,

the more I want to be wide awake

 

to You

 

– Susie Stewart

 

In the same way, if you want to be My disciple, it will cost you everything. Don’t underestimate that cost!

– Luke 14:33 (VOICE)

 

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

– Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

 

…man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

– Deuteronomy 8:3 (NIV)

 

Then Jesus went to work on His disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

– Matthew 16:23-25 (MSG)

 

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

– Matthew 13:44-46 (NLT)

 

Photo by Arik Stewart

 

 

Bear It No More

 

Heavy

burden

weight of weights

constraining

 

Shame

Guilt

Soul burdened

with wrong-doing weight

 

And I ask you,

Why do you bear it?

 

Why do you carry the shame

the guilt

the burden

of sins past?

 

It is all

nailed to the cross

 

Bear it no more

 

For Jesus carried the heavy

for you

 

He died to take your shame

 

To take away your sin

 

And you do Him an injustice

by trying to carry the weight

that He already bore

 

His sacrifice should bring you freedom

Not burden

 

You have accepted your Savior

Have you accepted grace?

 

– Susie Stewart

 

Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!

– Micah 7:19 (NLT)

 

So now you need to rethink everything and turn to God so your sins will be forgiven and a new day can dawn, days of refreshing times flowing from the Lord.

– Acts 3:19 (VOICE)

 

This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in Him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust Him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to Him.

– John 3:16-18 (MSG)

 

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

Thy Will Be Done

 

“In all things,

our family says,

‘Thy will be done'”

 

I looked up at her on her porch

from my trailside fence position

 

My friend Becky

had just gone to see her brother

 

Stage 4 cancer

and things looking bleak

 

I told her I was sorry

and she gave a small smile

with the reply,

 

“In all things our family says,

‘Thy will be done'”

 

It wasn’t a typical response

to looming death

 

It wasn’t what I expected to hear

from grieving sister

 

And it impacted me

right down to the dirt I was standing on

 

It made me think

about You, Jesus,

 

Bowing Your will

to the plan of Your Father

 

Bowing Your fears

Bowing Your wants

 

In the face of pain

and death

 

“Not my will, but Yours be done”

 

May that be the simple sentence

that permeates my life

 

For there are times

when Your will

does not match mine

 

But I bow

everything

to You

 

Thy will be done

 

– Susie Stewart

 

 

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not my will, but Yours be done.”

– Matthew 22:42 (NIV)

 

…Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

– Matthew 6:10 (NIV)

 

Our God is in the heavens, and He does as He wishes.

– Psalm 115:3 (NIV)

 

Now may the God of peace—
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with His blood—
may He equip you with all you need
for doing His will.
May He produce in you,
through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to Him.
All glory to Him forever and ever! Amen.

– Hebrews 13:20,21 (NLT)

 

Photo by Arik Stewart

 

Unnecessary Performance

Don’t you know?

Don’t you remember?

 

You are someone’s child

 

You are God’s child

 

And He created you

to be in relationship with Him

 

But you think you need

to perform for Him

 

To get it right

to impress

 

To stop

messing up

 

But His love is not conditional

on your performance

 

Nestle into that love

and stay there

 

Performance is for an entertainer

not a beloved child

 

I was inspired to write this piece after listening to a interview my cousin, Kathy Gray, did on her new book “Light in Our Darkness”.  In the interview Kathy said, “We were never created to perform.  We were created for relationship.”  Amen.  Thank you, Kathy

 

– Susie Stewart

 

Don’t be mistaken; in and of ourselves we know we have little to offer, but any competence or value we have comes from God. Now God has equipped us to be capable servants of the new covenant, not by authority of the written law which only brings death, but by the Spirit who brings life.

– 2 Corinthians 3:5,6 (VOICE)

 

But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

– John 1:12,13 (NLT)

 

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…

– Galatians 3:26 (NIV)

 

See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know Him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is.

– 1 John 3:1,2 (NLT)

 

And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.

– Romans 8:17 (NLT)

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

 

Rain

Rain down on us

sweet Jesus

 

Living Water, flood us

with Your love

 

We long for Your refreshment

in a dry and weary land

 

Cover us

Drench us

 

With Your kindness

Your forgiveness

Your acceptance

Your joy

Your Light

 

With YOU

 

– Susie Stewart

 

 

A song of David while in the wilderness of Judah. O True God, You are my God, the One whom I trust. I seek You with every fiber of my being. In this dry and weary land with no water in sight, my soul is dry and longs for You. My body aches for You, for Your presence.

– Psalm 63:1 (VOICE)

 

Skies above, open up and let the clouds rain down righteousness! Let the earth below sprout triumph and justice. For I, the Eternal, have created them.

– Isaiah 45:8 (VOICE)

 

His voice thunders through the heavens, and the waters gush from the sky; He summons the clouds to build up over the earth. As the rain falls, the lightning flashes at His command; the wind rushes in from where He alone can store it.

– Jeremiah 10:13 (VOICE)

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

 

The Battle

The battle is invisible

and it is fierce

 

Unseen

but real

 

This fight

affects you

 

And if your eyes were opened

to the unseen reality

 

You would fall to your knees

before the God of Angel Armies

 

You would know that darkness

wants to take you down

 

You would know that angels

are protectors and fighters

 

strong and valiant

 

And you would know that demons

are liars and destroyers

 

Purveyors of

defeat

stress

division

lies

death

and fear

 

And know this –

 

if you have not surrendered to King Jesus,

you WILL lose this fight

 

You are defenseless without Him

 

If you DO know Him

and believe Him

 

Don’t forget your battle gear

 

Take up your Sword!

the Word of God to combat lies and deception

 

Take up your shield!

which is your faith in Almighty God

 

Put on your helmet!

the salvation of your precious soul

 

Lace up your shoes!

that come with the Peace only He can give

 

Strap on your belt!

of Truth, lies dispelled

 

Hold up that shield!

God’s armor of righteousness for you

 

Don’t underestimate your enemy

or

God’s army

 

Get in that battle

and hold onto the One who holds victory

 

for you

 

– Susie Stewart

 

We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places.

– Ephesians 6:12 (VOICE)

 

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

– James 4:7 (NLT)

 

For though we walk in the world, we do not fight according to this world’s rules of warfare. The weapons of the war we’re fighting are not of this world but are powered by God and effective at tearing down the strongholds erected against His truth.

– 2 Corinthians 10:3,4 (VOICE)

 

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

– 1 Peter 5:8,9 (NLT)

 

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

– Ephesians 6:13-17 (NLT)

 

Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.

– Deuteronomy 3:22 (NIV)

 

Artwork by Arik Stewart from his childhood

 

 

A Video for You

 

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

– Matthew 22:42-45 (NIV)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

Defender

He is defending you,

firm and resolute in your corner

 

He Himself,

when all others have turned away

 

The God of the Universe

is your defense

your strength

your vindication

 

And isn’t it so good

to have a Defender

who sees all?

 

Who sees what you are going through?

 

Who sees what is not fair

or right?

 

Be at peace knowing

that He’s got you

 

– Susie Stewart

 

The LORD, the LORD Himself, is my strength and my defense;  He has become my salvation.

– Isaiah 12:2 (NIV)

 

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. …The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

– Exodus 14:13,14 (NIV)

 

I love you, Lord;
You are my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.
I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and He saved me from my enemies.
The ropes of death entangled me;
floods of destruction swept over me.
The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
death laid a trap in my path.
But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
yes, I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from His sanctuary;
my cry to Him reached His ears.
Then the earth quaked and trembled.
The foundations of the mountains shook;
they quaked because of His anger.
Smoke poured from His nostrils;
fierce flames leaped from His mouth.
Glowing coals blazed forth from Him.
He opened the heavens and came down;
dark storm clouds were beneath His feet.
Mounted on a mighty angelic being, He flew,
soaring on the wings of the wind.
He shrouded Himself in darkness,
veiling His approach with dark rain clouds.
Thick clouds shielded the brightness around Him
and rained down hail and burning coals.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded
amid the hail and burning coals.
He shot His arrows and scattered His enemies;
great bolts of lightning flashed, and they were confused.
Then at your command, O Lord,
at the blast of your breath,
the bottom of the sea could be seen,
and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.
He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
but the Lord supported me.
He led me to a place of safety;
He rescued me because He delights in me.
The Lord rewarded me for doing right;
He restored me because of my innocence.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
I have not turned from my God to follow evil.
I have followed all his regulations;
I have never abandoned His decrees.
I am blameless before God;
I have kept myself from sin.
The Lord rewarded me for doing right.
He has seen my innocence.
-Psalm 18:1-34 (NLT)

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

My brother, Danny Oertli – “Fight For Me”

Kind

Kindness

is rooted

in God’s heart

 

It is tender

and heart-felt

and real

 

It chooses the soft

when the hard is expected

 

And only through

His Spirit

can we consistently

 

breathe kindness

in an unkind world

 

– Susie Stewart

 

A kindhearted woman gains honor…

Proverbs 11:16 (NIV)

 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

– Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

 

Love is patient and kind…

– 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NLT)

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

 

My precious Niece Maggie ❤

Reliability of the Bible

IS THE BIBLE RELIABLE? – SEVEN QUESTIONS

 

1. Does the Bible claim to be uniquely inspired by God?

A. The Bible claims that it is uniquely inspired

1. 2 Timothy 3:16 – “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”

2. 2 Peter 1:20, 21 – “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

B. The writers claimed to be inspired

1. David (2 Samuel 23:2 – “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me”)

2. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:1-2 – “Thus says the Lord”)

3. Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:1,2 – “commandments…by the authority of the Lord Jesus”)

4. John (Revelation 1:1 – “The revelation of Jesus Christ…to his bondservant John”)

C. Jesus claimed that the scriptures were inspired (Matthew 5:18; Luke 24:44 – “all fulfilled”).

Note: The Forms of Inspiration

God directly revealed parts of scripture to some writers (prophets in particular) who spoke exactly the words God gave them (Moses – Deuteronomy 4:2; Isaiah – Isaiah 59:21; Paul—Galatians 1:12, etc.).

God otherwise superintended the writing of men who wrote exactly what God intended. They used their own styles and expressed their thoughts freely knowing what they meant. Yet, through the Holy Spirit, God at the same time determined the content and controlled the accuracy of all they wrote. This is the miraculous aspect of inspiration.

2. What other evidence is there that the Bible is inspired by God?

A. Supernatural change

The Bible causes supernatural change in people’s lives when its message about sin and salvation is accepted. A visit to any Bible-believing church will give plenty of examples.

B. Fulfilled prophecy

C. The Bible contains many prophecies recorded and then later fulfilled. Here are some examples:

1. Israel’s Rebirth as a Nation after being dispersed many centuries ago was predicted by the Bible (Isaiah 11:11 – written circa 750 B.C.; Ezekiel 37:1-14 – written circa 600 B.C.). For almost 2,000 years (since A.D. 70) the nation of Israel did not exist. Then, on May 15, 1948, Israel became a nation. In 1967 (The Six-day War) its area quadrupled and Jerusalem became Jewish property.

2. The Destruction of the city of Tyre was predicted in detail by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 26 – written circa 600 B.C.). In 332 B.C. Alexander the Great completed the destruction begun by others. Each detail Ezekiel predicted was fulfilled.

3. Four great successive world kingdoms (Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome) were specifically prophesied and described by Daniel (Daniel 2 & 7 – written about 535 B.C.). Each detail was fulfilled as these empires rose and fell in the coming centuries.

4. Over 300 prophesies in the Old Testament describe the details of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection. The odds of even a few of these coming true in one person are staggering – much less 300 of them.

D. The Distribution and Indestructibility of the Bible

1. The Bible is far and away the world’s “best seller.” By 1932 it was computed that 1 billion copies of the Bible had been published. By the 1960’s it is estimated that over 2 billion were published. Currently, a total of 3-4 billion is reasonable. No other book is even close.

2. The Bible has been translated into well over 1000 languages, representing about 90% of the world’s population.

3. Throughout the centuries, various enemies have tried to destroy the Bible (Diocletian Edict, circa A.D. 300). Voltaire, the French philosopher and skeptic, predicted in the 18th century, that the Bible and Christianity would soon be obsolete. In 1828, fifty years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society was using his press and his house to publish Bibles.

4. Jesus had predicted, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31).

E. Archeology supports the Bible

1. Numerous archaeological finds have supported the Bible’s accuracy. Otherwise unknown places, events and dates have proven to be historically accurate. Nelson Glueck, a leading Jewish archaeologist said, “It can be categorically stated that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference” (Rivers In The Desert, Farrar, Strauss and Cudahy. 1959. P.31). This does not prove inspiration, but it confirms the credibility of writers who also claim that they wrote with God’s authority.

F. A Logical Argument for Inspiration

Charles Wesley proposed the following logical argument:

“The Bible must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God.

1. It could not be the invention of good men or angels; for they neither would or could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying, “Thus saith the Lord,” when it was their own invention.

2. It could not be the invention of bad men or devils; for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity.

3. Therefore, I draw this conclusion, that the Bible must be given by divine inspiration.”

(Robert W. Burtner and Robert Chiles, A Compend of Wesley’s Theology, Abingdon Press. 1954. p.20)

3. Hasn’t translating the Bible over and over ruined its reliability?

No. The English translations we have are not the end of a long chain of translations; they are translated directly from Hebrew (O.T.) and Greek (N.T.) originals.

Not

Hebrew —Greek —Latin —English

But

German —English —Hebrew —Greek

The reason we have many different English translations is that scholars have continually updated them to incorporate new linguistic research and to keep up with changes in modern English.

4. How do we know that we have what Moses, David, Jesus, or Paul really said or wrote?

Since there were no copy machines, the texts that the human authors wrote had to be recopied by hand as they wore out or as more copies were needed. Here’s how the text was preserved so accurately.

Old Testament – The Jewish people had scribes who were in charge of the manuscripts. They were so meticulous about doing it perfect that they counted all the paragraphs, words and even letters so they would know if they had copied correctly. They even knew the middle letter of each book so they could count back and see if they had missed anything.

The oldest complete copy of a Hebrew Old Testament in museums today are dated about A.D.1000. That’s a long time after the originals were written (1450-400 B.C.), so one could question if after many centuries of copying we really have the original words. That’s where the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 is so helpful. These well-preserved texts date back to 100 B.C. Amazingly, there is virtual agreement between the Dead Sea Scrolls and those dated 1,100 years later! This proves we can trust the Hebrew copies of the Old Testament that are existing today.

Example of Isaiah: Virtually identical through all the years of copying.

Written 700 B.C. by Isaiah

Copies found among Dead Sea Scrolls 100 B.C.

Complete Hebrew Manuscripts A.D. 1000

Today’s Bible

New Testament – The reliability of the New Testament Greek texts is even more certain than the Old Testament texts. The New Testament was written A.D.45 – A.D.90. Some fragments of Greek texts exist that date back to A.D.120 and A.D.150. That’s only 35-100 years after the originals that Paul, John, Luke and others wrote! Another big help is that there are 4000-5000 New Testament Greek manuscripts existing today. By comparing these many copies, scholars can weed out possible copying mistakes. Compare these two factors of Date and Number of existing manuscripts and copies with other literature that historians consider accurate:

 

Manuscript

Date of Oldest Manuscript Existing

Copies

 

Plato

1,200 years later

7

 

Ceasar

900 years later

10

 

Herodotus

1,300 years later

8

 

Aristotle

1,400 years later

5

 

New Testament

Only 35-100 years later

4,000-5,000

5. Doesn’t the Bible contradict itself?

No. The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years by about 40 authors on three continents in two major languages. The writers included and Egyptian-trained scholar (Moses), a general (Joshua), Kings (David, Solomon), a farmer (Amos), a fisherman (Peter), a tax-collector (Matthew), and a rabbi (Paul), but amazingly they present a consistent viewpoint of life and set of facts.

Can you imagine 40 different writers today form such different backgrounds agreeing on any subject today? But in all its 66 books, the Bible is self-consistent on such significant issues as where we come from (special creation by God), why we’re here (to serve and glorify God) and where we’re going (eternal life or eternal judgment).

Critics allege that there are many discrepancies in the Bible. But the seeming discrepancies in particular details can generally be explained in one of the following ways:

a. Logical explanations – Sometimes two seemingly contradicting statements are both actually true. When Matthew refers to one angel at Jesus’ tomb and John describes two, there’s no contradiction. Where there’s two there’s one. Matthew wasn’t counting. He just described what one of the angels said.

b. Copyist’s mistakes – There are occasions where existing manuscripts (Greek or Hebrew) disagree on certain words or phrases. A few times when two books of the Bible record the same event a number has been changed. It’s not hard to imagine that someone copying the manuscript by hand (not the original inspired author) miscopied a number, name or accidentally inserted some margin note into the text.

c. Interpretive misunderstanding – Critics sometimes allege that Jesus and Paul or Paul and James disagree on something. But those are dubious claims based on what an interpreter thinks a verse means. The burden of proof is on those who claim to see disagreement. Seemingly contradictory statements can be shown to harmonize well by understanding the contexts in which they were written.

6. How do we know the right books are in the Bible? It was just people who decided wasn’t it?

Yes and No. It was human councils such as the one led by Athanasius in A.D.367 which listed the 27 books in our New Testament today. But they didn’t determine which books were inspired; they merely recognized the supernatural character those books already had. The following tests were used to conclude that a book or letter was indeed scripture (tests of “canonicity”).

a. Is it authoritative (Does it claim or exhibit God’s authority – “Thus saith the Lord”)?

b. Is it prophetic (Is it written by a known “man of God”- 2 Peter 1:20)?

c. Is it authentic (Is it consistent with other revelation of truth)?

d. Is it dynamic (Is it shown to be life-changing)?

e. Is it received (Is it accepted and used by believers)?

(Norman L Geisler & William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, pp. 137-144)

7. How do you know if you’re interpreting the Bible right? So many different groups claim to follow the Bible.

There are three basic approaches to Bible interpretation.

a. Used by cults. Cults use the Bible to try to prove views they already have. The real authority of their view is always some single leader who has his or her ideas in writing. The cult considers those writings as equal in authority (actually greater) than the Bible. They then lift some Bible verses out of context to support their views.

b. Misunderstood by liberal scholars. Scholars who don’t accept the authority and inspiration of scripture interpret the Bible in purely human terms. They feel free to call the Bible “wrong” on issues if society’s standard is different. So they also take the liberty to water down statements that they deem unacceptable. (The seriousness of sin; the need to trust in Christ for salvation, etc.)

c. Taken literally in its historical and grammatical contexts. Conservative Bible scholars who take the Bible at face value consistently arrive at the same interpretations on major issues. Some detailed interpretations will always vary, but the major messages are clear. Literal interpretation simply means “take it as it was meant.” A figure of speech is taken that way. A grammatical form is assumed accurate. What a term or phrase meant at the time in history is worth researching and then understood accordingly. This view let the Bible speak for itself.

– Sid Litke