“FRAGILE!”

 

Handle with care I wish I could post,
a stick it note to remind of what matters the most.

Distractions, directions unprofitable and robbing;
relentless in their unfocused pulling and prodding.

But my days are few upon this earth,
to make an impact of valued worth.

The reins have to be taken back;
no longer the less valuable plans to detract.

Focus, you only have one life to live.
Frail, is this only life to give.

Here today, and gone tomorrow;
let me cherish each one without resentment and sorrow.

Life is fragile and can break like a dam.
So, Lord teach me to measure my days, that I may know how frail I am.

To gain the worth of each day given.
This time on earth; this limited edition.

Invest in the works, the love and matters of the soul.
To fulfill His glory is our heavenly goal.

“LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am,” (Psalms 39:4).

“But, what did God say?”

“And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak?” Numbers 24:12-13

God’s people are truly blessed.  In the historical sense, covering the covenanted children of Israel, and even now for all those who are in a covenant relationship with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The story is not new, even if the variables of the story change from one situation and/or person to another.  God’s people, then and now, are blessed, and that’s something no enemy likes to see or deal with.  Nonetheless, the truth is, God is for His people.  We see it in verses that state, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9), and when the psalmist writes, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6) we feel those words speak to our own hearts.

God is for His people, and what He has spoken over your life means more than any negative enemy talk, and it is always God’s word that will be performed as opposed to any enemy’s influence.

God does not speak in vain.  He says, “I the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right,” (Isaiah 45:19).  And His word will always perform that which He commanded it: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it,” (Isaiah 55:11).

Yet, and still, in the story of Balak trying to hire Balaam to curse what God has already blessed, we see the enemy’s plan is to still try to thwart God’s plan for His people.  God showed Balaam that His people are blessed and not cursed.  He showed him His people are different than other nations and the number of His people is increasingly blessed as well (Numbers 23:8-10).

After another attempt by Balak to get Balaam to curse God’s people, when he spoke, this is what Balaam relayed to the king:

“Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor:

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.” (Numbers 23:18-20)

Whether the enemy likes it or not, God was not going to change His mind about blessing His people.  As a matter of fact, Balaam went further, tell Balak, “The LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them,” (Numbers 23:21).

God is with them.  He brought them out.  He is responsible for their deliverance.  There is nothing the enemy can speak against what God has already blessed (Numbers 23:23)!

Throughout this story, leading into chapter 24, it is evident to Balaam that it “pleased the LORD to bless Israel,” (Numbers 24:1) and there was nothing he or anybody else can do about it.

And that’s our take away from this lengthy story.  Only what God says over our lives or about us matters.  No matter which way, shape, or form another tries to speak over you, if it is not in line with what God already spoke, it will not work.  He is the Author of your story, and only He gets to write your ending.

So, where does that leave us when others are speaking something contrary?  The responsibility is on each of us to believe more in what God said and to only accept His Word as valid over our lives.

There are going to be many situations and people we face in life that will try to thwart your faith.  The aim of it all is to shake our foundations.  It’s to get us worked up in a frenzy so that we will be discouraged or afraid to move forward into where God has called us.

One picture in this whole story I like is that of the children of Israel themselves.  While all these attempts of others trying to curse them were going on, they were just down there, in the plains of Moab, pitching their tents, and resting in where God was leading them (Numbers 22:1).  They were doing and being what God called them out to do and be.  They were marching toward the Promised Land and gaining victories under their belt along the way.  It didn’t matter what others were saying on the sidelines.

Someone will always find an occasion to speak negatively over your life.  Situations will arise that will try to make you believe this is all it’s ever going to be, and it won’t get any better than this.

But, what did God say?

We are told in the Word of God of how important and valued we are to Him (Matthew 10:29-31).  We are told that we are His children (1 John 1:12), and as any good father would do, God takes care of His own.  We are told that He has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3).  We are told that He loved us even before we got our act together (Romans 5:8), and He continues to love us today because “God is love,” (1 John 4:8).  We are told we are not what we used to be (2 Corinthians 5:17) and now our identity is in Christ (Galatians 2:20).  We are told that God has a plan for His people (Jeremiah 29:11) and no matter what it looks like, it will work out for our good (Romans 8:28).

It’s not about what we feel, what they speak, or what we see before us.  It’s about what God says, and what He says will come to pass.  No enemy or situation can go beyond His Word!

“God is in Your Midst!”

“The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing,” Zephaniah 3:17

With the glow of the Christmas season behind us and packed away, the wonder of God coming near man should not be packed away also.  Oh, we hear it often leading up to December 25th, the promise that tells us, “They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us,” (Mt. 1:23).  What of the rest of our days?  Days past the Christmas season when trials of the mundane and every day rock your boat; when the disappointments of failure and difficulties of decisions come to war?

What then?

God is still here!

I thank God that that promise is just not for the Christmas season.  We are told over and over again in Scripture of the availability of God to draw near to man.  From Genesis through to Revelation speaks to the heart of man: “I am here.”  Exodus 17:7 asks the question, “Is the LORD among us, or not?”

The answer is a positive, “YES!”

Not only is He here but He is “mighty!”  Mighty means He is strong enough to handle whatever life throws at you.  Nothing surprises Him and nothing is impossible for Him, Luke 1:37.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” (Ps. 46:1).

The rest of this verse is just as reassuring.  God not only is in the midst, but He also specializes in deliverance.  In the above verse, it says, “He will save.”  To the person who yields to Him in faith, God can bring release.

Lastly, God will “rest in his love.”  God loves us.  His love is present with Him in the midst of where He is.  His love is assurance.  His love brings with it peace.  His love causes Him to “joy over thee with singing.”  Yes, God sings over the people He loves; “For God is love!” (1 Jn. 4:8).

God is here in your midst and with Him comes all His wonderful attributes of care and concern for His people.

“Purposing the Heart”

Reformations on the outside don’t always equal change on the inside.  It has been proven time and again throughout history, and even throughout the Bible.  A great leader can rise up and make the necessary plans and put programs into place that should foster positive growth in a specified area.  But, if those toward whom the program was geared to serve don’t have a true heart for change, then what we see is a lot of outer stuff being switched around without any real inner transformation taking place.

Jehoshaphat was such a leader.  Jehoshaphat reinvigorated the spirit of worship toward God once more for the people of Judah.  He, himself, “sought the God of his fathers, and walked in His commandments,” (2 Chronicles 17:4, NKJV).  And as such, he was compelled to make the “Book of the Law” available to anyone who would hear.  So he sent leaders throughout the region to teach God’s Word (2 Chronicles 17:7-9).

Another area of reformation that saw positive changes was with the judges.  Men who judge honestly and not take bribes.  Men who would “act in the fear of the LORD, faithfully and with a loyal heart,” (2 Chronicles 19:9, NKJV).

After many ups and downs during his reign, and even a miraculous victory that was won just through praise (2 Chronicles 20), when it came time for Jehoshaphat’s reign to end and he was noted as “doing what was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:32, NKJV)), the very next verse tells us the status of the people.  “Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, for as yet the people had not directed their hearts to the God of their fathers,” (2 Chronicles 20:33, NKJV).

Leaders are just that – leaders.  They can go out in front of the pack and try to lay the course for the best plan of action but it is up to the individual to let the compass of his/her heart to be guided in the right direction.  There is a personal responsibility to have a purposeful heart that will intentionally pursue one’s own relationship with God.

How we get on in our relationship with God cannot be put off on another.  We can’t shun the charge to follow wholeheartedly after Him and claim that it’s the fault of others for why we didn’t follow through.

The reason for the lack of follow-through lies literally at the center of one’s heart.  A heart that is not fully devoted to God is a heart that won’t be inclined to continue to live for Him when those people who bring that positive influence are no longer in our lives.  We have to want God for ourselves.  Our hearts have to be intentional in our daily living for Him.

How do we do that?  What does that look like?

A purposeful heart will diligently seek after God.  Seek Him through prayer.  Seek Him in the Word.  Seek Him in times of worship.  A heart that loves the Lord will want to know more about Him and these avenues can help turn one in the right direction.  The psalmist said, “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee,” (Psalm 119:10-11).

“I sought thee . . .”

“I hid” the word in my heart . . .

“I” denotes it is one’s personal obligation to charter the course of their own heart; to fill it with the purpose of God; to choose “the way of truth,” (Psalm 119:30).

Leaders can lead but we must make it up in our own minds and hearts to want all of Him as our own.  We must have a purposeful heart that steps closer to Him and not turns away (Proverbs 4:26-27).

David, a man after God’s own heart, became knowns as such because his desire, his goal, the purpose of his own heart was totally for God.  He is quoted as saying, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple,” (Psalm 27:4).  All the days of his life he wanted his heart directed toward God.

Purposing the heart is being intentional in going after God for one’s self.  Nobody else can do it for you.

“Peace on Earth”

Sin has destroyed peace.  Circumstances try to overrun peace.  Emotions can’t seem to grab hold of peace but, if this time of year teaches us nothing else, it’s that peace is still a very real thing to not only seek after but to find.

The Savior was born for peace.  He came to reconcile, restore, and offer peace to mankind of the likes they never could have else wise imagined having.  His peace is not commercial and it’s not superficial.  The peace of Christ is an inner peace that comes from knowing that even through the hardest trials of life, God’s love for each of us is so magnificent that He offered us this great gift, the best Christmas gift we could ever hope for, through His Blessed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace should not be so elusive for the heart to behold.  While the Shepherds were in that field on that holy night, the chorus of the angels rang out, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” (Luke 2:14).  Peace is part of the salvation package; it’s part of the gift we have received through Him.  While it may not always seem like it or even feel like it, in Christ you have a peace which, “passeth all understanding,” and this peace “shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:7).

Your life hidden in Him is something beyond human comprehension.  You are cemented in a joy that cannot be moved because the One who holds your hope cannot be moved.  Your Redeemer came as a babe and reigns as Victor and He, being the Author of your salvation, is not only your eternal reward in heaven, but He is your peace on earth today.

Father God, Help us through this season.  Not just the holiday season, but these seasons of life that we find ourselves wrapped in.  There are so many questions of why that we may not always understand.  There are circumstances that often we just cannot figure out.  Thankfully, You know it all together and you didn’t ask us to try to know the beginning from the end because You already do.  You asked us to have faith and just rest in the peace that Your Son has already given us.  For many, this time of year is very hard.  For some situations, we can’t begin to imagine the hurt and confusion one carries, so we stand and pray that people everywhere would feel a refreshing of Your peace in their lives today.  AMEN!

“Keep Your Eyes on Jesus!”

“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying Lord, save me,” Matthew 14:30

There was a point in Matthew 14 where the disciples were not sure if the image they were seeing was actually the Lord. Finding out that it was Him, in a move of boldness, Peter requested, “Bid me come unto thee on the water,” (vs. 28).  Jesus’ response – “Come!” (vs.29).

How difficult, had we not known this familiar story, would it have been for us to get out of that boat and venture to do the impossible?  I mean – really?!  People are not known for walking on water, which is one of the reasons, they originally thought Jesus was a spirit (vs. 26).  Watching Jesus take command over what normally cannot be subdued, moved something inside of Peter to do what Jesus did.

What would that have been like?  Awesome, indeed!  I love to swim so the idea of being able to physically walk on water would make me downright giddy.  Another thing that appeals to me about this story is the courage to at least try.  To see what it was like to break away from the normal and to do something extraordinary.

Extraordinary living!  Isn’t that what being in Christ is all about?  It’s a whole lot of faith mixed with a whole lot of stepping out that produces the results of one who has chosen to see and do life differently than those around him.  The rest stayed in the boat.  They were content with the status quo.  But, Peter felt a special draw to see what it was like to step out of the boat – to see what it was like to stand where Jesus stood.

As Peter found out, the road to extraordinary living can get rough.  A lot of stuff can and will rise up against us as those waves did, and seek to toss about our faith.  What Peter “saw” side-tracked him from getting to where Jesus was.  The truth of Peter’s experience in this story unfolds the same way for many of us.  If only the sea would be calm then we would be alright.  If only the waves of adversity would stop trying to slam you, then would you be able to walk on water, too.

Jesus never promised calm seas all the time.  But, what He did promise was, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” (Matthew 28:20).  It is hard to try to live an extraordinary life when one takes their eyes off of Jesus and what He promised.  It’s one thing to recognize Jesus, but then we have the individual responsibility to stay focused on Him.  No matter what the seas are doing in our life, He promised to be there with us.  Always!

“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).  In essence, He was stating that He was right there with Peter, so why did Peter take his eyes off of Jesus?

Sinking in life doesn’t always happen that fast.  Little by little one begins to predominantly focus on the problems of life instead of the Life Preserver, who promised to be there for you.  God wants us to step out into extraordinary living.  By keeping our eyes on Jesus we can do the impossible.  We can walk on water, too!  He is with you, always!

“The Babe of Bethlehem”

“And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,  And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” Matthew 2:5-6

At the writing of Matthew 2:5-6, over 700 years have gone by since the Old Testament prophet Micah told of a Ruler that would be birthed out of this little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-3).  While over those centuries of waiting, countless babies have entered this world and linked the beginning of their lives to this motherland, only One’s heritage can connect the dots with those long-ago words that herald the coming of the Savior of the world.

He would be the freedom the world has longingly yearned for.  He would be the peace, souls since the beginning of time, have dreamt about.  He would be the Shepherd who would not lead with a rod or a staff, but with His life.  This blessed Babe of Bethlehem would be the all eternal One, whose days are from everlasting (Micah 5:).  He would be the Babe seen as He “who is, and who was, and which is to come, the Almighty,” (Revelation 1:8), and He would change everything the world once knew.

No wonder hearts were stirred.  No wonder souls were searching with excitement.  No wonder kingdoms were in a ruckus.  The Babe of Bethlehem was no ordinary babe.  He was God incarnate, God in the flesh, “God with us,” (Matthew 1:23).  The imperfect people born in this world would need the help of that perfect Savior born in Bethlehem.

The celebration of Christmas is the celebration of that precious Babe who had finally arrived in the world to bring this long-awaited hope.  He that was born as the prophesied Messiah would lift the judgment of condemnation for those who not only seek Him but find Him.  And, they are no longer content to have Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, but their soul’s desire is to wrap Him in their hearts.

 

“Just a little bit more…”

 

Just a little bit more is all it really takes to turn someone’s day around.  I have been hearing some wonderfully inspiring stories lately of people who just do a little bit more than necessary.  It’s not hard to fulfill a requirement but when one chooses, to go beyond the necessary, I absolutely find it heartwarming.  It reminds you there are people who genuinely care, not just for themselves, but for others as well.

One video I recently came across on social mediate wasn’t necessarily grandiose in its delivery, but it was something someone chose to do to put an extra smile on the face of his students.  It was a principal who made up a creative “snow day” song to accompany the normal, drab announcement (link here).

I know, I know.  There are many, many wonderful and touching videos about.  So, why did I choose to focus on this one?  Simply, it put a smile on my face when I saw it.  And, I imagine on the face of those who initially received it.  It was a normal man, doing a normal job, with a little extra umph.

With so much focus on grand this and that, it’s nice to know that in just the ordinary of ordinary days, we can do a little something extra to make someone else’s day.

The Bible teaches us to be “others” centered.  The whole of everything we do on this earth is not just about us.  It’s about the lives we touch along the way.  It’s about the impact we make in the stories we write for our days that include others and what we did to help out just a little bit.  It’s about going the proverbial second mile beyond what I have to do to intentionally seek to make someone else’s day better; stepping out of self to serve another.  What a way to brighten someone’s day and show the love of Christ in action if we adopt more of that second-mile mentality and go beyond our ordinary.  Let’s put a smile on the face of others and quite possibly have a positive impact on our world today.

“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,” (Matthew 5:41).  Do the necessary, but then, go just a little bit more 🙂 

 

“Follow the Star!”

Hope.  I have to believe their journey was measured with steps of hope.  They’ve heard the prophecies.  They have studied to know when and where and what to look for and at its appearing in the sky they knew for sure, somehow, some way, that by following that particular star, it would lead them to the source of all hope being fulfilled.  It would lead them to the Messiah, the true King, who is worthy to be honored, worshipped and praised (Matthew 2:1-2).

There’s a lot of following and pursuits that people chase after every day.  But, if those steps aren’t leading us closer to the true King then it is a vain journey.  To have that wonderful life or miracle of newness on any street we don’t need to wait for a fictitious figment of our imagination to come to town.  We need to place one spiritual foot in front of the other and go after the true Star.

Not the twinkling celestial bodies in the sky that give light to the objects below, but the Star who is the “light of the world,” (John 8:12) that allows us to escape the darkness of sin and breathes new life into the dreary souls of these world travelers, illuminating a new path for our journey.

It is Him we are to look for.  It is Christ we are to chase after.  And, as they say, “Wise men still seek Him.”  Therefore, follow the Star.  For He is not only the King of the Jews the men of the old days were seeking after.   He is also the King of our hearts and the fulfiller of all the hope we are in search of.

“Difficult days don’t have the final say. God does!”

Do you ever feel like you seem to be doing everything you know to be good and right, and yet, more trouble seems to knock on your door?  You’re doing what is expected and what you believe you are called to do, but things just don’t seem to pan out the way you planned and difficulty follows?

It’ not unheard of for steps of faith to be met with challenges or moving into where you feel God leading to suddenly see trouble rear its ugly head, and/or even increase.

I was reminded of this as I read through the book of Exodus.  The children of Israel had been in bondage for over four hundred years and God was ready to deliver them.  He sent Moses to Pharaoh as the lead man on this deliverance project and demanded that he let His people go.

Rather than heed God’s demand given through Moses, Pharaoh ridiculed, saying, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?” (Exodus 5:2).

To make matters worse, Pharaoh’s stubborn attitude toward God and His people didn’t stop there.  As a slap in the face, he increased the burden of their work and made their daily toil even harder and more difficult then it had previously been.

Moses was taken aback by this and even took his concerns to God saying, “For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all,” (Exodus 5:23).

Times like these can be confusing and hard to take in, but as I kept reading there are some very encouraging words God spoke directly to Moses during those difficult days that I believe can help us too if we apply it to our own circumstances.  From those beautiful, God-inspired sentiments, I have gleaned a few “remembering” points for us to hold on to.

  1. Remember, God has a plan. “Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land,” (Exodus 6:1). What we “see” is not what God sees.  Our view of even our own circumstances is limited to the here and now.  But God sees the past, the here and now, and the plan coming to fulfillment in the future.  While we struggle to get through the day to day, God already knows the end from the beginning and everything He is pushing us for and leading us through is that one day we will get to experience the end of that plan that He already sees.
  2. Remember who God is. “And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty…” (Exodus 6:2-3). God knows who He is, but we are the ones that need reminding who we are dealing with – or rather, who it is that is dealing on our behalf.  God is God all by Himself.  He exists of Himself.  He is Creator and Originator of all.  He is the “high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy…” (Isaiah 57:15).  He is our eternal God who reigns forever and ever (Exodus 15:18) and we must remember that it is this same, powerful and wonderful God that is with us even on the days when it seems like trouble is running rampant.
  3. Remember, God is in a covenant relationship with His people. “I have established by covenant with them…” (Exodus 6:4; compare Psalm 105:8-11). God’s covenant covers so many things for His people (i.e. they would increase, and the land of Canaan would be theirs).  When God binds Himself to an oath and says He’s going to do something, He’s going to do it (see Isaiah 54:10).  The process to get there may not look like we envisioned, but in a covenant, God is covering and protecting what He said for His people, and it shall come to pass.  And, because we are in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we too are now in a covenant relationship where God has us covered as well (see Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:15).
  4. Remember, God sees and hears what you are going through. “I have also heard the groanings of the children of Israel…” (Exodus 6:5).  The hairs of your head are numbered (Matthew 10:30).  You are of great value to God (Luke 12:7).  And, you are incredibly loved by God.  You are never far from God’s thoughts (Psalm 40:5).  With that being said, God sees, and God hears.  Sometimes the wait is long (they waited over four hundred years), but God is not oblivious to your plight and what you’re dealing with.  God is very much mindful and attentive to the goings on in your life.  He is genuinely concerned with the things you are concerned about and just because we don’t see Him immediately moving to remedy the troublesome situations doesn’t mean He’s not behind the scenes working it out.
  5. Remember, God’s promises will never fail. “Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.  And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord,” (Exodus 6:6-8).  Now, this one is quite extensive and with good reason.  In the above verses, we find several “I will” statements of God.  These are imperative because with God’s “I will” statements there is always a fulfilling of what He said He would do.  That’s crucial to our faith and even in our ability to hang on in there when days just don’t seem to be working out for us.  Every single thing He promised the children of Israel during that time came to pass and later, Joshua was able to say, “There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass,” (Joshua 21:45).  We must believe that when God gives us a promise, in the same way He did for those back then, He will do it for us too.  Yes, there will be hard times – sometimes harder than some will ever know, but we have a God who is not only in charge of everything we are facing, but He is also in charge of everything we have been promised and He is the only one that can bring those promises to pass.

Difficult days, we’re all sure to experience them from time to time but all does not have to feel at a loss.  Listen to the encouragement that God gave to Moses and hold on to those words.  Let what God says on the matter overrun what your circumstances, people, or even the things we tell ourselves about the matter.  Surely, what He has to say is more powerful and helpful to help get us through even the most adverse of times.

Through it all, we know the end of their story was a success.  God did everything He said He would do and the people were freed from a life of servitude and bondage, proving difficult days don’t have the final say.  God does!