Psalms 90:12

“A little birdie told me.” We say that to indicate someone divulged to us a bit of information we were not meant to hear, but for today, a sparrow’s accident literally illustrates the brevity of our lives.

“Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise.” (Psalms‬ ‭90:12‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

I have no idea if it was a male or female, or whether it was flying for the sheer joy of being able to, or attempting to find food for itself or its family–but it flew straight into our patio door and died. As a matter of fact, it’s still there on his back with his little legs curled up on top of him as if he’s merely taking a nap–I haven’t had the heart to dispose of him properly yet. But even though his remains are there, “he”–the living creature he formerly was–is quite gone, and I doubt the poor thing had any idea his life would end so abruptly.

And isn’t that just like us? We rush about trying to juggle the existential tension of the urgent demands of survival and that which is eternally important, never fully comprehending how abruptly–in less than the blink of an eye–our existence could be truncated.

And we often fail to recognize that what we call “life”–the living, breathing, functioning essence of our existence–is of God.

“Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” (Genesis‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

“…the Spirit of God has [literally] made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job‬ ‭33:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬) We acquire life from God, and even though we call it ours, it is a gift–a privilege–and will someday be recalled to its Giver to give an account for how it was spent. When will that be? We don’t know, but we do know that “…Every day of my life was recorded…[And] Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalms‬ ‭139:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬) God knows when.

So how should we then live, to quote Francis Shaffer’s famous book? How should knowing that our lives could end at any moment impact how we approach our day by day activities–our interactions with others, our decisions, our relationship with Christ Himself?

We must always “…remember that the heavenly Father to whom …[we] pray has no favorites. [That] He will judge or reward…[us] according to what…[we] do. So…[we] must live in reverent fear of Him during…[our] time here as “temporary residents.”” (1 Peter‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

But hasn’t Jesus Christ paid for our sins? Why must I be so concerned with how I live? We must be concerned with how we live because Jesus came to save us from our sins–in this life and the next–not take away the punishment for sin so we can sin more and more. Any sin is an affront to the holiness of God, and He forgives us because of Jesus His Son, but our holy life lived in reverent fear–our high regard for God–is evidence of our belief in Christ Jesus.

In closing, I’m going to quote the entire passage this verse is found in, because Bible verses should never be taken out of context, and reading it all helps us better understand:

“So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.” (1 Peter‬ ‭1:13-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Dear Jesus,

Be my Lord–my real Master, the Boss of my life. Impress on me the true brevity of my life, that I may apply my heart to wisdom and live in reverent fear of the gravity of my situation for the moments I have left. Amen.

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Romans 1:19-20

Are you discerning? Do you see through situations down to their substance, or are you distracted and misled by appearances? Granted, some of these abilities are acquired with age, but even those who are younger can develop the skills that help them see that things are not always as they overtly seem.

“…Yes, God has shown Himself to them. There are things about Him that people cannot see—His eternal power and all the things that make Him God. But since the beginning of the world those things have been easy to understand by what God has made…” (Romans‬ ‭1:19-20‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Sorry, dear reader, but I’m back to macro-evolution–not breeding, but the billions of years. And at the risk of appearing archaic and rigidly set in my thinking, I’m going to continue to declare that it is a real life instance of “The Emperor’s New [nonexistent] Clothes.” Why? Not because of any credible peer-reviewed research produced by scientific inquiry, but because of intentional or unintentional interpretational bias. What’s that, you ask? So happy to let you know!

Whenever you do research–when you observe something and acquire data from those observations–you then have to interpret that data. If, for example, I go out every morning and take a measurement of the pounds of air in my driver’s side front tire, and find that each day that number is going down, I then have to interpret that set of data–I have to take a guess as to why it’s doing so; I have to put meaning to it.

So with my tires, I could guess that there’s a small leak in the tire causing a certain amount of air to escape each day. If each day was successively colder, however, I could also guess that there is no leak, but that the air is simply contracting in response to the decreasing temperature. I could, also, however, guess that every night my neighbor gets up after I have fallen asleep, and lets out a bit of air. As the researcher on this project, I can attribute whatever explanation I choose to the data I’ve collected. Now let’s suggest I’ve had problems in the past with my neighbor and I’m

in the process of collecting evidence to officially accuse him of harassment–can you see how I might be more inclined to interpret my otherwise totally objective data to have been caused by his nefarious involvement?

In this example, of course, it is relatively easy to determine the exact cause of the progressively diminishing tire pressure. If it hasn’t successively gotten colder each day, it’s not the temperature; if I camp out by my window and watch my car all night to make sure it’s not my neighbor, I can disqualify that too. But with research on man’s origins it’s not that easy, because you simply cannot go back and personally check to see what happened. So you, as the researcher, postulate–you personally interpret the data you have on whatever it is you studied or observed.

Of course, any researcher worth their salt will vehemently deny any bias in their interpretation of the data, but bias is unavoidable because we are human, not machine. None of us grew up or live in a vacuum; all of us have a worldview and opinions, and some things make more sense to us than other things.

So going back to macro-evolution–do the findings reported actually prove God’s Word in error and substantiate macro-evolution? Or, do they–to the degree there was accurate collection of data and peer-reviewed scientific research–present information, which has then been interpreted in a specific way, according to the leanings of the particular researcher and the trends of the scientific community as a whole? The answer is the latter: all scientific findings are interpreted. But why, you could rightly ask, are we bombarded with findings that seem to further bolster macro-evolutionary theories, yet rarely hear about dissenting scientific opinions? Why do there appear to be so few of these dissenting voices?

The reason we hear so much about pro-macroevolutionary findings is because society as a whole is eager to throw off the constraints of obligation to the Divine–it’s our rebellious human sin-nature. And the reason there are fewer dissenting voices is because of evolutionary bias–because those who speak out are frequently ridiculed, silenced, or further excluded from academic or scientific participation.

Yet enough still do speak out–there are credible voices that recognize the problems and attempt to let others know, and these are the voices we need to pay particular attention to, because they will help us see through the headlines to the substance beneath–because it is never as cut and dry as it appears. But those who trust in God know that–we are just increasingly made to feel intellectually feeble and scientifically foolish to continue to cling to observation, common sense and the obvious, in light of the “pro-evolutionary” findings bombarding us.

My son gifted me with a bouquet of dendrobium orchids for my recent birthday–and they are absolutely beautiful! But what impressed me (again, because I see this in so much of nature) is their design–the creative genius of their Maker. When I opened them in my darker kitchen, they seemed purple. But observed outside in natural light, they practically run the gamut of the color spectrum! The stems are the typical almost yellow-green “stem-green;” the unopened buds are teal; the underbelly of the opened blossoms are a bright medium-toned robin’s-egg blue; and the blossoms themselves are fuschia, mixed with purple. In other words–they are nothing short of artistic genius!

I’ve seen that same artistic genius in my German Shepherd’s, or my daughter’s ferret’s, fur–the variegation and subtlety of coloring that changes from one end of a single piece of fur to the other! Yet the evolutionary “evangelists”–the vocal pro-evolution atheistic and agnostic voices–tell me I have to contain the natural impulse they acknowledge exists within us all to worship the Force behind the creation–because, well, even though we’re moved by our very innermost being to worship the Designer, there actually is no Designer behind the design? I’m sorry, no; I beg to differ!!

And the reason I can differ is not because I am archaic or rigidly set in my thinking, or because I am intellectually feeble or scientifically foolish; it is because it is rational to differ with that which is in error. Moreover, I stand in the company of brave men and woman throughout history who have dissented with that which was wrong, regardless of the the current train of thought on the particular issue!

Dear Lord God,

Thank You that You have shown Yourself to us; that since the beginning of the world Your eternal power and all the things that make You God have been easy to understand by what You made! Amen.

https://books.google.com/books/about/Darwin_s_Doubt.html?id=V4wic0sHGB8C&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button

https://books.google.com/books/about/Signature_in_the_Cell.html?id=RUGKBdKawDUC&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button

https://www.amazon.com/Signature-Controversy-Responses-Critics-Cell/dp/0979014182

https://evolutionnews.org/2006/02/over_500_scientists_proclaim_t/

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Matthew 13:41-43

What’s with the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” phrase mentioned in the four Gospels in almost all translations of the Bible? The terminology is so archaic–we rarely use the word “weep” in lieu of “crying” anymore, and we certainly never talk about “gnashing teeth;” yet most translators have retained this phrase. Why is that, and what does it actually mean?

“The Son of Man will send his angels [literally “messengers”], and they will remove from His Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” (Matthew‬ ‭13:41-43‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Jesus used the phrase translated “weeping and gnashing of teeth” multiple times to attempt to convey the horror at their judgment of those who obstinately set their hearts and minds against God and refused to get right with Him in life. It is a remorse beyond comprehension–an ultimate recognition of the lunacy of a choice that can no longer be altered; of a wrong decision for which there is no do-over. This is because at that point they have fully personally experienced that “…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,” (Hebrews‬ ‭9:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

Jesus told parables–stories about things the people were familiar with–to illustrate spiritual truths, and one was about a rich man and a poor beggar who sat at his gate. The rich man did nothing to help the beggar’s plight in life (evidencing his rejection of God), they both died, and the rich man was summarily punished. In torment, he begged someone be sent to his brothers (who were still alive, presumable living lives as oblivious of the spiritual and their accountability before God as their brother’s) to warn them of what awaited if they didn’t change course. The response was that they have Scripture–God’s testimony of the necessity of turning from our selfish ways to trusting in and walking humbly with Him throughout our time here–and that if they reject that, it wouldn’t make a difference even if someone came back from the dead.

Well, Someone did subsequently come back from the dead–Jesus Himself–and to most, it still hasn’t made a difference. And there were others; before He was killed, Jesus raised three people from the dead: a man named Lazarus, the son of a widow from Nain, and the daughter of a man named Jairus. What’s more, when He died it was recorded that, “At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)” (Matthew‬ ‭27:51-53‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

Even these days we have accounts–granted they are rare, but there are some–of near death experiences: people whose bodies physically died, but who subsequently came back to life and tell others what they experienced. Some write books; others simply go back to their lives, explaining to everyone they meet what happened. I personally met one such person. He came to repair our furnace maybe ten years ago, and told me that he had a heart attack and died in 1974. Since that He has been talking about God with everyone He meets, explaining to them that God is real, heaven is real, and that it’s just not true that there’s nothing beyond the physical.

Yet prejudice against anything beyond the physical is perhaps the most formidable of foes, because it’s so hard to try to convince those who simply refuse to believe that there is a dimension we struggle to understand while in these bodies–a reality not dream-like, but more vibrant and actual and intense than anything we have or will experience physically while alive, but which others who have tasted it try to convey to us.

Yes, it exists–and that is the horror, the “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Once those–however you want to call them: the ungodly, the unrepentant; who wanted no part of Christ, who rejected Him; who wanted to live life without Him doing what they want; who didn’t believe, didn’t want to believe, didn’t give it the time of day; who closed up their minds and ears to what God was urging them to believe through the loving urging of others in their lives; who through their own stubborn will made themselves His enemies–have died and see firsthand the truth of what they refused before death–the incredible glory of the eternal God, the joy and beauty and goodness and love they are forever excluded from, and the torment they now have–the only response will be horror; the “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

But there is an alternative–this doesn’t have to be you. It isn’t “religion;” it’s Christ–placing our destiny, our complete trust, in Him. It’s realizing that through His incredible love for us, He already made us right with God, if we will only come to Him and trust in Him enough to turn away from self-will to letting God show us how to live the lives we were meant to!

Dear holy God,

Forgive me because of Jesus; bring me to eternity safely through Him! Amen.

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Romans 12:21

What do you do when you’re down? We may not want to think about it, but all of us do get upset at least occasionally, and we all react differently when we’re in a bad place emotionally. Some of us only get upset rarely–maybe on a day that holds particular significance to us, like Christmas or Valentine’s Day–others feel the downward pull of their negative emotions more frequently. Yet how we handle ourselves when we’re down is of utmost importance–to ourselves, to the those around us, and most importantly, to Jesus!

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans‬ ‭12:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty good emotionally most of the time. I know myself enough to avoid dealing with important issues after a certain hour of the day because everything seems more depressing the later it gets, and things that seem catastrophic at bedtime frequently reveal themselves to be of almost trifling significance in the light of the morning. Yet we all have an Achilles’ Heel; an emotional weakness–something that can really attack our hearts and minds, if we let it latch on.

It might be the memory of a loved one who is no longer with you, whether because of death or abandonment, or a holiday that should be wonderful, but which you have come to genuinely wish you could avoid because of a negative experience or association. For me, it’s my birthday–and not because I’m a year older!

Now, you’d think a birthday a happy day, and it typically is. You get greetings from people you normally don’t see often, and maybe, if you’re lucky, some cake and gifts, or a meal out or even a party. But each of us is different, and for me, this particular day each year seems to overwhelm me with reminders of my perceived insignificance to others–of not being loved.

I could delve into my childhood and pull out memories of birthdays not being particularly special occasions, or that I was an only child, or the absence of friends to whom I was special enough to make a big deal over. I could bring to mind all the festive celebrations I’ve participated in over the years, and watched others being made much of, and somehow, perhaps–whether rightly or wrongly–come to the conclusion that if you are loved, you will be made much of–if at no other time, at least on your birthday.

This might actually sound absolutely ridiculous to you. Your trigger might, in fact, be something completely different than mine—but when it attacks, how do you respond? What do you do? Do you get angry and yell and scream, or maybe, hold it in and become bitter? Do you reach for something destructive–for a drink, a cigarette, or a pill? Or, do you look for some other dramatic way to let others know just how wrong they were to not fully meet all your expectations of them?

Well, it was my birthday again today, and I felt sad. I’d like to say that I fell on my knees right away, spent much time in prayer, and was then wonderfully better, but the truth is that I quietly cried and felt sorry for myself much of the evening–not a response that brought glory to God in the least! Eventually, I decided to take a walk. It was completely dark by this time, so I basically kept going around the blocks near my home over and over again, and over, and over again, and then–something amazing happened: my spirit began worshipping God! Perhaps it was the physical exercise kicking my mind out of its funk, or maybe it was the sound of the crickets, or the beauty of the trees contrasted against the darkened sky, but whatever it was, it was nothing short of amazing, because instead of continuing to wallow in my private pity party, I was drawn out of myself into the majesty of God–I even started to sing worship!

And that’s what it’s all about–Whom it’s all about. Whenever we descend into our own particular downward spiral, whether once a year or once a day, chances are we’ve done so because we’ve lost sight of Whom it’s all about: we’ve lost sight of Jesus! If we keep Him ever before us–if it’s really all about Him in our lives–we won’t become so bent out of shape when we feel we’ve been wronged. Because, if you think about it, whenever we get bent out of shape, that’s really it–we almost always feel we’ve been wronged, that somehow our person or our rights have been violated (whether they actually have or not).

Yet, Jesus–as in every situation of life–is our example in this too. He suffered the utmost violation on the cross–so much more than anything we could possibly ever go through–and His response was one of utmost goodness: “…Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke‬ ‭23:34‬ ‭NIV‬‬) He gave the perfect example of not being overcome by the evil that attacked His body and threatened to attack His mind, but rather, He overcame it–and gave us an example of how to overcome our “attackers”–with good!

So, the next time you find yourself going to a emotional place you know isn’t honoring to God–stop! Back up a couple of steps and do what you probably don’t at all feel like doing at that instant–call out to God. Ask Him to help you not be overcome with evil, but rather to overcome the evil that threatens you with good–and then–praise Him! Sing worship aloud to Him, speak the Psalms–do anything that affirms His glory and majesty and goodness and preeminence in your life. And if you resolve and continue to focus your eyes continually on Christ, watch Him pull you up out of your deep place and help you overcome the evil that threatens you with good!Believe it–He will!!

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help us not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good! Amen.

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Proverbs 22:29

How good are you at what you do? Whatever it is you do, whether at school, on the job, at church or in your community–do you always do a great job? Moreover, do you keep working to perfect the skills you have and get better? Or, do you just go through the motions because it’s something you’re expected to do?

“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.” (Proverbs‬ ‭22:29‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

What makes the difference between an amateur and a professional–between a wanna-be and the real deal? I just watched an exercise video a friend posted on Facebook that visually illustrated the answer to this question–at least as it pertains to exercise videos!

The entire group knew the motions, but the leader–the woman center front–was clearly the professional. She performed exactly the same moves everyone else did, but hers were crisp and sharp from start to finish. She had a perfect smile glued on her face throughout, she moved her head to look completely to the side when the move required it, and she was just as energetic and enthusiastic at the end of the video as at the beginning! Clearly, she knew, and had practiced and perfected, the skills of a great video instructor. And even though I don’t typically watch exercise videos, I sat through the entire clip and genuinely enjoyed it, simply because her performance was so good!

It’s the same with anything else in life, and that’s what today’s verse is all about! Consider any aspiration or endeavor in life–it’s always those who are exceptional who rise to the top, whom we follow and admire and want to be like. These are the people who typically end up in the spotlight, or with the best jobs and the best pay, because, well…they are the best at what they do! But how did they get there? Were they born good at what they do?

You can always argue a “nature” component to anything–that someone was born with more natural ability at something than another person–but the truth is that even those with the potential to become great aren’t handed actual greatness on a silver platter: they have to work hard at it to develop the potential into actual abilities. And many who don’t seem particularly talented can frequently achieve greatness if they work hard enough at perfecting themselves.

This isn’t an argument to choose the most unlikely and difficult endeavor to tackle; rather, think about your own life–what is it that you do, could do, or would like to do? Whatever it is, pick something, and perfect it!

Take our youngest daughter: possibly because we homeschooled for many years and because she was often alone in her room, she ended up spending a lot of time drawing. Every child picks up a crayon, but she kept at it; even when video games entered her life, I would often find her drawing. She started out with manga characters from books, but wasn’t content simply to copy them–she found an art model we had purchased for her brother and practiced drawing the characters in different poses–reaching up on tiptoe, twisting, sitting. At some point her brother passed down to her a program for drawing on the computer and she worked at mastering that–until now, at age sixteen, her drawings (no longer copied, but of her own choice of pose and activity) are every bit as good as any manga you would see in a book. That’s skill, and it’s an excellent example of how to perfect whatever it is God has gifted you with!

The problem is that we sometimes look around and see the people who have already put in an awful lot of time to perfect their craft, and we get discouraged because we’re not there yet. My daughter frequently gets oohs and ahs when other kids see her work, and they probably think she’s just naturally very gifted, not realizing she has put in the time and practice to get good! I work with someone who’s a genuine people person and very successful at selling, and the rest of us are sometimes tempted to get discouraged faced with that kind of competition, but the moral of the story is not to resent those who have already achieved excellence in their field, but learn from them–because they have lessons we can profit from.

But the first thing to figure out is what you’re going to invest yourself in. Sometimes life hands you something and you don’t have much of a choice, but other times you can participate in the decision. I don’t sell for a living; it was something I got into part-time for a little extra money years ago when our children were younger, and never really got out of. I’ve developed as a person as a result of it, but I have no desire whatsoever to make my mark on life in sales. I do, however, care very much about people’s eternal destiny–and love to write–so I keep writing this blog! Because words are the tools of a writer’s trade, I keep a running vocabulary list of unfamiliar words, and if I don’t grow old and die before I have available money to do so, I would like to do graduate studies in Apologetics.

So what’s the take-away? Apply yourself! Find something that you can do and become the best at it. If you’re on the volleyball team, practice until all of your serves go over the net and you can spike the ball over the net. If you’re on the speech team, write the best speech you can and practice it until you can say it exceptionally, even if woken up from a deep sleep at 3am! If you’re preparing to become a translator, keep honing your language skills; if you need to take the architecture licensing exams, study and study and study and study–and then study some more! We become good at that which we’ve worked at enough.

Our youngest got good not by just drawing the same characters over and over, but by also progressing onto drawing them in different poses and with different media, and that’s how you get better at anything. You take whatever it is that you’re trying to master and do it often enough until it’s great–then you take it to the next level and perfect that too–and on and on and on!

And what’s the result? Why should we bother? Sometimes Christian people get the wrong idea that God doesn’t want us to be too good at what we do, but nothing could be further from the truth! God doesn’t want us to be prideful–to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to, to see ourselves with “God’s eyes”–but excellence itself glorifies Him! It shows the world an incredible God, who has created people who can reflect Him with the creativity and intelligence and excellence He has endowed them with and use it to do “the good works that He has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them!”

So, are you good at what you do? Are you making the effort to get better at it, to perfect your skills so that your work reflects the excellence and glory of the One who endowed you with these skills? I truly hope so!

Dear Lord,

Thank You for the abilities and opportunities You’ve given me; help me develop them so I can faithfully reflect Your excellence and bring You glory! Amen.

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2 Corinthians 5:16:21

Are you telling the people in your life about Jesus Christ and the acceptance we have with God through Him? Are you trying your best to impress on them that He is real, that the accounts in the Bible really happened, and that it is vitally important for them to come to Christ Jesus? Have you made peace with God through Jesus yourself?

“We are careful not to judge people by what they seem to be, though we once judged Christ in this way. Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new. God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace between himself and others. What we mean is that God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And he has given us the work of sharing his message about peace. We were sent to speak for Christ, and God is begging you to listen to our message. We speak for Christ and sincerely ask you to make peace with God. Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so Christ could make us acceptable to God.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:16-21‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

Before He physically went up to heaven, Jesus told those who followed Him to, “…go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize [wash] them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you…” (Matthew‬ ‭28:19-20‬ ‭NCV‬‬) This instruction wasn’t just for those people present when He spoke these words two thousand years ago; it was for all who follow Him in any age, including us today. The command still stands–we are to make followers of everyone, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything Jesus taught.

But how are we to make people followers of Jesus? Is there a special formula? What exactly are we supposed to tell them? And what if they don’t get it, or don’t believe, or even openly reject what we’re trying to pass on to them–what are we to do if they don’t respond like we’d hoped?

So here’s the thing: the message of Jesus is for everyone, and for all times, because the God of the Bible is not just the God of the Ancient Jews–He’s not some kind of regional deity–He is everyone’s God.

There was, actually, a time when everyone did know Him; then sin contaminated our world. And it tainted our understanding of God and separated us from Him, and then no one knew Him anymore. Eventually, God chose a small people group–the descendants of Abraham through Isaac–through which to reveal Himself to the rest of the world. The laws He gave, the system He set up for them was intended to show the rest of the world in some small way what real life was like–holiness, friendship with Him, the absence of sin no one retained a memory of anymore.

And there was a plan to fix the problem from the beginning. It was that eventually God Himself, in the person of His Son, would be physically born into that nation to pay the penalty of judgment on sin in our place and open the door to rightness with God again, for all who trust in Jesus for forgiveness and acceptance. So why aren’t we erecting more buildings to contain the overflow of those pressing into our churches on Sunday morning? Why are most people pretty much oblivious to Him, living their lives as if He doesn’t exist or is irrelevant?

Well, I’m not sure I know. Maybe it’s because it’s so easy to ignore Him these days. We’re not being taught about Him in school everyday anymore like we used to be up until about seventy or so years ago. We don’t hear about it in the media, except to perhaps cast doubt on its veracity or on the integrity of its adherents when someone does something obviously wrong. It is, in fact–incredibly–totally possible to live out pretty much your entire life avoiding dealing with the fact that He exists and provided a solution for the gap between what we are and what we were intended to be.

But–and here’s the kicker–we’ve got an expiration date–a date with destiny, so to speak. So even if we’ve avoided facing God our entire life, we’re going to nonetheless give an account for it at the moment of death–each and every one of us. “…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,” (Hebrews‬ ‭9:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) Carl Sagan and Steven Hawking and all of the other dead famous, infamous and unknown individuals who were convinced there is nothing beyond the grave have already seen God; you will too someday.

So what’s the problem? Why is it so hard to convince people God is real and we need to pay attention to Him now, while we’re still alive? Jesus Himself explained why:

“God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them! No one who has faith in God’s Son will be condemned. But everyone who doesn’t have faith in him has already been condemned for not having faith in God’s only Son. The light has come into the world, and people who do evil things are judged guilty because they love the dark more than the light. People who do evil hate the light and won’t come to the light, because it clearly shows what they have done. But everyone who lives by the truth will come to the light, because they want others to know that God is really the one doing what they do.” (John‬ ‭3:16-21‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

Jesus opened the door; there is no reason for any of us to suffer eternity separated from Him! The only reason remaining is if you harden your heart and refuse to hear what He says–if you want no part of Him. Don’t do it! Nothing in your life–no pleasure, no fulfillment, no love–is worth being separated from Him now or in eternity!

Dear Lord Jesus,

Thank You for what You have done, and that You accept everyone who comes to You. I come to You–forgive me; accept me! Amen.

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Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

Are you a young adult? Are you married? If not–why? A lot of people these days are choosing to remain single longer, perhaps as a backlash against a “let’s-get-married-while-we’re-still-practically-children-ourselves” mentality. Yet while premature marriage is frequently unwise, in many cases it is equally ill-advised to continue indeterminately uncommitted to a significant other along life’s trajectory. And while there is one good reason for not marrying–wanting to be less encumbered so you have more of yourself available to serve God–this is rarely the reason most people stay single longer.

Which brings us to a series of questions. Why do I have to marry–can’t I just have a committed sexual relationship with someone outside of the legal constraints and complications of marriage? Does it have to be with a man if I’m a woman, or with a woman if I’m a man, and why, when so many these days are legally marrying same-sex partners? What should this person look like–are there any particular qualities I should search for as I contemplate marriage, or is the first person I fall in love with “the one?” Ultimately, why should I do it–why should I get married?

“I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, ‘Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?’ It is all so meaningless and depressing. Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes‬ ‭4:7-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

These are all great questions, but they do have answers.

The reason you should marry legally is because it is God’s plan for you to be intimate in all aspects (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically) with one individual for the duration of your life–unless that person dies, in which case you are free to remarry someone else. We were created to bond to one other person, not multiple individuals–either concurrently or sequentially. Even if you commit completely to one individual outside of marriage not only common sense, but also research, indicates that cohabitation is much less likely result in an actual marriage than if you marry before moving in together.

And yes, people do have sex, and even move in together, without being married. But it is like giving a part of who you are away to each of these other individuals, so that when you finally do marry, you no longer possess your entire self intact as you enter your marriage! You now have intimate memories of individuals you ought not to have, and a portion of you remains in their memories and experiences–individuals whom you did not marry, and who had no valid right to a part of you, to whom you had no right to give that part of yourself away to. Whether you acknowledge it or not, it will affect your marriage on some level and in some capacity. Ultimately, you have wronged you spouse by depriving them of everything you should have been able to present them with on your wedding day.

But what about same-sex marriage–is that okay? It is as legally binding as a heterosexual marriage, so is it a legitimate option? It isn’t, for a very basic reason.

Even if you don’t like or believe that it’s not our loving heavenly Father’s plan for us, think about it. The reason a man is to find a suitable woman, and a woman is to find a suitable man is that we are created to be complimentary. Homosexual relationship, no matter how different the particular individuals involved, are sexually like with like. We may not accept that there are any real differences between men and women, yet biology proves us wrong. Women are simply genetically different than men, and men are genetically different than women. Even with surgery and drugs to alter our outward appearance and regardless of how we feel about ourselves personally, internally we are what our genetics say we are, and a same-sex individual–as wonderful as friendship with a person of the same sex can be–can never complement and fulfill us as the right person of the opposite sex will. Granted, we can always settle for less than best and go ahead anyway, but even apart from the obvious of having a biological family together, the best same-sex marriage will not–unfortunately for those who really want it to be otherwise–ever be quite what the right heterosexual marriage would be.

Part of the problem, I feel, is that our culture has forgotten the value of non-romantic same-sex friendships. In other cultures, women tend to spend more time with the greater community of women, and men routinely hang out with other men, picking up any affection and comradery they might have missed out on in their nuclear family, and strengthening their sense of femininity or manhood in the process. Our culture sees this as misogynistic and I am certainly not arguing for walking back our country’s gender-equality traditions and laws, but there is something we miss as individuals when we completely equate males and females, constantly throw them together, and pretend there are no gender differences.

So yes, marriage, not living together, and with a person of the opposite sex. But whom should you pick? Are you just looking to find the “right one” based on falling in love? No.

Yes, it’s very desirable to be in love with the person you marry–and in our non-arranged marriage culture, there’s usually no reason to marry someone you’re not in love with–but you’ve got to look deeper than that into the character of that person. As you do, realize that you will be be tied to this individual until he or she dies–or you do. You will not only grow old with but also “grow into” each other. You will become part of their extended family; they will become part of yours. Your children will look like them in some way, and they will very likely believe the things your spouse does and look at life similarly.

Do not, do not, do not–I would add–become sexually intimate before marriage with them,l! Of course it is a sin, but intimacy also causes you to loose perspective and objectivity in the matter–you’re now involved, you’ve got skin in the matter, and your decisions will not be as sound because you will be trying to justify a decision you’ve essentially already made. You can’t eat the candy bar before deciding if you want to buy it! So what qualities should you look for in a potential husband or wife?

The foremost quality I would look for in a person if I were looking for a spouse today is whether they genuinely fear God–whether in their heart of hearts they will move heaven and earth rather than disobey Him. Why would I look for this quality first? Because if they consider God the final arbiter in any matter, I will be able to reason rationally with them from Scripture, and they will submit to God–even if they don’t like my argument.

I would also look for someone who does his or her absolute best to actually live as God tells us to live–someone who loves others as much as self; who respects others not for show but as a matter of principle and a sacred duty to Christ. I would look for a man or woman not easily angered, not violent, not enslaved by anything or anyone (no addictions) except Christ Jesus. I would look for someone whose greatest desire is to know our Father God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent, who wants above all else to gain Christ and be found in Him. I would look for a diligent and industrious person willing to pitch in.

If I were a young woman, I would look for a man I genuinely admire, because even though I am not enslaving myself by marrying, God does give him the tie-breaking vote on issues we do not agree on–and it will be easier for me to accept his decisions if I admire him and trust his choices. If I were a young man, I would look for a woman who genuinely admired me, because this feeds a man’s need to be appreciated–not for what he can give but for who he is. These emotions are hard to fake, and a marriage without that kind of admiration can be sad. For either gender, I would look for someone who is not rebellious to God’s authority.

But why get married? Why should a single person contemplate marriage when it is so much easier to just stay single?

I am not insisting you must marry; the Apostle Paul actually argued that it is better to remain single because you’re not preoccupied with pleasing your spouse and can focus more fully on serving God–and that is true; singlehood has its place, and there certainly is more of you available for God’s work.

But for many of us–there is loneliness in singlehood. Yes, you learn to fill your time with friends, and you certainly seek out the presence of Christ more–a very good thing. Yet most friends will eventually marry and form their own families, and even Adam

received a human companion from God perfectly suited for him in Eve.

Marriage done right (choose prayerfully and wisely!) provides human fellowship. A person who physically sits next to you and lies with you; who audibly answers when you speak. Someone with whom you can plan and dream together, because their own interests are intimately tied in with yours by virtue of loving and caring for each other, physically living together, owning property jointly, and having mutual children about whom you both care.

Not that you should marry simply for this, but the pooling of resources within marriage also provides greater financial strength and security (remembering God is our ultimate security), and a more efficient division of labor–the chores of life can be split according to preference, practicality and ability, freeing up each to not bear the entire burden alone.

So, are you married? Should you be? Maybe. Don’t marry because others tell you you should. Don’t marry because the person checks off the boxes on your list. Don’t marry because you get along well or have spent a lot of time together. Don’t marry because you look at life similarly.

Marry them because they are the most perfect person God made; because their flaws seem unimportant and you adore their strengths; because you really couldn’t bear to be without them–in addition to them loving God and fitting the bill in other ways! Remember that a marriage will have to stand not only the test of time, but also of boredom, frustration, stress, temptation, sleeplessness, financial ups and downs, illness, death of loved ones, job relocations or even possibly loss, or whatever other stressor life can present; they will see you when you are at your worst, and you will see them at their worst. So, while you shouldn’t marry an unsuitable person even if you’re in love–having at least once been in love with the right person makes it easier to cling to them during hard times.

What if you’re in love with the wrong person? It may sound harsh, but unless you’re a sucker for self-inflicted pain (I’m joking–obey God; don’t be), you should break things off. As hard as it might be, you are precious and deserve the right person–a good person–to give yourself to.

What if you want to get married to someone you’re not in love with? My advice? Hold out for a person who fits the bill, but with whom you are in love with. Remember–you only get one choice, and then you have to make it work, whether you’ve picked well or not. Choose prayerfully, and wisely!

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help me not marry the wrong person, no matter how much in love with them I might be right now, and help me hold out for the right one, with whom I am also really in love with. Send me that person–if this is Your will for me. Amen.

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