Colossians 1:21-23

How big is God? Not really “How big is your god,” because (regardless of any misguided spirit of multiculturalism) there’s only one God and He revealed Himself to all humankind in Scripture. He’s not a white god or a Jewish god or an African American god or any other group’s god—He’s God; the Highest Power over all reality. But do you really know Him? Do you realize, do you genuinely and fully comprehend, exactly what He can accomplish in you to bring you successfully to eternity? Or is He merely a figment of your imagination; an impotent construct of your own mind?

“And you, who once were alienated [from God] and enemies in your mind by [your] wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through [Jesus Christ’s ] death [on the cross], to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians‬ ‭1:21-23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

God can do all things; He can accomplish the seemingly impossible, around us and external to our existence, but even more so internally in us—if we take Him at His Word; if we believe He wasn’t lying to us when He said He can. That is what today’s verse is saying.

We are alienated from God because of our sins, but He reconciled us (it’s been done; already in the past) to Himself—He bridged the unbridgeable gap between sin and holiness—in the person of His Son Jesus Christ; in His death on the cross on our behalf two thousand years ago. That’s the “gospel;” the “good news” for humanity!

Why did He do that? To one day present us “holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” How? Under what circumstances?

If we “continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel (the good news) we heard.”

So first, we have to believe God—we have to take Him at His Word that He can present us to Himself “holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”

Isn’t that impossible?

I am convinced there are entire swathes of our population who have come to actively hate Christ because they feel He stands diametrically opposed to their own identity; to who they feel they are as human beings. Yet that’s exactly it—Jesus Christ is the antithesis of sin—of course He’s opposed to anything unholy in us because He came to do away with its stronghold on us. But He does not stand opposed to us—He stands opposed to that which is unholy in us.

And that’s the difference, the crux of this issue, the distinction. Let me repeat it: Jesus Christ is not opposed to us—He came to save us up out of all unholiness that engulfs and threatens our relationship with God.

So the question becomes not, “Is God opposed to me and who I am?” But, “Do I trust Him enough to take impossible-to-fix-me and make me who He wants me to be?

So that’s my question to you—do you? Do you you trust God—Jesus Christ—enough to give Him access to your life and make you who He wants you to be; ultimately to present you “holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight?” Because He can and will, if you ask Him to—if you trust that He can and will.

This isn’t circular, mind you—it’s not “believe it and it’ll be true,” although believing you are a new creation in Christ is part of it. It’s you being given, gifted, awarded holy status through Jesus Christ’s finished work of redemption on the cross—because that’s why He did that—and trusting Him that He has now made you a new being in Himself, in Christ, because you are “in Christ.”

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away…all things have become new.” (II Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Trust is the issue. Believing that He can do it; that you are who He says you are; that He will “present you holy and blameless and above reproach in His sight.”

How’s this going to work in practice; in your very real and sometimes messy life? Well, depending on how deeply mired you were in the muck and mire, you may relapse. You will be tempted at times; there may be times you go back and roll in the stuff you were cleaned of.

But it will never feel good. You’ll know you shouldn’t, and as soon as you’re done you’ll regret it, because by doing it you “grieved”—saddened—Christ Spirit (of holiness; Holy Spirit) in you.

But if you don’t give up your faith, your hope, your trust, in Him; if you cling to Christ with the tenacity of life and death—because that is what it really is a matter of; if “you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard”—He’ll bring you successfully to eternity holy and blameless and above reproach. He is the only One who can get this job done and no one is too impossible for Him!

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah‬ ‭32:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Dear Lord God,

Thank You that even though I was alienated from You, Your enemy in my mind because of my wicked works—that even because of all that, You reconciled me through Your death on the cross, and present me holy, and blameless, and above reproach in Your sight, if I continue in my faith, grounded and steadfast, not moved away from the hope of the gospel which I heard! Help me remain convinced of Your power to accomplish the impossible in me until my dying breath!! Amen!!!

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Matthew 6:19-21

What’s your treasure, and where is it hidden? These days we don’t typically bury wealth or hide it in a mattress, but maybe yours is in a CD or a safety deposit box, a Roth IRA, or in stocks and bonds? Is it in your business that you’ve built up over the years, or your investment properties? Maybe it’s less tangible, in an advanced degree—or those of your children or grandchildren—or in the career you’ve worked and sacrificed so much for? We all have different treasures, but ironically, the only one we’ll be able to bring over with us when we die is not the kind most people accumulate.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

The treasure Jesus Christ tells us to store up is the intangible kind that will be waiting for us after we die and leave these bodies, the one that is hidden with Christ in God:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians‬ ‭3:1-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

What did Jesus mean when He said that we should lay up treasures in heaven? Well, obviously, He meant that we should be spending our energy and finances doing things that will remain for eternity. Like what?

Well, for starters—gaining Jesus Himself. He’s the greatest treasure, without which nothing else I could possibly acquire in this life will do me any good in the next:

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians‬ ‭3:7-14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Anything else? I personally believe that any time we choose to say no to our own sinful desires and yes to what God wants us to do instead, we’re storing up treasures in heaven. Every time I deny myself, pick up my cross, and follow Jesus instead, I’m storing up something that will survive my death for eternity.

If you think about it, God already has a wonderful system in place to help us learn this essential lesson. Every year we live, especially as we continue to get older, we begin to lose something we depended on in this life. It may be more of our vision or hearing, or our ability to be firm on our feet, or our youthful physical appearance. It may be our memory, or our ability to hold our hand steady, or even our cognizant thought process. What was easy when our bodies were newer becomes much more complicated, until even existing becomes a challenge. What’s He doing? Why does God let us become so incapacitated as we approach the end of our bodily existence?

I believe it is His mercy. I believe it is His way of giving even the most stubborn of hearts chance after chance after chance to finally recognize and acknowledge that “…we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (I Timothy‬ ‭6:7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) Little by little He takes everything away, until we are left with nothing more than what we arrived with, in the hope that through this difficult and often painful process, perhaps we get it—that we concede our will to His and glorify Him; that we put our faith, our hope for forgiveness and acceptance, in the only One who transcends this world and will safely shepherds us into eternity with Him; that we trust our destiny to Christ, who also is God:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” (John‬ ‭10:27-30‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Of course, not every person needs the same lessons. We occasionally hear of an older man or woman almost as fit as they ever were, simply lying down and waking up in eternity. God gives each of us the lessons we need. The disciple John was not executed for his faith as were the others; perhaps in His mercy, Jesus saw he did not require that lesson. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Most people get the hard lessons, perhaps because we need them…let’s pray that we’re quick learners—that we loosen our grip on this world, and work from early on in our lives for Christ and for what matters eternally!

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (I John‬ ‭2:15-17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help me be a quick learner! Help me not love the world or the things in the world. Help me, instead, love You with my entire being, and do Your will! Amen.

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James 1:19-21

Are you offended? Increasingly I am seeing article after article, in mainstream news sources and social media posts alike, in which people identify as being offended. The reasons vary widely and are generally an extension of who they are and what they believe, but what strikes me is not the gravity of the offenses, but the fact that we as a society no longer feel uncomfortable with being offended.

“Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires]. So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls.” (James‬ ‭1:19-21‬ ‭AMPC‬‬)

I love this translation! It tells us, in no uncertain terms, that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to respond to offenses—which will invariably come—by taking offense. You see, we don’t control others; some people are selfless, generous, thoughtful and kind—unlikely to ever intentionally offend anyone. Others are the opposite, and go through life offending everyone they interact with. Most of us are somewhere in between these two extremes, and while a lesson could be written on not causing offense, my focus today is on not taking offense.

You see, the reality is that you don’t have to actually do anything wrong for someone to take offense: it is possible to “take offense” because of anything someone else doesn’t like—whether it is actually wrong, or they just don’t like it.

People can take offense because of the Bible. They can take offense because you insist faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to be accepted by God. They can take offense because your conscience doesn’t allow you to do certain things, or because you can’t join them in some activities. But I’m more concerned here not about how others who don’t know Jesus Christ respond, but about how we respond when someone causes us offense.

So, when someone hurts you—what do you do? Do you bristle? Do you feel deeply the injustice of the wrong done against you? Do you hold onto it, even being tempted to wish them some of their own medicine? Or do you let it go into the omniscient hands of Christ?

You see, being offended is the polar opposite of forgiving, and those who belong to Christ have no business being offended:

“For even to this were you called [it is inseparable from your vocation]. For Christ also suffered for you, leaving you [His personal] example, so that you should follow in His footsteps. He was guilty of no sin, neither was deceit (guile) ever found on His lips. [Isa. 53:9.] When He was reviled and insulted, He did not revile or offer insult in return; [when] He was abused and suffered, He made no threats [of vengeance]; but He trusted [Himself and everything] to Him Who judges fairly. He personally bore our sins in His [own] body on the tree [as on an altar and offered Himself on it], that we might die (cease to exist) to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter‬ ‭2:21-24‬ ‭AMPC‬‬)

None of us have been sinned against as much as Jesus was. Though He created humanity, not only did they reject Him and the truth He taught—the need to humble ourselves and repent—they killed Him. None of us have experienced such a degree of offense.

So if we are not to take offense, how should we respond when wronged? Humbly, as Jesus did; as God teaches us:

“Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin). Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind). And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:29-32‬ ‭AMPC‬‬)

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help my responses to the offenses of others toward me be of You; help me to respond as You responded, help me forgive as You forgave; help me, even, to love my offenders as You loved Your offenders. Help me always be indwelt by Your Spirit and bless those who hurt me. Please bring them to a better knowledge of You through my forgiveness; through my obedience to You! Amen.

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Matthew 6:19-21

What are your goals? What are you hoping to accomplish in this New Year, 2021? I don’t make formal New Year’s resolutions, because studies show we tend to abandon them, but I do believe it’s important to regularly assess your life’s trajectory—to see if you’re on track to accomplish everything you’re hoping to, and if there are things you’d like to begin or others that need to end. So—how’s it going? Are you doing everything you want to; everything you should be doing?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

What did Jesus mean when He said this? Clearly, He wasn’t just referring to not working for physical things, but also anything we value in this life, like personal or professional accomplishment, fame, power, and of course, wealth. I don’t honestly believe He meant we shouldn’t achieve, but that we should pick our goals well.

I don’t think He meant we shouldn’t get an education, or accept a position with a good company, or earn a living. I don’t think He meant we shouldn’t accomplish or achieve or work towards anything people typically work toward in this life. Rather, it’s a matter of priorities. We need to eat and have a roof over our heads; we need work—something of value we can realistically do.

But what is our focus? If everything we worked for in this life went away, would anything else remain? Because—everything in this life WILL go away:

“I laid a foundation like a wise master builder according to God’s grace that was given to me, but someone else is building on top of it. Each person needs to pay attention to the way they build on it. No one can lay any other foundation besides the one that is already laid, which is Jesus Christ. So, whether someone builds on top of the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, grass, or hay, each one’s work will be clearly shown. The day will make it clear, because it will be revealed with fire—the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work survives, they’ll get a reward. But if anyone’s work goes up in flames, they’ll lose it. However, they themselves will be saved as if they had gone through a fire.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭3:10-15‬ ‭CEB‬‬)

The sooner we realize we exist in two worlds, two dimensions, two realities—the better it will be for us. It is a delusion to believe we are only physical beings; that there is nothing else. There is a spiritual reality of which we are also part, whether we recognize it or not. And it is the spiritual reality that will survive our physical death.

So when we die, our physical possessions will go away—they will pass on to someone else through a will or other legal document—and our bodies will be disposed of by burial or cremation. But what we did for Christ while we were alive won’t go away: that’s the treasure Jesus teaches us to store up for ourselves in heaven. Remember the old saying, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last?”

So what qualifies as having been done for Christ? Well, anything done in obedience to Him! Any decision, thought, word, action we know He wants us to.

So when I say no to myself and yes to Jesus, I’m storing up treasure in heaven—I’m working for the stuff that doesn’t decay, that survives my death and follows me into eternity:

“Then He [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.’” (Luke‬ ‭9:23-26‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

And how will I know what Jesus wants me to do? Well, because of the Bible and His Holy Spirit attesting to it, in me—that’s why I have to actually sit down and read the Bible; otherwise I won’t know the specifics of what’s right and wrong, and why I have to be sensitive the His Spirit guiding me.

Jesus again: “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John‬ ‭14:25-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Even in the Old Testament, God promised the future guidance of the Holy Spirit for His people:

“People of Jerusalem, you don’t need to cry anymore. The Lord is kind, and as soon as he hears your cries for help, he will come. The Lord has given you trouble and sorrow as your food and drink. But now you will again see the Lord, your teacher, and he will guide you. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice saying, ‘This is the road! Now follow it.’ Then you will treat your idols of silver and gold like garbage; you will throw them away like filthy rags.” (Isaiah‬ ‭30:19-22‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

So what are you goals? What are the things you work towards that you want to accomplish in 2921? As I sit down and evaluate my life, there are practical actions I need to take this new year.

I need to repaint my rental property and list and rent the empty units so our source of income doesn’t diminish and eventually go away, because even the Bible warns us to “take care of the condition of our flocks.” Even though she’s already received a college admissions letter, I need to still supervise the completion of two more applications with upcoming deadlines. I need to continue working. These are practical earthly concerns that need to be taken care of.

But I also need to think about the things that will survive my human existence in this, my earthly body—I need to work for heavenly treasures. I will, Lord willing, continue to write and post here as I am able. I will read His Word and attend church and pray. And as I do these, invariably His Spirit will bring to my conscious mind decisions for Christ in my daily life that I need to make—situations in which I can say yes to myself or to Christ, but not both; junctures where I will deny myself, pick up my cross (my duty as one who says she is His), and follow Him. Will you resolve to do the same?

Dear Lord God,

Help me deny myself, pick up my cross, and follow You—in 2021, always, and forever! Amen.

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2 Corinthians 5:7

Are you lonely? Most of us are, apart from God. Sure, we can fill our lives with all kinds of people and activities and things to distract us from that reality, but in the end—after everyone’s gone home and it’s all over—it’s still the same; we’re so alone. What’s the solution? How can I not be so terribly, terribly lonely?

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

This passage has been often quoted, but what does it mean to walk by faith, not sight? I believe there are two related—but not identical—aspects of walking by faith.

The first is obvious—I’m not dead; I haven’t yet experienced an existence in the full presence of God, but I continue to trust what He says because He is truthful, and obey Him in faith. The second aspect is equally, if not more, important. It’s having and experiencing the presence of Jesus Christ in me now, as I live my life. Why is this a big deal? Well, because otherwise I’m alone.

This hits some people acutely more than others. Some marry to avoid loneliness; some surround themselves with friends and acquaintances and colleagues; some fill their life with a never-ending flurry of activity or even indulgence to forget they’re alone. It can work—to a degree. But eventually, there still come moments when you realize how incredibly lonely you still are, regardless of what you’ve filled your life with to obscure that fact.

But here’s the thing: if you have the Holy Spirit of Jesus in you—literally inside of you; always with you—you don’t need any of these other things! It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t marry or have friends or pursue activities; it just means these are extras—you don’t desperately need them to obscure that deep grief of your aloneness. Without Jesus they’re never enough, because a human being—no matter how precious—or activity cannot fill the void in us only God fills.

How does this play out in everyday life? Well, imagine a best friend who is always with you! Not a human one who can get jealous or hurt or misunderstand you; not someone with incomplete knowledge; not someone with their own agenda that isn’t in your best interest. I’m talking about a Friend who knows you better than you know yourself, flaws and all, and loves you with the deepest love possible—a deeper love than is humanly possible. One who works all things together for good in your life. That’s Jesus!

One I want to relate to. One whom I talk to when I first wake up, not because I have to but because I really want to—even if quickly; even if I’m late and it’s not as long as I’d like. One I always feel inside of me—a warmth, if you will. A knowledge that regardless of what is going on in my day-to-day reality, He is always with me; He never leaves or abandons me. A knowledge that I am His—forever!

There’s more. As I’ve become (hopefully) a more mature Christian, I’ve come to see that He wasn’t kidding when He said that I’ll get whatever I ask for. I didn’t get that before, because secretly, I’m not sure I really believed it. I disbelieved because I asked my husband (and now my children) come to faith in Jesus and it didn’t happen. So what’s different? Why do I now believe? Because I’ve had more time relating to Him; because I’ve experienced over and over and over again not only random good things that happen to me (that weren’t because of, but could theoretically be attributed to, chance) but also active answer to prayer—to my calling out to Him—that could never be something that “just happened!”

Because even though there are things—like the human free will of others—I don’t quite yet understand, I also have come to see that God is not a Liar. So I trust that God will open their eyes to Him later. I don’t need to be alive when they see He’s real; I just don’t want them to go through their entire lives lonely, when there is absolutely no reason for them to do so!

Ultimately I trust in God. Because, again, this is a relationship (not my vivid imagination—believe me, my imagination isn’t vivid), it’s a two way street. It’s not just me asking, crossing my fingers and hoping; it’s me reaching out and Christ actively responding in my life. How can I explain this to you? How can I put this into words so you finally, finally get it? What will convince you?

So here’s the deal—I think ultimately, the only thing that convinces anyone is trying it themselves. If someone else says it’s real, we tend to not believe; if it happens to me—well, now I get it; now it’s not possible to not believe anymore.

So here’s my suggestion: try Him. Not half-heartedly, where you’ve already predisposed yourself to not believe no matter how He responds. But approach this from a devil’s advocate position—approach it from a position of faith; just put yourself out there—what’s the worst that can happen? Give Him the benefit of the doubt—ask Him and believe He will come into your life and be with you forever! “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James‬ ‭1:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Believe what He says—that He exists, that He is who He says He is, that He’s done what He says He’s done—and ask Him to forgive and accept you because of Jesus Christ; to prove Himself to you—for you to feel Him in you actively alive and loving you forever His. Why? Because that’s the only way you’ll be able to experience Him yourself!

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:1-8, 10‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Dear Lord God,

Help me not be afraid of You, but trust that You are who You say You are, that You’ve done what You say You’ve done through Your holy Son, Jesus. Dear Jesus, come into my life! Accept and forgive me, holy God, through Jesus; fill me with Yourself—with Your very Spirit! Lavish Your love on me through Him, so I may never be alone again, regardless what happens to me in this life! Please let me know You—please!!! Amen.

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Psalms 105:35-36

Are you just like everyone else who doesn’t believe in God? What do the people in your life see when they look at you? Is there any discernible difference between you and those who don’t have Christ; who don’t go to church; who don’t trust in Him and call on Him? Shouldn’t there be…?

“Instead, they mingled among the pagans and adopted their evil customs. They worshiped their idols, which led to their downfall.” (Psalms‬ ‭106:35-36‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

It is so very easy for us, as God’s people, to forget our identity, who we are in Christ, in our daily lives—so much more I feel, than even a decade or so ago. The ubiquitous availability of online information tends to standardize belief (imagine the content a twelve-year-old googling, “Is there a God?” will pull up); online entertainment normalizes various forms of sinful behavior. And as diverse as the world is, it is becoming increasingly standardized—both in belief and behavior—in a godless homogeneity. In other words, most people believe the wrong thing and act in wrong ways: what they accept as true and good increasingly deviates from what God says is true and good.

Years ago I read our son a Max Lucado story about two boys shipwrecked on a dangerous island inhabited by dull, colorless creatures. As he left to get help, the captain instructed them to wait for him on the shore, and warned them not to venture further in, so they would not lose the beauty and vibrancy of their living color and forget what they were waiting for. One boy remembered the captain’s words and sailed off with him when he finally returned; the other became impatient and ventured in, further and further each time and gradually losing his vibrancy, until he finally became just like the other creatures—and never returned.

Isn’t that us, as Christians? What distinguishes us from everybody else? What is our beautiful coloring, the vibrancy of the new life, the Spirit of Christ in us? How do we get it? How do we retain it?

We get Christ when we first believe in Him—when we acknowledge that God is truthful; that He is God; that we are hopelessly mired in our sin nature and we finally believe Him when He says He will attribute His Son’s holiness to us, and forgive and accept us because of Him. That’s when we first get our beauty—the Spirit of Christ in us and the new life in Him.

But how do we nurture and grow it? How do we keep it from fading until we are indiscernible from everyone else? By remaining in Christ! It’s a little long, but listen to what Jesus told His followers at the Passover meal He celebrated with them right before He was arrested and crucified:

“I am the true grapevine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of Mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in Me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father.

I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love. When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are My friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in His slaves. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me. You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My name. This is My command: Love each other.

“But I will send you the Advocate —the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about Me. And you must also testify about Me because you have been with Me from the beginning of My ministry…

“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or Me. Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember My warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer. But now I am going away to the one who sent Me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you.

But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate [the Holy Spirit of God] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in Me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world [referring to Satan] has already been judged.

There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring Me glory by telling you whatever He receives from Me. All that belongs to the Father is Mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever He receives from Me.’” (John‬ ‭15:1-17, 26-27‬, 16:1-15 NLT)‬‬

Remaining in Christ involves studying the Bible, going to church, reading Christian books, listening to Christian radio—in other words, daily exposing ourselves to God’s Word; praying to God in faith; and acting on what I learn through His Word and prayer. Its actively staying in my faith in Jesus Christ, not waning away in commitment or intensity or faithfulness.

And this is becoming increasingly difficult to do, because unless you live in a segregated Christian community that rejects the modern world, we’re constantly bombarded by overriding subliminal messages that lie, “God isn’t real,” “No one believes in Him anymore,” “All religions are the same,” and “Believing in God is a vestige of a backward people.”

Do you see the danger? Without even realizing it, we’re already inside the epicenter of the island, and our exposure to it will fade the vibrancy and color and beauty of Christ in us if we don’t double down and become significantly intentional about remaining in Him. So how do we protect ourselves?

Well, we do the opposite of what the Israelites in today’s verse did. We don’t mingle among the pagans—and that’s everyone who doesn’t love Jesus, even if it’s family; we don’t adopt their evil customs; we don’t worship their idols. “Really?!” you might say; “I don’t worship idols!” But don’t you? Don’t you want to get ahead; have a career, a house, a car, vacations? These things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but how much will you sacrifice to get them? Have they become idols, because even the pursuit of Christ has taken a back seat to them? Do you find it harder and harder to remain in Him—either because as you’ve grown to value these things more and more Jesus has come to seem less significant, or because everything else is taking up all of your time?

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help me love You so I remain in You; remain in me! Amen.

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Matthew 13:44

Merry Christmas! We get the buying and Santa and holiday meals and (at least pre-corona) family get-togethers, but some families still put up nativity scenes, and some wrapping papers and cards still say “Jesus is the reason for the season.” So who, or what, is Jesus? How does He fit into not only Christmas, but also our very lives?

Wasn’t He just a Jewish teacher executed by the Romans several millennia ago? Why does the entire world celebrate His supposed birthday today (because no one knows when the real one actually was)? What’s the big deal about Him, and why do some people act like He’s so special? If you don’t know why, if you don’t understand—please let me tell you!

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew‬ ‭13:44‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Jesus is the priceless treasure. He’s the most valuable possession I could ever acquire, so much so that it’s worth my selling off everything else I have to get Him, just like the guy did in this one-verse parable. What do I mean? And how could a person be something I can “get?”

The reason Jesus is so special is because of what it does to me when I acquire Him. Just like we fall in love romantically because of how one very special person makes me feel—the fireworks going on inside of me telling me this is a relationship like no other—in a very similar way, but even more importantly, Jesus is the one relationship I must have because gaining Christ removes my guilt before God and restores me to a right relationship with the Supreme Power of the universe. Nothing else, no amount of good intentions or deeds, will do that. And no denial that there is a Supreme Power of the universe will convince that small silent intangible something inside of me that is who I really am—my spirit—because it knows better. In the absence of Christ; in the absence of forgiveness and reconciliation with God through Him, I will cry out and act out in various desperate ways.

But how do I gain Christ and end up being found in Him, as the verse in the letter to the Philippians Christians says? Gaining Christ is contingent on understanding and acknowledging certain truths about our existence.

If you live like the animal world does, you won’t get Him. As far as we can tell animals, although beautiful and amazing, live by what we call instinct—they do what their species does, and we’re not surprised that they do because we expect them to. Cats catch mice; dogs chase things that run; even our precious little ferret is a threat to mice because it’s his nature.

Furthermore, their lives consist of bodily basics: eating, drinking, sleeping, physical activity, and procreating—that’s it. There’s no indication that they have the capacity for any higher reflection on the purpose of their existence, or a capacity for moral choices between right and wrong. It grieved me when my cat plopped a little dead bird by my door, but I couldn’t really blame her—it’s what cats do; she was being a cat, being herself.

So if meeting the needs of my body is all I do, I will not gain Christ, because to gain Him I have to do what, as far as we can tell, only human beings are capable of—contemplate my relationship with the Power that created me. I believe it’s part of what “created in God’s image” entails, and it involves my having not only the capacity, but also the need, for knowing and fellowshipping—having a relationship—with God:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death [having to be perfect in our own ability—an impossibility].

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh [our inability to be perfect before God], God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering [to pay for everyone’s sins]. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law [sinlessness] might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you [and He does—in every person who looks to Jesus for forgiveness and rightness before God]. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “ Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings [why? how? when we choose to obey God rather than do wrong, and are hated for it] in order that we may also share in His glory.” (Romans‬ ‭8:1-17‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Wow! THAT’S THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE! That’s why Jesus is the most precious treasure we could ever get, and Santa and gifts and get-togethers are just nice extras which must not take our minds off of the real reason we celebrate Christmas—Christ’s mass; a celebration of the acceptance and forgiveness and reconciliation with God we gain through Jesus Christ!!

So who, or what, is Jesus? He’s the heart of Christmas itself, “the reason for the season.” “Wise men still seek Him” is truth, not a marketing slogan. He’s the priceless treasure without Whom nothing else will meet my need. He is the very Word of God who was with God in the beginning…through Whom all things were made…in Whom was the life that is the light of all human beings…Who became human at one specific point in history two thousand years ago and lived among us, yet came from God the Father, full of grace and truth…Whose glory those alive at the time saw and passed onto us in the biblical accounts. Merry Christmas!

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke‬ ‭2:1-17, 19-20‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Dear Lord God of heaven, of earth, of everything! Thank You for Jesus! Come to us; abide with us; our Lord—IMMANUEL [God with us]! Amen!

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John 14:6

Are you blind, or can you correctly make out what you’re seeing? Most of us aren’t visually impaired—at least not to any significant degree—but if you’ve ever tried to get a drink of water at night without turning on the lights, or been outside where there are no streetlights, you can relate. In deep darkness, things that look like one thing from farther away turn out to be something completely different once you’re closer. You think you see; your mind tells you that you know what you’re looking at—but your senses are playing games with you! That’s our spiritual walk, apart from the light of Christ’s truth.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John‬ ‭8:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Over and over, I am amazed how God has built into the experiences of our physical world precious spiritual life lessons about our relationship with Him, and the necessity of light for our mind to correctly interpret what we believe we are seeing with our eyes is just one more such example.

On its surface, most of us get that Jesus is the light of the world; it’s Sunday School 101 and not complicated. He is truth, and if we’re not sure about something we go back to what God has revealed to us in the Bible and line it up with what that says. Why? Because in addition to being truth, Jesus Christ is the revelation of God, as well as God Himself:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John‬ ‭1:1, 3-5, 9-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Without Jesus—without looking at every situation in our lives in light of our forgiveness and acceptance and the great love God has for us because of Christ—we think we see what’s going on, but we’re not seeing correctly. Just like a coat rack by the front door can look like an intruder until you turn on the light, we don’t see the true nature of what’s happening in our lives until we shine the knowledge of Christ onto it. Like what? Well, pretty much everything!

Any situation I don’t want—losing a job or not getting one I wanted, not being accepted to a school I hoped to attend, having a breakup, being abandoned by a spouse or rejected by a friend, an accident, an illness, even a death: all of these seem abominable and none of us would voluntarily choose to go through them. Yet when you shine the light of Christ on it; when you understand why God allowed you to go through this situation—and everything we go through can only occur with His permission—then we begin to comprehend its value. How?

Well, the sad reality is that when hardships come, people tend to do one of two things—1) cry out to God for help, or 2) get angry at Him. So these painful situations are proving moments to help us see where our heart is really at—whether we draw closer to Him or push away—and His heart is always for us to come closer! In fact, I’m convinced that most of the misery we go through in life is just to teach us to reach out to God more, to walk more closely with Him. So does this mean if we walk intimately with God nothing bad will happen to us? No, because we live in a sinful world—but I do believe we will avoid the lessons we don’t need because we’re already responding the way God wants us to.

But we need the light of Christ to see clearly not just the bad things that happen to us, but also the good. When things are going great academically, professionally, or in any other aspect of life—when you’re flying high and everyone likes you and you’re exceeding expectations—without the light of Christ, again you won’t see the situation as it really is. You will be tempted to start thinking too highly of yourself and risk needed, but unpleasant, correction.

Seeing through God’s eyes will keep me from thinking of myself more highly than I ought—and that’s not just a pious quoting of Scripture; it’s truth. I suspect pride is the hardest temptation we struggle with, because each of us wants to believe we’re somehow better or more special than others; shining Christ on the situation shows me that HE is better and more special—that it’s really all about Him and I’m just His child walking by faith.

So to avoid becoming prideful when things are going well—to see things as they really are—again, I need the light of Jesus. It’s not to be falsely humble or lie to myself that I can’t do anything well; it’s to recognize Who gives me the ability to do what I’m doing and give credit where it is rightly due. Shining the light of the knowledge of Christ on the situation helps me realize that every good thing I have comes from Him; that He’s the One who lifts people up and brings them down; that if He’s allowed this season it’s so I can bring Him glory and bless others.

What kind of other mistakes do people make when they don’t shine Christ on their lives? So many! They get divorced because they “deserve better.” They pick unsuitable partners for the wrong reasons, or just fall into relationships without thinking it through. They redefine morality to be what they want it to be; they say good is evil or evil good. They abandon friends they shouldn’t. They fail to persevere in situations they should stick with, or fail to abandon ones they should get out of immediately. They do evil they shouldn’t, and fail to do the good they should.

This is what God means when He says those who don’t have Christ walk in the dark. We think we see; we’re convinced we’re doing the right things and making wise decisions, but we’re misguided because our comprehension is flawed and our perception skewed—just like a pilot who’s trying to straighten out a plane relying on malfunctioning controls flies straight into the ground. But when I shine the light that comes from knowing Jesus onto the situations of my life I won’t make those kinds of mistakes. My decisions will be good, because I’ll be making them with a right understanding of what’s really going on.

And what a difference it makes! When I see correctly—the way God sees things; through His eyes, so to speak—I don’t stumble as I do when it’s dark and I can’t make things out. I don’t think one thing is another; I don’t make foolish and misguided mistakes, because the knowledge of Christ is lighting up the situation and allowing me to see it as it really is.

So, can you see, or do you just think you do? Ask God for His eyes—to really understand every situation as He does through a knowledge of Christ—and He will!

Dear Jesus,

Please give me Your wisdom, and help me to see things as they really are! Amen.

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Revelation 19:11-16

Do you have plans? Are you going to do great things? Are you actually doing them now, or are you allowing life to sideline your ideas and putting them off for a later time that may or may not be there? Don’t, because this moment is all you actually have—you’re not guaranteed anything else—and that future imaginary time when you’re going to get to all the great things you’re hoping to do may never actually come! May I tell you a story?

My Uncle Joe was an artist—you know, the kind who paints with oil colors on huge canvases. He died years ago, but he was my dad’s oldest brother, and a bit of an anomaly: while all the other brothers got married and had families, he never did. Like the others, he entered the drafting profession because that was a viable career path in the fifties and sixties. But unlike them, at some point while I was still a little child, he abruptly withdrew his profit sharing proceeds and took off on an extended sabbatical to Egypt for several years. He painted numerous pieces, held art exhibits, and even published a large coffee table-style volume with his works.

He is the one I argued with as a young woman, trying to convince him to apply his considerable artistic abilities to visually portray Jesus’ Second Coming as described in this passage in Revelations, but to the best of my knowledge he never did—only remarking at the time how anyone could do justice to that depiction.

“I looked and saw heaven was open, and a white horse was there. Its rider was called Faithful and True and He is always fair when He judges or goes to war. He had eyes like flames of fire, and He was wearing a lot of crowns [symbolizes rulership or authority over all nations]. His name was written on Him, but He was the only one who knew what the name meant. The rider wore a robe that was covered with blood, and He was known as “The Word of God.” He was followed by armies from heaven that rode on white horses and were dressed in pure white linen [symbolizes holiness]. From His mouth a sharp sword went out to attack the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod and will show the fierce anger of God All-Powerful…On the part of the robe that covered His thigh was written, “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation‬ ‭19:11-16‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

Two days ago I brought one of his unfinished canvases home. The last of the brothers, Uncle Vic, died a short while ago and because his widow just sold their home and was moving, we were offered this drawing which they had apparently had for years. It’s on plywood and in poor condition—in addition to not actually having any paint applied to the sketch yet—but it’s a beginning; someone could still potentially finish it.

Looking at it, though, it’s less biblically or contextually suitable for this passage than what follows in chapter twenty, commonly called the Great White Throne Judgment:

“I saw a great white throne with Someone sitting on it. Earth and heaven tried to run away, but there was no place for them to go. I also saw all the dead people standing in front of that throne. Every one of them was there, no matter who they had once been. Several books were opened, and then the book of life was opened. The dead were judged by what those books said they had done. The sea gave up the dead people who were in it, and death and its kingdom also gave up their dead. Then everyone was judged by what they had done. Afterwards, death and its kingdom were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Anyone whose name wasn’t written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation‬ ‭20:11-15‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

The sketch depicts two rows of humanity—a white row on the right side of the center (from the perspective of the center of the sketch looking out at the people coming towards it), and a dark row on the opposite side—those whose names are written in the book of life, who are declared holy by virtue of Christ Jesus’ atoning work on the cross; and those who refused His forgiveness and sanctifying activity, who remain guilty in their own sin.

There is a globe in the front center—earth, perhaps? And large structures in the distance on either side of the center—the New Jerusalem; heaven? And, of course, the empty forefront center—where there should be “a great white throne with Someone sitting on it.” Can you see it; can you imagine it completed? I can, in my mind’s eye—it just requires someone with the artistically abilities to do it justice!

Yet isn’t that like many of us? We have ideas, visions, even great plans. Yet how many of us actually follow through on them—not only begin them, but actually bring them through to completion? I have no idea when my uncle drew this sketch. I know he was beguiled by Buddhism, and there was a long period of his later life he claimed to be a Buddhist. I distinctly remember pleading with him—reasoning from Scripture, rationalizing, pleading for him to come back to Christ. I don’t know if he did. I don’t know if he thought more about Jesus or what I had suggested he create, or if this sketch was his attempt or a part of his spiritual journey. I don’t know if he began it earlier, or right before he passed away, or if he gave up because he didn’t feel he knew how to complete it rightly. I just don’t know.

What I do know is that God tells us to not put off what needs to be done today. Like what? Well, trusting in Jesus for forgiveness and rightness with God, for starters—that’s the most important issue each of us needs to confront successfully that can’t wait:

“It is just as the Holy Spirit says, ‘If you hear God’s voice today, don’t be stubborn! Don’t rebel like those people who were tested in the desert.’

My friends, watch out! Don’t let evil thoughts or doubts make any of you turn from the living God. You must encourage one another each day. And you must keep on while there is still a time that can be called “today.” If you don’t, then sin may fool some of you and make you stubborn. We were sure about Christ when we first became His people. So let’s hold tightly to our faith until the end. The Scriptures say, ‘If you hear His voice today, don’t be stubborn like those who rebelled.’ Who were those people that heard God’s voice and rebelled? Weren’t they the same ones that came out of Egypt with Moses? Who were the people that made God angry for 40 years? Weren’t they the ones that sinned and died in the desert? And who did God say would never enter His place of rest? Weren’t they the ones that disobeyed Him? [notice the intertwined relationship between belief and obedience—they didn’t obey because they didn’t believe]? We see that those people did not enter the place of rest because they did not have faith [they did not trust God is big enough to do what He says].” (Hebrews‬ ‭3:7-8, 12-19‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

Once you are right with God through faith in Jesus—once you can mentally place yourself in the white row in the sketch, on the right side of His throne—are you actively pursuing everything He wants you to do today, or are you putting it off, waiting for a better, more opportune moment? Always remember, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬) God’s got things He wants us to do; He forgave and accepted us because of Jesus’ death on the cross—now we need to find the good we’re supposed to be busy spending our time doing!

So, do you have plans? Are you going to do great things? There’s no guarantee we’ll ever have have more time than we now do—that we’ll ever be able to get to all the wonderful accomplishments we’re planning on doing. But if we’re not cognizant of the brevity of life, our plans could end up like my Uncle Joe’s painting—a prodigious beginning, but left unfinished. Don’t let that happen! Seek God heart and blessing; get going with what needs doing today; and watch Him bring it to a beautiful and full completion in Jesus!

Dear Lord God,

Please bring everything You have planned in and through me to a beautiful and full completion! Amen.

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Psalms‬ ‭93:2, 96:4-5‬

Who is God? What an incomprehensible endeavor! And while I am certain I cannot answer this fully and completely—because we only know about God that which He has revealed to us—I can tell you who He is not.

“Your throne, O Lord, has stood from time immemorial. You Yourself are from the everlasting past…Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods. The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens!” (Psalms‬ ‭93:2, 96:4-5‬ NLT‬‬)‬‬

I’m not Asian myself, but I’ve gotten into Asian programming on Netflix, primarily because there are more innocent romantic titles devoid of the gore and darkness a lot of current domestic programs seem to delve into. I especially find fascinating period programs set either in the past, a fictional past, or the present going back to the past. Yet because Asia has a rich religious—albeit mostly non-Christian—history, many of these incorporate demons and monsters from their traditions.

Please don’t misunderstand; God commands us to stay away from spiritism, and I refuse to have anything to do with that—in person or vicariously through my viewing choices. But this is different: while they use the English words “demon” and “monster” in the subtitles, these are clearly not demons as God defines them. In fact, much of that fictionalized reality reminds me of the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology, or even Thor’s Nine Realms by Marvel Studios (of the Avengers movies, which are themselves based on Nordic mythology).

What’s my point? Simply that many of whom ancient peoples—who did not have a direct revelation of God as the Israelites did—considered gods, are similar. They are beings like us, merely with greater powers. And that is what reveals them constructs of the human imagination, despite claims of divinity. In fact, the first thing that struck me as I became familiar with Greek mythology is the wickedness of the “gods;” the genuine evil—so much more than most living humans even do—they engaged in. I’m talking seduction, deceit, murder, cannibalism, cruelty, vengeance; these are stories you wouldn’t want your little ones reading! Qualities we biblically understand are sinful, even demonically inspired. They are not God-like in any concept of the word.

Why is this? Why are the gods of other traditions like this? Because humankind had a knowledge of God, but lost it. So even though they understood there is a Higher Power, their concept of Him became distorted by their sinful nature, and God and angels and demons became the mythological tales.

But how can we identify the correct religious structure—how do we know the Jewish tradition is the right one, rather than the Asian, or Nordic, or any other? Obviously because Jesus Christ confirmed it, but also because of the God/god it describes!

The Jewish/Christian God is like no other. He is holy, just, good; He is not sinful or anything approaching human sinful inclinations. Even though Jesus Christ became a human being to take on and pay for our sins, He was without sin—He did not take wives or enjoy pleasures or build empires or assume power in this world; He came not to be served but to serve. He didn’t do any of the things the mythological gods do when they enter the human realm. Instead, He did the most “unhuman” thing imaginable:

“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians‬ ‭2:6-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

In fact, the entire Biblical account makes no sense at all from a self-serving perspective—if it isn’t actually true; if it was fabricated; if there isn’t an eternity with God awaiting us. It makes no sense to say “no” to yourself now and get no tangible benefit in this life, if you know you’re lying and there is no next one—that’s how we can believe the witness of those who attested to the veracity of the Bible!

We now understand who God isn’t, but who is He? He has inspired multiple individuals throughout history to pen the Holy Bible—we need only to read it ourselves to understand what He wants us to know about Himself; about us; about our sin nature; about His solution to our inability to be holy, the Word of God become a human, Jesus Christ; about the eternity that awaits those who trust Him for forgiveness and walk in newness of life!

But what is He actually like? Many have created lists; I’ll quote one presented in Kay Arthur’s Precept Upon Precept Study Guide on Romans III, p. 17-28 (copyrighted in 1996 by Reach Out, Inc.):

“Omniscient—God knows all. He has a perfect knowledge of everything that is past, present or future.

Omnipotent—God possesses all power. He is able to bring about anything that He has decided to do…with or without the use of any source beyond Himself.

Omnipresent—God is present everywhere, in all the universe [and beyond], at all times, in the totality of His character.

Eternal—God has no beginning, and He has no end. He is not confined to the finiteness of time or to man’s reckoning of time. He is, in fact, the cause of time.

Immutable—God is always the same in His nature, His character, and His will. He never changes, and He can never be made to change.

Incomprehensible—Because God is God, He is beyond the understanding of man. His ways, character, and acts are higher than man’s. Man only understands as God chooses to reveal Himself, His ways, or His purposes.

Self-Existent—God depends upon nothing for His existence beyond Himself. The whole basis of His existence is within Himself. At one time nothing but God Himself existed. He added nothing to Himself by creation.

Self-Sufficient—Within Himself, God is able to act, that is, to bring about His will without any assistance. Although He may choose to use assistance, it is His good pleasure, not His need, that governs that choice.

Infinite—God has no limits or bounds whatsoever in His person or dominion.

Transcendent—God is above His creation, and He would exist if there were no creation. His existence is totally apart from His creatures or creation.

Sovereign—God is totally, supremely, and preeminently over all His creation. There is not a person or thing that has escaped His control and foreknown plan!

Holy—God is a morally excellent, perfect being. He is totally other than man! His is purity of being in every aspect.

Righteous—God is always good. It is essential to His character. He always does the right thing. Ultimately, since He is God, whatever He does is right…He is the absolute. His actions are always consistent with His character…which is love.

Just—God is fair in all of His actions. Whether He deals with man, angels, or demons, He acts in total equity by rewarding righteousness and punishing sin. Since He knows all, every decree is absolutely just.

Merciful—God is an actively compassionate being. He responds compassionately toward those who have opposed His will in their pursuit of their own way.

Longsuffering—God’s righteous anger is slow to be kindled against those who fail to listen to His warnings or to obey His instructions. His eternal longing for the highest good for His creatures holds back His holy justice.

Wise—God’s actions are based on His character. His wisdom causes Him to choose righteous ends and to make the most fitting plans to achieve those ends.

Loving—God’s love moves Him to give Himself for another, even to the laying down of His life. His love causes Him to desire His creatures’ highest good. This love is not based upon the worth, response, or merit of the object being loved.

Good—In His goodness God gives to others, not according to what they deserve but according to His good will and kindness toward them.

Wrathful—There is within God a hatred for all that is unrighteous and an unquenchable desire to punish all unrighteousness. Whatever is inconsistent with His holy standard must ultimately be consumed.

Truthful—All that God says is reality. Whether believed by man or not, whether seen as reality or not, what God has spoken is reality. Whatever He speaks is truth.

Faithful—God is always true to His promises. He can never draw back from His promises of blessing or of judgment. Since He cannot lie, He is totally steadfast to what He has spoken.

Jealous—God is unwilling to share what is rightfully and morally His with any other creature.”

Dear Lord Jesus,

Thank You for who You are; help me love You, know You, obey You, and most of all, trust in You! Amen.

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