John 3:18

Can a gay person be Christian? How about a transgender, or anyone else drawn to or identifying with a non traditional gender? Questions like these are some of today’s lightning rod issues, frequently alienating younger generations who see rigid interpretations as exclusionary and unyielding. Yet what God says is so much more than the binary interpretation we tend to attribute to Him, so understanding God’s heart—and vision on this matter—is essential if we want to be whole.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” (John‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

God—not Christianity, but God Himself—divides humanity into two camps: those who believe what He says and trust in Him explicitly, and those who doubt. Doubt what? Any of a number of things—that He exists, that He is who He reveals Himself to be, that He is capable of bringing about whatever He chooses, that He loved humanity so much as to live and die for us so we can be in right standing before Him. Most of all, that He is fully capable of taking me—with whatever misery, disfunction and pain I have—and healing me; making me forgiven, accepted, and complete as a human being, in Christ. How? Through the activity of the Holy Spirit in us as we trust less in ourselves and more in Him and His ability to accomplish His plan in and through us. But we have to believe Him; we have to trust Him explicitly.

“But without faith no one can please God. We must believe that God is real and rewards everyone who searches for him.” (Hebrews‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

So these questions are a red herring; they distract and divide. The question is not, “Does God accept me?” It is, “Do I accept Him?” More specifically, do I believe that He is who He says He is and really has the power to do everything He says He will? Because it is my response to God that places me in one camp or the other. God does not exclude anyone; He accepts all who do not reject Him—who believe Him:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John‬ ‭3:16-18‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

And: “…God our Savior…wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

And if I believe He exists, that He is who He says He is, that He is powerful enough to heal me, and that He loves me enough to do so—then I will remain in Him; I’ll keep close to Him and others who believe Him so I can learn and grow and become the man or woman God means me to be.

So, can a gay person be a Christian? Can they come to Christ? How about a transgender, or anyone else drawn to or identifying with a non traditional gender? Yes, they can, but the real question is what is more important to you—Christ in you, the hope of glory, or anything else; any other identification that conflicts with God’s work in you and threatens to become an idol in your life—because we must not only trust Him; we must trust Him completely. God accepts us, but we have to continue to trust Him, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Where God is concerned, there are two groups of people, but it isn’t straight people whom He loves, and gay and trans people whom He hates; it is those who believe God—that He’s everything He says He is and is fully capable of accomplishing everything in us He promises—and those who don’t believe Him. It’s not something we cannot change or are born into; it’s something we make a conscious decision about, by choosing to trust the goodness of God through Jesus—by believing.

Without Him, we’re all broken and damaged and forever remain so because we can’t self-generate our own healing. Jesus, however, is life; He is healing; He is goodness and love and ultimate acceptance. He restores us to a position of living with God in this life and after it; He gives us an existence that transcends death!

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.’”) John‬ ‭17:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬) (prayed right before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion)

Dear Lord Jesus; my Lord and my God; Heal me! Amen.

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Colossians 3:16

Are you a thankful person, or do you hate yourself—but I’ll get to that. Do you live with a heart full of gratitude for what God, and the people in your life who care for you, have and continue to do for you? When someone makes an effort, do you look at their intent, or just at the result? Do you appreciate that they cared enough to try, the love they put into it, their time? Or do you just look at the end result—whether you personally benefitted from it?

“…singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Gratitude really is a Christian virtue; it is not something that occurs naturally in the human heart. Our human response apart from how God tells us we should look at things is an attitude of give me, give me, give me. We want, and it had better be good or you’ll hear about it in some way, shape or form.

Why? Because we are born thinking only about ourselves, and in the absence of hearing, believing and accepting what God teaches us through His Word, it remains just “all about me” in our minds. In the extreme—if you’re abandoned as a child; if you don’t have a mature, wise parent or parent-figure to guide your developing thinking; if you had a bad example of ingratitude as a role model and made the mistake of copying it in your own behavior—you will grow up harsh, selfish, highly demanding, and unforgiving. Why? Because that’s our inborn, natural condition—it’s our sin nature.

We don’t have to do anything to get that—it’s the lowest common denominator, the default position we sink down to in the absence of effort to the contrary. In this way, it’s like any other product of our sin nature—laziness, lack of motivation, filthiness of mind or body, hate, envy, greed—without any effort on our part to do better and rise higher, it’s what we descend to.

That’s why we teach our children—it’s why God gave parents, among other reasons. Yes, it is to protect us physically and provide for us while cannot yet do so ourselves, but it is also to teach us what we need to know about the world and how to relate to God and others in our lives. That is why thinking parents take their children to church; it is why they try to get them into the habit of picking up their Bible and reading it; why they teach them to talk to God, to confess their sins and ask for His help to be the people He wants us to be—the people, in Christ, we can be.

But when people reject that—when they fall for the lie that God did not create us (using whatever particular means to do so which do not contradict what He told us in His Word); that He does not exist; that we are completely alone in this big cosmic result of evolutionary forces (or worse—that “natural selection” favors self-centeredness)—that’s when the world see the most abominable manifestations of the depravity of the human soul. It is when mankind is deceived into sinking to its lowest levels!

Secularists scoff at it, but it is God’s instruction in the Bible that keeps us from descending to the depths of moral depravity. Others argue that rejecting God and the Bible doesn’t mean you have to degenerate in every way imaginable—yet they run afoul of the concept of moral relativism. Once you do away with right and wrong, how can you argue that anything is really wrong? If being a homeless alcoholic works for you, who am I to say it’s bad?

No, remember that Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins? He paid the guilt—the penalty—for our sins so that we can have a clean conscience, and being right with God, live on a higher plane; so we can rise to a better standard than giving up and not even trying because we subliminally hate ourselves for how evil we really are. That’s what astute therapists recognize—that people often self-sabotage because we know best how bad we really are, and don’t feel we deserve better.

Yes, we hope for eternity with God because of Jesus, but He saves us from this, too—from hating ourselves. If God loves and forgives me; if I am “accepted in the Beloved [Jesus Christ]” (as I am!)—who am I to contradict God; to hate myself when He loves me so fully?! It is the knowledge and consciousness of complete forgiveness and acceptance that frees me—that releases me from the guilt of feeling I don’t deserve any better and sabotaging my own life. And it is what urges me to not settle for the path of least resistance at the lowest moral level. Why? Because God wants more for me!

So the next time you find yourself being selfish, or demanding, or unforgiving, or harsh; the next time you don’t feel like you deserve anything better than the miserable rut you might have allowed yourself to fall into—come back to Jesus! Realizes it’s not what He wants for you; it’s not His plan. Confess, admit, ask; let the consciousness of Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance wash over you! Let the knowledge that He paid the penalty for your sins every bit as much as for anyone else’s cleanse you. Ask Him to fill you with the strength of His Spirit so you don’t have to do life alone; so you can rise to the level He means you to live at!

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions…When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:16-26‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Dear Lord God,

Forgive me—thank You that You have forgiven me and accept me completely through Jesus; that You love me with an eternal love in Him! Fill me with Your Spirit—help me rise to the level You desire for me! Help me know that even though I am guilty of evil, it was nailed to the cross and paid for by Him; that I’m forgiven and accepted in Him and freed to live the life I was meant to! Help me be patient, and forgiving, and loving and kind and faithful and self-controlled and everything else You now give me the power to do. Thank You so much for everything You have done, dear Lord God; everything You continue to do; and everything You will yet do in the future! Amen.

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I John 1:8-9

Have you messed up? Have you done something—big or little, a lifelong habit or a one-time occurrence—of which you are ashamed? We all do typically, at some point in our life, but how you handle it has long term implications for both your mental health and your relationship with God.

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John‬ ‭1:8-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

We are human. If we “…love the LORD…[our] God with all…[our] heart, all…[our] soul, and all…[our] mind” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭22:37‬ ‭NLT‬‬), we will act foolishly or downright sinfully less, but we may still misrepresent God through our own responses at some point. How we handle the aftermath is significant.

So what happens when you mess up? When in hindsight, you see that you were genuinely not everything you should have been?

We had a funeral in my husband’s family yesterday. His sister—a year younger than him and me—passed away after about a month of struggling on a ventilator because of a COVID-19 infection (to which she was particularly vulnerable because of chemotherapy). She left behind a husband and seventeen-year-old-daughter, as well as a mother and a sister and brothers and their spouses and children. This would have been a difficult time regardless, but people were stressed and bad feelings had sprung up between her husband and my husband’s family.

There was no brunch after the funeral, so some of my husband’s family congregated at Grandma’s house and split the catering bill. The part that made me feel bad, however, was that I feel we mishandled this—at least from a Christ-honoring perspective.

Regardless of what was said, there were multiple grieving people—not the least of which is her husband of seventeen plus years. This is the man she chose; this is the man who is her daughter’s biological father; this is the man who lived with her and her daughter since their marriage—who is now tasked with supporting and maintaining their remaining two-person nuclear family. I cannot imagine how difficult that will be!

I understand that she probably became infected indirectly through his work—because he didn’t take a vacation and continued onward throughout the time of her chemotherapy treatments. In hindsight—if at all possible—wisdom might have dictated differently. Yet it was not intentional; at worst, it was a willful refusal to face possible dire consequences, which unfortunately occurred.

My point is merely that God wants us to forgive each other as we have ourselves been forgiven by Him through Christ. And to love; and to accept—again, as we are loved and accepted through Christ by God.

Yet yesterday, several things happened. The first is that as an extended family, I feel, we excluded two of the most affected and grieving individuals after the burial. Instead of gathering around them and grieving with them, we left them. I did not hear the words previously exchanged—they were not said to me; I do not understand how potentially offensive they were. What I do understand is what God tells us:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:29-32‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

What I do understand is that He commands us to “forgive each other, as as in Christ God forgave you.” It isn’t complicated, just difficult at times.

My second regret from yesterday was my own witness at Grandma’s house. Before the funeral, I asked God to speak truth to those gathered through the Catholic priest who was invited to conduct the service—I am fully convinced God can work through anyone He chooses. And He did! In almost everything he said, he pointed us, his audience, to Christ Jesus! I was so happy sitting there, that we were being led closer to God. Yet when he was brought up afterward in somewhat of a negative light, I failed to speak up…

I should have spoken up and said that he had spoken truth. But I didn’t. Instead I sat there closed-mouthed as bad feelings were vented, about the priest and everything else, and spoke nothing of substance…

So what should I now do? How can I make amends? Is there a way to make amends? Perhaps acknowledging this publicly on this site is my feeble effort to do so; ultimately, God may give me another opportunity to better represent Him. I know that I will make an effort to reach out to my sister-in-law’s daughter and husband, in whatever small way I can. For now, I have confessed that I sinned against God; that I fell short of being the person He wanted me to be yesterday. And I know He is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me of all unrighteousness.

So—have you messed up? Have you done something you know was wrong; something you are now ashamed of? Don’t sweep it under your feet and try to live as if it didn’t happen—you may think it worked, that it’s forgotten, but unless you confessed it to God, it isn’t. Present it to Jesus and admit you were wrong. Then continue onward, knowing that God already knew you were wrong, and has forgiven and accepted you in Jesus!

Dear Lord God,

Thank You that You forgive; thank You that even though I fail, You never do! Help me represent you better. Amen.

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I Chronicles 22:5

Do you love your children? If so, are you setting them up for success, whether they are little children or already adults?

“Now David said, ‘Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries. I will now make preparation for it.’ So David made abundant preparations before his death.” (1 Chronicles‬ ‭22:5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

There is never a time when our involvement in our children’s lives ceases; its character may change as they mature, but good parents will never fully withdraw from their children’s lives. This is not to say we are to continue trying to run their lives for them indefinitely; most adults will not welcome that degree of assistance from their parents considering it interference. But we, as older, more mature individuals who genuinely love them and wish them well, will remain as involved as we are able—albeit in the background—yet always understanding what is going on in each of their individual lives and setting the stage, as we are able, for their continued success.

Today’s verse refers to David preparing everything for the construction of God’s temple, which he was not allowed by God Himself to actually do. Yet David did everything possible to assure Solomon’s success in this venture. He didn’t just sit back and say, “Go at it, son, and may God bless your work (even though you’re just a young man and probably have no idea how to undertake a venture this size).” No; he selected the site, assigned the workers’ roles and provided the material needed; it seems that all Solomon had to actually do was to give the command for the actual construction to begin.

Do you do that for your children? Do you love them enough to remain that involved in their lives—to know what’s going on and support their genuine need? As importantly, are you able to provide that support? You see, in many cases, that’s the problem. As our children mature, their problems get larger and at some point, threaten to exceed mom and dad’s ability to solve. Parents can call the teacher to try to get a homework extension, but may not have sufficient funds to pay an insufficient mortgage bill—you get the picture.

Yet herein lies the challenge, and it is two-fold; 1) how to have enough of yourself available to support well each of our adult children, and 2) having the resources to do so. Each of our children is different. What one needs, the other may not. None of our children should feel unloved or neglected, but how we support our adult children will vary according to their need.

Will will not, typically, financially support our adult children like we did when they were younger—even if we are financially able. One of the primary goals of parenting is to bring them to a point of academic and professional maturity and self-sufficiency that they can support themselves. But there will be times and places where we can assist.

More than that, there will be instances where we can reach out and motivate them to aim higher and accomplish more by offering incentives, or pitching in in some way, shape or form; thus there is strong cause to try to establish ourselves as well as we are able, so we can help others in our lives—including our children, if need be.

We have three children—two adult, one almost—and each of their needs are different. One might (I believe) would benefit from encouragement to commit the resources to successfully accomplish a massive undertaking. Another needs support of a more practical nature—emotional as well as financial support, as she struggles to find suitable employment post graduation. The third needs enough of me to actually be there for her as she completes some significant online pre-senior year summer classes and begins the college application process. They’re all different, and they all need something different from their father and me, as their parents.

So, do you love your children? Are you setting them up for success, whether they are little or grown adults? Seek our Lord in prayer today to give you wisdom how to best do that!

Dear Lord God,

Give me the wisdom to see all my children really need from me, and provide the resources for me to be able to do so! Amen.

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Job 12:7-10

Do you have a ferret? Do you want one? You know—those long furry creatures that look like God decided to stretch him out longer than the others? Our daughter’s had one for about four years and he’s adorable, but what does a ferret have to do with our relationship to God? I’ll tell you!

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (Job‬ ‭12:7-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

We bought our last daughter her ferret shortly after her older sister left to attend college in Japan. That was a difficult time for her because they had been close, and even though we had no previous experience with this type of pet, I concluded it would be good for her. I was right. But more than that, this little critter taught me lessons—of all things—about God Himself, and our relationship to Him. So what did I learn?

Well, I got a little bit of a taste of how God must feel toward us when we are His; when we trust Him and love Him and look to Him for our survival. You see, this creature, whose name started out as Jasper, then Da Boy (and I’m not even sure what else—I just call him Little One now), is so innocent. He’s never, ever bitten me, not even by accident.

And just as we are utterly dependent on God—yet frequently don’t acknowledge that fact—he’s so completely dependent on us for every aspect of his survival that he’s also genuinely helpless—although I doubt he realizes this. We give him his food, his water, clean the cage he spends his nights in. He may not think about it much, or even realize it at times, but without us he’d be a goner.

He’s also genuinely vulnerable—although he’s thoroughly oblivious to that fact. He loves to burrow under our daughter’s discarded items of clothing that haven’t made it to their proper location and sleep there; if we aren’t conscious of the fact that there is a small living creature somewhere in that room, we can easily maim him or even end his life. Yet he has no clue. If we mess up and leave her door open, his natural curiosity will lead him out into the hallway and eventually to the landing at the top of the stairs, where he would probably fall to his death between the bars of the railing—because, honestly, we’re not sure he has the sense not to.

Which, again, is exactly our situation. Without the protection—and even active intervention—of God we’d be goners—or at the very least, our lives would be so much more difficult. Sometimes it seems we’re hanging on by the thinnest of threads and it is but that genuine grace of God that stands between us and calamity. Yet we rarely recognize exactly how vulnerable we are, and if we do think in passing how tenuous and frail our existence is, we typically banish that thought quickly.

Our ferret trusts the humans in his life completely. His existence is one hundred percent dependent on us—who are exponentially larger than he is—yet he trusts us, implicitly and explicitly; he is utterly devoid of any of the natural fear God gave most other little creatures. Which is exactly what our attitude is toward God when we know and love Him in Jesus Christ! He is so much larger and more powerful that we are—by His mere breath He could extinguish our existence and wipe our memory from the face of the earth! Yet, God doesn’t extinguish our existence. Instead He loves us with an everlasting love!!

He looks, as it were, for little piles of stray clothing on the floor and scoops us up into the safety of His hands; He lavishes His love and protection and care on us. Of all His creatures we are most precious to Him—so much so that He Himself—in the person of Jesus Christ His Son—became one of us; grew, lived, and voluntarily gave His earthly life to take on the penalty for our foolish wickedness and bridge the irreconcilable gap between our sins and His holiness.

So, what does a ferret have to do with our relationship with God? Who, or what, is our Little One? I’ll tell you; he is one of the millions of object lessons God has built into His creation to teach us about Himself, and our relationship to Him! You may say I’m extrapolating; that I’m seeing in this what I want to see in it. But I know better, because I know the One who wove together our world, the reality we inhabit; and just as you can see evidence of authorship in certain pieces of music, or art, or literature—we can tell when something was written by Mozart or Shakespeare or painted by Monet—I see evidence of my Maker in His creation.

Dear Lord God,

Thank You that You love me and care for me and look out for me and protect me, just as we, much less perfectly, do so with the little creature You gave us. Help us continue to look to You in trust for our existence! Amen.

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2 Kings 6:15-17

Does God protect us supernaturally? Are there instances where things we cannot see are going on behind the scenes; where God is actually paving the way, looking out for us, and actively protecting us—to which we may be oblivious? Those who know Him will give a vehement “yes” in response to these questions, but others might be skeptical. How can you prove it, they would say? Proof is a difficult standard, but when the preponderance of evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of certain facts, we cannot but conclude it is so—whether or not we can “prove” it.

“When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. ‘Oh, sir, what will we do now?’ the young man cried to Elisha. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ Elisha told him. ‘For there are more on our side than on theirs!’ Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’ The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” (2 Kings‬ ‭6:15-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

In our jaded society, these verses may seem like a fictionalized allegorical account—yet they aren’t; this is the record of an event that happened sometime in the past. How do we know? Because everything recorded in the Holy Bible actually happened. These are real occurrences recorded for our benefit, so we can better understand who God is, and how He moves on our behalf! So does this mean He always has angelic armies stationed around us?

Perhaps, because the Bible refers to His protection. Yet what we do know with certainty is that God moves on our behalf supernaturally in a myriad of ways to help and support His own; I’ve seen it and personally experienced it countless times. What do I mean? Let me back up a bit.

I recently purchased a book titled “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” by Jordan B. Peterson. I had no idea who the author is but the Amazon excerpt seemed interesting, so I ordered it, not realizing the author is apparently controversial.

When it came, I read the first chapter—about lobsters fighting to establish superiority or inferiority—and went to bed that night troubled by the content. I understood the author was not a believer in Christ but in evolutionary thinking, yet I couldn’t ascertain what, exactly, about what I had read was disconcerting (basically, it was that some people are winners and some losers, and that there are advantages attendant to being a winner and corresponding disadvantages for the loser).

The next time I sat down with the book, it hit me—why this assessment of humanity troubled me so much. It was because it did not consider the impact of Christ’s Spirit in us—regardless of whether the outside world considers us superior or inferior. The book described life without Christ, yet Christ in us modulates those society deems superior from arrogance, pride, selfishness, injustice towards others, oppression of the poor—from our natural, sinful inclinations. For the rest of us, He walks ahead of us to lessens our burdens and assists us in coping with the myriad of difficulties we face; He keeps us from making foolish decisions which further spiral people down—again, from our natural, sinful inclinations.

You see, the world Christ’s followers live in is different from the world everyone else inhabits. Yes, we face the same challenges those who do not belong to Christ face—but we do not face them alone! And it is not merely our belief that God is helping us that makes things different. Let me play devil’s advocate to explain.

Say you do not think you can do something and ask God to help you do it, and now you believe He is helping you so you try much harder and get it done, and end up concluding God helped you. A biblical skeptic could argue that the mere act of praying caused you to believe you could now do it, so you actually did it. I understand this argument—I’m not saying I agree with it, but I understand that it could be made, from a secular perspective. But there are other events in the lives of God’s people not so easily rationalized away.

I’ll use our own situation as an example. My husband has never been unemployed for any period of time; he has consistently worked his entire adult life. This past fall he finally sold a vacant piece of property that hadn’t sold for years—literally a week or two before he lost his job. This time, because he is older, he struggled getting rehired and then the coronavirus pandemic hit; as of this writing, he has been unemployed for eight months! Yet we are still living in our home, we were not cold in winter or hot now in summer, we are paying bills, eating and funding our daughter’s educational expenses. Our lives have not changed. Why? Because we believed in our own ability to do something and did it?! No! Because God knew what was about to happen, and provided, just as He provided for Christ’s family to make the move to Egypt to escape Herod through the provision the wise men brought—and as He provides for all who are His!

Mr. Peterson says, “If you slump around, with the same bearing that characterizes a defeated lobster, people will assign you a lower status, and the old counter you share with crustaceans, sitting at the very base of your brain, will assign you a low dominance number. Then your brain will not produce as much serotonin. This will make you less happy, and more anxious and sad…” Now, I will certainly not argue against standing up straight, but I would like to point out that all of God’s people, regardless of status, can have a healthy degree of serotonin in the full assurance that they are forgiven, loved and accepted in Christ, and precious to Him—regardless of how the world perceives them. This is the power of Christ! Because He has overcome the world, we can too.

So when the world assesses those not born rich or famous or wealthy or otherwise successful in the eyes of others unworthy, insignificant, replaceable—Christ comes in and redeems them. But there is more than that. God not only gives us value; He also gives us wisdom. Obeying Him, which secularists scorn, keeps us from the foolish life-altering and burdening sins human beings heap on themselves. Greed gets you into debt; lust gives you marital problems—do you see where I’m going? And, ultimately, God also actively intervened in the lives of His people to help them, as He did for us.

So, by all means, stand up straight as Mr. Peterson advises; it’s not bad advice! But when he concludes, “Then the meaning of your life may be sufficient to keep the corrupting influence of mortal despair at bay,” realize that merely standing up straight and facing all of life with resolute stoicism will not accomplish what the active intervention and power of Christ in those who believe Him will!

“And God will generously provide all you need…” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭9:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Dear Lord God,

Thank You, thank You, thank You!!! Amen.

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What’s going on? The riots, the protests, the looting and stealing and burning in cities across our nation? Murder is never justified—not this poor man’s or anyone else’s—and peaceful protest has been used to accomplish great things, but what happened these last several days has devolved into something foreign to the peaceful heart of movements such as that of Ghandi in India or Dr. Martin Luther King in our own country.

“The Lord aroused against Jehoram the hostility of the Philistines and of the Arabs who lived near the Cushites.” (2 Chronicles‬ ‭21:16‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

Why is this happening? While I don’t have all the answers, I would like to suggest that there are times when God arouses certain groups for the purpose of judgment. In addition to today’s verse, these are other documentations of God stirring up adversaries against His people when they stopped paying attention to Him:

“And God raised up against Solomon another adversary, Rezon son of Eliada…” (1 Kings‬ ‭11:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

“Then the Lord raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom.” (1 Kings‬ ‭11:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

“So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria (that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria), who took the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile…” (1 Chronicles‬ ‭5:26‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Is that what’s happening today? Are we being judged? I don’t know, I certainly hope not; but it seems to be one thing right on the heels of another; the headlines of coronavirus deaths had not even abated when reports of violent protests against the murder of George Floyd obscured them.

We like to see God as loving, forgiving, kind, merciful—and He is. But we must not forget that He is also holy, just and wrathful against all sin and disobedience against Him—and there is so much guilt in our nation and world today. Must I articulate it? From the greatest to those we would consider least, it is fair to say at this point we should put on figurative ashes and sack cloth the ancients did, in genuine and heartfelt repentance and grief for our collective guilt.

God’s people are not responsible for everything that goes on in the world or for the sins of others, but we are responsible for not being salt and light when we should have been. We understand light, but may miss the significance of being salt in a wicked world—yet salt is a preservative; Christ’s Spirit working in and through us keeps things from decaying completely in a world overwhelmed by sin!

Let’s never forget that Jesus said:

“…Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke‬ ‭9:23, 25-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Let’s never be ashamed of Jesus Christ, God’s holy Son our Savior, and His words; let’s not fail to be the preservative He intends us to be in this terrible, sin-filled world; let’s pray to God with great repentance that He quiet the spirit of unrest and hostility within our nation today and preserve us!

Lord God,

Shine Your Spirit’s love through us on our nation and our world today and always; withhold Your judgment from us. Give us a spirit of great repentance; remove the spirit of hostility and unrest from us! In Jesus’ name we ask, amen.

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Romans 15:4

Why do we have the Old Testament of the Bible? Is it, as some mistakenly believe, merely a remnant reminder of ancient Judaism? It certainly is rich, replete with accounts of not only creation and the flood, and amazing miracles and divine interventions, but also of harsh judgment first on other pagan nations and subsequently on Israel and even Judah when they became idolatrous—as well as the Psalms of David, evidencing great love for God and trust in Him; Proverbs, recording the greatest human wisdom given man; and Ecclesiastes, proclaiming the futility of life without God. But is there a more significant reason why we have the Old Testament? Yes, there is.

“For, as many things as were written before, for our instruction were written before, that through the endurance, and the exhortation of the Writings, we might have the hope.” (Romans‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭YLT1898‬‬)

We rarely quote Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible, published in 1862. It is a somewhat odd translation—literally translating word for word, instead of rearranging them for a more normal flow in our own language. Yet there are times when it’s strangeness actually helps us understand what is being said better.

The writer of the New Testament letter to the Roman Christians explains why we should pay attention to “the things that were written before,” elsewhere translated “Scriptures;” so, “that through the endurance and exhortation we might have hope.” The NIV is less awkward, saying, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

The point is that God gave us—He allowed to be retained as part of the Holy Bible—everything in what we now know as the Old Testament “to teach us, so that through the endurance taught,” and through “the encouragement they provide, we might have hope.” What endurance is it talking about? And why do we need encouragement?

You see, to our sensibilities in our postmodern lifestyle, this seems nonsensical, unnecessary. We just live. We get up in the morning, go to work or school, do what we’re supposed to, come home and eat, relax—watch some Netflix or YouTube or TikTok or play a game—then do some homework and go to bed only to repeat the next day; in the off chance we still believe in God, we may read a Bible verse or two, and say a prayer before we eat or fall asleep. Sure, we need physical endurance to get up every morning, and yes, there are times we can use some encouragement from friends or family, but this isn’t what God is talking about.

No. What God is referring to here is the endurance His people need to persevere in the faith—in their faith—regardless of the challenges such a perseverance requires; and the encouragement the examples of those who came before provides us. I don’t mean to be harsh or imply we can lose our faith, but this is meaningless if we basically aren’t, for all intents and purposes, even in the faith anymore—if we’re not making an effort to live lives pleasing to Christ anymore; if we’ve already essentially abandoned Him, for whatever reason.

Remember, we don’t have to consciously or intentionally deny Him—we can simply overburden ourselves with too much “other stuff” to have anything left for God. Jesus warned those of us who want to follow Him that there are many ways God’s Word might not be fruitful in our lives:

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew‬ ‭13:18-23‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Some people never get it to begin with. Others believe, but not sufficiently—they don’t trust or know Jesus enough to really believe He is worth whatever trouble or persecution comes their way because of Him. Others believe, but they get distracted or waylaid—they become preoccupied with various issues of life; with earning a living or acquiring wealth or whatever other pursuits or distractions, even inherently good ones, present themselves, and their attention is diverted away from Jesus Christ and God’s purposes.

The Old Testament is there to encourage us to endure, and exhort us—to urge us on to not swerve away from a pure and sincere trust in Christ or be distracted away from the pursuit of His kingdom; to give examples of faithful saints who persevered in the face of unbelievable obstacles and of the supernatural acts God did to strengthen their faith and protect them, as well as of what wickedness is and the terrible judgment it brings down on itself; so, “that through the endurance, and the exhortation of the Writings, we might have the hope.”

What’s the purpose of endurance in our faith through the exhortation of the writings of Scripture? I like Young’s translation—“that…we might have the hope.” What hope? The hope—of forgiveness, of acceptance in Christ, of eternity with Him!

We will all die—some of us sooner than others; the coronavirus pandemic has starkly brought that to light—and face Him. Will we be afraid because we ignored and rejected Christ? Will we be ashamed, because we wasted our earthly lives on insignificant pursuits? Or will be embrace Him with a pure conscience clothed in the righteousness of Christ; will will we have a crown to lay at His feet because we were fruitful in our faith?

That’s what we get to decide right now; it’s what we are deciding at this very moment—by changing something as a result of what we know, or obstinately refusing to. Eternity is being determined now!

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help me endure faithful in my faith because of the exhortation of Scripture, that I may have the hope! Amen.

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John 15:4

At whose altar do you worship? Many in the Asian world still bow at tangible shrines, but for us in the West this may sound like a very strange question because few actually worship at any physical altar anymore. Yet whether or not we bow before a particular deity, we all worship something—be it personal accomplishment, academic or professional success, wealth, fame, connections, or simply comfort or pleasure. We can’t help it; as human beings we prioritize life goals, typically ascribing far too much value to one of them and sacrificing everything else in its pursuit. Not only do we mentally dedicate the bulk of our resources to it; in practice we end up completely immersing ourselves in terms of time, money, and effort spent—and it becomes our idol.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me.” (John‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭CEB‬‬)

Christians are not immune to this; to the contrary, I think we sometimes don’t even realize we are doing it because it may be something inherently harmless, or even good, taken to an extreme. Ask yourself—if push comes to shove, if you are placed in a situation where one stays and one has to go: which will you choose, cling to, and refuse to let go? That is what you worship.

So, if you had to choose between keeping your spouse or remaining faithful to God, would you cling to your spouse? If it was your house or other wealth or job, and God, would you make up an excuse to choose the former? Maybe this seems obvious, so let’s look at it another way—what are you immersed in; what do you spend all of your free time doing? Even if you’re drop dead tired after you’re done with responsibilities, where do you go to “unwind;” what are you drawn to?

If I’m truthful, I’ll admit that for me it’s often online entertainment. Not anything most would call “bad;” just Netflix, typically. After I come home from my full time job, and have fed my family and cleaned up and finally gotten to sit down, I’ll open up the app on my phone and typically find some sweet, absolutely stupid romance, probably targeted to twenty-somethings. Yet several hours later, once I finally decide it’s time to get to bed, I realize I’ve spent so much time immersed—not in Jesus, the Person I claim I worship, but—in whatever that “innocent” program was teaching me.

So, what have I recently learned? Well, one program (Second 20’s) taught me that the husband who cheated on his wife for years got what he deserved when she went back to college, built her life, and found someone else who valued her—even though her husband had second thoughts after she became more interesting and would have been open to reconciling. Another program (Westworld) taught me that it’s a good thing that created beings realize they’re created and rebel against their creators. These are just two recent examples; there have been very many more lessons my viewing choices have tried to teach me.

And I realized something—I make excuses to disobey my God, my Master, my Lord. I say I “have to relax;” I say I’ve worked hard; I say reading the Bible, or praying, or participating in an online Bible study doesn’t relax me. But the truth is that my heart is in a wrong place, and I’m deceiving myself.

If you read the Bible, you eventually cannot help but conclude that God’s number one desire for us is that we love and adore and are immersed in Him and what He says above everything else—that He becomes our all, our life, our one true love—that we genuinely worship Him, that we remain in Him! That’s why the road that leads to eternal life is narrow and few find it, as Jesus said—because it’s something our human nature tends not to gravitate towards!

Remember the warning,

“Don’t love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. Everything that is in the world—the craving for whatever the body feels, the craving for whatever the eyes see and the arrogant pride in one’s possessions—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John‬ ‭2:15-17‬ ‭CEB‬‬)

The mistakes and sins of the Old Testament Israelites were recorded for our benefit, so we don’t do the same things. Remember how they worshipped God in the temple at Jerusalem, but often also the various pagan deities elsewhere on the hilltops and shrines? Is that what we’re doing, as Christians? Do we show up in church on Sunday morning (or go online to our church’s site, now during the coronavirus scare), then watch entertainment later in the day that teaches us lies about life and reality and morality; that is the equivalent of worshipping at a pagan deity’s altar; that immerses us in the world’s life view; that draws us away from Jesus?

We are to remain in Jesus. Jesus warmed us that it would be hard. He said many won’t find the right way. Why do we lie to ourselves that everything is okay and we are “in Christ” if we’re not really staying in Christ via what we’re immersed in on a day-to-day basis? I’m not talking about losing our salvation, but about whether we have it at all. I’m not saying we don’t; I’m just really concerned about how dangerous it is to accept idolatry into our life—about how dangerous it becomes when we start worshipping at two altars—and I even question whether or not it can be done.

Remember that Jesus said,

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew‬ ‭6:24‬ ‭CEB‬‬) I don’t think you can love God with your whole being—with everything you are—and something else equally. You’ll prefer one or the other.

So, are you trying to worship at two altars? Don’t. Commit to one or the other—you probably have already, anyway. Just make certain it’s the right choice in light of eternity!

Dear Jesus,

Please be my all, my most precious of all human treasures for which I am willing to sell everything else to acquire! Amen.

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Revelations 16:11

I never understood how anyone could not love—much less like—God, because He is so good and does nothing but good to us. Because of that I have always been convinced that if people could just somehow be exposed to who He is, they couldn’t help but love Him! Yet the abysmally sad reality is that there will be those who are not only God’s enemies because they’ve not heard of Jesus or repented yet, but also because they have been deceived into actively opposing and hating God.

“They also cursed the God of heaven…but they refused to change their hearts and turn away from the evil things they did.” (Revelation‬ ‭16:11‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

This verse refers to the time God begins to judge the evil of humankind. The last book of the Bible, written by John the disciple of Jesus, figuratively refers to this as “pouring out the bowls of judgment.” Yet even though mankind is struck with great pain (you would think, to direct their hearts and minds toward their sin and guilt) instead of repenting, they hate God more. Can you imagine where you have to be—mentally, spiritually, emotionally—to be so hardened against God? Keep in mind that these are real people who will respond like this—people like our friends, neighbors, coworkers, God forbid even family—real human beings alive at that time, not fictional bad guys of some imaginary plot. What could have gotten them to such a point, that they would be so set against the love and mercy and goodness that is God? I think I may have at least part of the answer.

It has to do with the demonic work of deception. We have to be careful, though; our prideful tendency wants to presume that other people are somehow more stupid or vulnerable than we are; to underestimate the allure and potency of Satanically inspired deception. Let’s not. Let’s come to terms with the fact that Satan—a very real and active spiritual entity at work behind the scenes in the hearts of those who reject Jesus Christ—deceives the brightest and most talented minds to introduce his most intellectually alluring untruths. He did it to Eve (whom, by the way, I feel we have grossly underestimated for millennia); he deceived her into doubting God’s goodness to her—and, of course, we all think she was pretty dumb to fall for it. But that’s not fair to her—yes, she failed to respond correctly; she failed to consult the only other human being who could have offered support and help her think straight—but the deception was also highly sophisticated and powerful.

And that’s still going on today. We may laugh when we read that “Satan is out there deceiving us;” but he is, and he’s using the brightest and best minds in every field.

So how is he deceiving us? Jesus Himself warmed us that before He comes back, “False christs and false prophets will appear, and they will offer great signs and wonders in order to deceive, if possible, even those whom God has chosen.” (Matthew‬ ‭24:24‬ ‭CEB‬‬)

I don’t think we’ve reached the “signs and wonders” stage yet, but there are definitely already some very intellectually tantalizing (but deceptive and untrue) philosophies out there—so powerful that they could (almost) deceive God’s own people. But they won’t—they won’t deceive those of us who are grounded in Christ, because we know and trust Him!

Strangely enough, one of the most recent ones is actually the oldest—the idea that God does not have our best interests at heart, that He can’t be trusted. I find it fascinating that Satan has bothered to infuse this concept into our modern, secular “God isn’t real and doesn’t exist” world; I’m sure it wasn’t intended that way, but it’s actually a testament to the fact that God does exist and is real. Why else make the effort to put in the safeguard of trying to deceive humankind into not trusting Him?!

Where do we find these deceptions? Everywhere. One dominant example I can think of, which all of us are exposed to, is entertainment. Because someone I know and love is highly into it, I recently made the effort to watch two episodes of the program “Westworld” (if you haven’t watched it, I’d encourage you not to—it’s full of everything God hates, and despite its highly engrossing and well-thought-out plot line, difficult to sit through because of so much ugliness). This isn’t the first program I’ve encountered purporting the concept that the creator is untrustworthy and it is desirable to awaken to that fact and rebel; God has been attacked before in entertainment. Years ago now, Dr. Who made the term Master (what we call Jesus) frightening in our minds; the more recent Handmaid’s Tale is openly hostile against God, the Bible, and biblical values.

But why bother attacking Him if He doesn’t exist? I know, it’s just a plot line for writers like Greek or Egyptian mythology—that’s the secular human explanation. But those of us who still read the Bible and believe what God tells us in it see the writing on the wall; we see the hostility to, and fear of, God programs like these and many others are raising generations of people to have, deeply entrained in them. That, along with other deceptions, is how and why there will be so many who hate God and are unreceptive to repenting and trusting in Him; because they have been weaned on subversive entertainment painting Christianity and all associated with it—including God Himself—as frightening, evil, and not to be trusted. Can you even imagine!

What should we do? I believe the answer is to obey Jesus, who taught us to remain in Him. That means to keep reading God’s Word, the Holy (yes, holy) Bible; to gather with other Christians as we are able; to pray; to listen to sermons, read books, and even fast as the need requires. In other words, to fill ourselves with Him, because otherwise the world, influenced by Satan, will fill us with lies and deception. And it should not need to be said, but I will articulate it, just in case—anything that teaches us differently than God does is the deception, not the Bible. We can believe God; He is utterly and completely good and worthy of our trust, although Satan will keep working to convince us and the rest of the world otherwise. Don’t fall for it! God does love us: He IS love.

Remember, “…Those who live by their own rules, not God’s, can expect nothing but trouble, and the longer they live, the worse it gets…Because they insist on shaking their fists at God, defying God Almighty to his face, Always and ever at odds with God, always on the defensive.” (Job‬ ‭15:17-26‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

Dear Jesus,

Please open our hearts and minds; show us, convince each and every one of us, that You love us; that You made us and died for us and that Your very being is GOOD! Let us be part of You; don’t let us believe the lie that this is a scary or evil thing! Amen!!

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