June 30, 2014 14:46 PM
In anticipation of July 4th I’m reposting something I wrote four years ago:
This Friday, people across America will be celebrating Independence Day. In essence it’s the celebration of freedom. And oh, what a great thing that is! And what a great country we live in! Though in some ways I see our freedoms eroding, I believe we still live in a land where we are free to dream and then make those dreams come true; where we are equal in the eyes of the law regardless of our race or social position; where we are free to practice the religion of our choice. But it all came with a price. And someone else had to pay it. It wasn’t free at all. People died, blood was shed, families were separated, and hardships endured, and on July 4th our nation will remember that.
But there’s another freedom, even more precious, that also was paid by blood and separation and hardship. It’s the freedom from sin and death that Jesus purchased for us at the cross. And oh, how costly that freedom was! But how willingly Jesus paid it! Those of us who are called by His name know the freedom of which I speak. It is the freedom that a clear conscience brings after knowing you are forgiven every wretched thing you’ve ever done; the freedom from fear of the future, for our future is in His hands; the freedom that comes in knowing that our eternal destiny is sealed.
I love my country and value it greatly. But our life on this planet is so brief—a passing vapor the Bible calls it—so the freedom we should seek, the freedom we should prize about all others is that which is found in Jesus, for it is the freedom we will enjoy throughout eternity.
Wishing you all a happy 4th! God bless America!
Until next time,
May 26, 2014 15:04 PM
We all know that freedom isn’t free. Thinking of all the brave men and women who have given their lives so we might enjoy ours. We honor them by remembering the day.
And to the family and friends who survive them, thank you, also, for your sacrifice and courage.
Until next week,
November 25, 2013 12:22 PM
I’m pausing my “following Jesus’ footsteps” series to repost this for Thanksgiving. It’s during this time of year that most of us take inventory of all the things we have to be grateful for: freedom, family, friends, a roof over our heads, clothes, food, health, a job. The list is endless. God has been good to us. We are a blessed nation. And most of us God lovers are greatly blessed individually, as well. But what would happen if we lost one of the above? Would we still be grateful? Still have an attitude of gratitude? Still believe we had the favor of God?
“Americans don’t know how to do poor.” That’s what one Peruvian woman I’m acquainted with said who grew up in a 10 x10 dirt floor house with eight other siblings. I think for the most part she’s right. I’ve spent a good deal of time listening to people who have traveled to places where entire populations had little freedom, clothing, food, shelter, or health. We take so much for granted. And we Christians in the U.S. often take God for granted, too. We equate prosperity with our reward from God, our due. If we do all the “right” things, then God will bless us. But what if the blessings should stop? Does that mean God no longer favors us?
It’s true that sometimes God’s judgment comes in the form of hardship, depravation, suffering. What’s not true is that hardship, depravation and suffering always means God’s judgment. Sometimes God allows hard times to come our way even when we are doing everything “right”. Why? Because He loves us. Because He wants to forge our character, to train us, to bring us into a deeper place with Him. Think back. Wasn’t it during those tough times that you learned the most? Grew the most as a person?
Some of us are facing tough times now. Many others will probably face them before too long. A portion of these problems might be self inflicted. If they are we can learn from them as well. But others are inflicted upon us. No matter the cause, we can learn and grow. And if we have an attitude of gratitude, if we trust God to see us through, we can end up on the other side better than when we began.
As we near the end of a difficult year and look forward to an uncertain future, let us keep our eyes on the Lord, the One who is our refuge and strength in times of trouble. And let us be certain to count our blessings and maintain that all important attitude of gratitude.
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Colossians 3:15
Wishing everyone a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.
Until next time,
October 21, 2013 14:03 PM
Jesus teaches an important three-part lesson in Matthew 18:15-17 (Amplified), one that everyone, including the Church, would do well to learn. “If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.” Really good advice. But what happens all too often is this: someone offends us then we go behind their back and tell everyone what happened and how upset we are. It’s called gossiping and accomplishes nothing but to create more strife and discourse. It never actually settles a matter.
Misunderstandings like this happen all the time, including among Christians who should know better. Instead of trying to resolve the problem, the offended party too often tries to prove he is right and the other party wrong, garner sympathy, and make the offender look as bad as possible. That’s called a dysfunctional relationship!
We need to confront wrongs and do it Jesus’ way. First we are to go to our offending brother or sister privately, without anyone else around, and speak the truth in love. We are to tell that person how and why they offended us, then give him/her an opportunity to make it right. Then Jesus says, “But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Not it gets harder and wisdom needs to prevail. If the situation indeed rises to this level as in domestic violence or sexual abuse, the “witnesses” you bring must be reputable, like a pastor or church elder or someone well respected and impartial. They are to “bear witness” to the conversation and confirm what was actually said to avoid further misunderstanding or confusion. That’s important in order to prevent a “he said, she said” kind of scenario where the truth can be muddled on both sides.
But what happens if that still doesn’t resolve the conflict? Jesus covers that, too, in part three. “If he pays no attention to them, refusing to listen and obey, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and tax collector.” The situation must be really grave to warrant rising to this level because Jesus is saying that if step one and two fail, it will be necessary to tell the church body, and if the offender still won’t listen, stop associating with him.
This is serious stuff and the last two steps are not meant for minor infractions and probably few, if any, of us will ever need to follow them. But the very first step I do see as needful, that of confronting, privately those who offend us rather than making it a forum for discord or allowing the wrong to fester like a sore that will only become larger over time. I think Jesus’ first step can be successfully used not only with our friends and church family, but between husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters. In short, anyone who has a gripe with someone would do well to confront that person with love and truth. Doing it will go a long way in resolving issues and creating happy, peaceful relationships. Not doing it will keep the problem festering and over time make it worse.
Until next time,
September 16, 2013 11:52 AM
This is a tough one. In Mark 10:1-9 some Pharisees ask Jesus, “is it lawful for a man to dismiss and repudiate and divorce his wife?” They asked this in order to test Him. The Amplified says to “find a weakness in Him.” They were always doing that. But Jesus doesn’t flinch. His answer: “What did Moses command you?” The Pharisees go on to admit that Moses did indeed allow a man to divorce his wife. Then Jesus zeros in on the matter. Yes, Moses did, Jesus concedes, “because of your hardness of heart, your condition of insensibility to the call of God.” But it wasn’t always so. “From the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave behind his father and his mother and the two shall become one flesh . . . What therefore God has united (joined together), let not man separate or divide.” It’s clear that God doesn’t like divorce.
But why doesn’t He? And why is marriage supposed to be forever? Because when you ripe something in two that is supposed to be one, there is damage, there is pain, there is destruction. And this destruction and pain spill over onto not only the former husband and wife, but their children, their families and even their friends as so often times these people are forced to choose sides. Nobody wins here.
Let me say right off that I don’t judge those who are divorced because “there but for the grace of God go I.” Marriage is tough. I wager that most people who have been married for any length of years have been tempted to “call it quits” at one time or another, or at least had it cross their mind, however briefly. But I do say we need to discuss this topic openly and honestly because divorce in the Church is just as rampant as divorce in the secular world. And this should not be. If anything, the divorce rate in our churches should be much lower. After all, we have God’s Word and His Holy Spirit to guide us. But how to prevent it? For one thing, we need to be honest with our children. Prepare them for the realities of marriage and discourage living together before marriage. (Aside from it being called “fornication” in the Bible and frowned upon by God, did you know that the divorce rate for couples that cohabitate before marriage is much higher than the average rate? It’s true!) But most of all we need to stress that God must be in the center of their lives and to allow Him to pick out that perfect spouse for us. That means waiting. And most of us don’t like waiting for anything. And when we don’t wait, when we forge ahead and pick our own spouse based on looks, personality, position in life, etc, we could not only be missing God’s best, but we could be entering a relationship bound for serious trouble.
Remember how Jesus said the reason people get divorced is because of the hardness of their heart? Well, here’s the final blow. We all have hard hearts. Hearts that are, by and large, centered on us. We are selfish and want our way, that’s why marriage is so hard. It requires compromise, the giving up of our selves for another. Beloved, only Jesus can plow the crusty patch that is our heart. Only He can change us, give us a heart of flesh and enable us to truly live the life He desires for us, and that includes our married life, too. Remember, it’s “not by might not by power but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
Until next time,
December 31, 2012 15:50 PM
How can we find our value in a bargain basement world? For God’s people, the answer is simple. We can’t. Why? Because the world’s value system and God’s value system are completely different. The world values physical beauty, wealth, success while God values holiness, integrity, honesty, faithfulness and the like. And if we focus on what the world values it often causes us to devalue ourselves. It’s easy to feel we’re not important. Not in the grand scheme of things, anyway. And thus we can feel insignificant.
That’s when we need to redirect our focus from the things of the world to the things of God. When seen in this light, the world offers little. Look at their take on physical beauty. Their standards are so artificial that few can match them. And this has reaped a harvest of suffering. 1% of all American female adolescents have anorexia—that’s 1 out of 100 girls between the ages of 10-25 who are starving themselves; 2 to 3 out of 100 suffer from bulimia; and 20% of all these girls/women will die prematurely from complications related to their disorders. Proverbs 11:22 tells us that “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion. While Proverbs 31:30 says, “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.”
Even worldly success, accomplishments and riches can be meaningless, and often comes with a great price. 41% of 1st marriages end in divorce and, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, there are close to 13 million latchkey children in the US; children who are left unsupervised while their parents work. 1 Corinthians 3:19 tells us that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” When you see the above statistics, it really brings that scripture home.
As Christians we need to be careful that we don’t buy into the world’s value system. God’s word tells us in Romans 12:2 “Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The world wants to conform us, but God wants to transform us. And 2 Corinthians 4:7 tells us that our treasure is in earthen vessels, and that treasure is God Himself, His Holy Spirit, who resides in us. Pontius Pilot asked the crowd to choose between Jesus and Barabbas, and the crowd chose Barabbas. The world will always choose its own. And since Christians are not of this world, the world will never value us. And if we apply the world’s standards to ourselves, we won’t value ourselves either. So we must look to God for our worth, and let His criteria determine our value.
And God does indeed value us. Why? Certainly not because of our physical beauty or our abilities, or our wealth or success. But because we are made in the image and likeness of God. Because we have been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus. Because we are the very temple of God. And He loves us so greatly. And that love is unconditional, intense and everlasting. It will not—never never never be revoked. He tells us this over and over again in scripture. And here’s what the Bible calls us: joint heirs with Christ—Roman 8:17; heirs of promise—Hebrews 6:17; heirs of the kingdom—James 2:5; heirs of salvation—Hebrews 1:14; more than conquerors—Romans 8:37; a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people—1 Peter 2:9. Not only that but God knows the number of hairs on our heads. And before we were born, He called us by name.
What else could we possibly want or need?
As the New Year approaches, let’s move forward in the Lord. Let’s do what the Apostle Paul did in Philippians 3:13-14 “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Let’s begin the New Year by forgetting the mistakes of the past and focus on Jesus. Let’s allow Him to draw us into a deeper love relationship with Him and show us our worth and His great love for us so that we can move into this new season with confidence and soul peace.
Happy New Year. May 2013 be the best, the happiest, the most meaningful year ever!
Until next time,
October 8, 2012 12:19 PM
My blogs have been following Jesus’ footsteps, but I will pause this series whenever I feel compelled to write on another topic, as I do today.
Who has not heard of the sad events in Libya where US Ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others were killed in cold blood by Muslim extremists? But make no mistake, it wasn’t only sad for America but for all democratic countries that have embassies around the world, for it signals no one is safe in places where Muslims can take to the streets and rampage and destroy and kill at will for some perceived or trumped up offense against their religion. In truth, they need no offense, real or perceived, for the goal of the agitators, like the Muslim Brotherhood and their countless offshoots, is world domination, a Muslim caliphate. It hates the western world and all democracies, and is determined to bring them down. But surely there are moderate Muslims who want a less repressive society? Yes. But they are not the ones carrying the guns or explosives and killing anyone who disagrees with them.
But the thing that increased my sadness over the Libya tragedy was President Obama’s and the US State Department’s official handling of the matter. Over and over and over again we saw them apologize for some obscure film trailer that I’m sure very few of the Muslim rioters even saw, and thus provided an excuse for their wanton murder and destruction.
On the other hand, where are the apologies from Muslim leaders for the countless Christians slaughtered every day in Muslim lands around the world? Where is the outrage? Or even the official free-world protestations? Thousands of Christians are being butchered in Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kenya, Nigeria and Somalia. Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, wholeheartedly supports their official motto, “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Quran is Our Law. Jihad is Our Way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” So just forget about democracy there.
Also consider these events: In March of 2012 the WND or World Net Daily reported on Muslims announcing their plan to “eradicate” Christianity. In May of 2012 it reported the slaughter of hundreds of Christians in Nigeria. In July the BBC News reported on how 15 were killed when Muslims attacked a church in Garissa, Kenya. In August WND reported that Muslim extremists were crucifying Christians as well as their own people who they believe to be Western sympathizers or who protested their radical actions. Egyptian Muslims were also kidnapping Coptic Christian women and selling them into slavery. And then in September, during the so-called protesting of the “film,” thousands of Pakistani radical Muslims, carrying kerosene and rifles, attacked a Christian church, tired to kill its pastor and his family, desecrated the alter, destroyed Bibles, then burned down the church and some surrounding buildings. Yet aside from Libya’s interim President, Mohammed el-Megarif, I’ve not heard even a hint of an apology from any Muslim leader for all the ongoing atrocities perpetuated by Muslims against Christians.
“Eradication” of Christians, crucifixions, murders, kidnappings, destruction of churches and Christian businesses—it’s all happening NOW. And I ask again, “where is the outrage?”
It’s time for the free world to wake up while it’s still free.
Until next time,
September 3, 2012 11:30 AM
I’ve been feeling stressed lately while trying to finish a project and keep my other commitments on track. And when that happens I begin functioning like a car with an empty gas tank. Knowing the past several months were going to be hectic, I made it a point to keep my prayer time and Bible reading and church attendance on par, and not bump them in order to compensate for my schedule. But even that didn’t work. And when that happens I know I need to employ my tried and tested stress relievers—things like “soaking” in my favorite praise and worship tapes, reading the Psalms, or just sitting quietly before the Lord and “listening.” They never fail.
We can’t always keep stress out of our lives, but we can manage it. And nothing manages it more effectively than spending quality time with the Lord in our own unique way.
Today is “Labor Day” in American, a time to rest from our work. What better time to reconnect with God in a special way? Even so, we don’t have to wait for a holiday or a designated date. We can do it whenever needed. And in this high-stressed world, that means far more often than we sometimes realize.
Until next time,
August 20, 2012 16:58 PM
Last week I went with my daughter and grandchildren to a place that provided opportunities for interaction with aquatic animals. It was amazing! We snorkeled in waters filled with stingrays—whose tail barbs had been filed down, large beautiful colored fish, and schools of smaller fish where we could closely observe how they moved in straight formation then turned direction in an instant. The crowning adventure, however, was actually swimming with a dolphin. I cannot describe the thrill of interacting with these marvelous animals. And the entire adventure left me in awe of God’s generosity. How diverse and awesome His creatures are! And His creation is so vast, so diversified even a lifetime isn’t enough to really study and enjoy it all.
It says so much about God, for doesn’t every creation reflect its creator? This carries over to man, as well, for it is man who is made in the “image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:27). And man’s diversity of personality and ability surely reflects God’s own marvelous diverse nature. It shows us God is anything but boring.
We should revel in the marvelous cornucopia that is mankind, and value each life. Among us are inventors, painters, aviators, laborers, soldiers, bakers, teachers, homemakers, nurses, construction workers, doctors, etc., etc., but each one shows a small facet of what God is like; His creativity, His compassion, His strength, His varied interests, and we need to celebrate that. I’m not talking about religion here or about embracing one another’s religious beliefs. No, there is only one Savior and His name is Jesus. What I am talking about is that we are all part of the amazing family of man, all God’s creation, and just on that bases alone we should respect, value and appreciate one another.
Until next time,
August 13, 2012 6:31 AM
Have you heard this one? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in addition to telling everyone he plans to wipe Israel off the face of the map, is, for the first time, telling his people to prepare for war—which he claims will be within the next 24 months—and to prepare for the end times. This doesn’t surprise me. But what does, is how few people are actually taking him seriously. They just don’t believe the guy. Is this history repeating itself? Wasn’t there a man named Adolph Hitler who not so long ago tried to conquer the world after ranting and raving about it for years? And wasn’t his ranting and raving ignored by most of the free world until it was too late? Then look what happened.
Personally, I’m weary of political correctness, that mindset that refuses to call a thing by its name. We need to start speaking the truth in love. What good is political correctness in the face of a world that might soon be in flames? It’s time to face the facts. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is serious. Why do I say that? Because, though he’s obviously a madman, he’s a religious madman, a deeply religious madman, and totally convinced he has been commissioned by Allah to bring forth the return of the Muslim Messiah, Mahdi, who supposedly will rule a globally Islamic-controlled world, and who, interestingly enough, resembles the Antichrist of Revelation. But first Ahmadinejad must annihilate Israel and bring chaos to the world (read war and destruction), and both of these he’s more than willing to do. The thing about religious zealots, no matter how misguided, is that they are sincere, and no amount of polite détente has the slightest chance of changing their minds. So if anyone thinks that Ahmadinejad will suddenly change his course just because a handful of heads of state congregate in a pleasantly furnished air-conditioned room, and smile and make-nice as they throw out a few half-hearted threats of more sanctions, you can forget about it.
“But what can we do?” you might ask. We can prepare. Get our spiritual house in order; and while we’re at it, our financial one as well, because when this happens it could change the face of the world by starting a cataclysmic chain of nuclear wars. Does this sound farfetched? I hope not. Does it sound like scare tactics? I hope not. But what I hope it does is show that the time for pussyfooting is over. We, as Christians, need to open our eyes and really see what is happening in the world, and then prepare ourselves so we can help others when the time comes.
We must also choose sides. Israel is already hated. And whether Israel strikes Iran before they can further harden their nuclear facilities or whether Iran strikes them first in the next 24 months, it is sure to start a serious Middle East conflict for which Israel will undoubtedly receive the lion’s share of the world’s scorn. And we, Christians, need to stand up and be counted on their behalf. God clearly promised Abraham, the patriarch of Israel, that He would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him (Genesis 12:3). Let me say this as clearly as I can: anti-Semitism, whether in the Church or out, is demonically inspired. It is not Godly, but a malevolent force that has been trying to destroy the people of Israel for centuries. It would serve us well to remember that the Jews are the covenant people of God, the very bloodline of the Son of Man. So will the Church stand when the time comes? Or will it do what it did so often when that other madman tried to set up his Third Reich?
I only pray the former.
Until next time,