|Posted on November 29, 2020 at 12:25 AM||comments (0)|
We’re closing in on a year that has been more challenging than most of us can ever remember having experienced. But when I really examine what’s going on, I realize that it’s not so much that the events are so extreme individually, but that they are so global and all-encompassing.
If I examine all that I’ve personally gone through since March, this is certainly not the worst that’s happened to me in my lifetime. But it feels that way because we’re seeing the whole world struggle with the same issues at the same time. You’d think that would make us unite, but instead we’ve allowed it to divide us.
That’s not on Covid-19, global warming, President Trump, the Democrats, Republicans or the news media. That’s on us. Where in the world did we get the idea that we would be able to just skate through our lives without trouble or strife? I can tell you where we didn’t get it – in the Scriptures.
Nowhere are we told that living for the Lord is a “get out of jail free” card. Our salvation isn’t insulation from disaster or a guarantee that our lives will be perfect. What it promises is comfort through our trials, stability and peace in spite of adversity, and joy at the end of our journey. It’s just hard to hang on to that when the storm is raging around us.
While attending to his dying wife, C.S. Lewis said “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
He is certainly shouting at us now. Our job is to shake off our fears as much as we possibly can, and begin to move in faith with or without that fear. The time has come to stop standing against the wall, hands wrapped around our heads, ducking away from the chaos. And now is not the time to give up.
In 2 Corinthians 4:15 we’re told: “These sufferings of ours are for your benefit. And the more of you who are won to Christ, the more there are to thank Him for His great kindness, and the more the Lord is glorified. That is why we never give up.”
Even though we may feel like all hope is gone, our salvation tells us that there is still something better waiting for us – a great ending to the story. Verse 16 goes on to say “Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever!”
I know it doesn’t seem small to us right now. But we need to keep our eyes focused on what’s in front of us – perhaps WAY in front of us – so we don’t get swallowed up in the mess and muck of the present. Because, while our salvation doesn’t promise us freedom from trouble, it does offer this in Verse 18.
“So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”
There are three things that real faith requires: Feet, Fortitude, and Fruit. To make it through this journey we’ll have to start moving forward with determination and endurance. And though we may not be able to see the blessing – the fruit – we have to keep focused on the truth that it will be coming. If not in this world, then surely in the next.
When Abraham was told to leave his home and go into unknown and uncharted territory to receive his inheritance from God, he moved forward. He didn’t know what the future would hold. Hebrews 11 tells us he was willing to live in tents and wait for the “city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
We may not see the light at the end of this particular tunnel, but we know it’s there because it’s been promised to us by God. So while we’re waiting, let’s shout out to the whole world that something better is available. We can disagree on everything else under the sun, but we have to agree that now is the time to get that Good News to our hurting world.
Be blessed my friend, God is on the throne!
|Posted on October 24, 2020 at 11:25 AM||comments (1)|
For some it’s become a bit of a challenge to talk about our Faith. That’s Faith with a capital “F.” These days, with all the division we’re seeing on so many levels, it’s unsurprising that it’s tempting to stay under the radar of anything that might appear to be controversial.
But when you think of it, how sad is it that our beliefs should be considered controversial? There was a time in our not too distant past when our country was founded on the fact that we are “one nation under God, indivisible…” Yet today, everything seems to divide us.
Did you know that the original Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a socialist minister? Rev. Francis Ballamy hoped that it would be used by citizens in many countries. It wasn’t until 1923 that the words “United States of America” was added, and it wasn’t until 1954 that we added God into the wording.
President Eisenhower, in response to the Communist threat of that day, convinced Congress to make the change and created the pledge we say today:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
And to the republic for which it stands
One nation under GOD, indivisible
With liberty and justice for all
It’s no surprise that it took a crisis to ask God to be part of the equation, and no surprise that it will take a crisis to bring Him back.
Because now, once again, we have become divided – in no small part because we’ve allowed ourselves to become sensitive to the criticism of the world when we share our Christian faith. We’ve slowly become accustomed to hushing ourselves while the declaration “ONE NATION UNDER GOD” is threatened.
The American republic was founded on a set of beliefs that have been tested many times during our history, starting with the Revolutionary War. Among these beliefs is the idea that we are all created equal – no matter our descent, religion, social, or economic standing. We have the fundamental right to freedom, free speech, due process and freedom of assembly.
As a country, we have had to stand up and fight for these rights – because even as the Declaration of Independence was originally written, it didn’t include everyone. But we grew and evolved and demanded that the original intent of our Constitution be instituted. As slow and painful as the battle was, can we afford to go backwards and allow the victories to be forgotten or wiped away?
In case you’re starting to think this is just another political rant, let’s circle back to the original statement. In our current situation, it’s become offensive if we talk about our Christian beliefs. They are considered archaic, misunderstood, or even worse - misguided.
But God was the original equal opportunity Creator, and we need to remember that it is on Him that not only this country, but our very existence, was really founded.
In Scripture we’re told “God treats everyone the same. He will punish sin wherever it is found. He will punish the heathen when they sin, even though they never had God’s written laws, for down in their hearts they know right from wrong. God’s laws are written within them; their own conscience accuses them, or sometimes excuses them.” Romans 2:11-14 TLB.
We have a life raft big enough for everyone. Are we going to row around, jealously guarding our right to be on that life raft – or are we going to share space, call out to everyone around us to come be saved, and reach out a hand to pull them in? Should we be afraid that somehow God’s big lifeboat won’t remain stable if everyone is on board?
We know from Matthew 5 that our Father will allow the “sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and He sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” However inconvenient, politically incorrect or uncomfortable it makes us, we must continue to share the message of equality, hope and salvation, whether we think people deserve it or not.
We’re not going to preserve our rights or freedoms by arguing with one another or by keeping quiet – but by diligently sharing the good news to everyone around us. Come on in! There’s plenty of room in this boat. God is going to get us through this election, through the Pandemic, and through the brokenness and division in our world. As long as we keep inviting Him in.
Be blessed my Friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on October 17, 2020 at 11:35 AM||comments (0)|
This week my ministry was dealt a pretty devastating blow when I got to the Project Forgiveness recording studio and found we had been robbed. Much of what I need to record the podcast and music had been taken, all my original music was gone, and many hours of work was lost in an instant.
We found where the thieves had gained access to my studio. They were apparently living in a dark, spider-infested filthy storage room behind my shop. It was there that they hatched a plan to go up through the nasty crawl space and drop down into my shop and grab what they could easily sell.
I first called my son, and then my Pastor. Both were so loving and supporting in their response, understanding immediately that the hurt went beyond what had been taken. After all, things can be replaced, but the sense of violation and unfairness cuts deeply.
Over the coming days my family and friends reached out to ask how they could help, and just to support me with loving words and encouragement. While there was anger at the unknown individuals who had hurt me, and grief over the loss, I also knew that somehow God would turn it around. I can’t explain that, but I was sure the outcome wouldn’t be a shutting down but a building up of the ministry.
And I couldn’t get the picture out of my mind of the dark nasty storeroom that another was calling home. While I sat in my air conditioned recording studio talking about the goodness and faithfulness of God, someone was just on the other side of the wall sweltering in the heat, smelling their own unwashed body, and likely fighting the uncontrollable urge for another fix.
I don’t know if they could hear me, but if so were they wondering who I was talking about and how God could be loving and faithful when they were living in filth and poverty? And did they ask themselves how the privileged person on the other side of the wall could smugly give advice about turning things around, when she had a comfortable place to stay with hot water and plenty to eat?
While the people who love me where encouraging and helping to pick up the mess, were their “friends” helping to share in the bounty of the little bit of money they scored, perhaps hanging around long enough for the wealth to be used up? As I repaired the building, added locks and security, what help did they have for their next night of homelessness and hunger?
I don’t think it was any coincidence that the last couple of weeks God has been speaking to me (and consequently to my audience) about loving the unlovable. I’ve learned an entirely new piece to that. Not only do we need to love those who are unlovable, but we need to be willing to see life through their lens.
1 Corinthians 2:11 asks “who can know a person’s thoughts except their own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own spirit.” I can’t possibly know what drove someone to what they did, and certainly can’t see what good God will bring as a result – but I do know He will bring good. And I know that I have responsibility for my own response to the hurt.
In Matthew 5:46, Jesus taught “If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much.” That tells me that God loves those broken souls that were living on the other side of my wall as much as He loves me. I don’t know what shaped their lives into what it is today but God does, and He is as willing to fix their situation as mine.
And fix mine He will. God provided once and I have absolutely no doubt He will provide again. I’ve already found I had more insurance than I realized, and I have absolutely no doubt that whatever else is needed will be made available.
I’m asking that you join me in praying for the one who tried to steal from me – and for someone that has tried to take something from you. Whether it’s your peace of mind, your joy, your self-confidence, or material possessions. God is the great insurer, and He will make everything level at the end of our days.
Isaiah 61 tells us God will give us a “garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” This is how we fight our battles! By getting up, dusting ourselves off, and praising Him through the storms knowing full well that what the enemy means for evil, God will turn to good.
Be blessed my friends, and be blessed my friend on the other side of the wall. God is on the throne!
|Posted on October 11, 2020 at 12:20 AM||comments (0)|
I’m not sure there’s anything harder to do than to pray for someone who has hurt us. When we’re emotionally injured, popular psychology tells us that our “go-to” emotion is anger – and personal experience tells me that’s pretty spot on.
Feeling a burning sense of righteous indignation is much more manageable than the inexplicable feeling of inadequacy we get when someone has cut into our heart with words we feel are harsh or unjust. Or when we believe they are marginalizing or criticizing us -- or even just ignoring us.
Sometimes it’s pretty clear what people mean – like when we’re in the midst of a debate – but many times it’s our own insecurities that are feeding into our injured feelings. We know we can’t read someone else’s mind, and we certainly can’t know their every circumstance, but our “assumptions” can lead us down a bad emotional path that feels scary, real and inescapable. We’ve learned that if we respond in anger it’s much easier to manage than if we give into the thought that someone we care about – or anyone for that matter -- is willing to cause us pain.
We can quickly lose our ability to focus on the truth of a situation and begin to look only at our presumptions. The more painful the wound, the harder it is to back down from the things we’ve chosen to assume are true. Pretty soon a sore has grown into that needs some very serious attention to heal.
The problem with a presumption is that it’s only an “idea that is taken to be true.” In other words, there is a whole lot of uncertainty given our inability to reliably understand every nuance of any given situation.
When asked, Jesus gave some very specific instructions on what we should do. In Matthew 5:43-45 He said “You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
That’s pretty specific… pray for your enemies. But what about praying for our friends or loved ones who hurt us? How can we get past the hurt in order to do that? When your child hasn’t called, returned your calls, or visited for weeks – we tell ourselves we must not be important. If a friend or colleague criticizes some work we’ve done – we’re sure they must not appreciate or understand us. And when we have a stupid fight with our sister or mom – over who knows what – we tell ourselves they need to apologize.
But Jesus’ admonition still stands. For that moment, we’ve made the person our enemy, finding ourselves on the opposite side of the fence from them for whatever reason. We’ve presumed things that may or may not be true, and developed an emotional response of our own. But, as the rest of His words tell us, God is going to treat us all the same. He is the ultimate judge and, as we know full well, only He can see the entirety of a situation.
One thing I’ve learned through hard experience, it’s impossible to be mad at someone you’re asking God to bless. When we begin to pray, no matter the circumstance, God opens our hearts and our minds to the reality of the situation. Because, if we’re sincere, He will wisely show us our own faults - even it’s is only the ‘sin’ of making silly assumptions.
Praying for those who’ve hurt us changes our focus. It reminds us that we’re flawed too. I’m fully convinced that no matter how hard we try to avoid it, we cause as much harm as others cause us. It’s the little things that can pierce. A look or word that slices, a sarcastic response, a critical tone of voice -- or even silence that can wound.
Let’s not give ourselves a pass, saying we were just kidding or misunderstood – all the while feeling resentful about something someone else has said. God’s love is without condition, and ours needs to be too. Pray for those who bless you and pray for those who don’t. God will handle the rainfall.
Be blessed my friend, God is on the throne!
|Posted on October 3, 2020 at 2:35 PM||comments (0)|
We are great at keeping things hidden. We probably don’t consciously tell ourselves that’s what we’re doing – but we instinctively try to hide behavior that we know others might consider “unpalatable” or even sinful.
It can be little things like hiding the oreo’s in our underwear drawer – telling ourselves that if we leave them out the family will gobble them up and they won’t be there when we desperately need them at midnight. That’s not being selfish, it’s just being thrifty. Or the tendency to react with a snarky comment when someone says something we don’t like – telling ourselves and others that we’re “just kidding.” Sarcasm is a great cover up tool.
Or maybe it’s pointing out the sin in someone else’s life, in the name of bringing them closer to salvation, but secretly hoping that no one finds out about the issues we’re struggling with. That kind of deflection and misdirection is also a popular way to keep the focus off our own inner demons.
Sadly, all the energy we spend on covering up, redirecting attention and creating distraction is a complete waste of time. God sees all of us – inside and out. No one knows us better than He, and our Father is all about shining light in the dark places, both in the lives of others and in ours.
In Phillippians 2, Paul calls Christians to unity and humbleness. In verse 2-4 he says “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others.”
We live in a very selfish world. We are taught an “every man for himself” way of thinking. That’s clearly not how Christ intended for us to behave. We tend to interpret salvation a certain way, then expect everyone else to follow our understanding. But in verses 12-13, Paul goes on to warn that we must “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” That word “fear” doesn’t interpret to being afraid of something, but rather means to do something with worship and love.
We are supposed to be light-bearers, not creatures who work secretly in the dark. We are to be “harmless, without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you (and me) shine as lights in the world.”
The problem with being a glow stick is that we must make sure we’re not afraid to expose our sins and shortcomings. We have to be transparent, and willing to admit to the “plank in our own eye.” But thankfully, we don’t have to be perfect and we don’t have to fight the battle alone.
When we give our lives over to Christ, we’re given a reset. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!” And before we get too big a head, we need to read verse 18: “All these new things are from God who brought us back to Himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging (not condemning or forcing) everyone to come into His favor and be reconciled to Him.”
God gave us the privilege – not the assignment, chore, or burden – the privilege of being able to lead others to Him. But we can’t do it in the dark, or if we’re trying to bust someone over the head with laws and rules. We can only fulfill this mandate by leading in love, and being a light in this very broken world.
Scriptures tells us Jesus is the ‘light of life’, and they also say we are the ‘light of the world’. He will shine through us, if we open ourselves up and let Him blow out the cobwebs and darkness.
Hold on to this blessing that the prophet Isaiah gave to the people of Israel. They had been living through a time of captivity, fear, and turmoil – stripped of everything they held dear after years of war. The temple of had been destroyed and they were hostage to a pagan king. Yet in Isaiah 60:1 the prophet says:
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
In spite of these challenging times, we too can arise and shine.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on September 20, 2020 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
What’s the difference between mercy, grace and forgiveness? We have those concepts all knotted together in our minds as we think about our salvation. We pretty much understand that we’re not deserving of any of the three – after all, no one knows our hearts, minds and actions better than us, but we can’t help but wonder if we deserve all the pain of this world either.
I think part of our inability to grasp the greatness of grace, mercy or forgiveness is the fact that we’re incapable of granting it as unfailingly as God does. We are wonderful “excuse makers.” We have the unique ability to find someone (or something) else to blame for every problem in our lives. When all else fails, we can always point the finger at Adam and Eve. After all, this whole mess started with them, right?
So back to the difference between the three life-changing words? Grace is really defined as “goodwill or credit,” but the Latin origin of the word is gratia – meaning pleasing, thankful or grateful. So grace is God giving us an unlimited line of credit against all the mess we are going to create in our lives (yes – He knew that we’d mess up again, even after sending His only Son to be the sacrifice for our past transgressions).
Mercy is from the Latin merces, which means pity or favor. Those two things may seem very different but they are really closely related. God took mercy on us, understanding our frailty and faults, and with great love, taking pity on us, made provision for them.
Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” That scripture is giving us the promise that we can come to our Father without reservation or timidness, despite all that we know about ourselves. We are approaching the One who sits on a THRONE OF GRACE – not judgment or criticism. We can obtain mercy for the past, and grace for the present and for the future.
And forgiveness? Forgiveness is the bridge between the two. The great theologian, John Calvin, said “while sin is overflowing, grace pours itself forth so exuberantly, that it not only overcomes the flood of sin, but wholly absorbs it.” That emphasizes the fact that once God has forgiven our sins they are completely wiped out of His remembrance.
We know that because Psalm 103:8-12 reminds us that God is “merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; He is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love. He never bears a grudge, nor remains angry forever. He has not punished us as we deserve for all our sins, for His mercy toward those who fear and honor Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. That is forgiveness.
And that sums up the greatness of grace. It covers what is behind us, what we are facing today, and what is before us in the future. All with the same steady, loving kindness of God. There will never be any residual resentment over the sacrifice He’s made on our behalf, or our continued failures. And in fact, He gives us a clean slate day by day and moment by moment.
Like the ripples from stones skipping across the water, God continues to forgive – loving us with limitless mercy and grace.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on September 12, 2020 at 11:45 AM||comments (0)|
Although we don’t always like to admit it, and sometimes even deny it vehemently, most of us really believe our opinion is far and away the most accurate in the conversation. I think as we get older, we often learn that listening can be far more enlightening than speaking, but it’s really just human nature to get an idea in our heads and hang onto it for dear life.
Sometimes we cling to our beliefs long after they have proved valuable, profitable or functional. And sometimes our pre-conceived ideas, origin unknown, aren’t even true! But, while we know whatever we’re doing isn’t working, we find ourselves paralyzed with an inability to change the dysfunctional thinking long after it’s started to create havoc in our lives.
Then, when someone tries to introduce some kind of change, they suddenly become the enemy. It doesn’t matter that what they’re pointing out should to be challenged – WE DON’T WANT TO CHANGE, or even admit we may need to change. And that especially applies to our minds.
But Jesus’ teaching shows us that we need to be open to new thinking, experiences, and people. His existence, and His purpose, was to introduce change and inclusion in a very broken world. He didn’t say that we embrace dysfunctional or sinful behavior or attitudes, or accept bad behavior under a banner of love for everyone - “I’m okay, you’re okay” is a book written in the 70’s, not a verse in the bible - but He did say that we have to accept the differences in one another and allow God to be the judge. And in fact, our very differences could be our strength.
Really, I’m not okay and neither are you – except by the grace of a very loving God. But okay or not, we must learn to love and accept one another despite our differences. I’m not just talking about skin color, denomination, fashion choices, popular thinking or politics. We must also be able to accept each other’s weaknesses and failings. If we can’t love past those, we can’t love at all.
Thankfully, as in every other case, God gave us the provision and the ability to move past our own stubborn human nature. In John 15:12 scripture tells us “I demand that you love each other as much as I love you.” Jesus wasn’t commanding us to feel a certain way, but He was telling us that we can show love to one another through our action and our words.
It’s easy to love someone when they look like we do, believe like us, talk the same language, frequent the same places, worship in our church, and fit our preconceived notion of “normal.” But what about those who may not be in that mold? Luke 6:32 says “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” And a more important question might be, “what benefit is that to anyone else – or to the Kingdom?”
It’s more than a command to “love like God loved us,” it’s a requirement – a demand. In exchange for God’s grace and love, we must extend grace and love. Not to those we deem worthy of it, but to everyone. Why? Because it’s one of our strongest witness tools. John 13:35 says “Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Beyond that, considering the sacrifice of Christ, it seems the very least we could do. Our very diversity, if we will become unified, would be an unbeatable weapon against a cunning enemy who wants to divide and conquer.
God loves us equally, regardless of our politics, color, denomination, or even behavior. He doesn’t stop loving us when we’re living in sin or have moved out of His favor. His love follows us relentlessly. So that person we’re condemning, treating differently or saying we just can’t love? That person is also His chosen. Loving the loveable is easy. Loving the hard to love? That’s God’s command.
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on September 5, 2020 at 11:55 AM||comments (0)|
Changes. The older I get, the less I want to embrace them. I know that change is part of the human existence. I see it every day as I look in the mirror, or test the limits of my physical capabilities. But we certainly have been challenged with a lot of unique challenges this year. 2020 is sure to go down in the history books -- and not in a good way.
I’ve been on a kick lately of watching primitive survival shows and old timey re-runs. I recognize that it’s because I just can’t take one more stomach-churning headline or hate-filled speech. Somehow, watching people struggle to survive against a real enemy – the weather, non-human predators and the relentless environment, at least gives me the sense that there is something tangible to fight.
In the harsh landscape of our modern society it seems there are elements to battle that you can’t even really name. Brothers and sisters, both through blood and through the family of God, are so divided on every issue that we can hardly have a civil conversation, let alone comfort and encourage each other. Every issue is a mine-field, ready to set off an explosion - even among those who have shared life-long relationships. My heart breaks over the childish in-fighting and division.
So, I take joy in watching reruns of “Little House on the Prairie” where people stood together against life’s obstacles. And in survival shows where success depends on a group working as one unit to build something that will stand up to the challenge. I long to get back to the basic design God had in mind when He created Eve for Adam. To be each other’s help through adversity, standing back to back and shoulder to shoulder, fighting this very real battle we are in.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls. For he has no one to help him up.
This was God’s plan for us. That we would hold each other up, be strong where someone else might be weak. Pastor Louie Guglio says “God’s plan was to bless, prosper and guide His people as a demonstration of His goodness in a self-destructive world where people worshiped everything but the one true God. But God’s chosen people were incessantly rebellious, constantly doing things their own way.”
I guess not much has really changed from the OT days when the rebellious Israelites fought over every little issue. We think the terrible disfunction we’re experiencing is a result of change – but it’s really because we keep embracing the same old patterns over and over again. Choosing to NOT work together and support one another, but to argue over issues that have no real eternal importance. You can’t win a tug of war with Satan when everyone is pulling in a different direction.
So, in retrospect I guess it’s not change that saddens me, it’s the fact that we still can’t seem to get things right. At some point we must have been headed in the right direction, but the distractions of comfort, prosperity, property and wealth has somehow lulled us into complacency and entitlement. And to defend it, many seem willing to tear each other to shreds.
The rest of that well-known passage in Ecclesiastes says “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” It is my prayer that as the Body of Christ, we can find it in our hearts and spirits to be reminded that success will only be found if we learn to love each other through our differences, and stand united as God intended. That’s our strength, and that’s how we’ll get the victory over Satan.
If we band together even when we don’t agree, we will be stronger. And if that seems counter-intuitive, we should remember to test our personal opinions against the very important measurement that St. Augustine left us: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” Even in those areas where we can’t agree on an issue, we can agree to love one another and treat each other with grace.
Remember, with everything else that has changed – God has not, and neither has His design for His children. As we’re told in John 15:17, we are to “Love one another; as He has loved us.”
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on August 29, 2020 at 11:20 AM||comments (0)|
As I write this, one of my oldest friends and my ministry partner is in the coastal area of California helping to move livestock that needs to be evacuated because of the dangerous and deadly fires that are burning out of control right now.
In California alone nearly a million acres have been scorched, more than 100,000 people have been displaced, countless homes obliterated, and who knows how many will eventually be affected. 2020 has been a year of unrelenting and unprecedented turmoil, unlike anything most of us have ever experienced.
It’s a time of confusion and fear, and it’s causing us to react in ways that we don’t even recognize. Many are striking out in anger because that’s the only outlet they have to let go of the mind-numbing panic. And even those who have held to their faith in God their entire lives are beginning to feel a sense of impending doom – perhaps wondering if they have been abandoned in this mess.
But we can choose how to react to the tornado around us, and we can choose how to act in spite of it. I’m not proposing that we let go of our fear completely and mindlessly allow things to happen, but there are steps we can be taking to right the ship and change the projectory of history.
My friend is demonstrating her faith in God, and her Christianity, by reaching out in any way she can. Some might say “if you’re going to do something, help feed those who’ve evacuated, or give money, leave it to the experts.” But she doesn’t just talk about her faith, she walks it. As she loads horses onto trailers and coaxes goats and cows into a pasture, people see her willingness to understand their situation and concerns.
When someone strikes out in anger at us, we can respond in kind or we can try and understand what the anger is all about. And if we can’t pinpoint the reason, at least we can douse the fire by not reacting with anger of our own – even if it might be justified.
When we’re struggling with our own finances, we can share what we do have with someone who has even less. Or we can send a meal, or just an encouraging word. And more than anything, we can pray, encourage and support each other.
We have one job to do while we’re here on earth – our temporary home, by the way. That’s to demonstrate the love of God, and try and grab the hands of everyone around us and pull them into a saving knowledge of His redemptive power and grace.
It is not possible to separate love for God from love for people. Matthew 25 tells us that “whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him.” We can give someone a few bucks (or even a lot of bucks), but we can’t buy someone’s salvation. We can’t beat a person over the head with every scripture we’ve ever memorized and assume they will be wrestled into an understanding of grace. And we can’t judge, school or trick someone into feeling God’s love.
We have to demonstrate by our actions, by our willingness to set our own comfort and fear aside, and by doing whatever we can to lift someone else up – no matter what ditch they’ve fallen into. And we have to do it over and over. We can’t expect the world to come to us, we have to go to them. And that can be scary and messy.
Philippians 2:4 says “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others.” Being a Christian doesn’t mean we’re part of an elite club. We’re the most common of the common. Why do you supposed God sent His Son as an ordinary man – a carpenter – not born into a royal household, but just a working class family? Because salvation isn’t just for the elite – it’s for all.
Today, more than ever, in this time of unrelenting and unprecedented turmoil, we have an opportunity unlike most of us have ever seen. We can use the circumstances around us to demonstrate the sovereignty and grace of God. We can let the world know who we are, and whose we are.
Be blessed friends. God is on the throne!
|Posted on August 22, 2020 at 11:20 AM||comments (0)|
Many folks think that being a peacemaker means we are weak and ineffective. In fact, they often equate it to a lack of courage or laziness. I’m here to tell you that being a peacemaker isn’t for the weak. It takes great self-control, strength and resolve to step down from a fight – especially when we believe we’re in the right.
Today’s world is full of contention, bickering, and strife. A result, I’m convinced, of the extreme situations we find ourself facing. Right now, just turning on the news can give you agita, an Italian word that comes from “heartburn,” but really describes a feeling of anxiety or upset. A pretty good description of the rolling headlines, or at least what they do to our peace of mind.
As Christians, we are called to bring peace to these angry times, not add to the stress by throwing kerosene on an already blazing fire. Romans 12:18 tells us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” In fact, Matthew 5:9 promises that we will be blessed as peacemakers and “called the children of God.”
Why? Because bringing peace to a volatile situation reflects the character of God. Not that God can’t get angry, because Scripture has documented many times when God’s anger blazed in righteous fury. From kicking Adam and Eve out of paradise, to the complete destruction of the earth in a flood that raged for 40 days, God will react when He feels He must.
But His anger is tempered with mercy, as well as the knowledge of all sides of a situation – and with wisdom. Not just a passing knowledge of the immediate circumstance, but deep and abiding understanding of past, present and future. And not only does God understand, but He deals with a completely impartial and just hand.
James 3:17 tells us that “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure.” God never has a hidden agenda or any baggage that He might be bringing to the conversation. He is unchanging – and that includes His great love and grace for every one of His children, not just the ones who are currently living the way they should.
The passage goes on to say that [His wisdom] is “then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” No matter how hard we strive to be all of those things, we’re simply not humanly capable of it. If we were, we wouldn’t need grace at all.
As we’ve moved from one crisis to another this year, it seems we have become increasingly suspicious of everything. What once seemed to be paranoid musings is now starting to seem pretty valid. It’s easy to fall into a cycle of believing conspiracy theories, and rampant speculations are beginning to feel like absolute truth. But if we allow ourselves to get lost in that kind of negative rhetoric, we’re stripping God right out of the equation.
Though we may feel powerless over the horrible things that are happening, we can’t grab our power back by responding in anger. Our authority and strength will always come from standing under the shadow of the Almighty. The best weapon in our arsenal is to trust in God, knowing that justice and restoration belongs solely to Him.
That’s why we’re called to peacemaking, rather than straightening out the world all on our own. Because the only thing we can be absolutely suspicious of is our own motivations and fears, and our ability to over-react when we don’t sit back and let God take control.
When we’re feeling the most vulnerable, before striking we must remind ourselves of the promise God speaks directly to us in Psalm 91. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue Him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him...”.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!