You may have noticed that there is a group of people who seem to think they are above the laws they set for others. They act as if they don’t have to obey their own mandates. They regulate others but include provisions so that the rules don’t apply to them and others like them. There’s a saying “rules for thee, but not for me.” It’s gotten pretty old pretty quick.
They’ve been called the sophisticated people. As if they’re better than the rest of mankind. They seem to believe they don’t have to abide by their own manmade rules. And somehow. Some way. They seem to get away with it. But they are in the minority. Because they determine who is sophisticated and who isn’t. And everyone can’t be sophisticated. That would defeat the purpose.
This certain group of people claim their violations of the rules they set for others are permitted. After all. One was in the middle of a celebration and just forgot about masks. And some groups say they’re exempt because they’re in the performance arts industry. Or there was one big birthday bash that showed obvious signs of disregard for the unsophisticated. And there are many more examples. But we all know what we know.
I’ve realized, before it was made obvious to me, that I’m not in the sophisticated crowd. And I’m ok with that. I’ve studied the mandates and the risks of disobedience. I’ve read about the rules that others say I should follow. And I’ve come to my own conclusions. I don’t have to be sophisticated in this world’s eyes in order to be somebody.
My identity doesn’t lie within the opinions of those who make rules for their own benefit. My allegiance doesn’t lie with those who are in office or out of office. I don’t follow those in the news so closely that they influence my decisions, lifestyle or purchases. I come to my own conclusions and act accordingly. I suggest you do the same.
You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NLT
However. There is One I follow. I’ve found that his message is always spot on. Even when it’s directed at me, and I need to obey. Even when I don’t want to. His words are truth. His ways are perfect. He will not lead me astray. He will not force his ways on me. I am free to choose my own path.
He has a name. Jesus Christ. He is the biggest influence of my life. He’s more than an influencer for me. He is the Way of Life. And he chose me before I knew his name. He knew me before I was even born. And he calls me his own.
But I’m not the only one following this Way Maker. There are many more. And he is always calling us out to be more like him. Oh. It isn’t easy trying to be like him. He sets a high standard. Perfection was his style. But it’s easier said than done for the rest of us. The good news is that he still loves us even when we miss the mark. When we fall short, he still seeks us out.
He calls us by name. And he calls us holy. Set apart. He says we are royalty. We’re his prized possession. Others may call us peculiar, but that’s ok. We are his special people.
The Old Testament explains how God set apart the nation of Israel to be his very own people. He still claims them as his own. And he always will. Just as he has called out this Jewish nation as his own, he calls us to be his people. We are chosen by God, but we must choose him. We must make that personal decision to be his followers.
And it doesn’t matter what names we’re called by those who don’t accept God’s call. Because only his opinion matters. We may be canceled by those who deem us unworthy, but God will always choose us.
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. He didn’t section us off into classes of people. We’re all sinners doomed to hell unless we repent. And those of us who have accepted the call out of darkness must show others the light. As we were shown the light, we too must light the way for others.
These are trying times. We’ve had our secure and comfortable lives upended for the past year and a half. And there seems to be no end in sight. There’s a lot of upheaval and unrest in the nation. People are fed up and angry. People are frustrated and have lost trust in leaders. We’re tired to the point of exhaustion. And it isn’t necessarily a physical exhaustion. There are those who are uptight and at the end of their rope. They say they are followers of Christ. Followers of Christ can be anxious during uncertain times.
It’s time to strengthen our relationship with Christ during these uncertain times. It’s time to take the next step into being more like Christ. It’s time to look to his example to see how he was able to stay true to his calling when he was being pursued by those who hated him. When he knew he would be the sacrifice for a lost world.
What did Jesus do to guard against anxious thoughts and fears? When he knew he was going to the cross, what did he do? What were the routines in his life that gave Jesus strength? Because in his humanity, he experienced every emotion that we humans experience. He faced the same temptations we face. By studying his life, we can see how he lived not by emotions, but by God’s Word.
Now I know he was God. He came in human form and experienced life, just as we experience it. He faced the same challenges that we face. The same trials and temptations. So when I look at the life of Jesus, what do I see?
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15
As he began his ministry, Jesus surrounded himself with people who believed his message. These followers weren’t just yes men. They were people who believed what he was teaching. They accepted the truth that he was Jesus Christ, the Son of God come in human form. He handpicked those who he would disciple and lead.
Now they didn’t necessarily understand what all that meant, but they believed in his teaching. They believed he was the Messiah. He spent a lot of time with them. In fact, he had a small inner circle who he trusted and relied on. That’s what we as believers need to do. We need to find a small group of like minded believers who will encourage us and challenge us. We need others who will mentor us and hold us accountable. We need close friends to strengthen our faith. We need those who will stand in the gap for us in our time of need. These friends can help us understand what we believe and why we believe it and to help us articulate it. Iron sharpens iron, as Scripture says. We need individuals in our lives who are the iron to sharpen us. We weren’t meant to do life alone.
Jesus was also in the temple on a regular basis. As a child he was taught the law. The Jewish law. He was taught Scripture. He could quote Scripture from memory. He knew the laws by heart. And when he became an adult, he still went to the temple where he began teaching. He began teaching as his Father gave him words and understanding. He opened up the Scriptures and explained them to those following the Jewish traditions.
We too must attend church. We must meet regularly with other believers. Listening to God’s Word preached to us. Worshipping God. Giving of our income to help spread the gospel. Fellowshipping with other believers.
Jesus challenged some of the regular day teachings, because his teachings were of a new way. He was teaching the promise that he was the Messiah, and that he was the hope of the world. And sure. There were many people who didn’t believe him. They knew this Jesus of Nazareth was the son of Mary and Joseph. Why would they believe what he’s saying. They asked. But he spoke the truth. And they didn’t believe him.
As believers, we need to spend time in God’s Word. Not just casually reading the Bible, but digging deep and studying what we are reading. Learning the heart of God. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it. Reading the Word of God is one of the ways we get to know God.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Jesus spent time alone with his Heavenly Father. He went alone into the wilderness. He fasted and prayed. He spent time in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He took a boat ride to the other side of the lake, so he could renew himself alone with his Father. He knew that his work was demanding and that he would pay the price. He needed time alone with his Father to prepare for his ministry.
It may not be popular these days to fast. To intentionally give up food for a period of time just to pray. Some would say it’s an unnecessary act of self denial. But it will cause breakthroughs in our relationship with God. When we humble ourselves to the point of denying ourselves food. The thing that sustains our human life. When we can forego food in order to feed our souls. When we spend one on one time with God. Communing with Him. Sacrificing our physical needs for our spiritual needs. We will touch heaven.
Jesus sacrificed his life for everyone on earth. He sacrificed himself. He was spit on. He was tortured. His robe was taken. A crown of thorns was placed on his head. And after all of that torture he was forced to carry His cross.
He paid dearly. Physically, for our sins. Yes, he asked to be removed from this suffering. He asked for this cup to be taken from him. There are times that we go through deep trials. Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual. Financial. Relational. We ask to be removed from these situations. It’s okay to ask for that, but maybe the thing we should ask is for God to be with us during these times. Because if we’ve declared that God is enough for us, then is he enough in our weakest, most trying moments of life?
While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. Hebrews 5:7-8
In order to be like Jesus, we need to be able to identify with him. To recognize the struggles that he faced in his life as a man on earth. We see that he accepted those challenges. He didn’t run from trouble. He faced his trials head on and came out the winner. Our strength cannot come from ourselves. Our strength must come from God and God alone. That is only possible if we have a deep abiding faith in God. That comes by spending time in God’s Word. Reading and studying God’s word. Spending time in prayer. Perhaps it’s time to fast and pray. It’s time we humble ourselves to the point that we can face the challenges thrown at us. No matter what they are, come what may, God is our Redeemer. He is our refuge and strength. He’s always ready to help in times of trouble.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8
Did you know that you were born for just this moment in history? It’s a fact. God knew you before you were born. He knows the number of hairs on your head. He knows the number of days allotted for you. He knew the date and time you were to be born. He knew the circumstances of your birth and of your lifetime. You were born for this time and place in history. All your days of breath have brought you to this moment.
Oh. It’s easy to wish for the good ole days. Whatever they are. These days are meant for you. You were meant for these days. God is working his plan and you are a key player. Don’t forget that. And don’t be afraid. God is in control.
In twenty or thirty years, these will be the good ole days for the younger generation. So make these days count, because who knows what will life be like then.
Parents with young children may be wondering if the world they’re raising their kids in will be stable and secure. They may be wondering if their kids will have to face persecution and trials as they become adults.
Young couples thinking of starting a family may be wondering if it’s a wise decision. They may be wondering if they should forego parenthood. After all, this world seems rather volatile right now. There is a lot of instability and uncertainty. They may be wondering if it’s safe to bring children into the world.
Yes. These times are troubling. But have kids. Raise your children with a deep abiding knowledge of God Almighty. Train them to know biblical truths so they will stand strong when times are tough. Be faithful to train them to be faithful people.
Those building a career may wonder if they’ll ever land their dream job. Those who have already moved up several steps on the success ladder may realize that their work isn’t as fulfilling as they imagined. They’re only in it for the paycheck. They may have begun to question why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Some may be wondering if their college debt was really worth it. College isn’t for everyone. Everyone isn’t for college. Trade school offers great long-lasting career opportunities.
If your work isn’t fulfilling, perhaps it’s time to start a job search. Perhaps it’s time to narrow down what you’re passionate about and seek a new opportunity. Money isn’t everything. Everything shouldn’t be about money. Oh. Money is important. Don’t get me wrong. But deep personal fulfillment doesn’t come from a paycheck or a job title or a degree on the wall.
Many are soon to retire. It’s baby boomer season in the retirement world. Some may have begun to think that the boom has busted. Is retirement even possible? Will the nest egg be full enough on that appointed day? Only time will tell.
There are those in retirement living on a fixed income. There are news reports that their government support may not be so supportive in their final years. What will happen? Will their money last as long as their heart beats?
Things may look bleak, but God is still on the throne. He has known the events of today for as long as he’s been around. And he’s been around forever. He’s been patiently awaiting this time and these events with you in mind. Know that he has you on his mind. He hasn’t forgotten. Nor will he. He knows your name. He has your days ordered.
God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Psalms 46:1-3
We’ve lived through every day of the virus. We’re living through the horrors of Afghanistan. We’re living through the worst inflation in many years. We’ve worn masks together. We’ve social distanced together. We’ve sheltered in place together. We’ve survived a questionable election. We’re now hearing of mandates. We are survivors. And we are resilient. Don’t forget that.
We’re remembering the horrible, offensive acts of twenty years ago. The events that rocked a nation that thought it was rock solid. Our faith and hope wavered, but the flag still waved strong. Our allegiance for our nation grew as we felt the loss of every heartbeat that fell silent as the towers fell.
Oh. Things appear bad. But they could get worse before they get better. And things may never get better. But we are resilient. We can live through hard times. We just don’t want to. We need to toughen up now before we’re forced to.
Let’s save more. Let’s give more. Let’s live with less. Let’s be content with what we have. Because we are a blessed nation. We don’t have to have it all to have a great life. Sometimes less is more.
Know what you believe and why. Read and study to show yourself approved by God. Don’t just believe everything you’re told. Test it. Prove it. Disprove it. Be able to discern truth from lies. Just know what you believe and why you believe it.
Read the classics. Read American history and world history. Read autobiographies of those who have suffered and those who have prospered. Let’s not forget the experiences of those who have gone on before us. We can learn much from those who have suffered and lived to tell of it. And we can learn from those who were martyred.
Esther was a young Jewish woman living in a troubled land. The king had removed the queen because she publicly embarrassed him. He sent out an announcement asking for all the young virgins of the land to audition to be the new queen. Esther was brought with many other young women to give themselves to the king in the hopes of pleasing him. Esther pleased the king, and he named her as his new queen. Unbeknownst to the king, Esther’s people were Jewish and were not in immediate favor. She had been advised by her godly uncle to keep her nationality quiet. When someone threatened to kill off all her people, she knew she couldn’t keep quiet. So she spoke up. God used her in a difficult situation to save her people. If she had not come forward, she and her people would have been annihilated. But God, in his mercy, spared her and the Jewish nation who had been threatened by an evil, power hungry man. Her moment in time had come, and she fulfilled her life-saving purpose.
You can read the full story of Esther in the Old Testament.
There’s a song that tells us that if we’re not dead, then God’s not done with us. Let’s remember that and know that God has all of our days numbered. And in our numbered days, God is with us. He will not forsake us. He will use us, but we must be faithful to obey him. Even in hard times. Even when the task seems insurmountable. God’s strength and power are more than ours. Let’s use his power to do his work.
Apparently, there are some in the Christian world who are deconstructing their faith. They tear down their beliefs, bit by bit, piece by piece, verse by verse. They rip apart their Christian faith, leaving it in shambles. They question every biblical truth that they’ve ever learned and once believed. They call it deconstruction. They’re unlearning the biblical truths they have been taught. They’re now going against God and His Word, against biblical truths and values and teachings. Questioning. Challenging. Doubting. Oh. It’s okay to question. It’s okay to challenge. It’s okay to doubt. But when someone starts denying biblical truths that they once held dear is when they’ve headed down a slippery slope.
What does that say? Why does that happen? I can’t say for sure, but there are some possible reasons.
It seems it’s happening to Christians more and more. And I have to believe that at some point, either they were hurt by another believer, or they’ve failed to develop a strong devotional and prayer life. They stopped reading their Bible, or perhaps they’ve never faithfully read it. Perhaps they never really got to know God on a personal level. Or, perhaps skepticism has set in. They’ve begun to deny the truth. They’ve begun to twist truth to fit their life and their goals and their dreams. They’ve decided that biblical truth no longer matters and it no longer stands. They’ve torn it down. They’ve cut it apart. They’ve twisted it into something that is no longer biblical.
People question different aspects of their faith. It’s only natural. As you grow and learn, you start to question and wonder about why and what and how. Some things just may not make sense. Things like heaven and hell. Suffering. Miracles or the lack of them.
And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23
Perhaps they’ve been persuaded to worship God in ways that are contrary to biblical teaching. Perhaps they’re disillusioned with the church or the church leaders. Perhaps they realize they can’t change the world, after all. Perhaps it’s no longer cool to ask what Jesus would do if he were in their shoes. Because then they may have to act in a way that isn’t comfortable. And apparently, comfort is preferred over obedience.
Now I’m not one who can say whether they are or aren’t a Christian. That is between them and God. I certainly don’t want to be their judge on that fateful day when they’ve taken their last breath and they’re standing before God. I don’t want to be God and have to decide their eternal destiny. But when someone starts twisting Scripture to suit their ideologies, they’ve given in to the evil one. They’ve given in to Satan. Because he will twist and turn truth in to lies, and he will turn lies into truth. And that’s exactly what’s happening.
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 1 John 2:15
I read news articles about Christians who are deconstructing. Former Christian leaders now teach classes about deconstructing your faith. And people pay to be taught these lies. Again comfort over obedience to God’s word will cost a huge price, whether it’s this side of eternity or in eternity.
Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Romans 1:21
So my thought on this is why don’t we relearn the truth. Why don’t we dig deeper into the Bible? Why don’t we dig into commentaries and biblical sources? Why don’t we listen to teachings from strong biblical teachers who know the truth and who have shared it and taught it and lived it? Why not? Why don’t we stop leaning into ideologies that are manmade? Let’s start digging into the Bible. That is where we find truth. It may not be comfortable. It may not always be pretty, but it is God’s truth. And when we begin denying it, we are denying God’s sovereignty.
God’s word will always stand. Always. But when we start cutting it apart with our newfound ideas, because God’s truth no longer suits our needs or our wants, we’re sliding down a slippery slope.
When we replace God’s truth with ideas that someone has created out of warped thinking, we have turned our back on God.
Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:13-14
We need to be careful when we start replacing biblical truth with current social agendas and call them biblical. These social ideals are just that. Ideals. Ideologies that someone is using to replace biblical teaching. And it is being accepted as the new gospel. Shame on us. If we knew our Bible better, we wouldn’t fall for these false teachings. We would know when we’re being set up. We would know when we’re being betrayed by those we should trust.
Current social issues can cause one who isn’t firmly rooted in the gospel to pull away from biblical truths. Some of these issues are critical theory, racial reconciliation, gender and pronoun changes, and the pro choice agenda. Just to name a few. We need to stop and examine those ideas to see if they are actually biblical. What does the Bible say about those teachings? What does the Bible say about self care? Or about teachings that say we are enough on our own? Or about prosperity? What does the Bible say about alternate lifestyles? What are the gray areas that the Bible doesn’t even address? These are the questions we should be asking as we dig deep into the Word of God. Because manmade ideas will fall short on Judgment Day.
It was a conversation that wasn’t going well. We disagreed, and no one wanted to take responsibility. He said words. I said words. Then he walked away. I went back to washing the dishes. Nothing was resolved, and I felt horrible. Why did my last words of the conversation have to be so judgmental? Why do I always lean toward negativity? Why not pause and think before I speak? Or, why not just say nothing? Why? Oh. Why?
And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:6
Someone else talks about others as if talking is going out of style. She shares intimate details about her own life with others. And she shares any and all details she knows about others lives. Nothing is sacred. And no one is off limits. She talks out of both sides of her mouth, so one day you’re in and the next day you’re out.
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:7-8
There is another who speaks lies. She tells the largest and grandest stories. Unsuspecting hearers might never know that the stories she tells are all fabrications. She tries to outdo anyone who is telling their story. She is competitive and she must win. At all costs. I wonder if she even knows what’s true anymore.
Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. James 3:9
He says vulgar words intertwined throughout his business conversations. I always wonder why that one word is such an important part of his vocabulary. But the word comes out without a second thought. I wonder how he turns that word off and on, especially when he’s talking to his customers.
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4
There’s the woman who could cut your throat with her words. At times, she could be kind and generous, and then out of nowhere hack you to pieces with her choice of words. Her words can be brutal and vicious. They are said out of fear and loathing. Loathing of herself, not of the victim. And fear of not being the one in charge. But the innocent party doesn’t know that. They have just received the worst verbal lashing in history. And can they recover?
And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! James 3:10
Words are everything to the hearer. They can stir the pot or they can calm the storm. We can soothe a soul or break a heart. With just a word or two. Our words are powerful. Why don’t we use them to build up each other. Once spoken, words can never be unsaid.
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1
Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. James 3:2
How do we stop the words that shouldn’t be said before they’re said? How do we stop lying, gossiping, cussing, nagging and stretching the truth? Oh. We must turn to the One who spoke the first words. The one who hears all words. And knows the intent of the words. We can only break the habit of using hurting words by reading the Word. With much prayer and discipline, the words can be stopped. We can bite our tongue and refrain from offending and abusing others. We must want to change before we can change. God help us.
I must ask myself. Is there a pattern of using inappropriate words in in my life? What are the triggers that take my words down a path they shouldn’t go? Is it pride? Or revenge? Is it anger? Or greed? Or fear? What is the motive for my words? To hurt someone? To get even? To make my point at all costs? To get my way? Do I care if my words offend or annoy someone? Do I care?
We say the Lord is Holy, and he is the giver of all gifts. How can ugly words come from the mouth that also speaks praise? How can the mouth that speaks truth also speak lies? How can the tongue that speaks compliments also spew evil?
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29
These times are troubling. That’s for sure. Evil is real and is coming out of the woodwork. But really. That’s not new, because times have been evil ever since people started disobeying God.
Some thought 2020 was the worst year of their life. And others thought January 6th was the worst day ever. And things really aren’t looking up.
Just when we think things are worse than they’ve ever been, they start going even further downhill. And yet we wake up still breathing every day. We’re still here. Wondering what’s next. Wondering what else is going to happen. But we go about our days, doing the things we must do. We go to work. We raise children. We eat and sleep. We’re still going about our lives the best we can. But that doesn’t mean that we agree with what is happening in our world. That doesn’t mean we agree with decisions that are being made. But we just do the next thing that we must do.
This country is appalled and trembling at the events that are happening in another country. These events are very troubling, because they signal a shift in the strength of our country. It makes us question the ability of our elected leaders, if we weren’t already. Now our enemies and allies are watching, because they see weakness in our leadership. We see it, too.
The table is being set for evil to run even more rampant in the world. We must be on guard. We must be prepared spiritually to face persecution and very troubling times. We cannot begin to think that things will turn back to the way they used to be. No. Those days are long gone.
Oh. We can have hope. And we should have hope. But we know that with each passing day, we’re one day closer to eternity. We’re one day closer to Jesus coming to take all his followers to heaven. But before that day comes, things will worsen for those on this earth. So we must take heart. And we must prepare to meet Jesus. We must be ready for eternity.
I’ve read about the country now being wrecked by terrorists. Christians are being threatened and watched and killed. Some are in hiding. I’ve read that some Christians in that country know that they will most likely be meeting Jesus face to face within the next two weeks.
Imagine. Imagine that happening in our cities. What would we do? Would our faith stand?
When our world is shaking, heaven stands.
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. Psalms 90:1-2
During Job’s difficult days, he didn’t lose faith. He didn’t run from God. He didn’t turn his back on the One who created him. Even during the worst time of his life, he knew that God was in control. He still trusted God. Perhaps Job didn’t know that he was really fighting Satan. Oh. He had questions for God all right.
Then God turned around and said he would answer Job’s questions, but first Job had to answer his questions. And God said he wanted answers. Here were God’s questions to Job.
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness? Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth, to bring an end to the night’s wickedness? Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Have you explored their depths? Do you know where the gates of death are located? Have you seen the gates of utter gloom? Do you realize the extent of the earth? Tell me about it if you know! Where does light come from, and where does darkness go? Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get there? But of course you know all this! For you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced! Have you visited the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of hail? (I have reserved them as weapons for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war.) Where is the path to the source of light? Where is the home of the east wind? Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning? Who makes the rain fall on barren land, in a desert where no one lives? Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground and make the tender grass spring up? Does the rain have a father? Who gives birth to the dew? Who is the mother of the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens? Can you direct the movement of the stars— binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion? Can you direct the constellations through the seasons or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth? Can you shout to the clouds and make it rain? Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct? Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind? Who is wise enough to count all the clouds? Who can tilt the water jars of heaven when the parched ground is dry and the soil has hardened into clods? Can you stalk prey for a lioness and satisfy the young lions’ appetites as they lie in their dens or crouch in the thicket? Who provides food for the ravens when their young cry out to God and wander about in hunger? Job 38:4-41
Oh. God could step in and right every wrong with one swoop of his hand. He could call ten thousand angels to deliver us from evil. He could thwart the plans of those intent on harming the innocent. He could make a way of escape for those trapped behind enemy lines.
And we don’t know that he hasn’t done some of those things. We can’t see behind the scenes. We don’t know God’s plans. We only see what he allows.
But know this. God is in control. He has not forsaken his people. God’s word tells us that we will have trouble in this world. So we can’t live our lives as if trouble will never touch us. We aren’t exempt. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. We must ask ourselves if we believe that God is with us no matter what.
We cannot control the decisions of others. We can’t trust their decisions. We can’t control life. But God knows every heartbeat and every intention and every decision. He knows the how and why and when of all of life’s circumstances. He allows good and evil. We may be fearful. Times may be uncertain. But our certainty is in God and God alone.
God is in control. We may question the happenings on this earth. We may be bewildered by men’s decisions. We may lose everything. But if we follow God, we have all we need.
There’s only one foundation that is unshakeable, and that is the unchanging Word of God.
Parents talk about their kids. They talk about how the child looks just like his father. He acts just like his grandfather. He walks like all the other men in the family. He’s as stubborn as his mother. He’s made in their image, because he has their DNA. They say this child of theirs is the spitting image of someone they dearly love. And they’re proud. They’re proud to see that the family genes show strong in the next generation. They’re happy the similarities are plainly obvious. They’re quick to point it out to anyone who will listen.
Who wouldn’t be proud? Who doesn’t want the strength of a gene pool to shine through in the upcoming generations?
I’ve been reading lately about how I’m made in the image of God. I come from a strong gene pool of spiritual perfection. I mean. How do you top that? But here’s the thing. You’re made in God’s image, too. Every single human being is made in the image of God. There’s no way around it. And we don’t have a choice.
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. Genesis 1:26
So what does that really mean?
When we were being formed in our mother’s womb, God was there. He was knitting us together in that nine month period. He planned the number of our days. He knew the course of our lives. From the moment of conception, he knew us. And he never forgets us. Just as God values each human life he creates, we too must value life. God made each of us unique and to fulfill a specific role on this earth. He created us with special gifts and talents that suit our personalities. He made our bodies to be complex, but each part works in sync with the next. Each organ and muscle, bone and ligament are needed. Our brains and each heartbeat are necessary for life to continue. Even those who are born with bodies that don’t work as planned or with minds that aren’t whole are designed by God for a special purpose. He knows and loves each and every one of us.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalms 139:13-16
God created us with a soul that communes with him. He knows our every thought and desire. He knows our dreams and plans. He knows when we want to please him and when we refuse to acknowledge his existence. God created our soul to live with him in eternity. But he gave us a mind and a will, so we can choose to live for or against him.
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
Oh. We can choose to ignore that we’re made in God’s image. People do that all the time. They decide to live in a way that dishonors him. They choose to make decisions that leave him out of their lives. They live as if they are God. But it doesn’t change the fact that they are made in his image. They too will stand in front of him one day and give an account of those decisions they’ve made.
God has invisible qualities. He can’t be seen with the human eye. But we can see evidence of him and his handiwork. His eternal power and divine character are known. But people choose not to believe. They choose not to know God.
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20
Just as God rules over mankind, he made us to rule over the earth. We are to rule over every living creature. We have that God-given authority. There’s no need to abuse it, as some are in the habit of doing. We must be faithful in the work that we do. He created us with minds to think and plan and create. So let’s use those minds for good and not for evil.
To be made in God’s image means that I’m made to represent him. I must be willing to live within the limits that God placed on me, because He is God and I am not. I must do my work with excellence. In everything I do and say, I am representing Christ.
So, I have to ask myself. If I’m the spitting image of God, how well do I represent him? Do others see him in me? Am I an embarrassment or a joy? When others see me, do they see him? When I think of the words I’ve said today, are they words that Jesus would say? Has my attitude in the past day been the attitude of Jesus Christ? If I’ve misrepresented God, what must I do to become more like him?
She had been struggling with her job ever since the day she started. Two and a half years ago. She doubted herself. She felt inferior to her coworkers. She thought they talked about her behind her back. She never felt comfortable doing the job. She never spoke up. She tried to play by the rules. She wanted everything spelled out to her in black and white. She was afraid of the gray areas. She didn’t trust herself. She was afraid she would get fired. And last week, her worst fear came true. She was fired.
She’s embarrassed. She’s confused. She wants answers but doesn’t want to ask the questions. She wants to move on. But mostly, she’s relieved. She knows the position wasn’t right for her. But as she said, the demon you know is better than the demon you don’t know. So she never tried to find another job. Because sometimes, the fear of starting over is worse than the fear of continuing on a familiar, yet uncomfortable path.
She was told she was being let go because of performance issues. But no one in management had ever told her that her performance was lacking. No one had ever pulled her aside and shared their concerns. No one had ever rated her performance as below par. But, apparently, people had been talking behind her back. And not to her face.
Now she’s out of work.
I sat down with her this week. For four hours we talked. I shared my story with her. I let her know that I too had once experienced the same type of job loss. I too was told after years on the job that I was no longer good enough. I no longer had the right skillset. And in an instant, my job was gone. Unexplained. Unexpected. Unemployed.
I knew she needed to talk it out. To rehash the past two and a half years. What she did right. What she did wrong. What she might have misunderstood. We laughed about the fact that she never had to do that job again. And she sighed with relief. She is ready to move on.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I had another conversation this week. The grandma house sitting for her son’s family, who are on an extended island vacation. She’s the friendly sort. Even though she lives hours away, she knows more that’s going on in my neighborhood than I do. We always try to chat when she’s in town.
She said she doesn’t think her 70’s are going to go very well. She has diabetes. She now suffers from vertigo. She has glaucoma. And she’s undergoing tests for Alzheimer’s. If the Alzheimer’s test comes back positive, she will start to make alternate plans for her remaining years. She said she will give some of her money to her children. She will have to make arrangements for her house and other possessions. She’s afraid she won’t live to see 80. She’s in for an uncertain future.
And she still takes care of her elderly parents.
She seemed calm about the prospect of might lie ahead. But who knows the thoughts that go through her mind as she lays her head on the pillow each night. What fears race through her mind? What worries keep her awake? What disappointments cause tears to flow? What dreams will she never realize?
She says she’s lived a full live. She had a good marriage and children she’s proud of. She sees hope and promise for the future of her grandchildren. She believes they will have opportunities that she never had. She’s happy that her son found a good wife. She notices the physical strain placed on her daughter, due to the adoption of a special needs child. She worries about the health of her children and the choices they make. Yet she says she keeps these concerns to herself, because she doesn’t want to rob her children of happiness.
I told her that I would pray for her. She seemed to gain comfort from those words.
We never know what life will throw at us. And these two women don’t have the comfort of calling Jesus their Lord and Savior. They haven’t repented of their sins and committed their lives to following Jesus Christ. They don’t have the calm assurance that God is with them in every good and bad day of their lives.
Perhaps I’m called to be the light in their moments of darkness. Perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to share my faith and my trust in a loving God who knows their every thought and fear. He sees the paths of uncertainty they face. He holds their future in his hands. And he can hold them, too.
We see hurting people everywhere. We don’t always know the hurts they’re carrying. Because most people choose to remain silent. They suffer alone. But when someone opens up in a moment of raw need, those of us who have the hope of a certain eternal future must share the hope that we have. We can’t keep silent. We know the hope for our future. We must not be shy about sharing our faith. We can offer to pray for someone who is hurting or without hope, because God is attentive to our prayers. Our hope lies in Jesus Christ. Let’s help turn a hurting world to the source of all healing.
We see everything that’s going on in the world today. And we wonder why. But really. We shouldn’t wonder. It’s written plain as day in the Bible exactly why the world is in moral decay.
The world. The people of the world refuse to believe in God. The age old question is why. Why do people refuse to believe in an all-seeing, all-hearing, all-knowing God? Why do people turn their backs on the truth and run in the opposite direction? Because, it seems, once people start running, they run too far. And then if they decide to repent, it’s a long walk back to the truth.
Oh. It can be done. The long, humble walk of repentance. and shame. and regret. That walk can be painful, but the prize at the end is glorious forgiveness.
It’s clear that we need the Holy Spirit in our lives today. The only way the Holy Spirit could come to us is if Jesus left the earth. That’s what he told his disciples. They were sad, because they didn’t understand what he meant. And they didn’t want him to leave them. They didn’t understand that he was sending an advocate. A comforter. A guide in his place. He didn’t leave this earth just to leave us alone.
Here’s the thing. While Jesus was in the world, the world’s hatred was directed at him. And he knew that as soon as he was gone from the world. That is, when he returned to heaven to begin preparing an eternal home for us. That the world would direct their hatred at his followers. And he was preparing his followers to survive that hatred by sending them the Holy Spirit. He didn’t leave them here to wallow in fear. He sent the Holy Spirit to lead them in truth. But people didn’t understand his message.
Here’s the other thing. Jesus could only be in one place at a time. The Holy Spirit is not limited to one place. He is everywhere at the same time. Don’t ask me how that works. I trust that is true, and I believe it. Odd as it sounds. I believe it to be true. I believe it to be true, because I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. John 16:9
His message still stands true today.
And the world still refuses to believe in God. It’s obvious. And now the world has placed a target on the back of those who call themselves Christians. For people who say their sins are forgiven and are following biblical truth, the world is quick to point a finger of ridicule and contempt. It’s because the world doesn’t know God.
But let’s back up. When I say the “world” refuses to believe in God, I’m talking about those who reject God and the teachings of Jesus. Those who pervert the truth. Those who applaud and accept evil as good. Those who reject biblical standards. It may seem as though they’re fighting us, but they’re fighting the God of the universe. We Christians are the standard bearers of the gospel, and we make those who reject God uncomfortable. They may think we’re offensive, but it’s the fact that they are offended by God that makes us offensive.
And we can rise to the occasion. If we ask God, he will empower us with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Because that same power lives within us.
Let’s not be offended when we are shunned or canceled or persecuted. When we are overlooked or singled out or ridiculed. We are not here to impress others. We are not here to bow to lies and fabrications of the truth. We are here to lead the lost to a Savior who will forgive their sins. We are here to witness to a hostile world. We must be bold and confident in our faith, because the Holy Spirit lives within us and will enable us to stand strong in his truth. He will equip us to love others in the same manner that we are loved. We are his ambassadors in a world that is searching, but doesn’t know what it’s searching for. We know that God is the answer, and we must be the ones to lead them into truth.
He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
A famous poem begins with a standout line. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. The Bible tells us the different ways we must love God. Let’s count those ways.
You must love the Lord your God. Loving God means we put him first. We are satisfied in our relationship with him. God is our first priority. Our love for God must be undivided. We willingly obey God. After all, we were created to be one with God. To be for him. Not against him. But in order to love God, we have to know him. And in order to know God, we must spend time with him.
Loving God means that we believe his word. His word is true and everlasting. He will not fail us. When we love God, we trust him. Loving God brings thankfulness and praise for him. When we love God, we must put him first with our heart, our soul, our strength and our mind. And we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart. Our hearts are beating vessels. They provide life on a beat by beat basis. If our heart stops beating, our life ends. So, loving God is the heartbeat of our life. It keeps us going. Our love for God continues as does a beating heart. And when the heart has problems, surgery may be required. Open heart surgery. And that can be life giving. Life renewing. Life sustaining. Loving the Lord your God may require surgery with precision to keep that heart beating in rhythm with him.
Loving God shows that we want to be in rhythm with him, keeping the beat in tune with him. Keeping our step in sync with him. One heartbeat after another in perfect rhythm, walking with God. Walking with God in perfect rhythm is love. That only happens when we have spent time in open heart surgery with God. Having him prune out the dead branches. The underperforming vines of our lives. We need this continual pruning. Our hearts must be strong following God’s will, walking in sync with him.
Love the Lord your God with all your soul. Our soul was made for eternity. The soul is the eternal embodiment of our human lives, and our soul is the part of us that will live eternally. We have the choice of where our soul lives. Heaven or hell. So to love the Lord our God with all our soul means we have made that eternal choice. We have chosen to live in eternity with God. That is the choice that we continue to make day after day after day. Because yes, each day we do have a choice of how we’re going to live. We must daily ask ourselves. Am I going to live for God or am I going to live against God. We can’t have it both ways.
Our soul is our sustaining breath of life, and it does not die. So once we move from this life into the next, our souls will continue to live in eternity with God if we have chosen to love and follow him. Because it’s not until we breathe our last breath on this earth that we move to our eternal destination. Heaven should be our only goal. Hell should never be our choice. But people choose it every day, perhaps unknowingly. But we have a choice. We can choose to live with God in eternity, where our soul will thrive in perfect beauty as we walk the streets of gold. Or our soul will be in eternal torment, because we have turned our back on the love of God. We repay Jesus Christ for His sacrificial death on the cross by giving Him our hearts, our souls, our minds and our strength. And that reward is our soul will be in eternity with him.
Love the Lord your God with all your strength. Our bodies are made for strength. If we work out our muscles, they will strengthen. That strength allows a person to lift heavy objects and perform great feats. But the process of building strength takes time and perseverance. Strength making takes discipline and hard work. Muscles must endure repetitious movements in order to strengthen.
When I think of strength, I think of power and endurance. Strength gives hope to the weak and power to the powerless. Strength allows one to hold on when they feel they’re at the end of their rope. Strength is only available through endurance, perseverance and struggles. It doesn’t just come naturally. Strength comes from putting in the time building up that reserve. Walking through difficult times. The athlete, or weekend warrior, becomes strong through repetitive motions through a routine that continually extends the ability of certain muscles, and strengthens and builds and empowers. Strength isn’t built by doing nothing.
When we say love the Lord our God with all our strength, it means that we have endured. We have endured, tough times. Uncertainties. Difficulties. Over time, we’ve learned that our strength is in the Lord, and that we can’t be strong alone. Our strength does not come from ourselves. It comes from God and God alone. And that strength flows over into love. Love for the one who was with us during that difficult time. Love for the one who empowered us to make tough decisions. Walk through flames of fire. Fight the battle between good and evil. God’s love is strength. So, in turn, he provides strength to those who love him.
And that strengthening love flows into other areas of our lives. When we must persevere in difficult trials and situations, or unexpected turns of life, the strength comes when our reserves are filled. Those times that we must dip into that strength shows the power available at just the moment we need it. That strength is everlasting. We must build up our reserves. We must put put forth the work that brings strength, that builds strength. Because in those tough times it will be that strengthening love that sustains us. If we’re empty. If we’re weak. Our love will grow cold.
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And, love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Love the Lord your God with all your mind. Our mind is a powerful thing. At times, we think it knows no ends. Because we can remember many things. We can learn many things. We can think many things. At times, we’re easily distracted and other times our mind can be laser focused. We choose what we put into our mind. We make choices daily with the type of music we listen to. The shows that are streaming on our TV and movies that we choose to watch. We allow ideas to be placed into our mind by the books we read. And by the conversations we have. By the people we associate with. Our minds are filled with words and thoughts and dreams and goals.
We can control, to a certain degree, what goes into our minds. We have to know when to shut off evil influences, and we need to choose to fill our mind with godly influences, godly conversations, godly examples. We have that choice, but not always. Sometimes we run into situations where we can’t plan ahead, and we face evil influences. We don’t have to continue those. We can limit our interactions with ungodly influences. If those ungodly influences trigger our mind to sin and to dwell on inappropriate behavior or thoughts. If those ungodly books or movies or websites, or people influence us. We must stand for truth, because those evil influences do just as they say. They influence our hearts and minds. And that puts our soul in dangerous territory.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to others. How often do I wrong myself? Not very often. You say. So why do we do wrong to others? Why? This is not a romantic love. This is a godly, eternal love for our neighbor. Loving God is loving your neighbor. If we love God, it will change the way we love others. Loving God helps us to forgive those who have wronged us. Our love for God moves us to show grace to those who have offended us. Loving God is loving others, whether we realize it or not. Our love for God will naturally flow over into love for our neighbors, our coworkers, our family, and even to the unlovable.
Loving others means that we love those we disagree with. Whether it’s social issues, political issues, family choices or lifestyles. Loving God means that we love everyone, as God has loved us. Because we too can be very disagreeable at times. We too can be unlovable at times. We don’t have to agree with someone in order to love them. We don’t have to be best friends with everyone. But we can choose to show godly love to everyone. Because everyone was made in God’s image. We are his image bearers. Let’s live like it.