Persecuting Jesus

Saul and his crew were on their way to Damascus. After all, he had received written permission from the high priest authorizing him to hunt and arrest anyone who believed the message of Jesus Christ. As he traveled down the road in midday, a light brighter than the sun shone all around him. He was instantly blinded. Suddenly, he heard a voice from heaven. Jesus, the Son of God, asked Saul why he was persecuting him.

Saul was not searching for Jesus when Jesus called his name. He was searching for those who believed in Jesus. Oh. Saul knew what he was doing. He was persecuting those who believed that Jesus, the promised Messiah had come to earth to deliver his people from their sins. And Saul didn’t believe that. He was stuck in the traditional Jewish beliefs and traditions. He didn’t believe the prophecy about God’s Son had actually been fulfilled. So when Jesus called his name, Saul asked who was calling. And he then realized this Jesus was the one he had been denying.

Saul, Saul.  Why do you persecute me? 

Every believer that Saul persecuted was taking the place of Jesus Christ.  For all intents and purposes, Saul was persecuting Jesus Christ everywhere he went.  When he arrested and imprisoned those who accepted the Good News of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, he was arresting and imprisoning Jesus himself. With every capture and arrest Saul made, he thought he was honoring God. He thought he was following God’s will. But instead, he was persecuting God’s son. He was fighting God, not obeying him. How could he have gotten it so wrong? 

What Saul didn’t realize was that he couldn’t hold back the Son of God from doing the work he was commissioned to do. Sure. The Son of God had returned to heaven, but his followers on earth were now doing his work. And nothing Saul could do could stop what God had started.

I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities. Acts 26:9-11

Saul was a learned man of his times. He had studied under the well respected Jewish scholar, Gamaliel. Saul knew the Scriptures. He was determined to punish anyone who dared to believe differently from the traditions. And yet, God had to bring him to his knees and blind him before he was willing to admit the truth that Jesus was the Son of God, born and died for every last one of Saul’s many sins.

To read the full story of Saul’s conversion, read Acts 9 and Acts 26.


Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Colossians 3:16


Soul, soul.  Why do you persecute me? 

What if my name was in front of that sentence.  Why do I persecute God?  Why do I challenge him and run from his ways?  Why don’t I automatically fall on my knees and worship him in adoration?  Why don’t I automatically choose to obey God? I who know the Scripture and have been taught from an early age to love and honor God. Why am I so careless with my faith?

Do we not do the same as Saul did?  Every time we act selfishly and sinfully, we are acting against God. When we reject Christ and his will for our lives, we’re persecuting him. Do we even realize what we’re doing? Do we take God’s knock on the door of our hearts seriously and open up to him?

What will God have to resort to to bring us to our knees in humble acknowledgment and repentance? Why do we run from him?  Why do we think our ways are higher than his ways? We who’ve been taught the Bible know the truth, yet we deny what we’ve been taught. We ignore the Scripture teaching us how to live an authentic Christian life. We do our own thing. We don’t look for God’s guidance. We become complacent. It’s all about us, we think. Not about God.

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16

Anytime we sin, we’re nailing Jesus to the cross all over again. Our decision to deny Jesus and please ourselves puts him right back on that cross. Each time we disobey, the weight of our sins becomes heavier for Jesus to bear as he hung on that cross, causing him more pain and suffering. If we continue to run from God and disobey him when he’s calling our name, we’re persecuting him. Is that what we want?

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23

If we are the body of Christ, let’s wear the name in humility. We must consciously hear and obey God’s words. Let’s act on the promptings of the Holy Spirit and live in obedience. let’s listen well and listen thoroughly when God calls our name. Let’s not be surprised when God calls our name to follow and obey him. Let’s follow willingly.

Attracting Others

As Christians, our goal is to see others make the decision to live for God. To repent of their sins and live in obedience to God’s Word. In order for those who haven’t made that decision to get there, we must make Christianity attractive. But how do we do that? Because what they know of Christianity doesn’t appeal to them. If someone hasn’t read and studied the Bible, all they know about Christians is what they do and don’t do. What they stand for and what they stand against. They think it’s all about rules they don’t want to follow.

Look like this. Don’t look like that. Wear this. Don’t wear that. Go here. Don’t go there. Drink this. Don’t drink that. Say this. Don’t say that. Sleep here. Don’t sleep there. Rules like that don’t attract too many people. But what message are we sending when we say and do the same things they say and do? What sets us apart? What makes us different if we’re just like them?

And it really shouldn’t be an us or them kind of issue. Should it? But for this moment, let’s think along those terms. Just to see where it takes us. No judging. Just considering how to appeal to those who don’t call themselves Christians. Because really. We are in two sets of camps, based on our beliefs.

How do we make living a Christian life appealing to those who don’t want it? After all, the Bible tells us that we who believe carry the scent of death to those who don’t believe. Yet the aroma of Christ is sweet. But they can’t smell the sweetness. So why would they want it? Who is attracted to stink, after all?

Some people think they need to change. To clean up their lives before they turn themselves over to Christ. But he doesn’t require that. He invites you to come to him just as you are. He will let you know when or if he wants you to change.

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 2:15-16

The gospel is offensive. It has always been offensive to those in rebellion to Christ. God isn’t going to change who he is. We need him to change who we are or face the consequences!

Samuel E. Tolley III

And those who haven’t accepted the message of salvation and repentance think we are fools for believing it. After all. If we’re good, isn’t that good enough? Some would say so. But for those who believe the Bible speaks the truth, we know that being good isn’t good enough. Because we’re never going to be good enough on our own. We need the saving blood of Jesus Christ to wash away our sins. We need to repent of our sins and ask for forgiveness. Then we, too, will be covered with the life-giving perfume.

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 8

So. If the gospel is offensive to those who don’t believe, how do we make it un-offensive? How do we attract others to faith in Christ?


You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Philippians 2:5


Of course. The Bible gives us some guidelines to follow in order to attract others to Christianity. We must show love to everyone, even when we don’t feel like it. And especially when others don’t deserve it. We must be joyful. Joy comes from a deep abiding peace that when we trust God in all circumstances. We must pursue peace with everyone. Even when it’s difficult. We must turn the other cheek, but we don’t have to allow others to walk all over us. We’re told that patience is a virtue, but it speaks volumes when put into action. Being kind to others should be a given. We think. But sometimes we have to try a little harder than expected, but the payout is worth it. Goodness and faithfulness. Gentleness and self-control. When others see these fruits of the spirit in our lives, they will wonder how it’s possible to live in such a manner. We have the opportunity to show that Christ living in us makes us more like him. And that he makes a difference in how we live our lives. We always have a choice as to how we live and how we treat others. And a godly lifestyle is attractive, even when others don’t know where the godliness comes from.

We always have a choice as to the type of employee or employer we will be. Go to work and do a good job. Be faithful. Be diligent. Speak up when necessary. And keep quiet when necessary. Others will notice. Be a good neighbor. Show kindness to those in need. Be generous, but not overly frivolous. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t complain or argue.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. Galatians 5:22-26

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Philippians 2:14-15

We believers can do this. We can live a life that makes others want peace, joy, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Oh. We may not get it right every time, but let’s show the world that they need what we have. And let’s do it with grace.

Beauty, Truth and Goodness

I’ve recently read that today’s culture is not interested in Christianity. And that thought saddens me. As I continued to read, the author said that we Christians, we believers in God, and readers of His word must make Christianity attractive to those who are not believers today. And the question is, how do we do that? How do we make faith in God, a life lived walking in the will of God, attractive to people who’ve never wanted that before? To people who’ve never known the need for salvation? How do we awaken that desire in someone who isn’t interested?

This author went on to talk about how our culture has lost beauty, truth and goodness. And he talks about how the art work of today is not beauty. When compared to the classic artists like Michelangelo, da Vinci, Monet, Rembrandt and others whose works were inspired by God, contemporary art seems to have no inspiration. And consider today’s music. Can it be described as beautiful and inspiring? Many of the lyrics are vulgar. The sound is pulsing and suggestive. When compared to the classics of Mozart, Chopin and other composers who were inspired to write the great musical masterpieces, beauty has disappeared. There’s a reverence to the classical music pieces. They are timeless. There’s a depth to the classical artwork that isn’t in modern art. Anyone can draw squiggles or splash paint on a canvas.

I find as I’m going about each day I have no interest in listening to the noise of today’s music, which causes anxiousness and annoyance. Instead, I find myself drawn back to the old hymns that we sang in church as a child. As I listen to the instrumental hymns, I could sit and weep. The beauty of the notes and the chords is calming in a world filled with chaos. Recalling the words of those old hymns takes me back to a much simpler time. When life for me was easy. It may not have been easy for my parents, but it was fulfilling for them. And now I’m finding fulfillment in things of my youth. On occasion, I find myself listening to classical music, which I find to be peaceful and inspiring. As I listen to the instruments of the orchestra. Play the different parts. The key and chord combinations strike me as inspired by God. For a composer to be able to create such depth for all the instruments to play in harmony is a God given craft. And we should be thankful that exists in our lifetime. That it has not been removed from our libraries and taken from us. Let’s awaken to the classics. Let’s enjoy them. Let’s be inspired as they move us from deep within. Let’s awaken to beauty in our life.


And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Mark 12:30


I find that truth is missing in our lives today. When I think of the criminal and civil trials that we hear of in the news and the lies that have been spread in order to create interest, I cringe. We need truth today more than we’ve ever needed it before because we are being fed lies from so many different media and news sources. We need to know and seek the truth that only comes from reading God’s word and being able to parse out the lies of Satan. We need to get back to Biblical truths. God’s word will stand forever, regardless of what others say about it. Regardless of what others say about God. People can reject him. People can burn Bibles, but God’s word will always stand. The truth cannot be denied. There will come a day when we all stand before God and we will be held accountable for all of our actions and our words and our thoughts. If they do not match God’s Word, there will be eternal consequences. We will be rejected from his presence. Let’s pray for redemption and salvation, not rejection. We need to get back to the truth.

And then there’s goodness that is hard to find in our lives and in our culture. Shouldn’t we have a desire to live for something greater than ourselves? And don’t we know that this deep seated desire is given by God? We want our lives to matter. And we think that comes by doing good and giving back to others. And rightly so.

We are a broken people. We’re looking for wholeness. Wholeness brings a feeling of goodness to our lives. Peace. Self respect. Unity. We all long for it. But we’re only whole when we find God’s healing in our lives.

It’s time to reclaim the goodness of life. It’s time to appreciate the goodness of God’s love and gift of salvation that is freely offered to everyone who has breath. It’s time to reclaim the goodness and beauty of nature at its finest in the fall and winter and spring and summer. There’s goodness in each season of life. We must look for it. We can’t hide the goodness. We need to seek it out. And brush it off. Hang it on our walls. We need to shout the goodness of God.

Let’s be bold. Let’s stand for truth and goodness and beauty. Let’s let God’s love shine out this season in our hearts and in our lives, in our homes, in our families, in our workplace and in our relationships. Let’s stand for God’s truth, beauty and goodness. It cannot be denied.

Beauty, truth and goodness are deep longings of the heart, and they can only be fully explained through the lens of Christianity. In order to define Christianity as good, we must identify it as true and satisfying. And then we must see the world as Jesus sees it.

Deep within the human heart is the longing for the way it is supposed to be.

Paul Gould

Hearing Impairment

My ears have been clogged for six weeks. My hearing has been greatly diminished. We’ve activated the closed caption setting on our tv. The volume on the radio and phone are set at full blast. When I talk on the phone, I set it to speaker and then hold it close to my ear and still have trouble hearing. The problem is simple. I just can’t hear. And it’s all due to a virus that has run rampant across the globe for the past two and a half years. I wonder if this is permanent or a temporary setback.

I called the doctor and was told there was a few weeks’ wait to to see him. So I waited. Wondering the whole time if this wait would cause permanent damage. I wasn’t sure what to expect at the visit. Was it a simple procedure to restore my hearing? Or would permanent devices need to be ordered and attached to my ears? One never knows. Especially as the aging process seems to be advancing at breakneck speed.

I’m working harder to listen, but I still can’t hear. I want to know what someone is saying to me. I want to hear the music or the news. I want to carry on conversations and not only hear a few words. I want to hear. Because I want to know what’s happening around me. I want to be prepared for what life brings. But I can’t be prepared if I can’t hear. When I’m alone in the house, I want to know if a door opens. I want to know if someone enters my home. I don’t want to live in confusion or fear. So I find I must listen well. I must intentionally and actively listen to every word that’s being said.

The day arrived for my doctor’s appointment. It seems the global virus caused fluid buildup in my ears, which shifted the wax. This caused my hearing to be diminished. Once the wax was removed, my hearing was restored in one ear. We’re working to reduce the fluid in the other ear.

I feel like a new woman. I can hear. I had to turn the volume down on every device I own. The phone. The laptop. The tv. I turned off the closed captions. I’m grateful for a simple solution to a deafening problem. Now I’m beginning to wonder why everything sounds so loud.

During these few weeks without full hearing, I learned to appreciate the sound of barking dogs. Lawn mowers. Door bells. Soft voices. Loud voices. Automobiles. I didn’t realize how much I took for granted the simple yet complex act of hearing.


Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24


The Israelites were God’s chosen people. He had told them that for many, many years. So they knew that God’s favor was a very real thing, because they had experienced it over and over again. And then they got cocky. They became more sure of themselves than they were of God. They become successful and wealthy. They became strong and fearless. They had everything they needed, so why did they need God? They began worshipping false gods. Offering sacrifices to idols. They began disobeying God’s commands. They were living their lives on their own terms.

Oh sure. God was patient. Very patient. We all know how it is when a parent patiently watches their child make bad decisions with the hopes that they will learn a lesson and turn their lives around. So God waited. And waited. And then when he saw that their stubborn hearts were so turned against him, he turned against them. It was time for Israel to pay the piper.

Israel was no longer listening to God. They weren’t following his commands. They had blocked out the voice of God. But God wasn’t finished. He allowed difficult times to fall on his chosen people, with the hopes that they would turn back to him. But they didn’t. They continued to follow their own path.

“Go ahead and offer sacrifices to the idols at Bethel. Keep on disobeying at Gilgal. Offer sacrifices each morning, and bring your tithes every three days. Present your bread made with yeast as an offering of thanksgiving. Then give your extra voluntary offerings so you can brag about it everywhere! This is the kind of thing you Israelites love to do,” says the Sovereign Lord . “I brought hunger to every city and famine to every town. But still you would not return to me,” says the Lord . “I kept the rain from falling when your crops needed it the most. I sent rain on one town but withheld it from another. Rain fell on one field, while another field withered away. People staggered from town to town looking for water, but there was never enough. But still you would not return to me,” says the Lord . “I struck your farms and vineyards with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured all your fig and olive trees. But still you would not return to me,” says the Lord . “I sent plagues on you like the plagues I sent on Egypt long ago. I killed your young men in war and led all your horses away. The stench of death filled the air! But still you would not return to me,” says the Lord . “I destroyed some of your cities, as I destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Those of you who survived were like charred sticks pulled from a fire. But still you would not return to me,” says the Lord . Amos 4:4-11

“The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign Lord , “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord . Amos 8:11

Have we, like Israel, moved into a famine of hearing the words of the Lord? Has our hearing been diminished by the loud noise of distractions and sin? Have we forgotten how to listen to God? Has God stopped speaking to us because we’ve stopped listening? Has our hearing hardened to the voice of God?

I would dare to say that now is not the time to harden our hearts to God’s message of truth. It’s time to obey him and strengthen our relationship with him. We must act now to please God in all we do and say. Because judgment day is coming. We just don’t know the day or the hour. We must be ready. We can regain our hearing. We can once again tune into the voice of God. While there is still time, we must turn to God and obey him with all our hearts.

The doctor gave me one small piece of advice. Don’t use q-tips. They will push the wax down deep into the ear. And over time, we will experience diminished hearing. We need similar advice today when we can no longer hear God’s voice. Are we allowing other things in our lives to deafen us to hearing God? Are we intentionally or unintentionally harming our ability to know when God is speaking to us? It’s time to remove the wax from our ears so our famine of hearing the words of the Lord will be restored.

Under the Radar

He was the commander of the king’s army. The king had great admiration for him. He was, after all, the king’s right hand man. He had the king’s ear. And his trust. He had secured great victories against their enemies. But this man suffered from leprosy.

One of this man’s conquests was raiding the land of Israel with his army. And with this mighty victory, they brought home prisoners of war. This great leader placed a young girl in his home who served his wife. She was a servant. A slave. One of the spoils of war. But what he didn’t know was that she had great faith in the God of her ancestors. And when she saw him suffering from this incurable disease, she told his wife that he could be made whole if only he paid a visit to the prophet Elisha in Israel.

So Namaan took a trip to Israel to find out about the healing that was spoken of by this lowly foreign slave. He eventually made his way to the home of the prophet where he was told to go dip himself in the muddy Jordan River seven times. He was insulted and said no. But the army officers with him convinced him that if he was told to do something great he would. So why not try it. And when he came out of the water on that seventh dip, his skin was cleansed of the deadly disease. Namaan had been healed.

He now believed in the God of his stolen slave girl. He now believed that the foreign gods he had been bowing to were worthless. He must now only bow to the God who created the universe.

So he made a trip back to pay respects to Elisha. He wanted to honor his new found faith and offer gifts to the one who had a hand in his healing. He felt indebted to the giver of new life. But there was a problem.

Namaan worked for the government. He spent time with the king on a daily basis. There was no way he could escape his responsibilities as he served the king. And the king bowed down every day to a false god. Namaan was expected to do the same. And now that his allegiance had turned from a false god to the One True God, he knew that in his heart he couldn’t bow to the king’s idol. He must only bow to his Creator. But how could he do that when he was expected to honor the king’s wishes? How was he to show that his faith was now in his Heavenly Father while bowing to a manmade object? How is it possible to do both? And he knew that would be a problem.

He had to keep his faith a secret in order to keep his job. Could he do it? By keeping quiet about his faith, would he lose his faith? Speaking openly about his newfound trust in God Almighty could prove the downfall of his career. Was he willing to risk it all for his faith? Could he be a light in the darkness that surrounded him?

Then Naaman said, “All right, but please allow me to load two of my mules with earth from this place, and I will take it back home with me. From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord . However, may the Lord pardon me in this one thing: When my master the king goes into the temple of the god Rimmon to worship there and leans on my arm, may the Lord pardon me when I bow, too.” “Go in peace,” Elisha said. So Naaman started home again. 2 Kings 5:17-19

Read 2 Kings 5:1-27 to read Namaan’s story.


I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. John 17:14-15


Christians today are having to make a choice of whether to speak up at their workplace about the cultural lies being forced on them. They don’t know if it could cost them their job or not. Some choose to fly under the radar and not make waves. Because really. If they aren’t being forced to state their pronouns or wave a pride flag, why speak up. I don’t know the right or wrong choice. I’ve not be placed in that situation. I haven’t been mandated to do anything. But what I believe is that this issue must be between each person and God. With much prayer and even fasting, God will make it clear to each of us how we should live and work in a world surrounded by those who are against God. And therefore, they are against us.

We must be concerned about what God thinks of our presence in a world full of sin. Oh. We can’t escape this world and remain alive. So while we’re still breathing and moving about on this planet, our desires must be centered on pleasing God while surrounded by the enemy. No. It’s not an easy task. No one said it would be. We can read of many examples in the Bible of great people who failed miserably. Some of them got up and dusted themselves off pledging their faithfulness to God Almighty. Others wallowed in their sins and never repented. I pray that we will be like the former and not the latter.

We know that we must live in this world as it is today. It’s our responsibility as believers to be in the world but not of the world. We must live in a way that honors God and his message of truth, hope and salvation. We must live for the eternity that awaits us in light of the forgiveness of our sins and our commitment to serving God and only God.

Consider those who live in distant lands where living their faith openly is in defiance of their government. They go about their work and live quiet lives. Yet they meet in secret with fellow believers and they hide their Bibles in out of the way places. Oh. They know full well what they’re facing if discovered. And yet they’re willing to practice their faith in private. They perform their work, even if it is back breaking and hard labor. They don’t give up their faith because their lives are hard. Their faith thrives in spite of their very difficult circumstances. In spite of being quiet in their workplace, their faith is firm. Can we do the same?

When Life Is Hard

She got a new job a few months ago. She had been so excited. It was more responsibility. A lot more money. Permanently remote. Just what she was looking for. She was over the moon. For multiple reasons. She was leaving a job that she had soured on months earlier. She was getting a fresh new start. She would have less projects but an expanded role. She would have a work/life balance. And then she started the job.

A couple months in, she was at her wit’s end. She was struggling with all the newness and learning it remotely. She felt she had no support, because she knew no one. She had been assigned many more projects than she felt comfortable with. She worked morning and night, sometimes without eating. She found herself crying multiple times during the day. She wanted to look for a new job, but felt it was too soon. After all, this job was her new start. And after a few months, she was overwhelmed.

A couple more months went by. She texted me one morning. She said she had updated her resume and was looking for a new job. The work load was out of control. The demands from her superiors were overwhelming. She found herself in tears more often than not. She just wanted out. She was done.

Oh. I’ve been in similar situations. Some struggles sounded familiar. Others were new to me. But all the same. I could understand her frustrations and anxiety. I could relate to her uncertainty. I had been down that road more than once. I didn’t want to be in a hard time. But what I wanted and what I got were often two different things.

But I began thinking about her situation. I wondered what she would do if this was the only job left in the world for her. What if she had to do this work in this situation for twenty more years. Could she handle it? Could she rise above the stress and make the situation work as much in her favor as was possible? Could she do a hard thing with no end in sight if that was all life offered her?

Someone else I know is undergoing intense physical therapy. She’s working to become stronger and more independent. The work she’s doing each day will strengthen her muscles and improve her coordination. She wants that, so she’s willing to do the hard work. It isn’t easy on her. Or her parents. She’s only eight years old.

But she knows that if she does the hard work now, she’ll improve her chances of walking independently and more steadily. Oh. I’m sure she has moments of anxiousness and fear. But she doesn’t let it hold her back. She is one determined young woman. And that determination and perseverance will take her far in life. She isn’t giving up even when she is faced with doing hard things.

I read the story of a young woman who was assaulted by several guys. The attack ended in pregnancy. This brave teenager made the decision to give birth to this baby conceived in the most traumatic of situations. She is now the mother of a baby girl. Not knowing who the father is, she chose life for her child. Oh. Sure. There is trauma from the attack. There are obstacles she faces. She didn’t ask for this. But she chose life for her innocent child. And life is hard. But it’s worth living. For both of them.

We don’t have to be a victim when we’re given difficult situations. We can be overcomers.


How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. Psalms 31:19-20


In the book of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote of the many hardships he faced in his life as a follower of Christ. His was not a life of ease. His choice to follow the teachings of Jesus placed a target on his back. And he wore that target with courage. Because all his sins had been forgiven. All the persecution of Christ followers that he had led was forgiven. The slate listing all his sins was wiped clean. Oh. I’m sure having a target on his back was a heavy burden. He was regularly persecuted for speaking about the risen Messiah. He was sought out for his faith, just as he had once sought out those who believed as he now believed. So he knew the risk. He knew that his life might be cut short. But he did it anyway.

Here’s what Paul wrote about his persecution.

Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28

Paul’s life was one of his choosing. He could have continued down the path of persecuting believers. But instead, he chose to follow the teachings of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. His life changed in an instant. He became an ambassador of Christ. He taught the good news of salvation to both Jews and Gentiles. He dared to do hard things even when he faced hard times. He knew that he would be on the short list to be prosecuted for the message he preached. Those in pursuit of him never gave up. They tried him on false charges. They did physical harm to him. They imprisoned him. But he continued. At all costs.

We too can continue down the road of hard times. It may not be our faith that causes hard times. It could be a financial setback. It could be physical issues. Health challenges. Job loss. Family or relationship issues. Pandemics. Lockdowns. Life can be hard. And we can’t avoid it. But through the hard times, our God will be by our side. Every step of the way. We can do hard things. Let’s keep our faith in God strong.

Paul faced a situation that wouldn’t go away. He begged God three times to remove it from his life. But God didn’t. So he continued down the path he was on, all the while, keeping his faith strong.

So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I don’t know how I would respond if I were persecuted for my faith. If I were beaten. Lashed. Stoned. Imprisoned. Starved. Sleepless. I pray my faith would stand strong. Oh. I’ve lost my job. I’ve lost family members. I’ve lived in uncertainty. I’ve been bullied. But through it all, my faith became stronger as I relied fully on God to provide for every need. I pray that throughout any hardship I may face I will continue to to turn to God and to trust him. No matter what happens in my life. Living for God is worth any hardship.

You must remain faithful. Your devotion to God is being tested, and you must hold onto him. How you live in these points of crisis will define your relationship with God.

Andrew Brunson

Darkness

The room was pitch black. No lights were shining anywhere in the house. And for that matter, no lights were shining in the neighborhood. At all. It was almost apocalyptic. There was a power outage in the middle of the night. The only reason she knew of the outage was because she woke up a little after midnight. The house was so dark that she felt a little unnerved getting out of bed. Oh. She knew the layout of her house. She could walk it in the dark. But there she was. The darkness was so thick, she couldn’t see anything. It was one thing to walk in the dark of the house with a few nightlights conveniently placed. But to walk around in total darkness, even in a familiar setting, was unsettling. It was as though the place had been invaded by unknown entities. And even though she hadn’t heard any strange sounds. No doors opening. No glass shattering. No stairs creaking. She still felt uncomfortable in her own home.

Hours earlier, a small nightlight had shone as brightly as it could in the dark space. Now all lights were darkened. But that small shard of light had offered a calming effect in the darkness. What shadows were there offered affirmation that nothing sinister was lurking. Whereas, the total darkness caused uncertainty even though no evidence of threats arose. One must be careful in the dark. Stepping on forgotten shoes or an empty box can send someone into the depths of fear and panic.

But while still dark a few hours later, a low hum filled the space. Clocks blinked. Lights flickered. Power was restored. And in that moment, all felt right with the world.


The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:15


The dark is a frightening place to be. It’s unnerving. Unsettling. Uncomfortable. Even though our eyesight will adjust to see shapes and shadows in the dark, we still don’t see clearly. Confusion can set in, along with fear and anxiousness.

People living in darkness can’t see the path they’re on. Because of their blindness, they don’t know the pitfalls and troubles that are ahead. Darkness causes fear and paranoia. Anger. Manipulation. Panic. When we’re in darkness, we’re in a self-protective mode. We don’t know what lies ahead. The next turn in the road may do us in. So we keep our guard up. Can’t be too careful. Don’t trust others.

Imagine living in darkness all the time. Never rising to see the light. Oh. Many people do it every day. Even for a lifetime. And I’m not talking about physical darkness. I’m talking about spiritual darkness. Anyone who has not confessed their sins and committed their life to Jesus Christ is living in darkness. And their darkness will remain unless they repent.

Just a tiny ray of light is all it takes to expose the darkness. And someone living in the dark doesn’t want to get close to the light, because then they may be exposed. That might require change. Or conviction. And who wants that? Who wants to be confronted with their sins? Who wants the weight of guilt hanging on their shoulders? But that’s what the light does. Even a small pinprick of light is all it takes to expose the darkness. And shouldn’t we be relieved when there is light? Shouldn’t we breathe a sigh of relief when there is even a bit of light? Because then we can see the path ahead. We know where to turn and when to walk straight ahead.

The light is hard on the eyes when darkness is all that’s known. The adjustment to light may take time, but it’s worth the pain and discomfort. Because light brings freedom and hope.

And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. John 3:19-21

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7

A Good Man

He was a flawed man, but I didn’t know it. He wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t notice. In my eyes, he was perfect. He made good decisions. He gave good advice. He was an astute business man. He always did the right thing. He was a strong leader. He was a godly influence. He had his flaws, but they will remain nameless. He had to be flawed. He was human. So he had strengths and weaknesses, like everyone else. But I saw him as the man of all men. He was the one to be looked up to at all times. I never doubted his advice. I never questioned his decisions. At least, not out loud. I followed his instructions to a T. I knew that he loved me. He was my dad.

He had a sense of humor. In my mind’s eye, I can still see him throw his head back and give a big belly laugh. He was a disciplinarian. He kept his kids on the straight and narrow. He was an authoritarian. His word was law in his household. No one in the house ever doubted that. Or talked back.

He was my father. The man of all times. He was a soldier. A welder. A farmer. He was a Christian. Father. Husband. Son. Brother. Uncle. Cousin. Grandfather. Great Grandfather. He was a man of God.

He read the Bible. He had daily devotions. He spent time with God. He served God by being involved in the church. He taught Sunday School. He was on the church board. He was the church treasurer. He was the Sunday School superintendent. He read the Bible to his kids on a daily basis. He prayed for his family. But first and foremost, he was a Christian. He loved God.

He once caught a man stealing his farm tools and drove him to the police station in the middle of the night. He was a man of courage. He served four years in the Army during the Korean war. He defended our freedom and our rights. He was a man of valor.

My dad loved his job. He loved farming. It was his life. Planting. Harvesting. Raising pigs. He loved his life on the farm. He would have been content to work the land until his dying day if his health had permitted. But with age came heart issues, causing him to slow down and retire. It was a sad day for him to sell the farm equipment and lease the land to an up and coming young farmer.


Those who fear the Lord are secure; he will be a refuge for their children. Proverbs 14:26


After every Sunday dinner, my dad would get up from the table and kiss my mom on the cheek and thank her for a delicious meal. He was a man deeply in love with his wife. He spent the last years of his life making sure my mother was taken care of as her memory slowly faded. He waited eleven days to take his final breath once he knew she was safely secured in heaven. And then he quietly joined her.

Oh. My dad never brought flowers to my mom. He rarely bought her a Christmas gift. But he gave her his undying love and devotion. He provided a godly influence to their family. He was a faithful, loving husband.

My dad has been in heaven for eight years now. I’m sure he’s having the time of his life. I’m looking forward to the day that I join him, and then we’ll never be separated again. It will be a glorious time.

Oh. If only we had more men like my dad today. This world would be a much better place. It still wouldn’t be a perfect world, but it would be a more secure, productive and kind world. It would be centered around God, the church, a satisfying career and a loving family.

I miss my dad.

Following

I’m a follower. Of people. I follow people on social media. I’m not a stalker. I just like to see what is happening in their lives. I follow one who is into fitness. One who is a follower of Jesus Christ. Another is a cook who is now feeding four young children trying to be an influencer of moms with young kids. Another is an influencer who uses her clout to inspire others to purchase products that she has endorsed. Still another speaks biblical truth to the current cultural lies. They’re from all walks of life. And I see a glimpse into their lives on almost a daily basis. It’s fascinating.

The person who is into fitness just opened a micro gym. She is now able to offer one-on-one fitness lessons to anyone willing to pay her price. Oh. She takes her fitness very seriously. If you look at her photos, you can see the results of discipline and sacrifice. So. If she can become fit at her age, then she believes anyone else can do the same.

The Jesus follower recently had a new book published. It appears to be all the rage for her fan base. She’s introduced a study with videos that people can use to dig deeper into this latest book of hers. She shows beautiful photos of her family and home life for the world to see. But deep down, I wonder if she’s in agreement with her country’s leadership. She lives in another North American country that has been hit hard with mandates and tyranny. Oh. She never says a word about it on social media. And perhaps that’s best. But she shares how to live a solid Christian life in an unchristian world.

The young mom I follow intrigues me. She’s had four kids in four years. The last two are identical twins. Her brand started as a cooking blog, where she created plant-based recipes. Oh. I’ve never tried any of her recipes. I just watch from the screen. And now she’s expanded to cookbooks for child eaters of any age. She’s also partnered with financial institutions and cleaning product companies, all in the name of expansion for her growing list of followers. I follow to see the cute photos of her kids. No. I don’t agree with all of her political and cultural leanings, but I don’t have to.

Then there’s the influencer who earns a living strictly on endorsing products that she uses. She creates product and gift guides so others can buy the items she suggests. And then she makes money off of each purchase. And she earns lots of money. She has seven employees who help her in this business. Is this really a job?

The one who speaks biblical truths to the cultural lies does so in a very public way. She’s on social media defending truth and cutting through the lies. She walks closely with the Lord. She shares biblical truth as if it’s her job. And it is her job. She has taken to the task in a bold fashion and is not backing down. She is a faithful warrior fighting a battle that few believers are willing to fight. She says she isn’t an influencer, but her message influences masses.


Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Psalms 119:133


And then there’s the ultimate One I follow. Oh. He isn’t on social media. He seems to have no social standing at all in this world. But yet, he’s everywhere. His impact is of a spiritual nature. And it’s clear when his plan is being followed. Or not. It’s noticeable when his selfless, sacrificial gift to all mankind is being rejected. We see that rejection every day. We just call it by a different name.

This One I follow is the Creator of the universe. He’s the lover of my soul. He’s the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. His only and only Son came to earth as a babe. He gave his life on the cross so that I could have eternal life with him. Why wouldn’t I follow him? Why wouldn’t everyone follow him? But so many don’t. And others only follow halfheartedly. And he gave his all for each of us.

So. As I follow the Leader of my life, I too must give him my all. No shirking. Following the leader requires constant obedience. No turning to the left or to the right. Just following the one who is guiding my every step. Sounds simple enough. Until my selfish nature gets in the way. Until I want what I want and my want doesn’t match the One I say I’m following. Oh. Then life gets sticky. I either bow to his way or I bow out of his will. Either decision is life changing. If I choose to bow to his way, then I feel the peace of submission and obedience. I draw closer to him and have a deeper desire to always obey. But if I choose to bow out of his will, then I am claiming that I know best for my life. I’m saying his plan isn’t good enough for me. I know what I’m doing. Oh. What a tangled web we can weave if we don’t stay fully surrendered to him.

Since He has placed me in this world at this appointed time, I must use my gifts and talents to honor him. As his follower, I must walk the path he has laid out for me. Oh. There will be moments the path looks too steep and treacherous. It may be rocky or full of potholes. Or it may be newly paved. Regardless of the condition of the road, I must keep plodding forward. One step at a time. Because he is walking with me each step of the way.

As I follow the Giver of Life, I must be willing to lay down my life for him as he sacrificed his for me. I must obey his leading at all costs. Oh. The price may be high. No one ever knows until it’s time. But for this time, I am called to live humbly, justly and obediently.

We must be faithful to what He asks us to do, to what He asks us to believe, and to how He instructs us to live.

John Stonestreet

Attributes of God

We’re tempted to complain that life is unfair and God is not good. Especially when we’re going through a rough patch, or we don’t get what we want. But sometimes we just need to be reminded of how awesome God really is. In the darkness of the world and the evil that is played out on a daily basis, we need to stop and be still. We need to take a serious look at the goodness of God.

God is righteous. He is morally correct and justifiable, free from guilt and sin. God does no wrong. His decisions are always correct. His judgments are fair and right. He is far more than an upstanding citizen. His goodness goes beyond our wildest imagination. His deeds are kind. There is no other God. He listens to our cries for help. His righteousness will never end. God is blameless and holy. You are righteous, Lord , and your laws are right. Psalms 119:137

God is trustworthy. He keeps his promises. His word is truth. He doesn’t lie. He judges everyone based on his standards. God is fair. God has no part in sin. He is not deceptive or manipulative. There is nothing false about God. He has all wisdom and knows everything. God knows everything about us and doesn’t tell a soul. God alone can save us. No one else can. For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does. Psalms 33:4

God is truth. God’s law is truth. He’s honest to the core. It is impossible for God to lie. He speaks truth and peace and mercy and grace and kindness and correction. His word is above all others. He always keeps his promises. He has nothing to hide. I am the way, the truth, and the life. John 14:6


Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world. Psalms 46:10


God is faithful. His timing is his own, but he fulfills every promise he makes. He will never abandon us. His mercies are new every morning. He will strengthen us and protect us from the evil one. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us. Every time. He will not forget his covenants. Every one of God’s promises to Israel were fulfilled. He is faithful in all he does. Lord , you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago. Isaiah 25:1

God is unchanging. God’s laws and actions are consistent. He never wavers. His character never changes. What God has said he will do. His plan for the world has never changed. He keeps his promises. All of them in his own timing will be fulfilled. His love for us is constant. He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

God is eternal. God has always been and will always be. He has always existed. He will live forever. He is everlasting. He is the beginning and end. He is our God forever and ever. He cannot be destroyed or defeated. He is the great I AM. He includes all time. Past, present and future. There is no time without God being in existence. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. God’s invisible qualities can be clearly seen in everything he made. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Revelation 22:13

God is light. There is no darkness in God. He shines in glorious radiance. Chaos reigns in darkness, and God has no part of chaos or darkness. God’s light will guide us if we let it. He is the light of the world. His life brought life to everyone. The darkness can never extinguish light, so God as the light of the world can never be extinguished. His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 1 John 1:5