My Father’s World

I love listening to the old hymns. They remind me of my childhood. Sitting in church. Pulling out the hymnal. And we would sing those old hymns full of biblical truths, psalms of praise and adoration. Songs that spoke of heartache and loss, but also of redemption and salvation. They spoke of the crucifixion, the burial and the resurrection. They spoke of Jesus’ birth, his death and coming again. They spoke conviction and the need for repentance. Those songs provided hope to believers and to seekers. And today, in times when I’m anxious or uncertain and I need some calming effect, I turn on instrumental hymns and just listen. They take me back to simpler days. Carefree days. Days where my spirit was being molded and shaped to love and serve my heavenly Father.

There’s a hymn that’s been going through my mind for a couple weeks now. This is my Father’s world. And when I think about just those words. This is my father’s world. It gives me gladness, as well as sadness. Because I look at this world and everything that’s happening. The evil. The crime. The disregard for humanity and life. I’m sure it grieves my heavenly Father. He created this world. This was not his plan.

In fact, many, many years ago when the world was full of evil, he destroyed every living being in a flood that covered the entire earth. Every living creature. Every breathing person. Because the earth was evil. He spared one family and two of every animal and bird to restart the population, in the hopes that this time people would stay true to their Creator. But it wasn’t long before people’s hearts turned from God. People sinned. People served their own manmade gods. And over time, this world has become so full of evil once again.

After the flood, God made a promise to never destroy the earth again. He sealed the promise with the rainbow that stretched from one end of the earth to the other. And now. Look. Pride has taken that promise and used it to represent something that goes against God’s creation.

But this is still my Father’s world. He allows evil. He allows wrongdoing. He gave us free will, so we can choose our own path. We can choose to follow God or not. And that choice is huge.

In spite of all the evil that roams the earth, beauty still abounds. We see beauty in nature that surrounds us. We see it in all of God’s creation. We see it in the birth of a new baby. In the rush of a waterfall. In the cool of the breeze. The swaying leaves and the blooming flower. Beauty still surrounds us.


Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!” The world stands firm and cannot be shaken. He will judge all peoples fairly. Psalms 96:10


This is my Father’s world. And to my listening ear. All nature sings and round me rings. The music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world. I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas, his hand the wonders wrought.

My listening ear. Do I listen for the beauty of nature? Lately we’ve been consumed by the sound of cicadas. The deafening mating rituals of an insect that stays hidden in the earth for years. Only to reappear to mate and then die. We wonder their purpose. Only God knows. We see the beauty in the clouds and sunshine. The mountains and the canyons. Only a God with unlimited powers could create such breathtaking masterpieces.

This is my Father’s world. The birds their carols raise. The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world. He shines in all that’s fair. In the rustling grass, I hear him pass. He speaks to me everywhere.

Declare their Maker’s praise. We would be remiss if we failed to declare praise to our heavenly Father. He is our Maker. He has brought all the intricate workings of nature together in perfect harmony. His timing is impeccable with the changing of the seasons. Changing green leaves to hues of red and gold. From the falling leaves to the falling of snow. He shines in all that’s fair. He speaks to me everywhere of the beauty he created for our pleasure.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget. That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world. The battle is not done. Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one.

God is the ruler yet. As we move throughout our days, it seems as though the enemy of our souls is winning the battle. Because evil seems to prevail everywhere we turn. This enemy is using people made in the image of God to fight hard against God’s word. Regardless of whether they know the truth and deny it or have never heard the truth, they are fighting God. They ignore the fact that God is the ruler over everyone and everything. He will not be defeated. God will be victorious over the enemy of our souls. And that victory will be so sweet. It will have eternal consequences for every person who has ever been given life. We can choose redemption with Jesus’ death on the cross. God still reigns.

How cool is it that the same God who created mountains and oceans and galaxies looked at you and thought the world needed one of you, too.

Unknown

This is my Father’s world.


Difficult Decisions

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was reading a novel. My cell phone rang, and I saw the name pop up. It was someone I had a business relationship with, not a personal friend. I wondered why he was calling me on a Saturday. I mean. After all. He didn’t work on Saturdays. I wondered if he had called my number by mistake, but I went ahead and answered. He let me know that he had resigned from his position. That means he was immediately out of work. Oh. He had a new employer. But in his business, once you resigned you were out. No chance to get any information about your former clients. No two week notice. Termination is immediate.

He didn’t ask me to move my business to his new employer. He couldn’t. But we scheduled a meeting. A couple days before the meeting, I began my research on his new employer. I mean. I trusted him enough to continue doing business with him. But I wanted to find out some information about his employer. Did I agree with their business? So I did some digging. Actually though, I didn’t have to dig. A link to an article on the front page of their website told me enough. It told me that I didn’t agree with their core values.

I could see from indications on their website that our beliefs and values didn’t align. Now I have a decision to make. Can I live with myself if I continue working with this man who now works for a company that stands for things I stand against?

I have to admit. A similar thing happened a few years ago. I had gotten laid off from an employer that I loved and trusted. Then I got a new job. After the first day, I thought I would love it more than the previous job. But by the end of the first week, I knew that I couldn’t work there. After going through new hire orientation and learning more about what the company actually stood for, I realized that I didn’t believe in the business my employer did. Oh. It wasn’t illegal. But from my point of view, it was an ethics issue. And I knew it. But, of course, I couldn’t say those words aloud to my new employer. Or I would once again find myself unemployed. So I kept my mouth shut and waited it out. A few months later, I did find another job.

How do I get myself in these situations? It’s important to have convictions that I must uphold. Because, if not, what then?

Difficult convictions call for difficult decisions which call for difficult conversations. At some point, those difficult conversations must take place.

But then I consider other companies I do business, even though I disagree with their core values. I can’t have private conversations with them. And the same afternoon that I received that phone call, I saw a social media post from a company I support endorsing something else that goes against my beliefs. What am I supposed to do? I have to do business with someone.

How do I live my convictions and not be hypocritical? Is there such a thing as a pure life? I don’t think so. It seems that everyone is compromised in some area, whether we know it or not.

How am I supposed to know where to draw the line? How am I to know which hill I’m willing to die on? How am I to decide?


The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. Daniel 11:32


If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. Luke 9:23-26

Honesty is always the best policy. I know that. Sometimes saying those honest words is very difficult when you’re saying them to someone you care about. You know those honest words may cause the relationship to end, and you don’t know how that person is going to take your message. Oh. They don’t have to take it very well, and you may not present it very well. But it’s always in everyone’s best interest, as you’re speaking honestly, to speak kindly. Because how a person handles difficult conversations says a lot about them.

Lots of words can be said. Emotions will run wild. People will become sad and upset. People may say things they regret. And some people, even though they’re being honest as the messenger, upon seeing and hearing the other person’s reaction, may cave. And they may say, well, maybe it’s not so bad after all. I can go ahead and do the thing I said I wasn’t going to do. I’ll go ahead and do the thing that goes against my conscience. Just to please a person.

And when we stop to think about those kinds of actions and the results of those actions, how do we live with ourselves? Which is easier to live with? Pleasing people? Or pleasing God? Because, basically, that’s what it comes down to. If I have a conviction about something, and I act on it and tell the other person that my convictions mean that I can no longer do business with them. If I cave just to maintain that relationship, what kind of message am I sending to them? What kind of witness do I have if I cave just to make them happy? They aren’t my God. They aren’t the one I’m going to stand in front of on judgment day to give an account of my life.

Sure. Its important to build relationships and take care of them. Friendships and strong relationships are very important. But the relationship that should be most important is the one that has eternal consequences. It’s the relationship that says, at the end of the day, that my heart is right with God. And that my actions are speaking for God instead of against him. At the end of the day, do my actions match my convictions? And if they don’t, why not?

These are the questions I’m having to ask myself as I face this decision. Do I continue doing business with this person or not? And honestly, deep down I know the answer. It’s just that he left the house in an awkward goodbye. And we all felt it. In fact, a few minutes after he left the house, he called and apologized for the awkwardness. Because he did not expect our response to his decision to change employers. He didn’t expect us to say we may have to walk away from doing business with you.

Honestly, I never expected that either when I first got his phone call. And quite honestly, I don’t want to quit doing business with him. We’ve built up a strong relationship with the man. We trust him. Now, if we choose to go with another business, we have to start over with someone new. We have to develop trust, because it’s a relationship that requires trust in the person making decisions for you.

Consider the biblical principles for which the martyrs of the Reformation stood to the death.

Now consider the biblical principles about which we say, “Meh. No big deal.”

Michelle Lesley

I see more difficult decisions coming ahead for me in the near future. With different people. As I have other decisions to make. Other plans to make. And it’s hard. It’s hard to speak the truth when you know it may offend others. It’s never the point. It’s never my point to offend others. If I don’t stand for truth. If I don’t stand for my convictions, no one else will. Because they’re my convictions.

I have to live my life pleasing God, not pleasing people. Doing the right thing doesn’t always make you popular. Speaking truth doesn’t always make you popular. In fact, nowadays, it’s quite the opposite. Truth is lies and lies are truth. Right is wrong and wrong is right. Good is bad and bad is good. There’s so much of that going on that we feel like we have to silently protect our convictions.

I read articles and I watch videos of people who have stood for the right thing. They have stood for their beliefs. Some of them have lost jobs. Some have lost social positions. Some have lost friends. Money. Possessions. Just because they dared to speak the truth, in a world that has diluted the truth. And when you dilute the truth, it is no longer truth.

There are a lot of gray areas in life, but truth is black and white. It’s either right or wrong. Good or bad. Left or right. Up or down. We’ve been told that the truth will set you free, but how many times today does it bind up people? The recipients of truth today are binding it up, making truth look ugly and undesirable. And those speaking the truth are sometimes bound to be persecuted and canceled, because this culture is a selfish one. We want what we want. And we want it our way. And we want it now.

So I have decisions to make. And I’ve been much in prayer, because I want to make the right decision. I don’t want to make a snap decision, but I also don’t want to postpone it indefinitely. So my prayer is that God opens the right doors, closes others, gives me discernment and wisdom to know right from wrong. That he will give me the ability to speak truth in a way that is kind and honorable. And that I do the right thing. In God’s eyes.

Out of the Mouth

I’ve been reading through the book of Matthew this month, and you would be surprised at what I’m learning. I’m finding that this book of the Bible has much to teach me. And I must be open to learning these truths. Earlier this week, I read chapter 15 and wow! It says that whatever is in our heart is what comes out of our mouth.

Jesus gives us examples of the types of evil that are in our hearts that then spew from our mouths. Everything gets its start in our hearts. Here we go. Evil thoughts. Murder. Adultery. All sexual immorality. Theft. Lying. Slander. Greed. Wickedness. Deceit. Lustful desires. Envy. Pride. Foolishness. Just to name a few. Jesus says that these things defile us. That means we are polluted and unclean.

When we act and speak in sinful ways, the finger of guilt will point back to our heart. It’s because evil is in us. The words that come out of our mouth are sometimes well thought out. In other words, they are premeditated, the same as other acts of unkindness. But there are also words and acts that are spontaneous. Spur of the moment. Impulsive. And either way. If they’re premeditated or spontaneous, they still come from the heart.

But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you. Matthew 15:18-20

It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you. Mark 7:20-23

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. Genesis 6:5-6

God knows that we’re only evil all the time. That was not his plan for us, but we have disregarded his truth and have charted our own paths. We live as if we are our own god. When God saw all the evil on the earth, he created a plan to clean it up and start over. He caused a flood to fill the earth. It destroyed every living and breathing thing. Animal and human. But before the flood, God had commanded Noah to build an ark. Once the ark was completed, every kind of animal walked onto the ark. Male and female. One of each. And Noah’s family. Noah, his wife, their three sons and wives. They were the only survivors. They were the start of a new people on the earth.

And yet. Here we are. Over time, the earth has once again filled with people. And wickedness abounds. I wonder if God is once again sorry that he put us on the earth.


It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth. Matthew 15:11


I was driving home from the grocery store. For the past few weeks, one section of the road has been under construction. I’m not sure what type of work is being done, but it eventually closes down three lanes to two and then from two lanes to one. So, as you’re driving you have to continue moving into the next left lane. And then you find yourself and every other car in the only open lane.

So, of course, we all know what happens when there are lane closures. The people in the lanes that are closing have to move over, and those in the open lane have to make way for all these extra vehicles trying to squeeze in. Now the problem comes when people in the lanes that are closing wait until the very last second to merge into the open lanes. So when I turned left onto the road with construction, I remembered that the lanes ahead were closed. So I immediately got into the far left lane. That would mean I was in the only open lane until I turned at the upcoming light. I wouldn’t have to try to squeeze into a busy lane of traffic. But, of course, not all those coming behind me did as I did.

As we inched forward, we got past the first lane closure. Then up ahead, the second lane was closing. And, of course, up came a big vehicle wanting to get into my lane. This driver wanted to be in the exact spot I was in, and I couldn’t move. They waited until the very last second to try to move into the last open lane. And the car in front of me wasn’t allowing the vehicle into our lane. So, I begrudgingly thought to myself. I’ll let the vehicle in. So I waved him in. At the same time, here are the words I said in the safety of my car. Come on over, you idiot.

And then up came another car quickly trying to get into my lane. He would have moved ahead of me, if I would have allowed him the space. I decided no. I’m not letting a second car in. The car behind me can take their turn to let this bully car in. So I just continued on and didn’t allow the second car in.

Just as that happened, a parable in the Bible came to my memory. A father told his older son to work in the vineyard. He said no, but later felt guilty and went to do the work as his father asked. The father then told the younger son to work in the vineyard. The son said yes, but didn’t do it. Which son obeyed his father? The one who said no and did the work, or the one who said yes and didn’t work? The son who obeyed did so with a bad heart out of guilt. The other son was a liar.

You can read the parable in Matthew 21:28-32.

I found myself in a similar situation as those two sons. Which of my acts was worse? Pretending to be kind by letting the car in my lane, all the while saying unkind words with a bad attitude? Or not letting the next car in? Sure, I let the first driver in, but in my heart I was letting him know that he should have waited his turn like the rest of us. At least I wasn’t putting on an act with the second car. That’s what I tell myself. Oh. We can usually find a way to justify our actions. But that doesn’t make the act any better. An ungodly act or word is still ungodly. Nothing will change that.

I don’t know why I always have to be the example of what not to do. Just a few moments before the incident, I had been praying and asking God to forgive me for being so human. I asked him to forgive me of my bad attitude and judgmental ways. And I’d hardly spoken those words when I acted like a fool. Of course, the other driver didn’t know that. But God did, because he saw my heart. He heard my words.

I have much to learn. You would think that I would be closer to perfection. The older I get, the more I realize how much I need a Savior. I realize how much I still have to learn. There is much work ahead for this heart of mine, in this lifelong quest to be like God. It’s a never ending struggle. It’s a never ending lesson to learn.

What can and should change is my heart. Repentance. Humbling myself before my Creator, who knows my thoughts and actions. He will forgive. He is willing to clean up my ungodly heart, if I will only ask him. And then I must change the way I act and speak. And it is possible to change. The desire to be godly has to replace the desire to be my own god.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

The Temptations of Christ

Matthew 4 tells us about Jesus being led into the wilderness by the Spirit, where he was tempted by the devil. So was that specifically the purpose of going into the wilderness? So the devil could tempt him? He spent 40 days and 40 nights there. He became very hungry. Obviously.

During that time, guess who came along? Satan. The tempter. The devil. The chief opposer of God. The number one enemy of God. And he tried to convince Jesus to tell the stones to become loaves of bread, so he could eat. He tried to get Jesus to break that fast. And Jesus refused. He said no, people live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. So when Satan realized that temptation wasn’t going to work, he took Jesus to Jerusalem. The holy city. And he took him to the highest point of the temple. He challenged Jesus. He said. If you’re the Son of God, then jump off this high point of the temple. And Satan had the nerve to quote Scripture to Jesus by saying he will order angels to protect you and they will hold you up with their hands, so you won’t even hurt your foot with a stone. Jesus responded right back and quoted Scripture, as well. The Scriptures also say you must not test the Lord your God.

Jesus put Satan in his place by reminding him that Jesus himself was God. And you don’t tempt God.

Satan still wasn’t satisfied. He took Jesus to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. He showed him all the glory those kingdoms possessed, because kingdoms prove power. Each kingdom has a leader. And each leader is powerful. Satan told Jesus that he will give all the kingdoms to Jesus, if only he would just kneel down and worship Satan. So Satan was asking Jesus, the Son of God. God himself. To worship Satan, who had fallen from God’s grace. Satan, once an angel tried to be God, and God banished him from heaven. So Satan now was asking God to worship him. The nerve.

So Jesus commanded Satan to get out. And he quoted yet another Scripture to Satan. You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him. So the devil left him. The angels then came and took care of Jesus.


And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13


To read the entire story of Jesus’ temptations, read Matthew 4:1-11.

When I read these short eleven verses, it lets me know that when I am tempted I too can resist Satan’s advances and evil schemes. What it tells me is that I need to know Scripture, so I can push back and throw God’s Word into Satan’s face. I need to have my heart and mind filled with God’s Word so I know how to respond to Satan. If I don’t know Scripture, how do I rebuff Satan’s advances? It’s no wonder we give in to temptation so often, because we don’t fight it. We need to fight temptation. We need to fight Satan. And that fight only comes if we are in God’s Word. If we are reading and studying the Scripture. Jesus knew these Scriptures. He learned them, the same as all Jewish boys.

So at those times when Satan was there pushing Jesus’ buttons, saying oh, I’ll give you this if you’ll just bow down to me. Or oh. I’ll give you all of these kingdoms if you only worship me. And Jesus was able to rebuff him. To push him away. Because he was centered in the Word of God. Oh. We may say well it’s because he is already God, so he already knew Scripture. He could rebuff these advances because he was God himself. But Jesus was human. When he was born into the world, he was a newborn baby. Helpless. Needy. He couldn’t talk or walk. He couldn’t care for himself. He was a human baby, and his mother had to care for him. And Mary and Joseph taught him. He was treated as any child, and he had all human emotions. He learned to resist temptation. Yes, he was a perfect child, but he was human.

Jesus had a choice to make. When he was in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested, he was asking his Heavenly Father to remove this burden of physical sacrifice from him. He asked to be released from death on the cross. He knew the physical pain it would cause. And he begged for his life. And his heavenly Father said no. Jesus knew what it was like to suffer physical pain. He experienced the same temptations and desires we face. He was able to withstand those temptations that Satan threw at him. And he said no.

We, too, can say no. We must have our heart right with God and be willing to face the evils Satan may throw at us. God is bigger than Satan. God’s Word is holy and perfect. God’s Word can be the binding that strengthens us as we face temptation. We must hold God’s Word in our hearts.

Once that temptation is removed, we can be spiritually cared for. Jesus will draw close to us as we draw close to him. It’s only done by reading Scripture, saying no to Satan’s temptations and wily ways trying to convince us that he can give us anything we want. That isn’t true. Jesus is our only hope. Jesus is our only salvation. Only he can save us from our sins. Let’s stand in his strength.

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalms 119:11