Believers Strong

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

Let Me Count the Ways

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.

Something Is In My Eye

She texted me. I’m not feeling good about my job today. She said. She went on to tell me how a coworker had called to tell her that she had made some mistakes. And then later, an executive called her and pointed out a couple more mistakes. He asked her why she did what she did. She was upset. She said that if we were asked to go back into the office to work, she would have to start looking for another job. Facing these people on a daily basis would just be too much for her.

The trouble is. This job has always made her uncomfortable. And when she feels uncomfortable, she questions every decision she makes. And when someone calls her out, she beats herself up over and over. Isn’t that typical when we hear words of correction or rebuke?

But the first person who called her said she saw some of her work just on a fluke. They weren’t really checking up on her. But she wondered about that. And they informed her that she wasn’t doing things right. The second person is the one who makes all the rules for the company. He’s one of the owners. So when he says you’re doing something wrong, it’s because you’re doing things different from the way he intended the company to run. That would make a person feel bad about themselves. But his tone and method of delivery are usually abrupt and unkind.

The thing is. Both of the people who called her sometimes make questionable decisions. They sometimes make their own rules for how they do their work. And they do things different from how they train others to do the same work. I know because I’ve seen it happen with both people in recent weeks. Yet they have the nerve to reprimand someone who isn’t doing things the “right way.”

So while they’re pointing out the splinter in someone else’s eye, they’ve forgotten that they have a beam in their own eye. They’re blinded by that big splinter that’s been stuck in their eye for a while. It’s blurring their vision. Oh. I’m sure they thought they were helping her. But in fact, they made her feel very uncomfortable and more unsure of herself than she already is.

Is that how we should treat others?

I wonder how they would feel if someone called them and pointed out their mistakes. I did that recently. In fact. As part of my job, I was checking the first person’s work. I noticed that she did something different from the way I was trained. So I mentioned it to her. Oh. That’s how I do it. She said. Oh. I thought. Why are you changing the rules for yourself? But I didn’t push it any further. I just said ok and went about my business. Because I know that I sometimes do things outside the norm of my job. And if I were asked about it, I would have to give a reasonable explanation for why I do what I do. I just know that there are sometimes two ways to solve a problem. So I didn’t want to make a big deal of the situation.

But yet, this person is the one who trains all new employees. And I realized that she’s training new people to do the work different from how the rest of the team was trained. So who is right, and who is wrong?


Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. Matthew 7:12


In the past week, three different people have vented to me and then later apologized for it. I get it. I’ve been in a venting mood lately, too. I’m far too critical of others. I don’t agree with decisions being made at work. I’m frustrated. And I’ve just had it. 

I even said words to someone I love that I later regretted. I knew when the conversation started that it could go wrong if I let it. And I did. I took my words down an unneeded path. And he fell silent. I knew I was in the wrong. And I felt horrible about it. Because I knew if the situation were reversed, I would do the thing I was accusing him of doing. And he wasn’t even doing anything wrong.

It seems that I see everything wrong with the other person or situation and don’t stop to look for the good. The fact is that I’m being blinded by the beam that is in my own eye. It’s causing my vision to be skewed, and all I can focus on is everyone else’s imperfections. I guess I think their imperfections are worse than mine.

It’s easy to get frustrated with others. They can rub us the wrong way. Or insist on getting their way. They may demand more than one can give. They can push the wrong buttons on just the right day to make everything seem impossible.

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

What faults do I overlook in my own life that I can easily spot in others? Perhaps, I should stop and perform surgery on my own judgmental attitude before I pretend to help others. Who says I’m right and they’re wrong.

Why do I tend to focus on the misdeeds and faults of others and not look at myself? I need to remember that when I point a finger of judgment at someone, there are three other fingers pointing back at me.

Our words are important.

If I had to eat my words, what flavor would I taste? Would they be sweet and satisfying or deadly poison? Would I ask for a second helping or choke on the first bite? I have to ask myself how my words affect my listeners. Do people come back to hear more, or do they avoid me like the plague?

I like to think that I treat myself well. Without going overboard, of course. But do I treat others the same way? Do I give others grace when they need it most? I read this week that the world needs more love and less judgment. I heartily agree.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Speak Up

The man was on trial for a crime he hadn’t committed. But there were those who were out to get him. They wanted him dead. So they brought trumped up charges against him. They had false witnesses testify at his trial. They wanted to bring him down at all costs. They hated him. They despised the work he was doing. So they lied. They insisted that he be killed. They didn’t give him a legal trial. His trial was held in the dead of night. They convicted him before the public knew he had even been arrested.

It was as if they were on a witch hunt. Pursuing an innocent man, because they hated him. They were jealous of this man. This night was not the first time they were looking for reasons to kill him. They had relentlessly pursued him. Watching him in the temple as he explained the Scriptures. Watching for any sign that he was breaking Jewish laws so they could punish him. But he was always able to get away. Until now. On this night, he was betrayed by one of his own.

The thing is. Jesus knew the prophecies about himself. He knew what was in store. He had quoted those prophecies to his disciples, yet they didn’t understand the meaning of his words. Until much later. Until those prophecies had been fulfilled with his death and suffering and resurrection. Then their hearts were opened, and they understood all he had said was true.

And when the high priest asked if he should be freed, the people demanded that a murderer be released instead of this innocent man. The people. The crowd who stood by watching had just days before been praising and worshiping this man as he rode a donkey down the street. They were waving palm branches in his honor.

But oh. How their hearts had turned. When he who had taught a message of love and hope was on trial, they didn’t stand up for him. They wouldn’t dare speak the truth. Because if they did, they too might be brought to trial. And their fate could be the same as his. So they stayed silent about the truth. They demanded that he be killed.

This man. This innocent man was Jesus. They knew him to be the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter. His brothers and sisters were known to these people. So when Jesus began teaching a message that directly opposed the ancient Jewish traditions, some believed publicly. Others believed privately. Others doubted his message. And still others revolted against him.

Jesus never shied away from teaching anyone who would listen. And actually, people followed him from place to place. They were eager to hear a message that spoke of love and humility. They were hungry to hear a message that spoke of treating others the way they want to be treated. They were amazed that a man who looked like them could perform miracles. He could heal the blind, the crippled, the deaf and the diseased. He could bring people back to life. He could calm a raging storm. They wanted what he had.

But were they willing to pay the price?

When Jesus was arrested that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, his followers scattered. Suddenly, his message seemed a threat to their lives. If they were found to be a follower of this man Jesus, what punishment awaited them? Would they too be brought to trial in a back room away from the courts and be declared guilty by false accusers? Suddenly this man with unusual teachings seemed more of a threat to their personal safety than they were willing to accept. They must protect themselves and their families. They thought. So they turned on him.

During the trial when asked what he was teaching, Jesus told them to ask the people who heard his teachings.  He said he hadn’t spoken in secret.  His message was public knowledge.  He wasn’t trying to hide the message of salvation from the crowds.  He was speaking loudly and boldly. He never watered down his message or shied away from speaking truth. He knew the cost and he continued this work his Father had laid out for him.

Oh.  There were times when he asked others who he had healed not to tell who had healed them.  But that was because his time had not yet come.  He wanted to postpone his arrest and crucifixion until more people had heard the good news.

But he definitely wasn’t shy about spreading the gospel of salvation.


The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. Luke 10:2


How many of us speak of our faith only in secret?  Only in the confines of our church on Sunday morning?  Or in our Bible study group? Or in the safety of our homes? Or with our Christian friends?  How many of us, instead of trying to win the world to Christ, try to shield our faith by standing silent in public? Even when we see and hear wrong being taught and applauded, do we stand silent? Or do we speak up?

I dare say that we’ve become too comfortable with keeping our faith to ourselves. We say that we pray for the lost. We give money so others can share the Good News. But do we put our faith on the line by speaking boldly about right and wrong.

Recently, I was talking to someone about current events. We were both disturbed by the way our culture is heading. This person mentioned to me that someone needs to do something. And I thought to myself. Why not you? Why not me? Why don’t we believers do something and say something? If not you, then who? If not me, then who?

Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.” Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded. Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” Then Annas bound Jesus and sent him to Caiaphas, the high priest. John 18:19-24

You can read the full story of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and resurrection in John 18-20.

Rights of Citizenship

It’s in the news. The wannabe Olympian turns her back on the American flag as she stands on the podium. She has earned a spot on the Olympic team. Being chosen as a member of the Olympic team is a great honor. For most who qualify, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Yet there are some who have qualified for such an honor multiple times. The physical ability and discipline it takes to earn those few spots are to be applauded.

Yet she turns her back on the flag of the country she has pledged to represent. She’s a citizen of this country. She was born here. Yet she says she feels it was a set up. Somehow someone planned just at the right moment to play the national anthem, as she was standing on the podium receiving her third place medal. As if they knew she would be one of the three who qualified for such an honor.

No, dear. It wasn’t a set up. If you came in third place, let’s hope and pray you earned that spot fair and square. But the planners of the event didn’t plan every second around you. Most likely, they didn’t even know your name. Or that you existed. The plan wasn’t for you to be the center of attention. You’re very skilled at your craft. But this moment in time isn’t just yours. It’s for every other Olympic athlete who has qualified and those still working to get there.

Sure. You have every right to be an stand up for your convictions. But you call yourself an American. Be proud of your heritage. Many died for you to be able to stand on that podium. Many gave their lives for that anthem and to see the flag wave. But if you’re representing your country, just as those soldiers, represent us well. Stand proud and tall for the nation that gives you freedom. For the sake of the country. Otherwise, you don’t belong on the team.


And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17


Just as this athlete turned her back on the flag, the symbol of freedom bought by personal and physical sacrifice, so do so many of us turn our backs on the symbol of hope. The cross of Jesus Christ. Many of us have turned our back on biblical truth and godly lives. We claim to stand on the podium of Christianity, all the while defying everything the death of Jesus represents. We can’t have it both ways.

The name of Christian appears to have multiple meanings these days. The true meaning of Christian means that a person has been born again. We’ve bowed ourselves before God and repented of all our sins. We’ve asked forgiveness for those sins we’ve committed. We’ve asked Jesus Christ to be the center of our lives. And the thing is. When someone prays that prayer of repentance, they are forgiven. Instantly. Their sins are gone. It’s as if those sins never happened. God doesn’t remember them. And we can then stand on that podium of forgiveness and righteousness. We can wave the Christian flag as a symbol of our citizenship of heaven. We can proudly and humbly call ourselves Christian.

But there was a price for those sins. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, died to make that forgiveness possible. The Son of God, who reigned in heaven with his Father, came to earth as a baby and then carried the weight of everyone’s sin on the cross. His death made us eligible for citizenship in heaven.

There are those who turn their back on the free gift of salvation that Jesus Christ freely offers us. There are those who fight as activists against that blood bought offering. They choose to live for themselves. As if nothing else matters. But yet, everything matters. Eternity matters. For they too will one day stand before God Almighty and give an account for their lives.

As each of us someday stand on the podium of judgment, we won’t be able to turn our back on all our actions, attitudes, words and thoughts. They will be on full display for God, the Supreme Judge to see. Then he will judge us and determine if we will spend eternity with him. Like it or not, that moment in history will occur for every one of us. There’s no way out.

So now you are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

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

Practice the Truth

He said he felt sick to his stomach. Oh. I said. Are you not feeling well? Then he proceeded to tell me about an event his employer was planning for the community. This event was geared very specifically to support a group with a social agenda. And this man was sickened by the thought that his Christian employer might be getting involved with social justice issues that are not biblically based.

What does a person do? What does a believer do when they’re faced with a challenge such as this? When their employer, whether Christian or not, supports issues that go against the employee’s moral, ethical or biblical values. What do you do? How do you deal with that? How do you work within that system and remain employed? Do you keep the truth to yourself? Do you speak up? Do you build a campaign against the cause, creating your own cause? What’s the right thing to do? What’s the wrong thing to do?

How do we as believers today stand for truth at the risk of being canceled?

How do we speak biblical truth in a world that doesn’t want to hear it?

Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth? Galatians 4:16

If someone shows no concern to submit to God’s commands, even— indeed especially—when these commands cut across our cultural ideas or our comfort, we must question the spiritual state of that person.

Unknown

As I was reading in 1 John last week, a verse jumped off the page at me. It said that if we claim to know Jesus but continue to sin, we are not practicing the truth. As believers, we must practice the truth. No matter the cost. To our liberty. To our status. To our career. To our livelihoods. Are we willing to pay the price if it comes down to it? It’s a sobering thing to consider. What would we rather lose, though? Every earthly possession? Or every eternal possession?

Our soul could be at stake if we don’t stand for the truth. If we give in to the lies that we’re being sold in social media, in the news, in Hollywood, in Washington. Where do we draw the line? What hill are we willing to die on?

Now we may not know what hill we’re willing to die on until we’re faced with it. And we may not know how we’re going to deal with it until that day comes. I totally understand that. Because honestly. I’ve not yet come to that hill in my life.

The question is. How do we as believers stand for the truth? How do we stand against certain social ideals that aren’t truth? They’re just others’ opinions, and those opinions are loud. They’re much more vocal than those who hold biblical truths but remain silent. How do we believers stand against those ideologies and maintain our Christian integrity? How do we maintain a strong relationship with God if we don’t speak up for his truths?

That’s the question we have to ask ourselves. How do we maintain that strong relationship with God, if we can’t stand for truth when the fight at this point in our culture may seem minimal? Our lives are not at stake. But at some point, our livelihood could be. How do we stand for that? How do we participate in the truth? How do we practice the truth without living a lie?

Because, the truth is, both sides believe they’re speaking truth.

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. 1 John 2:6

We’re told we live in a postmodern world. That means that some believe truth is open to interpretation. Some view truth as a fluid, moving option. How can that be? How does truth change?


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. 1 John 1:6


It’s known that some individuals and corporations bend the truth instead of practicing it. What a shame. Why is truth not applauded and rewarded? Why is truth something we try to hide these days? Why do we seek a convenient and comfortable truth, when it isn’t truth at all?

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a restaurant with a friend. We were having a great conversation, when we suddenly lowered our voices. We were saying words that might be offensive to our neighbors at the surrounding tables. And it dawned on us. Why should we have to lower our voices when we’re having a private conversation about our faith, about our beliefs, and even about politics? Why should we have to lower our voice in public? Why can’t we speak truth around others who may not agree? Because, perhaps, the table next to us might be speaking their beliefs. And they might be in disagreement with ours. Why can’t we sit table to table and speak in private conversations without the fear of being persecuted?

This is America. This is a free country. But we’re living as if it’s not. We’re living in fear. Fear can be healthy. But we need to stand for truth, regardless of that fear. Our faith is important. Our beliefs are important. Our politics are important.

I’ve been reading about Christians in the underground church in Communist countries. These believers, who have developed a strong faith in spite of horrible persecution in their home countries, continue to share the Word of God with unbelievers. Because in those countries, people are hungry for the truth. They want to know the truth, and they’re willing to learn it at all costs. By meeting in private homes. By going out into the forest with a few people to share the gospel and to fellowship and worship in private, secluded areas. Knowing that they could be arrested at any moment.

But they do it anyway.

They share the truth. They live the truth. Even with the possibility of being arrested, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, drugged and brainwashed. They’re willing to lose everything, including their lives, to continue standing for the truth.

I don’t know if I’m that courageous. But I know that I need to be. I know that I need to be willing and able to stand for biblical truth with the realization that I could lose everything that is most important to me.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. 1 Peter 5:8-9

We as believers in this country have had it easy for so long that we don’t know what it’s like to risk everything for our faith. Our churches don’t know what it’s like to be shut down. Our pastors don’t know what it’s like to lose their livelihood and be at risk if they preach a strong biblical message.

I fear that day is coming for us. When I see young children and new babies, I wonder if they are the generation who will be put to the test. I wonder if they’ll be the ones who will be persecuted and imprisoned and tortured and beaten and drugged and brainwashed because of their faith. Oh. I hope not. I hope they don’t meet that type of persecution. But as I look at their parents, I pray that they are strong in their faith today and are teaching their children the Word of God. I pray that they are teaching their children how to stand for truth, how to identify truth among the lies, and how to speak the truth. I pray that those parents teach their children to stand strong and to be bold, regardless of the cost. And I pray that they will realize the cost is worth it to stand for Christ.

I don’t know when that level of persecution will begin for us. I pray that we are prepared and ready. I pray for strong Christian parents to teach their children biblical truths and to engrain it into their hearts. And to have the biblical stories interwoven into their childhood memories, so they can pull out those biblical truths when they need them most. My prayer is they will be unopposed as they stand for truth. May God be with them and help them.

May God help us all.