Daily Devotions

God knew that his chosen people, the nation of Israel, would some day want a king to rule over them. They would eventually want to be like their neighboring nations that had kings. So God spoke through Moses and gave instructions on what a king should do. And sure enough. That’s what happened. The Israelites asked for a king, so God gave them the desire of their hearts. It’s obvious that the kings either deliberately disobeyed or forgot or ignored the instructions God gave them. There was one command that would have made all other commands easier to obey. By the way history has been written, it is apparent that these kings chose not to perform this one daily task. If all of the men who eventually became king over Israel would have followed this one simple command, history would have been written in a totally different way. But here we are. Sure. It would have taken time out of their busy royal lives, but there are always things and people and events that can distract us. We must stay focused on obeying God’s commands, every one of them, so that our lives will be free from sin.

The command God spoke through Moses was that the king must copy for himself the Law of God onto a scroll. And he should do this in the presence of the priests. He should then always keep that copy with him and read it every day as long as he lives. Imagine if each Israelite king would have read God’s law every day of his reign. And by copying the law in front of the priests meant that they could instruct him in the meaning of the words he was writing.

When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel. Deuteronomy 17:18-20

It’s a known fact that we learn by writing down the information given to us. What better way for the king to know the commands he’s to follow than by writing them down. That simple task would familiarize him with the laws. And then when he would read them each day, he would have a written reminder of how to lead his nation to follow God. It doesn’t seem a difficult command to follow. Does it?

Now imagine. If all the presidents who have ever been elected to lead our great nation would have written out every single word of the Bible in front of a noted theologian each day. Imagine that they would have then read it daily. Imagine how different our country would be. Imagine how different their decisions would have been. Imagine what evils they could have prevented. Imagine the good this country could have done. Imagine the actual freedom the citizens of this country would experience. Also. Along with a good conscience and truthful speaking and righteous acts committed by these presidents, there would be dissenters. Not only dissenters from within the nation, but foreign dissenters. No. Not everyone will agree with the teachings of the Bible. But everyone doesn’t have to agree with it in order for it to be true.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalms 119:105

We have a choice each day. To read or not to read the Bible. Let’s take a stand and open the Word of God and apply it to our lives. It’s also not a bad idea to get a pad of paper and pen and write it out in longhand. Writing with pen and paper seems to be a dying art, but imagine the learning that would take place if we committed to spending time in God’s Word each and every day. If we are committed Christians, then it should already be a habit we follow. But if not, then today is the best day to start. Open the Word and read it. Write it down and even commit it to memory.

I’ve made the decision to read my Bible through every year. I’m on my third year of doing this. Each year I read it, I find things that I’ve forgotten or overlooked or ignored. Or perhaps certain passages of Scripture didn’t jump out at me in previous readings. I find that I’m learning new truths each time I read the Bible. And I love that. The Bible is full of many types of literature, so it is never dull. It gives commands on how we should live. It provides prophecies that have been fulfilled, as well as others that are still waiting to happen. It’s not only historical, but it is full of references of how our life will continue after we pass from this earth.

At some point in his reign, King Solomon stopped his daily practice of reading Scriptures. And it became obvious during his reign that something had changed. Oh. But first. He was never perfect. His priorities changed from pleasing God to pleasing himself. He grew very wealthy. He denied himself no luxury. He married many, many women and had a multitude of concubines. And he began worshipping false gods that his many wives worshipped. They and their worship of false gods pulled him away from the One True God.

We too must be very cautious. If we don’t maintain a regular habit of reading the Bible, we may get caught up in practices that ignore or deny God. Isn’t it true that if we don’t stay in touch with our friends, we think of them less often. They aren’t as high a priority as they once were. We tend to forget about them. The same goes with our relationship with God. If we don’t spend time with him every day, we will find excuses to ignore him. He will stop being a priority in our lives. Let’s not do that. Too much is at stake.

And then what happens if a friend confronts us about something we don’t want to hear? Do we avoid them? Unfriend them? Do we make them less of a priority because we don’t want to hear uncomfortable truths? Do we treat God the same way? If we read something in his Word that convicts us, do we continue reading or set the book aside and never open it again? Do we tell ourselves that we aren’t really a bad person and those words must be meant for someone else?

Our life on this earth is short compared to eternity. We think seventy or eighty years is long, but they go by very quickly. And if we haven’t made a habit of reading God’s Word and spending time with him, we won’t recognize his power and authority. Let’s open the Word of God and make it a daily habit. Then let’s see what happens in our lives.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12

No Smell of Smoke

Daniel’s three friends were in trouble. They had been invited to a celebration of sorts. The king had built an idol and expected his government leaders to bow down to it. And these three said No. They would not bow. They didn’t even have a second thought about changing their minds. Even when given a second chance, they stood strong on the grounds that it would defile their relationship with God. And there was no way they would let anything come between them and God. There was no hesitation or pause in their response. They had made that decision ahead of time, and they were sticking to it.

So here they were standing in front of a blazing furnace. And the king was so enraged that he had the furnace turned up several degrees hotter. And he had his mighty military men bind these three hand and foot before throwing them in the furnace. The fire was so hot that it killed the soldiers who shoved them into the furnace. As they fell down into the flames, the binding around their arms and feet fell away. They were free to move about freely. No. They didn’t burn up. They didn’t die. They were walking around in that big furnace. And suddenly the king shrieked! He saw a fourth one in the fire. I’m sure he was suddenly fearful. How did a fourth person get in the fire? Who was this and how did he get in there? And the king claimed he looked like the son of a god.

Oh. Deep down he knew, but he didn’t want to admit it. The king knew who was in the fire with these three faithful followers of God Almighty. This king, Nebuchadnezzar, had already had a run-in with this God, and God proved his might. Now, once again, here is God showing up to save the lives of three men who faithfully stood strong in their faith against a self-infatuated king. You see. Just before tossing these men in the fire, the king had dared to ask them just what god would be able to save them. And guess who showed the king. God himself.

So the king did the only thing he could do. He called to the men in the furnace to come out. So out of the furnace the three men walked. Not a hair on their heads was singed. Their clothes weren’t scorched. And they didn’t even smell of smoke. It was a miracle indeed.

You can read the full story in Daniel 3.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Psalms 46:1-2

Imagine a time when you are called on to bow to a false god or a false ideology that goes against your faith in God. As you stand with the crowd, there are watchers. They are looking for those who refuse to bow to the demand. And the decision must be made in an instant. To bow or not to bow. What would you choose? Oh. If you’ve already made the decision ahead of time that nothing, and I mean nothing, comes between you and God, then you don’t hesitate. Making that decision in advance is key to not bowing to pressure. But if the decision hasn’t been made, then the split second you have will be very telling. If you haven’t thought out what you would do when a very difficult decision that tests your faith stands before you, you could easily bow to a demand you don’t support. And then. There you are.

Let’s say you decide to stand for God’s truth. You buck the trend and choose to share the reason you can’t comply with what is being demanded of you. And then you’re challenged even further with loss of job or worse. Do you still stand strong in your convictions? Or, does your courage begin to fray? Do you go against the grain and maintain your personal faith in the face of any and all threats? Let’s say that you do.

Then the true test comes. You lose your beloved job and no one will hire you. After all, you’re not one who can be counted on to support current cultural trends. So you’re blacklisted. Loss of income. Loss of respect in your field of expertise. You’re an outcast. During that time of testing, do you feel the fourth person in the fire with you? Do you sense God’s sweet presence walking with you through that burning furnace? Just because you alone stood for your faith when others bowed to pressure doesn’t mean you’re standing alone.

Then, by God’s grace and provision, you land on your feet. You find a job and you’re saved from homelessness and embarrassment. You can once again pay your bills and provide for your family. You know that it is through the hand of God that you have gotten through the difficulty, and you’re so very thankful. You know that God is truly the source of your strength, and your faith is stronger than ever.

But do others see that stronger faith and courage in you? Did you walk out of the fire without any smoke damage? Was your hair singed? Were you clothes scorched? Do you smell like the smoke of testing? Did you walk out with a bitter attitude? Do you grumble and complain because life isn’t fair? Do you carry the smell of smoke or the aroma of Christ?

We’ve all been through deep trials in our lives. Some are walking through the fire of testing at this moment. Others feel they’re about to be burned. They are standing strong in their faith, but some days are more difficult than others. They wonder if standing strong is really worth it. They wonder if giving up and giving in to the pressures they’re facing is the best thing to do. Is it better to cave to pressure or burn in the fire?

When we are in the fiery trials, we can know that God is with us. We know his goodness exists even when life doesn’t feel good. We can sense his nearness as we walk through the fiery trials of life. We don’t know if the three men in the furnace knew there was a fourth person in the fire with them. So, we may not always be aware of God’s presence with us as we face trials and tests in our lives. Can we accept the trials knowing that God has allowed them, even if we don’t sense his presence?

We must walk worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of the cost. We must stand for what is biblical. We must also decide that the things we believe, the biblical values we hold near and dear to us, will impact the way we live our lives. It is time for Christians to be courageous.

Skimming the Truth

The thing is. I didn’t lie. I didn’t embellish. But I still didn’t tell the truth. I omitted facts in my story that would have implicated me. No. It wasn’t a harmful omission. It just wasn’t a full truth. And God checked me on it. 

Oh. When I was sharing the story, I realized I should give the full details. But in a moment of self-righteousness, I omitted the information that would bring me down a notch in the other person’s eyes. So, I just didn’t share that part of the story. I didn’t realize when the conversation started that I would be faced with this dilemma, and I was a little caught off guard.

And then God tapped on my heart. And I couldn’t ignore the tap. So, I set the story straight and shared all the details. She probably didn’t think a thing about it, but I knew that I had set things right between me and my God. And that is the way I want to live my life. Keeping things straight between me and God.

I knew I needed to be exonerated in God’s eyes. Because. After all. If I ignore his tug on my heart for a seemingly inconsequential omission of information, what will I do when in a situation of consequence? If I can’t own up in the small offenses, I surely won’t have the courage to do or say the right thing in a really tough situation. 

Partial truth is not complete truth. Obviously. So is it truth? We live as if it is. Oh. We say. I didn’t lie. But if we don’t tell the entire true story, we’re leaving out vital information. And that information could steer the hearer to a different conclusion. And sometimes that’s the goal we’re aiming for. Giving enough truth to call it truth, but making sure the listener doesn’t get all the facts that leads them to a decision, act or thought that goes against our objective. It’s a faulty thing this manipulation of people and actions and facts. We need to be careful.

My dad used to say that a lie was the skin of the truth. And he was right. When the layers of the story are peeled back, it moves further from the truth. Especially if we have to stretch the information to put ourselves in a good light. The conscience will only prick for so long until a callous forms. And then it hardens to the truth. Until the day comes that truth is basically invisible. Then we must ask the question. Is it still truth?

Tell the truth. No matter what.

We lie because we’re threatened by the truth.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12‭-‬14

Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer. Psalms 19:13-14

The Jews and Gentiles were a mixed lot. The Jewish nation was chosen by God as his treasured possession. His son, Jesus, would be born into their nation to save us from our sinful condition. Then there were the Gentiles. They had their own separate beliefs, which were much more relaxed than Jewish traditions. The apostles Peter and Paul had preached to them about the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They wanted the Gentiles to know that Jesus died not only for the sins of the Jewish people, but he died for the Gentiles, as well.

Since the Jews had many regulations about food preparation and foods they were allowed to eat, anyone who was a Jew wouldn’t eat with those who weren’t of their persuasion. But when Peter spent time with the Gentiles, he ate with them. He gave up his Jewish rules in order to share the good news of salvation with his Gentile friends. He became one of them to win them to Christianity. He wasn’t trying to change their traditions. But then, some Jewish friends came to visit. All of a sudden, Peter no longer ate with the Gentiles. He became a strict Jew again. While living among the Gentiles, Peter snubbed them because his Jewish friends came to visit. Perhaps he felt torn between the two groups of people. Perhaps he was unsure how to please his Jewish brothers but still continue his relationship with the Gentiles. It was a touchy subject, to say the least.

Instead of skimming the truth with our words and actions, we need to preserve it. Let’s preserve the truth by making sure that’s all we say. No cutting corners. No exaggerations. No hedging. If we can’t say the truth, then we should be silent. And if we can’t be silent, then we should speak the truth. I know. At times, we get caught off guard. That’s what happened to me. I wasn’t planning to skim the truth, but there it was. I didn’t tell the full side of my story, so I led my listener to believe something of me that wasn’t true. And I’m sure it didn’t bother her in the slightest when I corrected my story. But it mattered to me.

And when Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles, he was hedging the truth to both the Jews and Gentiles. In his case, Paul set him straight. Paul confronted him and demanded he live authentically at all times. That’s exactly what we as followers of Christ are called to today. We must live authentic Christian lives. We must be willing to speak truth, not only in inconsequential conversations, but in all situations. Because when we are in the throes of a heavy conversation, we’ll be in a position to naturally speak truth. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Let’s be authentic. Let’s be truth tellers.

If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me. Psalms 66:18-20

Motley Crew

David had been anointed to be the next king of Israel by the prophet, Samuel. The problem was that the current king, Saul, was still alive. There can’t be two kings at the same time. And King Saul had an inkling that David was going to be the next king. Saul had seen God’s favor on David as he fought in battles and as he walked among the people. It wasn’t hard for Saul to see that God’s favor was all over David. So Saul was jealous, and he wanted David dead.

Saul was on the warpath again and was looking to kill David. So, once again, David was on the run. He not only needed a hiding place, but he needed an army to fight with him. How could he accomplish all that at the last minute? David had no place to hide. He couldn’t go home. He couldn’t go to the palace where Saul lived. He couldn’t stay with his best friend, Jonathan, who happened to be Saul’s son. He had nowhere safe to go. So. He did the next best thing. He found a cave to shelter in, and his brothers and his father’s household came along to be protected, as well. But what David really needed was an army to fight with him and for him. Who would do that? Who would fight for him?

Once in the cave, David needed to assemble his army. Whoever he could find would be called on to serve with him. He knew he couldn’t save himself all alone from the mad king hunting him. He needed his own army of men. He needed bodyguards and soldiers to help him fight his battles. He needed marksmen who were straight shooters. So he accepted those who wouldn’t have been accepted into Saul’s army.

Funny thing is. Others down on their luck heard where David was hiding and came to join him. He soon found himself surrounded by those who were in the middle of their own crisis. Their lives were in distress for different reasons, perhaps by their own making. And people who were in debt came to hide out. These men were down on their luck and had seen massive failure. And anyone who was discontented joined him. The discontented men were bitter for different reasons. They either weren’t satisfied with their lives, or they weren’t satisfied with Saul’s leadership. So David basically got all the rejects living in the cave with him. These were men of unsavory reputation, and they became David’s army.

So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and all his other relatives joined him there. Then others began coming—men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented—until David was the captain of about 400 men. 1 Samuel 22:1-2

God used an army of misfits to fight for the future king of Israel. God knew that on their own they were no match for Saul’s army. I mean. After all, each member of this motley crew was already running from someone or something in their past. So would they really stand strong and fight for David when they came face to face with the royal army? Would David be able to whip this small band of no-gooders into battle-ready warriors? It wasn’t that David didn’t know how to train soldiers. He was an experienced war-time leader. The question was. Could these men actually become warriors?

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

I just wonder. When David saw these men coming one by one. Or two by two. Did he roll his eyes at the sight of these scraggly losers? Did he wonder, why the outcasts? Why do they want to join me? How did they find me? What should I do with them? And yet. David took them under his wing, and God made him the captain of this mismatched army. God was at work in these men’s lives in a mighty way. They didn’t remain as outcasts forever. God worked in their lives, and they became true warriors. In a short time, they were using strategic maneuvers in fighting their toughest opponents. And over time, they became David’s loyal army and remained faithful to him even after he became king. They were David’s strong supporters, and they won many battles.

I wonder. When we turn our lives over to God, does he only see the word “misfit” stamped across our forehead? Does he wonder what in the world will he do with us? How can he accomplish his plans with rejects who approach his throne? Oh. God isn’t hiding in a cave. He doesn’t have to. But when we approach him with all our troubles and anxieties and mess ups, otherwise known as sin, what will he do with us?

We come to him as feeble, broken beings and he turns us into his fighting warriors. Oh sure. It takes time and work. It takes obedience and effort. It takes study and preparation. All on our part. If we’re going to become fighting warriors of God, we must do our part in the training program. We have no idea what God will do through us, but we know that God is capable of anything and everything.

We know David didn’t do all the work when training his new army. The actual warriors had to do the grunt work. They had to be disciplined and practice. They didn’t become sharp shooters overnight. They didn’t learn all their strategic fighting moves by just watching David. They had to actually get in the fight. They weren’t sideline warriors. And we can’t be either. We must get in the fight and do our part to stand up for God’s truth. We must be disciplined to study God’s Word, his spiritual warfare manual, so we know how to head off the enemy before he strikes. And then we must do our part to fight the good fight. The war has been raging for centuries, and the battle is getting more intense. We must be battle ready at all times. It’s time to buckle up and put on the full armor of God.

We’ve heard that God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called. So we don’t have to come to him ready to fight. We come to him in repentance and seeking forgiveness. He will clean us up and make us into his warriors as we submit ourselves to him. When we faithfully commit to serving him, he will prune us and shape us into the spiritual warrior he planned us to be. Oh. It won’t be an overnight pruning. It will take years of study and learning, doubting ourselves, picking ourselves us from missteps. But through faith in God, he will use us as his capable warriors as we place our full and complete trust in him.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Oh, Be Careful

David had been anointed in secret by the prophet Samuel. God had chosen David out of all of Jesse’s sons to replace Saul as king of Israel. Saul, who had been God’s choice for Israel’s first king, had turned his back on God. God had revoked his blessing on Saul and found a worthy replacement. David, the eighth and youngest son of Jesse, was to be the next king of Israel. Never mind that he had to wait over twenty years to see that promise fulfilled. David was young and had much work and grooming to be completed before he could rule the nation of Israel.

During the years of David’s waiting, Saul suffered times of depression and madness. He needed help to calm his mind. Unbeknownst to Saul that David was his replacement, he chose David to play harp to sooth his anxious mind. Saul had no idea that the young man strumming calming notes was the next king of Israel. But Saul came to love David and gave him additional responsibilities. David also became his armor bearer. Yet there were times when David remained at his family home tending sheep. And later, he was a mighty warrior in Saul’s army. He was so great of a warrior that Saul felt threatened by David’s success on the battlefield. So David fell out of favor with Saul, and Saul began hunting him. He began looking for an opportunity to kill this young man.

Unlike Saul, David had a deep, abiding commitment to his God. He knew that God was the God of Israel, and he also knew that he was chosen to rule the nation at the appointed time. David wasn’t in a hurry to claim his seat on the throne. After all, his anointing had been done behind closed doors. No one but David and Samuel knew what had taken place. So the news of a change in leadership had never been announced. And it would remain that way.

On more than one occasion while David was fleeing from Saul, he actually had the opportunity to kill Saul. Once David and his men were hiding in a cave, and Saul entered it to relieve himself. Unbeknownst to Saul, his arch enemy was in that cave and saw him. David’s men suggested to kill him on the spot. David adamantly refused. He could not and would not kill God’s anointed man.

On another occasion while Saul and his men were in a deep sleep, David and one of his men crept into the camp. This time, instead of killing Saul as David’s soldier suggested, David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. Again. David wouldn’t kill the man God had anointed as king of Israel. He even felt guilty from cutting Saul’s robe.

In fact. Saul tried to kill David on at least twelve occasions, so it would seem that any attempt on the life of Saul by David would be justified. But David knew that he would dishonor God by killing Saul. So he did Saul no harm. And he didn’t speak ill of the man who was hunting him. He showed deep respect to God’s chosen king. He didn’t bow to the suggestions of his men to take Saul down whenever he had the chance. David was committed to honoring God’s chosen man, and he was even more committed to honoring God.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

God has allowed evil leaders to be placed into power since the beginning of time. His top angel wanted to be like God, so he started a war with God. It didn’t end well for him and other angels who had pledged allegiance to him. His name is now Satan, and hell was prepared for him. So who are we to speak ill of those in power when God has allowed it of them. God sees evil. And he will punish it in his time and in his way.

Now, I can’t say that our elected leaders are anointed by God. But God ordains their time and position. We are not in a position to interrupt or destroy it. He allows people to be in power and events to take place that don’t honor him. God allows circumstances and elections that we don’t understand. He is setting this world in place for future events that only he knows of. Such things are beyond our understanding. Our responsibility is to trust and obey him.

We see what they do. We hear what they say. We know what they’re about, and we know what they stand for. But we are not God. We don’t know their hearts. We don’t know their intentions. Only God fully knows. And only God will hold them in final judgment. We cannot harm them. And we cannot wish harm upon them. 

God ordains our days and our steps. Even those who oppose him and walk in direct opposition to his commands, their days too are ordained by God. He knows us by name while he’s knitting us together in our mother’s womb. He knows the ways we will take. He knows our eternal destination. And he allows our free will to choose to follow him or to not follow him. Let’s remember that God is in control. 

One candidate says we’re in the battle for the soul of America. He says this is not a time to be complacent. Oh. He’s right. But he’s also been wrong. His ideations and intentions are to turn this country further and further from God. Another candidate says he wants to make this country great again. And other candidates have their own quips and sayings. And they speak words of ridicule and contempt against the other. Should it be that way?

I recently heard someone say they couldn’t call our current President “Commander in Chief”, because he was the commander in thief. This individual said that because of freedom of speech, she could say what she wanted. But do those words honor the position? Would she say them if God was standing next to her?

We don’t have to agree with them. We don’t have to like them. We don’t have to support them or vote for them. But we must show honor where honor is due. The position is one of honor, and whoever is in it has been ordained by God to be there. God allows evil men and women to prosper and godly people to suffer. God allows good men and women to prosper and ungodly people to suffer. God does not play favorites. The rain falls on the just and the unjust.

Some see those who have opposing beliefs as enemies.  It seems we can no longer have opposing views and show respect to the other party.  But God’s Word is very clear about how we are to treat those who oppose us and who may even identify as our enemies.  When we speak ill of others, we speak ill of God. Oh I know. Not one of us is perfect. We’re all guilty of this. We’re guilty of name calling and speaking words in jest or ridicule. But let’s do better. Let’s be better. Let’s be as much like God as we can. Let’s commit to following his lead.

So, I guess the question is, how do we show respect to someone we disagree with and at the same time speak truthfully? How do we say the things we know to be true without degrading and demoralizing the other person? We speak with kindness and purpose. We have pure intent. We don’t gossip. We don’t embellish. We choose our words wisely. We know when to speak and when to be silent. We listen and listen well. We honor God with our words and our actions. And we pray. We pray for those in power, and we pray for those hoping to gain power. Sounds simple even when it isn’t. But it is possible.

Just Say No

These three young men said no. No. They wouldn’t bow to the image the king had made. They wouldn’t bow to a god that was manmade. They would risk their lives and their livelihoods in order to remain faithful to the One True God. And so they didn’t bend their knee just to puff up the king’s ego. Oh. It’s most likely that they knew in advance what they would be asked to do so. How could they not know the king was having a huge image built outside the city limits? I’m sure it was the talk of the town. I can imagine people passing each other on the street and checking to see what progress had been made. I’m sure it was a curiosity of sorts. And what exactly was it for?

Then suddenly anyone who was anyone was asked to bow to this monstrosity. As the king and his top officials sat and watched, the crowd was instructed to bow when they heard the orchestra begin to play. I’m sure it was a large crowd. After all, anyone with a title and leadership role from far and wide had been invited to this celebration. And they were expected to attend. To refuse would have been a career breaker. To say the least. So all invitees were in attendance on that day.

But back to these three young men. Most likely, they were still teenagers. They had been taken captive by the Babylonians when King Nebuchadnezzar had seized the city of Jerusalem. They and many other young men of nobility had been whisked away to a foreign land to live as exiles. They had no choice but to go. And then they were sent to a re-education school where they learned exactly what their new employer, the king, wanted them to know. His plan was to erase their allegiance to God and insert allegiance to his many gods. His plan was a failure, at least when it came to these three guys. But they had become acquainted with the king, so he knew who they were. They weren’t total strangers to the king, much as all the other attendees in the crowd were. The king could identify these three young men, because they were close friends of one of his top officials named Daniel.

As they heard the news that a celebration was being planned for the new image being built, these three men set in their hearts to stand true to the God of their people, the Israelites. They would not bow to this new idol, regardless of the cost. And so, when the music played announcing it was time to bow, they stood tall. They refused to bow. They refused to obey the king’s orders. And, of course, their act of disobedience was noticed. When everyone is bowing, it’s easy to see who isn’t. So they didn’t go unnoticed on that day, and their act of alleged treason was reported to the king.

At first, the king gave them a second chance. There must have been enormous pressure on these young men to just bow. Just do it. As they say. Perhaps they didn’t understand the instructions to bow. Or perhaps, they were sidetracked by gawking at all the other attendees. But no. They knew exactly what they were doing when they didn’t bow. And they even said so in no uncertain terms to the king. They would not bow to this idol. Of course, the king changed his mood from kindness to anger very quickly. He lashed out at them and demanded that they be thrown into a fiery furnace. He wanted to see them die.

You can read the full story of these brave young men in Daniel 3.

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:15-17

I wonder. What would I have done? If I was told ahead of time that my employer was planning to require all employees to bow to an idol they had made, what would I do? Perhaps I could call in sick for the day. But I’m sure that would be noticed. Could I half bow? Would that appease them? Or. I could make the tough decision to stand firm in my faith and not let fear of the unknown weaken my stance. If I knew ahead of time that this idol worship was to be required of me, I could prepare my defense. I could begin praying and asking my friends to pray with me and for me. I could surround myself with prayer warriors who would stand in the gap if my faith began to waver.

People today are being called on to go against their faith. Some are asked to add pronouns to their work email signatures. Some are asked to appease men who want to participate in women’s sports. We’re asked to applaud and affirm social agendas that go directly against our faith. We’re asked to support events and speakers who stand against those who present a biblical worldview.

And just for the record. When we’re asked to go against our faith, we must refuse. We must make the decision beforehand that there is a line we won’t cross. We must decide that we will be willing to defend our faith when the moment comes. Do or die. We must be ready, willing and prepared to die on the hill that stands before us. If we’re asked to do or say anything that would defile our relationship with God, we must be courageous and stand strong in our faith. If God doesn’t approve of it, this his followers mustn’t either. If we contradict God, we’re placing our relationship with him in grave danger. 

Perhaps our step of courage will be the start of a movement that gives others the same courage to stand for their faith. Let’s never underestimate the power of God working in us and through us. Children of God, we are not in this fight alone. God is on our side. Let’s make it known that we’re on God’s side. No hesitation. No doubt. No denial.

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31

But all it takes is the courage of one in the face of opposition for others to follow.


A Better Life

I heard him say that those who follow Jesus have a better life. I had to stop and think about it for a minute. Is it true? Is that biblical? Do all believers have a better life? What makes life better for believers? Why would their life be better than those who don’t believe? And what determines if life is better or worse? What standard are we measuring against?

Let’s think about this.

Some say that life is as good as we make it. Since we aren’t in total control of everything, how do we know we can make our lives better? And what is the definition of a better life? Wouldn’t that be determined by your goals and dreams and talents and skills and finances? There are many factors that can make life good. And there are just as many factors that can skew every plan you make.

I’ve heard parents say that they want their kids to have a better life than they had. But from what I gather, they’re talking about careers and finances. They don’t mention wanting the next generation to have a better life because they’re followers of Christ.

The Bible even tells us that we can plan our lives, but our plans may fall short. Because ultimately, God is in control.

You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. Proverbs 19:21

According to Proverbs 19:21, the Lord’s purpose will take priority over anything we plan for our lives. God’s purpose will prevail, even when we have our lives planned out. We aren’t in control. So, does that make life better?

I think of the family who recently lost their unborn child. Does life feel better for them right now? And there’s the one who has received a diagnosis they never expected. Does life feel better for them? What about those who have recently lost their job? How good does life feel right about now?

Over sixty self-exiled Chinese Christians have been trying to find a safe haven to call home for several years. They fled from China to Hong Kong over three years ago seeking refuge, because they were experiencing threats and interrogations by the Chinese police. Later they moved to Thailand, where they were seeking refugee status from the United Nations, but they were detained by the Thai immigration authorities. Fearing they would be returned to China to face prison, torture or even death, they sought a new refuge. They are now safely in the United States, thanks to organizations that fight for the safety of persecuted Chinese Christians. I wonder if these persecuted believers feel that their life is better because of all the persecution and displacement they have experienced. Is life better for them now that they’ve been removed from any present danger?

What is the answer to a better life?

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:17‭-‬18

Paul writes about contentment in the New Testament. Can I be content in any situation I find myself in? Do my circumstances determine my happiness? What about joy? Because joy is different from happiness. Happiness is an external feeling, while joy is internal. Happiness is fleeting, because moods can change on a dime. But joy is an inward peace and contentment in spite of the circumstances.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

We can get too caught up on our day to day living. We have busy lives. There’s work and family obligations. School and sports events. Community activities. Church activities. All are good, but they can serve as distractions. We get caught up in living for the moment. We think only of what this life on earth has to offer us. And when life is good, we want it to continue indefinitely. How often do we stop to think that this life, this world is not our final home. We must live our lives here on earth as a training ground for eternity. Because eternity will never end. Never. Once we’re in our eternal home, we’re there. So now, while it is still today, we have to consider that our life on this earth is better when we are a follower of Christ. It’s better because we have peace knowing that this life is not the final life for us. We have eternal life with God our Heavenly Father waiting for us. The knowing of what lies ahead makes life palatable even when circumstances are pointing otherwise. Our identity must be in Christ alone. Because when we do that, we can set aside the momentary troubles that cause us to struggle. We must continue obeying and honoring God, regardless of the cost. That is the good life. Even during difficult times, God is good all the time.

We find contentment in Christ alone. That is the answer to living a better life. Oh. We hear the news of chaos in this world. We see the destruction of morality and family values. We know life will never be innocent and pure. Satan’s reach continues to expand, and he’s still on the warpath for even more power. But for those who follow God’s commands and live to please him, there is peace that passes understanding. That is a better life. We don’t have to live in fear of the unknown. We don’t have to worry and stew about uncertainty in this life. God is on the throne. And he’s allowing events to take place that alarm us. But when we know what he has planned for his children in eternity, contentment abides. We don’t have to fear tomorrow. God ordains all our steps.

Sure. It’s easy to say we don’t have to fear tomorrow. We must dig deep into God’s word and hold onto his powerful love and goodness. And we must pray for peace. We must pray for those who are working against God’s design and that they will turn toward God. We must pray that God will lead us not into temptation but will deliver us from evil.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
Colossians 3:1‭-‬4

We Need A Savior

It’s Easter. And most people celebrating the holiday are focusing on the eggs dyed to match spring colors. Or the baskets filled with sugar coated candy and other useless trinkets. Or they’re focusing on the ham and scalloped potatoes. And the family members who will be sharing the meal. Most of these people won’t give a thought about the true meaning of the holiday. Yes. It is a religious holiday. It’s not meant for the Easter bunny or Easter eggs or Easter baskets or bonnets or new church dresses.

Easter is a celebration of the Savior who had died on a cross two days earlier, and is now risen from the dead. The Savior is Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God who came to earth in human form. He lived on earth for thirty three years in a human body, but was fully God at the same time. He came to fulfill the promise of being the Savior of the world. His crucifixion, death and resurrection fulfilled that promise. Yet many people don’t know or care that they even need a Savior.

Why do we think we don’t need a Savior? We look for instant gratification. We want whatever we want whenever we want it. And that’s usually right now. We’re looking for something, but we don’t necessarily know what we’re looking for. We have deep longings. We look for love in all the wrong places. And still can’t find it.

Perhaps it’s important to note that if someone doesn’t accept the fact that they need a Savior, they will see him as a threat. He’s a threat to their independence. Their self reliance. Their identity. Their lifestyle. Their habits. Their dreams. Their goals. He’s a threat to the god they worship without realizing they’re worshiping a hollow god. They’re worshiping a god that can’t do anything for them.

Is it true that we think we don’t need a Savior because we’re too self sufficient? We don’t want to be told what to do. We want to do things our way. We want to make our own decisions. We don’t want to be told no. But with all of our self sufficiency, who do we trust when life gives us lemons? Who is going to hold our hand when we’ve lost our last friend? Who will guide us when we’ve lost our way?

But regardless of what we think we know. Regardless of what we do. Regardless of what others tell us. We really do need a Savior. And we need him right now.

“But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the Lord . “You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God— there never has been, and there never will be. I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior. Isaiah 43:10-11

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:1-10

We need a Savior, otherwise we will think the truth of the gospel is foolish and foolishness is gospel. We don’t know the truth, because we aren’t looking for it. We look for our truth instead of the truth. We want to hear only feedback that makes us feel good, not words that may convict us.

Oh. We’re all looking for a savior of some sort. We all need God. We know we need something more than what we have. We have an emptiness. A hole in our life that needs filled. And instead of filling it with God, we fill it with anything and everything else. Until we can no longer fathom the need for God, we continue an unending search. Because the idea of God in our lives is too foreign to comprehend. No one is looking to find God. After all, why would we need God in our lives? We’re told in so many ways that we’re enough on our own. So who needs God? Who needs a Savior? What do we need to be saved from?

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” Romans 3:10-12

We need a Savior because we are sinners. We need a Savior because we need forgiveness. Without a Savior, sin controls our lives. It separates us from God. So Jesus bridges the chasm between us and God. Oh. We may say we’re good people. Sure. There are many good people in this world. But being good isn’t good enough. Good people are sinners and need to repent of their sins.

There is still time today to repent of your sins and become a child of God. You can pray that initial prayer acknowledging your sin and asking for forgiveness. God will forgive your sins and wipe the slate clean. Do it now. While there’s still time.

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. Romans 10:9-10

A Trip Through the Wilderness

The Israelites had been freed from slavery in Egypt. God had removed them from the oppression of Pharaoh’s heavy handed leadership. After four hundred years, they were on their way home. But during their flight from Egypt to Canaan, they began complaining about missing the good things they had learned to count on in Egypt. Never mind that they had been slaves working for a tyrant. How quickly the feel of the whip on their backs and the unrealistic work conditions escaped their minds. They began doubting God, even though he had promised to lead them to their new homeland. Years earlier, he had made a covenant with their ancestors, letting them know they were his chosen people. Out of all the people on the earth, they were his most cherished possession. But still they complained. They doubted that God would do what he promised he would do.

And one day God had had enough of the complaints and disobedience. His people had shown they didn’t trust him. They wanted to do things their own way instead of following his leading, so he punished them. He needed their unwavering trust and obedience. The punishment was severe. He told them that anyone in their group who was over the age of twenty would not live to see their new homeland. And they were so close to the finish line. Their new homeland was just around the bend. But because of their disobedience, they would not cross the river into Canaan. They would never eat fresh food again, because they were still living on manna. They would not taste the abundant foods awaiting them. They would die before the promise was realized. It took forty years for all of those over age twenty to breathe their last. Moses was the final one to go. And like the others, he too had angered God. Their faithful leader did not get to cross from the wilderness into the Promised Land with the Israelite nation. He was among those who had disobeyed God. Oh. God took him up the mountain and showed him the promised land, but he died on the east side of the river. He was so close, but yet so far.

Those over the age of twenty had heard the promise that God had given to Moses. They lived with the hope of entering the Promised Land. They made the journey with the plans to cross the river. But they took their eyes off of God and looked only at themselves. Their momentary fears and concerns seemed so much more important than trusting God’s plan and timing. So they didn’t get to see the fulfillment of God’s promise. They listened to their fears instead of their faith in God.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

I recently took a solo trip to a state two states away from my home. The drive was five hours long. Not too bad. I started the trip mid-morning while the sun was out. The weather was nice. I had packed snacks and water for the trip. I turned on a podcast and began the journey.

All went well until three hours in. I arrived at the edge of a city between my home and my destination. Oh. I’ve travelled those miles many times before. Even solo a few times. So the trip was nothing new. But driving alone on the freeways and the outerbelt of a strange city makes me a bit uncomfortable. Sure. I had printed out the directions for the trip. I’m old school like that. And I also had my destination mapped in my car’s GPS. So how could I fail? That’s what I thought. Until the main exit I needed to take no longer existed. Oh. It existed on my printed directions and in my car’s GPS, but in reality the exit ramp was gone. Major construction was underway, and I had to take an alternate route. But I didn’t know what the alternate route was. There was no sign telling me where to go. So I took the first exit I saw.

Well. I ended up driving in an area of the city that would leave me very nervous if the moon was out. I drove through the underbelly of this fine city listening to the voice in my car telling me how far to go until my next turn. And the voice in my car kept trying to turn me around to get back to that nonexistent exit. After awhile, it corrected itself. So I decided I would remain calm and clearheaded and listen to this voice. I would turn when I was told, and I would continue down the path as if I was certain it would get me to my destination. I had to trust the voice in my car. I had no Plan B.

As I continued on in the city, I drove by the Children’s Museum. I smiled as I recalled the memory of visiting it many years earlier. I drove past sites that were very beautiful, and I noticed others that were boarded up. No longer in use. The city was full of many different architectural structures, some modern and others from bygone eras. And as I drove through the city, the road I was on led me to the exact route on the map I needed to be. Oh. The route was a bit longer than I had planned, but it got me to the main highway I needed in order to make it out of the city.

Sure. I could have gotten really nervous and anxious. I could have screamed and cried. I could have yelled. But I was alone on this journey, and there was no one in my car to take over for me. I was on my own. Me and the voice in my car.

Then as I neared my destination, I made a wrong turn. I ended up on a road I shouldn’t have been on, which caused another delay. I had to drive a few miles out of my way before I could take an exit to go back in the opposite direction. Instead of getting back on that freeway and going back in the opposite direction, I decided to once again listen to the programmed voice in my car giving me different instructions. I drove past houses and schools and farms and buildings I had never seen before. And the more I drove, the more I realized I was heading straight to my final destination. When I pulled into the driveway, the trip was over. I had arrived unscathed.

I felt as though I had just taken a forty year trip through the wilderness. Along the route, I wasn’t always sure if the instructions I was hearing would actually get me to my destination. I decided to trust that voice, because I wasn’t sure that the printed instructions were still accurate. Sure. I made a couple of wrong turns along the way, but I knew that those mistakes could be righted without mishap. So I kept on moving forward. Trusting the voice to lead me to safety. And it did.

Sustainable Faith

We hear a lot about sustainability these days. We’re told we need to green up our environment. We need to drive electric cars. We need to remove gas stoves from our homes. We must quit eating meat and start eating crickets. We must drive shorter distances. We must lower the number of cows on this earth, because of their gas emissions. We are now being told that we can be replaced with artificial intelligence. It makes a person wonder if humanity is sustainable on an earth that was created by God, but is being overrun by those pretending to be God.

Oh. It’s not the first time people of this earth have been hoodwinked into doing something that sounds good at face value. But then once the changes are being made, we realize that it wasn’t such a good idea, after all. The plan isn’t really sustainable. Someone was playing mind games with us and we got tricked into a false ideology. I’m sure all of us have fallen prey to some type of conspiracy theory at one time in our lives.

But we don’t have to be suckers when it comes to what’s going on around us. We need to keep our eyes open, our ears alert and our hearts guarded. We can fall prey to temptations and ideas that sound good, but are downright deceitful. How often do we make decisions or act under the pressure of soundless ideologies? Ideologies that haven’t been vetted. They’ve just been thrown at us, and we’re expected to bow to them without asking any questions. Shame on us if we don’t dig in and investigate the idea and the instigator of the idea.

Is your faith strong enough to sustain any threat or temptation? Do your actions defile your relationship with God?

When we take a new job, we’re saying that we’ll show up and do our best every day to get the work done. But this week, my coworker didn’t live up to his end of the bargain. He was a no call, no show for several days. He’s now unemployed.

When we call ourselves followers of Christ, we say that we’re following his commands. How can we follow his commands if we don’t know them? If we don’t read and study the Bible, how will we learn to live biblically? Are we committed to our relationship with God or not?

How do we sustain our faith if we’ve never built a solid foundation? How do we build a solid foundation? I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face. If we’re not reading the Word of God daily, we are not building a solid foundation. We can read books about the Bible. We can read devotional books. We can listen to sermons and podcasts. We can attend a Bible study. But we need to read the Bible for ourselves. We need to dig deep and learn God’s Word. That is how we build a sustainable faith. One that can stand against any hard knocks this life throws at us. If we don’t know God’s Word, we are settling for less than the best for ourselves.

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written on it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8

Before Moses died, he appointed Joshua to replace him as the leader of the nation of Israel. And God confirmed that Joshua would be successful as the leader if he obeyed God’s instructions. One of the instructions that God gave Joshua was to study the Book of Instruction that he had given to Moses. He told Joshua to study it continually and meditate on it day and night. Joshua did just that, and he was successful in leading the nation of Israel to victory in taking the land of Canaan, as God promised to them.

There was another man in the Bible. His name was Balaam, and he was a wicked Midianite prophet. Israel was conquering nations on their way to Canaan, which caused fear among the surrounding countries. Balak, the Moabite king who feared Israel, trusted Balaam and asked him to curse the Israelites. Through a series of events that included a talking donkey, God instructed Balaam to say only the words that God gave him to say. And so, Balaam proclaimed blessings on Israel and curses on Moab, angering Balak.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the end of the story.

Later, Balaam went back to Balak and told him how to launch a counterattack on the nation of Israel in a more subtle, inoffensive way. He counseled Balak to send Moabite women into Israel’s camp to seduce the men and introduce them to Baal worship. They began to eat meat offered to idols. This was far worse than any curses Balaam spoke against Balak. He showed Balak how to trip up God’s chosen people. And some of the men of Israel went along with it. What man doesn’t like a pretty girl who pays attention to them and offers them free food? How can that be wrong?

God’s people today get tripped up by false teachers and seemingly innocent ideas that look far more appealing than sacrifice and obedience to God looks. Sin will be presented to us as something pretty, convenient and comfortable. It won’t be a physical, knock down drag out fight. It could be an activity or event that makes you feel accepted by your peers and friends. It could be a new acquaintance who puts you on the edge of uncomfortable, but you let them influence you, anyway. After all. Who wants to appear to be a goody two shoes? Beware of who influences your thoughts, desires and actions. Are those you trust the most in life influencing you in a godly way? Or are they influencing you to move farther from your life as a follower of Christ? Oh. It may be subtle at first. Until one day, you wake up and notice your life is unrecognizable. You no longer desire the things of God. Are you living for the One True God or a false god? Can you tell the difference between godly advice and ungodly influence? Beware. Lest you fall for something that causes you to fall into sin.

You can find the story of Balaam and Balak in Numbers 22:1-25:15, Joshua 13:22 and Revelation 2:14.

But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. Revelation 2:14