Solid Ground

The neighbors are having a year. And it’s not one they want to repeat. Their oldest son got his driver’s license and his first car. Then coronavirus hit and they haven’t left their house much at all. Their air conditioner died its final death and had to be replaced. A huge tree fell on their house, causing major damage. It split their deck in two. A couple of windows and gutters had to be replaced. Their old roof was replaced last week. This week was set aside for repairing the chimney. The final step will be to replace the stucco on the chimney.

I’ve watched the workers as they’ve been installing the scaffolding for the chimney repair. The installation is quite daunting. The team is made of five or six workers. They’ve been working for two days now setting up the three story scaffolding. It’s tall and unwieldy. I bet a strong wind could knock it over. But we don’t want that. It would fall on my house.

But this scaffolding. It’s an interesting situation. I noticed last week the first level had been installed during the roof replacement. Three of the scaffolding legs were secured on level ground. The fourth leg was not. Only part of it was touching the thick board it had been set on. I knew that would be trouble once people were standing on the scaffolding. I was assured that all four legs would be secured before the work began. One could only hope.

Now for the past two days, these workers have been steadily working to secure the scaffolding. And it has rained both days. Work has stopped for hours on end. But once the rain stops, these workers reappear to meet their goal. A strong place for workers to be safe.

I notice this scaffolding as it towers in the air. It has supports screwed to the sides in multiple places. To strengthen it. To steady it. To anchor it. It is set up to withstand the weight and burdens it will hold in the coming days. It has been prepared for a heavy load.

The next day, the real work starts. The scaffolding is now in place and secured. The worker climbs up the tall scale as if he does this every day. And he does. Later in the morning, I notice the destruction that has taken place in preparation for the rebuilding of the new chimney. The two old ugly chimney pipes stand bare. Surrounded by pieces of concrete blocks. The worker is dismantling each piece in preparation for the repairs. It’s tedious but necessary work.


And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God. Titus 2:12


I think of my soul. I think of the repair work God has been performing on me for years. He’s working to secure my soul for eternity. I must be willing to let him continue. For it is a daunting task he has laid out. The tearing down of old feelings and haunting hurts. The dismantling of my fears and rejections. The displaced dreams and sorrows. The hidden sins and wayward leanings. The old is going away. The new is being built.

The dismantling of the old chimney prepares a way for the new one to be strong and steady for many years. It will secure the future of the entire house. But it is a big job. This work that is taking place.

The worker works from the inside out. He tears out all the old concrete blocks, blowing away all the dust and debris. He lays down solid new concrete blocks and cements them in place. Perfectly aligned and secured. The work is immaculate. It will withstand many storms and seasons.

The remaining work will make the outside of the chimney as beautiful as the inside. Some may think the inside doesn’t require beauty, but to the worker who has learned the trade, it is a requirement. To him, the completion of his work is beautiful. It is his pride and joy. Sure. It will be covered by the stucco that will be on display for the world. The finished exterior will be seen and admired by the homeowners and neighbors. But the chimney builder knows the truth of what is inside. The true work that has been laid for a solid safe working chimney.

This rebuilding of my innermost being is meant to replace the unstable layers of humanity that have built up. The old belief system is being chipped away, so a biblical foundation can be laid on solid ground. Oh. It’s hard work. There will be sweat and tears. Blood and guts. But the end result will be a solid framework to draw me closer to God and deeper into His Word.

But the builder knows that the work he is doing on the inside will only be seen by him. The outer work, though seen by the rest of humanity, was also created by this builder. But the outside wasn’t made to last. So it crumbles and wrinkles. Parts wear out and are worn. But the inside. That is where the true work is done for eternity. And only the builder can see the work. Oh. Others can see the results of the work. They may notice. They may not. But the work of the spirit will be what makes eternity. The outside view will be an afterthought.

The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Beauty and strength lie on the inside for the builder to behold. Only the builder knows the true worth of his work.

Division

He was a killer. He was a tyrant. A bully. A fighter. Oh. I’m not sure that he actually killed anyone out right. But he approved of Stephen’s killing. He stood by while an innocent man was stoned to death. And then he moved on. Looking for more victims. You see. He was looking for believers. Men and women. He would drag them from their homes and families and put them into prison.

He was a man who thought he was working for God, but instead he was working against God. He looked to bring down anyone in opposition of what he stood for. He was trying to destroy the church. He frightened anyone who came near him. His reputation preceded him. Those who had heard of him would do anything to stay out of his path.

Why was he being such a brute? His victims were believers of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He believed in God, but he didn’t believe in the risen Christ. He stood against everything they stood for. And he was determined to take down that group of believers. Oh. The devil had his soul, all right. And he didn’t care.

Who was this man?

Saul was a Pharisee. He had studied the Hebrew and Greek Bible. In his day, he would have memorized many Scriptures. He knew the law inside and out and obeyed it religiously. He once said that he was the best Jew one could find. He was a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin. His heritage could not be denied. So, why was he against this group of believers?


Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 1 John 3:18


There was another man. He was Stephen. He was a man of God. A follower of the Way. He was a member of a group who believed that Jesus Christ, the Messiah had been born and then died on a cross. He was among a group of seven chosen to distribute food to the widows. And with this responsibility came boldness. He boldly preached the new message of salvation.  He even performed miracles. He was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

So it was widely known that Stephen was a believer of the message of the Messiah, just as Saul was well known for hunting those believers. They were on a collision course. One fateful day, their paths met and it changed the course of history. Stephen’s physical life ended and he entered heaven’s gates. Saul continued on his path of destruction.

At some point, Saul took his beliefs too far. That’s when he started persecuting Christians. He was out for blood. He was a zealot for revenge. What was he trying to prove? He was trying to protect the traditions of his ancestors instead of seeking salvation from the Savior.

History shows that Saul disagreed with the message Stephen was preaching. They stood on opposite sides of an argument that no human could settle. One group of Jews believed in the Messiah and others didn’t. They had never met, but they couldn’t agree to disagree.

Saul belonged to the group who didn’t believe in the Messiah. Stephen believed in the Messiah, the risen Savior.

So there stood Saul. Standing guard over the coats. Some might say he was minding his own business.  But really. He was an eyewitness to a murder. He could have stopped it. Or he could have gone for help. He could have spoken up. But no. He watched Stephen die. The man was stoned to death. I wonder if Saul even flinched when he saw the stones made contact.

Saul stood up for his beliefs and others paid with their lives. Stephen stood up for his beliefs and he paid with his life. It didn’t have to be that way.

You can read the full story of Saul and Stephen in Acts 6-8.

As in the day of Saul and Stephen, today’s church isn’t a perfect place. It’s filled with people who have differing opinions and beliefs. Many today have opposing thoughts and convictions about so many topics. There will always be rumblings of discontent. In the church and outside the church walls. Some believe one way. Others believe another way.

The question is. Do the beliefs point back to Scripture? Are the opinions and rumblings based on Biblical teaching or personal preference? Are we holding on to the traditions of our ancestors when they only followed rigorous laws and rules? Or are we following the teachings of the Messiah and seeking redemption for our sins?

I wonder. When we can’t agree to disagree, are we holding onto an idol of our own making? Are we more concerned with having our way instead of building up the church? If believers can’t agree, what message does that send to those who are questioning their own faith?

As believers, we really do need each other. We need to build up one another. Support and encourage each other. We must pray for each other. Times are tough. They may be tough for a long time. We’re not guaranteed an easy life. So, during these times of uncertainty and uneasiness, let’s pull together and support one another.

And if we disagree, let’s agree that we disagree.

The heart of the gospel should be the gospel of the heart.

The Act of Falling

He was stirring up a batch of brownies when I walked into the kitchen. I quietly patted myself on the back for planning ahead for him and having the mix on the shelf. He likes to snack at night and I had purchased the brownie mix and stored it for a time when he was ready. Tonight was the night.

I watched him pour the mix into a small pan. He realized he would have batter left over, so I pulled out another small pan to use. I mean. He was planning to pour out the batter that wouldn’t fit in his pan. No. I said. Put it in a second pan and bake it for later. I’m sure you’ll eat all the brownies. No, I won’t. He said.

It got me thinking. As I sat there smelling the scent of baking brownies, my mind hatched a plan. I could have a brownie tonight. Just one. I told myself. So when he pulled the brownies out of the oven, I told him that I would eat a brownie out of my pan. The smaller pan that somehow became the pan of brownies that I saved.

And there began my downfall.

As I cut into my brownies, I saw that he had cut a very small piece out of his batch. Since my pan was smaller, I decided it was the right size for four brownies. So I cut a piece out of the pan. As I ate the brownie, I realized it needed to cool a little longer. It was too warm and didn’t give me the satisfaction I was hoping for. I prefer my brownies at room temperature. But I was too greedy to wait for them to cool. As I ate it, I decided I would need another brownie that was cooled. After all, it would taste better than a warm one.

So I waited.

Then I ate a second brownie. Since I prefer the edges and the second brownie was a middle, I wasn’t satisfied. Of course, it had two edges, but it didn’t suit me. So I ate another. The third brownie was on the other end of the pan, so it was surrounded by three edges. Almost perfection.

A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls. Proverbs 25:28

Here I was three brownies into a pan of four brownies. I hadn’t planned on eating brownies tonight. I hadn’t even though of brownies until I saw him open the package. And then I was hooked. My desire went down a path I didn’t even try to avoid.

Later in the evening when he saw how many I had eaten, he was shocked. He said I may as well eat the last brownie and be done. So I did. And just like that I had eaten an entire small pan of brownies.

The thing is. They weren’t really that great. Oh. They were the brand I had always bought. But I’ve changed the way I eat, and I no longer eat processed food. Until I do. And I did. And honestly. I felt no satisfaction after eating even one of them. Or two. Or three. Or four.

But it was too late. My brownie pan was empty. His brownie pan had only one small piece missing. What a glutton. What a fool I am.

The next morning, I felt it. The itch of the eczema. The distending of the belly. The number on the scale. Proof of my indiscretion. Proof of my lack of self control.


So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16


Have you ever been tempted to do something you know you shouldn’t do? But instead of turning away, you dive right in? The moment is just right, and you don’t even consider the consequences until you’re past the point of no return.

That is just what the lie of Satan will do for a person. Just a little tease of an indiscretion. Just a little slip of the tongue. Or a small wager. A kiss when a handshake was in order. A second look when the eye should have turned the other way. A walk through a door that should have been locked tight. And pretty soon, we’ve walked down a path we never should have been on.

We’re in the heat of the moment, and the moment just feels so right. We just can’t let it pass us by. That’s what we tell ourselves. Because in the moment, the moment is perfect. Just for the taking. It will never pass this way again.

So we do it. We do that thing we said we would never do. Or we say those words that we’re ashamed to have even thought. But they’ve been said. And words once said can’t be unsaid. We’ve told that story that was shared in confidence. We took another look when we should have looked away.  

It doesn’t have to be this way. The battle for holiness is a battle that must be fought every single day. The thing is. We can say no. We can give up the sins of our past, so they won’t continue to be the sins of today.

Holiness is the state of being holy. A life of holiness and total devotion to God.

There is a battle for the heart, mind and soul. The warriors are God Almighty and Satan himself. Our part in the battle is surrender. But it’s a daily act of surrender. One moment at a time. One temptation at a time. One thought at a time. When we surrender to God, he will fight the battle for us. He will lead us to victory if he is the warrior we choose to follow. But we must choose to be like him. By obeying God, we become more like him.

Our problem following Jesus is we’re trying to be a better version of us, rather than a more accurate reflection of Him.

Bob Goff

Your Truth

Paul and Barnabas had been preaching the message of salvation to the townspeople. Many people believed the message that Jesus Christ died for their sins. They repented of their sins and became followers of The Way.

But there were those in the town who didn’t believe the message and began poisoning the minds of the new believers. They were trying to sway the people from believing this new message. But Paul and Barnabas continued to boldly preach the good news. They moved from town to town. They even performed miracles, which caused some people to proclaim that they were gods.

One minute the townspeople were wanting to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas because they thought they were gods. Then the next minute, troublemakers came along and confused the people, turning them against Paul and Barnabas.  So, instead of worshiping Paul and Barnabas, they stoned Paul. Fortunately, he lived to tell about it. 

To read this story of Paul and Barnabas, read Acts 14.

Just as these townspeople quickly turned on the truth, our beliefs can change at the drop of a hat when we aren’t grounded in biblical truths. We can go from one extreme to the other.  Not searching out the truth. Just believing what anyone tells us. Do we really want to know the truth? Will it require change? Or action? Will we have to give up some things we hold dear? Those things that may be sinful?

Is it too easy being comfortable?

It’s easy to latch onto a message that doesn’t require anything from us. But when it looks like sacrifice or persecution might be involved, we back off.  We’re looking for the easy way to heaven. If it calls for change or true repentance,  then forget it. We just want feel good Christianity. But that’s just it. That’s not Christianity. 

If we call ourselves Christians, we need to know what we believe. Let’s not be surface Christians. Let’s be authentic. Standing up for biblical truths. But before we stand for truth, we have to know what truth is. We can only find that by reading God’s Word. Deep Bible study. An intentional prayer life. God will speak to us. He will prune us. He’ll develop us into someone just like him. If we give him the chance.


Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15


Do you know if your truth is biblical truth? Do you want it to be? Do you assume that it is? When’s the last time you opened the Bible to compare it to what you believe and say? What would you do if you discovered you were wrong? Would you automatically assume you were right and God was wrong? Whose side are you on? Whose truth is really truth to you?

I’ve read that “your truth” is a combination of your experience and your opinion. Does that make it truth? What if your truth is a lie you’ve been telling yourself so long that you’ve started to believe it? It still doesn’t mean it’s true.

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.

Blaise Pascal

Do we say amen to the sermon on Sunday? But then, come Monday morning, live like we didn’t even hear the sermon. Hmmm. We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.

When you read a book written by a Christian author, do you assume that their words are biblical truth? Or do you just read words that make you comfortable? I mean, after all. Who wants to be convicted about our thoughts or our attitudes or our actions? Isn’t it ok if I just be me? Who am I offending?

Do you listen to the critics and enemies of Christ?  Or do you listen to Bible scholars? To those who are so in love with God and his Word. or to those who hate him — either publicly or privately? Why not research the writers before reading them? Why not find out what their beliefs and values really are? Let’s not just take someone else’s word for truth.

I recently heard someone say there is a problem with truth telling these days.

The truth of God is true for everyone, regardless if they believe it or not. Because one day, every knee will bow before God.

God’s truth is true in all times and in all places.

Owen Strachan

Father, help me to always seek Your truth. Not my truth. Not what’s easy or convenient for me. Not my opinion. Not my experience. But Your never ending, everlasting truth. I ask for your mercy to rain over me when I am seeking truth. Guide me to your truth first and foremost. Shelter me from the confusion and doubt that others’ truth can place in my heart. I want to see You and only You. I want to seek only Your truth. Amen.

This is a Test

Do you think God trusts you? No, really. Do you think God trusts you? Has God ever tested your faithfulness to him? Would you know it if he has? Do you think you passed the test? Hmm. Let’s think about this for a minute.

If you read the Bible, you will find that God tested people. And he didn’t let them know their struggles were a test. A test of their faithfulness. Imagine the nerve. But he did it anyway. After all, God alone is God. He knows our hearts. He knows if we will turn to him in those moments of darkness. And he knows if we will turn away from him.

In Exodus 15, God decided to test the Israelite people as they were settling into a new camp. Oh. He didn’t tell them about his plan, but he mapped out the requirements for the test.

  • Listen to the voice of God
  • Do what is right in God’s eyes
  • Obey God’s commands
  • Keep all of God’s decrees

Seems simple, right?

Listen to the voice of God. What does God’s voice even sound like? Have I ever heard him speak? Have I heard his voice? Would I know it was God if he spoke to me?

Now. God may have spoken audibly to Moses. But God also spoke to Moses through a burning bush. He has never spoken to me in an audible voice. And I’ve never seen a burning bush.

However, I do have a conscience. I know when I do right. And I know when I do wrong. I know when my heart is pounding out of my chest and I have to choose which path to take. Which words to say or not to say. That is God speaking to me. I must listen closely and not close my ears and heart to God. I must listen to God.

Do what is right in God’s eyes. If I’m listening to God and obeying him, then I am doing right. If I’m not listening to God, all bets are off as far as what I may or may not do. And if I’m not listening to God, then who am I listening to? And does the speaker I’m following speak the truth? Would I know the truth if it hit me smack in the face?

Obey God’s commands. I think immediately of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:3-17).

  1. You must not have any other gods before me
  2. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind
  3. You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God
  4. Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You must not murder
  7. You must not commit adultery
  8. You must not steal
  9. You must not testify falsely against your neighbor
  10. You must not covet

But those aren’t the only commands God gives. There are many, many commands that God gives in the Bible. God commands us to avoid certain things, to beware of specific evils. We are commanded to do things and not to do things. The Word of God is full of commands. We only need to look for them.

Keep all of God’s decrees. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the decrees of God are his eternal, unchangeable, holy, wise, and sovereign purpose. They comprehend all things that come to pass. What does all of that even mean? One of God’s decrees that pretty much sums up everything says: Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4

It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them (the Iraelites) the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.” Exodus 15:25-26


And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28


And then there’s Job. God told Satan to test Job. And he gave clear instructions on how the test was to be conducted. He told Satan what he would allow and what he would not allow. So Satan obeyed and carried out those tests as if it were his only job. He made Job’s life miserable and destroyed everything Job had worked for. He killed all of Job’s children and his livestock. Only a handful of servants were spared. Yet Job persisted in his faith in God. His faith held firm. His trust in God withstood every test that Satan threw at him.

How do I know that some of the troubles that come my way aren’t designed by Satan? Under God’s approval. I’ll never know this side of heaven. I’m not sure it matters who designs the test. God or Satan. The point of the test is to prove my faithfulness to God. I wonder. Would I be found as faithful as Job if I were put to the limit, as he was? I pray that I will be found as faithful as Job. Will you?

One Nation Under God

Yes. We are a nation under God. Whether we act like it or not. Whether we live like it or not. God is still and always will be in control.  Oh. We’re living in troubled times. That’s for sure. Racial injustice. Unnecessary killings. Mob violence. Anarchy. Selfish demands. Pandemic. Unemployment.

But we are still a nation under God. He is in control. He is allowing this mess to happen. He knows exactly why these things are taking place. And he is letting us run rampant in our sin.

We’ve done this to ourselves. You know that.

Oh. This country was founded on religious freedom. Our forefathers left one country to find a place where they could freely worship God. How far we’ve come from that. It seems that now we worship anything but God. Anything and everything has become our god.

Will we ever learn? Will we ever fall on our knees and repent? As a nation, will we ever put God first? When was the last mass revival of people repenting and turning to God? We keep digging our nation deeper and deeper into sin.

We are warned in the Bible that there will be all kinds of trouble in the last days. The thing is. The people who lived in Bible times thought they had it bad. They were sure that Jesus was coming back soon. And look. It’s been how many years since that time? Thousands of years. And the times are even worse now.

You should know that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

2 Timothy 3:1-5


The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love. Numbers 14:18


Israel was also a nation under God. And they disobeyed him time and time again. Look where it got them. They were torn apart. Two separate kingdoms. Yes. There were times when God gave them what they wanted. They wanted their own king. Why? Because they wanted to be like all the other nations. Instead of being content with serving God and listening to the prophet’s words, they wanted a king. So God gave them a king. And that king failed them.

God had promised to bless the nation of Israel for generations. He doesn’t renege on his promises. But they lost faith in him. They turned to other gods. They lived for their own pleasure and not for God. And after a time, their neighbors attacked them. Took them prisoner in their own land. Made them pay heavy taxes. Made them slaves. And finally. Finally. They remembered the times of their ancestors. When life was good. They knew the stories of how their ancestors lived in peace with themselves and with their neighboring countries and with God. So they turned back to God. Repented of their sins. He heard their cries and forgave them. They regained their freedom and their good name. Aahhhh. Life was good. Again.

But as time went by. The cycle repeated itself. Over and over. They walked away from God. Thought their fake idols were better than the real God. They ignored God’s leading. They did their own thing, because it was easier than obeying God. So, here we are today. The sins of the fathers have crept into every generation.

No. We’re not the Israelites. They were God’s chosen people, but they chose not to stay faithful to him. We in this country feel special. We feel chosen. We believe we’re the greatest nation on earth. We’re only great if we are following God’s leading. But no. We removed prayer from schools and called it separation of church and state. We kill unborn babies and call it freedom of choice. We approve every form of lifestyle and call it pride. We’ve disregarded morals and call it authenticity. We worship created things rather than the Creator and call it good.

The thing is. God will not impose his will on us. He will not make us repent. Oh. He could. But he won’t. We have to want to change. We have to accept the outreached hand of forgiveness before it’s too late.

We can change.  One household at a time. One heart at a time. Let’s truly be one nation under God.

Disappointment

I’m disappointed. In people. When they say something or do something. Or they don’t say something or don’t do something. They don’t meet my expectations. And most of the time, I didn’t realize I had those expectations until they aren’t met. People are so disappointing. They can’t read my mind. They don’t know what I want. They don’t know when my feelings get hurt. They don’t know me. And yet they disappoint me.

It hurts when you trust someone and they fail miserably. Their words or acts cross a line that you didn’t know was drawn. But once the line is drawn, it’s obvious that you’re hurt. And now there are feelings to deal with. Emotions are bubbling. Trust is cracked wide open. And now what?

Maybe that person has gone too far. Or not far enough. We thought they liked blue, but instead they love red. We assumed they were a chocolate lover, when all the while they’re craving nachos. We naturally assume that they would always agree with our opinions, when they very much have their own much different opinions. Now the differences are out in the open. What is one to do?

People will disappoint us. They’re human. I’m human. I’m sure I’ve disappointed way too many people. And I’m most likely oblivious to it unless it’s been pointed out to me.


Only God is truly good. Mark 10:18


People. We can’t put our trust and hope in people. We need someone who is more than mere human. We need the One who created humans. We need someone who is bigger and better than us. We need an Almighty God who loves us. Who provides for us. Who leads us in truth. Who says those difficult words to us and performs acts that we don’t understand. But all the while He’s doing it, he knows that in the end it is for our good. He allows things that seem downright unnecessary and awful to impact our comfortable little lives. But he knows that if we just keep our eyes on him, that he is there for us. All the time. Things don’t always have to be pretty or perfect for God to be with us. It doesn’t mean that God isn’t good.

And sometimes those things that God allows disappoint us. Sometimes God disappoints us by not answering that prayer that we knew was just the perfect answer. Or he doesn’t provide that job that would have solved a lot of our problems. Or he doesn’t cure that incurable disease. But that doesn’t mean he’s bad or doesn’t love us. He’s working out everything for our good.

Disappointment is a mean thing. It can eat you alive and turn into bitterness and resentment. It can cause even more disappointment when we can’t find our way out of it.

The thing is. We can’t avoid people. No matter how hard we try, people are everywhere. They’re in public places. They’re at work. They’re at church. They’re in our homes. Oh sure. These past few months, we’ve all been quarantined at home, but people still exist. Through emails and texts. Facetime and Zoom calls. They are still disappointing, even if we’re not together in person.

And we think we can avoid God. But he is still here. He’s all around us. Every day. Oh. We may try to ignore him. We may avoid any type of dealing with him. But guess what. He’s still here. He is always waiting for us to reach out to him. Even in our disappointment. He plans for the best for us. Even when circumstances are so difficult, perhaps our focus needs to shift to God’s goodness despite the tough times. God is always good. Even when life is bad. He is a good, good Father.

Walking With A Limp

It was the wrestling match of the ages. And rightfully so. Who other than Jacob can say they spent the night wrestling with God? Physically wrestling with God. Oh. I’m sure many of us will admit to wrestling with God in prayer for hours on end. Hours that left us weak and limp. Hoping that God had heard our honest, fervent prayers.

But Jacob. Yes. He spent the night wrestling with God. And he came out alive. He came out able to talk about it. He walked away from that match a changed man. Changed in more ways than one. His name was changed to Israel, because he fought with God and man and won. His heart was changed, because he was prepared to reconcile with his brother. His walk was different. He now walked with a limp, because his wrestling opponent wrenched his hip out of the socket.

Oh. During the hours long wrestling match, a conversation was taking place. Perhaps two conversations. One that included Jacob and his opponent. And the other was an internal conversation Jacob was having with himself. Don’t you think? If he’s asking questions aloud to his opponent, they would only come about from his internal conversations.

Let’s just read his mind for a minute.

Who is this stranger who appears in the dead of night in the middle of nowhere and wrestles with me? Who does that? Who is this man? Where did he come from? What does he want with me? Will his strength ever give out? And why? Oh. Why won’t he tell me his name? Am I face to face with God? Will he let me survive the night?

Jacob walked with a limp after wrestling with God. At some point in the night he realized he was wrestling with God Almight. And did his win signify a victory for his soul?


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


Perhaps our opponent appears out of nowhere. We’re unprepared for the match, yet we must fight with all our might. And our might is failing. The fight is long and difficult. It’s taking a toll, and we see no way out. We beg God for mercy. We ask for this dark night of our soul to end. We’re unsure of what part of our faith will be left intact. Can our faith survive this match?

Perhaps our wrestling with God is because his will is not ours. Our wrestling matches may go on for days and weeks. Perhaps they’re continuing still today. We’re not willing to give in to God’s perfect will. and it is just that. Perfect. Not that our lives will be perfect when we submit to his plan, but we will be at peace in his will. We may walk with a limp, but it will be because the battle of our own will has been won. With God’s help. and his plan is put into place.

Perhaps our wrestling match is with a physical or mental illness. A job loss. A fractured marriage. A destroyed dream. Perhaps we’ve lost hope with life and feel there’s nowhere to turn. Life struggles will leave us with a noticeable limp. But the limp signifies victory over the struggle as we allow God to heal us. That limp we now walk with is a sign of victory. It’s a sign of perseverance and faith. Of trust in the Almighty God of the universe. So what’s a little limp?

Breakfast is Served

Here’s what I wonder.

If your friend denied knowing you not once but three times, would you forgive him? If your friend hurt someone coming to arrest you for a crime you didn’t commit, would you heal the officer your friend injured and rebuke your friend? If you found your friend sleeping at the hour you needed him most, would you still trust him? If you had known your friend was going to desert you that very night, would you still call him friend? If that same friend later fervently promised that he loved you after all that, would you believe him?

Here’s the real story.

Early in the evening as Jesus was arrested, Peter fought back by cutting off the ear of one of the men arresting him. As Jesus was taken away, Peter followed from a distance. He stood in the courtyard watching from afar as the one he loved was tried for a crime he didn’t commit. Did he step up as a witness for his friend? Not at all. When asked if he knew the man, he denied it. He was asked three times by three different people. Each time, he gave the same answer. No. I don’t know him.

Then a rooster crowed.

If he was willing to fight for Jesus when he was being arrested, why not fight for him after the arrest? Did fear grip his heart so completely that he wasn’t thinking straight? Was he only thinking of himself? Trying to save his own life? Why wasn’t Jesus’ life worth saving? Jesus was being tried for a crime he didn’t commit. Peter knew that. He could have defended this man called King of the Jews. But if the King’s life was in danger, what did that say for his followers? It would be a death sentence to stand up for truth. Wouldn’t it? Is that why Peter denied knowing him? He was afraid for his life?

The miracle is that Jesus was raised from death to life. Oh sure. He was nailed to a cross and died. But on the third day in the tomb, the breath of life was breathed into him. The tomb where he was buried was empty. He had unfinished business to attend to. And rightly so.

And early one morning, Peter and some other disciples were fishing. Jesus came along and started a fire on the shore. He cooked breakfast for them. He was waiting for his friends. His followers. For those who believed in him. For those who knew him. For those who loved him.

But wait. He cooked breakfast for Peter after what Peter had done to him? How could he? Why would he willingly get up early and serve breakfast to a man who denied even knowing him? And he wasn’t just any man. He was a close friend. They had spent many hours together.


So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. John 13:34


Is this how I would treat a close friend who denied knowing me? Someone who lied about our relationship?

Would I go out of my way to serve a friend who had wronged me? Would I still call him friend? Or would I write him off? Forget him? How would I want my friend to treat me if I had done the same to him?

Am I willing to spend time with someone who has betrayed me? Or thinks differently than I do? If Jesus was willing and able to forgive Peter and still love him, can’t I do the same for you? Can you do the same for me?

And at that fateful fireside breakfast, Peter’s relationship with Jesus was restored. As they and the other disciples ate their fish and bread, Jesus asked Peter a question. Not once, but three times. Peter, do you love me? And each time, Peter said yes. But oh. Peter knew the significance of being asked three times. He thought back to another question he was asked three times as Jesus was being assaulted. You know him, don’t you? And he answered no all three times.

But this time was different, Peter was committed to Jesus at all costs. Peter’s relationship with Jesus was restored as they ate their breakfast by the sea. Jesus challenged him to love. and love deeply.

Do you accept the challenge to love deeply? Love the unloveable. Love the lonely. The hurting. Love those who don’t love you. Love those who have mistreated you. Those who are different from you. Are you willing? At all costs?

Beauty Awaits

It was Memorial Day. I was weeding the flower bed on the south side of the house.  I’ve decided that this is the year I am going to keep my flowerbeds clean and clear of weeds.  I looked over at my neighbor’s flowerbed. It hasn’t been touched yet this spring.  Not because of a busy schedule.  The pandemic has hit and the neighbors haven’t left their house much.

My neighbor and I have an agreement. Our flowerbeds are not in competition with each other. We don’t try to outdo one another. We admire from afar when the beds are well kept.  We keep our thoughts to ourselves when they aren’t. And that is that.

But so far this year, I’m winning. But as I said, this isn’t a competition. Oh. My flowerbed still has weeds. They’re never ending. But at least, there’s space between the plants. It’s clear where the peonies end and the irises begin. And the strawberries are separate from the zinnias that have begun to pop up. But still. There is much work to do in this flowerbed.

I fear that the deer will soon devour all the strawberries that are blooming. It would be nice, for once, to be able to eat those strawberries ourselves. We aren’t growing them to feed the deer. But then. There are also the hostas and day lilies that seem to get devoured by the deer. Those I’m not so worried about.

There are some very shady spots in my backyard that need attention. With all the rain that we’ve had, the weeds just pop up overnight. It’s hard to keep them under control. Perhaps a good layer of mulch would help manage that problem. But who has the time? Work keeps calling my name. 8 hours a day. 5 days a week. By the time the day is over, who wants to pull weeds? But I realize that’s the sacrifice that must be made in order to keep the flowerbeds looking their best.

I have lofty goals for this garden. Oh. It’s not big. It’s not majestic. It will never win awards. But I want to keep it weed free and thriving. I want to plant a variety of flowers and shade loving, deer resistant perennials. My goal is to see a beautiful garden in the midst of my normal life. But it will take work. Back breaking, sweaty work. Am I up for the challenge?


So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Hebrews 6:1


I find the same amount of work must go into my Christian life. If I want to see beauty and growth in my relationship with God, I must take the time to pull the weeds of sin out of my life. Those weeds can choke out the peace that God provides.

Keeping my relationship with God growing is hard work. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes sacrifice and commitment. It isn’t always easy to make reading my Bible a priority, but it is necessary in order to know who God is. I must choose to spend time in prayer. Spending time with my Maker and Provider is a daily must. There is no wiggle room in that.

As I was weeding the flowerbeds this morning, I realized I couldn’t distinguish some annuals I had planted from the weeds. Until the annuals bloom, I won’t know if they are weeds or flowers. It’s because I don’t recognize the leaf patterns without the fruit. I realized this is similar to my spiritual growth. It isn’t always easy to distinguish between right and wrong. Sin and obedience. In those times, I must lean in to feel the prick of my conscience or the nudge of the Holy Spirit to help me in my weakness and uncertainty.

I have lofty goals for my soul. Oh. I doubt that I’ll be in the same group as Moses or David or Paul or Abraham. But I want to want to spend eternity in heaven. I want to spend an eternity with my heavenly Father. My goal is to walk the streets of gold. But it will take work while I’m still on this earth. Back breaking, sweaty work. Am I up for the challenge?