Peace or Sword

There they were. Sitting around the table. Thirteen of them. One was the leader. Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The other twelve were hand picked by Jesus to share his message with the world. They were gathered to observe the Passover meal. And as he broke the bread, Jesus said it was given in remembrance of his body. They drank the wine together, for it was the last time Jesus would partake of it with them.

Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:17-19

After the meal, Jesus raised another toast and proclaimed the cup was the new covenant between God and his people. He confirmed that his blood would be spilled as a sacrifice for all people. Yet the disciples didn’t understand the veiled truth that Jesus was speaking. Oh. He often spoke in parables. Later he would offer explanations of the parables to his chosen twelve. But on this night. On this occasion, Jesus was preparing them for the suffering that lay ahead for him when he walked out the door.

Not everyone is ready for truth when it is spoken, so it is unclear. Truth, at times, is unclear because of unbelief, fear or misunderstanding.

Jesus went on to tell them that one of them sitting at the table would turn against him. This man would turn Jesus over to the authorities. And this act of betrayal would propel Jesus down a path of no return. Oh. He knew it would happen. He was, after all, God Incarnate. He was God in human form come to die a brutal death for the sins of all mankind. And this was the moment. And yet. As he sat there with the twelve, knowing that one would betray him, he offered the cup of wine to everyone. He didn’t share it with only the eleven who would remain faithful until death. He also offered it to the one who had already made arrangements to sell him out. Yet he didn’t speak the man’s name. And the remaining group was unaware of their friend’s impending betrayal. Nor the cost of it for all seated at that table. They had no idea what lay ahead for them even that very night.

But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing. Luke 22:21-23

As plans were being put in motion to celebrate the Passover meal, Jesus could have uninvited this one man. He could have offered the man a reason to excuse himself from the dinner. But he didn’t. This man. One of the twelve, chosen specifically by Jesus, would betray him with a kiss in front of the others. His fellow disciples. No one knew he was planning to abdicate his position. Imagine how the eleven felt seeing their brother betray the man they followed and believed. Yet here he was. Kissing Jesus on the cheek to show the authorities and soldiers who had come to make an arrest. He was a traitor and his closest group of friends suddenly saw him in a new light. And it wasn’t a pretty sight.

Sure. It’s obvious that Satan had planted the seed of betrayal in Judas’s heart. There’s no other way to explain it. Judas was the treasurer of the group. So he held all the money. Perhaps he had delved into the funds on different occasions to make his life easier. After all. They didn’t get a paycheck from Jesus. Their loyalty was on them. And a group of donors helped fund their travels. This was not a paying gig. In spite of the fact that Jesus knew in advance that he would be betrayed, he ate the last supper with his traitor. And he loved him still. He was willing to give his life for even back stabbers. Because some backstabbers do repent.

But this traitor. He was hiding in plain sight of the Savior of the world. Oh. Jesus hadn’t been crucified and risen from the dead yet. But Judas traveled with Jesus and the other eleven. He was a follower of the Way. He believed Jesus was the Messiah. But yet. His humanity was evident in the way he conducted business. He was known to pilfer money from the group’s funds. He helped himself to cash when he ran short. Oh. It must not have bothered him. And there’s no evidence that any of the group were aware of his theft. So no one ever confronted him on it.

We’ve all heard the saying. Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer. But that only applies if we recognize the enemy. What if we don’t realize the enemy is in such close quarters? It isn’t even a fair fight. But not all fights are fair.


Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34


So why should we expect any different in our circle of friends?  Why should we expect those closest to us to stand with us when we stand for truth?  Why should we expect allegiance and support when we don’t know the other person’s heart?  We see what they want us to see.  And the reverse is also true. How can we support someone close to us when we disagree with them?  How do we maintain that close relationship when it’s been fractured by disappointment and disbelief?  When trust has been shattered, how do we move forward in the relationship? 

Who sits at the table of fellowship with us?  There may be ones at the table who have turned their allegiance to another.  They may no longer be in a position of agreement on key issues.  They may offer betrayal when least suspected.  Are there any red flags?  Or are we too blind to even consider we’re close to being betrayed?  And then once the traitor has been exposed, what comes of the relationship? 

As believers, we can expect to be fired upon by Satan. We need to know that he will use all his evil ways to lure us away from faith in Christ. When he successfully uses these same tricks on our loved ones, the fallout can be enormous. He will use his wiles against everything we stand for. And everything we hold dear. Even at the expense of relationships and close ties to others. Sometimes the relationships that are severed are the ones we thought would stand the test of time. And then when testing comes, cracks in the relationship appear. At times, there are permanent consequences. Are we ready for that? Do we know who is sitting at the table with us? Of course. It’s impossible for humans to know the full extent of someone else’s intents and purposes. So we must always be careful listeners and godly examples. We must always be fully dressed in the armor of God. We must be peacemakers even when being obedient to the Word of God causes division.

Oh.  Jesus was God come to earth as man.  So he knew the hearts of the men celebrating the Passover meal with him.  He knew one would betray him.  He knew another would deny knowing him, not once, but three times before the rooster crowed.  And he knew that every man sitting there at the table would desert him that very night.  Yet he chose to eat with them.  He broke the bread and drank the wine with this group of disciples.  Knowing all the while that in a few hours he would be standing alone. It’s easy to walk away from friends when they’ve hurt us. But Jesus knew his group of rugged disciples would turn away before they even committed the acts. And he still sat and served them. Knowing the hurt and aloneness he would face in his final hours. Would we do the same for those who will turn against us in our greatest moment of need?

Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against. ‘Father will be divided against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ Luke 12:51-53

Tattle Tale, Tattle Tale

Oh. Their long wait was over. Seventy long years had ended, along with their exile to Babylon. The Israelites were now free to return home to their country. God had punished them for disobeying and ignoring his commands. So they had been conquered by the Babylonian army and moved to a strange land. Sure. God had spoken through his prophet, Jeremiah, who told them their stay would be only seventy years. And then they would return home. Seventy years seems such a short time once it’s over. But to be a young person at the start of those seven decades was one thing. To be on the back end meant your life had passed you by in a foreign land. Your life was lived not of your choosing. But you were alive. And now you were free to go home. So home they went. They were survivors. They were the chosen remnant.

But when they got home, they realized that others had moved into their land as it stood mostly empty all those years. There were squatters living in their cities. And those squatters had their own way of living. And it didn’t fall in line with what the Israelites knew to be true. So they were at odds. But one thing the Israelites knew was that they had been advised to start rebuilding the temple of God. So they began the work.

But there were those who just couldn’t stand it. The squatters were upset by this new development. Their new neighbors, who rightfully belonged in this city, were rebuilding the temple of God. And the usurpers of the land, those who had moved in while the Israelites were in exile, were upset that the Israelites were obeying God’s command. So the newbies did what immature people do. They tattled on their neighbors. They wrote a letter to the king and demanded that he instruct the Israelites, the chosen people of God, to stop their work on the temple. And their immaturity won out. The king demanded all work on the temple be stopped. And so it did. The Israelites stopped rebuilding the temple. For fifteen years, no more work was done on it.

And then the king died. And the Israelites resumed work on the temple. After all, that was the command they were given when they had returned to their country. Rebuild the temple of God and observe his commands. And yet they hadn’t been able to complete the work. Now was their chance to make things right and finish the temple.

But once again, the newbies complained. They wrote another letter, this time to the new king. And in their second complaint letter, they asked the king to research the court archives to see if there was any reference to work on the temple. Lo and behold! There was. The king told them in no uncertain terms that work was to begin immediately. And he told the newbies that they must pay for all the work. And all the supplies. Anything the Israelites needed to finish the temple was on them. And if they didn’t obey, their lives would be taken from them. Wow. So the newbies bowed to the commands, and the temple was completed.


You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. Genesis 50:20


I’m reminded of the many stories of the Israelites. Year over year, they refused to obey God. They refused to follow his commands. They ignored his threats of punishment and exile. Yet he still loved them. After all, they were his chosen people. But enough was enough. He wanted them to love him and pledge to him their allegiance. Oh sure. They did from time to time. They repented. But their humility and devotion to him was short-lived. And then they went back to living life their way. And when God had finally had it, the Israelites were once and for all defeated and taken as exiles to the foreign land of Babylon. Oh. God had promised this would happen unless they repented. And they never repented. So they were punished. He had promised seventy years of exile in Babylon. And that’s exactly what happened.

But God also knew that those who had defeated his chosen people and taken them prisoner were evil. He knew they needed to be punished for harming his chosen ones. Being against God’s chosen people was the equivalent of being against God. And that’s not a winning combination. So God made sure that eventually the Babylonians were destroyed. All because they defeated the Israelites.

Just know that Satan will always find someone to oppose God’s work. Someone is always gullible enough to do Satan’s bidding. But also. Just know that those who oppose God’s work and give in to Satan’s scheming will be on the list of those punished by God. Oh. God doesn’t forget those who oppose him. If they never repent and confess their sins, they will be exposed on judgment day. Make note of it.

And there’s more.

God had plans for the Israelites who had returned to Babylon. Although their efforts to rebuild the temple were stopped, God knew that the work would eventually be restarted. And so he had his people wait for fifteen long years. But he wasn’t worried. If they had continued the work, they would have paid for it out of their pockets. But by waiting, God turned their enemies plans on their heads. The squatters paid for all the repairs and supplies. The Israelites rebuilt the temple debt free. Thanks to God’s timely planning.

Oh. God doesn’t forget his people in need. When the people of God are being used and abused, he sees it. When his people are being tortured and tormented, he sees their pain. The suffering of God’s followers does not go unnoticed. In due time, God will repay those who harm his people. So when we think we can’t continue on in a state of abuse or oppression, know that our ultimate reward is eternity with God. All suffering will not be in vain. God is our redeemer.

Repercussions

He walked into my office and chatted for ninety minutes. Yes. Ninety minutes. I lost an hour and a half talking to the big boss one morning at work. And he told me a story I’ll never forget. His friend in Florida, a minister by the way, was driving and hit a thirteen year old girl who was riding her bike. Instead of stopping, he drove away. It was a hit and run. And then he proceeded to drive an hour away to get his car repaired. The young girl is now in intensive care. He was apprehended and arrested. The fate of each of these individuals is in limbo.

The man telling me the story asked why. Why would someone do this? Just drive away? It’s a question for the ages. But it’s not the first time something like this has happened. And it most likely won’t be the last. But it still is a very haunting question. What makes someone do the unthinkable? Was he so panicked that he wasn’t thinking straight? Did he know what he hit? Was he intoxicated? Or unknowingly cognitively impaired? Or was he just paralyzed with fear? It was an accident. Now it’s a crime scene.

I don’t know what I would do in that situation. I hope that common sense would set in and I would stop to help the girl. After all, it’s another human being. But we never know how we will respond until the moment is upon us. And we may do the unthinkable, just as this man did. I’m sure he’s having many regrets as his liberty has been cut short. His twilight years may now be spent behind bars. His retirement savings may be used to pay for legal counsel. His aging wife will be alone. What was he thinking? We ask.


But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Look down and have mercy on me. Give your strength to your servant; save me, the son of your servant. Psalms 86:15-16


As I was talking to the man, he mentioned that his wife was raised as a Communist. But then she decided to research and study Christianity. She decided that it wasn’t worth pursuing. And as she heard the story of this minister, she asked how a Christian could do such a thing. If that’s the way Christians act, she wants no part of Christianity. I told him that I was a Christian. He quickly assured me that he was, too. I wanted to ask for his definition of being a Christian, but decided that was a conversation for another day.

I went on to tell him that as humans, we all make mistakes. Some mistakes have serious consequences. We don’t always choose to do the right thing. Christian or not. Our mistakes don’t have to define us, but they sure can leave their mark on our lives and on others. Should someone who makes a mistake be punished for the rest of their life? I guess it depends on the severity of the situation.

We’re told it’s not our place to judge. Christian or not. And rightly so. Some mistakes are public knowledge. Others are private and never disclosed. Only God knows our intentions, and he will judge accordingly. Of course, remorse and repentance is always the path to take. We would ask for the same benefit of the doubt if the shoe were on the other foot.

As Christians, we know that God will be with us in our moments of mistakes. He’ll forgive our sins. We should learn and grow from each lesson in our lives. If we learned a valuable lesson and changed our ways after every mistake we make, our lives would be so changed that others would see the difference. But we’re human. We’re always prone to mistakes. We’ll never be perfect. It’s the long road of obedience to God’s commands that usher us forward into each new trial and test. Wisdom comes from learning from our past experiences and obeying God. Let’s show grace to others in their time of need and uncertainty. But let’s also consider others above ourselves and do the right thing. Regardless of the consequences.

Hearing Impairment

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proving Ground

So the Israelites moved into the land God had promised their parents forty years earlier. He had commanded them to destroy all the people living in the land. They did not. Oh. They fought a lot of battles and killed a lot of people. But they didn’t kill all the people. And this would come back to haunt them.

God had specifically told them to destroy everyone in their new homeland, because the people living in Canaan were wicked. They were not followers of God, and they would lead the Israelites astray. If left alive, the Israelites would befriend their enemies. They would work together. They would play together. They were marry each other. They would learn to worship the false gods of their enemies. That’s exactly what God didn’t want. And that’s exactly what happened.

I’m sure it was easier to not kill everyone, because killing is hard business. But it was God’s command. And they disobeyed. So God let some of the nations of Canaan remain alive. This was a proving ground for the Israelites. The people who had sworn to always follow and obey God were put to the test. He wanted to test his chosen people to see if they would remain faithful to him while living with the enemy. We can already guess how the story goes.

Oh. God could have destroyed all those remaining nations of Canaan on his own. He didn’t need the help of the Israelites. This was a test. And as we know, we tend to rely more on God when faced with tests than when life is easy.

God allowed their enemies to live, because he wanted his people to learn to know war. Sounds a little odd. Why would God want his people to learn about war? Because this generation had never known war. After all, they had abandoned the God who had brought their ancestors out of Egypt. They worshipped idols and did evil in the sight of God. They angered God. That meant that neighboring nations would war against them. They must become acquainted with war.

To read more of this story, read Judges 2-3.


You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13


The tower of Babel was built by people who had everything. They wanted to build a city and a tower that reached toward heaven, so they could make a name for themselves. When God saw their hearts, he confused their languages so they couldn’t understand each other. Then he scattered them throughout the earth, and they stopped building the city. 

God knew they didn’t trust him and that their plans were evil. He saw their rebellious hearts and separated them. He knew there was great potential for these people to commit evil atrocities, so he put a stop to it.

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. Genesis 6:5

Our country was founded on Christian principles. Our founding fathers fashioned the words of the documents declaring independence and the formation of the nation on biblical principles. Yet look where we are today. Our nation is far removed from biblical principles. And we wonder why we’re experiencing troubling times. Godless leaders. Extortion. Bribery. Lies. Corruption. Mandates. Killing of unborn babies. Gender identity issues. Liberal agendas that mock God.

Our country is much younger than the nation of Israel. We’ve only been a nation for two hundred forty six years. We hear of wars and rumors of wars. Devastating weapons are at the ready for evil leaders if they wanted to wreak havoc on the world. Famine is predicted. Inflation is at an all-time high. Shortages of food and fuel may be on the horizon. And it doesn’t have to be this way. But we as a nation have rejected the commands of God. We flaunt our defiance and liberalism in his face. It’s no wonder we’re in this moral decline. We’ve pushed God away from our nation.

I wonder how many times God doesn’t remove evil from our path to see if we’ll remain faithful to him. It’s obvious how that test is going. Oh. How the mighty have fallen. It’s time for a revival in our country. We have an opportunity to turn this nation around and serve God once again. Will our leaders repent? Can we get godly leaders elected who will stand for biblical truths? Our time may be running out, but we can still repent today.

Intentions

There will come a day when we will be judged. Oh. We don’t like to think of it. But regardless of what we think, it will happen. The Bible says so. And I have chosen to believe the Bible. It is the standard by which I choose to live. I’m not perfect. But I’m using every ounce of breath to be like Christ. Like I said. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I sometimes have unsavory motives. I sometimes use unkind words. But my goal. My true intention is to please God. When I stand in front of Him on judgment day, I want to be welcomed into heaven with a nice eternal reward.

But here’s the thing. I can do all the good that is possible on this earth. I can say only kind words, even to those I despise. I can smile when I am angry. I can be pleasant to my enemies. I can give all my money to the poor and needy. I can attend church every Sunday. But if my words and actions don’t match my intentions, then all the good I do in the world is meaningless. It’s just that simple.

I can be as good as can be. I can do the right thing at all times. I can act appropriately even in the worst of times. I can try to say the right words in every conversation. But it’s my intentions that are the concern. Because intentions are usually hidden. People can’t see our intentions. Oh. They can assume. But they may just be guessing. But we know whether we plan to do good or evil.

And God always knows our intentions. He sees our heart. He knows our heartbeat. He knows the good, the bad and the ugly of our desires. At the end of our days, we’ll be judged on our entire life. Not just our first day. Or our last. Not just our best day. Or our worst. Every day will be accounted for. Every day will be judged. Some days will stand out like shining stars. Others will fall far short. We will be judged on the nature of our intentions and actions. What was the purpose of those words that were said? What was the intent of the gift that was given? Everything will be taken into account on judgment day.


Would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Psalm 44:21


Some people create resolutions in the new year in hopes that they can be better, do better, or live better lives. These resolutions are easily broken and disappointment sets in. But a resolution isn’t enough. Resolutions don’t require or assume obedience. But God requires obedience. Whether our plans are written on our heart or in a notebook, we need God’s help to keep our attitudes and intentions pure. And he will do that. We must listen for his guidance and allow him to lead us. We must allow him to check our intentions and convict us when those motives aren’t pure.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21

We’re not perfect. No one ever said we should be. Or have they? Sometimes, our inner voice shouts those words. You’re not good enough. You should have done better. You’re not skinny enough. You’re doing it all wrong. But God does speak correction to us. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He created us in his image, but not as gods. And he created us from dirt. Dirt is well, dirty. It’s unclean but it serves a useful purpose. He knows if we are sincerely trying to honor him, or if we’re deliberately ignoring or dishonoring him. He knows. So his correction and his judgment will take our intentions into account as we stand before him.

God knew that Adam and Eve would sin. After all, He made man to be a little lower than the angels. And there were angels who fell from his grace. So God already had a remedy for our sins woven into his plan for all of mankind. He knew we wouldn’t be able to be perfect, so he offered his only Son as a sacrifice. Jesus died in our place for our sins. Now we can be redeemed and our sins washed clean.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Difficult Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michelle Lesley

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

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

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

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

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

Out of the Mouth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empty-Handed

It hit the headlines last week. The divorce of the millenia. One of the wealthiest men on earth and his wife of 27 years are divorcing. Oh. It wasn’t a surprise to him when she filed. It had been in the works for some time. Apparently. She met with divorce attorneys two years ago. Perhaps it took that long to divide the wealth they had amassed over the years. But at some point, long before the d-word ever came up, they had put in motion the separation plan. The backup plan. The disaster recovery plan that apparently couples think they need. But then again, when you’re talking about that much money and that much property and that much wealth, maybe a plan should be in place. I don’t know. That won’t ever be my issue. And I hope and pray that the d-word never comes out of my mouth as a threat or a promise to the man I vowed for better, for worse, till death us do part.

But now they’re divorcing. They’ve been living separate lives for awhile. He told his golfing buddies that the marriage was loveless. What does that even mean? How did it become loveless? Doesn’t a marriage become loveless when love is forgotten? When acts of sacrifice and forgiveness, when the sharing of ideas and plans, when the thought of being one is pushed aside? Did they not put as much time into their marriage as they put into making money? Over time, the marriage became loveless.

If what I’m reading in the news is true, the marriage started out on rocky ground. He had the gall to ask his wife if he could have a weekend each year with a former girlfriend. Who does that? That must have started the marriage off on the wrong foot. Why a wife would have allowed that is beyond me. Perhaps she had her own secret requests. That hasn’t come out in the tabloids, but other news have come out about his secret desires. His other women. I guess it’s safe to say that money doesn’t buy happiness or faithfulness. Is it true that the more you have, the more you want?

Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

When we have conquered our financial and business goals, what other goals are left to conquer? Oh. He’s purchased the bulk of private farmland in this country. He has ownership in a couple of fake meat companies. He wants humans to stop eating beef. He’s willing to fork over money to try an experiment to block the sun. He wants us to become a cashless society. Meanwhile, I ask, will he continue eating beef while he is demanding that the rest of us remove it from our tables and diets? Will he vacation at the beach after he blocks the sun? Will he wish he had a wad of cash when his digital currency fails? Will we who have not amassed fortunes be used as pawns when we’re expected to do his bidding? And he calls only the marriage loveless, as he’s trying to control the rest of creation? Who does he think he is?


Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14


He is not God. Oh. He’ll face God one day, and he’ll give an account for all his actions. He’ll give an account for all those weekends with his mistress. He’ll give an account for trying to stop the sun that God created. He’ll give an account for all the money he’s made. Sure. He’s become a philanthropist. Because what else do you do with money that you don’t need. That you can’t spend on your own, because you already own so much. You already have the best of everything. And you vow not to leave your self-amassed fortune to your children. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but aren’t his children more important to him than other people’s children? Sure. His kids have had the best advantages. The best of everything. I’m sure they’ve attended the best schools. I hope for their sake that they can do well and live the lives they’re accustomed to. That sure would be a drop in status and comfort if they can’t, if that’s important to them.

What about the mother of his children? Apparently, she’s appalled at some of the people he associated with. What was it that turned her to the divorce lawyers? I don’t need to know. Personally, I don’t want to know. It’s none of my business. But when you’re already so well known for your billions and for your donations, I guess it’s only appropriate to be knows for your failures and flaws, too. Because they won’t stay hidden forever. We can try to hide our failures and flaws. Our mistakes. Our annual trysts. But there’s one who’s keeping record of all that. And he doesn’t miss anything. He. Doesn’t. Miss. Anything.

And we live our lives as if no one knows the things we do or say or think. We live as if we’re immune or exempt from God’s judgment. We can fly under the radar for awhile. Sometimes. At different times in our lives. But we never fly under God’s radar. Someday, we’ll be seen on judgment day. It’s an important day that people choose to ignore. Or maybe they don’t know that a judgment day is coming.

Perhaps this man who’s gained so much and given so much also has much to lose. If on his judgment day, the right choice on his part was never made. That act of humility and repentance for his sins. If that was never noted in his life and written in his record. If all his sins have not been wiped out and erased, then all the wealth you can afford. all the houses. all the women. all the inventions. all the plans and dreams and schemes. all the philanthropy. will be worthless. They won’t matter. Because you can’t take any of that with you to eternity. Those things won’t impress God or change his mind. In eternity, you will stand bare before God.

We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us. Ecclesiastes 5:15

So that’s what he has to look forward to, just as you and I do. It seems a little daunting. That day of reckoning. Because we all will be humbled as we are made to recall all of our good deeds and evil deeds. Good intentions and evil intentions. Good words and evil words. They will all be on display. Not for the entire world, but between us and our Maker.

So as I think about this man, some of his life that he thought was hidden is now being made public. Should he have been a little more cautious, a little more careful, a little more selfless? Some people say he’s selfless, because of his philanthropy. Philanthropy is one thing. Good morals is another. But he will stand before God. I’m not his judge. I don’t want to be his judge. My prayer for him is that he gets right with God and he bows to the Creator on his own will, before there’s no choice but to do so.

When the Mighty Fall

Oh. Jeffrey Epstein. How powerful do you feel now? Are you walking on streets of gold? Are you living in a mansion? Is your eternal life better than your life on earth?

Did your life end the way you had always thought it would? Did you think you would die under questionable circumstances alone in a jail cell? Were you alone? Or would you have preferred to be surrounded by beautiful women in a party atmosphere on your private island? Or in your seven-story New York townhome?

Oh. You made the news. Jeffrey. You’ve lived a questionable life. Very questionable. Was your death intentional? If so, why weren’t you unwilling to face your accusers? Were they telling the truth, and the hammer was about to come down on you once and for all? Or was it someone else’s last ditch effort to silence you? Or to pay you back? Most likely, we’ll never know.

But there is One who knows everything about you. Oh. You will never again have to stand in front of a judge to be tried for your alleged offenses. But you have now stood before the Judge and Creator of the universe. How did that go for you? You couldn’t pay your way out of your eternal destiny, now could you? I honestly don’t know where you are right now. Jeffrey. Are you living the life you’ve always wanted? Or are you in the darkest pits of hell? Are you with your Creator, God Almighty? Or are you with the enemy of your soul, satan himself? Are you basking in glory? Or are you writhing in agony and torment?


You may be sure that your sin will find you out. Numbers 32:32


Let’s imagine, Jeffrey, that with your last breath you cried out to God to forgive you. Let’s imagine that you are walking the streets of gold. Let’s imagine that when you stood before God to be judged there was a red streak of Jesus’ blood across your record of sins. And that your sins have been made white as snow. They’ve been erased. Let’s imagine that you’ve been forgiven and are now a child of God. You are in heaven. It’s possible that happened.

But then. Let’s imagine another scenario. A darker scenario. Let’s imagine that instead of crying out to God with your last breath, you uttered his name in blasphemy. Let’s imagine that you drew your final breath in hate and bitterness. Let’s imagine that your name was not in the Book of Life and that you were cast into the depths of hell. There’s no turning back from that torture.

Were you laughing at those who were gunning for you and your every dollar? Thumbing your nose at the many who have accused you of indecent and inappropriate behavior. Waving your money to buy you a mansion in your eternal home. But it doesn’t work that way. Jeffrey. You can’t buy or work your way into heaven.

The public may never know the truth. And maybe that’s for the best. Perhaps we don’t need to know how you acquired your wealth. I’ve read that the acquisition of your riches was not necessarily honorable. What was it that caused you to think you were above the law? You chose to run in social circles that many would envy. Politicians. Billionaires. Royalty. Beautiful women. Private island retreat. Private jet. But how did you accumulate what you owned? Why did you crave that lifestyle? Why unwilling young women?

Were you surprised when the cops came to your house and rammed the massive wood door? Oh. You weren’t there. You were already in jail. Did you wonder if they had finally uncovered your deepest darkest secrets? Did you wonder if you had finally been found out? Did you breathe a deep sigh of relief that now the game was over? Or did you breathe short struggling anxious breaths knowing that the true fight had just begun?

Jeffrey. You’re now in eternity. You’ve breathed your last breath. Fought your last fight. Earned or stolen your last dollar. You’ve been judged and have received your final reward or punishment. God only knows what the truth is. He’s the only one who knows the truth. But you are an example to many who are living life on the fringes. Knowing what’s right but doing what’s wrong. Looking out for yourself and pushing others to bow to your wishes. That’s no longer an option for you.

May those of us who still live and breathe choose to follow the Lord God Almighty. May we choose to bow to Him before we’ve taken that last breath. When there is still time to choose heaven. Because our sins will always find us out. We will be held accountable. Just as you have. Jeffrey.