Following

I’m a follower. Of people. I follow people on social media. I’m not a stalker. I just like to see what is happening in their lives. I follow one who is into fitness. One who is a follower of Jesus Christ. Another is a cook who is now feeding four young children trying to be an influencer of moms with young kids. Another is an influencer who uses her clout to inspire others to purchase products that she has endorsed. Still another speaks biblical truth to the current cultural lies. They’re from all walks of life. And I see a glimpse into their lives on almost a daily basis. It’s fascinating.

The person who is into fitness just opened a micro gym. She is now able to offer one-on-one fitness lessons to anyone willing to pay her price. Oh. She takes her fitness very seriously. If you look at her photos, you can see the results of discipline and sacrifice. So. If she can become fit at her age, then she believes anyone else can do the same.

The Jesus follower recently had a new book published. It appears to be all the rage for her fan base. She’s introduced a study with videos that people can use to dig deeper into this latest book of hers. She shows beautiful photos of her family and home life for the world to see. But deep down, I wonder if she’s in agreement with her country’s leadership. She lives in another North American country that has been hit hard with mandates and tyranny. Oh. She never says a word about it on social media. And perhaps that’s best. But she shares how to live a solid Christian life in an unchristian world.

The young mom I follow intrigues me. She’s had four kids in four years. The last two are identical twins. Her brand started as a cooking blog, where she created plant-based recipes. Oh. I’ve never tried any of her recipes. I just watch from the screen. And now she’s expanded to cookbooks for child eaters of any age. She’s also partnered with financial institutions and cleaning product companies, all in the name of expansion for her growing list of followers. I follow to see the cute photos of her kids. No. I don’t agree with all of her political and cultural leanings, but I don’t have to.

Then there’s the influencer who earns a living strictly on endorsing products that she uses. She creates product and gift guides so others can buy the items she suggests. And then she makes money off of each purchase. And she earns lots of money. She has seven employees who help her in this business. Is this really a job?

The one who speaks biblical truths to the cultural lies does so in a very public way. She’s on social media defending truth and cutting through the lies. She walks closely with the Lord. She shares biblical truth as if it’s her job. And it is her job. She has taken to the task in a bold fashion and is not backing down. She is a faithful warrior fighting a battle that few believers are willing to fight. She says she isn’t an influencer, but her message influences masses.


Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Psalms 119:133


And then there’s the ultimate One I follow. Oh. He isn’t on social media. He seems to have no social standing at all in this world. But yet, he’s everywhere. His impact is of a spiritual nature. And it’s clear when his plan is being followed. Or not. It’s noticeable when his selfless, sacrificial gift to all mankind is being rejected. We see that rejection every day. We just call it by a different name.

This One I follow is the Creator of the universe. He’s the lover of my soul. He’s the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. His only and only Son came to earth as a babe. He gave his life on the cross so that I could have eternal life with him. Why wouldn’t I follow him? Why wouldn’t everyone follow him? But so many don’t. And others only follow halfheartedly. And he gave his all for each of us.

So. As I follow the Leader of my life, I too must give him my all. No shirking. Following the leader requires constant obedience. No turning to the left or to the right. Just following the one who is guiding my every step. Sounds simple enough. Until my selfish nature gets in the way. Until I want what I want and my want doesn’t match the One I say I’m following. Oh. Then life gets sticky. I either bow to his way or I bow out of his will. Either decision is life changing. If I choose to bow to his way, then I feel the peace of submission and obedience. I draw closer to him and have a deeper desire to always obey. But if I choose to bow out of his will, then I am claiming that I know best for my life. I’m saying his plan isn’t good enough for me. I know what I’m doing. Oh. What a tangled web we can weave if we don’t stay fully surrendered to him.

Since He has placed me in this world at this appointed time, I must use my gifts and talents to honor him. As his follower, I must walk the path he has laid out for me. Oh. There will be moments the path looks too steep and treacherous. It may be rocky or full of potholes. Or it may be newly paved. Regardless of the condition of the road, I must keep plodding forward. One step at a time. Because he is walking with me each step of the way.

As I follow the Giver of Life, I must be willing to lay down my life for him as he sacrificed his for me. I must obey his leading at all costs. Oh. The price may be high. No one ever knows until it’s time. But for this time, I am called to live humbly, justly and obediently.

We must be faithful to what He asks us to do, to what He asks us to believe, and to how He instructs us to live.

John Stonestreet

Settling for Mediocrity

I recently read that the biggest problem with today’s churches is the apathy of those who call themselves Christians. Basically, we just don’t care. And we’re unwilling to commit to strengthening our faith. In fact, J. Warner Wallace says that apathy among Christians poses a much greater threat to Christianity than atheism. Imagine that.

It’s very disheartening to know that many Christians today are willing to settle for a mediocre faith. A half-hearted relationship with God. We know it’s easy to have a divided heart. We want our own way. What are we afraid of, Christians?

Why do very few American Christians attend prayer meetings? Why aren’t we interested in rigorous Bible study? Or about learning to defend our faith? Why are we so reluctant to sink our teeth into the Bible? It’s no wonder we’re silent on cultural issues these days. Maybe we don’t know enough biblical truth to know the difference. Why are we so complacent, Christians?

Here’s the thing. If Christian parents don’t know enough about the Bible, then they’re more likely to teach a watered down version to their children. And the spiral downward continues to the next generation. And so on. And so on. And then we wonder why our kids aren’t interested in church or spiritual things. We wonder why the next generation isn’t as solid in their faith as we are. Or as our parents were.

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

Even pastors are struggling with their faith. A recent survey showed that among lead pastors, only 41% hold a biblical worldview. Only 28% of associate pastors, 13% of teaching pastors and 12% of children’s/youth pastors hold a biblical worldview.

You may ask why this is important. Maybe it’s time to consider what a worldview actually is. A worldview is the way we look at the world, based on our beliefs and learnings and opinions. So, if we have a biblical worldview, we base everything on biblical truths. The Bible is the lens from which we view the world.

So, yes. It’s shocking to think that most pastors don’t have a biblical worldview. Then how do they view the world? What gives them inspiration for their sermons? If it’s not the Bible, what is it? What is truth if it’s not based on the Bible? Hmmm. And if a pastor doesn’t have a biblical worldview, what does he believe about all the cultural issues we’re facing?

I have to ask. Are Christians influenced or convicted by the sermons they hear? Do we apply the truths to our lives and take to heart the message we hear? Or do we assume the message is for the person sitting next to us?


I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16


And we wonder why our culture has veered so far off-course. Perhaps we’ve become lukewarm. Neither sincere about our relationship with God but not totally indifferent to our faith. How is that even possible? Well, it sure is. And the Bible warns us of exactly that.

Are we bowing to the culture? Or, are we just comfortable and don’t want to make an effort to increase our faith? I know. We’re all busy. That’s what we say. But isn’t it true that we find time for the things that are important to us? So. Maybe it’s safe to say that Bible reading and prayer aren’t at the top of our priority list. Maybe repentance isn’t considered normal anymore. Because, after all. Everyone is doing it, whatever it is. And if everyone is doing it, it must be ok. Right? But what does God say? Does he call what everyone is doing sin? Or does he call it holy? There’s a big difference. And God doesn’t change. Culture is what’s changing. And if we say we’re followers of God, then our beliefs must align with God’s Word. We can’t have it both ways.

Do we care more about comfortable lies we hear today than we care about uncomfortable truths? After all, who wants to be uncomfortable? Who wants to be ridiculed for standing up for right in a wrong world? Are we just lazy? Sure. It takes work to study the Bible and know what we believe. It takes strength and courage to speak words of truth when we’re surrounded by others who don’t. It’s time to speak up. It’s time to stand up and not be silent. Settling for mediocrity in our faith could send us straight to hell. And who wants that?

This life is filled with strong distractions

One pulls from the left, one from the right

I’ve already made up my mind

I’m gonna make my life a living sacrifice

I don’t want to be a casual Christian

I don’t want to live a lukewarm life

DeGarmo and Key

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

Sophisticated People

You may have noticed that there is a group of people who seem to think they are above the laws they set for others. They act as if they don’t have to obey their own mandates. They regulate others but include provisions so that the rules don’t apply to them and others like them. There’s a saying “rules for thee, but not for me.” It’s gotten pretty old pretty quick.

They’ve been called the sophisticated people. As if they’re better than the rest of mankind. They seem to believe they don’t have to abide by their own manmade rules. And somehow. Some way. They seem to get away with it. But they are in the minority. Because they determine who is sophisticated and who isn’t. And everyone can’t be sophisticated. That would defeat the purpose.

This certain group of people claim their violations of the rules they set for others are permitted. After all. One was in the middle of a celebration and just forgot about masks. And some groups say they’re exempt because they’re in the performance arts industry. Or there was one big birthday bash that showed obvious signs of disregard for the unsophisticated. And there are many more examples. But we all know what we know.

I’ve realized, before it was made obvious to me, that I’m not in the sophisticated crowd. And I’m ok with that. I’ve studied the mandates and the risks of disobedience. I’ve read about the rules that others say I should follow. And I’ve come to my own conclusions. I don’t have to be sophisticated in this world’s eyes in order to be somebody.

My identity doesn’t lie within the opinions of those who make rules for their own benefit. My allegiance doesn’t lie with those who are in office or out of office. I don’t follow those in the news so closely that they influence my decisions, lifestyle or purchases. I come to my own conclusions and act accordingly. I suggest you do the same.


You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NLT


However. There is One I follow. I’ve found that his message is always spot on. Even when it’s directed at me, and I need to obey. Even when I don’t want to. His words are truth. His ways are perfect. He will not lead me astray. He will not force his ways on me. I am free to choose my own path.

He has a name. Jesus Christ. He is the biggest influence of my life. He’s more than an influencer for me. He is the Way of Life. And he chose me before I knew his name. He knew me before I was even born. And he calls me his own.

But I’m not the only one following this Way Maker. There are many more. And he is always calling us out to be more like him. Oh. It isn’t easy trying to be like him. He sets a high standard. Perfection was his style. But it’s easier said than done for the rest of us. The good news is that he still loves us even when we miss the mark. When we fall short, he still seeks us out.

He calls us by name. And he calls us holy. Set apart. He says we are royalty. We’re his prized possession. Others may call us peculiar, but that’s ok. We are his special people.

The Old Testament explains how God set apart the nation of Israel to be his very own people. He still claims them as his own. And he always will. Just as he has called out this Jewish nation as his own, he calls us to be his people. We are chosen by God, but we must choose him. We must make that personal decision to be his followers.

And it doesn’t matter what names we’re called by those who don’t accept God’s call. Because only his opinion matters. We may be canceled by those who deem us unworthy, but God will always choose us.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.  Because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. He didn’t section us off into classes of people. We’re all sinners doomed to hell unless we repent. And those of us who have accepted the call out of darkness must show others the light. As we were shown the light, we too must light the way for others.

We are uncommon people in a common world.

Grow Strong

These are trying times. We’ve had our secure and comfortable lives upended for the past year and a half. And there seems to be no end in sight. There’s a lot of upheaval and unrest in the nation. People are fed up and angry. People are frustrated and have lost trust in leaders. We’re tired to the point of exhaustion. And it isn’t necessarily a physical exhaustion. There are those who are uptight and at the end of their rope. They say they are followers of Christ. Followers of Christ can be anxious during uncertain times.

It’s time to strengthen our relationship with Christ during these uncertain times. It’s time to take the next step into being more like Christ. It’s time to look to his example to see how he was able to stay true to his calling when he was being pursued by those who hated him. When he knew he would be the sacrifice for a lost world.

What did Jesus do to guard against anxious thoughts and fears? When he knew he was going to the cross, what did he do? What were the routines in his life that gave Jesus strength? Because in his humanity, he experienced every emotion that we humans experience. He faced the same temptations we face. By studying his life, we can see how he lived not by emotions, but by God’s Word.

Now I know he was God. He came in human form and experienced life, just as we experience it. He faced the same challenges that we face. The same trials and temptations. So when I look at the life of Jesus, what do I see?

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15

As he began his ministry, Jesus surrounded himself with people who believed his message. These followers weren’t just yes men. They were people who believed what he was teaching. They accepted the truth that he was Jesus Christ, the Son of God come in human form. He handpicked those who he would disciple and lead.

Now they didn’t necessarily understand what all that meant, but they believed in his teaching. They believed he was the Messiah. He spent a lot of time with them. In fact, he had a small inner circle who he trusted and relied on. That’s what we as believers need to do. We need to find a small group of like minded believers who will encourage us and challenge us. We need others who will mentor us and hold us accountable. We need close friends to strengthen our faith. We need those who will stand in the gap for us in our time of need. These friends can help us understand what we believe and why we believe it and to help us articulate it. Iron sharpens iron, as Scripture says. We need individuals in our lives who are the iron to sharpen us. We weren’t meant to do life alone.

Jesus was also in the temple on a regular basis. As a child he was taught the law. The Jewish law. He was taught Scripture. He could quote Scripture from memory. He knew the laws by heart. And when he became an adult, he still went to the temple where he began teaching. He began teaching as his Father gave him words and understanding. He opened up the Scriptures and explained them to those following the Jewish traditions.

We too must attend church. We must meet regularly with other believers. Listening to God’s Word preached to us. Worshipping God. Giving of our income to help spread the gospel. Fellowshipping with other believers.

Jesus challenged some of the regular day teachings, because his teachings were of a new way. He was teaching the promise that he was the Messiah, and that he was the hope of the world. And sure. There were many people who didn’t believe him. They knew this Jesus of Nazareth was the son of Mary and Joseph. Why would they believe what he’s saying. They asked. But he spoke the truth. And they didn’t believe him.

As believers, we need to spend time in God’s Word. Not just casually reading the Bible, but digging deep and studying what we are reading. Learning the heart of God. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it. Reading the Word of God is one of the ways we get to know God.


Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33


Jesus spent time alone with his Heavenly Father. He went alone into the wilderness. He fasted and prayed. He spent time in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He took a boat ride to the other side of the lake, so he could renew himself alone with his Father. He knew that his work was demanding and that he would pay the price. He needed time alone with his Father to prepare for his ministry.

It may not be popular these days to fast. To intentionally give up food for a period of time just to pray. Some would say it’s an unnecessary act of self denial. But it will cause breakthroughs in our relationship with God. When we humble ourselves to the point of denying ourselves food. The thing that sustains our human life. When we can forego food in order to feed our souls. When we spend one on one time with God. Communing with Him. Sacrificing our physical needs for our spiritual needs. We will touch heaven.

Jesus sacrificed his life for everyone on earth. He sacrificed himself. He was spit on. He was tortured. His robe was taken. A crown of thorns was placed on his head. And after all of that torture he was forced to carry His cross.

He paid dearly. Physically, for our sins. Yes, he asked to be removed from this suffering. He asked for this cup to be taken from him. There are times that we go through deep trials. Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual. Financial. Relational. We ask to be removed from these situations. It’s okay to ask for that, but maybe the thing we should ask is for God to be with us during these times. Because if we’ve declared that God is enough for us, then is he enough in our weakest, most trying moments of life?

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. Hebrews 5:7-8

In order to be like Jesus, we need to be able to identify with him. To recognize the struggles that he faced in his life as a man on earth. We see that he accepted those challenges. He didn’t run from trouble. He faced his trials head on and came out the winner. Our strength cannot come from ourselves. Our strength must come from God and God alone. That is only possible if we have a deep abiding faith in God. That comes by spending time in God’s Word. Reading and studying God’s word. Spending time in prayer. Perhaps it’s time to fast and pray. It’s time we humble ourselves to the point that we can face the challenges thrown at us. No matter what they are, come what may, God is our Redeemer. He is our refuge and strength. He’s always ready to help in times of trouble.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

Speak Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But were they willing to pay the price?

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Rights of Citizenship

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Made to Last

Mental illness. We either have it or we don’t. Right?

I recently came across a thought that perhaps everyone suffers from some form of mental illness. Then the very next week, I sat with a couple friends. And one of them said that very sentence. Everyone probably suffers from a mental illness.

I don’t know if it’s actually true or not. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

Physical illness. It’s a fact that everyone will suffer from a physical illness during their lifetime. That’s typically what ends most lives. So we must be aware that we most likely will endure pain and suffering, at least for a season.

Spiritual illness. Some don’t ever stop and consider that they must care for their soul. The one part of each person that will live forever. The soul will live for eternity. And each of us has a choice as to where our soul will spend eternity. Heaven or hell.

Let’s think about this.

God created our human bodies. He created us in his image. What does that mean? After all, he doesn’t have a human body. He can’t die. He is perfect. He has always lived and will always live. He created the entire universe and everything and everyone in it.

Being made in God’s image means that we are made to be like him. We were created to be a visible likeness of God. God is invisible, and we’re his visible representative. How well do we represent him?


In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind? Job 12:10


These human bodies that God created are finite. They won’t last. Oh. Some bodies have lasted over one hundred years. But that’s not so typical these days. Our bodies will break down. They will fail. Organs and limbs and parts slow down or stop working. Our five senses may become distorted.

These bodies were created to house our true self. Our soul. Our spirit. Our physical bodies are temporary shelters for the part of us that will live for eternity. It’s hard to grasp. We spend so much time maintaining this temporary shelter. We trim and we fatten. We color and we bleach. We strengthen and we weaken. We breathe in and we breathe out. We grow and we shrink. These physical bodies. We think they’re so special. But the special thing really is that they’re not meant to last forever.

Oh. These bodies are a work of art, all right. The Master of the Universe created these mortal bodies to serve him while we are on this earth. He didn’t plan for them to last forever. He has a permant body planned for each of us, if we surrender our lives to him. A new body will be given to us in the far future, when he creates the new heaven and the new earth. So for now, these bodies are the only ones we have. Let’s care for them.

These temporary shelters of our soul will fail. Our hearing will diminish. Our eyesight will dim. Our muscles will atrophy. Our steps will falter. Our minds will fail. But our soul will live on. Just as our physical bodies are mortal, our souls are immortal.

All the while this is happening, we must be strengthening our soul. I have to ask myself. Do I make sure I spend as much time strengthening my soul as I do strengthening my body? I feed this temporary body fruits and veggies, among other things. What do I feed my soul? Is my soul diet filled with junk food? What do I fill my heart and mind with? Do I ever trim the fat from my unhealthy soul? Do I exercise my soul? The part of me that will live forever. How healthy is my soul?

The soul of a human is the only part that is made to last for eternity. We feed our soul by building faith. We must guard our soul from Satan’s advances. He’s out to get our soul. We must fight for the health of our soul by digging deep into God’s Word. We must refuse to give ourselves over to Satan’s control. We must surrender to God and not give Satan a fighting chance. Oh. He’ll fight all right. But eternity is a long time to spend with someone who hates you. Jesus loves us. Spending eternity with him will be heaven on earth.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

And When They Are Old

This time of year, my mind always goes back home. It’s this time of year that I became an orphan. No. I wasn’t a child. Or a teenager. I was a self-supporting, happily married adult. And I still am. But seven years ago this week, my mother passed away unexpectedly. And eleven short days later, my father passed away. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of them.

No. We weren’t expecting to lose our parents so close together. It was unplanned. Unexpected. Unwanted. But there it was. And we were left reeling in grief. We had two parents to bury and one farm to sell. The sale was bittersweet but necessary.

My parents taught their seven kids about God. They loved God and lived for him. They taught us by example. No. They weren’t perfect, but they were godly.

Every night before bedtime, we gathered in the living room. My dad pulled out the old Bible story book and read us a story. Straight from the Bible. Then we knelt to pray. One night, my dad would lead in prayer. And then the family would recite the Lord’s prayer. The next night my mom would lead in prayer.

I can picture my dad sitting in his office each morning reading his Bible and spending time with God. I can see him preparing his Sunday School lessons. I remember seeing him writing his tithe checks. I can still hear my mother, through the closed door, praying for each of her kids by name during her morning devotions. I remember the day that my mom asked me, after I returned home from youth camp, if I had asked Jesus into my heart. I remember the day she suggested that I start having daily devotions. She was interested in making sure I had a close relationship with God. Both of my parents were.


Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6


I have lived faithfully for God ever since I asked Jesus into my heart as a child. I have read the Bible from cover to cover. I spend time in prayer. That’s what my parents taught me, and that’s what they did. I don’t do it to be like them, although they were good Christian examples. I read my Bible and pray so I can become more like my Savior, Jesus Christ.

My parents had their own personal relationships with God. Now I too have my own relationship with Him. My prayer is that my parent’s prayers and teaching will be honored by my faithful life. But my relationship with God is my own to develop and grow and maintain. I can’t expect their faith to save me. I must have my own faith.

My parents taught me well. Their godly example is stamped on my memory. I want to be like them. But, more than ever, I want to be like Jesus. They led me in the way I should go, so now that I’m older I won’t forget it. Their biblical lifestyle and teaching has led me down the path of godliness. I hope my life would make them proud. But at the end of the day, it shouldn’t be their approval that I seek. I seek only to know and be known by my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now as I’m getting older, I find that I want others to see Jesus in me. I want others to see that my life lines up with the biblical teaching of my parents. I want others to see that I faithfully follow and serve Jesus Christ. Make no mistake. It’s a daily decision to follow God. I have to make the choice for myself to live a holy life. I can’t piggyback my faith off of my parent’s faith. My faith is my own. My faith is my responsibility. My parents were my teachers and mentors. Oh. Let all who come behind us find us faithful.