Life’s Declaration

She ascended to the throne at her quarter century mark. She spent the next seventy years serving her country. Oh. She’s a face that everyone recognizes. Her bright dresses made her stand out. As she wanted. She wanted to be easily spotted in a crowd. She was a private soul who was thrust into a position she never asked for, but she took it on with pride and dignity. She would have been happy living a quiet, simple life with her family. But no. It wasn’t to be. So she vowed to perform her duty whether her life be long or short. And indeed, it was a long life. Everyone knew who she was. Ninety-five percent of everyone living on this earth know of no other queen of England but her. She’s outlived most leaders. She’s met more world leaders than anyone else. She’s raised corgis and horses. She liked to drive fast. From the outside looking in, she lived a charmed life. Oh. If only walls could talk.

She often spoke publicly about her faith in God. She had a deep abiding and unwavering faith that may have surprised some. Even when tragedy and trials came to her family, her faith stood strong. I wonder if at times that was the only thing she could count on. After all, she was the queen. She couldn’t share her troubles with just anyone. She may have lived a godly life, but she wasn’t God. She may have been of the royal bloodline, but she wasn’t God. She needed God just the same as every one of us.

Her life had not originally been mapped toward becoming queen. Her father was the second born, and only the first born was in the line of the throne. But the first born abdicated, so her father unexpectedly became king. So her life’s trajectory was changed at an early age. And when her father was crowned the new king of England, her path was set. She was to one day be queen. And not just for a day. While on a trip, she learned that her father had suddenly passed away. And now she was the queen. How sobering. And how unnerving. Oh. She knew the day would come, but she never expected it to happen at age twenty five while she was raising a young family. But duty called and she answered the challenge wholeheartedly.

As she spoke to her country, she vowed a lifetime of service to them. And that is what she gave. Humbly. Quietly. Politely. A servant to her people. She was dearly loved and will be dearly missed by those who knew her and those who wanted to know her.

I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

Queen Elizabeth II

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1


As followers of Christ, wouldn’t it be a reasonable thing to make a vow to serve God our whole lives? Wouldn’t it be great if all who claim to be Christians devote themselves wholeheartedly to the service of their holy God for as long as they lived? What if we who say we’re committed to following Christ actually keep that commitment for our entire lifetime? Whether it be short or long. It’s a daily commitment. One step at a time. One decision at a time to continue down the path of faithful, holy living. Because, after all, we are in the great imperial family of God. We are his servants. We are to humbly bow before him and his will. Each and every day. With each act we take, honoring God is our goal when we say we’re committed to following him.

Making no claims of royalty, we who are children of God must live as children of God. With holy purpose and intentions. Serving faithfully even when life is tough. Even when tragedy befalls us. God’s mercies are ever sustaining even when life seems cruel. When the rug is pulled from under us, God’s word still stands. He never changes. So why should our devotion and commitment change when life hands us lemons?

Oh. We may not have the royal crown on our heads just yet. But we can live as if we do. We can move in this world as heirs to the throne of grace. Because we are. We’ve been given the gift of eternal life with Jesus Christ our Lord. Let’s live with holy purpose.

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:17

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.

Persecuting Jesus

Saul and his crew were on their way to Damascus. After all, he had received written permission from the high priest authorizing him to hunt and arrest anyone who believed the message of Jesus Christ. As he traveled down the road in midday, a light brighter than the sun shone all around him. He was instantly blinded. Suddenly, he heard a voice from heaven. Jesus, the Son of God, asked Saul why he was persecuting him.

Saul was not searching for Jesus when Jesus called his name. He was searching for those who believed in Jesus. Oh. Saul knew what he was doing. He was persecuting those who believed that Jesus, the promised Messiah had come to earth to deliver his people from their sins. And Saul didn’t believe that. He was stuck in the traditional Jewish beliefs and traditions. He didn’t believe the prophecy about God’s Son had actually been fulfilled. So when Jesus called his name, Saul asked who was calling. And he then realized this Jesus was the one he had been denying.

Saul, Saul.  Why do you persecute me? 

Every believer that Saul persecuted was taking the place of Jesus Christ.  For all intents and purposes, Saul was persecuting Jesus Christ everywhere he went.  When he arrested and imprisoned those who accepted the Good News of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, he was arresting and imprisoning Jesus himself. With every capture and arrest Saul made, he thought he was honoring God. He thought he was following God’s will. But instead, he was persecuting God’s son. He was fighting God, not obeying him. How could he have gotten it so wrong? 

What Saul didn’t realize was that he couldn’t hold back the Son of God from doing the work he was commissioned to do. Sure. The Son of God had returned to heaven, but his followers on earth were now doing his work. And nothing Saul could do could stop what God had started.

I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities. Acts 26:9-11

Saul was a learned man of his times. He had studied under the well respected Jewish scholar, Gamaliel. Saul knew the Scriptures. He was determined to punish anyone who dared to believe differently from the traditions. And yet, God had to bring him to his knees and blind him before he was willing to admit the truth that Jesus was the Son of God, born and died for every last one of Saul’s many sins.

To read the full story of Saul’s conversion, read Acts 9 and Acts 26.


Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Colossians 3:16


Soul, soul.  Why do you persecute me? 

What if my name was in front of that sentence.  Why do I persecute God?  Why do I challenge him and run from his ways?  Why don’t I automatically fall on my knees and worship him in adoration?  Why don’t I automatically choose to obey God? I who know the Scripture and have been taught from an early age to love and honor God. Why am I so careless with my faith?

Do we not do the same as Saul did?  Every time we act selfishly and sinfully, we are acting against God. When we reject Christ and his will for our lives, we’re persecuting him. Do we even realize what we’re doing? Do we take God’s knock on the door of our hearts seriously and open up to him?

What will God have to resort to to bring us to our knees in humble acknowledgment and repentance? Why do we run from him?  Why do we think our ways are higher than his ways? We who’ve been taught the Bible know the truth, yet we deny what we’ve been taught. We ignore the Scripture teaching us how to live an authentic Christian life. We do our own thing. We don’t look for God’s guidance. We become complacent. It’s all about us, we think. Not about God.

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

Anytime we sin, we’re nailing Jesus to the cross all over again. Our decision to deny Jesus and please ourselves puts him right back on that cross. Each time we disobey, the weight of our sins becomes heavier for Jesus to bear as he hung on that cross, causing him more pain and suffering. If we continue to run from God and disobey him when he’s calling our name, we’re persecuting him. Is that what we want?

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23

If we are the body of Christ, let’s wear the name in humility. We must consciously hear and obey God’s words. Let’s act on the promptings of the Holy Spirit and live in obedience. let’s listen well and listen thoroughly when God calls our name. Let’s not be surprised when God calls our name to follow and obey him. Let’s follow willingly.

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