Who To Believe

I get massages on a regular basis. Out of need. Of course. I have a scar that has built up scar tissue, and it causes much tightness in my shoulder. So, of course, when the massage therapist advised me to get monthly massages, I obliged. Who wouldn’t? I also have some trouble with my right foot. The muscles get tight, which makes walking uncomfortable. She suggested I keep my feet in their natural state as much as possible. Basically, I shouldn’t wear shoes.

I love this massage therapist. She pursues training in new massage techniques. She uses several different methods to help provide relief to my tight and aching muscles. She seems to work magic. I walk away from her sessions feeling relaxed and renewed.

When this massage therapist moved away a few years ago, I had to find another. I had to find someone else who would be able to provide as much relief for my problems as she had given. It was a difficult task. But I found someone who worked in different ways to achieve the same results. This massage therapist is a man with much strength. He is determined to remove all the tightness from my muscles. His massages aren’t relaxing, but they are effective. They are just what I need.

But he gives different advice. As he was working on my tight right foot the other day, he asked if I wore shoes. I said no. Since I’m working from home, I only wear shoes when I leave the house. He didn’t seem pleased with that news. He acted as if my feet would be better off in shoes, rather than in their natural state.

Who am I to believe? Why wouldn’t allowing my feet to be in their natural state be better than being boxed into a shape formed by man or machine? Would my feet be better off walking on more padding? Should I choose what feels more comfortable or what is easiest for me? How am I to know what is right?


My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. Psalms 73:26


I think of my daily walk with God. What words am I feeding my soul? Am I getting a daily dose of God’s word in my diet? Or am I filling my mind full of words written by man about the Bible? There is a lot of truth out there. But there is also a lot of false teaching. My first line of defense must always be God’s word. It’s time to put away the junk food and feast on banquet food.

As I consider how best to care for my feet, I have a choice. What is easiest or what is most effective? Am I willing to pay the price now to have healthy feet, or do I just slip my feet into flimsy flip flops and be carefree? Because later, after years of neglect, there will be a much heavier price.

When I think of my spiritual life, I must consider the price I’m willing to pay today in order to be welcomed into the pearly gates of heaven one day. Is the price today so high that I forfeit it for comfort and pride? If I don’t pay the price today, I will pay it for eternity. The price today is a bargain, really. Serving God faithfully. Obeying his instructions. What do I have to lose? That seems to be the question these days.

I’ve never suffered for being a follower of Jesus. I’ve never been inconvenienced for my faith. I’ve never been persecuted or threatened because I attend church or read my Bible or pray. I’ve never been denied the basic comforts of life because I’m a Christian.

Could that day come? Yes. Will it? Only time will tell. But as for today, I will live for Christ regardless of any discomfort I may face in the future. My hope is in God Almighty and the salvation he freely offered.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all in all
Here, in the love of Christ, I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save
‘Til on that cross, as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin, on him, was laid
Here, in the death of Christ, I live

There in the ground, his body lay
Light of the world, by darkness, slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave, he rose again
And as he stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am his and he is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from his hand
‘Til he returns or calls me home
Here, in the power of Christ, I stand

Keith and Kristyn Getty

Almost Divorced

Mary and Joseph. The couple who almost weren’t a couple. They planned to marry. But before they officially started their life together, it almost ended. Due to no fault of either of them, their marriage would forever be marked by scandal.

Mary was pregnant with a child who wasn’t Joseph’s. 

Imagine Joseph’s fears. The concern. The shame. Knowing he had done no wrong but unable to prove his innocence. Could he trust his bride? Was she being honest?

Imagine Mary’s concerns. Knowing she had done no wrong, but unable to prove her innocence. But who would believe her? Would Joseph trust her? Would her family believe the news the angel spoke? Would Joseph still want to be her husband? Would she be an outcast? But she knew what the angel had told her. And she believed.

It would have been easy for Joseph to win the case in court. Mary was pregnant with someone else’s child. They both knew that. The evidence was stacked against her. What man wouldn’t have dumped her?

But the angel who spoke to Joseph in a dream had a most convincing argument.  But how could it be possible that his Mary had been chosen to birth the Son of God? The Promised Messiah was the babe in her virgin womb. How would they sell that story?

Oh sure. Every Jew was taught that they were awaiting the coming of the Messiah. But why Mary? Why now? So Joseph did the unthinkable. He believed the angel. He kept his vow to Mary. He moved forward with the marriage. He would raise her child. 

The right decision paved the way for Joseph to raise this child in a safe and stable home. Oh. It wasn’t easy. I’m sure. But Joseph could sleep well at night. He could have peace within. He had trusted the all seeing, all knowing God to an unknown future. He willingly accepted the life God laid out for him and his family.

Even Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, recognized who lay in Mary’s womb. And so did the child in Elizabeth’s once barren womb. Mary didn’t need to be vindicated.  But her word and God’s word proved true even before the child was born. And then multiple times after his arrival.  

There were the shepherds who heard the news from the angels. The old man, Simeon, stood in the temple and recognized the baby immediately as the Son of God. And Anna, the prophet, also confirmed the 8-day old baby as the Promised Messiah. Later, the bright star that shone in the east led the wise men to seek this child.

These were no coincidence. These incidents were all by the hand of God. He was moving in his chosen people. The long awaited Messiah was now among them. Carried in a virgin womb. Wrapped in swaddling clothes. Delivered in the town of Bethlehem. Born to be the Deliverance of his people.

 The proof of Mary’s innocence and virtue were in place, if one was looking. 


“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord . “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9


How many times have I almost taken the wrong step, even though the right step was the road less traveled. The wrong step would have been the path of least resistance for Joseph. But the right decision looked foolish in the eyes of his family and neighbors. Who could fault him?  How could he explain the situation to those who asked? Mary and Joseph knew they were in for the long haul. But they didn’t really have a clue what life would be like living with the God Child. 

In our times of uncertainty, it’s easy to choose the obvious path. Especially when it’s what everyone else would do. But I’m not everyone else. And when God clearly says to take the least popular approach, then the response should be just as clear. I wonder how often I have chosen the easier path instead of the one designed by God. No one else has to know. Right? Except for God. But isn’t that enough to make me pause? God knows everything. He knows his plans for me. He knows when I follow his plans and when I don’t. So who am I fooling?

 A life of obedience to God’s will over the ways of the world can be the only choice. It is His perfect plan, even when it doesn’t seem the perfect solution. Even when friends and neighbors offer their unsolicited advice. Turn the other way. They say. Don’t stir up trouble when you don’t have to. Look out for yourself.

But God’s ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His plans are perfect.

Division

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

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

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

Who was this man?

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Truth

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

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

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

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

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

Is it too easy being comfortable?

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

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


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


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

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

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

Blaise Pascal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owen Strachan

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

Walking With A Limp

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

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

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

Let’s just read his mind for a minute.

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

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


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


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

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

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

The Story of Jesus

I love old hymns. I remember singing hymns at church on Sunday mornings. Sunday evenings. Wednesday evenings. Yeah. It was a lot of church. But I learned the stories of Jesus at church. and at home. I’m not sorry about that.

One of the old hymns that has been rolling around in my head for the past week talks about the stories of Jesus.

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus,
Sang as they welcomed His birth,
“Glory to God in the highest!
Peace and good tidings to earth.”

Refrain:
Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

Fasting alone in the desert,
Tell of the days that are past,
How for our sins He was tempted,
Yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of His labor,
Tell of the sorrow He bore;
He was despised and afflicted,
Homeless, rejected and poor.

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain;
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see;
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
“Love paid the ransom for me.”

Tell how He’s gone back to heaven,
Up to the right hand of God:
How He is there interceding
While on this earth we must trod.
Tell of the sweet Holy Spirit
He has poured out from above;
Tell how He’s coming in glory
For all the saints of His love.

The words of this hymn written by Fanny Crosby ring true. They’re taken straight from Scripture. They tell the story of Jesus. His life. His ministry. His suffering. His death. His resurrection. They are the message of God’s plan for all mankind.


I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalms 119:11


I read the Bible. I know the Bible stories. I have heard them since childhood. Oh. How I cherish those stories. But to know them and to live them is two different things. I find that I still struggle with using my words instead of God’s words. I find that I still want my way when it’s the easier way. I find that to truly live God’s way is a tough road to walk. But I know the tough road is much more fulfilling. It’s leading to eternal life even when the walk is hard. Even when mistakes are made. and unkind words are said. The story of Jesus is one of forgiveness and mercy and grace and kindness. His love is never ending. That’s what I need.

Oh. I may never perform a miracle. I may never fast in a desert. I may never be nailed to a cross. I may never be raised from the dead. But I do plan to see Jesus someday. I plan to meet him face to face. I plan to go to heaven when I have finished the race. I plan to walk on streets of gold. I will stand face to face with God to give an account of my life.

So this story of Jesus rings true to me. I trust that every word is true. I believe it for my life. This story never grows old.

To Tell the Truth

She’s new on the job. It’s her second week. She’s deep in the throes of training. She got the job because her friend works there. So she’s in. She’s in the cool girls group already. She didn’t have to earn a spot. She just showed up the first day and took her place. Oh. If only life was so easy for everyone.

But I’ve heard rumors. I’ve noticed things. She has a flaw that could prove very harmful down the road. Once she’s on her own doing this job, she’s going to have trouble if she doesn’t pay attention. Literally. She sits in training glued to her phone. Texting. Back and forth with I don’t know who. Sure. She has kids. But I’m sure she doesn’t micromanage them or their sitter all day every day. Does she? So then. Who is she texting? What is more important than paying attention and learning this new job? Beats me.

I mentioned this to a friend. They gave me a good word of advice. Someone needs to set her straight early on. If no one does, then she will think that what she’s doing is acceptable. I agree. I just don’t feel called to share that message with her. So I’m in a quandary. I want to say something to her. I really do. Well. I want someone to say something to her. Just not me. I’m not sure it’s my place to do so. How do I know if I should be the one to break the news that she’s setting herself up for trouble, when I have no authority to say those things?


Do to others as you would like them to do to you. Luke 6:31


Who wants to be the bearer of bad news? Who wants to give criticism to someone else, even if it is constructive? Who ever wants to provide feedback when it isn’t positive? Certainly not me.

But what if the feedback is the truth? Wouldn’t she want to hear it from someone who isn’t going to berate her? Wouldn’t she prefer it to come from a friendly face instead of from someone who might hold it against her for a very long time? Wouldn’t she rather know now than wait until she’s too far in to be told? Wouldn’t she wonder why no one ever said anything?

Wouldn’t I?

Oh. She might be grateful for the advice. Who knows. She may think I’m crazy. She may run to her group of cool girls and throw some shade my way. Should I care? I know those cool girls already talk about others. I’m sure I’m a regular topic of conversation with them.

I think of Jonah. He was in a similar predicament. Only his included eternal circumstances. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and announce God’s judgment on the city. The people of Nineveh were wicked and had turned their backs on God. It was time to repent or die.

That would be a tough message to share with people you didn’t know. How would they respond? Would they kick him out or kill him?

Jonah didn’t want to share the bad news, so he ran in the opposite direction. No way was he going to tell an entire city that they were going to be destroyed. Not Jonah. He was asked to do a very difficult job, and he said no. He was reluctant to obey God, because he didn’t know how his message would be accepted. He also didn’t seem to mind if the city was destroyed or not.

Of course. He did end up going to Nineveh. He took the long way there. He did share God’s message. And the people of Nineveh repented and turned to God.

I have to ask myself. Do I care what happens to my coworker? Do I want her to succeed at her new job? Do I want what’s best for her, instead of what’s easy for me? How would I want to be treated if I were in her place?