Bending Toward Love

I’m not old. But I am getting older. I’ve lived more years than I have left to live. And that’s ok. I’m relived to have completed so many years in my life. Not that I’m old. As I said. But I’m older. I’ve seen things. I’ve heard things. I’ve done things. But there are things I still have left to see. There are words I have left to hear. There are tasks I must complete. I’m not finished. Yet.

But as I examine my life, I find that I have changed. In some ways, I have mellowed. In other ways, I’m more vocal. At times, I find myself holding back because I know the consequences. Other times, I can’t find it in me to hold my tongue. Because I tell myself. What do I have to lose. Really. Oh. That’s no excuse for unkind words or accusations. But there are times when experience is the best teacher. So I teach. That’s what I tell myself.

But I also find that as I hear young people talk about their current situations, I recall the struggles of my young years. The fears. The uncertainty. The life changing decisions. The dreams. And I find that I can still relate to those up and coming young voices. I know that they will have to experience the highs and lows of life. The losses. The wins. The mistakes. The challenges. The victories. They will grow. And they will fall back. But life is a process.

And in the end. The goal is to be closer to God than you ever thought possible.


Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? Job 12:12


I find that I need to be more considerate of others. After all, I’ve never walked a mile in anyone’s shoes but my own. I can’t read minds and I can’t change people. I must be about my Father’s business. But in his way and in his time. I am not God.

I find that as I age, God is softening my heart to see others as he sees them. I sense the urgency to see others accept Christ as their personal Savior. Because time is short, and eternity is forever.

I find that I am bending more to love others as they are. Not as I want them to be. And it’s work. It’s hard work. But it’s a good work. To build relationships. To deepen friendships for the sake of sharing space and time and words. And to have shared experiences.

Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise. Ecclesiastes 7:10

I find that the gray hair on my head is a symbol I’m comfortable with. The wrinkles and lines in my neck speak of survival. The creaking of my knees tells me that I’ve walked a lot of miles in a lot of years. The tightness in my shoulders lets me know that I’ve carried burdens for many years.

I like to think I’ve learned when to speak and when to be silent. When to stand and when to fall back. I’ve learned that winning isn’t always about getting the first place trophy. I’ve also discovered that the young must face their disappointments and losses as a part of their own maturity.

I’ve learned that accomplishments and dreams don’t have to be fulfilled in your twenties or even thirties. Life is long and must be lived. Dreams change. Accomplishments must sometimes be put on hold for the everyday parts of living. Don’t worry. Keep dreaming and planning. Life will slow down. And when it does, the dreams can be dusted off and picked up. Sometimes waiting makes the fulfillment of a longtime dream even sweeter than it would have been at an early age. Experience is the best teacher.

I’ve found that speaking truth is most important. Loving others speaks volumes. Sharing with your neighbors or those in need shows the love of God more than one will ever know. Honesty is the best policy.

Well. Now that I’m older, I can look back at the tough times with relief. Relief that they’re over. I survived those anxiety filled moments of uncertainty. Oh. I’m well aware that I’m not out of the woods. Getting older has its own set of challenges. That’s what I hear. No one knows what tomorrow will bring.

But as I move toward old age, I want to show more grace to those who are in the midst of anxious times.  I want to extend mercy to those who have taken a misstep. I want to bend toward love when pointing the finger of accusation would be easier. 

As I get older, I find that I long for heaven. In the end, that’s where I plan to be. For eternity. All life’s troubles will be over. No more worries or regrets. I will be surrounded by love, peace and reward. I will be with God. 

Life is good.

Pride Comes Before A Fall

King Saul was a hot mess. He had strict orders from God himself about the battle he was to fight. He and his army of 210,000 men were to kill every man, woman and child, along with all the animals of Amalek. Kill. Every. Living. Being. Leave. No. Survivors.

 It was a harsh command. But God had a reason. 400 years earlier, the Amalekites had attacked the Israelites out of greed. With God’s help, Israel won that battle. But God didn’t forget how his chosen people were attacked. He vowed to pay back the Amalekites. And he took his sweet time in doing it.

 Now that Saul was king, God wanted to test Saul’s obedience. And wow. Saul failed miserably. He partially obeyed God. He killed all of the Amalekites, except for their king. And he killed all the weak and useless animals. But he kept the best animals as plunder. Saul was proud of his accomplishment.

And after he did that, he rewarded himself by setting up a monument in his own honor.

When the prophet Samuel confronted him about it, he proudly announced that he had carried out the Lord’s commands. Then why do I smell and hear animals? Samuel asked. 

Have you ever disobeyed God and then have someone else point it out to you? Has another believer confronted you about the smelly plunder that you have brought into your life? And you deny the sin?

Saul was dumbfounded to learn that Samuel was accusing him of disobeying God. He had killed people and animals. He had won the battle. What had he done wrong? He couldn’t believe that Samuel thought he had tried to play God.

Here’s the thing. A partial lie is a full lie. A partial disobedience is a full disobedience. A partial sin is a full sin. It doesn’t matter if you’re King Saul or John Doe. 

Saul was more willing to offer a sacrifice to God than to obey Him. Sure, it’s easy to perform a legalistic ritual than it is to obey God’s command. But what does it get you? It’s still disobedience. It’s still sin.


Do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8


But Saul. His heart had grown cold. He lived as though he was his own god and only needed to follow his own decisions and plans. He cast God aside and replaced Him with Saul as god. This battle was not his to win. This was a battle that God had planned and prepared for. It was retaliation on a country who were sworn enemies of God and Israel. There were to be no survivors of any kind.

Did Saul forget that he had disobeyed God’s command? Did he not hear the words spoken to him to spare no life? Human or animal? Pride comes before a fall. That’s what they say. And oh. When the mighty fall, they fall hard. Because of Saul’s lack of obedience and respect for God’s command, Samuel told him that he would lose his kingdom. His family line would not inherit the throne. No son of his would ever be king of Israel. Oh. How the mighty have fallen.

Once we start living with lies, we become immune to right living. We get to the point that we have lived in lies for so long that we no longer recognize the truth. We dishonor God by continually denying his existence. We reject his invitation to join in his family of believers. Saul was blind to his sin. He acted as if he was obeying God. But he either failed to realize, or ignored the fact, that partial disobedience equals full disobedience.

God says he wants our full obedience. He says if we aren’t hot in love with him or cold disobeying him, then we are lukewarm. We aren’t God’s children if we are lukewarm. We can’t be half in a relationship with him. It’s all or nothing. God wants our full heart. Our full allegiance.

Sure. It will be a sacrifice on our part. It will be an intentional act of walking away from behaviors and activities that seem pleasant, but are out of line with God’s commandments. It will mean that we say no when we’ve said yes in the past. Or perhaps, we say yes when we’ve always answered no before.

Has your heart grown cold toward God? Or do you recognize that you’re in a lukewarm state? God wants your whole heart. Obedience at all costs. Let’s do what is right. Let’s love mercy. Let’s walk humbly and obediently with our God. We won’t regret it.

God is Worthy

We’ve come to dismiss the worth of God in our lives. We ignore him. We pretend he doesn’t exist. We want nothing to do with him. So maybe he’ll just go away and leave us alone.

After all, he doesn’t answer when we pray. We say we don’t see the good he does. We don’t believe he hears our prayers. We wonder if he sees our suffering. Does he even exist? So we block him from our lives. We turn to other things hoping they bring fulfillment. They become our god. 

We often disrespect God by using his name in vain. We use his name as a cuss word instead of a word of reverence. We dishonor God by disobeying him.

We don’t read the Bible, so we don’t really know God. We ignore his warnings. We refuse to listen to the still small voice of reason.  Our conscience dies a slow death. We become numb to evil. We’ve lost sight of eternity.

 All for the sake of pleasure. For the fulfillment of our twisted desires. Nothing is off limits. Because in our minds, God doesn’t matter. We wonder if he even exists. We give ourselves over to moral filth.  Because we’ll be the boss our of own lives. No one will control me. We say.

We’ve gotten to the point that we are lawless. Everything is acceptable. So we live for the moment. With no thought of eternity. Because what if eternity doesn’t exist? What if this life is all we have?

Maybe we believe God exists. But he’s not my type. Oh. I’m a good person. We tell ourselves. And that’s good enough.  But is it really?

For those of us who say we’re believers, we don’t act like it. We don’t spend time in God’s Word. We don’t pray. We don’t set aside time to worship with other believers. We think we’re not worthy of God’s love. We’ve forgotten, or perhaps we’ve never understood, that God is worthy. We are unworthy. But his love and forgiveness and sacrificial gift made us worthy. 

God is worthy. Why? He is our Creator. The Giver of Life. The Prince of Peace. 

Peacemaker, Fear Taker, Soul Soother, Storm Smoother, Light Shiner, Lost Finder, Cloud Lifter, Deliverer, Heart Toucher, Truth Lover, Who other could be Fear Taker, Peacemaker to me, 

Mind Clearer, Sigh Healer, Hand Holder, Consolor, Wound Binder, Tear Dryer, Strength Giver, Provider, Heart Healer, Kind Father, Who other could be, My Savior, Peacemaker to me

Greg Ferguson

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power. Revelation 4:11


Glory. God deserves our praise. He is our Creator. Our words and actions show whether our lives are centered around God. We are on full display for God and the world to see our opinion of Him. All we have to do is speak. Or act. Or think. God does know our thoughts. Are our motives based in love?

We give glory to God when we have faith in his promises.

God does not need us, and still, in all His self-sufficiency, He wants us. He is independent of His creation, yet His desire to be united to that creation shows His genuine and unmatched love for us. A love that is worthy of all glory forever.

Christina Patterson

Honor. God deserves our adoration. He deserves our respect. When we admire someone, we place them in a position of honor. We are happy to serve them and give them our best. Do we ever stop to think of doing the same for God? He is our creator. He is our strength. He is our redeemer. All we have comes from God. Nothing else deserves top billing in our lives over him. Nothing.

The Bible says every knee shall bow before God. Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I try to envision myself in that moment.  What will it be like? This small, imperfect person bowing to the Creator of Life and King Eternal. Who am I to think I’m worthy to be in his presence? But I will stand there receiving my eternal destiny. How humbling. I’m brought to tears just thinking of being in God’s presence. And then he reviews everything I’ve ever done and said. My lifetime performance review where nothing is hidden.  But mercy and love have been offered. How well have I honored my Lord? How will I be judged?

Power. God deserves our trust. He receives power when his creation honors him. We give power to the person or thing where we focus our time and energy. Imagine the power He could use if only we placed our full trust in him. If we honored him the way we were meant to. Just imagine what God would do if our hearts were turned toward him.

God is inviting us to know him. He wants to have a relationship with each of us. We can choose to accept his invitation. He is worthy of our allegiance. If we don’t recognize God’s true worth, how can we ever truly worship him?

Be On Guard

Have you ever read something that just seemed like good practical advice? It was words you could live by without giving much thought or effort? Until something happens and you find those words aren’t as easy to live by as you thought. Then what? What do you do when you find yourself caught in an unexpected situation? How do you handle it?

Sometimes we just have to go back to the basics of living and follow sound advice. It always helps if the advice we look to is solid biblical teaching.

The Bible is full of sound teaching. Plain old good advice. Verse after verse tells us that we must live godly lives. It also tells us how to live a godly life. We must put away childish behavior and grow strong in our faith. Some of the advice will convict us to change our words, behavior and attitudes. There are the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). And the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). The book of Proverbs is full of encouraging, challenging and rewarding words.

Be on guard. Be alert. Be aware of your surroundings. Is evil present? Should you walk away? Be aware of your weaknesses and temptations. When in doubt, don’t. Watch out for the enemy who prowls around watching for someone to devour. Put on the full armor of God, so you can stand against the devil’s plots.

Stand firm in the faith. Don’t budge when tempted to do or say something you know is wrong. Sin will take you down a path you never meant to walk on. So put on that full armor of God every day. Tighten the buckle of faith. Don’t be wishy washy with your beliefs. Know your convictions and hold to them. Don’t be bullied into something without weighing the cost. Don’t fall prey to watered down spiritual teachings. Know the truth and live it.

You have the Host of heaven’s armies on your side. He’s fighting for you. So fight for him. Fight for truth and honor.

If you are a child of God, then you are a soldier. You are fighting an enemy who wants you and all of you. Can you identify the enemy?


Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. Do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14


Be courageous. Heroes are bold and strong. They stand for what they believe. Say no to the enemy of your soul. Just be warned. The enemy may look beautiful at times. Or taste very sweet. The enemy may flash dollar signs and promise untold wealth. Speak boldly the words of truth and correction. Don’t be shy about saying hard things. Be speak kindly. Act mature. Don’t be foolish in the things you say and do. Don’t be a wimp when someone insults you. Be bold. Take responsibility for your words and actions. Just grow up in your faith. Don’t become stagnant.

Be strong. Strength takes work and effort. Perseverance. Strength is born through consistent training. Anyone can be weak. Most are. But true strength comes from battling your worst enemy and conquering your temptations. Satan himself is the enemy of your soul. If someone can learn to bench press 250 pounds, then they can learn the word of God. Nothing is impossible with God.

When your faith is tested, stand strong. Speak words of truth. Don’t fall prey to the enemy’s advances. God is an ever present help in times of trouble. Trust him and hold tightly to his mighty hand.

Do everything in love. Treat others like you want to be treated. Be kind. Don’t cause trouble. Speak truth but speak in love. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try walking their road of life. Lend a hand. Smile at a stranger. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but be kind when there are differing opinions. Be respectful. Honor those who have gone before you. Be attentive to those who come behind, for they are watching and listening.

God’s Word is a useful tool for everyday living. Spend time there every day. You will be surprised at some of the historical events. But lessons can be learned from all situations in life. God is faithful. He will direct our lives if only we allow him. But first, we have to know him. We must take the time and effort to build a close relationship with him. Let’s be uncommon people in a common world.

Peace in Tough Times

These days are tough times for many people.  Some are afraid to leave their homes.  Others are now homeschooling their kids. People have lost their jobs.  Numbers are going up. Numbers are going down. Patience is running thin. Some are wondering when this craziness will ever end.

Someone in my family was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery is being scheduled. Another family member has family members who were impacted by the explosion in Beirut. They are safe for the moment, but daily provisions are uncertain. Another family member is recovering from major surgery and doing well with her daily physical therapy.  And she’s seven years old.

There are people who are coping with this pandemic crisis by drinking daily. When that wasn’t a normal thing for them. They’re trying to cope with the unexpected changes in life. Because life isn’t going so well this year.

There are businesses that had great plans for the future but now find themselves in bankruptcy.  There are families who find they can no longer meet their monthly payments.  There are people who qualified for unemployment benefits but haven’t received a check. 

Oh. These are troubled times. 

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

Zora Neale Hurston

There is a presidential election in less than three months.  The results could send this country and the world into even more chaos. Regardless of who wins. It’s a wait and see kind of year. Everyone is holding their breath and can’t seem to exhale.


And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:15


These are indeed troubled times. 

Sports seasons have been canceled. School semesters have moved online. Church services are streaming live. High school seniors feel their senior year has been stolen from them.

People are searching like they have never searched before. But what are they looking for?

Peace. Freedom. Calm. Structure. Contentment. Understanding. Patience. Relief. Normal.

People want their lives to be normal again. But what does that even look like anymore? Are we looking at a new normal that we just keep fighting?

Have you found what you’re looking for yet? Are you looking in the right place? Do you that know peace can be found?

Did you know that peace is a gift from God? And he is the source of all peace.

What does the peace that comes from Christ even look like? What does that mean?

Imagine if we lived in a world where peace reigned instead of chaos and confusion. Imagine the life we could have. I have to ask myself. Does peace rule every one of my relationships? Do I think peace before striking the first blow of revenge? Or slinging the first word of accusation and judgment? Does the thought of peace guide my conversations and actions? Does peace rule my emotions?

Oh, troubled soul. Peace is a command that God speaks to us. We are called to live in peace with each other. Peace can only be commonplace if it comes from Christ. Nothing else gives lasting peace. Nothing. If we can’t find peace in these troubled days, then we’re looking for peace in all the wrong places.

Because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. Philippians 4:7

Yes. These are troubled times. But peace is possible in the midst of the storm. Spend time with God. Actually, open the Bible and read God’s word. Let it saturate your heart and mind. Trust God. Don’t just say you trust God. Actually let go of your need to control everything and let God do his job. Oh. It isn’t easy. But it is possible. God will give peace in difficult times. He may not do everything the way we want, but His will and ways are perfect. So let’s trust him. And dare to see what happens in our hearts. Even when life isn’t perfect.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Your Choice

The Israelites had been wandering in the desert for 40 years. They had left Egypt in a hurry one night, escaping from Pharaoh who had been holding them in slavery for four hundred years. God delivered them and promised a new home for them. But after they left Egypt, they disobeyed God.

What should have been an eleven day journey took 40 years. Oh. This people didn’t just disobey God once. It became a thing. It wasn’t necessarily that everyone disobeyed God all the time. But there were grumblings in the camp. There was rebellion. Distrust. They broke God’s laws. They were people being selfish people. They made gods out of gold and worshiped them. They didn’t trust God. They trusted themselves more than they trusted God.

So God used that 40 years to humble his people. They were dependent on him for their daily food. Their clothes didn’t wear out and their feet didn’t blister and swell. He tested their character to see if they would obey his commands.

Obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. Deuteronomy 8:6

God gave the Israelites a choice as they were preparing to enter Canaan.  The promised land. He reminded them of how he had provided for them for the past 40 years. Were those 40 years a waste? After all, it was just a few days journey from Egypt to Canaan. But because the people disobeyed God, their punishment was to wander around in the desert for 40 years. 40 years. That’s an entire generation.

And that generation had to die off before their children were allowed to enter the promised land.

So here they were. Ready to step over into victory. The much awaited and promised land flowing with milk and honey. Ready for the taking. It was theirs.

God reminded them of his miracles and provision and promises. He told them to repeat those stories to their children, because their kids had not lived through those experiences. Those kids had not seen God work mighty miracles. They had heard but they hadn’t seen.

God was faithful to his chosen people. He reminded them that he would continue to be faithful to them if they were faithful to him. They had to choose. A life of obedience to God. Or a life of disobedience. It was their choice.

Read the full story in Deuteronomy 8.


Choose today whom you will serve. But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord . Joshua 24:15


God plainly told them what their lives would be like in this new land. Canaan. The promised land. It is a land of plentiful food and a place where nothing is lacking. Did you catch that? Nothing is lacking. They had hit pay dirt. Their ship had come in. The luck of the draw was on their side. But it was all because of God’s provision and mercy that they were entering this new territory.

God told them exactly what to expect and he gave them a warning. These people who hadn’t changed clothes in 40 years were about to become prosperous. They would lack nothing. God warned them to be careful and not forget him and his commands. Oh. He told them straight out that they would want for nothing. They would build fine homes. They would find copper and iron, pomegranates and olive oil. Honey, fig trees and grapevines were theirs for the taking. God warned them that in their time of plenty not to forget him. He told them not to become proud.

It shouldn’t have been a tough decision. He was offering them a lifetime of goodness if they followed his commands. Why would they choose any other way? It seems such a simple decision.

What does a person who’s never had wealth do when all of a sudden it’s laid at their feet?

God warned the Israelites, his chosen people, that they would be destroyed if they disobeyed him. If they followed and worshiped other gods, God would not be on their side.

God won’t honor disobedience. He wants our whole hearts. Our entire lives. Our souls. Our minds. Our strength. He wants all of our being.

But then. As humans, we sometimes think we know better than God does. We think we’re smarter. Our way is better. Or we’re tired of waiting on God, because he is sometimes really slow. And we’re in a hurry. So we make a decision. Or we do the thing. Or we worship a false god. All in the name of free will. We want what we want when we want it and we want it our way. Right now. Do or die, we’re going to get what we want. Just try to stop me. We say. So forget anything or anyone who stands in our way. We become our own god.

That’s what God was trying to keep his favorite people from doing. Because they had walked down that sinful path too many times before. 

I wonder. This year has us at a crossroads. The times are changing. Can’t you feel the tide shifting? Suspense is in the air. We have a choice. Fight for God or fight against him. Now is the time to stand for truth. Biblical truth. It should be a simple choice. God’s way or my way. It’s your choice. What do you choose?

Solid Ground

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Division

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

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

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

Who was this man?

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Act of Falling

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

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

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

And there began my downfall.

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

So I waited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Goff

Your Truth

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

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

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

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

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

Is it too easy being comfortable?

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

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


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


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

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

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

Blaise Pascal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owen Strachan

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