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What Color Is Jesus?

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”                                                                                                                                                                                                            Isaiah 53:2

On my kitchen windowsill is a Christmas card I received a couple of years ago. It is a simple but colorful drawing of the Christ Child in the manger, with several shepherds kneeling in adoration. All the people in the picture are jet black.

Am I offended by the lack of historical accuracy? Not at all. Nor have I written back to the sender, saying “By the way, Jesus was Jewish, and the shepherds were Jewish, and that picture makes no sense.”

Nope. I love that card, because of who sent it and where it came from. The greeting inside is a hand-written note from one of my friends in Uganda – “To my favorite author.” Elsewhere in the note is written in big letters, “UGANDA LOVES YOU!”

Lately there has been some heated discussions regarding the question of “what color was Jesus?” This question was the basis for accusing whole cultures of racism, western European types in particular. It seems that some European paintings of Jesus show Him looking, well, like a European.

But then, why not?  I would expect pictures of Him in, say, a Mexican church to look more Hispanic. In Asia you can find pictures of Jesus looking Chinese or Indian.

There’s a reason for this, and I’m guessing those reasons were more theological than historical.

These artists were probably aware of where Jesus lived and died, and yet they decided to paint Him in a way that made Him more relatable to the people of their own culture. These artists weren’t ignorant. On the contrary, I would respectfully suggest that their critics are the ones who might be missing the point.

And what is the point? What is the message of the Incarnation?

The point is, the Son of God – God Himself – left His home in heaven to become one of us (“us” being Humanity).

As a Man, Jesus went through the same experiences we go through. He was hungry. He got thirsty. He experienced weariness and pain and loneliness. He knew fear and stress and the sting of other people’s hatred. He empathized, He grieved, He knew anger and frustration. These are things experienced by every person that ever lived, every color, in every era, and in every corner of the earth. He came for all of us – for black and white, Hispanic and Asian, Middle Eastern and Native American. And for every race, every nationality, every ethnic group, He took our sins upon Himself and took them to the Cross, where He died for the forgiveness of all of us.

One of my favorite outreaches, the Jesus Film Project has been showing the gospel in video form for decades. Their movie, “JESUS,” the dramatization of the gospel according to Luke, has been translated into more than 1800 languages! Until the pandemic shut down the world, small teams of technicians and evangelists would trek into the remotest places, set up their equipment, and show the film to whole villages at a time. The people would gather to watch and be mesmerized to see the gospel story played out in their language! Now of course when Jesus was on earth He didn’t speak in the tribal languages of these obscure groups, but that doesn’t matter to them. They watch, they listen, they understand – and they believe! 

SIDE NOTE: If you are a linguistics expert and want to get nitpicky about the language Jesus really spoke, you might want to rent “The Passion of the Christ,” where the dialogue is in the original Aramaic. (You might also want to make sure the subtitles are turned on.)

The Apostle John’s description of Heaven in Revelation describes a multitude of people that could not be counted, people “from every nation, tribe, people, and language.” (Revelation 7:9) I’m guessing none of those people got hung up what Jesus looked like when He walked the earth as one of us. Who knows? When we enter into eternity, He may show Himself to us in a glorious new color we have never seen before in this life! (Yes, my imagination can go wild when I think of entering eternity after leaving this finite world.)

The Incarnation is a profound reality, one well worth reflecting on.  John 1:14 says,     “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In these days of arguing about anything and everything, let’s focus less on the flesh and more on the Word.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for leaving the throne room of Heaven to live in this fallen world as one of us. Thank You for offering Your life for all of us as the perfect sacrifice. You paid the debt we could not afford, so our sins might be cancelled out and we might live with You forever. And now, as we place our faith in You, we can look forward to eternal life in Your glorious kingdom, along with Your children from every nation, tribe, people and tongue! What a glorious day that will be!  Lord, help us to focus less on the superficial and more on what’s truly important – how much You love us, how much we love You, and how much we should love one another in Your name. Amen.

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To Seniors and Others Missing Out

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.         Colossians 3:2

This piece, originally entitled “What Else Matters?” was posted May 3 of last year. I wanted to share it again, for all my readers who are or have seniors missing their prom, graduation, and other festivities they thought they would be enjoying now. Feel free to share this with them. I hope it encourages those who are feeling the loss.

It was the morning of the National Day of Prayer. I was sitting in the auditorium at City Hall, listening to my daughter’s school choir singing a goosebump-raising rendition of “You Are God Alone.” They were warming up for the city-wide prayer meeting that was starting in half an hour. And I was crying.

My daughter Kelly had been having a rough time in high school. The migraines that had first appeared when she was four years old had continued to plague her through grade school and middle school and had caused her record absences through high school, in spite of years of prayers and attempts to find a solution through medicine, both traditional and “alternative.”

But in spite of enduring more pain than some people suffer in a lifetime, Kelly had found a few sources of pleasure in her life. By far her greatest joy was singing, and her favorite part of school was choir. When the students performed, Kelly’s face radiated with unmistakable joy. She had looked forward to the national Day of Prayer and taking part, and as I had said goodbye to her that morning and she left for school, I had whispered a special prayer of thanks to God for this special day.

My optimism had been short-lived, however. Kelly had called me from the parking lot of a McDonald’s half a mile from school to tell me about the migraine that had assaulted her shortly after she had walked out the door. When I had suggested that she come home, take some medication, and rest until the assembly, she had sobbed that if she didn’t show up at 8:00 she wouldn’t be allowed to sing with the choir.

There are definite advantages to a small Christian school, one of them being teachers who know each student well and practice grace along with discipline. As I called the office to explain Kelly’s dilemma, the choir director, who “happened to be” right by the phone, responded with compassion. She said to let Kelly come home, take a pill and a nap, and meet the choir at City Hall at 11:30 if she was feeling better.

But the medication that knocked out the migraine had a way of knocking out the patient as well, and when I had tried to rouse Kelly for the prayer meeting, she had been hopelessly (and predictably) dead to the world. Now as the choir finished their warm-up and filed off the stage, there I sat, with nothing to do but feel sorry for Kelly, thinking of all the important high school events she had missed and would never again get a chance to do. And yes, I’ll admit I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, as well. (When “BabyBear” hurts, “MamaBear” hurts, too.) So in spite of my efforts to contain them, the tears flowed.

I was digging through my purse, looking for a tissue when I came across my small New Testament. Since the prayer meeting didn’t start until noon, I knew I had twenty minutes to kill, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend them wallowing in self-pity. So I pulled out the Bible and prayed.

Lord, Jesus, please encourage me. I don’t want to feel this way today!

I was not in the habit of looking for answers to problems by haphazardly opening the Bible; I hadn’t done that since college. But since I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, I opened the Book at random, planning just to read until I found something helpful, or until the prayer meeting started, whichever came first.

The scripture that first caught my eye was the last chapter of Mark:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb, and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!”                    (Mark 16: 1-6)

Something told me I had seen enough, so I stopped reading.

OK, what does that have to do with Kelly’s migraines? I wondered. But then I pondered the significance of the passage.

Jesus is alive … JESUS IS ALIVE! That means that death is not the end … for Him or for us! And it certainly means this life isn’t the be-all and end-all for those who trust in the Lord. – It’s barely the beginning!

Yes, my daughter had missed the National Day of Prayer, over a hundred days of high school, and numerous weekend festivities. She had missed Homecoming, but someday she would be at the greatest Homecoming in history. She had missed singing in the choir that day, but someday she would sing in heaven’s choir forever. Kelly loved Jesus, and she would get to spend forever with Him, at the never-ending, greatest celebration of all time. When one had that to look forward to … what else mattered?

What else matters? I asked myself, and I found that in spite of my pity-party, I was smiling. I decided that I would pour myself into the Day of Prayer and keep a better perspective on life from that day on, by remembering the one thing that really matters –

Jesus is alive!

Excerpted from BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?)                           c 2015 Ann Aschauer

Prayer: Lord, we rejoice that You are alive! Keep us mindful of what really matters. In Your name, amen

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On Being Transparent

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.     Isaiah 64:6a

I don’t do windows.

Well, every few years I try. There will be that bright sunny morning when the light was streaming in, and the need for cleaning was so obvious, I grab the window cleaner, spray bottle, rags, paper towels, and squeegee and get to work. Two or three hours later I throw in the towel (and everything on it) and once more promise myself, never again!

Every summer we go to the house in Michigan that my grandparents built it in the 1940s. It was elegant then and it is still elegant now. Forty-six years ago my husband Marty and I got married there, and two years ago our youngest daughter married the love of her life there. The house has French provincial architecture, fireplaces, a bay window, and French doors that open onto a patio overlooking the lake.

It also has windows that have had a curse put on them. Or maybe it’s just the paint on the frames that dissolves every time any liquid touches it… Each magical little pane is specially made to get dirtier the more it’s wiped. After several attempts at cleaning, the glass will go from mildly dirty to ridiculously streaked on the outside – when you’re looking out. Of course, when you’re outside looking in, all you see are the streaks that are inside. I have on occasion treated the job like an Olympic event, “the Window Sprint” – Can I run outside and get that streak off before I forget where it is? Pretty soon I’m streaked too, with sweat and dirt, and breathless with exasperation. No gold medal here.

(Now please don’t write and tell me how you clean your windows. Believe me, I’ve heard the advice, all about vinegar and newspapers and yada-yadda-yadda… I’ve tried it all.)

A few years ago we put our house in Port Huron up for sale, and one of the many jobs that needed to be done was … clean the windows. [Insert scary horror movie music here.] When a perfectly gorgeous day came up and I had absolutely nothing on my schedule, there was no excuse to put off the job, however desperately I wished for one.

I was delightfully surprised to find the job was not only effective but surprisingly fun when it actually worked! I found myself singing as I got into the rhythm -squirt-squeegee-wipe, squirt-squeegee-wipe – and pretty soon I was looking around for more windows to clean. At the end of the day I was standing in the living room, gazing out at the Lake Huron, relishing the fact that the windows were virtually invisible and I may as well have been standing outside. >Eureka!<

For some reason I took this to mean I now knew how to clean windows, so when we later went to Portage Lake, one bright, sunny day I confidently grabbed my trusty squeegee and began to make the dining room gorgeous, one little pane at a time, forgetting that these windows were cursed… Two hours, one roll of paper towels, one bottle of Windex, and one tantrum later, there was not one pane that was totally clean. I threw up my hands and yelled “I GIVE UP!” followed by a few other things that were probably inappropriate for a Christian to be saying.

Have you been there? I don’t mean just with windows, but anything that you’ve tried to “fix,” that only gets worse the more you try? As I stood there that day, hot and exhausted, scowling at the streaks blocking the view of the beautiful lake, I figured the only way to get a clear view would be just to break the windows. That’s it! Just take out the pains – er, panes – completely, and the view would be great. Of course, that would have made the house a bit drafty and buggy, so Marty didn’t go for that idea.

It occurred to me that I was looking at a picture of sin. The Bible tells us that ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all of Mankind has been under the curse of sin. For many people, their lives may seem “good enough.” But then the light of God’s truth shines through, and it becomes painfully obvious that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 6:23) The more we look at our sin, the more it bothers us.

So, what do some of us do? We try to clean up our act. Somehow we think we can make it right on our own, although it should soon be apparent that if we were so capable of doing good, our lives wouldn’t be such a mess in the first place. After trying to make things right, we see that we have failed, and more often than not, our feeble attempts have made the situation worse than ever. At this point we should see that we can’t do this ourselves. But some of us refuse to believe we’re that helpless. So we try harder, thinking if we could just try hard enough, we’ll finally clean up our lives.

The bottom line is, we can’t fix the mess ourselves. We have only two choices. We can avoid the Light and hope nobody notices the dirt, or we can go to God and ask Him to help us. Fortunately, He can. In fact, He sent His Son, Jesus, to take all our dirt onto Himself. When He died for us, He was taking our sin and nailing it to the Cross, and we never have to be enslaved by it again. He can make our lives clean, and He can shine His light through us. Isn’t it a relief to know we don’t have to try to clean ourselves up?

I haven’t yet figured out how to get Jesus to do my windows for me, but two years ago before our daughter Kelly married the love of her life on the lawn at that house, we did hire a professional exorcist – er, window cleaning service. Now when I look out through the crystal clear glass and remember how it used to be, I know what a mess I would be without Jesus. I’m just grateful that I’m not without Him, and that He was willing to do what was necessary to make me clean, so He could shine His light through me.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in ourselves we are powerless to clean up our own lives. Thank You that You have not left us on our own, but You have shed Your blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that we can live the lives You want us to live – the lives we truly want. We choose to trust You to shine through us today, in Your power, in Your name. Amen

Remarkable Answer to a Routine Prayer

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. – Psalm 91:7

Since being retired and seeing our youngest child leave the nest, I have not yet found myself sitting around looking for something to do, as I had feared I would when I was younger. Rather, I can do those things I used to procrastinate about years ago, when the mantra seemed to be “I don’t have time!” Well, that excuse isn’t going to cut it these days. As surprisingly busy as I am, I can always find time for prayer, if I make it priority – which, of course, I should!

I have friends who will get upset with me if I say I have OCD – “That’s a negative confession!” But having obsessive-compulsive tendencies can serve a useful purpose when a commitment is made. I take my commitments seriously, especially when it comes to my commitments to God. There are certain things I have committed to praying for daily, and as far as I’m concerned, if I committed, I’d jolly well better do it!

One of these “daily” things is “putting on the spiritual armor,” as Paul described in Ephesians 6. Not that I think I’d be spiritually vulnerable if I didn’t “put it on” each day. (After all, I don’t remember ever taking it off.) But it’s a good reminder for me of how God has prepared His children for battle. (He doesn’t need reminding, but I do.) So, meditating on relevant Scripture, I “put on” the belt of truth,” “the helmet of salvation,” and “the breastplate of righteousness,” as I give the Lord my body, my mind, and my heart for the day. As I do, I feel my soul being built up to have a right mindset for whatever happens that day. (Romans 8:5) Someday I’ll write a piece about this process.

“Having my feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15) involves just asking God to send me where He wants me to go that day, letting me encounter the people He wants me to encounter, and speaking the words He wants me to say. This prayer excites me! I never know how it will be answered by the time the day is over.

While Paul calls our faith the shield “that quenches all the fiery arrows of the evil one,” (Ephesians 6:16) the Old Testament tells us God’s faithfulness is a shield and fortress. (Psalm 91:4) God’s faithfulness has been with me – over and around me, shielding me from harm – even longer than my faith. And His faithfulness is what covers the people I love. So, I pray daily for His faithfulness to shield each of my family members and anyone who has been part of our household in the past. (We’ve had some pretty special people living with us through the years.) I also pray for people I once sponsored, wherever they are, that the Lord’s hand is still in their lives.

Finally, I pray a shield around the kids I’m sponsoring now. One of these is Ibra, my teenager in Uganda. I wrote a post about him a while back:

Since Uganda has been on lockdown and schools are not in session, Ibra has been staying with friends in the city of Kampala instead of the orphanage. I trust the Lord is keeping him safe, along with my sponsored children in other countries.

Tuesday morning of last week I got a Facebook message from Ibra, telling me, “… we have lost some Ugandans.” This was due to an attack in the city that killed some, injured others. “ … and this happened when I was in the city and I saw this happen glory to God that I was not affected I was protected by him who lives in me.” He sent me a couple of very gruesome photos, and by the end of the day, when I had heard nothing about this on the American news, a part of me wondered if this had really happened (Teenagers, you know …).

But that evening I googled “bombing in Uganda,” and sure enough, earlier that day in Kampala two bombs had been set off, with people killed and some severely injured. And my kid Ibra saw it up close, but hadn’t a scratch on him! I guess you never know when those “routine prayers” might make a crucial difference.

There have been countless times I’ve traveled, and friends pray for “safe travels” for me, and I don’t usually think much about it, other than, That’s a sweet thought. There have certainly been more urgent prayers in our circles. But occasionally I will arrive at my destination and contact a friend to thank him/her for the prayers – after a semi had come at me and missed me by inches. And I have to wonder, are there other close calls I don’t even know about?

Amy Grant once sang, “God only knows the times my life was threatened just today/ A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way. / Near-misses all around me, accidents unknown,/ Though I’ll never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home.“*

But God sees, and thankfully, He’s got His angels watching over us.

Prayer: Father, thank You for your care and protection as we go about our days, usually oblivious to the enemy’s plans. We’re so grateful we don’t have to live in fear, but we can trust You to bring us to the end of our lives with Your plans for us fulfilled, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

*”Angels Watching Over Me” from the Album “Straight Ahead,” Myrrh Records, 1984

Grateful or Offended – Your Choice

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death, to the other the fragrance of life. – II Corinthians 2:15-16

Most people over 30 will remember the remake of the classic movie “Father of the Bride,” starring Steve Martin as the bumbling father. There’s a scene where the wedding is nearly called off because of a crisis in the relationship of the bride and groom. When the father of the bride is trying to console his daughter, he learns that the whole blowup was over a gift she had received from her fiancé: a blender. What does that say about their relationship? she wails, interpreting the gift as a sign he’s already thinking of her as “the little woman”/housewife.

As the soon-to-be (or-not-to-be) son-in-law later explains to the bride’s father, he had bought the gift because he knew how much his fiancée loved banana smoothies, and he was giving her a blender for her enjoyment. It was a gift of love from a man who knew (or thought he knew!) what she liked.

Even though Dad hasn’t relished the idea of his daughter’s marrying the guy, his love for her overrides his personal feelings. He smooths things over between the two, and the wedding is back on.

A friend of mine had a similar experience when her husband came home on her birthday with a box from Victoria’s Secret. She was surprised, thrilled, and extremely curious as to what kind of romantic gift was inside! Imagine the let-down when she found the box filled with beef jerky.

She was complaining to me about it, and I asked whether her husband had any explanation for the … “unusual” gift. She said he had explained that he knew she had occasional bouts of low blood sugar when she was out and about, and these spells were an indication that she needed protein. He was giving her something that she could carry in her purse to remedy the situation when she was on the go. (The box was just the nearest thing he could find to put the gift in.)

We women who long for romance have to come to terms with the fact that many men are more pragmatic than romantic. I explained to my friend that this gift was saying (1.) “I’m paying attention to your needs,” and (2.) “I love you and want you to feel good and be healthy.” I’m guessing her husband is like mine, in that he doesn’t see the point in a gift which doesn’t really serve any practical purpose.

Although we may not be able to control our emotions moment by moment, perspective is a choice, and the perspectives we consistently choose can mold our general disposition over the long run. As fashionable is it is to be “offended” these days, giving people the benefit of the doubt and appreciating them makes everyone happier. For example, the Christmas my husband gave me a Dust Buster, some of my girlfriends were surprised that I was happy about it. To them that kind of gift says, “You’re the cleaning lady.” But to me, it said “I love you, and I want to make your job easier.” (Besides, I had thought Dust Busters were cool and had asked for one.)

Someone on a talk show used the example of a treadmill as the epitome of a terrible gift to give your wife. I guess some women would see it as saying, “You’re fat, and you need to get in shape.” I remember thinking, I would love a gift like that – maybe not a treadmill, but an elliptical machine would be awesome. To me a gift like that says, “I love you, and I want us to have a long, healthy life together.” (Not to mention, “This piece of machinery is expensive, but you’re worth it!”) If my husband had bought me an elliptical machine, it would have said to me, “I notice the elliptical is your favorite machine at the health club. Here’s one of your own.” Of course, that would not have been practical, as we were within walking distance of the gym. But when the gym closed because of the pandemic, I went ahead and bought one myself, with Marty’s blessing.

Any gift can be seen in a positive or negative light. I entertained my disappointed friend with examples of romantic gifts that could be taken the wrong way:

Perfume could say, “You stink. Use this.”

A beautiful piece of clothing could say, “Your looks could stand some improvement.”

Flowers could say, “we need something pretty around here. The house looks terrible.”

Pretty soon we were both laughing at how, as one comedian recently quipped, “A woman can turn anything into an insult.” And I hope the next time my friend had a sugar crash and dipped into her purse for a piece of jerky, she appreciated her husband’s thoughtfulness, however un-romantic it may have seemed at the time.

We may need to reverse our perspective on gratitude:

Having things doesn’t make us grateful. Gratitude makes us enjoy the things we have.*

*This piece of “divine perspective” was brought to you by Jesus Christ, whose unspeakably wonderful gift involved a beating, a crown of thorns, nails, and a bloody Cross. (Not pretty.)

Jesus, the priceless Lamb of God, was the sacrifice that paid the penalty for our sins. Through His death on a cross we can be forgiven and live with Him forever! We can respond to this amazing gift by repenting, accepting His forgiveness, yielding our lives to Him, and being eternally grateful that He was willing to sacrifice Himself for us. With this perspective, we can begin enjoying that eternal life right here and now, knowing He loves us and will never leave us.

Or … we can, like some people, be offended at the very idea that God considers us sinful and in need of a Savior. We could be offended that Jesus had the audacity to say He is the only Way, instead of being glad there even is a way at all, which is one more than we deserve.

Joy or offense. The choice is yours.

Prayer: Lord, forgive our tendency to complain and always want something other than what You have offered us. Give us “divine perspective” to accept and appreciate Your sacrifice for us, as well as the little gifts You give us daily, knowing You always want the best for us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

If at First You Get Ignored …

The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. – Matthew 22:2

It’s been a while since I’ve written about any dreams I’ve had. Frankly, I don’t remember many since I started praying I’d only remember the important ones and forget the meaningless ones. (My mind has enough clutter, thank you.)

But recently I had a dream that was vivid and, I believe, significant for believers today.

Maybe it was because the holidays are approaching, but I dreamt about a gathering of people. Women were bustling around the kitchen, while some teenagers sat around a table playing a board game. (I assume the men were in the den watching sports.) I was heading outside to take some chicken off the grill and bring it inside.

The chicken glistened with juiciness and barbecue sauce, and I knew it was going to be delicious. Just as I got the last piece onto the platter, my daughter’s big dog, Irma, leapt at me, nearly knocking me down and snatching the biggest piece of chicken.

I was annoyed, but also concerned for Irma. I’ve had dogs all my life and know you don’t give chicken bones to dogs, as they splinter and can pierce the dog’s insides.

“Hey, I need some help here!” I yelled, as Irma continued to jump on me, threatening to spill the whole platter of poultry. I could see the kids still playing their board game, seemingly oblivious to what was going on outside. I tried to balance the platter while pushing the pooch away from me and continued to call for help. Since the kids didn’t seem to care what was going on outside, I yelled louder, hoping the women in the kitchen would hear, before their entire dinner got dumped in the dirt.

Dreams are strange. Sometimes you know things without seeing or hearing them. Somehow I knew someone inside was rolling their eyes and saying, She’s OK, she just wants attention.

This isn’t just for me, it’s for them, too! And I’m worried about Irma! I thought, indignant.

Ignore her, they were saying.

I was being deliberately ignored!?

With renewed energy, I pushed my way past the dog and into the house. I chastised the kids who had turned a deaf ear to my cries for help – not just for my sake but for the sake of the dog swallowing the razor-sharp bone fragments, not to mention anyone else interested in the feast I was bringing to the table!

Did you not hear me yelling for help?!” I demanded. To my utter astonishment, they still didn’t look up from their game. Nor did any of the women come out of the kitchen to see what was going on.

Fine!” I announced, dropping the platter onto the table. “I’m done.” And with that I walked away. I was only mildly surprised when no one followed or even called out after me.

At another house it was Christmastime! I felt welcome here and went right in. Once inside I could see snow at every window, a fire in the fireplace, and bright colored decorations sparkling everywhere. I could hear Christmas carols and children’s laughter. In the kitchen some kids were decorating sugar cookies, and in the den some more were watching the last minutes of a Christmas special. I recognized it as one of my favorites, and I feigned disappointment.

“Aw, you didn’t wait for me?” I fake pouted.

“It’s OK,” said my granddaughter, Charlotte, jumping up and taking my arm. “We’ll watch it again later, and you can watch it with us then.” I was invited to join them in any and all of their Christmas activities, and I experienced a deep joy, as I felt like a little kid myself.

[I woke up with a smile on my face.]

Amazingly, Jesus taught that the sin of apathy is as damning as what we call the “big sins” – murder, adultery, and the like. He told a parable of a king who gave a great wedding feast for his son, but oddly the invitees refused to come. So, the snubbed king sent his servants out to gather others off the street until his banquet hall was filled. Those who had ignored the original invitation were left in outer darkness. – Their loss.

Many people behave that way today. We share the way to eternal life; some accept the message joyfully, others reject the invitation. Some even seem annoyed, as though we were asking them to do us a favor – not realizing that it is for their sake that we’re trying to point the way. Many simply ignore us.

But these responses (or lack of) are no reason to give up sharing the Gospel! While some may not seem interested in avoiding damnation and living forever with God, there are plenty, like my granddaughter Charlotte, who are very eager to hear your good news. Childlike at heart, they are far different from those who consider themselves too cool to talk with you about such things.

If you’re like me, you have spent a lot of time praying for and witnessing to certain people you care about very much. You reason with them, you invite them, and you warn them. Their lack of response can be draining, and downright discouraging.

You may need a break. You may need to leave those people to God, knowing there are others who have been waiting for someone to give them hope. You just might find that the moment you’re about to give up, the Lord puts people in your path who are only too happy to invite you into their lives and hear your good news.

Jesus gave us the Great Commission – share the Good News. Especially now. Time is short.

P.S. If you’re wondering, What is this “good news?” here are a couple of my past posts that explain it:

If you’d like to discuss this offer of eternal life further, please feel free to email me at bascha3870@yahoo.com. I would love to hear from you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive us for the times we’ve ignored Your invitations. We know we’re the ones who get hurt when we pass up the chance to be with You. Open our eyes to Your will for us. Then use us to open the eyes of others to the wonder of Your salvation. Help us never to give up. In Your name, Amen.

The Spirits Behind American Idols

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12

Raise your hand if you have ever entered a competition – athletic, singing contest, dance contest, – writing contest 😉 – beauty pageant, competing for an academic scholarship or a job … ?

(Now, raise your hand if you did not win…)

This excerpt from my book Vision was inspired by the despair I observed at a Christian artists’ conference the morning after the first “cuts” in the competitions were posted – despair that should be non-existent in a believer in Jesus Christ:

The meeting room was darkened by the forms of countless demons, summoned to an emergency council. As the last of the spirits fluttered in and lit upon the remaining rafters, their leader stood and motioned them to be silent. There was an immediate hush, as every demon wondered what great threat to their kingdom would bring Lucifer himself to such a relatively harmless place as the United States. Surely Apathy, Ignorance, Arrogance, and Ease had done a sufficient job of keeping the American Church from being much of a force for the kingdom of heaven.

But today the Devil himself seemed disturbed enough to summon a myriad of demonic warriors.

“As you all know,” he began, “one of the most powerful forces both we and the Enemy have is music. You know how Lust, Addiction, and Suicide have made use of it in capturing and destroying a large part of this generation.” Lust, Addiction, and Suicide grinned at each other smugly.

“Unfortunately for us, there are also those in the Enemy’s camp that are rediscovering its effectiveness and are using it in ways that are snatching young humans away from us – some of the very ones we thought we had the tightest grip on!” His scaly talon clenched tightly, and as he began to pace, demons sheepishly backed out of his way.

“That didn’t seem that disastrous at first,” he continued, “but the few musicians that are really sold out to the Enemy are more and more realizing the power and opportunities they have at their fingertips, and how much more their side could have, if they were to multiply themselves, and they’re planning to do JUST THAT.” 

A murmur of dismay broke out among the demons.

“A week-long seminar is being planned for this summer, one that will involve singers, songwriters, instrumentalists, producers, publishers, technicians – you name it. Some of them are even people who used to be OUR tools and are now instruments in the hands of the Enemy. As if that weren’t enough, now they plan on teaching and training others to be His instruments as well! Some of these creatures are people who don’t even know the extent of their own talents yet! The Enemy is about to blow the lid off our whole Department of Blindness and Ignorance! Once these humans start realizing their potential and using it, it could mean the beginning of the downfall of our whole kingdom!” Some of the spirits looked at one another with questioning eyes.

“THINK, FOOLS!” he screamed. “There are still areas of this planet where preachers and missionaries aren’t allowed to enter. But musicians are! And music draws people like a magnet, you know that from your own work. So we need a counterattack.

“Where are they meeting?” asked Destruction. “I’ll send a tornado and flatten the place the day before it’s scheduled to start.”

“AMATEUR!” shrieked Lucifer. “Do you think you could stop them by knocking down a few buildings?”

“Destroy the people themselves,” advised Death, a dark form that stood motionless in the shadows, “or at least the ones who are the leaders. A well-timed bus crash right before the seminar could wipe out quite a piece of their army.”

Lucifer sneered at him. “Yes, and I suppose your crucifying the Enemy put an end to HIS battle plan? Don’t be an idiot. We must avoid the obvious. Whatever we do, it must be subtle. Some of these people are real warriors of the Enemy, and if they were to recognize any of us, they could disarm us by using that detestable Name, and it would be the end of the mission for all of us. No, our plan must be carried out under cover – under the very Name of the Enemy Himself, if possible. You know that all our most successful plans have been carried out in the very Name of … (The multitude shuddered at the thought of the unspoken Name.)

“I don’t know about wiping out their whole plan,” began Conformity, an intimidating demon with a scornful expression, “but we could really hem them into one place by narrowing their vision and destroying their sense of uniqueness. Just take their eyes off the Enemy – that’s always the first step – and onto each other, especially the ones who are ‘successful’ by the world’s standards. Insecurity can help by getting them to deny who they really are and trying to imitate their idols. Blindness can get them to disregard their own unique qualities and try to compete with someone else who isn’t like them at all.”

Insecurity laughed. “No problem! Musicians are so insecure anyway, I could pull this off on my lunch break.”

“Why stop there?” hissed Cruelty from the shadows. “These ideas are rather vague. Why don’t we provide a more concrete way of destroying their self-worth, rather than relying on bad feelings that could be brushed away with a prayer? Get them to judge one another in a very limited setting, and have them put that judgment in writing. It will drive some of them to the brink of suicide.” His mouth watered at the thought of so much misery.

Confusion jumped in. “I’ll instruct my imps to put it into the mind of every artist to question his or her gifts on the basis of those pieces of paper!”

“Meanwhile,” Fear interjected, “all the anxiety we can produce in such a situation can cause a lack of sleep and health…”

“Sounds convenient to me,” muttered Sickness. “It is such fun to watch the creatures suffer.”

Suddenly an older demon spoke up.

“Careful!” he cautioned them. “I’ve known these plans to backfire in my time. When humans are hurt and humiliated, they often draw closer to the Enemy in their humility. They can also empathize and comfort one another. There’s a danger of maturity and closeness and … love resulting …

“Never fear!” Pride assured them. “I’ll see to it that none of them admit their hurt to one another. My imps will scatter and persuade every last one of them to put on a mask of super-spirituality …”

“While all the time envying the ‘successful’!” hissed Worldliness.

“And feeling inadequate!” squealed Inferiority.

“And finally giving up on doing anything at all with their gifts!” Despair shrieked triumphantly. The four began dancing with glee.

“HOLD ON!” bellowed Lucifer. He wanted to think this through. It seemed too easy. “What about the few who come out on top? What if the winners … “

“We’ll take care of them, Sir!” chimed in a rowdy chorus of demons that included Arrogance, Lust, Greed, Conceit, and Self-centeredness.

The Devil gazed at the room full of spirits, poised in readiness for his orders.

“Then do what you have to do,” he ordered, his fiery eyes narrowing. “Poison this plan in its very inception, and we’ll maintain control over the music world. After all, it was given to ME, and I have no intention of letting it go.”

And so it came to pass that as a group of godly leaders gathered to plan a week that would change the world, an unseen, uninvited band of spirits joined them. Several of the demons surrounded a member of the group whose mind had been distracted during the prayer. As they dug invisible talons into his brain, he gasped, not with pain, but with a sudden inspiration he thought was from God.

“I’ve got a great idea!” he cried. “Let’s hold competitions!”

The spirits smiled at one another with evil satisfaction.               

Folks, there is only one contest that matters. We (believers) are the Body of Christ – a team, an army. We struggle against our enemy, the devil – not one another! We work together, we fight together. And guess what? I’ve read the last chapter – we win!

Together.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the gifts You’ve given to each of us. Help us to use them for Your purposes and not judge our success by the opinions of others, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Celebrating What???

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season.

– 2 Timothy 4:2

For the past few weeks our neighborhood has resembled a haunted graveyard. Tombstones, zombies, ghostly figures, giant spiders, skeletons, and the “Grim Reaper” have inhabited the landscape.

Oddly, some of the same houses that all year have had green lights on at night in remembrance of those who have died of Kovd now have yards full of tombstones with clever sayings on them poking fun at death.

Others are impressive and scary-looking, larger than life, a celebration of death.

But as a follower of Jesus Christ, the risen Savior, I prefer to celebrate life. So, I repeated a yard design my prayer partner and I created in Michigan years ago – a reminder, not of death, but of Jesus’ resurrection – “SATAN’S WORST NIGHTMARE.” Tombstones are there, but each one displays a Scripture about Jesus’ Resurrection, the salvation He made possible, and His “amazing grace.” This year I added another feature, the empty Cross (easier to construct than the empty Tomb!) with a saying borrowed from a neighbor’s yard display: “I’ll be back.” Only instead of being a creepy inscription on a tombstone, this is an affectionate note nailed to the Cross, signed “– J.”

A few days ago two women knocked at my door and told me how much they loved the display. We sat on the porch and talked about the Lord for about an hour, and got one another’s contact information. I’ll probably be going to one of their prayer meetings soon. So, I’ve already been blessed with two new friends because of this declaration of Life! God is so good!

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Tonight there will be people coming to our door looking for something good, and I don’t plan on disappointing them.

Prayer: Lord, no matter what day it is or what the world is doing, help us to be about Your business, declaring the good news of the Gospel to anyone we can reach, in Jesus’ name. Amen

Are You a “Fine-Thanks” Friend?

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. – Romans 12:9 (NLT)

Many years ago, as a young Christian prone to self-pity and living by my emotions, I would get bouts of what I called “depression,” although I’m sure I had no clue what real depression feels like. I wrote a number of poems back then, some better than others. My shortest poem was written at a time I felt not only lost but utterly alone:

* ********* HONESTY**********

If I ran into you just by chance, at church, the store, the zoo,

And you asked me “How’re ya doin’?” I’d say, “Fine thanks, how’re you?”

But if I ever got the feeling you really gave a damn,

Then I just might surprise you and tell you how I am.

I’m not that cynical today, but I do realize there are different degrees of friendship, and we can’t all be best buddies. I can detect pretty easily who says “Hi, how are ya?” and isn’t expecting an in-depth answer. (Something about the way they don’t slow their pace as they’re walking past me.) I’ll say, “Fine thanks, how are you?” knowing they won’t have time to say more than “fine!” And that’s OK. We’ve made a momentary connection. Someone has acknowledged my existence, however briefly, and in some small way kept the lines of communication open.

There are other friends that I know a little better who ask in such a way that I know they’re genuinely interested. I find more of these friends at church. I belong to a church whose members are always praying for one another, and there’s a general feeling of camaraderie that brings comfort even if nothing else is said.

Sunday after service I saw a young lady who greeted me by name (one degree higher than “Hi there!”) and asked me how I was. I smiled and said “great, how about you?” She answered positively, but then added, “How is ___?” naming a loved one I have been praying for. At that moment I opened up and gave her an update. After a couple of minutes I added sheepishly, “That’s a long answer to a short question.” She assured me that she really wanted to know and said she and her husband would be praying. We parted with hugs, and my load was lightened.

Since I am not in school and don’t work outside the home, Sunday is my time to connect with people, so I usually visit with friends after Sunday school and linger after service to talk with others. Sunday I saw a woman I knew sitting by herself. (I’m guessing her husband was still socializing.) I came and sat with her, asking how things were going with her in a way that I hope meant I really wanted to know. She didn’t have any earth-shaking news, but when she asked me how things were with my family in a way that seemed to mean she really wanted to know, I told her about the one who was most on my heart. This was a praying lady, and I was confident that she would put in a good word for my family next time she was talking with the Lord. But she took it a step further.

“Let’s pray now,” she said, taking my hands. And as I let the tears come, she prayed a beautiful prayer, putting my loved one in Jesus’ hands. Of course, hugs followed.

When someone tells me their troubles, I also ask, “May I pray for you now?” It’s not that I’m a superior friend, it’s just that I know me, and more often than not, if I just say “I’ll be praying for you,” chances are I’ll forget. And I don’t want to be one that doesn’t pray for others or care about what they’re going through.

I don’t want to be just a “fine-thanks” friend.

So, when you ask someone “How are you?” how do you convey to that person that you really want to know? If the response is “Fine, thanks,” do you ask the follow-up question, “Are you really?” I’ve heard that suggested, but I’m hesitant to ask that, lest the person think I don’t believe what they just told me, or that I’m prying or looking for gossip. But maybe that’s just me.

A question I appreciate from my Christian brothers and sisters is, “How can I pray for you?” When I ask that question, sometimes the other person has to think a bit. Then I see a light in the eyes, and I’m given a specific thing to pray about. (I love to pray for specific things, because the more specific the request, the more obvious the answer, and I love answered prayers!) Depending on the situation, a follow-up question might be, “May I pray for you now?”

There are still those moments I see someone as I’m racing somewhere, running late, and I just have time to say “Hi, ___! How are you?” and I get a “fine thanks, and you?” And I trust we both understand. We’ve connected, and later the Lord may bring us up to the “Let’s pray” level.

Prayer: Lord, You know our needs better than we do, and You hear our prayers, even if we’re praying alone. But we also know that You love to see Your children pray for one another, and as we “bear one another’s burdens,” we also get to share in the joy when prayers are answered and the burden is lifted. Make us mindful of the needs around us, and let us not be “fine-thanks” friends, too busy to reach out, but rather the kind of friends willing to invest our time into being like Jesus. In His name, Amen

Inconvenience, or Divine, Detailed Appointment?

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

Last week I had to get a Kovd test before attending a concert with my daughter Kelly. I thought it would be a breeze, but after calling all over for more than an hour, I was starting to panic. No one could test me until Wednesday – the day after the concert! I finally called a sweet young lady in our home group who worked at a hospital, and she suggested a place I’d never heard of. I checked their website to see if they had any openings – Bingo!

Next morning I pulled into the parking lot, parked, and called the testers, who said they would be out shortly. I turned my car back on, rolled my window down, and waited.

Suddenly, I started having irrational doubts. I knew I wasn’t sick, but what if the test said otherwise?! (I’d heard about people getting “false positives.”) I texted my prayer partner and another friend or two to pray, but none of them responded. Guess I pray alone on this, I thought.

Soon two masked individuals came out and unceremoniously shoved a stick up my nose (Why do they have to stick that thing into my brain for a sample, when one drop of my saliva could infect an entire village? :/ ) As they were walking away, a “random” call came from a friend I hadn’t seen in years. She happened to be a prayer warrior extraordinaire! We talked for a while, and I told her what was going on and why this concert, for which I had bought tickets five months before, was so important. She immediately went to battle for me. (We prayed “together.”)

When the tests came back “negative,” I was relieved, though not surprised. I figured I’d head home, rinse out my sinuses, and jump into the plethora of things I had to do before Kelly arrived from Knoxville. As I turned the key in the ignition, I heard,

“Click.”

It seems when I had turned on my car half an hour before, I’d forgotten to turn it back off.

I don’t have time for this! I started fretting again, sending a frantic text to my daughter Joanna. When she didn’t answer, I called her and left a message on her voicemail: “I need help!”

I don’t have time for this! I fretted again, then decided to swallow my pride and ask the people parked next to me if they could help me jumpstart my car.

They were knowledgeable and helpful, but when I tried to start my car, this time it went, click-click-click-click-clunk.

Now what?! I thought.

“Just sit here a while, and let it charge,” the lady said sweetly. (God bless her!) More waiting.

OK, Lord, what am I missing?

I wanted to do more than thank them, then remembered I always had copies of my books in the back. I’d give them a copy of BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?)!

I checked the trunk, but oddly there were no copies of BARRRIERS, just the first two volumes in my fictional trilogy. I grabbed the first one, Counselor, the book my publisher had said reminded her of Twilight. – For the record, I had written it before Twilight came out. The mysterious man in my book was not a vampire, however, but Jesus!

“Are you a reader?” I asked the woman.

“… Sometimes …” she replied hesitantly. I told her I was an author, and I would love to give her a copy of one of my books. When she seemed hesitant, I told her a little to see if it was the type of book she’d like.

“It’s a love story with some mystery. And a little bit of supernatural,” I added. Her face broke into a knowing grin.

“If I don’t read it, my daughter definitely will! She’s all into the Twilight series. That’s what got her into reading.”

(BINGO!)

I wrote a little note to the daughter and gave it to the mom with my thanks for the jump start. I got into my car and turned the key…

It started right up.

As I drove away, I said a prayer for my newest reader, that she would fall in love with the “Wonderful Counselor,” as some of my readers have told me they had done.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

I have to believe that God was/is using the story He inspired in me all those years ago to touch yet another young person, considering all the unexpected (and unwanted) details that had led up to that moment. Here are a few:

  • The big sign I had driven past every day advertising “Free Kovd Tests” was suddenly taken down the day before I needed to be tested. None of the drug stores, walk-in clinics, or ERs I called could take me. I had to be there – at a place I’d never heard of.
  • I had to be in a certain parking spot, at a certain time.
  • I needed a delay, and it came about by something that shouldn’t have been a problem. (Ordinarily my battery wouldn’t die after 30 minutes of the car just being “on.”)
  • I had to be unable to reach my daughter by phone or text.
  • The people next to me had to have jumper cables and know how to use them. [Note to self: Buy jumper cables!]
  • The first couple of jump starts had to fail; I needed time to think of giving the couple a book, even though they didn’t seem like avid readers.
  • I had to be out of copies of BARRIERS, the book I usually have the most copies of. Counselor wouldn’t have been my first choice.
  • And I needed to describe Counselor in a way that made the woman think of her daughter.

One benefit of “divine perspective,” or the confidence that “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28), is being able to trust that even when (especially when) things are frustrating or inconvenient, God is up to something! And these “somethings” make ordinary days a lot more interesting!

Prayer: Lord, when will I learn? When will I stop panicking or getting irritated the moment things don’t go as planned? Help me remember You always have the best ideas, and it’s my privilege to have a ringside seat to watch You work. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I

The Bug in the Rug

“Who despises the day of small things?” Zechariah 4:10a

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” – Matthew 25:23

“Small numbers make no difference to God. There is nothing small if God is in it.”
Dwight L. Moody (Thanks for the quote, Cindy Dawson, “Real Christian Woman.”)

A few weeks ago I had a book signing in a small Michigan town, where I barely sold enough books to pay for the gas it took to drive there and back. But I met some great people and had some interesting, sometimes random “God conversations,” and I trust God was at work, although I probably won’t know this side of heaven all of what He was doing.

That same week I got a delightful voicemail from a lady about my age that I had met a few weeks back on another road trip. We had met at a gas station in Indiana and struck up a conversation in the ladies’ room. I had liked her little red sports car. She had liked my t-shirt that said, “If Being a Christian Is Boring, You’re Doing It Wrong.” – instant connection! Upon learning that it was her birthday, I had given her a copy of my book BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’ get answered?) We had prayed together before hitting the road again. She was calling to tell me how blessed she was by the book – and meeting me. ❤

A few days ago I was racing around trying to get everything done that I had to do before my daughter arrived. We were going to a concert I’d bought tickets for back in May. I’ll probably tell the whole story next week, but the bottom line is, I was stopped in my tracks when my car died. (“NOOooooo!”) I was unable to reach my other daughter, and my husband was out of state, so I asked the couple in the car parked next to mine for help, which they kindly gave. As they were helping, I was thinking about how to thank them, and realizing I still had a lot of books in my car, so I could definitely offer them one.

BARRIERS, the book I was planning to offer them, was not in the car, though, just the first two books in my trilogy Awakening, books I had originally written for teens and young adults. My publisher had said the first one reminded her of Twilight. I asked the wife if she liked reading, and when she said “…sometimes …” I described the book to see if it might be her “cup of tea.” She said her daughter was into Twilight big time and would probably love it. (!) So I inscribed it to her daughter and gave it to her, thanking her again for helping me with my car …

… which then started right up.

The Bible often refers to the Church as “the Body of Christ,” saying we’re all different members of the Body, who work together to do God’s will. I used to wonder which part I was. Any contributions I’ve made to the Kingdom of God always seem small and relatively insignificant. I have talked with the Lord about that, asking Him, “What am I, anyway?” One day it seemed He was telling me I was a blood cell.

Great! I thought, having just given a pint of blood to the Red Cross and not even feeling the loss. I’m dispensable.

Not at all, Jesus seemed to be correcting me. And as He often does, He answered by bringing a verse of Scripture to mind. After all, “The life is in the blood.”

There are those who are very public figures, doing great, widespread, powerful things for God. We admire these “spiritual giants,” and rightly so. But many more of us yield ourselves to be used by God, only to find Him using us in little, “random” ways that seemingly have no connection. I would submit to you that these are every bit as much a part of God’s plan as the big stuff.

My sister used to love to tell the story of the “Bug in the Rug.” This little creature was crawling around among fibers that were a variety colors. He never knew as he wove his way through the threads what color was coming up next. He liked the bright colors – the red and the yellow. The blue and green fibers made him feel relaxed and peaceful. But the bug didn’t like the charcoal grey and black fibers; they were like a dark jungle, and making his way through them scared him!

But the day the bug sprouted wings and flew high above the rug, all at once, the whole pattern appeared before him, and it was beautiful! The bright colors and the relaxing colors intertwined in intricate, mesmerizing patterns, and even the dark colors that had frightened him, he now saw had their place to make the other colors pop out and be all the more beautiful.

Such are our lives. What seems random, and even meaningless, God has a purpose for, and as we plod along, faithfully following His lead, He will use us to make for Himself a beautiful creation – one little stitch at a time.

“Oftimes He weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride,/ forget He sees the upper, and I the underside./Not ’til the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly,/ will God unroll the canvas, and reveal the reason why.” (from “The Weaver,” By Grant Colfax Tullar)

Prayer: Father, You created each of us uniquely, each for our special purpose and place in the Body of Christ. May we be faithful in whatever You have called us to. May we not look to the world for affirmation, or through the world’s eyes, but with “divine perspective,” seeing that You are at work, and rejoicing that we get to be a part of Your plan. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Follow the Motives

The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him. – Proverbs 18:17

The topic of Covd “vaxcines” has been the source of hot debate recently, with strong emotions on both sides. After all, it is a life-and-death issue that requires each of us to make a personal decision. Now that the door is opening for children to receive the shots, the stakes are even higher.

Medical experts on TV are telling us, point blank, that we all need to get these shots, and the sooner, the better. There is also the concept that getting the shot somehow protects the people around us, a claim never before made about a vaxcine. We’re told that those of us who have had the shots are still vulnerable, and that we can still spread the viris, so it’s selfish of the rest of us not to have them, too. I am having a hard time understanding this logic, but what do I know? I’m not a doctor. – Most of us aren’t.

At first I accepted everything that was said about the pandemik on the news, because, after all, these guys were the experts. But by the time the vaxcines were being rolled out, I found out there are many other experts who are waving red flags and telling us the shots are extremely dangerous. I listened to some of their speeches and interviews, and these people seem to make sense, too. Some of them are even researchers who helped develop the shots in question, who are now saying they’ve made a terrible mistake!

So here’s the problem: There are people way smarter than I am on both sides. To catch any of them in a lie would require me to go to medical school and study harder than they ever did.

(Not gonna happen.)

So, when two equally qualified groups of experts take opposite sides of an argument, how does one know which side to believe? – Throwing up your hands and saying “I don’t know” isn’t an option.

I couldn’t help noticing the various methods the first group used in presenting their arguments.

At first the message was, “There’s a deadly disease out there! Protect yourself or you’ll die!” – maybe not in so many words, but fear was definitely a motivator.

When the vaxcine became available, there was much celebrating with the promise that we can now “get back to normal!”

Soon rewards were offered for getting shots, – free donuts, $10 off your grocery bill, $50 off a plane ticket, free marijuana (seriously?!), or eligibility in a million dollar raffle.

When many people still didn’t want to take what they felt was a risk to their health, they were called “selfish,” “ignorant,” or just plain “evil.” When everyone was told they still had to wear masks and socially distance, the “unvaxcinated” people were blamed.

When shaming didn’t work, the non-compliant were threatened with termination of employment, inability to participate in social events, and travel bans. Then it got nasty.

In other words, incentives went from fear, to the band wagon, then bribing, shaming, insults, threats, coercion, even blind hatred. – “I hope they die! someone tweeted. (Really?)

What’s going on?!

In a criminal trial, motive is a crucial factor to take into consideration. If someone has no motive, it’s hard to convince a jury that that person committed the crime. One common motive is greed. The familiar phrase, “Follow the money,” comes to mind.

There are big pharmaceuticle companies making billions (maybe trillions) on these shots. Hospital employees aren’t making trillions, but they do want to keep their jobs. Are they being pressured by the hospital executives, who are being pressured by Big Farma? Or are all these experts simply urging others to stay healthy out of the goodness of their hearts? The cynical side of me has my doubts.

And what about the other side? What could their motives be? It’s one thing for thousands of workers to have chosen to be fired rather than being vaxcinated. They might just be ignorant, paranoid fools. But why are hundreds, maybe thousands of medical workers choosing to sacrifice their careers rather than take the risk? What do they know that we aren’t being told? Why would they give testimonies that aren’t true? Why is it that the top virologists and epidemiologists and immunologists who have come out warning against the vaxcine have been censored by the mainstream media and, if mentioned at all, are vilified and repudiated? Why not just get both sides out there, and let people decide for themselves?

“What’s in it for them?”

The doctors pushing for the vaxcine are keeping their jobs, and Big Farma is making gajillions of dollars. These are also the doctors we see on the news daily, so theirs are household names, and will probably be in the history books.

The doctors opposing the shots are having their careers destroyed, as they are maligned, censored, and receiving death threats. So, why are they still passionately sounding the alarm?

Considering the consequences of each position, I tend to trust the ones who are risking everything to get their message out, over the ones making money hand over fist. But that’s just me. You need to decide for yourself. But whatever you decide, I wish you and yours the best.

Having said all that …

There’s an ancient question, equally universal and infinitely more important than imunization. It involves not just this life, but ETERNITY.

Jesus claimed to be the only way to eternal life (John 14:6)- IS HE?

I propose we examine the lives of His disciples, the ones who spread this message, and some with another claim, asking ourselves the same questions: “What’s in it for them?” and “Why would they lie?”

After Jesus’s crucifixion, the disappearance of His body was a huge problem for those assigned to guard the tomb. For a Roman soldier, dereliction of duty carried a death sentence. But it was also a huge problem for the chief priests, who hated Jesus. His promise to rise from the dead threatened their religious authority, and they desperately needed proof that He was still dead.

The two groups got together and devised a way to help them both. The priests “gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him [with another bribe] and keep you out of trouble.’ “ (Matthew 28:12-14)

So, the guards told a story that saved them from execution.

Jesus’ disciples, on the other hand, told a different story – “He is Messiah! He is risen! We have seen Him!”

Their story brought them persecution, prison, and martyrdom. Yet not one of them ever recanted, not even when facing torture and death. Why would they go through all that for a lie?

Whose story do you believe? Whom would you trust?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You came to tell us the way to salvation, and You gave Your life to prove how much You love us. I believe You! Thank You! – Amen.

Good News, or False Hope?

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing.” – Matthew 7:15

Last week I wrote about the videos and articles I’ve been receiving that are almost like getting a view into another dimension – an alternate reality taking place at the same time as the one we’re in. It’s amazing how each side of the story slants things their way, blocks or censors other views, and leaves us all confused as to whose telling the truth – or does anyone really know what’s going on?

One series of videos cheerfully promises better times ahead. Things may look dark, but any day now they’ll get better. Things are going on behind the scenes that the mainstream media doesn’t know about, or is covering up. Take heart! There will be justice! In fact, some claim justice is already taking place and many of the guilty are either dead or in prison. We’re told to “grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.” “Trust the Plan” is the mantra – with an occasional reference to God thrown in for good measure.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying I don’t believe the future is bright. There will be salvation, there will be justice, there will be godly leadership governing the people – someday. Jesus makes it clear that the kingdom of heaven is coming, but He also said at one point things will look progressively worse before they get better. And there isn’t going to be a politician riding in on a white horse to save the day. Jesus warned repeatedly against false prophets and false messiahs, and He told us to be faithful and vigilant. “Trust the Plan” could be a smoke screen that keeps us all complacent, when we should be doing the work of the kingdom of God. There may still be seasons when things get better – I hope so! – but if we don’t see this happening, will we lose hope? Will we give up, abandon our faith?

Our faith should be in no other plan except God’s, and He has warned us of hard times ahead. But He has also promised never to leave us or forsake us. In the end, at our darkest hour, it will be JESUS who rides in on a white horse, and He will coming in the clouds to get His Bride – us!

In Jesus’s time people made the same mistake people make today: They thought in worldly terms. But as Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) The Jews had been waiting hundreds of years for a savior, the Messiah. In the past they were given great leaders like King David and a few other kings that were faithful to the one true God. Israel was a powerful kingdom in the world for a season. But a few ancient prophets hinted that the Messiah would usher in a new kind of kingdom, and the people would be saved, not from the tyrants that ruled over them, but from the tyranny of their own sins. Zechariah prophesied over his son John the Baptist that he would “give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” (Luke 1:77)

But after three years of Jesus’s ministry, after failed attempts to make Him king, most people still believed He had come to overthrow the Romans and give them worldly blessings, like the endless supply of food they had witnessed on a couple of occasions. When Jesus made His final entry into Jerusalem, a giddy crowd welcomed Him with praise and adulation.

A few days later a disappointed crowd was clamoring for His death.

God’s plan is to save us and give us abundant life, but it’s not going to be through political change. Throughout history one imperfect government has been replaced by another, sometimes even worse. There have been moments of liberation and justice, and for that we are grateful. But know that God’s salvation is so much more than this world!

Imagine a grain of sand picked up from one of the beaches here in northern Michigan. How large is that grain of sand compared with the sand on the beach it was taken from?

How big is that beach compared with the Sahara Desert?

And how big is the Sahara Desert compared with all the sand under the oceans of the world?

Now consider how big that grain of sand is compared with all the sand on this planet – and every other planet that has sand?

And yet it’s still bigger than this present life compared with eternity! (Mind-boggling, isn’t it?)

Just as there’s no comparison between a grain of sand and all the beaches of the world, there’s no comparison between the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom to come. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)

So while these theories and predictions and “behind the scenes” stories can be entertaining, we should not set our hopes on them. Whatever the level of truth is in these stories, our God is so much greater than anything they promise.

He is also greater than any of the disasters we may fear. There may be very tough times ahead, but He will be there with us. Let’s keep looking to Him, so that when He appears He won’t find us living a life of distraction, but of service to Him – most importantly, sharing the good news of the gospel with anyone who will listen.

I shared this good news last week, but it bears repeating. This is the Gospel in a nutshell:

God created Man in His image, (Genesis 1:27) but Man sinned – we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) – We all die.

But God sent His Son to save us by dying on the cross in our place to pay for our sin, so that by believing in Him we can be forgiven. (II Corinthians 5:21) On the third day Jesus rose from the grave to eternal life, and those who have put their faith in Him and had their sins erased will be raised with Him. (John 3:16, Romans 8:11-12) Someday He is coming back to establish His kingdom (Matthew 24:30-31), and until then His followers on the earth are to share the gospel and bring as many people to faith in Him as we can. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Prayer: Thank You, Lord for the promise of Your coming Kingdom. Help us to serve You until that promise is fulfilled, and not to be drawn to lesser things, in Jesus’ name, amen.