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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

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.

Conspiracy, or Just Theory?

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. – I John 4:1

“The devil uses a lake of truth to hide a pint of poison.” – Hall Lindsey

For the past few months I’ve been getting articles and videos sent to me regarding news that is nowhere to be found in the mainstream media. These contain information, testimonies, and warnings from people with varying degrees of credibility, backed up by data that can be very convincing, or just plain confusing. The fact that Big Tech and the mainstream news never bring up these subjects on their “All C0vid, all the time” reports isn’t helpful, nor is their blocking or cancelling anyone who dares to ask questions about these things. The articles and videos can be interesting, frightening, infuriating, depressing, or all of the above. Sometimes they’re just entertaining, like watching a fantasy movie about an alternate universe, or a “conspiracy theory” that in the end (*gasp!*) turns out to be really happening.

Knowing about my faith, one of the senders will say something like “You’ll like this one! The guy quotes the Bible and talks about Jesus!” as if that in itself is proof that what’s being said is true. I will usually try to listen with an open mind, but when the person starts saying things that are absolutely contrary to Scripture, that’s when I put on the brakes and say, “Um… no.”

I don’t consider the minutes I’ve spent listening to these video tabloids to be wasted time, necessarily, because it has opened up conversations where I’ve been able to share what the Bible really says about the End Times, one world government, the Antichrist, the Mark of the Beast, etc. Unfortunately, opinions abound about these things, and they can’t all be right. I’m afraid a lot of them are just going to succeed in making Christians look like idiots – not that we won’t be called that and worse anyway, but we should do our best not to be deserving of the labels.

If you profess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, please, please do your homework. Before reading the latest conspiracy theory, possibly with multiple references to the Bible in or out of context, read the real Bible first. See what Jesus Himself said about the End Times, as recorded by those who heard Him say it (Matthew 24 is a good place to start.) and what His spokesmen said in their letters to the early Church. Then, when you see a verse quoted on social media, look it up and read the whole chapter, maybe even the whole book that it was taken from. Know who originally wrote it, to whom it was written, and what the circumstances were surrounding those words. You may see some similarities between then and now, but take any “lessons” with a large grain of salt, and make applications only after much prayer. (The Hal Lindsey quote would apply here.)

If you do not necessarily profess to being a Christ-follower and your reasons for hesitating to commit come from hearing some flaky conspiracy theories claiming to be Truth that are based on a random selection of Bible verses, please realize that Christ-followers are in one sense like every other demographic. Some are smarter than others. Some are more educated than others, and some know the Scriptures better than others. And some are not Christ-followers at all, they’re either counterfeits or delusional. If the person breathlessly telling you about the latest revelation regarding Donald Trump or Joe Biden or the elusive “Q” has not been to church in years, rarely if ever reads his or her Bible, and spends more time tweeting than praying, please don’t take what that person says as the “Christian perspective.”

For the record, HERE is the Christian perspective:

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 put their faith in Him and have 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)

For a more detailed picture of God’s plan to save us, see this two-part post taken from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount:

Prayer: Lord, it’s hard to hear Your voice among all the others clamoring for our attention. Help us resist the distractions, lies, false hopes in lesser things, and everything that draws us away from You, and help us fix our minds on eternity and the hope You give us, in Jesus’ name, amen.

My Spiritual Deployment

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

Last week I wrote about my memories of 9-11, how my perspective had been broadened from my own little world to things greater than myself. At the time my understanding of spiritual warfare was vague, and my prayer life was sporadic. But four years later that began to change.

It was July, 2005, when the news came that four bombs had been detonated in the London subway. People were killed, more were injured, and for the next few days there was talk again of remembering the fallen and praying for the survivors.

I was probably the only one thinking about these things on the beach that beautiful summer day, as my daughter and her friends played on their boogie boards in the fresh-water surf of Lake Michigan. I found myself getting an “attitude” – I was frustrated. Why were we always praying for the grieving after the fact? Why couldn’t we pray before the planned attacks, so this kind of thing wouldn’t happen in the first place?

I’ve long believed there’s power in praying specifically. One of my former pastors likened praying something vague like “God bless America!” to firing a shotgun into the air and hoping to hit something. – How would I know if/when that prayer is answered? But a specific prayer is more like a well-aimed rifle, it will hit its target more often. And of course, a very specific prayer is like a laser beam, which can cut through steel!

I asked the Lord how I could pray specifically against what our enemies had planned, when I didn’t know where or even who they were or what they had planned. The Still, Small Voice seemed to whisper, “Pray against what they have planned today.”

The kids were still playing in the water, so while I watched them, I prayed for anyone planning to be suicide bombers that day, that God would plant enough doubt in their minds to make them hesitant and enough fear in their hearts to change their minds. I prayed He would show them a way of escape and take them to where they would be safe, and where they could hear the gospel.

I prayed for those terrorists who weren’t going to change in the next 24 hours – that their communications would fail, their computers would crash, their cell phones die, their transportation would break down, their calculations would be wrong, their timing would be off, their weapons would malfunction, and their bombs would fail to detonate. I prayed that their whole camp would be thrown into confusion, that every plan would fail, and that they would realize their failure was due to their serving the wrong God. I prayed they would seek the one true God, find Him, and spend the rest of their lives serving Him even more passionately than they were serving the enemy that day.

I prayed for the removal of terrorists who would never change, before they had a chance to drag anyone else down to hell with them.

I prayed for all those who were the targets of terrorism, that they would be shielded and their lives spared, that they would find Christ if they didn’t already know Him, and that they would serve Him gratefully for the rest of their lives.

I prayed for every branch of our military by name, for our nation’s intelligence, security, and law enforcement. I prayed that any terrorists that might have infiltrated their ranks would be rooted out, rendered harmless, even transformed into allies.

As it turned out, there was a lot I could pray about, even not knowing specifics of our enemies’ plans.

The next day a story on the news grabbed my attention: Four more bombs had been planted in the London subway.

All four bombs were duds; no one was hurt.

I was stunned, even realizing I should not be surprised. God had answered my prayers of the day before, possibly the prayers of others who had been led to pray the same way I had. Had I just joined a spiritual army of sorts? Was it possible that in this “war on terror,” prayer was the answer to defeating the invisible enemy?

It occurred to me that if the failure of that bombing was in answer to my prayers the day before, it was because I prayed against what was planned for that day.

But today was another day …

Thus began my journey of broad yet narrow prayers, focusing on one day at a time. I figure I have prayed along the lines of what I prayed that first day over 5,500 times. At one point, I questioned whether this was an example of the “vain repetitions” Jesus spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 6:7) But as hard as it may be to believe, I haven’t lost my passion. After all, yesterday I was praying for yesterday, and today I’m praying for today, so it’s a fresh request every day. And I never know when there will be another story on the news about an answer to those prayers, which cause me to believe that whatever “army” I’m a part of is making history. (This is something for me to keep in mind next time the enemy tells me how unimportant I am in the grand scheme of things.)

Has God called you to daily, intensive prayer in a certain area?

Prayer: Lord, the world makes judgments about our importance or lack thereof. Your Word tells us we have all sinned and fallen short of Your glory, so none of us is sufficient in ourselves. And yet, You have numbered the hairs on our head, so none of us is insignificant to You. Help each of us to be faithful in whatever You have called us to do. In Jesus’ name, amen.

9-11, plus 20

God is our refuge and strength,                                                                                                       an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,                                                                                                                                 

“Be still, and know that I am God;                                                                                                   I will be exalted among the nations,                                                                                   I will be exalted in the earth.”                                 Psalm 46:1,2,10

Tomorrow will mark the twentieth anniversary of the dark day known as “9-11.” Many will be looking back and remembering where they were when they got the news and how it impacted their lives. Some will remember loved ones who died that day, and the all-too-familiar pain of grief will return.

For me that day was when I realized how small my world was. I had just begun a new middle school teaching job, and my biggest concern that morning had been the parents’ night coming up and what my students would do for their presentation.

But for the next few days, as I was glued to the television more than I had been for years, I realized some other things:

Life is uncertain. We can’t assume everything will continue as it has or even that we’ll still be here tomorrow.

There are people who hate us. I was one of those people who wanted everyone to like me. I was sensitive and would be crushed if anyone said an unkind word to me. I would also assume in that situation that I somehow had it coming and spend the rest of the day wondering what was wrong with me. That dark day I realized there are people who just hate us. Period.

Not everyone thinks the way we do. The kind of evil America witnessed that day was unfathomable for most of us. I don’t personally know anyone who would resort to murder of one person, no matter what that person may have done to us. And yet on 9-11 we were forced to see that there were people in the world whose minds could be set on murdering those they hated, for whatever reason, along with anyone and everyone else who had the misfortune to be in the line of fire. They wouldn’t even mind killing themselves along with their enemies.

There are some incredibly brave, selfless people in the world. Hearing descriptions of firefighters running into the burning buildings as everyone else was running out, as well as the courageous passengers of Flight 93 who sacrificed their lives to save others, my disillusionment with evil people was balanced out by awe and admiration for the heroes of that day.

The world has problems much bigger than any of us. And yet, we have a God who is bigger than all of it. The Lord has given His children access to Him through prayer. It was through this realization that I began to take seriously the “War on Terror” and become a part of the battle – something I never would have thought I’d be qualified to do.

It seems that after a national disaster the country comes together for a season. People are focused outside themselves, the churches are filled, and there is a sense of something greater than the world we can see from day to day. But over time the crowds at church thin out, and most of us go back to the mundane lives we’ve grown accustomed to – that is, until the next disaster hits.

Americans are not unique that way. Anyone who has read the Old Testament history of the Jews (God’s chosen people, Israel) would recognize the pattern. Israel would get into trouble – a conquering army, harsh rulers, slavery, starvation – and would cry out to God. God would answer and deliver them from their troubles. They would rejoice and be grateful – for a while. Then they would go back to “business as usual,” stray, forget about God, indulge in selfish behavior, and even worship idols. The Lord would discipline them with more hard times, another army or a plague, and they would cry out to Him for help again.

It makes me wonder what would happen if a nation ever returned to God and stayed.

Unfortunately it’s human nature to take the path of least resistance, and going back to our old ways takes less effort than seeking God’s will daily and doing it. But we don’t have to settle for easy and boring! When I began to pray daily against terrorism, I began to notice stories in the news that I saw as answers to my prayers. These were events that had major impacts on the lives of others who were strangers to me. The thought of being part of these events excited me and motivated me to pray more.

I have a file folder full of these stories – and these are just the ones I’ve seen and saved. They are stories of thwarted terrorist attacks, some foiled by the authorities and some stopped by ordinary citizens who “saw/heard something suspicious.” Some attacks failed because a car bomb or shoe bomb didn’t detonate.

Some failed because the perpetrator had a change of heart! Those are my favorite stories – where a former would-be terrorist is now a child of God – an evangelist, a church planter, an igniter of revival. (Glory!)

9-11 was just one example of the evil that people are capable of. But we don’t have to stand helplessly wringing our hands over what is going on in the world. We can be a part of what God is doing to redeem Humanity, if we’ll get off the sidelines and get involved in the battle.

As my new favorite t-shirt says, “If being a Christian is boring, you’re doing it wrong.”

Prayer: Lord, we understand so little about the power of prayer, just that You want us to do it. Thank You for all the times You have proven true to Your promises and answered us when we cried out to you. Help us to be faithful, too, in whatever we’re called to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Praying the Prodigal Home

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

In my daily prayers I begin by offering (rededicating) my body as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and my mind, to be renewed by Him. (Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8) I also give Him my heart (Ezekiel 36:26), asking Him to make my heart more like His.

Lately I have come to realize that this is a dangerous thing to ask, because if my heart is like His, that means my heart will be broken by the same things that break the Father’s heart. And that can be painful!

I believe one of the things that breaks our Father’s heart the most is when one of His children go astray. As a parent I know that what hurts my child hurts me – and sometimes hurts me more than it seems to be hurting the child at the time.

The heart of an adult prodigal’s parent is especially prone to breakage. Though a mother would willingly lay down her life for her child, and though she may know what is best for him, she also knows that she can no longer make life decisions for him. Every human being – even the child of loving, godly parents – has the power to choose evil over good, and children often don’t anticipate the future consequences of their choices. But parents can, and when their warnings are ignored, all they can do is watch him make bad choices and pray for him.

But that “last resort” is highly underrated!

I think one reason prayer is so underestimated is that answers seldom come instantly, and in our age of microwaves, ATMs, and drive-up windows, we expect them to. But Galatians 6:9 tells us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.”

Recently I was praying for one such prodigal, and I found myself praying some verses I knew. I love praying Scripture. It reinforces truth in my mind and heart and gives me assurance that I am praying God’s will.

The verses were from Psalm 139, about the God who sees and knows everything about me, and how I am never out of His reach. I have prayed that Psalm over myself, but when I prayed it over this prodigal, it took on new meaning. I was applying these truths to someone who may not be aware of them at the moment, but that doesn’t matter to God. Nor does it matter that I don’t know where that person is or what she’s doing; God does.

Realizing these things, I prayed the whole psalm, committing the prodigal to the One who knows and loves her:

Oh Lord, You have searched her, and You know her.

You know when she sits and when she rises; You perceive her thoughts from afar.

You discern her going out and her lying down; You are familiar with all her ways.

Before a word is on her tongue [or cell phone or social media page] You know it completely, O Lord.

You hem her in, behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon her.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for her, too lofty for her to attain.

Where can she go from Your spirit? Where can she flee from Your presence?

If she goes up to the heavens, You are there; if she makes her bed in the depths, You are there.

If she rises on the wings of the dawn, if she settles on the far side of the sea,

Even there Your hand will guide her; Your right hand will hold her fast.

If she says, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

Even the darkness will not be dark to You: the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.

For You created her inmost being; you knit her together in her mother’s womb.

I praise You, because she is fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Her frame was not hidden from You when she was made in the secret place.

When she was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw her unformed body.

All the days ordained for her were written in Your book before one of them came to be.

How precious concerning her are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Were she to count them, they would, outnumber the grain of sand. When she awakes, she is still with You.

If only You would slay the wicked, O God! Away from her, you bloodthirsty men!

They speak of You with evil intent; Your adversaries misuse Your name.

Does she not hate those who hate You, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against You?

She has nothing but hatred for them; she counts them her enemies.

Search her, O God, and know her heart; test her and know her anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in her, and lead her in the way everlasting.”

For the most part, this psalm fits what I am praying for this “prodigal.” But I’d like to clarify the lines about “bloodthirsty men” and God’s adversaries, because centuries after David wrote this psalm, Jesus gave His followers the shocking command to love their enemies.

As one who loves a prodigal, as much as I want to wish ill on those who are a bad influence, I know they, too, are possibly stray sheep who need prayer, as well. Hard as it is, we should also be praying for them, that they too will be brought to repentance and brought (back) into the loving arms of the Father.

When I read in Scripture about God’s adversaries, I don’t see humans, but rather “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) Those fallen angels are at work to destroy us and our children – and the ones they work through to mislead our prodigal.

So, let us commit to God both the prodigal and his/her friends to be brought to repentance and home to their Father, where they belong.

Prayer: Lord, give us hearts that don’t give up. We entrust our prodigals to You, knowing they are in good hands. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Murphy, My Muse

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. – Isaiah 55:8

If you have been reading this blog for any time, you know that many of my stories are based on “Murphy’s Law,” (“Anything that can go wrong, will.”) – and on Romans 8:28 (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”) When we see everything going “wrong” and later find out “it’s all good,” we have the privilege of gaining “divine perspective.” I have come to the conclusion that if there is a Murphy, he’s an angel whose assignment is to keep us all humble, patient, and grateful.

I had one of those “Murphy days” Monday. The schedule was – I thought – a simple one: Stop by the hospital for a blood draw at 8:30, proceed to another appointment about 10 minutes away at 9:15, then get home in time to grab coffee/breakfast/brunch with my daughter Kelly before she left to go back to her home town. The only negative in my day was that I had to fast for the blood draw. But I figured that would make breakfast with Kelly all the sweeter.

Then Murphy showed up.

I realized on the way that I had forgotten my cell phone, but going back for it would put me behind on everything, so I proceeded to the hospital.

Stuck in the waiting room with no cellular diversions, I did physical therapy on my hands and tried to focus on prayers. As the minutes ticked by, I felt the stress/impatience growing, and my prayers centered on my attitude. (Since my earrings displayed the words “Amazing Grace,” I didn’t want to deny that grace by acting like a jerk.)

I’m not sure what the hold-up was; I was puzzled to see one or two nurses standing around the lab, looking bored. After about a half hour, I went to the window to reschedule. I was told if I could stay just a little longer … I said I couldn’t, I had another appointment. (I didn’t want to be charged for a missed appointment, through circumstances beyond my control.) They said I could come back later.

As I drove past my street, I thought wistfully of how I had looked forward to grabbing a cup of coffee on my way to my second appointment, but then realized that because of the fasting order I probably shouldn’t, anyway.

Arriving at my second appointment, still without a phone to call from the parking lot as requested, I went in and waited for the receptionist to get off the phone. I was seated, waited in the waiting room, waited in the examining room, had my exam, and hurried back to the hospital.

By that time there were zero parking spots, and as I joined the other cars circling like vultures, I saw a man get into his car. I sat with my blinker on, waiting for him to leave but after a few minutes realized he was reading over all his paperwork. After another quick prayer for my attitude, I walked over and tapped on his window.

“Excuse me, are you leaving?” I asked – smiling. He said “Yes,” apologetically, I said “Thanks,” and he pulled out.

Back at the lab, the waiting room was full. Not wanting to be “that person,” I nevertheless asked as sweetly as I could if I had been placed at the end of the line again …

[Yep.]

More prayers for patience, followed by a couple of pleasant conversations with others who were waiting. One of them let me borrow her phone to send Kelly a message. The other said she liked my earrings.

At about 11:00 I was called back and sat in the little room there waiting for the blood draw. After a few more minutes of fantasizing about coffee and listening to my stomach growl, the nurse came in and said, “Take off your face covering.”

I gladly removed it. “Um … why?” I asked, confused. The nurse laughed.

“I can’t get to your nose through it.” … My nose?

Next thing I knew I had a long stick up my nose, as I told her I was there for a blood draw, not a Covid test!

She glanced at the chart, said, “Your chart says ‘Covid test,'” and shoved a second stick up the other nostril.

(Now I was REALLY praying for my attitude.)

“No, I’m hear for a blood draw. It was supposed to happen at 8:30 this morning. And I haven’t had any food – or coffee – today,” I added with mock desperation. We both chuckled.

“Uh-oh,” said the nurse, “are you gonna get mean?”

I smirked. “If I do, just know it’s not you, it’s me,” I warned. She left to talk to my doctor.

[More waiting. More prayers. More attitude work.]

At last I got the blood draw, and after some joking around, I told her I was a writer, and opined that “If everything always went as planned, what would I write about?” She laughed and asked about what I wrote. I ended up leaving her one of my cards – which I wouldn’t have dared to do if I had let my impatience turn me into a seething monster.

As I drove home, I was thinking blissfully, at long last my morning (barely) coffee was merely blocks away!

But Murphy …

As the funeral procession passed, I pulled over to pay my respects. And wait some more …

OK, Murphy, I get it. There are people in those cars having a way worse day than I’m having.

Now I was finally praying for someone besides myself. And as my thoughts and prayers went out to the mourners and on to the horrific things happening all over the world, I knew how blessed (SPOILED) I am.

Thanks, Murphy.

Prayer: Father, help us to focus beyond our own needs and wants. We know that You have promised to supply all our needs according to Your glorious riches in Christ Jesus,* and that if we delight in You, You will give us the desires of our hearts.** Help us to step beyond ourselves and use the power of prayer You’ve given us to impact the world in a significant way, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

*Philippians 4:19 ** Psalm 37:4

What Now?

With all that has been happening in the past few days, nothing in my “drafts” folder seems appropriate – no stories of serendipity in the relatively carefree life of a retired American, no ponderings about where we as Christians stand on issues of medical decisions and relating to individuals with various points of view that differ from ours. For many people on the other side of the world, their world is ending, and chaos sounds like the closing notes.

That we should be praying for them is a no-brainer. How we can otherwise help them seems hopelessly out of reach. Our tears don’t protect them from bullets, and our hand-wringing won’t get them from where they are to where they need to be.

Are there any answers at this point? God knows. I mean, literally, God knows. And since this blog is called “Seeking Divine Perspective,” which I believe we all are doing at this point, I want to repost a piece I wrote a couple of years ago. It won’t tell you specifically what you should do now, but this is, according to Scripture, Jesus’ perspective on the history of the world.

“[H]ow shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?                                                                                                                                                           Hebrews 2:3

I recently saw “Edge of Tomorrow,” the 2014 sci-fi film starring Tom Cruise. The film takes place in the future, as an alien invasion threatens the existence of humanity. Major William Cage [Cruise] has been accused of treason and forcibly sent into battle, where he is killed, along with every other member of the mission.

But then he wakes up, back in handcuffs, and is forced to relive the last day of his life again.

And again. And again. And AGAIN.

(“War of the Worlds” meets “Groundhog Day.”)

With each consecutive life Cage learns more about his situation, the people and creatures involved, and what not to do to get killed (along with the rest of Mankind), only to perish in another way and wake up, handcuffed, to try again.

At first Cage does all he can to convince the officers around him to believe him when he tries to tell them what is happening to him, and what is about to happen to all of them. He accurately states details about them and predicts what they are about to say (same things they said last time), but though they are baffled, they’re unyielding. So they continue to send the troops out in a “surprise attack,” only to be slaughtered by enemies who were expecting them – that Cage knew were expecting them.

How many of us have tried unsuccessfully to pass on the wisdom of our own life lessons? (And all the parents said, “Amen!”) Like Major Cage, we know that people ignore our warnings to their own peril, but screaming louder only convinces them that the messenger is crazy.

And how many of us have ignored the admonitions of others and ended up regretting it? Their shrill warnings have sounded crazy to us, so we write them off as madmen. (Indeed, there have been madmen making false predictions in the past, thus the dilemma.)

However, there is One who transcends time and space, One who has seen the future – He’s been there. Although His predictions are accurate, He, too, is ignored by multitudes of people. But we should heed His warnings, because He is not only all-knowing, He is all-loving. He has made the future known to us in His Word (the Bible). Some of His predictions are:

  • That conditions in the world – floods, wars, plagues, and famine – will increase in frequency and intensity. (Matthew 24: 7 & 8)
  • That the enemy of our souls will send false saviors, false miracles, and lies. We are to be on our guard against them and not be deceived; our only true Savior is Jesus Christ. (Matthew 24: 4-5, 11, 23-27)
  • That persecution of Christians will increase (Matthew 24: 9-10, John 15: 18-25; 16: 2-3) , but that we should persevere, because
  • Jesus is coming back for us, (John 14:18) to take those who are faithful away with Him to an everlasting reward (I Corinthians 15: 51-57). *                                                                                                                                                                                                              In “Edge of Tomorrow,” Cage’s goal is to save the world. God’s promises are infinitely better. The consequences for failure to heed Him are also infinitely worse.                                                                                                                                                                If we don’t get it right in regard to God’s truths, we will end up in the wrong place.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                For eternity.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Think about it: Get it right, spend eternity in a perfect place, in perfect bliss, with the perfect heavenly Father, being the Bride of His Son, the Prince of Peace.                                                                                                                                                                      Get it wrong, spend eternity away from his presence, in everlasting darkness, pain, misery, and regret.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                News, blogs, and self-help articles suggest a lot of New Year’s resolutions. But the best we can do in this new year is heed God’s warnings, and live for Him, day by day, from now on.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         For those who have never placed their faith in Him, the starting point is to acknowledge our sins, our powerlessness to help ourselves, and our need to change.  And since Jesus is the only One who paid for our sins Himself by willingly dying on the cross, the next step is to surrender our flawed lives to Him, with a willingness to abandon our sinful ways and follow Him.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      For all of us, the way to know His mind and heart is to read the Bible. The better we know God’s Word, the better prepared we will be for what’s to come.
  • Prayer: Lord God, who sees the end from the beginning, thank You for giving us a glimpse into the future through You Word. Forgive us for all the times we have ignored Your warnings. We thank You for holding back Your judgment, giving us time to heed Your Word and repent. We thank You for receiving us as Your beloved children the moment we place our faith in You. And thank You that we can follow You confidently into the future, knowing that You’ve already been there, for You transcend time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
  • * There are many, many scriptures describing the future for this world and for believers in Jesus Christ. Those cited here are just a few. To be best informed, read the Bible regularly.

P.S. If you do not have a Bible and would like one, email me at bascha3870@yahoo.com, and I will be happy to send you one.

For Whose Glory?

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. – Colossians 3:17

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. – Revelation 12:11

Last week I posted about Sydney McLaughlin, the American runner who won gold at the Olympics in the 400-meter hurdles. What made her stand out to me was her unashamed testimony for Jesus Christ in the past, and what I anticipated she would say after winning the gold. The reporter who spoke briefly with McLaughlin and her friend and teammate, silver medalist Dalilah Muhammad, asked about their partnership and their “iron sharpening iron” relationship that had made them both unbeatable. It wasn’t a long interview, and though the winner blurted “Glory to God!” at one point, she wasn’t given an opportunity to say much else. No matter, I’m confident she will testify to the goodness of God in her life in many future interviews.

Another sport, which I unfortunately missed – and admittedly know nothing about – was rugby. The winner of the gold in that event was the team from Fiji, a relatively tiny nation of islands in the Pacific, who defeated the team from New Zealand. Overwhelmed with joy, the Fijians responded to their victory with a prayer and a song of praise.

I’m guessing that the first verse is in one of the languages spoken in Fiji, but if you listen carefully, the second is in English: “We have overcome, by the blood of the lamb, and the word of the Lord, we have overcome.” (Revelation 12:11) And lest anyone else is like me and didn’t recognize at first what they were singing, a couple of the players pointed to heaven for emphasis.

Most of us won’t have an opportunity to praise the Lord in front of the entire world, but we can live out the assignment He has given us each day in front of whoever He brings our way. When we succeed, we can either take the credit ourselves for everything “we accomplish,” or give the glory to the One who gave us life, health, ability, opportunity, strength, energy, and endurance to complete the race set before us. We can glorify Jesus in our world – our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers we encounter along the way. We have a great treasure to share, our life in Christ – the forgiveness, the rebirth, the blessings of His promises that He never breaks, and the hope of eternal life with Him.

And by the way, we don’t have to be “winners” to glorify Christ. At the most crucial moment in history, Jesus appeared to be the ultimate loser – abandoned by His friends, beaten, mocked, spit on, and nailed to a cross for all to witness His agonizing death. But days later He rose as the ultimate Victor. He didn’t stay in the grave, and we won’t, either, if we are His followers! At those frustrating times we don’t succeed, we may have an even greater opportunity to show His impact on our lives. After all, anyone can be joyful when they win, but Christ-followers know that He works all things together for our good, even the times of “losing.” (Romans 8:28)

Jesus gave His followers the Great Commission, to go out into all the world and tell everyone about Him. Many, many people are hungry, even desperate, for the life we have in Him. Just know that whether or not we are famous, the world is watching. Each of us has our part to play.

This is a short post for me. I know your time is valuable, but I hope you will take 45 seconds of it to experience this divine moment with these brothers of mine, whom I will meet (and sing with) someday.

Prayer: Dear God from Whom all blessings flow, we thank You for life and breath and another day to live for You. Thank You for making each of us unique and giving us whatever tools we need to carry out Your will for us each day. Make us instruments that give You glory wherever You have called us, in Jesus’ name, Amen.