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 be 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.