Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. – I Corinthians 9: 24-25
A few days ago I had never heard of American runner Sydney McLaughlin. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am not a big sports fan, unless I personally know a participant, or if it’s the Olympics. But lately I have been introduced to a young lady who has impressed not only the world, but even this little non-sports fan. What captured my attention was a post quoting her after she had broken a record for running before the Olympics. Not knowing anything else about her, I knew immediately that she was my sister, that someday I will meet her, and that in the next few days I will be watching for her and rooting for her. I can’t wait to hear her use her platform to give glory to Jesus again, to the whole world.
Monday night McLaughlin ran in the women’s 400-meter hurdles semifinals and predictably came in first. I cheered out loud. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have done that watching sports. (Did I say “one hand”? Make that “one finger.”)
Tuesday night I watched again – and cheered again – as she passed the other contenders and won gold, followed immediately by her good friend Dalilah Muhammad, winning the silver. The two had been challenging each other and making each other better and better. The phrase “Iron sharpening iron” was used more than once, a quote attributed to McLaughlin, although McLaughlin was quoting the Bible. (“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17) Their inspiring relationship has won them respect from people all over the world.
In honor of Sydney’s accomplishments, and her 22nd birthday tomorrow (August 7), I want to share with my readers this article about a woman who truly has “divine perspective.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your body is made up of so many members, and although we don’t all have the same function, we are one. Thank You for members like Sydney McLaughlin, who accomplish great things, who have the eyes and ears of the world on them, and who use that platform to give You glory. Thank You that we too have assignments uniquely prepared for us, and although our audience is probably far smaller, may we be faithful in what You’ve called us to do, even if it is for an “audience of One.” Thank You for not judging us by earthly accomplishments as the world does, but by our faithfulness in whatever task You send us to do. May we stay faithful and not let the enemy convince us that because we aren’t famous, our witness isn’t still of utmost importance to You. In Your name, amen.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. –Acts 2:5
After Jesus’ resurrection He spent forty days with His disciples, teaching them and preparing them for their mission. “[Y]ou will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”(Acts 1:8b) To fulfill this monumental task, Jesus promised them they would be“clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) Meanwhile they were to stay in Jerusalem until they received that power. (Acts 1:4-5) With these final instructions, Jesus was taken up into sky.
The Great Commission – to “make disciples of all nations” – was quite an assignment for an unlikely band of ordinary men and women. But with God all things are possible, and a few days later they received the promised power of the Holy Spirit.
As usual, God’s timing was impeccable. Pentecost – the Jewish Feast of Weeks – brought Jews to Jerusalem from all over the Roman world. Conveniently, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples – a group of about 120 people – the morning of the day of Pentecost, and as the believers began miraculously praising God in many different languages they had never learned, a crowd came together in amazement. They recognized the believers as Galileans, but they were hearing praises in their own languages! Some scoffed and accused the disciples of being drunk.
Peter, the disciple who had denied Jesus three times in moments of fear, now stood boldly before the crowd and explained the gospel to them – how Jesus had come in fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Jewish Messiah, died at the hands of sinful men, and rose from the dead on the third day. He explained that what they were seeing was the outpouring of the Spirit that had been promised, and he urged them to repent, believe in Jesus as the Christ, be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, and receive the promised the Holy Spirit.
It was an effective sermon – about three thousand were baptized that day. When the Feast of Weeks was over, all the people who had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate returned to their countries – taking the gospel with them!
This past week there has been another gathering of people from all over the world – the Olympics. The world’s best athletes, who have been training for years preparing to compete, have gathered in Tokyo, Japan, while the eyes of the nations are on them. For each of them this will be the experience of a lifetime – an adventure that will bring changes, for better or for worse.
To those watching the Parade of Nations at the opening ceremonies, it was evident that some of the athletes had great expectations, dreams of a gold medal, or multiple gold medals. Smaller nations were represented by just a few athletes, who were clearly just excited to be there.
Expectations have a way of making or breaking a person. We have watched some break their own records, others bitterly disappointed, and some even deciding to end their careers. One man who announced he was quitting after the Olympics was quoted as saying he wanted to find out who he was without the sport he was known for. And everyone was shocked when the young lady considered the best in her sport bowed out, citing mental health issues.
It’s hard to imagine the kind of pressure these athletes have been under or the bitter disappointment of those who feel they did not meet their nation’s expectations. Even the gold medal winners can go through an identity crisis of sorts once the cheering fades. They have worked all their lives to reach this goal; now what?
Those still aiming for the fame, the recognition, the glory of winning gold might find it hard to imagine anything greater or more important than that accomplishment. But one advantage of reaching a major goal is the acquired wisdom in recognizing that there has to be more to life.
And there is. Jesus said “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10a) While many watching the Olympics with all its glory and pageantry might think the life of these athletes is full and enviable, the athletes themselves might be open to the offer of another, better life. They may be primed for an experience having nothing to do with sports, an experience that will bring blessings for the rest of their lives, and for all eternity.
I have been praying for over a year now that there will be those at the Olympic games who are in a unique position to share the gospel with the athletes, their coaches, the judges, journalists, and anyone else the Lord had placed there. Granted, there are fewer people at the games this time, but they are people who will soon be returning to their homes all over the world. Many of them are highly visible in their own countries and have a platform to share whatever is on their hearts.
Believers in Jesus in the first century were passionate about sharing the gospel; they were unstoppable. Their frustrated enemies described them as “these men who have turned the world upside down.”(Acts 17:6)
If “Jesus Christ is thesame yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), He is changing lives today, as well. The reality of death is no less sobering today than it was in the first century, and the promise of eternal life no less mind-boggling. Those who have received this unfathomable gift can’t keep it to themselves. (If you call yourself a Christian but have no desire to share the good news with others, it may be time to reexamine your faith.)
This is a last-minute request, but if you know and love Jesus, would you pray with me that the gospel is being proclaimed at the Olympics? Please ask the LORD to bring about a modern-day Pentecost, making Tokyo the hub of a world-wide movement of His Spirit.
Like those visitors to Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago, the visitors to Tokyo in 2021 may go home with far more than they were hoping for.
Prayer: LORD, be glorified at the Olympic games. Convict the lost of their sin and need for a Savior. Bring them to repentance, and give them Your promised Holy Spirit, abundance in this life, and eternal life in heaven. May they be released into the world with powerful testimonies that win millions to faith in You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
OK, that’s not quite accurate. I am not a sports fan at all, with two exceptions: 1.) When I personally know someone who’s competing, and 2.) the Olympics. With the Olympics I enjoy the events that are aesthetically pleasing, like figure skating and gymnastics. As for who’s the fastest, who’s the strongest, etc., I watch to root for the Americans. On rare occasions I’ll root for someone I know something about and like, and who has an interesting background story, whatever country they represent.
By far my favorite part of the Olympics is the night of the opening ceremonies, when no one is competing at all. (My husband finds this amusing.) As a theater person, I love the pageantry – the choreography, the music, the colorful costumes from each nation, the pyrotechnics and other special effects – the elaborate production presented by the host country.
Most of all, I love the “Parade of Nations,” when hundreds of athletes enter the stadium with their teams and their flags.
And their faces! I love the looks of excitement and wonder as they smile and wave to the spectators and their friends back home, taking videos and “selfies.” Some are hamming it up, and it’s clear that others can scarcely believe they’re really here! I love the diversity in the faces of these people from all over the world, every one of them created in God’s image.
This year the parade was different. The bleachers were empty, and nearly every athlete was masked. With half their faces hidden, they nevertheless entered energetically, waving enthusiastically, some dancing or jumping in excitement. Though unable to see their smiles, my heart still went out to every one of them.
(Translation: I was in tears most of the time.)
I want to hug all of them!
That same feeling has overwhelmed me at another time some years ago when I was out West with my sister. It was a feeling far more intense than admiration for the gorgeous landscape.
There was another “parade of nations” going on, and we were a part of as we walked along the Lower Rim of the Grand Canyon. One of my first blog posts ever, entitled “A Heart Like His,” described the experience. I was planning to repost it, but as it just disappeared before my eyes, (Oh goody, a chance to exercise patience...) I’ll have to write it again and paraphrase:
A HEART LIKE HIS
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26
Truly one of God’s most amazing creations is the Grand Canyon. I have been there several times with my Arizona sister on some of our annual “sisterly adventures.” The canyon seems to have infinite variety at every turn – different colors, rock formations, vegetation, even totally different looks at different times of day as the shadows shift, and the hues with them.
But this particular time when I was there with my sister Susie and her friend Bill, I was fascinated by the sea of humanity that surrounded us, even more than I was by natural beauty of the scenery.
A tall blonde woman with a Scandinavian accent asked me about a word on one of the plaques, and as I helped her pronounce it and explained its meaning, she slowly pronounced it, thanked me, and continued to gaze at the canyon. A middle-aged Japanese couple who didn’t speak a word of English gestured that they wanted their picture taken with Susie’s 80-something friend. They got on either side of him, giggling and hugging him as though he were their best friend. Bill smiled as Susie took the picture, although he seemed a little confused.
Two darling French children were posing for a picture for their parents, while some young German students laughed heartily at a joke no one else understood. Two black men conversed in a beautiful language I couldn’t identify.
A young mother had stopped to rest, smiling and talking to her baby in a stroller. An elderly couple who seemed to have been together forever, walked hand-in-hand, evidently content to say nothing.
Surrounded by many races, languages, and ages, I noticed some things that weren’t happening. No one seemed angry. No one was arguing politics. No one had an agenda. No one was trying to control anyone else. We all seemed to be in agreement (How often does that happen?) and were there for one thing, to stand in awe of this masterpiece of God, although admittedly not everyone there would have called it that.
As the incredibly beautiful diversity of faces passed by and I pondered what it was about this “United Nations at the Canyon” that was moving me to tears, I made a surprising discovery:
I was in love with everybody!
I then remembered that recently I had begun praying for “divine perspective.” I wanted to see everything – especially people – the way God sees them. And today I was getting a glimpse of His heart for the world – “every people, tribe, nation, and tongue.” He was answering that prayer!
Prayer: Lord God, You’ve created every one of us, and we are each uniquely designed, yet all made in Your image. Help us to see everyone – even ourselves – in light of that truth, in Jesus’ name, amen.
PS If you aren’t sure whether you will be part of that “parade of nations” entering heaven someday, if you don’t feel like “heaven material” because of your flaws, mistakes, blunders, and downright sin, know that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But God the Father sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, the perfect Man, to pay the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross in our place. By believing in Him and becoming His followers, we can be forgiven through Him and adopted into His family. You can read more about this in the third chapter of the Gospel of John in the Bible. If you do not have a Bible, email me at email@example.com, and I will gladly send you one.
The LORD your God is with you,he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. – Zephaniah 3:17
I’m in the middle of a long-awaited visit from my son and his family. Long-awaited, because we don’t live in the same state, and also because the pandemic kept us apart for a big chunk of the last year and a half.
I have noticed a little difference in my older grandson, Parker, who is ten years old now, but there’s no doubt he’s the same kid I spent a week with five years ago.
His mother was recovering from the birth of his new baby brother, Kaplan. The whole family was adjusting to the new dynamics, transitioning from a family of three to a family of four, and my job was to make sure Parker still felt important and didn’t get bored. He got my undivided attention for most of the week, as we baked “Nana muffins,” did crafts, dug in a block of clay for dinosaur bones and assembled them into a stegosaurus, built “the most awesome Hot Wheels track ever!” using books as ramps and couch cushions as tunnels, and discovered all the great properties of balloons, including the fact that if you rubbed them on the carpet you could stick them all over the wall and they’d stay. We read books, went grocery shopping together, and colored pictures to welcome the new baby.
Today Parker is still an energetic, critter-loving guy, bursting with enthusiasm, whatever the activity.
Kaplan, now five, has changed more than Parker has, at least in regards to “Nana.” He was pleasantly playful during our last few visits, which were too short and far apart for us to do much bonding. But this time I can tell something has changed.
A day or two after the family arrived, everyone except “Nana” went to the beach. I stayed home and packed sandwiches and snacks, walked the dog, answered some emails, and then went to join them.
As I started down the steep steps to the beach, a little voice cried out, “NANA!!! – Hey Beepaw! Nana’s here!” I can’t remember when I was last greeted with that much enthusiasm – by someone who not only was happy to see me, but was also eager to share the good tidings – “Nana’s here!” To say my heart was warmed would not do justice to that moment.
The next morning when I emerged from the bedroom and walked into the living room, I found most of the family hanging out on the chairs and couches, engaged on their devices. I said “Good morning,” answered by preoccupied grunts from most of the clan. But Kaplan looked up from what he was doing, and his little face lit up with joy.
“NANA!” he squealed again, jumping up and trying to get to me for a hug. “Beepaw’s” legs were blocking the way.
“Move your feet!” I barked. – I wanted that hug! Kaplan managed to squeeze through and when he reached me, he gave me the biggest, happiest hug. Patting my back, he said, “How ya doin’?”
It amazes me how someone so much smaller than I am, who isn’t strong or educated or savvy or rich or impressive as far as the world is concerned, can light up my day in a split second, delight my soul, and make my heart feel as if it will burst with joy. It makes me think of something I consider and pray about every day.
Have you ever wondered what in the world you could give to God? He is the Creator of the world. He knows everything, He owns everything, He has power over everything. He is forever and infinite; we are finite. I think of my own sinfulness, my inadequacies, my blunders. Then I think of what Jesus went through for me. The only One who didn’t deserve to suffer, who didn’t have to do anything He didn’t want to, willingly died on the cross to pay for my sins, so that I could be forgiven and be welcomed into His family as His child.
After Jesus did all that for me, today I want to make Him happy! I don’t want Him to suffer any more for me, or even just tolerate me, I want to make Him smile! I want Him to laugh with pleasure! I don’t want to be a child that frustrates Him or grieves Him or embarrasses Him, I want to be the child He delights in.
So how do I do that? Today I took some “divine perspective” from Kaplan. What gives Nana pleasure just might be what gives our heavenly Father pleasure, too.
When I spend time in prayer or Bible reading or worship, do I do it with joyful anticipation of Jesus’ showing up? Do I delight in His presence and want to run into His arms? Do I joyfully share with others that “He’s real! He’s here! He loves us!”? Could it be that we have the power to make the Lord happy – that if we delight in Him, He delights in us?
We study the Word of God to understand Who He is and what He’s done, to know truth, and to get our theology right, and this is very important. But in our searching for knowledge let’s not forget to take time simply to delight in the One we’re studying. We can never know all He knows, we can never give a fraction of what He gives, we can never outwork Him. But as His beloved children, we can still make Him smile, maybe even laugh with pleasure, when we take pleasure in Him.
Prayer: Jesus, You suffered so much for us, and it grieves us that our sin caused You so much pain. Today we want to cause You to rejoice, to smile, to laugh with pleasure. Help us to give back to You the joy You give us. We want to be the children You delight in, nothing less. In Jesus’ name, amen.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. I Peter 3:13-16
I recently read a post on social media that caught my attention. It wasn’t aimed at me personally, but I found myself reacting, because in referring to “people like you,” I knew I probably qualified as one of “those people.”
What was the massive offense “people like me” do that makes us “what’s wrong with America”?
We believe in the right to life.
I have had three babies of my own, and five grandchildren I have held in my arms, not to mention all the newborns of friends and couples in our church where I serve in the nursery on occasion. These precious little people are to me a picture of pure innocence, created in the image of God. These little ones are utterly helpless, dependent on us older, less innocent people to provide for, protect, and defend them – a duty I take very seriously. To harm one of these is to attack the purest image of God, and I make no apologies for holding that belief.
But apparently because I value the sanctity of human life at its earliest stages, it I assumed that I have no concern for children who have already been born. Many of these are abused, have special needs, or live in poverty, and it is assumed that “people like me” don’t care about those children.
…Really? Is there a legal limit to one’s capacity to care, and have I somehow used up all mine on the preborn?
Just FYI, Mister, I have volunteered my time with several ministries that care for kids in the inner city, as well as at a children’s hospital. I’ve helped my fellow Christians feed hungry children (and their impoverished parents) all over the world. I have sponsored needy children for decades, and at the present time I have four of them who consider me “mummy.” Most of the people I know who are pro-life have done similar things. (How many children do you support, Sir?)
Apparently we are also assumed guilty of other crimes, such as dumping toxic waste into the oceans. How defending the unborn precludes caring for the environment is beyond me, but there are apparently those who have come to that conclusion. As I wrote in a former blog about strengthening our immune systems vs. hand washing – “Can’t we do both?” Sir, why do you see caring about society’s most helpless and caring for their environment as mutually exclusive convictions?
Just so you know, I recycle everything from plastic, to clothes, to water. (Yes, I look pretty silly with my bucket, flushing the toilet with yesterday’s bath water, but hey, no one’s watching…) I have been married to someone with a degree in environmental engineering for nearly five decades, and before he retired, when I was supportive of him, I was being supportive of what he was doing to make the world a cleaner, better place.
I guess my chief question for this individual who has so much contempt for “people like me” is this:
Just what exactly were you hoping to accomplish with such a post? What kind of response do you expect to receive from such a venomous attack on so many people, most of whom you have never met? Is this your idea of making the world better? Do we need more hostility, more bigotry, more polarization?
(Could it be – just maybe – that it’syour kind of attitude that is what’s wrong with America?)
My final FYI to you, Sir:
As much as you may hate me and people like me, I want you to know, I do not hate you. You are clearly an unhappy person, and I can’t help wondering what it is that you are really so angry about.
I wonder, because on past occasions I’ve lashed out at people who had nothing to do with my real struggles. But I found Someone who understands and who gave Himself to die for all my sins, flaws, and mistakes. The incredible sacrifice Jesus made to save me and give me eternal life makes me willing to do whatever He asks of me. And what He asks of me is this:
“Love God. Love people – not just your friends and neighbors, but also the poor, the weak, the helpless, and[the most amazing command of all]love your enemies.”
You may consider me your enemy, but I do not hate you. I have been commanded to love you by Him who IS love. I believe if everyone who claims the name of Jesus would do this, we could be what’s right in America. We could fulfill God’s Word that says,
“Do not be overcomeby evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
Prayer: Lord God, there are those who make assumptions about us, and we are tempted to react in anger. Help us to do better. Rather than argue, let our lives, lived for You, speak volumes, so that those who criticize us may not only be ashamed of their slander, but that they might want to put down their rocks and join us in serving You. In Jesus’ name, Amen
“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus(John 13:34-35)
“All oppression in Western civilization has been caused by Christianity” is an opinion that seems to have been gaining popularity in recent days.
When considering such a sweeping statement involving the world’s problems over the past two thousand years, we need to start by:
Defining the terms. What exactly is meant by “Christianity”? – Is it an organized religion loosely based on a few selected Bible verses? A political establishment made with the word “Christian” attached to it to give it credibility? A cult wanting to lure the gullible away from the truth to their own warped version of “truth”?
Is the stated opinion referring one of these, or to the words of Jesus of Nazareth: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.“?
Defining terms makes a huge difference in the validity of what social media celebrities post every day. And latching onto one interpretation or the other can have far-reaching consequences. An impressionable person hearing a confident, authoritative tone of someone denouncing “Christianity” will readily respond, “Yeah! That’s right! #*&% them!” And the next guy in a Jesus t-shirt who tries to talk to him about the claims of Christ gets blamed for every evil from American slavery to the Spanish Inquisition.
Of course, before hearing this universal condemnation, chances are most listeners have had some kind of experience with what they would call “Christianity.”
One person may have spent his early childhood in poverty with an abusive, addicted parent and then been taken in by Christian foster parents, who later adopted him and gave him a loving home and a bright future. Such a person, hearing Christianity equated with oppression, would write off the statement as nonsense.
On the other hand, another person may have been abused multiple times by someone belonging to a church, and those in authority may have refused to believe one of their members had done anything wrong. That person would agree wholeheartedly (and understandably) that “Christianity is evil!”
So, I repeat, defining “Christianity” is extremely important in evaluating statements made by the enemies of the Church.
(We also need to define “the Church.”)
I propose that the logical approach is to go back to the Founder of the faith – Jesus of Nazareth – and see what exactly He taught. It only makes sense that Christ should be the one defining “Christianity.”
Jesus had many teachings, but He said there were two commandments that summed them all up:
Love theLord with all your heart, soul, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.(Matthew 22:37-40)
The child adopted by loving parents has seen these basic commandments being lived out through his family and their social circle.
The child being abused in a church has not. Destroying a child for one’s own gratification could not be considered loving by anyone’s definition. Which begs the question:
If that person had been practicing the opposite of what Jesus taught, why would he be considered “Christian” by any stretch of the imagination? He may call himself a Christian, but that only makes him a liar on top of everything else.
Religious hypocrites have been around since Jesus denounced them Himself, and probably long before that.
The Greek word for “hypocrite” means, literally, “play actor.” In a typical Sunday morning service one can usually find good people who believe in Jesus and are doing their best to follow His teachings – and people who are play-acting. (In other words, both Christians and those who are only pretending to be Christians.)
Ironically, many people reject Christianity based on the behavior of people who aren’t Christians!
The Church, as defined in Scripture, however, is not a building but a body made up of true believers in Jesus Christ world-wide. It has nothing to do with bricks and mortar, politics, or organizations. It does have to do with people who admittedly are sinners, have realized that they are, and have repented. They have accepted Jesus’ atoning death on the cross as payment for their sins and the promise of eternal life. Out of gratitude they are trying to live out their faith through love for God and others.
Are Christians perfect? Certainly not. Are they better than they were? By the grace of God, yes. This is the true Church, the “Body of Christ,” and God alone knows every one of them by name.
He also knows who is play-acting, and unfortunately history is full of those who attach the sacred name of Jesus onto every form of evil – no wonder people are confused!
If you saw a movie about Mother Teresa and later heard about something destructive, immoral, or illegal done by the actress who played the lead role, you wouldn’t judge Mother Teresa by the actions of the person who had pretended to be Mother Teresa! So why do people judge Jesus’ Church by the actions of those who are only pretending to be part of it? Can they not tell the difference?
Here’s how to differentiate between true Christ-followers and the fakes:
Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” And what are His commandments?
Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Visit the sick and imprisoned. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you,” among others.
So, if someone you encounter is consistently hateful, cruel, spiteful, and selfish, with no regard for the less fortunate (or anyone else), if that person claims to be a Christian, (s)he is a liar. (I John 4:20)
I say “consistently,” because Christians have bad days like everyone else. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t let us be content with living contrary to Christ. Repentance, apologies, and forgiveness are a regular part of life for a true Christ-follower.
So, I submit for your consideration that the words “Christian” and “hypocrite,” by their truest definitions, are mutually exclusive.
Prayer: Jesus, the world is confused about who Your people are, and they spew hatred toward Your Church. Help us not to add to the confusion with an un-Christ-like response, but rather to reflect Your light by loving our enemies and praying for those who hate You, that they may grow to love You as we do, in Your name, amen.
I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. – Psalm 104:33
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have had my struggles with my health, mainly allergies and frequent colds, bronchitis, and one summer, pneumonia. (Good grief, who gets pneumonia in the summer?! I do, apparently. – *eye roll*)
The most frustrating thing about these physical frailties has been the loss of my voice – my singing voice, and at times, even my speaking voice. I have written a few posts regarding the kind of frustration that comes with losing the ability to communicate easily.
I would like to “sing to the LORD as long as I live,” but I’ve learned that’s not something I can take for granted. Every time my voice takes a vacation, I experience the feeling of an empty space in my life, until gradually it returns, and I promise myself I will never take singing for granted ever again.
A couple of years ago I lost my singing voice for an extended period of time, even longer than usual. Over the weeks and months I sadly came to accept that at church I was to mouth the words of the songs, meditate on and appreciate their meaning, and relish the time surrounded by brothers and sisters who sang their worship in heavenly four-part harmony. I felt I was getting a brief glimpse of eternity in God’s presence, a scene of which I was not yet a part but could look forward to as I wait for that glorious “someday” when I would be singing with them – forever.
Another blessing in my life is my church home group that meets every two weeks to fellowship, discuss the recent sermons, and pray for one another. On one of those nights I was asked, as usual, “How can we pray for you?” I responded with the first thing that came to mind:
“Would you pray I get my voice back? I want to sing to the Lord!”
When the prayer time came, the hostess of the group prayed a wonderful, heartfelt prayer that the Lord would give me back my “beautiful voice” so I could sing His praises.
A couple of nights later we had our daughter’s kids over to spend the night. As I lay next to Charlotte, she asked, “Nana, would you sing to me?” Of course, my heart melted, and I “gave it the ol’ college try.”
The results were less than stellar. After my voice cracked for the fourth or fifth time, I sighed and gave up. The little one was already asleep, so she didn’t see the tears. I prayed and again committed my voice to the Lord and resolved to be patient while it ever-so-slowly came back. I already knew what to expect – little moments of clarity and hope with slowly diminishing periods of hoarseness in between, until at last I could sing again.
Sunday morning I was in church with Charlotte, and just before the service started, we needed to make a quick trip to the ladies’ room. As we walked back into the sanctuary, the congregation was singing one of my new favorite songs, and the desire to sing with them was overwhelming.
What the heck... I thought, and I impulsively began belting out the words I had memorized …
… loudly, clearly, and right on key!My voice was back! Just like that!
I had never experienced a rebound as sudden as what had just happened, and it wasn’t a momentary recovery. I sang the entire the song by heart, and my voice stayed strong for every song after that. This time the tears weren’t from frustration but from sheer joy and wonderment. This was not the agonizingly slow recovery I had been expecting.
But then, it wasn’t about what I was expecting, or what I could do, or what I had worked on. This was God, pure and simple. It was an instant miracle that left me awestruck. He did it not only to surprise and delight one of His children, but more than that, for His glory. I knew it instantly. The title of song said it all:
“Yet not I, but through Christ in Me.”
Prayer: Lord, Your gifts are so precious, never to be taken for granted. You’ve given us ways to worship You that not only please You, but fill us with joy, as well. Your Word says that You inhabit the praises of Your people, and when we sing our hearts out to You, we sense Your presence among us – and within us. Thank You for being our heavenly Father, the Lover of our souls, our Counselor, Comforter, Shepherd, Provider, Protector, Healer – our Everything! How could we not sing to You? May we sing Your praises for as long as we live! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood … Ephesians 6:12
It’s been a while since I’ve written about spiritual warfare, possibly because of all the distractions from other kinds of warfare going on in the world today. But the enemy is as real as ever, the battle as intense as ever, and our position as warriors for the kingdom of God unchanged. We may not particularly like the idea of being in a war, but as Christ-followers we have no choice.
I can already sense some readers getting uneasy, even fashionably “offended” by yet another “conspiracy theory,” so I will let Scripture speak for itself. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, read these verses, no matter how familiar they are, and be encouraged. If you are not yet a believer, consider what the most enduring book in the world has to say about the struggles we face in life.
THE ENEMY IS REAL.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith … “ – I Peter 5:8-9
GOD IS GREATER THAN THE ENEMY
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. – I John 4:4
THE BATTLE IS REAL, IT IS A SPIRITUAL BATTLE, AND WE ARE IN IT.
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
JESUS HAS GIVEN HIS FOLLOWERS AUTHORITY OVER THE ENEMY.
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy.” – Luke 10:19 [JESUS speaking to His disciples]
THAT AUTHORITY EXTENDS TO ALL BELIEVERS.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” [emphasis mine] – Matthew 28:19-20 [Jesus speaking to His disciples regarding future disciples – us!]
WE HAVE SPIRITUAL ARMOR TO PROTECT US.
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. – Ephesians 6:11
WE ARE SHIELDED BY OUR FAITH AND GOD’S FAITHFULNES.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. – Ephesians 6:16
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. – Psalm 91:4
THE WORD OF GOD IS OUR SWORD.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is theWord of God. – Ephesians 6:17
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. – II Corinthians 10:4
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil … The tempter came to him … Jesus answered, “it is written …” [after the second temptation] “It is also written …” [after the third temptation] Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written …” Then the devil left him – Matthew 4: 1, 3, 4, 7, 10, 11
For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12-13
THE BATTLE IS GOD’S, NOT OURS.
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 [Moses speaking to the children of Israel just before God parted the Red Sea]
“This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s.'” – II Chronicles 20:15
NOTHING CAN HARM US, IF WE REMAIN IN HIM.
“Nothing will harm you.” Luke 10:19b [Jesus speaking to His disciples]
“No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD. – Isaiah 54:17 [emphasis mine]
If you make the Most High your dwelling — even the LORD who is my refuge — then no harm, will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. – Psalm 91:9-10
NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM HIM. WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:35-39
For the believer these passages are incredibly encouraging.
But if you are not yet a committed believer in Jesus Christ, none of these promises pertain to you – yet. If you sense the battle heating up around you, I strongly urge you to check out Jesus’ claims as recorded in the Bible by eye witnesses to His life, and consider that this Man, who has impacted history more than any other, was either who He claimed to be or a fraud or a crazy man. His well-documented death and resurrection convince me that He was and is the Son of God and greater than any enemy – human or otherwise – that can come against us.
For more on the Christian life, see
Prayer: Lord Jesus, our Commanding Officer, we acknowledge the spiritual battles that are being waged around us. Thank You for giving us everything we need to be good soldiers, covered with the armor of God, holding fast to the shield of faith, and wielding the sword of the Spirit. Help us to hide Your Word in our hearts, to stand fast in the Truth, and to know without a doubt that the battle is Yours, and the victory is ours, in Jesus Christ, Amen.
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. II Timothy 2:23
I was saddened to read a blog post recently about the selfishness of people. I don’t deny that selfishness is part of the human condition. But this blogger was basing his judgment on one thing – who is or isn’t wearing a mask.
For the past fifteen months our nation has been embroiled in controversy regarding (among other things) masks – whether or not they work, whether they increase bacterial infections, whether they decrease the oxygen supply to children’s growing brains, whether emotional damage is done when people can’t see one another’s faces and smiles, whether masks are dehumanizing, and whether not wearing a mask is a sign that a person doesn’t care if they infect and kill people.
Hearing-impaired people, no longer able to read lips, are feeling cut off from society. People wearing glasses get cranky because wearing a mask fogs up their lenses … Maybe that’s just me…
I even heard on the news of a man who was ticketed for wearing a mask and glasses while driving. He was told he could wear a mask or glasses while driving, but not both.
People wearing masks while driving alone have their intelligence questioned. People not wearing a mask in stores get hateful looks from people who are.
Crossing to the other side of the street when seeing another person approach used to be considered rude, now it’s deemed considerate. Keeping one’s distance in general is considered thoughtful, while elderly people with dementia sadly wonder why no one hugs them any more.
And I haven’t even mentioned the closed businesses, bankruptcies, suicides, riots, and social media wars.
Face it, it’s been a crazy, confusing, and potentially depressing year.
Now there’s hope on the horizon…. allegedly. The new “va**ine” is being either touted as the savior of the world, or feared as a conspiracy to rid the planet of half its population.
So we have yet another controversy fanning the flames of hatred among us.
People getting the injections are called “guinea pigs” by those who won’t, while those who rolled up their sleeves are enraged at the “anti-vax” people, blaming them for delays in getting us back to “normal.”
People asking questions, instead of getting reasonable, well-documented answers, are simply being “cancelled” and looked upon as trouble makers. Physicians who have practiced medicine for decades are being blocked on social media by anonymous “fact checkers.”
What am I trying to say here? … Good question.
I’m saying that everything that has been happening for the past year and a half is way more complicated than “If you wear a mask, you’re a good person who cares about others. If you don’t, you’re a scumbag.” Since when do we have the right – or the ability – to judge other people’s hearts?
To many, a healthy lifestyle involves more than avoiding microbes. Emotional health is also vital – enjoyable activities, human contact, meaningful relationships, creativity, and learning new things. Bodies are weakened not only by germs, but by fear, stress, rage, isolation, loneliness, sadness/depression, and hopelessness. We will never know how much damage was done in the past year to people driven to the breaking point by both the virus and the “solutions.” Children especially don’t need more fighting to add to the stress.
I certainly don’t have definitive answers to any of the myriad questions, and there are people way smarter than I am on all sides of the debates. But here’s what I do know:
CHRISTIANS, THIS IS OUR BIG CHANCE!
While the rest of the world is screaming at one another about masks and shots, election fraud, who’s lying and whos’ gullible, who doesn’t care about others and who’s virtue signaling, here are a few things we can do to stand out from the others, to represent Christ well:
Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. When you see people wearing masks, assume those people believe they are doing what’s best for the people around them, and respect that choice. If they seem to be glaring at you, assume that underneath those masks their mouths are smiling – and smile back. Assume people who don’t wear masks have their reasons. Don’t waste emotional energy being angry.
Treat everyone with the respect you would want. If someone seems nervous about getting near you, keep your distance. If you‘re nervous, keep your distance. If people have a different opinion from yours, assume they simply have a different perspective, which they arrived at honestly.
Refuse to get sucked into an argument (See scripture above.), especially considering it’s highly unlikely at this point that you will change anyone’s mind, even if you were 100% right about everything. (Trust me, you’re not.)
Priorities! “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” While educated, sincere, passionate people debate political issues and social problems with no perfect answers, believers in Jesus Christ can be confident about one assignment:“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”– Mark 16:15-16 There is only one decision people will make that affects their eternal destiny. Everything else is details. Don’t squander your credibility arguing over lesser things.
Remember God is greater. Nothing can happen to you without His permission, and He loves you. He loves your children more than you do. He has more power over lives than any disease. His kingdom is greater than any political party, and it is forever. We don’t have to be burdened with judging anyone – in fact, we’re told not to. He knows hearts, and He will judge everyone justly.
Even if God has called you to battle in a certain area of social or political change, while you’re “fighting the good fight,” you can still stand out with a Christ-like attitude.
We should be the most unconditionally loving people on the planet. We should be staying joyful in the middle of everyone else’s angst.
People will notice. They’ll notice, because grace in these times takes more than human effort and being “right.” It takes supernatural help, the kind we get only from our Savior.
Time is short. People are lost. We have the answer!
Now’s the time to stand out.
LET’S DO IT!
Prayer: Jesus, help us, especially in these times, to be more like You – in the world, but not of the world. Make us a reflection of Your love, extending to everyone Your invitation to eternal life. In Your name, amen
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. – I Peter 3:15
Lately I’ve had conversations with some unlikely allies regarding medicine, politics, and which conspiracy theories might not be theories after all. I am not a doctor or a scientist or a politician, and I am not willing to risk my credibility asserting things I’m not absolutely certain are facts. Since there are people with all different perspectives that are way smarter than I am, I’m willing to respect anyone’s point of view, as long as they arrived at it with a degree of intelligent reasoning.
I recently had a long phone conversation with someone I didn’t know very well, who wanted me to send her a link to some information I had shared with a mutual friend. After about a half hour I was sensing a connection between us and possibly an open door for sharing something way more important than any current event.
I told her that at the end of the day Jesus gives me peace, so while I’m concerned about certain things, I’m not freaking out over them. She responded that she gets her peace from good feelings, positive vibes, and such. Then we were out of time and had to hang up.
Suddenly I realized, It had happened again! I had used up a full thirty minutes talking about issues that won’t ultimately matter, and I had missed an opportunity to share the only thing that does!
I wanted to call her right back, but not feeling 100% prepared for a debate, I wrote her this letter instead. (I’ll call her “Renee” here.)
Renee, I’m glad we got to talk the other night, although I was kicking myself after we had hung up, because I had spent 30 minutes talking about somewhat important things, but then only about 30 seconds on themost important.
As you may have sensed, I don’t like confrontation, but nowadays we can’t let fear of conflict keep us from telling people what needs to be said, whether it’s regarding experimental shots or smothering their children, however well intentioned. If I warn them and they don’t listen, it’s on them, but if I say nothing, I am at least partly to blame if disaster strikes.
However, the most important message I’ve been given to deliver is not a warning about microchips, poisonous injections, election fraud, socialism, or a One World Order. Jesus told His followers to tell people aboutHim. Those other things are important now, but not as important as eternal things. If I can address both, that’s great, but if not, I have to get my priorities straight.
As I told the “contact tracer” recently, I am going to die.
In fact, you are going to die, too.
Are we going to die of C*vid? Probably not – but we might.
Are we going to die today?! Probably not – but we might.
The question isn’t really “Are we going to die?” We already know the answer to that one. But the next question, and the more important one is, “What happens after that??? “
A belief system needs consistency, a permanent point of reference, and for me, that’s the Bible. While positive vibes and good feelings might be enjoyable, they aren’t stable enough to give me unwavering direction. In fact, I’ve found them to be downright deceiving! As the Bible says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25) and “Theheartisdeceitfulaboveallthings, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) I’ve learned this truth over and over, through painful experiences when I realized my heart (emotions) had been lying to me!
On the other hand, the Bible has always said, unwaveringly, that someday we will face God to be judged and told where our souls will spend forever – either in His presence in everlasting joy, or apart from Him, in everlasting misery.
This will be the defining moment of our lives for all eternity.
I can guarantee that when that day comes there won’t be one person who gives a rat’s rear end whether they died of C*vid or an experimental injection, or shot by a racist cop, or whether they were living free or under a socialist government, or who was President and whether or not he cheated. It’s not going to matter. This life is a tiny blip on the radar that will soon vanish into nothingness. In the eternal scope of things, all that matters is whether we have followed the truth and our sins (We’ve all committed them.) have been paid for by Jesus’ death on the Cross, clearing the way for us to be forgiven and clean.
Jesus said that He is the ONLY way to heaven, (John 14:6) and I believe Him. Why wouldn’t I? He is all-powerful (He created everything.), all-loving (He sacrificed Himself to save me.), and all-knowing (He created it all in the first place.). And He has never let me down.
Just as with the C*vid information, I can’t make anyone else’s decisions. What you choose to believe is up to you: Either
(A.) Jesus is who He said He is and the only way to eternal life (John 3:16), or
(B.) He isn’t.
Option “B” means Jesus was either a liar who would tell us He was something He wasn’t, or a lunatic who thought he was God. There is no option “C.” Contrary to popular opinion, He can’t have been a “good, wise, moral teacher.” Good, moral people don’t lie about something as basic as their identity. And wise teachers aren’t confused about who they are.
Maybe you have already decided that Jesus was a liar or a crazy man, and that’s your choice that no one else can make for you. But if don’t do my job and tell you what I know, then shame on me.
Feel free to call me again any time if you want to talk about this.
Prayer: Lord, please reveal the truth to “Renee.” Let her be reborn into Your family and live forever with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.