My Trunk, God’s Treat

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

This is the time of year that brings back some special memories for me, memories of fifteen years of the most ambitious outreach I have ever been involved in. For some background on my earlier dilemma with Halloween, the “AHA! moment, and our humble beginnings, see these earlier posts:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2019/07/12/preview-of-satans-worst-nightmare/

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2019/07/19/satans-worst-nightmare-preview-2-a-different-kind-of-yard-display/

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2019/07/26/satans-worst-nightmare-excerpt-3-small-beginnings/

Over fifteen years our outreach evolved from a “different” yard display (tombstones displaying Scriptures about resurrection) to a dramatized presentation of the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus from Satan’s perspective – “Satan’s Worst Nightmare.” Features included a live band, a large screen displaying song lyrics and scenes from “The Passion of the Christ,” dancers, and special effects such as a strobe light and fog. “Freebees” were added to the candy and tracts – hot cider, hotdogs, popcorn, and most importantly, Bibles.

After we discontinued our outreach, I decided I would at least make use of some of our scenery at our church’s annual “Trunk or Treat.”

In case the concept of “trunk or treat” is unfamiliar to my non-American readers, this is an alternative Halloween festivity for those who have misgivings about “trick or treating” for religious or safety reasons. A group of people gather their vehicles in one location (usually a parking lot) and decorate them – sort of “costumes for cars.” They open their trunks and give out candy to kids who come through. It’s a lot like trick or treating, but instead of going house to house, the kids go car-to-car (or van or truck).

I had never even been to this event at our church, much less had a car in it. I had always been busy directing the final intense rehearsals for “Satan’s Worst Nightmare.” I decided to transform the trunk of my car to show the Empty Tomb, draping the edges of the opening with stone-grey fabric, with “HE IS RISEN!” in sequined letters on a sheet of black cardboard inside. I took the big, round “stone” to lean against one side of the back bumper, and a tombstone declaring “He lives!” for the other.

I dug up one of the angel costumes – a long, white tunic with shimmering silver poncho over the top, silver sash, and a Christmas tinsel “halo.” (To keep warm I wore sweats underneath, so I was quite a chubby angel!) As the kids and parents paraded through, I gave them a jolly greeting of “He is risen!” as I handed out bags of candy and tracts.

One of the tracts was for the adults. It told about historical evidence for the Resurrection, along with an account of how the apostles died, begging the question, If Jesus’ Resurrection was a hoax, why in the world did His followers face excruciating persecution and death without one of them ever breaking down and confessing that it was a lie?

Looking around the parking lot that day, I was a little disappointed to see that most of the hundred or so other cars had secular themes, except for one trunk decorated as “God’s Garden.” This one had a little window just the size of a child’s face and a sign saying “Someone God loves!” A woman in overalls invited the children to peek through the window – into the mirror inside. I went over to express my appreciation of her creativity. She said it was what God had told her to do. I said I had sensed God’s direction for my trunk, too.

What I didn’t tell her was that this day seemed anticlimactic after the intense, directly evangelistic production I had directed for so many years. We had seen so many answered prayers, both providential and what seemed like “miracles,” such as the Bible some Satanists tried to set fire to that wouldn’t burn, or our outreach’s never getting rained out in fifteen years. (There were years it was raining everywhere except the block where we were performing.) I had decided to bloom where I was planted, in this relatively innocuous event. Surprisingly, things did happen later that day that may not have been “miracles,” per se, but nevertheless had Jesus’ name all over them.

The first bit of serendipity was when a woman dressed as an angel came up to my car, pointed a finger at me, and said with prophetic certainty, “The Lord will bless you for this!” I smiled, thinking, True, someday I will know what God is doing right now.

The second touch from God was when they announced the award for the best decorated trunk. (I didn’t even know they did that.) It was a name I didn’t recognize, but the title was “HE IS RISEN!” I was delightfully surprised that someone else had had the same idea, and I looked around to see who it was. Finally I went to the announcer, pointed to my car, and asked timidly if the winner was that car over there, by any chance? Apparently they had got the name wrong, and my car had won! I laughed, picturing Jesus standing there grinning and winking and saying, I was just messin’ with you.

The next little blessing was when I was handed the prize – a gift certificate to the grocery store I went to. Since I didn’t need help with groceries, I asked the Lord who He wanted to have it. He took me back to “God’s Garden” and when I offered the gift certificate to the lady in the overalls, she hugged me and tearfully exclaimed I had no idea what that meant. I learned she had spent her last $3.00 on candy for the kids.

(I also learned the angel lady had told her she’d be blessed for what she was doing, too.)

Happy “All-Hallows Eve,” everyone. Remember, every day is God’s, including October 31.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for giving the enemy too much credit. We know that You own everything – every day of our lives, every breath we take. Continue to reveal Yourself to us, and open our eyes to Your wonders, great and small, in Jesus’ name. Amen

You’re Not Stupid! (But Are You Lazy?)

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scripture every day to see if what Paul said was true. – Acts 17:11

An episode of the TV series “West Wing” shows Charlie, assistant to the President approaching C. J., the press secretary after a press conference where she has evaded a question and/or put some spin on the facts.

“People aren’t stupid, y’know,” he tells her.

“In an election year everybody’s stupid,” C.J. retorts.

NO,” Charlie says pointedly, “in an election year, everybody gets treated stupid.”

You got that right, Charlie.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of having my intelligence insulted every time I turn on the news. The only reason I can think of that journalists would continue trying to influence the public with innuendos, half-truths, misquotes, and downright lies – not to mention censoring any story that doesn’t fit their agenda – is that somehow it’s working. I don’t think the majority of Americans are stupid, so why is this strategy so effective?

I’m guessing it’s because the press is counting on the fact that most voters aren’t going to fact check everything that’s reported. Whether this is a matter of being too busy, other things taking priority, or just plain laziness, few of us take the time to verify what we are hearing – or what we seem to be hearing.

Recently I took this pet peeve to social media, where attention spans are short, in the form of three posts, over a period of several weeks.

Post #1:

YOU’RE NOT STUPID. Has this happened to you? You’re watching the evening news, and the reporter quotes a statement made by someone, then looks into the camera and asks suspiciously, “But is this really TRUE?” Then he throws out a series of random facts and statistics loosely related to the topic at hand, and you’re wondering, “Wait … that doesn’t really answer the question …” or “That wasn’t really the point …”

(He reminds me of the guy putting a ball under one of three cups, then moving them around and around until you’re not sure where the ball is.)

You’re thinking, “I don’t get it …”

It’s not that you’re stupid. You’re being TREATED stupid! Most Americans aren’t as stupid as the media think we are, but how many of us are LAZY? Do your own research. In other words, FACT CHECK THE “FACT CHECKERS.”

YOU’RE NOT STUPID, Part 2

No, you’re probably not stupid, but are you LAZY? Sure, it’s easier letting someone else tell you what to think than to do your own research and think for yourself. But is it worth sacrificing the truth just to save yourself some mental effort?

Beware of general statements regarding someone’s character: “____________[person] is _________ [insulting label].” Even – especially – if the statement begins with “EVERYBODY knows …” or “It’s a well-known fact … “

Check it out. Has that person, in fact, DONE anything to merit that label? [Hint: the more the unsubstantiated statement is repeated without any facts to back it up, the greater the chance that somebody made it up.]

YOU’RE NOT STUPID (But are you LAZY?) Part III: BEWARE OF THE SOUND BYTE!

They do it on both sides, quote something the “bad guy” allegedly said, then “prove” it by playing a sound byte – usually just a few words, a few seconds long.

(Note: The shorter the sound byte, the more often it’s played, the greater the chance it’s being taken out of context and “proves” NOTHING.)

Find the original speech/interview/debate and read or listen to the WHOLE THING. You might be amazed at what was REALLY said and what the few highlighted words were referring to. I DARE YOU TO KEEP AN OPEN MIND. You might just end up changing it, and that’s OK. “A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser to-day than he was yesterday.” (Alexander Pope)

Remember that every human is fallible, and few, if any, of them just wake up one morning and decide to be evil – although they may be pulled in that direction if fed enough random sound bytes and they refuse to examine the context. (“Don’t bother me with facts, I’ve already made up my mind.”)

P.S. THE SAME APPLIES TO RANDOM VERSES OF SCRIPTURE QUOTED OUT OF CONTEX.

That last statement points to another choice you have that is even more crucial, where more than your country is at stake. Whatever decisions we make now (as individuals and as a nation), there will come a time when we (as individuals and as a nation) will no longer exist in this world. After that is eternity. And eternity is a very, very, very long time.

A grain of sand compared with a bucket of sand is very small. Compared to a whole beach it’s even smaller. And that grain of sand compared with the sum total of all the sand in the world – beaches, deserts, bottom of the oceans … Now how small is it?

And yet that grain of sand in the Sahara is still bigger than this life compared with eternity! So why are we so absorbed in the present? God has shown us the way to eternal life, through His Son Jesus. His words were written down for people to read through the centuries, and He has give us His Spirit to guide us as we seek the truth.

When it comes to eternity, don’t let someone else tell you what to believe. There are countless gurus using convoluted logic, stereotypical assumptions, and quoting verses from the Bible out of context. Don’t be lazy! Check out for yourself what the Bible really says. Read long passages, whole books of the Bible, even the whole Bible, asking God to help you understand and apply what you’re reading to your life. I’d love to hear about what you have discovered, especially revelations that changed your mind about any former assumptions.

If you don’t have a Bible, let me know. I’d be happy to send you one.

Prayer: Lord, You told us, “Seek, and you will find.” Forgive us for being too focused on lesser things to think about eternity. Help us to be more diligent in seeking You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

Put Down the Kool-Aid

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. – Galatians 5:14-15

 I am about to take a break from social media. A brief visit to Facebook used to be a pleasurable time of looking at what friends have been up to, seeing pictures of their cute kids and life milestones, and sending birthday wishes.

But lately what used to be friendly interaction has been sinking into the muck of angry nit-picking, unfounded claims, conspiracy theories, convoluted logic, and rabbit trails leading to unrelated issues, and explosions of unchecked rage. (What’d I say?)

I don’t know about you, but I am getting sick to death of all the attacks, accusations, lies, and threats.

(Wait … that sounds like a list of stuff the devil does …Hmmm … )

What’s really disturbing is the extent to which those identifying as Christians are engaging in this behavior. I’m not sure if they feel they are wielding the Sword of the Spirit in some sort of virtual Crusade, or if they have temporarily forgotten their mission – or taken leave of their senses altogether.

Christians – or as some are calling themselves today, “Christ-followers” have been given a task to do, known as the Great Commission. Jesus’ last words to His disciples before ascending into heaven were:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. Matthew 28: 19-20

What does it mean to “make disciples”?

I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean recruiting more people to the political party I deem the most “biblical.” It doesn’t mean winning a battle of words convincing as many people as possible to wear a face mask – or take off the face mask. It doesn’t mean calling out people for inadvertently using words or phrases I consider racist. It isn’t public shaming or virtue signaling.

I’ve never seen effective evangelism achieved with a sword. I have yet to see someone’s mind changed on social media, especially through someone else’s tirade. I’ve never seen someone respond to a well-worded diatribe by crying, “What must I do to be saved?!” I’ve only seen the venom get deadlier as people dig their heels in and the rage escalates.

As I scroll through the communication that fills endless cyberspace, I see most of the Church is NOT going about the business of the Great Commission – the pure mission, not to be watered down or polluted by the politics, he-said-she-said, who’s lying, etc.

How did we get so far off course?

Of course, we have our principles and convictions, and as people with the rare privilege of choosing our own leaders, we have a duty to prayerfully vote on candidates and issues. Just know that any candidate is going to be less than perfect, and that we humans have a way of magnifying the flaws of those we don’t like while getting enraged when others magnify the faults of our candidate. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: if this nation doesn’t return to God, and soon, it won’t matter which sinner is in the White House, we are finished. Someone said years ago that if God didn’t judge America He should apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. That statement seems truer now than ever. So yes, if a truth needs to be spoken, an injustice pointed out, an honorable act recognized, by all means speak up. But do so prayerfully, and resist the urge to pontificate or get sucked into the combat zone. (And remember to be humble; you could be wrong!)

Know that there are groups and subgroups that want to dictate the opinions of their followers, but don’t drink the Kool-Aid! Our convictions should flow from our relationship with the only One whose opinion matters.

Know that anyone who takes a stand for Christ will be hated by some. I for one just want to make sure when I’m despised it isn’t for being a despicable person, saying and doing despicable things. 

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.  I Peter 4:15-16

I’ve noticed a lot of messages these days can be found on yard signs, bumper stickers, T-shirts (a.k.a. “bumper stickers for people”), and even masks. They can be nasty, corny, snarky, or stupid. I have a T-shirt that says, simply, “America needs Jesus.” Period.

God help us.

Prayer: Loving Father, we do not deserve Your favor, and yet You have been so gracious to us, forgiving our sins and adopting us into Your family. We have not always born the family resemblance that would identify us to the world as children of God. Forgive us for the times we have allowed ourselves to be sucked into the world’s strife and hostility and have let our emotions rule us, instead of Your Spirit. Let us not wait for our emotions to confirm the Truth. We know that Your Truth stands on its own and needs no confirmation from anyone. Let us not wait for our emotions motivate us to do right; let us do right, whether we feel like it or not. Help us to live with You as our Sovereign, not our emotions. In the name of Your precious Son Jesus, amen.

So … What’s the Problem? (Part 2)

They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan – the one you testified about – well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and is now complete. He must become greater, I must become less.”              John 3:26-29

Two weeks ago I wrote about the “worship protests” going on in some of our major cities. I had expressed concern that the whole gospel, including the “bad news” of our sin and separation from God, leading up to the good news of forgiveness and redemption, was in danger of being sugar-coated and incomplete. But watching the gatherings streamed, I did hear the whole gospel preached one night when the music was finished, and I pray the people caught what was being said, and that this evening wasn’t just a temporary emotional buzz from some great music.

However, reading the thread of comments raised a second concern for me.

“I wanted to be baptized! Come back to [city]!” one viewer pleaded. I responded to that person that if she has confessed her sins, repented, believed, and given her life to Jesus, she could go to her church (or find a church) and have the pastor baptize her [and explain baptism more thoroughly!]. I was hoping she wasn’t just wanting to be baptized at a gathering with somebody famous, so she could post the pictures on social media. (Forgive me if that sounds cynical.)

I have nothing against leaders with charisma. But it’s something the Church needs to be very careful with. I’m certainly not blaming this man for the shallowness of some of his fans, but I do hope he is making it clear that they are not to be fans of him, but followers of Jesus.

This is not a new problem in the Church. Nearly two thousand years ago the apostle Paul dealt with this issue in at least one of his congregations. It seemed that for some of the Corinthians, loyalty to their favorite leaders was causing divisions.

One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful I did not baptize [many of you]”                                                                                                                                                  I Corinthians 1:12-14

The Church doesn’t need our own rock stars, and we don’t need to practice name-dropping in our spiritual conversations. God isn’t impressed with name recognition, and we shouldn’t be, either. Anyone with a gift – and that would be any one of us – has been given that gift to advance the gospel. When we use our gifts the way He desires, it pleases Him, no matter how great or small those gifts might be. In the gospel of Matthew Jesus tells the parable of three servants who were entrusted with their master’s money while he was away on a journey. Two of them – the one who had been given five talents and the one who had been given two talents – each doubled the value of what they had been given, and they received identical praise from their master:

“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: 21 & 23

I want to hear those words, don’t you? What matters isn’t the size of the gift, it’s our faithfulness with whatever we’re given.

This is why it’s disturbing to see some people respond to revival by sitting on the sidelines and letting the celebrities do the work. One of the comments on the thread was, in essence, “Come to my city! We need revival here!”

To use Paul’s logic, “Is this singer the source of revival? Was this singer crucified for you? Are you expecting him to do it all? – Could he possibly do it all!?” I’m sure he would be the first to tell you “NO!” He is a vessel, not the source.

I couldn’t resist responding to this comment with, “If your city needs revival, gather your church and get busy!”

The large evangelistic gatherings taking place in our cities will be effective only if they are encouraging the Church to spread the Good News everywhere. Otherwise, when the night is over and the band has moved on, everyone will go back to “business as usual,” and no lives will be changed.

To summarize: I see two mistakes we should all be very aware of:

  1. [Last post] We can’t sugar-coat the gospel, leaving out the fact that until we come to Christ in repentance, our sins are separating us from God. If we just sing happy songs and dance around for a couple of hours, sweeping our sins under the rug, we will remain lost in our sin.

2. And for those who have been reconciled to God through Christ’s death on the cross, we should NOT sit back and leave evangelism up to a handful of worship teams, however charismatic they may be! The Great Commission was given to all believers. Let’s “get up off our blessed assurance and do it!”

Friends, let’s not waste another day. Time is too short, and the harvest is too great!

Prayer: Precious Lord, Your Church has wasted so much time! We have been absorbed in our own cares and neglected to care about the needs of others, especially their need to know You. Help us to look to You for the ability to carry out Your Great Commission each day. Show us the opportunities that are right within our reach, and use us to extend Your life-giving love to all who will listen, in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

The Only Thing that Matters

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 4:17

I believe what happened in D.C. over the weekend – “The Return” – was the most important thing that has happened in this country in decades.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly Christians, showed up to confess, repent, and pray for God’s forgiveness and the healing of our nation. What made this event different from some other Christian gatherings was that they weren’t assembled to point fingers at the ungodly unbelievers, but to confess their own sins, as individuals and as the Church.

The call for repentance wasn’t written for unbelievers. God doesn’t expect unbelievers to behave like believers. WE (the Church) have been given His Word, His commands and direction, and “To whom much is given, much will be required.” – Luke 12:48 If the nation is a mess, the responsibility is on us. It seems to me God is being very reasonable.

I have written lately about some “worship protests,” praise gatherings in some of our major cities and my mixed feelings about them. ( https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/09/25/so-whats-the-problem/ ) What was different about “The Return” was, yes, we prayed for healing and revival and God’s blessing on our nation, but only after several hours of confessing and grieving over our sins as a Church.

We have been wrapped up in our own comforts, while others struggle daily to survive. We have been concerned about our rights, while the rights of others have been trampled. We have spent many hours a day staring at our screens and few hours, if any, in prayer to the God who has given us everything. The cries of suffering people have reached our ears, and we have responded by turning up the volume on our headphones and drowning them out. We have pointed fingers at those we consider the worst sinners without stopping to consider why they are engaging in such behavior – perhaps because the Church didn’t welcome them, and they had to go elsewhere for acceptance and love? We have condemned unbelievers without making the slightest effort to share our faith and help them become believers. While our nation is in a freefall, we have occupied ourselves with endless hours on social media, chatting about inconsequential trivia and getting into endless arguments over personalities, politics, and controversial issues – battles that only get nastier with time, and haven’t changed a single mind or heart.

How long do we expect God to put up with us? How many times does He have to warn us, and how many times can we continue ignoring His warnings, procrastinating, or leaving all the work up to someone else? How long before He is fed up and destroys us, as He has other civilizations that rotted from the inside out? He has every right to, and yet He hasn’t. His love and patience are beyond our understanding.

Although about a quarter of a million people showed up for the Return, the mainstream media apparently didn’t consider it newsworthy. But God knew about it. The mainstream is currently obsessed with the Presidential election, but if this nation doesn’t turn back to God soon, beginning with the Church, it won’t matter who’s in the White House. Our nation will be destroyed. I believe we’re already seeing the beginnings of it – pandemic, hurricanes, fires, and social upheaval.

The events we see happening around us resemble God’s judgments on evil civilizations in the past. Jonathan Cahn spoke at length about Israel – God’s own people – and how they sinned against Him, blatantly committing idolatry, adultery, violence against one another, even sacrificing their children to foreign gods. And God judged them as a nation, allowing the Babylonians to come in, wipe out their cities, destroy their Temple, and carry them off into captivity for 70 years.

God has and will judge evil civilizations.

HOWEVER … He is also aware of individuals, and just because our nation may be sinking into the depths of depravity doesn’t mean we as individuals have to go along. There are still many, as we saw at “the Return,” who love God and want to live godly lives. When we repent (turn from our sins and desire to live differently, to live righteous lives that will please God), He sees, He knows, He is ready to forgive us and help us, even if it means giving us the strength to go against the tide of the day.

Jesus’ death on the cross is still valid payment for our sins, for the sins of anyone who will place his/her faith in His atoning sacrifice. If a believer or unbeliever acknowledges his sin, grieves over it, asks forgiveness, and trusts in the atoning work of Christ, (s)he will be forgiven and received, no matter what others may be doing. And when death comes, as it comes to us all, that individual will live on as a child of God, in the eternal place prepared for His own. That’s the good news!

Whether the people around you are turning to God or going their way, as Jesus said,

“… what is that to you? You must follow Me.” John 21:22

(I can hear my mother’s oft spoken words, “If ‘everybody else’ jumps off a cliff, are you going to jump off a cliff?”)

And here’s more good news! If enough of us do this, it could turn the tide in America. God has promised,

“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”II Chronicles 7:14

And God keeps His promises!

Prayer: Oh Lord, You have been so patient with us. Help us to be sensitive and obedient to Your Spirit. Help us not to be sucked into the lifestyle of the wicked, and not to pass judgment on them, but to set a better example for all those around us by being godly, loving, and filled with the hope that comes from knowing You, in Jesus’ name. Amen

P.S. If you missed the event, you can watch it at thereturnsimulcast.com/the-return. If you can’t watch the whole thing, do listen to Jonathan Cahn’s prophetic message to America, starting at about 2:53 on the second video (Saturday morning). (I admit, it gave me chills and made me cry.)

So … What’s the Problem?

[John the Baptist] went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:                                                                   A voice of one calling in the desert,                                                                                    ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,                                                                                                          make straight paths for him.                                                                                                                                                Luke 3:3-4

For years I have been praying daily for revival in America. I’m not sure what I expected it look like. From my years at a charismatic church, I often pictured crowds of ecstatic worshipers, but when the pandemic hit and the world was thrown into such fear and turmoil, I began to envision a different kind of turning to God.

Past revivals have been described as mass repentance – crowds of people falling on their faces, weeping over their sins.  As people, including those who had once considered themselves righteous, repented and surrendered to Christ, He changed everything about their lives. Bars and casinos closed for lack of business, as people sought to please God instead of their flesh. The country really took notice!

Recently I am hearing about some commotion in various cities that I hope is genuine revival. In videos of the live events I have witnessed some beautiful worship and jubilant celebration. But when the live streams stopped there,  I was concerned that these meetings might not be sharing the whole gospel from the beginning – the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit, confession, repentance, and receiving the forgiveness of God through Jesus’ death on the cross. Without these having taken place in a person’s life, these events will just be another concert series creating an emotional high – a very fleeting emotional high.

Then one night I watched a two-hour video of the entire event, where well into the evening a local pastor (finally!) came to the microphone and explained salvation. He started with the good news they’d been singing about all evening – “God loves you and wants a relationship with you!”

Yes… and … I held my breath.

He then gave the necessary  bad news: “But something is in the way of that relationship …” [pause]

Yes, yes … say it!

“…and that’s sin.

YESSSS!!!!

The pastor explained how Jesus died on the cross in our place, taking the punishment we deserved, and that His death paid for our sins … if we place our faith in Him.

Ding-ding-ding-ding! I sighed with relief and prayed the crowd had heard and were taking it to heart.

Later, as the singing continued, baptisms were taking place! I could see the pastor speaking with each person before they went under the water. Unfortunately the singing drowned out (No pun intended) the pastor’s words, but I really hoped that he was explaining what was happening. I had been a little unsettled to hear the worship leader ask, “Who wants to be baptized?” and the crowd responding enthusiastically without any further elaboration on the meaning.

As the video progressed, I scrolled through the comments, looking for signs that people were “getting it.” One of the comments reflected my concern. A viewer asked if following this one-night event – after the worship team had moved on to the next city – if there would be any local follow-up. Good question, I thought. Unfortunately I didn’t see an answer.

I may be coming off as a kill-joy, and believe me, I don’t want my joy killed if this is the answer to years of prayer! But in America the church has too often touted a “cheap grace,” not wanting to speak of sin and judgment for fear of offending people.

Jesus never sugar-coated His message, even though when He spoke the hard truths, many people walked away. It was (and is) important to Him that we “count the cost,” knowing that placing our faith in Him is a serious commitment, not just “fire insurance.” I’ve known individuals who have been like the seed in Jesus’ parable (Luke 8:4-15) that fell onto shallow soil or in weeds, and their faith was short-lived. Unprepared for the trials of life or the world’s distractions, they felt they had been “had” with all the happy promises that made no mention of repentance and suffering.

Revival isn’t one or two exciting nights of great music, although that may well be a part of it. True revival is a move of God that changes lives forever. It’s a sort of spiritual surgery, cutting into the deepest regions of our hearts and rooting out the sin that separates us from the God who created us and loves us. The best Scripture I know describing such a move of God was where God warned the nation of Israel that if they persisted in disobeying Him, they would experience His judgment in various forms, including plagues. (Sound familiar?) But then He made a beautiful promise, with a big “IF“: 

[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    II Chronicles 7:14:

Tomorrow (September 26) two gatherings will take place in our nation’s capital. These will not be concerts or “worship protests,” but a time of repentance on the part of the Church – not pointing accusing fingers at unbelievers! Scripture says, “if MY people…” That’s us, folks! Along with prayers of repentance will be prayers for our nation to be forgiven and healed – beginning with us! Since most of us will not be in the Washington D.C. area, the events will be live streamed throughout the day and evening. Here are the links: 

Prayer march with Franklin Graham, 12 noon- 2 P.M. EDT:

https://prayermarch2020.com/?SOURCE=BA209YGCL&utm_campaign=attend-stream_prayer_march&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=95961950&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_sMXtU6-8KmUrnoNf4VBJ6lA1ryxV9CHnf8NCXV8E_wsXXOk6tTEKFDAup1p3-stKQ_H_PG0YrPkHcyW_XZmGRGbIlsA&utm_source=giving_company

“The Return” with Jonathan Cahn, 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. EDT and 6:00-9:00 P.M. EDT

https://thereturn.org/

And please, don’t just watch. Even though we are scattered, we can still pray together. In the days of John the Baptist, repentance paved the way for revival. And it still does.

Prayer: Lord, we have failed You, but You have not given up on us. In light of Your mercy, we repent of our sins and pray for Your help in turning from them and becoming the people You want us to be, in Jesus’ name. Amen

Pop Quiz and Sharing the Gospel

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will you heart be also.”                                                                                                                                                 Matthew 6:19-21

It was a beautiful day in Florida, and I was waiting for my daughter Kelly to finish her browsing at the little strip mall. A young lady in her teens was sitting on the bench nearby, apparently waiting for someone, too. She looked bored, so I struck up a conversation with her. Recently I had created an approach to sharing the gospel that I had used at a party with my youth group back in Michigan. The theme of the party had been “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and we had talked about “treasure.”

“Did you find some good bargains today?” I asked, eyeing the shopping bags that sat at the girl’s feet.  I realized it was almost a trick question at that overpriced resort area.

She answered, “Sort of.”

“Hey, would you like to take a quiz about the value of things?” I asked.

“Sure,” she agreed.

“OK,” I said. “Which would you say is more valuable: a gallon of water, 30 feet of rope, a book, a cell phone, or fifty pounds of gold?” She guessed the gold.

“Imagine you’re out sailing on the gulf today,” I continued. “You’re sitting on the edge of the boat, and along comes a wave, and you’re thrown overboard into shark-infested waters! Would you want me to throw you fifty pounds of gold?”

She laughed. Of course not.

“How about that gallon of water? (haha.)” We agreed that in that situation 30 feet of rope would be most valuable. (Or at least one end of it, assuming I was holding onto the other end to pull her back into the boat!)

“So now, what would you say is more valuable – a gallon of water, 30 feet of rope, a book, a cell phone, or 50 pounds of gold?”

“It depends,” she said with a smirk, catching on.

I set up different scenarios, such as being stranded in a desert 20 miles from the nearest town … the gallon of water, definitely!

Buried under an avalanche in a blizzard … cell phone, please!

So far, that 50 pounds of gold that sounded so appealing at the beginning didn’t seem all that handy.

“OK, final scenario,” I concluded. “You’ve died, and you’re standing at the gates of heaven, waiting to find out whether you will be let in to live there forever, or whether you will have to spend eternity … somewhere else. Which would you rather have at that point, 50 pounds of gold? A gallon of water? 30 feet of rope? A cell phone? … OR …  a Book that will tell you how to get inside?”

We agreed, definitely the Book. I handed her a pocket-sized New Testament.

Two thousand years ago Jesus told a parable that is as relevant today as it was then.

“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”                                      Luke 12:16-21

Have you had your values changed with your experiences?

Have you ever yearned for something only to find that, once you had attained it, that satisfaction was short-lived? Has what you longed for fallen apart or proved to be more work than it was worth to you? Does more of your life than you’d like consist of cleaning, maintaining, repairing, insuring, protecting, and paying taxes on your stuff?

Have you ever envied someone else, only to learn that behind their impressive lifestyle was a life of emptiness, loneliness, depression, or a secret personal tragedy?

As you grow older and (sorry) closer to death each day, how is your perspective changing? What do you value most? Do you expect that to change over time?

Jesus spoke of a treasure worth more than life itself:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went back and sold everything he had and bought it.”            Matthew 13: 44-46

It struck me one day that in the first parable the kingdom of heaven is like the treasure, and in the second, it’s like the merchant.

In the first parable, we’re told that God’s kingdom is worth everything we have. But in the second parable, we are the treasure. Because of our sin, all of us owe God a debt we could never pay, but Jesus paid it by dying on the cross. God paid the ultimate price – His only begotten Son – to purchase us for Himself!

Jesus gave everything for us. It only makes sense that we should give everything to Him. This relationship – this recognition of His sacrifice and giving our lives to Him in return – is the greatest treasure of all. Do you possess this treasure? If not, let today be the day you give yourself to the One who gave it all for you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we have been chasing after all the wrong things, You’ve been quietly waiting for us to realize that the only true treasure is found in You. May we abandon ourselves at last in exchange for the eternal rewards of a life devoted to You. In Your precious name, amen.

Rampant Toxicity

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”                                                                                                                                       John 8:7

If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other.                                                                                                                                                                       Galatians 5:15

Recently someone near and dear to me posted a quote on social media regarding “toxic masculinity.” Someone else near and dear to me commented that she refused to use the term unless there was also a term “toxic femininity.” Further comments from multiple parties  disagreed as to whether there was such a thing as “toxic femininity.” Since we’ve all heard “Boys will be boys,” but “Girls will be girls” wasn’t a saying, it was opined that society doesn’t dismiss bad behavior in females the way it does in males. This comment was met with “Oh no? Have you seen a movie or TV show lately?” (“Lately” being the last fifty years or so.) Females behaving badly has not only been tolerated, it has been celebrated in some circles. The fact is, men and women (in general) each have their own weaknesses, and a woman can take advantage of a man’s weakness to get what she wants just as much as a man can take advantage of a woman’s weakness to get what he wants. Admit it, abuse and manipulation happens on both sides.

Here’s the bottom line, folks: Men are sinners.

Women are sinners.

Old people, young people, and middle-aged people are sinners.

Rich people, poor people, and middle-class people are sinners.

White, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and Middle Eastern people are sinners.

Since Jesus Christ is no longer here in the flesh, it’s safe to assume that when you look at another human being, you’re looking at a sinner.

For that matter, if you look in a mirror, you’re looking at a sinner. So, what are we to do?

I’ll tell you what we don’t do – point fingers at whole groups of people in a way that is only going to escalate hostility.

Sinners have agendas, and unfortunately there are those whose agenda is to pit groups against one another, encouraging rude, mean-spirited, even outrageous (emphasis on “rage”) behavior. For some, hate gets ratings, and for others, hate gets votes.

But before we start raging against the media and politicians, we should ask ourselves, If hate pays off, whose fault is that? If hate is what motivates us to watch certain news programs or vote for certain candidates – or repost, share, and retweet certain articles, then shame on us.

As Casting Crowns has observed, “Nobody knows what we’re for, only what we’re against…” *

So, what are we supposed to do – ignore bad behavior? No, but Jesus gave us 2-step instructions for detoxing:

First, take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

After doing the hard work of removing my own “plank,” I tend to be more compassionate as I seek to help others with their faults. I may also have some insights into what strategies do and don’t work, which will be helpful, as well.

I may even realize that I’m the one that needs to change my position. (>Ouch!<)

“Blessed are the peacemakers …”  (Matthew 5:9a) Admitting my own shortcomings is the starting point in making peace, not only with my fellow sinners, but more importantly, with God.

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)

When I realize my sin has earned me an eternal death sentence, that I am helpless to save myself, it is only then that salvation is possible. There is only One who is sinless, who came from heaven in the form of one of us, and who died in our place to pay the price for our forgiveness. Since only a perfect sacrifice is acceptable to God, we could never have paid the debt ourselves. (No one else could, either.)

Jesus didn’t come to show us the way, He came to be the way. – the only way. (John 14:6)

So, rather than look a round at others, saying, “At least I’m not as bad as _________,” let’s look to Jesus, the perfect One, confess our own sin, and receive the cleansing – the detoxing – He offers.

Imagine if everyone did that! The nightly news might get pretty boring, but I’m willing to risk it. How about you?

Prayer: Jesus, Friend of sinners, help us to look at our own sins and shortcomings before dealing with others that we perceive as being worse than ourselves. Let us seek to lead by example, to be quick to commend the goodness in people and slow to condemn those who are stumbling. Make us part of the solution, rather than the problem. In Jesus’ name. Amen

*”Jesus, Friend of Sinners,” Songwriters: Mark Hall, Matthew West
© Warner Chappell Music, Inc., ESSENTIAL MUSIC PUBLISHING, CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-sz-001&hsimp=yhs-001&hspart=sz&p=jesus+friend+of+sinners+casting#id=8&vid=fbcb432035004c165ea6f81462bb86e8&action=view

A Tale of Two Dreams

Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. … The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.”                                                                                                                                                                                          Genesis 41:25, 32

I woke up with the dream still very clear in my mind. I pray daily that I will remember the dreams that I need to remember and forget the rest, so I lay there for a while, pondering what this dream might mean. Remembering a certain Facebook chat, I thought, Ibra.

There is a young man in Uganda who friended me on Facebook. (It was his Christmas card I described in “What Color Is Jesus?” https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/07/31/what-color-is-jesus/ ) This friend had told me about his two younger brothers in an orphanage who needed sponsors. I had decided to sponsor these little boys with food and tuition for school.

It turns out these “little boys” were about seventeen and fifteen, and although they were lacking much of what we would consider the basics, they each had a cell phone. (This is not unusual in Uganda.) They began to message me frequently on Facebook, calling me “mummy” and expressing their affection for me. The younger one especially seemed downright giddy to finally have a mother! One day in the middle of a chat, his account just vanished. His brother Ibra told me later that he had been hacked.

A week or two later Ibra sent me a message saying his phone had been dropped in the water and was no longer working. (He’d had logged on from a friend’s phone.) He wanted to know, “mummy, would u get us phones please, mummy?” I thought, Man! Teenagers in Uganda aren’t that different from American kids!

Cringing a bit (“Tough love” never came naturally to me.), I answered with the following message: “Boys, I am amazed that teenagers in Uganda are just like teenagers in the U.S. The money I am sending to [orphanage] is for your food and tuition, and some extra for the teachers, who are having an especially hard time right now [and] don’t have enough food to eat! I think for now you will have to log in from a friend’s phone and cut down on the texting time. (I Timothy 6:8) I didn’t have a phone at all when I was your age, and somehow I did just fine.(I guess PARENTS are the same everywhere, too. 😉 ) I know you boys are strong and resourceful, and you will do well, too. Maybe there’s some way you can help [director] and the other adults with the little ones. Invent some new games to play with them.”

(I know, I can’t believe I resorted to “when I was your age … !”)

I fully expected the typical teenager’s response. So, when I looked at my phone just after awakening the next morning and saw two messages from Ibra, I opened them reluctantly…

“Wow thats nice mummy i wrlcome it too maybe it is the best.”  All spelling aside, I was impressed with his mature response!

The second message left me breathless:

And by the way mummy i had a dream   I saw a big man in the sky and he was with two small buddies behind him and the big one was wearing a crown and other small ones also having theirs and when i was coming i saw him and at that moment i called him like Jesus and at that moment i fall down coz the man was too powerful i think Jesus is with me in whatever stape i make i was like wow

I responded:

WOW! As I am reading this, I just woke up from a dream, too! I think it was about you. I had a new baby that I had adopted. He was black. I was teaching him things, like how to obey the grownups, telling him, ‘This is what big boys do in school.’ And even though he was a tiny baby (I would never have tried to teach a real baby those things yet) he was learning like a much older child! We were in the middle of a lot of people, and noise, and it was chaotic, but this child was doing an amazing job of focusing and growing, way beyond his years! When I woke up, even before I read your message, I was thinking that’s you! You are growing spiritually way beyond other boys your age. I was feeling bad about telling you “No” about new phones, and expecting you to pout like most boys your age  would when they can’t have what they want (That’s how most kids in America would respond.) But you didn’t! That’s huge! I think the other boy in your dream was probably [your brother], don’t you? You are sons of the King, and he is getting you ready to rule with Him. The rest of the world is so chaotic and distracting, especially with social media. Maybe God is telling you He has better things for you and [your brother]. I am excited for you!

And I understand if you aren’t able to message me very often. That’s OK. I always pray for you and [your brother] every day, no matter what. I love my boys (I guess I will have to call you my young men now. 😉 ) and I am so proud of you!

So, here’s another story just beginning to unfold. Life with Jesus – still not boring!

Prayer: Lord, thank You for taking away our idols and distractions when necessary, even when we don’t like it! You know what’s best, and You have great plans for us that we can’t even imagine right now. Keep us focused on You, in Jesus’ name. Amen

When God Says “No” (A Short Story)

There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”                                                                                                            II Corinthians 12: 7-9

The hazy glow of the rising sun was enough to awaken Paul, but not enough to give him a clear view of the words that had been written on the scroll the day before. He knew that even with the brighter light it was doubtful he would see clearly enough to finish the letter himself. He was going to have to wait for his scribe and friend to come and continue writing from where they had left off. Until then, he was alone, except for two Roman soldiers, silhouettes silently standing guard.

Paul had so much to say, no means to say it, and no control over how long he would have to wait until the scribe arrived. The words flew about his mind like trapped birds frantic to escape. Frustration threatened to rob him of the joy of the night before, as he had dictated the final words of the day: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) Taking his own advice, he deliberately rejoiced.

Oh Lord, thank You for another day to serve you!

It was not the ideal setting, this house arrest, although thankfully he was no longer in the Roman dungeon where he had spent time in the past. Still, Paul longed to be with his brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes the hunger for their fellowship was an almost palpable ache.

He fought the pain by considering the advantages of confinement.

Thank You, Jesus, that here I can have the solitude I need to hear Your voice clearly and make sure I am saying exactly what You would have me say. Here Your words will be written down for others to read – no arguing within the congregations over what I’ve said, no twisting of my words by divisive troublemakers. Thank You for this!

As he intentionally thanked God for where he was, Paul felt the restlessness loosen its grip on his heart. He could see how his situation illustrated what he had written years before to the Roman church: “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) When traveling, speaking to the churches, and arguing the case for the gospel with the Jews and even the Gentiles, there had been little time for writing. But this was apparently his ministry now, and there was ample time.

But if he was called to write, why was he plagued by this recurring trouble with his eyes?! It was especially bewildering considering that the Lord had once done a miraculous work in his eyes, both blinding and then healing them.

Lord, thank You for that day – for blinding me so I could see the Truth! He smiled at the irony.

And then You restored my sight! What a glorious miracle! All glory to You, Lord Jesus! 

And yet, he sighed, why have my eyes become dim again? 

The problem had plagued him for years, like a thorn in his flesh. Paul knew that God could restore his vision again. He knew God loved him. God did not do things halfway!  And yet God had said “No.

Three times He had said “No.

By the third time Paul had asked, God’s answer was clear:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9)

Paul remembered how he had shared that revelation with the church at Corinth, but at times, like this morning, the question would return to nag him. And as he had done so many times before, he resolved that he didn’t need the answer. If the Lord wanted to be glorified in this weakness, then so be it.

As once again he let go of the matter and placed it back into God’s hands, a wave of peace swept over him that surpassed his understanding.

“The peace of God, which passes understanding” … he liked those words! He would have to remember them and share them with the Philippians.

*                                      *                                    *                                     *

That evening Paul was looking back on a day well spent. The scribe had returned, written down the final passages of the letter to the Philippians, and read the letter back to him in its entirety. Paul had been pleased with the way the Lord had directed his words. Now the house was still, and he knew that soon there would be a changing of the guards, followed by a long, lonely night.

“Sir?” The unexpected voice startled Paul. It came from the direction of one of the shadows by the door – the shadows that had been standing silently all day as Paul had been dictating the letter.

“Yes?” Paul responded cautiously.

The soldiers looked around furtively. Then one of them asked, “Who is He? This God you were talking about when you dictated that letter?”

“We want to know more,” said the other soldier. The two exchanged glances.

“Much more,” the first one added.

Paul’s heart leapt, but just then he heard the rhythmic footsteps of two more soldiers approaching.

“We have to go now,” whispered one soldier hastily, “but we will be on duty again tomorrow.”

Paul smiled. “I look forward to it,” he replied softly.

Suddenly there it was – the answer to his nagging question! These were not the first Roman soldiers to ask about his Jesus. There had been many whose duty it had been to guard the apostle. In doing so, they had grown spiritually hungry –

because they had heard him dictating his letters!

Of course! His eyes were the reason the gospel had become known “throughout the whole palace guard” (Philippians 1:13)! How could he have missed it?

Filled with an inexpressible satisfaction, Paul settled for the night, silently giving thanks for two more souls who would know the living God by the end of the next day.

Prayer: Lord, Your plans for us are good. Thank You that we can trust You, even with the things that don’t make sense to us now. In Jesus’ name, Amen.