Conspiracy, or Just Theory?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the record, HERE is the Christian perspective:

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

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

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

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

My Spiritual Deployment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All four bombs were duds; no one was hurt.

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

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

But today was another day …

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

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

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

9-11, plus 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praying the Prodigal Home

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

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

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

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

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

But that “last resort” is highly underrated!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Murphy, My Muse

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

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

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

Then Murphy showed up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Yep.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Now I was REALLY praying for my attitude.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Murphy …

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

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

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

Thanks, Murphy.

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

*Philippians 4:19 ** Psalm 37:4

What Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And again. And again. And AGAIN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Whose Glory?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gold Medals and Divine Perspective

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.”

Giving Credit To God, Sydney McLaughlin Representing America At The Olympics | Air1 Worship Music

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.

Pentecost 2021?

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!

PENTECOST, 2021

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 the same 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.

God’s Heart and the Olympics

I am not a huge sports fan.

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 bascha3870@yahoo.com, and I will gladly send you one.