The Joy of Good News

Good NewsWho doesn’t like good news? I know I sure do, and I’ve been waiting a long time to hear some good news after almost four and a half years of unemployment. Today is the fourth anniversary of my arrival in this town where I live not far from a major city on the west coast of Central Florida. I ended up coming here four years ago as the one-year lease on my apartment in Houston ended at the end of September 2009, and I wasn’t able to find another job in Houston between the time I was fired in April 2009 and the end of my lease, and I couldn’t afford to live in Houston on what Florida paid for unemployment benefits ($275/max per week before taxes). I had not worked in Texas long enough to be able to collect unemployment benefits from Texas (which at the time if I remember right was $392/max per week before taxes), so I had to collect from Florida (since I had been working in Florida since 1992 before those seven months I worked in Houston). I really had my heart set on staying in Houston but it was not meant to be.

As I was talking one evening by phone in early September 2009 with a friend in Florida about my dilemma (e.g., that I really wanted to stay in Houston but couldn’t due to financial constraints and also because I was not sure how soon I could find another job in Houston after looking for five months already at that point with no luck), she offered me her spare bedroom in her home if I wanted to come back to Florida while I continued looking for work. She lived alone and her two children were grown and married and living in other states. She had been living in this town since 2003 after living in Miami all of her life, and I visited her a few times when I lived and worked in Lakeland, Florida, which was only about 65 miles away but did not really know the town all that well.

Reluctantly, and also due to her very kind offer, I decided to accept her offer and leave Houston as it turned out that the only way I could receive extended unemployment benefits from Florida was to move back to Florida as Houston’s unemployment rate wasn’t high enough for me to be able to keep on receiving extended benefits from Florida after the initial six months was up (which is the normal length of time to collect unemployment benefits). However, I lost my job at the height of the recession when unemployment benefits had been extended up to 99 weeks. Of course, at that time I never dreamed I’d be unemployed for even a year, let alone still be unemployed almost four and a half years later (and the 99 weeks of unemployment benefits ended for me in May 2011).

I stayed at my friend’s home for three months; however, her unemployed niece, a woman ten years younger than us (my friend and I are the same age) moved in right before Thanksgiving and the living quarters were tight with three adult women living in a small two-bedroom house. In mid-December 2009 I found a cute little “furnished seasonal rental” (a large one-room apartment) in the upstairs of an old house a few miles away and moved in at the end of December (2009), and I’ve been there living ever since. The owners, a real estate company, who owned the house for many years and used the main floor of the house as office space at the time I moved in sold it in March 2012 to an investment company who currently owns it. However, they have since put it up for sale since April 2013 and while there is no buyer yet as of this writing who knows when that might happen. I had heard at one point a month or so ago that someone was interested in buying it and turning it into a restaurant. I thought that was a great idea considering the location of the house and the fact that it is zoned “mixed” (both commercial and residential). However, I guess it fell through as I never heard anything more about it.

So I’m living in “limbo land” in more ways than one (e.g., with both my housing situation and the long term unemployment situation clearly “up in the air”). And, here’s an ironic twist for you . . . my friend who lived here since 2003 moved last summer (2012) to . . . Texas! But not Houston . . . . (her daughter and family lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area). I was thrilled for her and she’s become a grandmother twice over since my whole unemployment saga first started. I, on the other hand, have nothing new to report over these past four years other then I stopped counting the number of jobs I have applied for when it reached 500 in 2011 (and I’m still applying), and I’ve grown my hair out long again after eleven years of short hair (it’s been long again since 2011, too). And I like it long much better. Well, I suppose I could throw in my road trips– my two trips in 2012 to Atlanta and Houston (job seeking ventures that went nowhere) and, of course, my venture to the New Orleans area in early April this year and then to Washington DC in July that netted “zero,” too.

Of course, I did start this blog site on July 20, 2010, as a very inexperienced blogger (but I’ve always loved writing) and ended up deleting all of the posts I had written up through April 2011 and just let it “sit” empty until July 8, 2011, when I fired it back up again and it just—well–took off . . . and this post is my 244rd blog post since July 2011. So it’s not like I haven’t been busy (I do keep myself busy but can’t find any way to make an income no matter how hard I try).

I consider myself to be a “big city” girl, born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, and I lived there (primarily, but not all the time) until I moved to Fort Lauderdale in June 1992 at the age of 40 to start work on a doctoral fellowship I had received at Nova Southeastern University. And I’ve also lived in Orlando and Miami and Houston which are not exactly small, either. When I moved to Lakeland in 2004 for a job at a university located there (I was living in Orlando at the time), I kept having second thoughts about it as I never thought I could adjust to “small town” living. Now, mind you, the whole Lakeland/Winter Haven area has a population of about 90,000 in the winter months when the “snow birds” (Northerners) come down from up north, so it’s not “tiny” by any means, but it was still small compared to what I was used to. However, I did adjust to it and after four years there I really liked it, but the division where I worked was dismantled in early 2008 and I lost my whole reason (e.g., working with adult students) for being there. Of course, I found the director position in Houston which I accepted and moved to Houston, and the rest is, well, history (and not the kind of history any of us like to have). But I loved Houston. It was BIG and it had some great architecture and culture and there was a lot to see and do, but not for an unemployed person living on Florida unemployment benefits for the last five months I lived there. I could barely afford gas and food and I could not afford my apartment once I lost my $52,000/yr. job and was living on $275/wk. unemployment benefits. I knew I had to move at the end of my apartment lease or go broke shortly thereafter.

Time to moveAnd now I’ve been here in this small town which is really a suburb that is part of a much larger area that goes from St. Pete to the south (45 miles) and right up past the Hudson, Spring Hill, and Brooksville areas (30 or so miles north of here) for the past four years. I’ve applied for numerous jobs in my field of work at the local community college (the main campus is only seven miles from where I live) that also has an extension campus farther north, but never even received one phone call to interview. I’ve also applied for just about every student services position (my field of work) at every private and public, for-profit and nonprofit educational institution (colleges/universities) that I could find within a 50-mile radius (that includes Tampa) and no bites from anyone. Of course, I’ve been applying all over and not just in this area (and not just in my field of work), but it is discouraging to say the very least that I can’t even get Walmart to consider interviewing me (and I love Walmart and shop there all the time). So what gives after four and a half years of unemployment? It’s not like I have green skin and purple hair or that I’m not personable. And I definitely have skills. Doesn’t that matter anymore? Is there anyone out there who cares about the long-term unemployed in this country of ours?

So, I am in serious need of some good news for a change as my fourth anniversary (as of today) of living here is passing by and I don’t want to venture very far into the fifth year here. I’m going nowhere here and there are now ruts in the roads that I’ve driven on more times than I care to count. I want a life, and a job, and an income again. And nobody here wants to give me that opportunity. I’ve been here four years—four years of going nowhere. And I’d like to live in a big city again, too (although that is not an absolute requirement if someone will give me a job somewhere—anywhere). And now that this house is up for sale, I just want out. I want to move on. I’ve got no reason to stay. But I need an open door and I need some good news for a change. Anybody want to give me some good news? Anybody?

Speaking of good news, I read a devotion this morning in Open Windows,” published by LifeWay titled, “The Joy of Good News,” by Darla Brantley, adult Sunday School teacher, First Baptist Church, Winfield, Alabama, and she writes the following (Note: devotional passage reference is Isaiah 52:7-8 and she starts by quoting Isaiah 52:7):

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peach, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” ~Isaiah 52:7 (NIV)

Everyone likes to receive good news. Hearing exciting things brings smiles to our faces and brightness to our dreary days. Job promotions, positive medical reports, and good report cards help create happiness.

The people of Jerusalem were going home. After decades of bondage, they were being released from their captivity. What a sight it must have been to see the messengers making their way across the mountain to deliver the news. Jerusalem’s salvation had finally come!

Many commentators believe that Isaiah was also talking about the coming of the Messiah. People are in spiritual captivity in our world today. We need to put feet to our message and carry the good news of freedom to those held in bondage. We need to show them the way home. We need to traverse proverbial and literal mountains to deliver the gospel message to those who are longing to hear the good news of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. Will you allow God to use you to share His good news with the captives in your neighborhood or where you work?

“Father, help me to be a faithful messenger who shares the joyous good news of Your gift of salvation.”

While I have received no good news on the job front or even the housing front, the good news that I can smile about is the fact the Jesus Christ is still my Lord and my Savior and He knows exactly why there hasn’t been much good news for me (on the employment front or housing front) while I’ve been living here. Maybe He has something else totally different in mind. And I sure hope He opens that door very, very, very, very soon (yesterday would have been good if that gives you any indication of just how much I want to move on with my life). It’s not like I haven’t been asking. And what I have learned over these past four plus years has been, well, remarkable and irreplaceable, compared to the previous years when I was employed and a part of that “daily grind.”

In the story in the devotion, the Jewish people had been in bondage for many years (decades) and they were finally being released from their captivity. I can’t even imagine what they must have been feeling at the news that their captivity was finally over. Of course, Jesus Christ is the ultimate “Deliverer” of anyone in captivity (spiritual bondage) in this world of ours. The author is right when she states (to those of us who know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord) that “we need to put our feet to our message and carry the good news of freedom to those held in bondage. We need to show them the way home. We need to traverse proverbial and literal mountains to deliver the gospel message to those who are longing to hear the good news of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.” Well, I’ve been doing that through the writing of 244 blog posts so far that go out on the internet and around the world; but I’m still locked in a prison of unemployment and financial constraints (that I know He can fix in an instant when the time is right) and I can’t physically move on because of them. And while I love writing these blog posts, I am so ready to “traverse ‘literal’ mountains to deliver the gospel message to those who are longing to hear the good news” and not just write about them on blog posts (as important as that is in getting the message out). I want to physically be a part of spreading the good news with people I can see and talk to and listen to and help and hug and care about.

My friend who lived here spent a long time (years) waiting for the right time to move to Texas to be with her daughter and her family and it finally happened for her last summer. That had to be the very best news for her to receive and I can’t even imagine her joy in living there with them now. I’m still waiting for my good news to show up, but mine will be different in that I don’t have physical children I can go and live near but I’m ready to adopt some “spiritual children” by “traversing literal mountains” like the author of the devotion above talks about. And the time is now . . . .

And I am so very, very, very, very ready to move on . . . .

Lord, please open that door soon. . . .

YouTube Video: “While You See a Chance” by Steve Winwood:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Where Is Your Heart?

I, too, love the writings of A.W. Tozer (1897-1963). And he saw the future of the church in his day (and it’s growing apostasy) far better than we do today. We are far more preoccupied with ourselves and our own lifestyles than with God or Jesus Christ (except for, perhaps, a cursory showing on Sunday mornings). We need to get back to the true worship of God through Jesus Christ, which requires us to take our eyes off our ourselves and everything we want (and want Him to give us) and realize just how incredibly selfish we have become, even in our worship. God is not made in our image (although we act like it all the time); we have been made in His image (our Triune God). It’s about time we get that right, don’t you think? ~Sara’s Musings.

Thought For the Day

As many of you know, I have always loved the writings of A.W. Tozer. His books and commentaries have moved me more than any other teacher. One of my favorite quotes is when we wrote: “We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.”

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An Inconvenient Truth

truthTowards the end of his life, the apostle Paul stated to a young pastor named Timothy, who was also his protégé, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (I Timothy 1:15-17).

The apostle Paul, known as Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, was a merciless persecutor of the early church and approved of the stoning of Stephen, an early convert and disciple of Jesus Christ (see Acts 6 & 7 for the full story) before Paul’s own conversion to Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus when his life was dramatically and irrevocably changed. Yet even after his conversion, as he stated to young Timothy in the verses above, he still called himself “the worst of sinners.” And he did so in order that “Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (verse 16).

It was not a false humility that caused Paul to call himself “the worst of sinners.” While some folks may wonder how Paul could make such a statement many years after his own conversion to Jesus Christ (because the statement was made in the present tense near the end of Paul’s life and not in the past tense), he was essentially stating the same thing I heard Dr. Charles Stanley state about himself many years ago in a sermon when he mentioned that even though he had been converted for many, many years, he was still very much aware that his “flesh” had not changed one bit. In other words, if we do not stay close in our relationship with Jesus Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to rein in our lives our “flesh” can still very much take over and run our lives. Until we are dead this flesh of ours still has power to deceive us in numerous ways.

Ray Stedman makes the following statement regarding Paul’s statement (e.g., being the worst, or “chief,” of sinners):

Some say that this is a kind of humble exaggeration, like we sometimes say, I’m not all that good, really. I do not think it is false humility. Paul means every word of this. He has not forgotten what he has written. What he is thinking of is not what he is in Christ (because in Him he was made righteous and delivered, the power of sin was broken), but he is thinking about himself as a total man living in a world of evil; he is thinking of himself as we have to think of ourselves, made whole in Christ and yet with the flesh still active in our lives. We still struggle against it. It is no longer us but an alien invader still able to exercise its deceiving power over us.

There is hidden here a very important principle that all of us will have to learn sometime or other. Whatever the flesh once manifested itself to be in our lives–some extreme form of evil, whatever we have done that is now, in our own sight, bad, ugly, and something we are ashamed of–we have to remember that that is an area of weakness that needs to be guarded very carefully, because we can return to that in an instant, no matter how long we have been Christians. That is what Paul is talking about.

“Father, once I was blind; I could not see myself for what I was. Yet I thank you that you came and invaded my life and began to take away the veil and to help me to see what I was like.”

Life Application: We have met the enemy and he is us! The wonder is that Christ died for His enemies. Confession makes us eligible for His redeeming grace and forgiveness. (Quote source here.)

“We have met the enemy and he is us” . . . . Jesus Christ died for His enemies (and that includes us, folks, before we were converted if we consider ourselves to be Christian). And Jesus Christ never saw his “enemies” as enemies, but as people in need of redemption. Even though his anger was displayed at the religious folks of his day (who remained blind to the reality of who he was and his mission while here on earth), it was fueled by compassion as he sorely wanted them to believe and not to remain deceived. One of his statements from the cross clearly shows his compassion for his enemies when he stated, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Paul’s statement to young Timothy about being “the worst of sinners” is a statement that is true today of all of us as this flesh of ours can take over when we let down our guard and become lukewarm in our affection for our Lord Jesus Christ in a world full of compromise that calls to us every minute of every day to give in to it (e.g., gossip, love of money and material possessions, hatred and anger, condemning others, false humility, pride, etc.). It starts out as little compromises and then turns into full blown life patterns if we don’t stay close to the Source of our strength (Jesus Christ) and not depend on ourselves to keep us on the right path (which is our ultimate deception). We have an adversary that is far more stealth then we can even imagine and now would be a good time to study up on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-18:

The Armor of God

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

allyouneedisloveOne of the biggest challenges I have faced during this four-and-a-half-year struggle with unemployment is to let go of the anger I have felt for the folks that caused this to happen in my life in the first place. Some of those folks considered themselves to be Christian. So do I. Over the course of this time other factors that branched out from the unemployment situation came into focus–areas in my own life that needed “repairing” by the only “Repairer” that I know (Jesus Christ).

The details are not important. We all have our own “details” that cause us to stumble. However, it has been a long and sometimes arduous process. Sometimes it felt like I was taking three steps forward only to end up taking two steps back in the process. I stumbled a lot. I still stumble. And I’m still unemployed . . . .

It comes as no surprise that Christians are really, really good at hurting each other to include those outside of the faith. That’s because our flesh gets in the way all the time, and it is also because we have a strong tendency to judge all those “others” out there according to our own standards. John 3:16-18 makes it clear that Jesus Christ did not come to judge the world (no, that is God’s ultimate responsibility), but to save it. And as followers of Jesus Christ, that is our responsibility in our relationship to others, also (e.g., to point the way to Jesus and not to judge them). That includes “all” others which encompasses every human being on the planet (and that includes our enemies).

My greatest struggle during these past four and a half years has been with anger. I’ve lost a lot from this whole experience–most of my possessions that I had at the time when I lost my job in Houston and returned to Florida; a steady income with all of the benefits that usually come with employment (e.g., health insurance, etc.); friends who no longer call because it is just too awkward after this much time; rejection from potential employers especially once one has entered the “black hole” of long-term unemployment. And the financial ramifications from long-term unemployment can be staggering. I have learned all during this time that God can and does provide if we turn to Him with a whole heart and while that provision might not be exactly in the way we expect it to be (for example, providing another job for me), it can open up our world to a side of life that we never paid attention to before (which has happened in my own life in unbelievable ways). But I have to admit after this length of time, I am just so ready to move on and get off of this holding pattern.

However, the anger has taken a very long time to get over. While I have always said that I don’t hate those folks who caused this to happen to me (and I don’t), I have been exceedingly angry at them off and on over this long period of time. Had I found another job shortly after losing that one in April 2009 I would have gotten over it fairly quickly and just chalked it up to a bad experience. But it has left me unemployed now for four and a half years and I can’t even get an employer to look at me anymore because of being long-term unemployed.

An incident happened a few weeks back that finally allowed me to let go of that anger. Again, it’s not the incident that matters, but my reaction to it. I finally realized that there is no way I can personally resolve what happened to me when I lost that job. At the time I was fired I was never given a chance to present my side of the story. However, with this final incident I have been able to finally let it go. There can be no resolution on my end, but it’s in God’s hands and He’s the only one who can make a bad situation right. I no longer have any animosity towards my former employer and I’m sure they kept right on trucking after I was fired so I know it’s no skin off their nose (after all, employees everywhere get fired or laid off–rightly or wrongly–all the time), but the resolution for me has finally come–over four years later.

Nobody is perfect in this world of ours. I Corinthians 13:12 states, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” At the present time, any one of us only sees a mere fraction of what is really going on in this world, and even then it gets skewed from our own perceptions of the events. For Christians, the only way we can keep on track is to depend on Jesus Christ all of the time and not on ourselves and what we want or how we want to perceive and judge others, including our enemies and those we don’t particularly like or want to be around. In fact, I think this would be a good place to include the entire chapter of I Corinthians 13 as a reminder to all of us of what truly matters:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

We (and I certainly include myself in that “we”) need to stop dishonoring others with our speech and our actions and our attitudes. We need to stop being self-seeking, angry, and judgmental, and stop keeping records of wrongs that have been done to us. And the only way I know how to do that is to let Jesus Christ have total control of every area of my life on a daily basis. After all, the flesh is far too quick to get in the way and once we give in we’ve opened a doorway that is very hard to close again.

While I don’t know how my saga with long term unemployment is going to end yet, I do know that anger can no longer have the place in my life that I have allowed it to have for far too long. And while I cannot be responsible for other people’s actions, I can be and I am responsible for my own.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (I Cor. 13:6-7). Let us not delight in the evil that we do to each other anymore, but rejoice with the truth. And the truth is this: Love always protects . . . always trusts . . . always hopes . . . always perseveres . . . .

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love . . .

And the greatest of these is love . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Struggle” by Tenth Avenue North:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Truth About Lying

lyingLying . . . it’s everywhere. Not only do we lie to loved ones, bosses, coworkers, business associates, friends, customers, and “fill in the blank,” . . . we even lie to ourselves. And, “not only is lying fairly common, but for the most part, people are good at it. [For example] most of the lies people tell to their romantic partners never get discovered. In fact, the odds of getting caught in a lie are very low. It is estimated that people get away with almost all of the lies they tell (well over 95%)” (quote source here).

“We are a culture of liars, to put it bluntly, with deceit so deeply ingrained in our psyches that we hardly even notice we’re engaging in it. Spam e-mail, deceptive advertising, the everyday pleasantries we don’t really mean . . . . [and] liars get what they want. They avoid punishment, and they win others’ affection. Liars make themselves sound smart and savvy, they attain power over those of us who believe them, and they often use their lies to rise up in the professional world. Many liars have fun doing it. And many more take pride in getting away with it” (quote source here). And it’s not just about us and “them” (the liars). We all fit into that category as every last one of us tells lies–whether big or small or white or whatever color we want to make them.

When was the last time we took the following verses found in Proverbs (in the Old Testament) seriously? The verses I’m referring to are found in Proverbs 6:16-19:

“There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
–haughty eyes,
–a lying tongue,
–hands that shed innocent blood,
–a heart that devises wicked schemes,
–feet that are quick to rush into evil,
–a false witness who pours out lies
–and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”

While lying comes in at #2 on that list, it is also implied as a part of several of the others listed, and God hates them all. And we don’t. And therein lies (no pun intended) the problem.

And just so that we are all on the same page, give a really good definition of “lie” which states:

A lie is a false statement to a person or group made by another person or group who knows it is not the whole truth, intentionally. A barefaced (or bald-faced) lie is one that is obviously a lie to those hearing it. A Big Lie is a lie which attempts to trick the victim into believing something major which will likely be contradicted by some information the victim already possesses, or by their common sense. To bluff is to pretend to have a capability or intention one does not actually possess. Bullshit is often used to make the audience believe that one knows far more about the topic by feigning total certainty or making probable predictions. An emergency lie is a strategic lie told when the truth may not be told because, for example, harm to a third party would result. An exaggeration (or hyperbole) occurs when the most fundamental aspects of a statement are true, but only to a certain degree (quote source here).

inconvenient truth-reassuring lieI think we all pretty much know what lying is since we all do it so well when we feel the need to lie about something. “Stretching the truth” or telling a half truth (and gossip is full of half truths or outright lies) may make it sound more palpable (really???), but a lie is a lie, folks, even on Sunday morning in church.

In a devotion in Open Windows,” published by LifeWay titled, “Real Neighbors Speak Truth,” Jenna Fleming, pastor’s wife and women’s ministry leader, Union Avenue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee, hits on this topic right where it hurts. She writes the following (Note: devotional passage reference is Ephesians 4:23-25 and she starts by quoting verse 25):

“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.” ~Ephesians 4:25 (KJV)

Aesop’s Fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” tells of a shepherd boy who deceives villagers into thinking that a wolf is attacking the flock. Time after time, the boy cries “wolf” in an attempt to deceive the villagers. When a wolf does arrive, the villagers do not believe the boy’s cries for help, and the flock is destroyed. If the boy had spoken the truth all along, perhaps the villagers would have believed him and the flock could have been saved.

In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul told Christians to put away lying. In other words, he said, “Get rid of it! That was your old self.” He spoke of the church as a community, belonging not only to God, but also to one another. When they lied, they sinned against God and were guilty of sinning against the community.

Our lives are to be marked by being completely truthful in our relationships with our neighbors—any other person in general, but especially fellow believers. If we are the least bit deceptive, we must put it away, seek forgiveness, and commit only to speak the truth. You want others to tell you the truth; they want the same from you.

Father, since I have put on the new self, may I be a real neighbor and speak only what is true. I pray that You would help me become a person known as being truthful.

Lying has become so commonplace in our culture–from Madison Avenue, Wall Street, Hollywood, the halls of federal, state, and local governments; in social and all other types of media; in business and education, and right on down to Main Street, USA–that we hardly even think about it when we lie nor do we think about any of the ramifications that may come from it. And yet it is one of the things that God absolutely detests. And for those of us who profess to love God it says a lot about how we really think about God when lying (and that includes gossip) becomes second-nature to us.

In the middle of the 20th Century, A.W. Tozer wrote:

The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.

With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, ‘Be still, and know that I am God,’ mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshipper in this middle period of the twentieth century (quote source here).

Imagine how much farther we have fallen from the time Tozer wrote those words to now in the second decade of the 21st Century. Sin means next to nothing to us anymore, and “a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us” are thriving all around us and in our own lives, including lying to others and ourselves and believing lies being spread by others.

Galatians 6:7-9 clearly states, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

It behooves us to remember that God cannot be mocked, so the next time we think about lying or spreading a half-truth about someone or something . . .

Don’t do it . . .

‘Nough said . . . .

YouTube Video: “Smiling Faces” (1971) by The Undisputed Truth:

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Photo #2 credit here

A Heart for the Lord

Yom Kippur 5774 (September 13-14, 2013) in Jerusalem at the Western Wall

Yom Kippur 5774 (September 13-14, 2013) in Jerusalem at the Western Wall

The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, ended this past Saturday at nightfall. It is a very solemn holiday, and this year in particular marked the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War when the Egyptian and Syrian armies made a surprise attack on Israel. Yom Kippur is the last day of the High Holy Days, (also known as the Days of Awe), a 10-day period between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur, and the entire country fasts on Yom Kippur. In fact, the entire country “grinds to a halt” on Yom Kippur. As stated in an article titled, Israel marks solemn, silent Day of Atonement in The Times of Israel”:

“Jews traditionally spend the solemn day fasting and asking God for forgiveness at intense prayer services in synagogues. It caps a 10-day period of soul-searching that began with Rosh Hoshanah, the Jewish new year holiday . . . .

“Yom Kippur is unique in Israel because it touches almost the entire country. A high portion of the secular population observes the fast–and even those who don’t fast tend to refrain from eating in public, and quietly watch movies or rest at home” (quote source here).

“During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (and in the days leading up to them) Jews embark upon the serious task of examining their lives and repenting for any wrongs they have committed during the previous year. This process of repentance is called ‘teshuvah.’ Jews are encouraged to make amends with anyone they have wronged and to make plans for improving during the coming year” (quote source here).

“On Rosh Hashanah, Jews often say to one another, ‘May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.’ The High Holiday period is a choice between life and death, righteousness and sin, and those who repent are on their way to being inscribed in the ‘Book of Life,’ which brings with it the promise of a good year. The belief is that on Rosh Hashanah, the names are written in the book, and on Yom Kippur (10 days later) the book is sealed. These 10 days are referred to as the Days of Awe” (quote source here).

For Christians, Yom Kippur “has deep theological significance in the New Testament” as Jesus Christ’s death on the cross completed the work once and for all from the animal sacrifices the Old Testament priests offered to take away sin (quote source here). The Book of Hebrews, specifically chapters 8-10, point to Jesus Christ’s completed work on the cross as our great High Priest. As the writer of Hebrews states in Hebrews 10:1-18:

Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”

And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

returnWhile Jesus was on this earth He participated in all of the Jewish festivals and, in fact, His death on the cross coincided with Passover, as He became the ultimate and final sacrifice (Passover lamb) for sin. And as I have come to learn about the Jewish holidays in the past year and a half and specifically the significance of the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur) which centers around intense prayer, fasting and repentance, as a Christian I realize fully that Jesus Christ, the long awaited Messiah, is our great High Priest, and “where these (sins and lawless acts) have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin in no longer necessary” (Hebrews 10:18). However, the apostle Paul urges us in Ephesians 4:1-16, to “walk worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (v. 1). And I John 1-5 reminds us to live in the light and not in darkness; to love and not to hate; to not love this world and all it has to offer (e.g., “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”–v. 2:16); and to keep ourselves from idols (and anything that distracts us from our love of God and Jesus Christ is an idol).

Yom Kippur is a time for us, as Christians, to reflect on our lives and how we are living them in this world and with others, either as servants of Jesus Christ or serving ourselves. In a devotion in Open Windows,” published by LifeWay titled, “A Heart for the Lord,” Darla Brantley, adult Sunday School teacher, First Baptist Church, Winfield, Alabama, writes the following (Note: devotional passage reference is Jeremiah 24:4-7 and she starts by quoting Jeremiah 24:7):

“And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” ~Jeremiah 24:7 (KJV).

Emergency weather personnel must feel frustrated when they warn people of incoming storms and no one seems to listen. Forecasters advise listeners of danger and encourage them to take necessary precautions. Many residents heed the warnings and evacuate or take shelter while others simply ignore the warnings.

As a prophet of God, Jeremiah had a difficult job. He worked for decades trying to get God’s people to turn from their wicked ways by providing warnings of God’s coming judgment. He grieved their deafness to God’s message. However, God encouraged Jeremiah through a vision, letting the prophet know that those who heeded Jeremiah’s warning would be protected. God promised that His people would long to know Him.

Have you lost your focus on the Lord? Have you ignored warnings from fellow believers or God’s Word? Have you stopped listening to the still, small voice of your Savior? Heed the message your Father has for you. Return to God with all your heart, and enjoy close fellowship with your Creator. Allow Him to protect, comfort and sustain you.

Father, I want to know You and obey Your will. Help me return to You with all my heart.

Even though Yom Kippur is now over for this year, it is never too late to reflect on our walk with the Lord and if we have lost our focus or grown cold towards Him because of all this world has to offer us, especially here in America, we can at any moment return to Him with a humble heart and, once again, enjoy close fellowship with Him. Why not take a few moments today to listen to His “still, small voice” . . . .

He’s calling . . .

Are we listening?

YouTube video: “Come Worship the Lord” by Shannon Wexelberg:

Photo #1 credit and article here
Photo #2 credit here

Faced With Insurmountable Odds?

Love this! It’s a great story (and true, too) and a great reminder of how God comes through even in the midst of “insurmountable odds.” I hope you find this as encouraging as I did this morning! ~Sara’s Musings

Thought For the Day

Over the past several years I have been going through the Old Testament, book-by-book; chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse. Currently I am studying II Kings and in the 6th chapter I found a very interesting story.

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The Power of Affirmation

Shavua TovOn Sunday evening I sent an old and dear friend of mine a quick email wishing him Shavua Tov!” for the upcoming week. Shavua Tov is a Hebrew blessing that means “May you have a good week; may you find the happiness you seek; may your week be fine; may it be as sweet as the Sabbath wine” (quote source here). My friendship with him goes back 18 years (I met him through a letter I sent to his ministry back in June 1995 and he personally responded to it) and I have always considered him to be a “male mentor” to me and sort of like an older brother. He’s in his early 70’s now and still going full bore. He has authored several books over the years; has a popular weekly radio program; is a very much sought after speaker and a former pastor (for 30 years, if I remember right); and he is also a Professor Emeritus at a seminary where he still teaches occasionally. He is also a much beloved husband, father, grandfather, and a friend to many (of which I count it an honor to be among them).

After sending him that blessing, I mentioned to him that it isn’t often in our own society where we actually “bless” others with a blessing. We may say things like “Have a nice day,” or something similar to that, but the expression is so rote anymore that it has lost it’s impact or meaning. He wrote back to say “that we don’t understand the power of words to bless others… not just make them ‘feel good’ but to actually bless them. In the Bible, words have real power to do what they represent. Thus, the benediction/blessing pronounced at the end of most worship services aren’t just nice words. They have power to accomplish what they represent” (quote source is his email to me).

“Power to accomplish what they represent” . . . and not just nice words to say at the end of a worship service. I’ve been thinking about that since he wrote it and I wonder just how different our world might be if we actually started blessing each other instead of focusing on our differences or our disagreements that come up too often in life. A National Enquirer mentality has taken over as civility (e.g., being respectful of/to others) has lost it’s power in our society over the past several decades. Enquiring minds want to know and mostly what they want to know is the dirt (e.g., gossip) about others, whether it’s true or not. We love our gossip way too much. And we ending up cursing instead of blessing others most of the time by what we say about them behind their backs.

I read a devotion this morning in Our Daily Bread titled, The Power of Affirmation,” written by Marvin Williams. Here is what he wrote (the Scripture text for the devotion is found in I Corinthians 1:4-9):

During a recent study, 200,000 employees were interviewed to discover the missing ingredient in their productivity. The study concluded that appreciation and affirmation topped the list of what they wanted most from their superiors. This research implies that receiving affirmation is a basic human need.

The apostle Paul seemed to realize this basic need in the Corinthian believers, so before he peppered them with firm words of discipline, he showered them with affirmation. As their spiritual leader, Paul began his letter with thanksgiving to God for the grace being displayed in their lives.

Once far from God, these believers were now participating in His grace through the death and resurrection of Christ. United with Jesus, they were drawing their spiritual life from Him, and the fruit of this union was their spiritual growth in godliness (1 Cor. 1:4-7). Paul deliberately and continually thanked God for His work in the Corinthian believers’ lives. I imagine that they were better able to bear firm criticism from Paul because of his tender affirmation.

When we see people who are obeying God, let’s take time to affirm them and to thank God for what He’s doing through them.

Lord, You are at work in so many ways in my life and in the people around me. Help me to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ by telling them how I am blessed to see Your work in them.

Praise loudly—correct softly.

Before Paul gave the Corinthian believers some strong words of discipline that they needed to hear, he blessed them first for the grace that was being displayed in their lives with his words in I Corinthians 1:4-9 by stating, “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

How often in our society do we bless folks before we give them our criticism? For example, from a supervisor’s viewpoint, how often is credit given for the good an employee has done before the criticism or correction is given when a correction is needed? Or, even when no correction is needed and the employee is exemplary in their work, how often does a supervisor praise the work of his or her subordinates when it is due except, perhaps, during an annual evaluation? Not very often. A plethora of books have been written over the past several decades on the power of affirmation yet in actuality it isn’t often put into practice. We criticize and gossip far more often, and usually behind others’ backs.

An incident happened yesterday that brought this point to a reality. There was a breach in the security of my apartment that I discovered when the apartment next to mine was vacated by the young couple who lived there. The two apartments (mine and theirs) are the only two apartments located in a very large old house, and there is a door in the back of their apartment that lead into my apartment space. I was always told that the door was securely sealed on both sides so that neither side could open it and enter the other’s apartment. After the couple moved out at the end of August, I discovered that the door that separated their apartment from mine was not secure. In fact, it was possible for them to open that door and enter my apartment space without any problem (e.g., the stairwell area which I used for storage for most of my possessions which leads up to my apartment). On my side of the door it required a key to open the door which I was told by the previous owner of the house that the key had been lost years before. However, on the other side of the door was a doorknob lock that only required turning it to open the door. When I discover the violation and breach in my own security, I reported it to the current manager of the house.

Listen carefullyThe current manager came over to the house yesterday morning to assess the situation. I had had previous conversations with her in the past and liked her very much. She stated that they would secure the door with a lock (which needed to be ordered) that would not allow either side to be able to open the door separating the two apartments, and that only management would have the key for that new lock. In the course of our conversation she told me about some “second-hand” information she had received about me (she would not reveal the source) which, when she told me what it was, I told her was absolutely not true. What surprised me was that she chose to believe the “second-hand” information over what I said to her about the information she received being false.

From the few times I have talked with her since she started working for the company that currently owns this house (she started working for them in early 2013), I have found her to be very professional. However, what she told me yesterday that she had “heard” about me and obviously believed (without ever asking me about it before it came up yesterday) blew me away. When I told her it was false I got the impression that she did not believe me (from her nonverbal communication). The only other folks on the premises who could have said this about me are the young couple who rented the apartment next to mine who moved out at the end of August (the apartment is currently vacant), and a fellow who rents the single garage space as a “workshop” who employs men who work with him doing carpentry and other work in various places around town. That fellow does not live on the premises, and the men he employs are mostly temporary help that come and go from his workshop throughout the day and evening hours.

What has happened to our society when we now believe “second-hand” information about others said behind their backs and when confronted with the truth it gets dismissed when those “others” defend themselves against those false allegations? This woman who received the false information about me is a professional and should have asked me about that information when she first received it instead of automatically believing it was true. Indeed, a “National Enquirer” mentality has taken over in a big way in America and the truth doesn’t appear to matter anymore. We love the lies more than we care about the truth.

What has happened to our nation when civility and respect for others has died and actually caring about others beyond a surface level doesn’t matter anymore? Just look at all the infighting in politics that goes on 24/7; not to mention the treachery that goes on in the workplace nowadays with folks “trying to get ahead” at any cost including damaging or destroying other employees. We no longer have any respect for our elected leaders or for our employers or other employees, or even each other! And, when one of our most commonly used words in our English language today is a four-letter word starting with an “F” something is seriously wrong (e.g., just watch most movies made in America in the past several decades to see just prolific that word is used in common dialogue). Disrespect is everywhere, and the truth doesn’t appear to matter to anyone anymore–at least not if it gets in the way of something we want.

The incident that happened yesterday with the manager of the house I live in is a clear case in point. Without giving me one bit of credit she automatically believed the second-hand information she received about me. In fact, if the whole security issue concerning my apartment had not come up, she never would have said a word to me about what she had heard someone say about me and would have continued to assume it was true (and she may still believe it to be true).

Folks, we need to get back to some kind of civility in this country or we will go down the tube at a rate we don’t even want to think about. As long as we only care about our own little world and what we can get or who we can gossip about, we have lost sight of what this country has always stood for in the past which is “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for everyone. We curse others with our gossip and our lies, and then we ask God to bless America. And there is something seriously wrong with that reasoning. Seriously wrong.

We don’t need more books published on the power of affirmation. No, we need to start treating each other as we would want to be treated in every single situation we encounter every single day. And if we can’t start doing that, folks, then praying for God to bless America totally misses the point. Our actions, attitudes, and behaviors do count. We–you and me–are America. And it starts with us . . . .

The final few verses in the book of Jude (vs. 17-25) are a call for Christians to persevere and state the following:

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

We need to build up others instead of tearing them down with our cursing of them behind their backs (or to their faces). Gossip and lying about others is the ugliest form of cursing that there is on this planet. How can we expect God to bless our nation when our own actions, attitudes, and words don’t. Changing our actions, attitudes and words starts with us . . .

And now–today–is the time for change . . .

Before it is too late . . . .

YouTube Video: “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts:

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Who is Lord?

Jesus is LordI remember a controversy that took place back in the 1980’s–which actually got it’s start back in the 1950’s (source here)–that created a huge brouhaha in the Christian church in America. It was over the concept of Lordship Salvation.” The dispute spawned several books, conferences, and other media events at that time and has continued over the past thirty or so years in the evangelical community. A quote from states:

In 1988, Dr. John F. MacArthur, Jr., published the first edition of The Gospel According to Jesus.” By defining salvation by what it produces and what salvation will not fail to produce—namely, not only glorification, but good works, repentance, faith, sanctification, yieldedness, and obedience, the book in its sales not only heavily spread the extent of the debate, but the debate expanded in scope, from questions about conversion issues, to questions about what is also necessary, and who it is who does what, throughout the Christian life. Using surrender language in the gospel became not the only issue.

Free Grace theology became an umbrella term for a variety of opposing or contrasting positions, sometimes arguing that Lordship salvation was legalistic, sometimes more opposed to it than that, for example, faulting it about not being specific about what degree, quality, and current visibility there must be to the obedience necessary. The controversy continues to be debated in discussions about not only all the gospels, but in discussions about almost any of the Pauline epistles [the New Testament books written by the apostle Paul], and the rest of the New Testament, as well as much material about salvation in topical studies, and in systematic theology (quote course here).

While the debate is still very much alive and still as heated, often defined in terms nowadays as “legalism versus grace” (although the issues go deeper than just that); at the core of the controversy is the whole idea of who “owns” our lives (especially for those of us who consider ourselves to be Christian). Innumerable books, articles, and other media have been written and created on the topic since the 1980’s. Indeed, entire ministries have sprung up from the debate leaning heavily on one or the other side of the issue, and I have no desire to add to that debate. As I wrote in a previous blog post a few days ago (see Contemplating God’s Sovereignty), the whole idea of one person having complete control over us as individuals and as Americans is an alien concept, so the idea of anyone being “Lord” (or King, Queen, dictator, or sovereign ruler) over us can rankle our nerves. After all, we are Americans and we like our freedom to choose. Rugged individualism is at the core of who we are as a people and as a nation–just look at John Wayne.

As Americans, we do, however, like having strong leadership. Not dictatorship (autocratic rule–a government without the people’s consent), but leadership (democratic rule–a government with the people’s consent). Here are some of the key differences between leaders and dictators from

  • A leader has his peoples’ best interests at heart; a dictator has his own interests at heart.
  • A leader corrects injustices; a dictator commits and encourages injustices.
  • A leader protects the weak and helpless; a dictator oppresses the weak and helpless.
  • A leader unites the people; a dictator creates division and polarizes the people.
  • Leaders advance and develop their countries; dictators setback and destroy their countries.
  • When people are hurting leaders share the peoples’ grief; dictators hurt and grieve their own people.
  • Leaders are loved because they don’t instill fear in their people; dictators are hated because they instill fear in their people.
  • Leaders comfort the oppressed; dictators oppress the comfortable.
  • Leaders are trusted by their people; dictators betray the trust of their people.
  • Leaders abide by the Law of the land; dictators are the Law of the land.
  • It takes a leader to notice another leader; it takes a dictator to destroy a leader.
  • Leaders will always be remembered for the problems they solved; dictators will always be remembered for the problems they created (list source here.)

Most of the time when we think of someone with supreme control over others we think of them in the role of a dictator–someone who does not care about the people or their needs at all, but rules with “an iron fist” as indicated in the list above. Unfortunately, world history proves this out many times; for example, in recent history with Adolf Hitler or Mao Tse-tung. As Americans, we tend to think of anyone in the role of a supreme ruler or king or lord as a dictator–one who does not have the peoples’ interests at heart but the interests of only themselves; and history has proved over and over again the enormous damage caused on the world scene by an autocratic dictator.

Who is molding you?

Who is molding you?

However, there is One supreme ruler who is anything but a dictator as described in the list above. That supreme ruler (and leader) is Jesus Christ. In fact, if we read that list above again and look at all of the attributes of a true leader, Jesus Christ fulfills every one of them, and a whole lot more. When Jesus Christ, the only Son of God (see John 3:16-18), came to earth, born of a virgin; He came as a servant announcing the kingdom of God and how to become a part of it (see John 3). And during His public ministry (His last three years), He told us how to live and to turn from sin; He healed the sick and the blind and the lame; He performed miracles; and He admonished the religious elite regarding their hypocrisy and their need to get right with God. And He announced to Pilate, right before His crucifixion and resurrection, “My kingdom is not of this world . . . my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).

In a devotion in Open Windows,” published by LifeWay titled, “Who is Lord?”, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Senior Pastor at Cross Church, Springdale, AR, and general editor, LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life, writes the following (Note: devotional passage reference is Philippians 2:5-11 and he starts by quoting verse 11):

“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” ~Phil. 2:11 (KJV).

In the game of football, the teams that emerge in championship games generally are the ones who have a quarterback who excels at his ability to play that position. Many qualities make a quarterback great, but the most successful quarterbacks are respected leaders. Their leadership commands attention, which results in the entire team responding to them.

When you repented of your sin and trusted in Jesus Christ and Him alone for your salvation, Jesus became the Savior and Lord of your life. As Lord, that means He calls the shots. He tells you where to line up and how to live when you are under pressure.

The Greek word “kurios” is used in the New Testament to identify Jesus as Lord. The word refers to one who has authority over another person. The disciples used the word when referring to Jesus in Matthew 8:25, 16:22, Luke 9:54, and John 11:12. Jesus is the Lord of lords.

Jesus is not just the quarterback of your life; He is the Lord of your life. No one has ever done what Jesus has done. He is Lord, Leader, King! All to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus, I reaffirm and recommit my life to You today. I confess that You are my Lord. Help me to demonstrate that belief to others.

We often get so caught up in the details of life and what we want and seek after that we lose sight of the kingdom to come–we lose sight of what Jesus had to say about how we should live in this world (which is temporary) and to follow Him and His lead. Because we are so used to having so much freedom in America to pursue whatever we want, we often fail to recognize that Jesus Christ is not only our Savior but our Lord, and He is the one who calls the shots in our life. Often, we want Him as our Savior but we still want to call the shots and have the control on what we do, how we act, and what we want to pursue in this life, centering our lives around ourselves. As the apostle Paul stated in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” and also to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel by standing firm in the Spirit and striving for the faith (Phil. 1:27), and not just living for what we want to get out of life.

So, laying aside all the debates over the issue of “Lordship salvation” or any other terms we use to define it, who really rules our life? If we claim to be Christian, we cannot serve ourselves and Jesus Christ at the same time.

And it’s critical that we answer this question right . . .

Who is Lord?

YouTube Video: “He is Lord” by Hillsong:

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

God is in controlWhen something happens to us or our loved ones that sends our personal world rocking, one of the first questions we ask is “Where is God in the midst of this?” or “Why did God let this happen?” That was my first reaction when I lost my job almost four and a half years ago, and I have asked it again at times during this extended time of unemployment. However, at this point the question has turned into “How much longer?”

God has many attributes. While we tend to focus primarily on four of them–His love, His grace, His faithfulness and His mercyHe has many more. To get an idea of just how many attributes are attributed to God,  A.W. Tozer’s book, Knowledge of the Holy,” has information on over twenty of them (the complete book is available online at this link). A partial listing, to including the four already mentioned, includes His immutability, His omniscience, His omnipresence, His goodness, His justice, His wisdom, His holiness, and His sovereignty. For a print copy of his book, a PDF version (it’s free) is available for download at this link, or the book can be ordered online through

When our world suddenly turns upside down, we may wonder what happened to God’s love, mercy, grace, and faithfulness; however, they have not suddenly disappeared in the midst of our pain and upheaval. What I have learned in the course of the past four and a half years of unemployment and it’s significant challenges is that there is a much bigger picture going on from God’s view that we can’t often see or even begin to comprehend beyond our own circumstances. The bigger picture is that God’s bottom line is always about the redemption of humankind. Always. That is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to us so that we may come to know Him in a very personal, saving way. John 3:16-18 is God’s mission statement to our world in a nutshell:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

When tragedy touches our lives, God is still in control. We may not understand why this has happened to us, but this is where God’s sovereignty comes clearly into view. Our will takes a “back seat” (as it always should) and God’s will is “center stage” (as it always should be and is whether we realize it or not). Let’s take a look at the definition of sovereign to get a better understanding. defines “sovereign” as follows:

1. a monarch; a king, queen, or other supreme ruler.
2. a person who has supreme power or authority.
3. belonging to or characteristic of a sovereign or sovereign authority; royal.
4. having supreme rank, power, or authority.
5. supreme; preeminent; indisputable; a sovereign right.

As Americans, we revel in the freedoms given to us in the U.S. Constitution. The Preamble to the Constitution starts right off with, “We the People, of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” We, the people, elect those who govern over us and who establish our laws. Therefore, the idea of any elected official as being a “king, queen, or supreme ruler who has supreme power or authority” over us is inconceivable. That is not the case in many countries around our world. We are, indeed, fortunate to possess the freedoms that we have here in America and never take them for granted.

Since the idea of any one person having supreme power or authority over us is a foreign concept (as in a dictator, king, or queen), we don’t often think of God in that way, either; yet, that is exactly what God’s sovereignty is all about. In a devotion in Open Windows,” published by LifeWay titled, “Contemplate God’s Sovereignty,” Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Senior Pastor at Cross Church, Springdale, AR, and general editor, LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life, writes the following (Note: devotional passage reference is Romans 11:33-36 and he starts by quoting verse 34):

For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Romans 11:34 (KJV)

When tragedy strikes the lives of those who love God, how do you respond? Every time a school shooting, suicide, child abuse, or some flagrant injustice occurs, questions about God abound. Matthew 5:45 reminds us that God makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the evil and the good. Christians are not exempt from illness, loss, pain and suffering.

Today’s Scripture passage addresses the sovereign nature of God. Sovereignty is described as God’s rule and work according to His eternal purpose–even when we may think events contradict or oppose His rule. Paul knew that God rules. Not one human being knows what God knows. Nor can one understand His ways. His mind is incomprehensible and His ways untraceable!

Yet, here is the wonder of our God: the supreme Ruler of all desires to have a love relationship with us through His Son Jesus Christ. He cherishes your fellowship. The next time something happens in life that does not make sense, remember that God knows everything. He sees it all. He knows it all. He promises His constant presence. Take Him at His Word and trust His heart of love, mercy and grace.

Lord, since You are in complete control, I choose to trust You regardless of my circumstances.

“Sovereignty is described as God’s rule and work according to His eternal purpose–even when we may think events contradict or oppose His rule.” And God’s eternal purpose is the redemption of humankind (on an individual basis). At the onset of a tragedy, we have no idea how the pain in our own lives can benefit us in our relationship with God in ways we cannot comprehend by drawing us closer to the very Source of Life (Jesus Christ) and clearing away all the “stuff” (mental, physical, and/or material) in life that has been getting in the way of our relationship with God, whether or not we realize how all that “stuff” is alienating us from Him.

CrossAlso, our witness (see Hebrews 11:1-40; 12:1-3) during a time of personal crisis can draw people to Jesus Christ. Now, mind you, that does not mean we have to put on a false image in public to hide the pain we are going through. No, not at all. Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and He did not hide His pain (for example, Jesus wept when he heard that Lazarus had died, even though He knew He was going to bring him back to life–see John 11 for full account). God has given us the gift of emotions not only for our own benefit but also to be able to feel compassion for others going through a hard time.

Dr. Floyd also stated, “The next time something happens in life that does not make sense, remember that God knows everything. He sees it all. He knows it all. He promises His constant presence. Take Him at His Word and trust His heart of love, mercy and grace.” All of us encounter things that happen that don’t make sense, but God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and ever present, and He knows exactly how that circumstance fits not only into our lives but into the lives of others around us. We need to trust Him completely (and that’s not always easy). If you’re like me, your mind is always racing trying to figure out ahead of time what the outcome might be (even in the moment-by-moment events in life). However, as I have continued to pray, “Your will be done, and help me put mine aside,” I have been truly amazed by what God has done that I couldn’t have possibly understood on my own.

Proverbs 3:5-8 states the following:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.

How often are we “wise in our own eyes” and think we know how best to handle a particular situation? As much as I hate to admit it, more often then I would like. Yet what I have been learning over these past four and a half years is to let go of what I want or need or think about how a situation should be resolved, and leave it up to Him to decide. And it’s a moment-by-moment decision. And I’ve been absolutely amazed, in the very midst of how I thought I was supposed to handle a particular situation, that when I give it up to Him, He takes it and makes something out of it that I never could have known on my own.

Indeed, as Dr. Floyd states, “. . . here is the wonder of our God: the supreme Ruler of all desires to have a love relationship with us through His Son Jesus Christ. He cherishes your fellowship,” and He does that when we let go of the control and give our lives completely to Him–on a moment-by-moment basis. Every time my mind “jumps ahead” to try to work out a particular situation, when I ask Him to take control, the result is always enlightenment, and the outcome is rarely what I had imagined.

God’s bottom line is about the redemption of humankind, and He uses everything (good and bad) to bring that about. In everything that happens to us (see Romans 8:28) He “is conforming us to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29).

The apostle Paul gave up everything in his past life when he met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road. Here is what he had to say about following Jesus in Philippians 3:7-14:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

When bad things happen, we need to remember that God is still there in the very midst of our situation, working out His will, and we need to turn to Him and allow Him to have complete control. And don’t even try to second guess the outcome. His purposes are far greater than we can imagine, and our purpose is to be a vessel for His use in bringing about His ultimate purpose.

And, if His answer seems slow in coming, remember this–“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance, and everything (good, bad, and ugly) that happens in this world of ours leads to that end.

God’s bottom line is always about redemption . . .

Always . . . .

YouTube Video: “Hail to the King” by Shannon Wexelberg:

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