A Virtual Memorial Day Celebration

Today is Memorial Day here in America. As stated on AARP’s website: “The COVID-19 pandemic has upended life as we know it, forcing us to alter our behavior for the sake of public health. Memorial Day is no exception. Although most parades and public events have been cancelled for this year’s Memorial Day, there are still ways to honor service members who lost their lives. We compiled a list of events and services that can help you observe the holiday from home or within your community.” (Quote source and their list of activities can be found at this link.)

I watched the National Memorial Day Concert on television yesterday that was broadcast on PBS, and it was excellent. It is available to watch on their website at this link, and it is one hour and 25 minutes in length. One of the songs performed during this concert is titled “Still a Soldier” and it is sung by Trace Adkins (YouTube video is at the bottom of this blog post).

There are several veterans in my family including myself, but I don’t count what I did as anything even remotely close to my other family members who served in the military. My dad and stepmother served in the U.S. Navy during World War 2 (and my dad remained in the Naval Reserve for 20 years after his active duty ended); my older brother served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and he was stationed in Saigon; and my stepbrother served in the U.S. Army for several years including being stationed in Germany. I served in the U.S. Army on a two-year enlistment they had at the time, and I was stationed in South Korea at the tail end of the Vietnam War. Three of them have passed on–my stepbrother died in 2008, my stepmother died in 2011, and my dad died a year ago in June 2019. While none of them died in active service, they were veterans at the time of their death, so I remember them on this day as well as on Veteran’s Day.

In an article titled, Memorial Day Meaning,” published on AllAboutHistory.org is the transcript of a speech given by President Ronald Reagan at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 1986. Here is that article and the transcript of President Reagan’s speech:

Memorial Day Meaning – The History

Each May, the United States celebrates a day called Memorial Day. Does Memorial Day have meaning? What is the history of Memorial Day?

Memorial Day was first widely observed in May 1868. The celebration commemorated the sacrifices of the Civil War and the proclamation was made by General John A Logan. Following the proclamation, participants decorated graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers.

In years since World War 1, the day has become a celebration of honor for those who died in all America’s wars, as well as those who are Veterans and current members of the US military.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday. The United States celebrates this holiday the last Monday of May.

Memorial Day Meaning – Reagan’s Speech

President Ronald Reagan is credited with reviving the practice of honoring Memorial Day and its meaning. One of his famous speeches was given at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 1986:

“Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It’s a day to be with the family and remember.

“I was thinking this morning that across the country children and their parents will be going to the town parade and the young ones will sit on the sidewalks and wave their flags as the band goes by. Later, maybe, they’ll have a cookout or a day at the beach. And that’s good, because today is a day to be with the family and to remember.

“Arlington, this place of so many memories, is a fitting place for some remembering. So many wonderful men and women rest here, men and women who led colorful, vivid, and passionate lives. There are the greats of the military: Bull Halsey and the Admirals Leahy, father and son; Black Jack Pershing; and the GI’s general, Omar Bradley. Great men all, military men. But there are others here known for other things.

“Here in Arlington rests a sharecropper’s son who became a hero to a lonely people. Joe Louis came from nowhere, but he knew how to fight. And he galvanized a nation in the days after Pearl Harbor when he put on the uniform of his country and said, ‘I know we’ll win because we’re on God’s side.’ Audie Murphy is here, Audie Murphy of the wild, wild courage. For what else would you call it when a man bounds to the top of a disabled tank, stops an enemy advance, saves lives, and rallies his men, and all of it single-handedly. When he radioed for artillery support and was asked how close the enemy was to his position, he said, ‘Wait a minute and I’ll let you speak to them.’ [Laughter]

“Michael Smith is here, and Dick Scobee, both of the space shuttle Challenger. Their courage wasn’t wild, but thoughtful, the mature and measured courage of career professionals who took prudent risks for great reward—in their case, to advance the sum total of knowledge in the world. They’re only the latest to rest here; they join other great explorers with names like Grissom and Chaffee.

“Oliver Wendell Holmes is here, the great jurist and fighter for the right. A poet searching for an image of true majesty could not rest until he seized on ‘Holmes dissenting in a sordid age.’ Young Holmes served in the Civil War. He might have been thinking of the crosses and stars of Arlington when he wrote: ‘At the grave of a hero we end, not with sorrow at the inevitable loss, but with the contagion of his courage; and with a kind of desperate joy we go back to the fight.’

“All of these men were different, but they shared this in common: They loved America very much. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for her. And they loved with the sureness of the young. It’s hard not to think of the young in a place like this, for it’s the young who do the fighting and dying when a peace fails and a war begins. Not far from here is the statue of the three servicemen—the three fighting boys of Vietnam. It, too, has majesty and more. Perhaps you’ve seen it—three rough boys walking together, looking ahead with a steady gaze. There’s something wounded about them, a kind of resigned toughness. But there’s an unexpected tenderness, too. At first you don’t really notice, but then you see it. The three are touching each other, as if they’re supporting each other, helping each other on.

“I know that many veterans of Vietnam will gather today, some of them perhaps by the wall. And they’re still helping each other on. They were quite a group, the boys of Vietnam—boys who fought a terrible and vicious war without enough support from home, boys who were dodging bullets while we debated the efficacy of the battle. It was often our poor who fought in that war; it was the unpampered boys of the working class who picked up the rifles and went on the march. They learned not to rely on us; they learned to rely on each other. And they were special in another way: They chose to be faithful. They chose to reject the fashionable skepticism of their time. They chose to believe and answer the call of duty. They had the wild, wild courage of youth. They seized certainty from the heart of an ambivalent age; they stood for something.

“And we owe them something, those boys. We owe them first a promise: That just as they did not forget their missing comrades, neither, ever, will we. And there are other promises. We must always remember that peace is a fragile thing that needs constant vigilance. We owe them a promise to look at the world with a steady gaze and, perhaps, a resigned toughness, knowing that we have adversaries in the world and challenges and the only way to meet them and maintain the peace is by staying strong.

“That, of course, is the lesson of this century, a lesson learned in the Sudetenland, in Poland, in Hungary, in Czechoslovakia, in Cambodia. If we really care about peace, we must stay strong. If we really care about peace, we must, through our strength, demonstrate our unwillingness to accept an ending of the peace. We must be strong enough to create peace where it does not exist and strong enough to protect it where it does. That’s the lesson of this century and, I think, of this day. And that’s all I wanted to say. The rest of my contribution is to leave this great place to its peace, a peace it has earned.

“Thank all of you, and God bless you, and have a day full of memories.” (Quote source here.) (YouTube video of Reagan’s speech is below.)

This Memorial Day is quieter then most due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions that are in place right now and many of the ceremonies have been held online. As we remember those service men and women who have died in service for our country or later on in life, and as we honor those veterans who are still alive; let us pray for God’s blessing on America, and ask for God’s protection over those who are servicing in all branches of our military. And may we never forget . . .

Freedom . . .

Isn’t . . .

Free . . . .

YouTube Video: Reagan’s Remarks at a Memorial Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia — 5/26/86:

YouTube Video: Trace Adkins Performing “Still a Soldier” at the 2020 National Memorial Day Concert:

YouTube Video: Moment of Remembrance (Taps) – Memorial Day 2020:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Silver Linings

For over six years now I’ve been trying to find an apartment to rent in an income-based senior apartment complex. I thought that search had finally ended about a month ago when I got a call from an income-based senior apartment complex in the area where I am currently living that had recently opened in 2017, and on my third try at trying to secure an apartment there, I was finally told there was an apartment available for me to rent. Wow. It’s been a very long time in coming.

I met with the assistant manager on April 21st and I filled out the application to rent the apartment and paid the application fee. I submitted all of the paperwork required on my income/finances, and I was told the apartment was available for me to rent on either May 8th or May 15th. I chose May 8th.

I was sent my new address for that apartment via email also on April 21st along with the information I needed to set up utilities and internet/cable in that apartment starting on May 8th, but I had not yet been given a lease to sign. So I didn’t call the utilities company or the cable/internet company yet as it was not “official” as I had not been given a lease to sign nor had I received keys to the apartment.

About a week before I was scheduled to move in I received a communication from the assistant manager that their compliance department requested me to submit complete monthly statements on the two assets I had listed on the application. I had submitted summary statements regarding these two assets at the time of my application, and I had been told that the summary statements would be fine. However, the compliance department requested to see the full monthly statements on both assets that consisted of 23 pages, so I submitted them to the assistant manager. This occurred one week before I was scheduled to move in.

I inquired on that Monday of the week I was scheduled to move in (just this past week) if everything was still in order for me to move in on May 8th. I still has not heard back from the assistant manager regarding when I would be signing the lease and receiving keys to the apartment. I had not yet even seen the apartment as I was told by the assistant manager it would not be ready for me to see until the maintenance staff had completed work in the apartment after the previous tenant vacated it on April 30th.

I should note that I had no furniture to move into the apartment as I lost all of my furniture 11 years ago when I lost a job in Texas and I had to move back to state I previously lived in a year earlier (Florida) where I had lived before accepting that job in Houston that only lasted seven months, and I could not afford to move my furniture back to Florida as I was unemployed, so I gave it away to a inner-city ministry in Houston.

With no furniture to move into this apartment that I was about to acquire, between April 21st when my application for that apartment was submitted, and leading up to the day I was scheduled to move into the apartment, I went looking for furniture to buy. However, I did not order any furniture during that time as I was still waiting to sign a lease.

Exactly one day before I was scheduled to move into this apartment I received an email from the assistant manager stating that after reviewing my 23 pages of documentation, the compliance department stated that I was no longer eligible to rent that apartment as the monthly income they determined me to have from those documents (and not the actual monthly income I live on and I proved to them that it was my only income) was more then I was allowed to have to rent that apartment. So, at the last minute I ended up losing that apartment.

For six years I’ve been looking for affordable senior housing in which I have been placed on several waiting lists in two different states, but I never heard back from any of them even when I called to inquire where I stood on their waiting lists. And now, when I am finally told an apartment has opened up that I can rent (as I mentioned above I’ve gone to that complex looking to rent an apartment three times since they opened in 2017), at the last minute it falls through.

To say the very least, a silver lining can be very hard to find in a situation like this one. However, being an eternal optimist, I’ve gone looking for one. My optimism is firmly planted in reality, too, as I do not believe in a “Pollyanna” or “pie in the sky” type of optimism as there are plenty of forces in our world that try to hold people back from moving forward, and history is replete with examples.

In an article published on April 3, 2014, titled, For Christians, a silver lining to losing the culture war?” by Matt K. Lewis, a political writer and commentator, blogger, podcaster, and senior columnist for The Daily Beast, formerly with The Daily Caller, and contributor with The Week, he writes:

As I wrote last year, the culture war is over, and conservatives lost. For Christians, though, there might just be a silver lining.

Now, of course, it’s understandable why many of my fellow cultural conservatives mourn the decline of Christian values in the public arena, inasmuch as they had a powerful influence on the rise of western civilization. Historians like Rodney Stark and sociologists like Mary Eberstadt (and many others) have chronicled this phenomenon. It’s not simply about “losing power and market share,” but mourning the very real downstream effects of secular liberal policies on issues such as defending the unborn.

But there are reasons for Christian conservatives to be optimistic about these societal changes, too. For one thing, the good times weren’t always so good. The peak of “Christian America” was probably the 1950s, and while this era had a veneer of spirituality and perhaps the post-war evangelical movement was at its apogee (think Billy Graham), America was plagued by the ugly reality of racism, which goes against the gospel. In many ways, the 1950s was a gilded age. While a lot of Americans presented themselves as Ward Cleaver, they drank and philandered like Don Draper.

In the 1960s and beyond, the rejection of Christianity was a logical extension for young people rebelling against the culture’s sterility and their parent’s phoniness. This was an ironic turn of events for a faith that began as a very revolutionary, counter-cultural movement about sacrifice and (yes, sometimes) suffering. But at some point, rather than being a dangerous choice, Christianity became the perfunctory, convenient, de rigueur even, choice of lemmings—and the way to gain the approval of the phony establishment, not unlike joining the Elks Lodge upon moving to a new town.

Eventually, in many parts of the country, the church became an almost wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, which pushed to return America to its Judeo-Christian heritage. This was a noble goal, but there might have been some unintended consequences. When religion enjoys the imprimatur of the state, it risks being corrupted and co-opted. Do Christians really want the state leading their children in prayer?

None of this, of course, is appealing to romantic young people who want to be boldly called to something larger than their own self interest. For this reason, we have seen the decline of mainline churches in America coincide with the rise of Christianity in other (less welcoming) parts of the world. And for this reason, I suspect, we have seen more and more young Christians checking out of politics.

That’s why the loss of the culture war is an opportunity rather than a crisis. It is in times like these—when there is a stark cleavage between the world and believers—that Christianity typically grows and rediscovers its purpose.

Just as political parties wrestle with whether or not it’s better to be a big tent, or (to paraphrase Reagan) to fly “a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors,” there is an argument that “nominal” Christians cause more problems than solutions. In politics, numbers matter, of course, and Christians who are still looking for a political savior may view this trend as bad news. But for Christians focused on something more transcendent—saving souls and winning real converts—there is a silver lining to losing the culture.

Consider this Christian Post article, citing Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:

While Americans have traditionally viewed church participation as necessary for acceptance in their communities, Moore believes that will no longer be the case. This means that there will be fewer “nominal Christians,” or those who call themselves Christian but are not committed to the faith. With this “reverse rapture” of nominal Christians leaving the Church, Moore sees an opportunity for the Church to rediscover its true mission. [Christian Post]

The problem of “nominal” Christianity seems to have observable societal consequences, too. In his latest column for the New York Times, Ross Douthat hints at it, observing that “the social goods associated with faith flow almost exclusively from religious participation, not from affiliation or nominal belief.”

Another possible silver lining: As Christianity recedes as the dominant cultural paradigm, it might also have the ironic affect of sparking a renewed interest and curiosity about spirituality. Absence, I suppose, can make the heart grow fonder. With Noah triumphing at the box office, and a new show called Resurrection on ABC (a show filled with biblical allusions), it would be easy to conclude that a disenchanted and dispirited nation—having given up hope that salvation will come in the form of traditional American institutions—is yearning for some sort of spiritual fulfillment.

Christ promised that genuine Christianity would be met with opposition. And the entire book o1 Peter was written for this purpose: How do we live as a faithful minority? I don’t think anyone should be rooting for persecution, of course, but I do think there may be some very positive developments to come from a nation that no longer pretends to be Christian. It’s hard to be a rebel when you’re The Man. (Quote source here.)

I do realize that this article does not specifically relate to my six-plus-years failed housing search, but then maybe again it does. Let’s continue on with that train of thought started by Matt K. Lewis above.

In an articled published on March 29, 2020, titled, The silver lining: Finding an upside in today’s crisis,” by Dave Edgren, pastor and author, he writes:

I don’t believe God sends calamities. God didn’t send the coronavirus.

What I do believe is this: The Holy Spirit is busy insulating clouds with silver linings.

In the first hundred years or so after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Church went viral. It grew exponentially. The Great Commission was infiltrating families, towns, countries and continents.

Jesus’ disciples grew in number daily.

And they did it in homes.

That’s right. Every church was a house church. The church spread like wildfire because the church was liquid. Then our ancestors turned the church into a solid. They built walls around it—both theological and physical walls. They set it in stone. They bricked God in. Sure, they put in doors and stained-glass windows, but cathedral doors are often locked and theological stained-glass windows are always closed. The church of the Middle Ages restricted access to God.

Then the reformation decentralized the church, allowing denominational divisions to thrive. Now, the world hosts over 30,000 distinct Christian denominations!

And yet, Jesus said to His Father, “May they be one as we are one.” Paul riffed on this prayer of Jesus, saying: “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

So, here we are in 2020. Governments in dozens of countries have restricted mass gatherings due to the rapidly spreading COVID-19. Sporting teams played games to empty stadiums attended only by TV cameras, but now most codes have cancelled their seasons altogether. Pop stars cancelled concerts. Places of worship have been closed. Mosques. Temples. Synagogues. Churches. The clouds hang low, blanketing the world in fear. The 30,000 Christian denominations that meet in some 15 million church buildings around the globe have nowhere to go.

Or do they?

The Holy Spirit is unrestricted and goes wherever He wishes, like wind through trees.

Have you ever flown through a cloud? We are in one now. Can you see the silver lining?

Millions of Christians headed home. Not to do church but to be the church. Christianity, for a month or two, is going back to its roots. People meeting in homes. Families worshiping together in sincerity. No sound systems. No professionals professing. The body of Christ is returning to the lounge room. Just people. At home. Snuggled into fluffed up couches, holding steaming drinks. And sharing their hearts.

God didn’t send the COVID-19. But when the “corona cloud” enveloped us, God said, “I’ll take it!” And He sent His Spirit with silver paint and a message: “Where two or three are gathered, God is with you.” (Quote source here.)

“Liquid” –as in fluid and not static or confined. “Unrestricted–like wind through trees.” I like that thought. Sans any furniture of my own, or a year-long lease that I would have had a legal obligation to keep for the next year had I been able to rent that apartment, I am still very much “fluid and unrestricted.” I’m not tied down to any particular place for any set period of time. And where I am currently staying I pay rent by the week, and it came furnished, too. And that means more options are open to me then are closed to me. And that is a very big silver lining.

James 4:13-17 states, Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

I’ll end this post with words from Paul found in Philippians 4:6-7Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…

Will guard your hearts . . .

And your minds . . .

In Christ Jesus. . . .

YouTube Video: “Freedom” by Jesus Culture:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Still Rolling

I made an interesting discovery this morning. My blog has been hacked by someone who is making comments on other bloggers’ blog posts but linking them to my blog. This is not me. See comments section in this blog post where she has posted a comment using my blog site’s URL link and my blog site’s name (click here).

How I discovered this was happening is that the blogger who wrote a blog post that the above mentioned hacker commented on using my blog’s name and blog’s URL decided to follow my blog as the result of that comment that was not written by me. This morning I got an email from WordPress stating that this blogger was now following my blog, so I decided to read his latest blog post. I really liked it and he has a very good sense of humor, so I decided to make a comment, and that is when I discovered that someone else using my blog’s name and URL link but using their own picture had already commented on it yesterday. After the initial shock wore off (that someone had hacked my blog), I decided to post my own comment and let the blogger know that the previous comment on his post was made in my blog’s name and using my blog’s URL but her picture was posted instead of mine and the comment was not from me.

The title of that blog post that was published yesterday (May 1st)  is dEAr mE,” and it’s posted on a blog titled, little big things,” by a blogger named Allan Nyombi.  He starts off his blog post by writing by a letter addressed to “Dear me, One day I will write a book…” He goes on to discuss the various topics he might write about like writing about young people, but then nixes that topic as his knowledge regarding young people is limited. The next topic he brings up is writing about children because he used to be a Sunday School teacher, but then he nixes that topic, too. He then approaches the subject of “farming” and “food” as he loves to eat, but he know little about farming so he nixes that idea.

His next topic idea is church as he says it has defined his entire life. He mentions that Sunday School was fun, as was the porridge that Br. Stephens brought every Sunday. He also states:

“It made learning about God worthwhile. And then the plays we acted in. Rose acting as General Naaman. Then came the teen years where confusion rained in. My silly mind started questioning whether God actually existed. If he did, then why do bad things happen? You quickly forgot all that was taught in Sunday school. Porridge just. Didn’t they tell you that sin is here because man disobeyed? Had you forgotten Adam and Eve and the talking serpent? Pause! A woman actually had a conversation with a talking snake! Fear women. But anyway, I can’t write about the church.” (Quote source here.)

However, his next statement, still regarding the church, is this:

“My beef with the church just ended the other day when I got to know Christ personally. How could the church have pulled me in different directions like that? You go for this conference that promises that ‘this is it’. You pray, listen, pay, try everything the man of God said and still it doesn’t work. And the preacher has already left town so you can’t ask him why it didn’t work. You wonder if indeed the man of God had actually heard God! My friend the other day was looking for the pastor that told him this year was going to be his year. I won’t write about the church. So much has already been written about it.” (Quote source here.)

So he nixes that idea as a topic, too. His next topic idea is on relationships. And then he laughs. “Ha ha ha,” he writes–bad idea. At this point he ends his blog post with the following:

What shall I write about then? I guess I will figure it out tomorrow. Tomorrow I will sit and think through a topic. I will switch off the TV and concentrate. Should I wait after the repeat of the arsenal game? Maybe. Who knows, Arsenal may somehow win. Maybe I will first re-watch my favorite animation, home, so am relaxed.

Tomorrow, I will figure it all out.

For a second, pause and think deeply about the most important things in your life. What are the top three things that matter most in your life right now? Can you write them down? How much time we are spending on these things? Are we giving them the care, the time, the energy that they deserve?

Is your top most goal receiving the best and most time of your day? 

Why do we find ourselves majoring on the minor? We are living in a world where books have been written advising us on how to prioritize our days, apps developed to aid in prioritization and practices invented to ensure that we keep the most important thing as the most important things. Yet we still don’t have time for the most important things in our lives. In coming parts, I will engage in practical ways we can overcome the monster called procrastination. (Quote source here.)

Bet you didn’t expect that ending. I sure didn’t. I thought his blog post was splendid. Seriously! I loved it! And the woman/hacker who wrote a comment using my blog’s identity and my blog’s URL link but using her picture was right on point with her comment, so why did she feel the need to use my blog’s name and URL to write her comment? Nice to know I have hackers at work using my online identity.

Procrastination is a killer, but we all do it. Amazing we aren’t all dead yet from our own proclivity to procrastinate, right? (Just a little humor.) In an article titled, 80 Procrastination Quotes to Get You Focused,” by Quincy Seale, KeepInspiring.Me‘s lead editor and content writer, he writes:

Over the years, I’ve come to accept that I’m a natural procrastinator. No matter how much I want to avoid it, its just my nature. Whenever there’s something that needs to be done–whether its big or small, important or irrelevant–my instinct is to “start later” or “put it off until tomorrow”.

I’ve come to accept that–no matter how much I want to avoid it–there will always be times when I’ll find myself frantically slaving away on a task that should have been finished yesterday, last week, or even months ago.

Of course, there are definitely times when I need to get some real work done and overcome my tendencies to procrastinate. When I do, I like to check out procrastination quotes from amazing people who took action and accomplished incredible things in their lives.

Of course, reading quotes instead of actually getting started on an important task is a form of procrastination itself, but after a few quotes I usually find myself pumped enough to get working.

Here are some quotes about procrastination to get you motivated to work–and maybe even a few quotes that will have you thinking a little delay isn’t always a bad thing. (NOTE: I’m not posting all 80 quotes on this blog post–I’m only posting a few.)

Quotes About Procrastination

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” –Theodore Roosevelt

“Getting an idea should be like sitting on a pin; it should make you jump up and do something.” –E.L. Simpson

“Following-through is the only thing that separates dreamers from people that accomplish great things.” –Gene Hayden

“The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action.” –Alexander Graham Bell

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon–instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.” –Dale Carnegie

“Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today because if you enjoy it today, you can do it again tomorrow.” –James A. Michener

“Perhaps the most valuable result of an education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.” Thomas Huxley. (Quote source here, and click this link to read the rest of the quotes on procrastination.)

Perhaps at times our procrastination stems from not knowing what to do when a certain situation arises and we honestly don’t know how to tackle it. In an article on Forbes titled, What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do,” by Francis MacIntosh, Forbes Councils member, she writes:

We’ve all been there: knowing we need to make a choice, but not knowing how. When our brain feels clogged with too many options, choosing just one sends us into a panic.

So, we don’t make a decision. This leaves us feeling stuck, bringing with it feelings of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. In other words, vulnerable.

Feeling vulnerable or overwhelmed could be a red flag, a time when we need to pause and intentionally think of what the next step looks like. In fact, many companies now offer personal or mental health days, acknowledging the importance of self-care which is fantastic. But what can we do when we can’t take time away or need to move forward in the moment? What if we don’t want to reach out for help? How can we get back on track and out of our heads?

It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the answer is this: Stop over-complicating things and just keep it simple. When you stop overthinking, it’s so much easier to move forward and get out of the rut.

Exercise.

There is a wealth of evidence-based research that shows exercising boosts your mood. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that give you a natural “high.” Ever wonder why runners smile? They’re high on endorphins!

For the most impact, exercise outside, taking advantage of the sunshine vitamin: Vitamin D. Even just a short walk around the block will release serotonin and other endorphins. No need to get sweaty to clear your mind–just get moving.

Smile.

Did you know that you can smile your mind into a different outlook? Smiling releases a group of feel-good hormones–endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin–acting as a natural pain medication and an antidepressant for the brain. The simple act of smiling can help change your perspective.

An added bonus? Not only is a smile the accessory that goes with everything, it’s contagious. When we’re making ourselves feel better, we make others feel better too, putting them at ease with something as simple as a smile.

Unplug.

We are way too connected to technology today. Switching off your cell phone or computer will allow you to become more creative. As Simon Sinek highlights, when we disconnect from technology, we allow our minds time to wander and access different perspectives within our own thoughts. When we’re not constantly “plugged in,” we can find solutions for problems that we thought there were no solutions for. We become more energized, seeing things around us that would otherwise be lost.

One last word about unplugging, remember that walk around the block I mentioned? Leave your phone at the office and look up and at the world around you. Clarity could be in the trees!

Watch an inspirational movie.

This is one of my all-time favorite things to do when I feel stuck: go to the movies by myself. Being an introvert, this allows me to just be. No worries about having a conversation, no concern if the other person is enjoying the movie or not. It’s a place to just be, watch inspiring stories and recharge.

Movies aren’t your thing? That’s OK. Find something that raises your energy, clears your mind and allows you to focus on something outside of you to give your mind space.

Get candid feedback.

Often, when we don’t know what to do, we miss ideas, solutions or next steps that are right in front of us. Getting honest feedback from a trusted friend, colleague or coach–who we know has our best interest at heart–can help us see a different perspective or uncover a blind spot. This opens our mind up to more clearly see our options.

Revisit your core values.

When stuck, go back to your core values. These are the foundation of who you are and act as an anchor, keeping you grounded when life gets crazy, scary or uncertain. If you’re not making decisions from your core values, this could be what’s keeping you stuck. If not, recenter on your core values and move forward from there.

Do the very next easy thing.

Sometimes we get stuck or overwhelmed because we are looking at our goal without defining the steps it takes to get there. If you’re focusing on the financial side of a project because you know it’s important, but you’re feeling stuck because you don’t know how to reach your goal, stop! Simply ask, “What is the one next easy step? Delegating tasks? Collecting quotes? Going for a walk?” Look at the next stop, not the end goal.

Being stuck or overwhelmed is human, we all do it or feel it at times. The secret is to not stay in that place. Feel the discomfort, process the “data,” rest, refuel, refocus, and do the very next thing to move yourself forward. Don’t overthink this–it could be as simple as a smile. (Quote source here.)

So, what do to when you don’t know what to do? Beware of hackers (well, at least in my case) and exercise, smile, and unplug…. And remember that…

God . . .

Is still . . .

In control . . . .

YouTube Video: “Roll With It” by Steve Winwood:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Time and Tide

“Time and tide wait for no man.” The meaning of this proverb is “if you don’t make use of a favorable opportunity, you may never get the same chance again” (quote source here). At this point we need to understand what, exactly, a favorable opportunity looks like. What looks good on the outside may not be so good after all. And if you choose it and it turns out poorly, what then? I did that once with a job I accepted, and it totally altered my life in very unexpected ways that I never could have foreseen, and not for the better.

We’ve all had these types of conundrums show up in our lives from time to time. “The definition of conundrum is a situation where there is no clear right answer or no good solution” (quote source here). Perhaps it is best to remember that saying, “all that glitters is not gold,” and not to move too quickly on what on the surface looks like it is a great opportunity. It may or it may not be.

As Christians, we have a powerful resource at our disposal and it’s called prayer. All of us have a tendency to move forward when an opportunity presents itself that, on the surface, seems favorable. In my personal example in the first paragraph above regarding the job I took that didn’t turn out well, I did spend a lot of time praying about it, and I did feel like it was something I was supposed to do. And even in spite of the poor outcome, I can honestly say at this point in my life that it wasn’t necessarily a mistake on my part that I accepted that job even with the impact it has had on the past decade of my life since I lost that job eleven years ago. God’s ways go far beyond our particular “wants” in life (see Isaiah 55:8-9). His purposes prevail regardless of how things turn out from our own perspectives and in our own circumstances.

There must be a zillion articles on praying for guidance from God on the internet. Often when I don’t know what to pray I find myself going to the Psalms and praying a psalm and making it personal as in praying, “Lord, You are my Shepherd, I shall not want” (from Psalm 23). The entire psalm goes like this when I make it personal:

Lord, You are my Shepherd;
I shall not want.
You make me to lie down in green pastures;

You lead me beside still waters.
You restore my soul;

You lead me in the paths of righteousness
For Your name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod (to protect me) and Your staff (to guide me),
They comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Even when a situation might not specifically fit that particular psalm, I find it has an incredibly calming effect when making any kind of decision or just needing guidance in moment-by-moment situations.

Over my lifetime I have heard people who pray prayers that are so eloquent, passionate, poetic; yet, I must admit I do not consider my prayers to be in those categories. Well, maybe passionate but in a private way and not necessarily for public consumption. I’m often at a loss for words when praying about specific situations or people whereas for others those prayers just flow out of them like water. That may have been when I started using the psalms in prayer instead of trying to come up with my own words. God knows my heart, so He knows I don’t often know how I should pray about any situation, other then I ask for His will to be done whether in the lives and situations of others or for myself.

At the time of this writing we are in the midst of a world pandemic known as COVID-19 and much of our society is on “stay at home” orders. As of this past week, over 22 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits in the past month from all of the businesses that have been closed down during this time. Millions of lives have been turned upside down from shutting down much of our society, and also those directly affected by the coronavirus who are sick and many who have died. And there are also all of the health care workers and others working 24/7 to provide help and supplies for the sick and everyone else still in need of groceries and other necessary items on a regular basis.

In an article published on August 1, 2016, titled, What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do,” by Ricky Alcantar, Lead Pastor at Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, TX , he gives some great advice that can be applied to any circumstance and situation. He writes:

There are times we simply don’t know what to do.

Perhaps a doctor calls after a routine test and says “You’re going to need to come back into the office and it’s important.” Perhaps a family member or friend calls and says “I don’t know if I even believe in the Bible anymore.” Perhaps a boss calls you into his office and you leave without a job. Perhaps the events of the last few weeks in our country are really personal for you: perhaps you fear the comments that kids at school will make about the color of your child’s skin, or you fear for a loved one who wears a badge. Perhaps you’re even normally a pretty strong person but you find that your strength is woefully inadequate for you what see in front of you.

I remember this feeling last year when the first two medical bills arrived. We were still paying for the expenses related to the birth of our last son when bills arrived for an emergency surgery and then another hospitalization. They were big. Not “we need to go on a cheaper date night for a while” big, but “Oh my gosh how are we even going to make it??” big. I remember feeling angry, defeated, frustrated. Wasn’t I trying to serve the Lord? How in the world were we supposed to get through this?

There’s a verse I love for times like this. It’s tucked away into 2 Chronicles 20. The king of Judah, faced with multiple armies arrayed against him, knew he was outmatched. This was a time of military strength and economic strength in Judah. But the nation’s strength wasn’t enough. And possibly even more frustrating, this was a time of judicial and religious forms where the king was trying to return to correct worship of the Lord. It seemed like the king and nation were doing what they were supposed to, and suddenly their circumstances seemed far worse rather than better.

It’s at this time that King Jehoshaphat leads the nation to pray: “O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chron 20:12).

Our Strength is Not Our Strength

Notice how the king comes to the Lord: confessing his need and weakness. He does not go out and count his men again (though I’m sure he called them to war). He doesn’t try to come up with the perfect long-shot strategy (though I’m sure someone was working on that). The first thing he does is renounce his own strength and seek the Lord’s strength. He prays “I don’t know why this is happening or what to do–I need you, Lord.” That’s not spiritual weakness, that’s spiritual maturity.

One of the hardest things for us as American Christians with homes and cars and health insurance, with the best economy and the most advanced military, is to come to a place of dependence on the Lord. When God brings us to a place of utter dependence we think we are dying, when in reality God is bringing us to life. We think that our strength is our strength, but that is a lie. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12 that it’s when we are weak, and utterly dependent on the Lord, that we are strong. Being overwhelmed by circumstances is one of the healthiest places to be if we will acknowledge our insufficiency and go to the right place.

But where do we turn next?

Our Eyes Need Filling

After confessing his weakness the king intentionally fills his eyes with the Lord. Does Jehoshaphat ask for God’s help? Yes. But most of his prayer is simply him rehearsing the truth about God. In moments of severe trial our eyes will be filled with something–that’s inevitable. In a moment when his eyes could be filled with the enemy arrayed against him, or filled with his own insufficient resources, he fills his eyes with God.

In the face of medical bills, I realized something about myself: if I didn’t intentionally choose what to focus my mind on I would naturally drift back to the bills, or over to the budget. I couldn’t just choose to focus on something else and pretend like it wasn’t happening. The only thing that worked was when I filled my eyes with something else before my mind drifted to the budget. I had to intentionally, and daily, fill my eyes so full of God that there was no room for anxiety. This, I think, is what the king is leading his people to do in a moment of great need.

What about God–what does he fill his eyes with?

God’s power for his powerless people. He prays “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you” (6). The nation of Judah is overwhelmed but the God who rules over every earthly kingdom is not. His resources aren’t limited–he holds unlimited power and might in his hands. Whether we are facing a debilitating illness or social unrest or economic upheaval, none of them are outside of God’s rule or beyond his power.

God’s unique covenant relationship to his weak people–He prays to the “God of our fathers” and then remembers, “Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?” (7). God does not simply have a business relationship with his people, a “take a number” relationship, but a warm intimate personal relationship. He has set his covenant love on them. He calls we who are in Christ (even us!) his friends. We may not understand our circumstances or what God has allowed, but we can be sure his heart and relationship toward us have not changed from his generations of covenant faithfulness and love.

God’s glory in his endangered people–He prays “If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.” This is a dangerous prayer. He is committing to defend the temple to the very end if the invasion continues because God’s name is in the house. Is he concerned with what will happen to the people and their homes and land? Yes. But what he is most concerned with is the name of God and the glory of God.

He is concerned with the nation’s survival because God’s name is tied to his people. He is praying “Lord help us make your name great on the earth” and committing to it himself. That is a dangerous prayer, but a prayer that fills our eyes with the glory of God. Whether circumstances go as we hope or not, we should pray that God’s name be made great. But in this prayer we can have confidence because God has tied his glory to the good of his people.

There is much more in the king’s prayer but these three things provide a starting place for us. We too can fill our eyes with God’s power, his faithful covenant love, and his glory.

How Do We Do This?

This is where you’ll be disappointed in this post. There is no “One secret weird trick that will change everything” for you. What did Jehoshaphat do? He prayed. What must we do when we don’t know what to do? There are many practical things to do, but let us start with prayer.

A lack of prayer reveals extreme self-sufficiency. Prayer reveals a God-sufficiency. Prayer does two glorious things at once: it both acknowledges our great insufficiency, and then it fills our eyes with God. Praying about my medical bills meant I had to stop trying to come up with a brilliant financial plan for a moment. By coming to the Lord, I had to acknowledge “Father I’m not sure what to do.” But rather than feeling weaker and more defeated, I felt stronger and more sure. Because that very prayer reminded me that I have a heavenly Father, a Father who is sufficient, who loves me, whose name is great.

Today, friend, do you find yourself overwhelmed and not knowing what to do? That’s a perfect place to confess your insufficiency and cling to the Lord. Could you take a moment and go to him in prayer right now? (Quote source here.)

I hope this article has been an encouragement to you. It was to me. I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus when he said in Matthew 11:28-30Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls….

For my yoke is easy . . .

And my burden . . .

Is light . . . .

YouTube Video: “I Just Need U” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Power of Silence

It’s time to shift gears at least for a few minutes from the constant 24/7 news coverage regarding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic that is going on around the world right now. So let’s get started….

Back on August 2, 2019, I published a blog post titled, The Sound of Silence .” The post was regarding a new book that had been published titled, Talk the Walk: How to Be Right Without Being Insufferable,” by Steve Brown, founder of Key Life Network, host on the radio talk show, “Steve Brown, Etc.”, Professor Emeritus at Reformed Theological Seminary, a former pastor, and author of over a dozen books. As I was trying to find a project to fill up some of my stay-at-hometime (also known as shelter-in-place) during this coronavirus pandemic, I ran across Steve’s book again and I started rereading it. In the previous blog post mentioned above, I quoted from a couple of chapters including Chapter 3 titled, “The Sound of Silence,” (Chapter 3).

Picking up where I left off back in August from Chapter 3, I’d like to start off this blog post with the last subsection in that chapter titled “Speaking the Truth in Silence” (pp. 30-31):

Sometimes it is best to be silent and to let love, freedom, and joy do the talking. There are some things Christians cannot say without words, but there are other matters that are only confused by words. My wife, who is a musician, has often said to me that music is the universal language. Sometimes it is best to remain silent and hear the language of music. Just so, sometimes it is best to speak the language of silence.

It is a cliché, but nevertheless there is some truth to believing that Christians are the only Bible unbelievers ever read. However, with due respect to that point of view, let me say that most of us sin so much, betray our principles so often, and fail so obviously in our Christian walk that the message is mixed and muddled.

But what if we remained silent by not defending ourselves? What if we remained silent when others are condemning those whose lifestyles, politics, or religious views are deemed unacceptable? What if we remained silent and refused to be the social, political, and religious critic of every opinion that wasn’t our own? What if we remained silent in the fact of rejection? What if we refused to share the secrets we’ve been told or tell the stories we’ve overheard? What if we remained silent and overlooked the foibles of others? What if we looked at the pain of our neighbor and just loved him or her, instead of trying to fix the unfixable? What if our response to confusion, fear, and guilt was simply, “I know”?

There is a powerful witness in that kind of silence. (Quote source: “Talk the Walk,” Chapter 3, pp. 30-31).

Why is it that silence is so hard for us to practice? We live in a culture that is very fast paced (or at least it was before this coronavirus pandemic hit last month) and where everyone has an opinion on just about anything that comes up in the news, on social media, regarding politics and lifestyles, and in everyday conversations with others. Social distancing has limited our everyday conversations with others we used talk with in public settings on a daily basis for the time being, but it hasn’t limited our social media or smartphone interactions. We still have plenty of opportunities to give our opinions to others.

In an article published on May 14, 2015, titled, 5 Reasons to Be Silent,” by William Ross, a doctoral candidate in Old Testament at the University of Cambridge, he writes:

Silence is not highly valued in modern culture. When it comes to communication, it seems that we value quantity above all. And in our digital world it only gets easier to add your own voice to the cacophony. I recently read about a new book that suggests the act of writing is outstripping the act of reading in the digital age.

Whether e-mailing or snapchatting or podcasting or hash-tagging, we live in an age distinguished by noise. Not silence.

Church as Faithful Proclaimer

Of course, speaking is at the center of the Christian vocation as well. There is a range of biblical reasons to speak instead of being silent (e.gPs. 32:3; 35:22; 39:2Jer. 4:19Mt. 20:31Lk. 19:40Acts 18:9). Most importantly, we proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth (Mt. 28:19-20). Paul asks, “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom. 10:14c).

Yet I want to dwell here on the ways that Scripture counsels God’s people to be silent, and the blessings that come with it.

Five Biblical Reasons to be Silent

1. Obedience 

Simply put, you can’t obey if you are not silent to listen. This is true on a physical level, but also a spiritual one. Scripture symbolically links our hearts with what comes out of our mouths (Mt. 12:34Lk. 6:45). To extend the metaphor, only when we silence our heart are we in a place to hear—to receive God’s instruction—and obey.

Moses highlights this idea in one of his final speeches as he underscores Israel’s call to obey all of the Lord’s commandments (Deut. 27:1-10). That requirement is rooted in their identity as God’s people: no longer slaves, but God’s own inheritance (32:9). Moses puts an exclamation point on his speech with the sharp exhortation: “Be silent and hear, O Israel!” (27:9).

So God’s commandments and our obedience are hinged together by spiritual silence before the King. Conversely, disobedience is the uproar of indwelling sin as our heart denies who we are in Christ. This principle holds in a general way not just for God’s people, but all of his creation, including demons (Mk. 1:25//Lk. 4:35).

2. Self-Control

The silence linked with obedience also manifests self-control, a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Obedience and self-control are inseparable, but distinct. On the one hand, lack of silence betrays a lack of self-control that otherwise governs faithfulness (Eccl. 5:2-3). Scripture warns that the wordy fool only gets into trouble and displays his or her ignorance (Eccl. 10:12-14Prov. 12:23). The pragmatic but biblical solution for someone acting like a fool is self-inflicted silence: “Put your hand on your mouth” (Prov. 30:32).

On the other hand, being silent demonstrates our willingness to wait upon and serve others in love (Gen. 24:21Job 29:21Eph. 4:29). Silence is also the catalyst for godly self-reflection amid anger (Ps. 4:4). It attests to our resolve to endure difficulties with hope fixed firmly in the Lord (Lam 3:26-29). Silence also governs our ability to evaluate spiritual instruction carefully (1 Cor. 14:29-30), and interact shrewdly with the world without succumbing to its temptations (Ps. 39:1Prov. 21:23).

3. Wonder

It is possible to worship God in complete silence. One of Scripture’s most beautiful paradoxes is that wordlessness can speak clearly about God’s glory. We honor God when were are in awe of him. We are made in his image and therefore bring him glory in our humble silence, while every other creature is simply mute. Scripture is full of instances of silent awe prompted by wonder before God.

This kind of silence works two ways, both of which can bless God’s people. On the one hand, when Christians come to terms with the depth of sinful grievances committed against a holy God, Paul says that their mouths should rightly “be stopped” (Rom. 3:19). Silence is the only possible response in the face of God’s holiness and the coming judgment (Zeph. 1:7Zech. 2:12Mic. 7:16). On the other hand, we ought to be struck silent in light of God’s incredible redemption, worked out in his promised deliverance for his people (Isa. 41:1; cf. Lk. 1:20) and the reconciling work of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:18; 15:12). Silence even in corporate worship, where the church gathers to meet with God, facilitates the reverence that he is rightly due (Hab. 2:20).

4. Rest 

As a parallel to wonder in light of God’s salvation, silence is a blessed product of the rest that we have in him. Knowing that God is our God prompts us to “be still” (Ps. 46:10). Even in the face of uncertainty and suffering, the psalmist can say, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation . . . for my hope is from him” (Ps. 62:1, 5). Even creation knows its Maker and comes to rest at his command, as when Jesus silences the storm (Mk. 4:39). When Israel faced the Red Sea on one side and Egypt’s army on the other, Moses inconceivably commands Israel to be silent.The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent!” (Ex. 14:13-14). So firm is our hope in God and his salvation that fear may be laid aside, and our silence can demonstrate and encourage rest in him.

5. Wisdom

Often when we think of wisdom we think of speaking, usually to give counsel. But many times wisdom should prompt just the opposite. Especially in the book of Job, we see the tension between the desire to give counsel and the need to be silent. The multiplication of words by Job’s friends does little to help (6:24; 13:13, 19; 33:31, 33). The high point of wisdom in their counsel comes in 2:13: “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (cf. 13:5).

Silence as a form of wisdom is frequently encouraged in Proverbs, too. It can help wisely avoid transgression (10:19) and manifest respect and understanding (11:12; 17:27). It is part of wise and even-handed interactions (29:11; cf. Amos 5:13). Silence is so powerful that it can even make the fool at least appear wise and intelligent (17:28).

Church as Silent Witness

Being silent is not only part of how we obey and glorify the King (Job 36:10-12). It is also how we bless others as we are lovingly quick to listen and slow to speak (Jam. 1:19). Silence is thus an unspoken virtue: part of the church’s vocation and the Christian’s delight.

Much more could be said on the topic. But now it’s time for practical application. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on November 16, 2016, titled, Top 7 Bible Verses About Silence,” by Jack Wellman, pastor at Mulvane Brethren Church, and senior writer at What Christians Want To Know, he writes:

Here are seven Bible verses relating to silence.

Proverbs 17:28–“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

Sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all than to say something that shows our ignorance, like the many times I’ve spoken too quickly and rather unwisely, so silence can be golden, but even a foolish person is deemed wise by saying few words or by saying nothing at all. It’s better to say nothing than to say something we’ll later regret.

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

The psalmist wrote, “we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:2-3), and even if “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts” (Psalm 46:6). All we need to do is to rest in the fact that God is over all things and so we can be still and simply know that He is God, and He “will be exalted among the nations” and “in the earth.” Nothing can prevent that.

Lamentations 3:26–“It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Jeremiah’s wise words in Lamentations 3:26 are shown elsewhere in Scripture to be true. Isaiah the Prophet wrote, “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (40:31). By waiting upon the Lord, you’re also waiting for His divine timing.

Psalm 62:5–“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”

David was in dire straits when he wrote Psalm 62. His life was in danger due to his son Absalom’s taking over the throne of Israel. David had to escape but harder still, he had to deal with those who had betrayed him as he wrote they plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse” (Psalm 62:4), but David didn’t panic as he wrote, “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 62:6).

Psalm 141:3–“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”

Perhaps the psalmist is asking God for a little help in keeping his peace in waiting upon the Lord. He needs to have help in his silence and to keep his hand over his mouth from saying something that he might later regret, or even saying something out of frustration. This is why he prays “Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds” (Psalm 141:4).

Proverbs 17:27–“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”

I think what Solomon is saying is that if we restrain our words, we have wisdom enough to know when to keep our mouths shut, because with many words comes the chance for saying the wrong thing. Sometimes is just better to say nothing at all, and in the context of this verse, the one “who has a cool spirit” might be a person who knows how to hold their tongue and temper when angered, even when they don’t feel like it.

Isaiah 53:7–“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

This verse is clearly speaking about Jesus during the Passion and when answering all of the false charges brought up against Him. When Jesus didn’t defend Himself and kept silent before the charges when brought to Pontius Pilate, Pilate was amazed and said to Jesus, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you” (John 19:10), but Jesus said, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11), meaning it was all part of the sovereign plan of God.

Conclusion

I could have also included Habakkuk who wrote, “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab 2:20) which is a show of holy reverential respect for God, or Revelation 8:1 where the Apostle John wrote, “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour” (Rev 8:1), perhaps due to what cataclysmic events were about to shortly take place, but most of these verses deal with how we should trust in God and wait upon Him and to “be still” and know He is God. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God…

I will be exalted among the nations . . .

I will be exalted . . .

In the earth . . . .

No YouTube Video is being posted for this blog post so we can contemplate the power of silence.

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Uncertain Times

The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has thrown much of the world into a panic is unprecedented in our lifetime. In case you might not be aware (I wasn’t until I ran across the following information online), coronavirus is actually not new. In fact, it has been around since the 1960s (source: WebMD). The following information on coronavirus comes from WebMD:

A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most coronaviruses aren’t dangerous.

What Is a Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s, but we don’t know where they come from. They get their name from their crown-like shape. Sometimes, but not often, a coronavirus can infect both animals and humans.

Most coronaviruses spread the same way other cold-causing viruses do: through infected people coughing and sneezing, by touching an infected person’s hands or face, or by touching things such as doorknobs that infected people have touched.

Almost everyone gets a coronavirus infection at least once in their life, most likely as a young child. In the United States, coronaviruses are more common in the fall and winter, but anyone can come down with a coronavirus infection at any time.

Severe coronavirus outbreaks include:

    • COVID-19In early 2020, after a December 2019 outbreak in China, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified a new type, 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which can be fatal. The organization named the virus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and named the disease it causes COVID-19. The outbreak quickly moved from China around the world. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
    • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS): About 858 people have died from MERS, which first appeared in Saudi Arabia and then in other countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. In April 2014, the first American was hospitalized for MERS in Indiana and another case was reported in Florida. Both had just returned from Saudi Arabia. In May 2015, there was an outbreak of MERS in Korea, which was the largest outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula.
    • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome  ( SARS ): In 2003, 774 people died from an outbreak. As of 2015, there were no further reports of cases of SARS.

Common Symptoms of Coronavirus

You could get lab tests, including nose and throat cultures and blood work, to find out whether your cold was caused by a coronavirus, but there’s no reason to. The test results wouldn’t change how you treat your symptoms, which typically go away in a few days.

But if a coronavirus infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract (your windpipe and your lungs), it can cause pneumonia, especially in older people, people with heart disease, or people with weakened immune systems.

What to Do About Coronavirus

There is no vaccine for coronavirus. To help prevent a coronavirus infection, do the same things you do to avoid the common cold:

    • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Keep your hands and fingers away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are infected.

You treat a coronavirus infection the same way you treat a cold:

A humidifier or steamy shower can also help ease a sore and scratchy throat.

Even when a coronavirus causes MERS or SARS in other countries, the kind of coronavirus infection common in the U.S. isn’t a serious threat for an otherwise healthy adult. If you get sick, treat your symptoms and contact a doctor if they get worse or don’t go away.

Sign up for the latest coronavirus news.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 22, 2020 (Quote source here.)

When I was out shopping this past week, it was hard not to notice the empty shelves where bottled water, toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizers, and other supplies are usually found. It is obvious that the panic is palpable regarding coronavirus (COVID-19). Many cancellations and closures of schools, university classes, theme parks, concerts, and a host of other public events is taking place all across America right now (click here to see the latest list of cancellations).

I posted the information above from WebMD because I was not aware that coronavirus is not new and, in fact, it has been around since the 1960s, and to hopefully alleviate some of the intense panic feelings concerning COVID-19. That is not to say precautions should not be taken, but rather to ease the severity of panic that is in the air. The latest updates on coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention are available at this link, and the latest updates from WebMD can be found at this link.

In an article published on March 2, 2020, titled, Christians and the Coronavirus,” by Andrew Fouché, Senior Pastor at Sunset Community Church in Renton, WA (King County), he writes:

The alarm of a possible Coronavirus pandemic is increasing and in a sense we find ourselves at the epicenter in our country (the true epicenter is in Wuhan China) now with the only six deaths in America happening in Washington, five being King County. So, whether you’re stocking up on food and staying home or just treating it like any other seasonal flu, we’re all being impacted by its effects, as schools are closing, the stock market is tanking, and surgical face masks are flying off of the shelf.  The fear is real and it’s affecting us, whether we are buying into it or not. Fear also has a way of exposing what we believe and what we place our hope in. 

So, I have to ask you the question; How does your Christian faith affect how you respond to something like a possible pandemic?

How we respond to most things in life is a combination of emotional reaction (you could call it instinct) and what has been modeled for us in the past. For example, when a grease fire happens in the pan on the kitchen stove our initial reaction is to panic, but if you happened to remember your Mom calmly putting a lid on the pan you’ll know that’s far more effective than trying to douse it with water. So, as followers of Jesus, sometimes it’s helpful to look at how Christians from the past have responded to similar circumstances of tragic pandemics. 

The Cyprian plague in the third century was one of the most devastating plagues to hit the Roman world. At its height it’s believed to have killed 5,000 people a day in Rome. This wasn’t the first plague to hit the Roman empire though. The Antonine plague of the second century had been equally devastating and would impact nearly every corner of the empire. What was often noted in these plagues was the response of this still fairly new religious group known as Christians. While many Roman citizens were deserting the sick and dying, the Christians we’re tending to them and even helping with their burial.

Many historians credit the plagues as contributing to the downfall of the Roman empire and at the same time while enduring the same plagues and increasing persecution, Christianity began to spread. The pagan emperor Julian was recorded as saying: “[They] support not only their poor, but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.” For Christians their faith was causing them to act different in the face of uncontrollable tragedy and this action was rooted in their beliefs.

 We can also look at a more recent example in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. One aid worker, Stephen Rowden, volunteering with Doctors without Borders was tasked with the terrible job of collecting 10-25 Ebola stricken bodies a day in Liberia. When asked by NPR host Robert Siegel if his Christian faith was tested during this tragic assignment he said: “No. No, I got great strength from my faith and the support of my family.”

The strength that Rowden drew from his faith is based on the belief that there is something greater than this life and someone greater that has made a way to it. Jesus is our peace in this life because he promises us peace in the next one. Fear is powerless when it’s up against this kind of faith.

 As we read the headlines today it’s good to be reminded that we are part of a long line of Jesus followers who know that sickness and death doesn’t have the final word over our lives. And so, as the world is gripped by fear, we have an opportunity, like those who have gone before us, to be people of peace and compassion in the face of uncertainty. Yes, we should pray for and be wise in uncertain times but as followers of Jesus we don’t let fear determine our steps. Just as the message of Jesus spread in times of persecution and plague, you and I have an opportunity to demonstrate that same message of peace and love here in King County.

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7 (NLT) (Quote source here.)

In an article published on March 9, 2020, titled, ‘Be of Good Courage’: Greg Laurie Encourages Congregation to Replace Fear of Coronavirus with Faith,” by Mikaela Mathews, freelance writer and editor, and contributor on ChristianHeadlines.com, she writes:

This weekend, pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California encouraged his congregation to replace fear over the coronavirus with faith.

“I think the viral fear about it may be worse than the virus itself,” Laurie said in a three-minute video posted to Instagram. “And we need to think about it for a moment. And we need to pray about it.”

He gave three “P”s to help his church located in the West Coast state with the highest rate of diagnosed patients:

1. Be Practical

After talking to several doctors, Laurie said that members should be smart about protecting themselves from the virus. Washing hands with soap and for a long time, as well as avoiding touching the face, can help people avoid the virus.

2. Be Prayerful

“We should pray for our church; pray for our nation that God would protect us. And the Lord can do that, he can put a shield around us.”

He added, “And we want to pray for anybody who has it, that they may heal.”

3. Use as Proclamation

He also shared with his congregation that the virus can be an opportunity to share the gospel. Because many communities are fearful of the virus, Christians can tell others about the hope and peace of Christ.

According to CBN News, Christian pediatric infectious disease specialist Scott James has encouraged his patients with similar advice.

“One thing that does cause me some concern is the general tendency to focus on the unknowns in a way that stokes panic and fear,” he said.

“Instead of fretting over potential catastrophes, pay attention to the opportunities that are right in front of you: take care of yourself, take care of others, and do your part to limit the spread of disease.”

As the CDC has warned Americans to prepare for the spread of the virus, James says, “Preparedness simply means we will seek to inform ourselves of the situation and to make responsible choices for our own good and for the good of our communities … [We should maintain] a biblical perspective based on the understanding that no matter what threat is on the horizon, God is still in control. Trusting in God equips us to take the threat seriously without giving into panic or despair.” (Quote source here.)

In the days and weeks ahead we need to allow our faith to replace of our fears, and compassion to replace our panic, because, as 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) reminds us, God has not given us a spirit of fear…

But of power . . .

And of love . . .

And of a sound mind . . . .

YouTube Video: “Faith to Believe” by Shane and Shane:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Fully Known

After I published a new blog post on my other blog earlier today titled, The Right Attitude,” I felt there was still a stirring inside of me to keep on writing another blog post, so here it is. It’s rare that I write two posts on the same day, but the weather outside is dreary and wet, so it’s a great day to write blog posts.

If you read the first post I published titled (as I mentioned above), The Right Attitude,” I was feeling the need for an attitude adjustment as the dreary weather outside for the past several days was starting to give me the blahs (big time!). It worked, too, as I’m feeling much better!

Yesterday, I read a devotion in Our Daily Bread that reminded me of the fact that God knows everything about us even before we were born and he knows all the details of our lives as we live them out day by day (and that includes the good, the bad, and the ugly). The devotion is titled, Fully Known,” by Dr. James Bank, author and founding pastor at Peace Church in Durham, NC. Here is that devotion:

“Before I formed you… I knew you.”Jeremiah 1:5

“You shouldn’t be here right now. Someone up there was looking out for you,” the tow truck driver told my mother after he had pulled her car from the edge of a steep mountain ravine and studied the tire tracks leading up to the wreck. Mom was pregnant with me at the time. As I grew, she often recounted the story of how God saved both our lives that day, and she assured me that God valued me even before I was born.

None of us escape our omniscient (all-knowing) Creator’s notice. More than 2,500 years ago He told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). God knows us more intimately than any person ever could and is able to give our lives purpose and meaning unlike any other. He not only formed us through His wisdom and power, but He also sustains every moment of our existence—including the personal details that occur every moment without our awareness: from the beating of our hearts to the intricate functioning of our brains. Reflecting on how our heavenly Father holds together every aspect of our existence, David exclaimed, “How precious to me are your thoughts, God!” (Psalm 139:17).

God is closer to us than our last breath. He made us, knows us, and loves us, and He’s ever worthy of our worship and praise. (Quote source here.)

The most inspiring passage in the Bible regarding just how well God knows us inside and out was written by King David, and it is found in Psalm 139. Here is what David wrote (actually, composed as a psalm):

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “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 my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

In an article published on June 4, 2018, titled, What Does It Mean to Be Fearfully and Wonderfully Made?” by Jennifer Heeren, contributing writer on Crosswalk.com, she writes:

Meaning of “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”

“So, God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)

Psalm 139 says that God made all the delicate, inner parts of my body. He knit me together within my mother’s womb. I was made wonderfully complex. God knew me as He was painstakingly designing me with much loving care.

I didn’t just evolve into what I am. I was created and designed with a purpose. And the blueprints of me are similar to other human beings but they’re not exactly the same. I am unique—and so are you.

The human body is a unique design of multiple systems that all work intricately together. The cardiovascular system gives you the energy to move. The muscular system gives you the ability to move, lift, and hold things. The digestive system processes food into energy and discards waste. The immune system keeps you healthy. The hormonal system determines your gender. The eyes cause you to see. The nose lets you smell. The tongue and mouth let you eat and taste. The ears enable you to hear. And your skin enables you to feel textures. You have the ability to encounter an incredibly diverse world with an equally amazing diverse body!

Then you were also blessed with a brain so you can think, process, and create. Isaac Asimov said the brain is “the most complex and orderly arrangement of matter in the universe.” Your emotions help you to relate to other people and feel compassion. All of these systems (plus many more) were uniquely designed to make you who you are.

God created you on purpose with love.

You have the innate ability to discern right from wrong. Although, that ability is hindered somewhat until you connect with your Creator. He didn’t just design you to do your own thing. He created you so you would desire an ongoing relationship with Him.

You were made with a hole in the center of your soul that only one thing fits. Until you find that very specific something, you will never be fulfilled. And that very specific something is God Himself. You were designed with an intense need of your Creator, God. Without a relationship with Him, you will always be searching for something to fill that void. 

Drugs, alcohol, food, money, sex, material goods, occupations, hobbies, travel, success, fame—these are some of the ways in which we try to fill that empty space inside. But none of those things will ever fill it. They are like round pegs in square holes. The vacant areas at the edges will still leave you desiring more of something else. Whatever you attempt to put in there will dissipate because it never completely fills the space. Those things were never meant to fill the space; they never can.

Sadly, many continue to shove mismatched pegs into that hole. A little of this, a little of that… hoping that one day they will feel complete. They surmise that this thing over here didn’t work but maybe this other thing will do it. They just haven’t found the right thing yet but one day they hope they will.

One day…

    • I’ll have enough money to feel safe and secure.
    • I’ll find the perfect spouse that will complete me.
    • I’ll get my dream sports car and life will be grand.
    • I’ll be on television and people will know my name.
    • I’ll be the best in my field and people will scout me out.

“One day” will never come. If you’re not happy with who you are today, right here and right now, you’ll never be. You’ll never be happy with who you are today unless you begin to praise God for creating you just as you are.

People want to look at everyone and everything else before they turn to God.

“Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins. And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” (Isaiah 64:7-8)

Fortunately, God made a way for us to repent and turn to Him by sending His very own Son to make the way.

When you do finally realize that without God you are unable to make the most of yourself, that’s when things begin to change. The clay cannot mold itself no matter how hard it tries. However, God, the Potter, cannot only mold His clay but He also knows what His original design of you was. He is both a Potter and an Architect with a Master Plan.

Sometimes in this fallen world, people are born with birth defects that disrupt one or more of the intricate systems of the body. God foresaw even those defects and uses them for good when we look to Him. Even our weaknesses are fearfully and wonderfully made.

A blind person can develop hearing beyond the normal capacity. Conjoined twins can teach us about getting along with one another, for they have to do it 24/7. Someone born without arms develops the ability to use their feet in wondrous ways. Another born without legs develops the upper body strength to get around smoothly.

We all have weaknesses that sometimes make us feel like we are of no use. But God’s grace is sufficient to cover our weaknesses. More than that, God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses. Weaknesses keep me humble and leaning on God’s strength which is much more sufficient than my own.

Should I always feel like I am “Fearfully and Wonderfully” made?

No. Sin and pride always want to drag me back into my own way of thinking. The same thinking that kept me reaching for those mismatched pegs. Those thoughts tell me that I can do whatever I want, by myself, without God. They lie and they don’t even make sense. They say I can do anything but then turn around and also say that I’m not good enough to do what I want to do. Feelings can’t be trusted unless they line up with the Word of God. And the Word of God tells me that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made for a specific purpose. Therefore, with God’s help, I will walk in that purpose as often as I can.

Whether I always feel it or not, I can trust God and His plans for my very life.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10) (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from the chorus of a song titled, Known,” by Tauren Wells (see YouTube Video below): I’m fully known and loved by You. You won’t let go no matter what I do. And it’s not one or the other; it’s hard truth and ridiculous grace, to be known fully known and loved by You…

I’m fully known . . .

And loved . . .

By You . . . .

YouTube Video: “Known” by Tauren Wells:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

An Invisible Army

Back in May 1998, I read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis for the first time while I was recovering from some minor surgery. Here is a brief description of this seven-volume set of books from the Narnia website:

The Chronicles of Narnia has become part of the canon of classic literature, drawing readers of all ages into magical lands with unforgettable characters for over sixty years. Epic battles between good and evil, fantastic creatures, betrayals, heroic deeds, and friendships won and lost all come together in this unforgettable world. (Quote source here.)

The main character in the “The Chronicles of Narnia” is Aslan, the Great Lion, and he is the only character to appear in all seven books in the series. Wikipedia states the following regarding Aslan:

“C.S. Lewis often capitalizes the word ‘lion’ in reference to Aslan since he parallels Jesus Christ. Aslan is also depicted as a talking lion, and is described as the King of Beasts, the son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea, and the King above all High Kings in Narnia. Aslan is Turkish for ‘lion’.” (Quote source here.)

I mention that brief introduction to “The Chronicles of Narnia” to go along with a devotion I read two days ago in Our Daily Bread titled, The Reality of God,” by Remi Oyedele, a finance professional and freelance writer. Here is that devotion:

“The Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he [saw] chariots of fire all around Elisha.”2 Kings 6:17

Today’s Scripture & Insight: 2 Kings 6:8–17

In C. S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” all of Narnia is thrilled when the mighty lion Aslan reappears after a long absence. Their joy turns to sorrow, however, when Aslan concedes to a demand made by the evil White Witch. Faced with Aslan’s apparent defeat, the Narnians experience his power when he emits an earsplitting roar that causes the witch to flee in terror. Although all seems to have been lost, Aslan ultimately proves to be greater than the villainous witch.

Like Aslan’s followers in Lewis’ allegory, Elisha’s servant despaired when he got up one morning to see himself and Elisha surrounded by an enemy army. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” he exclaimed (2 Kings 6:15). The prophet’s response was calm: “Don’t be afraid . . . . Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v. 16). Elisha then prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see” (v. 17). So, “the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (v. 17). Although things at first seemed bleak to the servant’s eye, God’s power ultimately proved greater than the enemy horde.

Our difficult circumstances may lead us to believe all is lost, but God desires to open our eyes and reveal that He is greater. (Quote source here.)

Most of us have gone through situations or circumstances where it seems like all is lost. Time passes and nothing changes, or it gets even worse. At times like these we need an Elisha around to remind us as he reminded his servant to look to the hills (and God), and not at our circumstances. Those chariots of fire that Elisha saw were full of angels ready to defend them from the enemy horde.

In a May 2016 article titled, The Truth About Angels,” by Dr. Tony Evans, pastor, speaker, author, widely syndicated radio and television broadcaster, and founder of “The Urban Alternative,” he writes:

You might be asking yourself, “Why should I take the time to learn about angels? They have no bearing on my daily life.” Like most of us, you are likely working hard to make ends meet and to keep everything together. And if you are married or have children, your days can seem even longer and more tiring. Exhausted, you fall into bed each night, thankful that you and your loved ones made it through another day. The very thought of expending what little free time you have to study something that seems low on your list of priorities is often an easy decision: you’re too busy now, but maybe someday.…

Consider this, however: Angels may be unseen, but they are real. Everything you do, every step you take as a child of God, is controlled by, influenced by, and directed by this angelic realm. Nothing takes place in our physical world outside of this spiritual realm.

Nothing.

We are in the midst of an angelic conflict, and when we understand about angels, we begin to notice how prevalent their activities are on almost every page of the Bible. They are busy functioning and fulfilling God’s mandates. Angels are basically God’s staff, and He has chosen in His own sovereignty to accomplish His will through these intermediaries.

Probably my favorite story of angels’ protection is found in 2 Kings 6. Elisha was a prophet who kept preaching and prophesying against Israel’s enemies the Arameans. Well, the Arameans had finally had enough and they decided they needed to get rid of Elisha. Permanently. Elisha must have been a very intimidating man because they sent an entire army to surround the city of Dothan where Elisha was currently staying with his servant. The servant looked outside and saw this vast and fearsome army, and cried out in fright, “What shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15).

Have you ever been like Elisha’s servant? You wring your hands together in worry and think the problem you are facing is just too big and you think, “What can I do?”

Elisha’s response to his frightened servant (and by association, to us as well) was classic. He said, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16).

That poor servant must have thought Elisha had finally cracked under the pressure because he could see no one but the enemy forces.

But let’s read on in 2 Kings 6:17 for Elisha’s response: “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

The key here is that Elisha prayed. And that’s just as true for us today. God is in control and He sends His angels to protect us according to His will. Friend, be mindful of the role angels play in your life. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to His use of them, and to increase that use for His purpose, His glory, and your good. (Quote source here.)

Another devotion titled, More With Us Than Against Us,” published on JosephPrince.com on this same passage in 2 Kings states the following:

“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”2 Kings 6:16

In the days of the prophet Elisha, the king of Syria seized upon an opportunity to capture Elisha who was in the city of Dothan. He mobilized a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city one night. He wasn’t prepared to take any risk of the prophet escaping.

Early the next morning in Dothan, when Elisha’s servant went outside, he saw troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. He and Elisha were completely surrounded by enemy forces intent on killing them. The servant flew into a state of panic and cried out to Elisha, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15).

Put yourself in the shoes of Elisha’s servant. You (and I) would probably have been filled with fear too. But here’s where I want you to pay close attention, because there is a powerful truth I want you to catch. Without faltering, Elisha calmly told his servant, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16).

I can just imagine how the servant must have felt. There was absolutely no logic in what Elisha had just said. There were just the two of them against a whole army! Had his master gone mad?

Before the servant could work himself into an even greater panic, Elisha prayed a simple prayer: “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17). And the Lord opened the eyes of the servant. Then he saw that the hillside all around them was filled with blindingly magnificent horses and chariots of fire. God’s army of angels was flanking them on every side, ablaze with the glory, beauty, and majesty of the Most High. As the servant marveled, he realized that the Syrian forces were utterly dwarfed by the angelic army.

Why had the young servant been fearful while Elisha was fearless? The answer is this: They saw different things. The young man saw the great Syrian army. But Elisha saw an even greater angelic army on chariots of fire. Elisha had spiritual insight.

My dear reader, would you commit the above Scripture to heart? If you are in a constant fight with fear, meditate on this Scripture and fortify your heart with this promise. Whether you find yourself besieged by debts, attacked by what doctors call a terminal illness, or constantly anxious over the safety of your children, remember this powerful verse. The God of angelic armies is with you. No weapon formed against you shall prosper (see Isaiah 54:17)! (Quote source here.)

In this last article published on July 28, 2018 titled, The Prophet Elisha and an Army of Angels,” by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director for the Center for Advancement of Well Being at George Mason University, she writes:

In the book of Kings (2 Kings 6), the Bible describes how God provides an army of angels leading horses and chariots of fire to protect the prophet Elisha and his servant and opens the servant’s eyes so that he can see the angelic army surrounding them.

An Earthly Army Tries to Capture Them

Ancient Aram (now Syria) was at war with Israel, and the king of Aram was disturbed that the prophet Elisha was able to predict where Aram’s army was planning to go, warning Israel’s king so that he could devise Israel’s army’s strategy. Aram’s king decided to send a large group of soldiers to the city of Dothan to capture Elisha so that he wouldn’t be able to help Israel win the war.

Verses 14 to 15 describe what happens next: “Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked.”

Being surrounded by a large army with no escape terrified the servant, who at this point could see only the earthly army there to capture Elisha.

A Heavenly Army Appears for Protection

The story continues in verses 16 and 17: “‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Bible scholars believe that angels were in charge of the horses and chariots of fire on the surrounding hills, ready to protect Elisha and his servant. Through Elisha’s prayer, his servant gained the ability to see not just the physical dimension but also the spiritual dimension, including the angelic army.

Verses 18 and 19 then record, “As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the lord, ‘Strike this army with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. Elisha told them, ‘This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ And he led them to Samaria.”

Elisha Shows Mercy to the Enemy

Verse 20 describes Elisha praying for the soldiers’ sight to be restored once they entered the city, and God answered that prayer, so they could finally see Elisha—and also the king of Israel, who was with him. Verses 21 to 23 describe Elisha and the king showing mercy to the army, holding a feast for the soldiers to build friendship between Israel and Aram. Verse 23 ends by saying, “The bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.”

In this passage, God responds to prayer by opening people’s eyes both spiritually and physically, in whatever ways are most useful for their growth. (Quote source here.)

Inspiring, isn’t it? I hope it has inspired you as much as it inspired me while searching for articles to include in this post. And, never forget about that invisible army that is all around us, and be encouraged!

I’ll end this post with the words from Joshua 1:9: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged . . .

For the Lord your God . . .

Will be with you . . .

Wherever you go . . . .

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig and Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
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Divided in Love

Since Valentine’s Day was just two days ago, I’ve been thinking about the topic of love. This morning I read a devotion in Our Daily Bread titled, Divided in Love, by Leslie Koh, a journalist from Singapore now working at Our Daily Bread Ministries, and this is what he wrote:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.Ephesians 4:2

When public debate erupted over a controversial Singapore law, it divided believers with differing views. Some called others “narrow-minded” or accused them of compromising their faith.

Controversies can cause sharp divisions among God’s family, bringing much hurt and discouraging people. I’ve been made to feel small over personal convictions on how I apply the Bible’s teachings to my life. And I’m sure I’ve been equally guilty of criticizing others I disagree with.

I wonder if the problem lies not in what or even in how we express our views, but in the attitudes of our hearts when we do so. Are we just disagreeing with views or seeking to tear down the people behind them?

Yet there are times when we need to address false teaching or explain our stand. Ephesians 4:2-6 reminds us to do so with humility, gentleness, patience, and love. And, above all else, to make every effort “to keep the unity of the Spirit” (v. 3).

Some controversies will remain unresolved. God’s Word, however, reminds us that our goal should always be to build up people’s faith, not tear them down (v. 29). Are we putting others down to win an argument? Or are we allowing God to help us understand His truths in His time and His way, remembering that we share one faith in one Lord? (vv. 4-6). (Quote source here.)

Zeroing in on the key issue, Koh states, I wonder if the problem lies not in what or even in how we express our views, but in the attitudes of our hearts when we do so. Are we just disagreeing with views or seeking to tear down the people behind them?” It seems as if humility is a dying art in our society today.

In a blog post published on August 23, 2016, titled, Is narcissism becoming a virtue or whatever happened to humility?” by Brian Harris, Principal of Vose Seminary and Pastor at Large for the Carey Group, a church, school and community center planting movement based in Perth, Australia, he writes:

The answer appears to be yes. A study by Hoover (2007) researching 16,000 students between 1982 to 2006 found that the average score on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory increased 30% in that time. Given that this study is now aging, I suspect the rise would be even more dramatic if tested now. Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell have written a book,The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement,” …which clearly chronicles our increasing obsession with self. The same book also helpfully distinguishes between self esteem and narcissism, recognizing that a realistic and valued sense of self is important, but that it is at risk of being tipped over the line in our time.

What’s wrong with narcissism… Many things, but here are a few:

    • An inflated sense of self sees us magnifying trivia. Everything about me must be awesome – and if it isn’t that’s tragic. But if everything is awesome, how do we differentiate and nuance things. How do we cope with disappointment? How do we face our shadow side? And how do we celebrate the ordinary?
    • Narcissism blinds us to sin (and I mean sin in the biblical sense of being people who miss the mark of God’s goal for us). It stops us from seeing our need for forgiveness and redemption.
    • A world that is about me, myself and I quickly becomes too small.
    • The order is wrong. Jesus taught that if we are willing to lose our life, we will find it. Paradoxical though this is, it is true. When it is all about me, something inside of me dies.
    • I become a consumer of services to which I feel entitled (because I matter so much). I become fixated on my rights, and usually gloss over my responsibilities.
    • Self preoccupation blinds me to the needs of others.
    • It makes me indifferent to the stories of others–the only story I want told is my own.
    • I place my confidence in myself. I want my world to be about me. Worshiping Jesus and having him at the center quickly disappears from my agenda.

It is never enough to simply tut tut about a social trend. What can be done about it?…

Could it be that the rise of narcissism is a comment on a world that has become too small… a world that has lost a narrative that can inspire, and challenge and motivate… a world that can make me bigger by getting me to move beyond my own very limited parameters? Perhaps we need fresh reminders that while God assuredly loves me, a God sized love actually encompasses the whole world. There are many stories to be told, and even more waiting to be written. And my role does not have to be the lead character in each. Simply cheering on the sidelines, and celebrating a story that has nothing to do with me, can be a helpful start. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on August 14, 2016, titled, Humility–The Lost Virtue,” by Tony Agnesi, Hall of Fame broadcaster, author, speaker, and storyteller, he writes:

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”  –C.S. Lewis

What ever happened to humility?  Once valued in our culture, humility just isn’t practiced at all.  Instead, we have a self-centered, chest-thumping, braggadocios, pat yourself on the back generation with an exaggerated self-importance.

The NFL running back, who years ago would credit the linemen for their great blocking and opening the way for his touchdown runs, will thump his chest and tell you how great he is, the best running back ever!

The mid-level boss at work takes credit for every accomplishment in his department never complimenting his staff for work well done.

The musician who interrupts an awards presentation to tell the recipient that someone else is better than she is.

The gossip, who is constantly putting down friends in an effort to make herself look better.

Yes, it’s true, humility is the ugly duckling of virtues, lost in a quagmire of self-centered bravado. This foolish pride is hubris and humility is the anecdote for hubris.

Somehow, over time, we have come to believe that humility is a lack of self-confidence, that humble people are shy or timid.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

That’s why C.S. Lewis’ quote is so important.  Humility understands that giving credit to others for their achievements doesn’t diminish our accomplishments. We gain respect, by being humble.  By simply shifting the focus away from self to others we make a powerful statement of leadership.  Try it sometime, and you will see the power of humility.

So, what are some examples of modern day humility?  What are a few simple things we can do to be more humble?

    • Try opening a door for someone, or giving up your place in the checkout line to the woman with a fussy child.
    • Clean up the coffee spills in the lunch room at work even though you don’t drink coffee.
    • When being honored for an accomplishment, use the opportunity to thank the people that helped you get there.
    • Cook a meal for the woman down the street who recently lost her husband, or invite her to lunch.
    • Instead of donating money to the local soup kitchen, volunteer to wait on tables once a month.

I am sure you can think of many others.

As Christians, we don’t have to look very far for examples of humility.  Jesus himself was born in a stable, had few possessions, and no place to live.  He led a humble life, but changed the world.

If we realize that our goal on this earth is not how great we can become, but how much of a difference we can make in the lives of others, then we will begin to understand the virtue of humility.

Let’s practice humility! (Quote source here.)

In an article published on November 22, 2017, on PsychologyToday.com, titled, How Practicing Humility Can Help Your Love Life, by Kristen Fuller, M.D., she writes:

Humility is a simple human characteristic that is lacking in today’s society. We live in a world where it is “all about me”, from the upkeep of our physical appearances, our reputations on social media, self-gratifying behavior and the obsession with money and consumerism, it is so easy to lose touch with placing others before ourselves. With an astonishing rise in divorce rates and an increase in individuals choosing to be single, we as humans, must go back to the basics of kindness and humility.

It is not always about you

To be humble or practice humility means to value other people and their opinions without indulging in self- pride. Humility is the opposite of boastfulness, arrogance and vanity.  Oftentimes we are so concerned with winning the argument, making a point, being right and correcting other people that we forget to listen to others, and to allow the unimportant things to dissipate. Yes, there will always be that antagonizing individual in your life who always has to prove their point, but it is your choice to engage in their argumentative or opinionated behavior. You have the right to walk away from the conversation or to simply just agree with them in order to create peace. You always have the choice to practice humility even in the presence of chaos.

In a world filled with self-aggrandizing online dating profiles, it may be surprising to learn that humility is actually a direct expression of an individual who is truly confident and expresses a high self-esteem. How many of you have gone a first date where the other individual talked about themselves the entire time and did not ask you a single question? By leaving ‘you’ out of the date just a little bit, you allow yourself the freedom to discover whether this is someone you should be with. Or what about that one friend who is always telling you about his or her own problems but never takes the time to ask how you are doing? Or that family member who never stops talking about a past unresolved issue? We all love to “toot our own horns” however it is not attractive, in any way.

Staying humble to keep love alive

A humble person does not always have to prove their point, or be right or lead the conversation because they are truly comfortable with who they are.  Being vulnerable and showing humility to a romantic partner can allow for better communication and trust to develop in the relationship. Being aware of what you don’t know and asking questions allows for learning to take place within a relationship and humble individuals are more likely to admit their faults, apologize and practice forgiveness than an individual who is boastful or who is a narcissist. Many conflicts and arguments within relationships can be easily fixed however the majority of individuals are more concerned with proving a point and being right rather than listening to the needs of their partner and trying to understand the underlying catalyst that initiated the argument in the first place. The goal of a relationship is to grow with your partner, not fight against them or come out winning. Practicing humility requires the following attributes:

    • Active listening
    • Taking a different perspective
    • Empathy
    • Admitting wrong
    • Apologizing
    • Being confident in what you don’t know
    • Seeking forgiveness
    • Asking questions
    • Putting your relationship before your own personal needs
    • Serving others
    • Staying present
    • Practicing gratitude

In terms of dating and relationships, there is a lid that fits every pot however it is easier to find the lid for your pot if you’re not blowing off every lid with steam, hot air and arrogance. (Quote source here.)

As a last reflection for this blog post on the topic of love and humility, let’s consider what James 4:1-12 (MSG) states:

Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.

You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.

You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”

So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others? (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with these words from 1 Corinthians 13:3-8 (MSG): If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love . . .

Never . . .

Dies . . . .

YouTube Video: “Get Together (Try to Love One Another Right Now)” (1967) by the Youngbloods:

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Turning the Other Cheek

The last blog post I published on my other blog two weeks ago titled, Demonstrating Grace,” was on the topic of extending grace instead of dispensing justice even when justice would have been justified. I’ve thought a lot about that topic since I wrote that last blog post, and I was given another opportunity to “turn the other cheek” again a few days ago.

After that second opportunity occurred so soon after the first, I humorously emailed a friend stating that 2020 has already given me two opportunities to “turn the other cheek,” and I had now run out of cheeks to turn and February has only just begun. The subject of forgiveness can get pretty bogged down as we live in a fast paced society today where insults are spewed all over social media at break neck speed, and a general lack of hospitality and civility has infected even the most seemingly innocuous interactions we have with others.

For instance, doesn’t it just rankle you when someone sweetly says, “Bless you,” but you know they don’t really mean it, and it’s given as an insult with a nice smile cover-up? Seems our society runs on short fuses most of the time today. No wonder I feel like I’ve run out of cheeks to turn in such a short period of time since 2020 burst upon us just over a scant month ago. All of those insults can wear a person down.

Apparently, doing good isn’t fashionable today. No gold stars or brownie points are given out for doing good or turning the other cheek. Laughter and insults are often the response, and they are often disguised as “nicey-nice” expressions, but they don’t hide the hate. Isn’t it wonderful to live in a society where we can so freely express our hate for each other on a regular basis by disguising it by using nice words and a fake smile?

Social media has also had a big part in programming us in that direction whether spewing hate out in the open and in your face, or hiding it behind “nicey-nice” words and smiles that mean nothing. Slinging mud while disguising it in pretty words and an insincere smile might make it seem not as bad as actually spewing the “F” word, but it all means the same thing.

It was Jesus who said we should turn the other cheek and not return evil for evil. So what exactly did he mean by turning the other cheek? GotQuestions.org gives us the following answer:

In Matthew 5:38–39, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” The concept of “turning the other cheek” is a difficult one for us to grasp. Allowing a second slap after being slapped once does not come naturally.

In the section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which He commands us to turn the other cheek, He addresses the need for true transformation, versus mere rule-keeping. It’s not enough to obey the letter of the law; we must conform to the spirit of the law as well.

Much of the material surrounding Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek complements the nature of His coming, which was characterized by mercy, sacrificial love, and long suffering toward sinners. At the same time, Jesus affirms the “last is first” principle upon which the kingdom of God is based. For instance, He tells us to go the extra mile for someone who abuses us (Matthew 5:41) and to love and pray for our enemies instead of holding enmity against them (verse 44). In summary, Jesus is saying we need to be pure inside and out and as accommodating as possible for the sake of a lost world.

A word about the “slap” that Jesus says we should endure. Jesus here speaks of personal slights of any kind. The slap (or the “smiting,” as the KJV has it) does not have to involve literal, physical violence. Even in our day, a “slap in the face” is a metaphor for an unexpected insult or offense. Did someone insult you? Let him, Jesus says. Are you shocked and offended? Don’t be. And don’t return insult for insult. Turn the other cheek.

Matthew Henry’s comment on this verse is helpful: “Suffer any injury that can be borne, for the sake of peace, committing your concerns to the Lord’s keeping. And the sum of all is, that Christians must avoid disputing and striving. If any say, Flesh and blood cannot pass by such an affront, let them remember, that flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and those who act upon right principles will have most peace and comfort” (Concise Commentary, entry for Matthew 5:38).

Turning the other cheek does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in danger. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek is simply a command to forgo retaliation for personal offenses. He was not setting government foreign policy, and He was not throwing out the judicial system. Crimes can still be prosecuted, and wars can still be waged, but the follower of Christ need not defend his personal “rights” or avenge his honor.

There was a time in history when a man would feel compelled to protect his honor against one who slandered him or otherwise besmirched his character. The offended party would challenge the offender to a duel. Swords, firearms, or other weapons were chosen, and the two enemies would face off. In most cases, senseless bloodshed ensued. Samuel Johnson wrote in favor of the practice of dueling: “A man may shoot the man who invades his character, as he may shoot him who attempts to break into his house.” The problem is that “invasions of character” are exactly what Jesus told us to tolerate in Matthew 5:38. Turning the other cheek would have been a better option than dueling, and it would have saved lives.

Retaliation is what most people expect and how worldly people act. Turning the other cheek requires help from on high. Responding to hatred with love and ignoring personal slights display the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and may afford the chance to share the gospel.

Jesus was, of course, the perfect example of turning the other cheek because He was silent before His accusers and did not call down revenge from heaven on those who crucified Him. Instead, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). (Quote source here.)

In an article published on January 29, 2018, titled, Does ‘Turn the Other Cheek’ Mean ‘Get Walked All Over’?” by Chris Nye, pastor of leadership development at Awakening Church in the Silicon Valley and the author of “Distant God,” he writes:

I have sometimes heard well-meaning Christians counsel those going through difficult circumstances that “this is your cross to bear” or “Jesus told us we would suffer” or “you’ve got to deny yourself.” Some cite Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 5:39 as a proper response to the people in our lives who have hurt us. Sometimes these well-meaning people tell us to stick around in unhealthy relationships because isn’t that what Christ would do? He was crucified, after all, and aren’t we supposed to follow in his steps?

But does turning the other cheek and denying ourselves really mean we should endure unhealthy relationships and circumstances, no matter what? Should we stick around in relationships we sense are damaging us because we need to “deny ourselves”?

Here are four observations that might help as we consider such questions.

1. There is a difference between laying your life down and someone taking it.

Scripture instructs us to “lay down our lives” for Christ’s sake and to take up our cross (1 John 3:16Matt. 16:24). But notice the active agent in that sentence: you. There is a difference between voluntarily laying down your life and someone taking your life from you. Jesus said he laid down his life so that he “may take it up again.” He went on: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).

There were many times Jesus could have allowed his life to be taken, but he escaped because “his time had not come yet” (John 7:30, 44; 10:39). We need not pity Jesus for his death—he was accomplishing his mission, on his terms. And we need not pity ourselves, out of a false martyrdom complex, when we allow dangerous or unhealthy people to dictate our lives. We must be certain that we, like Jesus, are laying our lives down on our own accord and not having them taken from us by life-sucking individuals.

2. We are to pick up our cross, but not every cross.

When Jesus teaches us to daily pick up our cross, he uses the possessive: it’s our cross to bear (Luke 9:23). What is this cross? It will likely be different for everyone, but you’ll know when it’s yours. We cannot carry every cross and burden we see in our sights. As Paul tells the Galatians, “For each will have to bear his own load” (Gal. 6:5). But wait, doesn’t Paul also say in that same passage to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2)? Which is it? Should we bear our own burdens or others’ burdens? Yes. Both.

We are called to discernment—to wisely assess if such burdens are ours to carry. Can we handle it? Is this our battle to fight? Am I getting involved to show love or to prove a point? Am I getting involved to serve another or to serve myself?

3. Jesus set limits and boundaries on his ministry.

There were so many people Jesus disappointed; so many in the back of crowds who never got close enough to touch the hem of his garment. One interaction stands out: a young man asks Jesus to settle a legal dispute between him and his brother. Jesus responds: “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:14). It’s a good question. Jesus understood when he was being asked to do things outside of the focus of his ministry. He knew his calling, he knew his ministry, and he protected these things while remaining remarkably compassionate.

4. You are just one part of the body.

In certain kinds of churches, two or three people shoulder all the burdens. It’s common for one pastor to do most of the weddings, funerals, and hospital visits. But I do not see any evidence in the New Testament to support this kind of organizational structure. Paul speaks of the “body of Christ,” of which all of us are differing “members.” When someone carries a backpack or lifts something up, the weight is distributed to many different places on the body. While one area will bear the most (you can hear your dad saying, “Lift with your legs, son!”), your whole body feels the pressure. Likewise, you should entrust your burdens to the body of your church. You’re not the only one who can visit a hospital, offer relational counsel, or pray for the hurting.

Again, Jesus set limits on his ministry. We forget all the people he passed by, all the sick who left unhealed simply because he couldn’t get to them. We forget how he evaded crowds and escaped the masses. We forget that while many stones were thrown at him, he dodged them all so that he might pick up his cross.

Jesus was not walked all over, and no one took his life. If you are to imitate him and become like him, no one should take yours.

Disciples of Jesus would be wise to follow him specifically in this area by setting boundaries. You don’t have to text that person back right away. You can answer your emails during an allotted time. The tasks ahead will always be infinite, but you are finite. Especially for those of us in full-time ministry, we must learn the art of wise dismissal, of letting people down, and saying “no” so that we might say “yes” to the fullness of life in Christ Jesus. (Quote source here.)

Jesus made it clear in Matthew 5:38-39 that we are not to resist an evil person, and that we are to turn the other cheek. So what is the best way to not resist an evil person? Paul stated in Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In a brief article titled, Explain ‘Do Not Be Overcome with Evil, But Overcome Evil with Good’,” by Pat Robertson, founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network; host of The 700 Club, and CEO of Regent University, he writes:

There is only one way that evil can overcome a Christian, and that is if the Christian returns evil for evil. If someone insults you and snarls at you, you are not overcome. You are overcome if you begin to snarl right back. Then the unpleasant person has become your role model. You are copying evil and evil is overcoming you. If someone hates you and you hate him back, then evil is getting the victory. If someone strikes you and you strike back, then you have become like the evil one.

The Bible says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). If someone reviles you, you are to smile back and say, “God bless you.” The person will not know how to react to that, and you have overcome him. You have won. That person has not changed you, but you have gone on the offensive with the most powerful weapon in the world–love! If someone strikes you on the cheek, Jesus said you should turn the other cheek (see Matthew 5:39Luke 6:29). And that will leave your adversary totally confused! And then on top of that you should say, “I love you.”

If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles. If someone takes your coat, give him your shirt as well (see Matthew 5:40-41). Do so graciously, cheerfully, even assertively. God has given you the spiritual weapons to discern who your enemies are and then to conquer them by making them your friends. (Of course, as long as there are vicious criminals and international tyrants in the world, there must be a system of restraint through local or international police. In Romans 13, police and legitimate armies are considered by the apostle Paul as “ministers of God” to bring vengeance on lawbreakers.) (Quote source  here.)

Turning the other cheek may not be a popular response in our culture today, but it is the only right response according to Jesus. And how do we do that? We do it by…

Overcoming evil . . .

With . . .

Good . . . .

YouTube Video: “Forgiveness” by TobyMac ft. Lacrae:

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