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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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A Heart Like His

The war really is bigger than us. . . . The passage quoted in the above picture is taken from the words of the apostle Paul found in Ephesians 6:10-20 which states the following:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20, ESV).

It reminds me of something I read in Sun Tzu‘s treatise titled, The Art of War,” in a section titled Maneuvering.”  Sun Tzu opened that section with the following statement: “In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign” (quote source here). Sun Tzu (544-496 BC) “was a Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher who lived in ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, a widely influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and Eastern philosophy” (quote source here). The entire text of The Art of War can be read online at this link.

While there is nothing that indicates Sun Tzu believed in the God of the Bible (and indeed, he lived centuries before the Bible was in print), his statement, “In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign,” is quite an apted one. There is an Old Testament figure, King David, who was born in Bethlehem and died in 962 BC (four centuries before the arrival of Sun Tzu in ancient China) who also lived centuries before the entire Bible was in print (including most of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament), and he was known as a man after God’s own heart (see I Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22–David was installed as King after God rejected Israel’s first king, King Saul).

As stated in an article titled, King David–A Man After God’s Own Heart,” on Christianity.about.com, the life of King David is a study in contrasts, yet God always viewed David as a man after his own heart because of his single minded commitment and devotion to God. The article opens with the following statement:

King David was a man of contrasts. He was singlemindedly committed to God, yet guilty of some of the most serious sins recorded in the Old Testament.

David lived a frustrating life, first in the shadow of his brothers, then constantly on the run from vengeful King Saul. Even after he became king of Israel, David was engaged in almost constant warfare to defend the kingdom. King David was a great military conqueror, but he could not conquer himself. He allowed one night of lust with Bathsheba, and it had disastrous consequences in his life.

Although King David fathered Solomon, one of Israel’s greatest kings, he was also the father of Absalom, whose rebellion brought bloodshed and grief.

King David’s life was a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. He left us an example of passionate love of God and dozens of psalms, some of the most touching, beautiful poetry ever written. (Quote source here.)

While that description tends to focus on the negative side of David’s life, the much larger picture is his great devotion to God in spite of his shortcomings that indicates a trust and devotion that went to the very core of his being and stayed with him throughout his lifetime. Many of the psalms written by King David (before and after he became king) echo down through the centuries of his great devotion and total dependence on God and God’s protection over his life (and yes, he had to live through the consequences of his sins, such as the death of his first child with Bathsheba; and yet their next child, Solomon, became one of Israel’s greatest kings). One of David’s psalms, found in Psalm 59, shows his great devotion to God at a time of his greatest need for protection from King Saul, who was trying to kill him.  Here is Psalm 59 (NIV):

Psalm 59

When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.

Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
    be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
Deliver me from evildoers
    and save me from those who are after my blood.

See how they lie in wait for me!
    Fierce men conspire against me
    for no offense or sin of mine, Lord.
I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
    Arise to help me; look on my plight!
You, Lord God Almighty,
    you who are the God of Israel,
    rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
    show no mercy to wicked traitors.

They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
See what they spew from their mouths—
    the words from their lips are sharp as swords,
    and they think, “Who can hear us?”
But you laugh at them, Lord;
    you scoff at all those nations.

You are my strength, I watch for you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
10 my God on whom I can rely.

God will go before me
    and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
11 But do not kill them, Lord our shield,
    or my people will forget.
In your might uproot them
    and bring them down.
12 For the sins of their mouths,
    for the words of their lips,
    let them be caught in their pride.
For the curses and lies they utter,
13 consume them in your wrath,
    consume them till they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
    that God rules over Jacob.

14 They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
15 They wander about for food
    and howl if not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of your strength,
    in the morning I will sing of your love;
    for you are my fortress,
    my refuge in times of trouble.

17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
    my God on whom I can rely.

gods-mercy-is-biggerAs we see from the psalm quoted above, David trusted in God totally to protect him from his enemies, and he did this throughout his life and not just at the time King Saul was pursuing him with the intent to kill him (which had to be terrifying in and of itself). David knew that God was his refuge in all times of trouble. This psalm is also quoted in the book, A Heart Like His (1999, 2003, 2012) by Beth Moore, an author, speaker, Bible teacher, and founder of Living Proof Ministries, in the opening to Part II titled, “A Friendship Made in Heaven,” (see pp. 57-58). A brief description of the book on LifeWay.com states the following:

We all go through times when we feel insignificant or times when we feel certain that we have experienced a degree of failure from which there is no return. This is not a reality we experience alone, but is one that a man after God’s heart experienced as well. From shepherd, to refugee, to king of Israel, David exhibited the purest virtues and the most heinous sinfulness, but through it all his relationship with the Lord continued to grow.

“A Heart Like His” looks at this bond of mutual love and admiration between a man who was not unlike any of us and the one true God who is all good and all powerful. Beth Moore walks us through an exploration of David’s incredible life, drawing spiritual insights from a man who boldly fulfilled his divine destiny not merely by what he did, but who he loved and served. Bringing lessons from David’s life to bear on your own, this picture of a man who loved and followed God will help you to serve with a heart focused on Him no matter the circumstance (quote source here).

A Heart Like His is an in-depth Bible study on the life of David. In the introduction to the book, Beth Moore states:

All you need to relate to David is a membership to the human race. No matter how familiar you are with the biblical account of his life, I believe you’ll be stirred, shocked, amazed, and forced to think a few hard thoughts all over again. His story is proof once again that truth is far more intriguing than fiction.

Why study David? I believe he is extremely important for several reasons.

First, he was a man with a tremendous relationship with God–called a man after God’s own heart. His songs and poetry inspire us to worship. Since we believe that an intimate love relationship with God is the highest blessing possible in this life or the next, David is a worthy subject for our study.

Second, David simply merits our attention. He was a wondrously complex man. A musician and a warrior. He was capable of both the highest loyalty and the most base sin. In David we see the very best and the very worst in the human species. Getting to know David allows us to get to know ourselves.

A third reason to study David involves his relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. In many ways, David prefigures Christ. As we study David, we will come both to understand to to appreciate our Savior in new ways.

I believe strongly in a fourth reason to study David. Simply stated, he’s in the Bible. You see, Bible study saved my life. I believe studying God’s Word has enormous life-enhancing value. In many different ways I have benefitted from spending time in God’s Word. As you read, “A Heart Like His,” you will accomplish a detailed study of the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. You will also read portions of Psalms, 1 and 2 Chronicles, and many verses from other Old and New Testament books. I have written this book so that you can read it by itself, but I would encourage you to read the Scripture passages from your own Bible. The Scripture references for reading appear at the beginning of each chapter. (Quote source: Introduction, pp. 2-3). The book is available at this link (Lifeway.com–$5.00 for a limited time only).

Since I love reading books on the life of David, I couldn’t resist buying A Heart Like His,” which is on sale for $5.00 right now at Lifeway Bookstoresand I’m looking forward to reading this one with much anticipation.

Perhaps the greatest message to be found in the life of David is his singular devotion to God even in the midst of his worst sins that had some pretty devastating consequences in his life; consequences allowed by God to bring him to utter dependence on God. God is always very aware of our weaknesses and our sin, but it is in our weaknesses and sin that God can use, if we do not turn away from him in the midst of the very difficult times, to conform us to become men and women after his own heart. And it is our own reaction to those consequences that speaks volumes about who we really trust and believe in . . . whether it is in God, or whether is it in ourselves or in anyone or anything else. In the case of David, sometimes it took a long time before he realized his grave error (as with his affair with Bathsheba, or his failure to discipline his own children), but always he repented and came back to God.

In the article mentioned at the beginning of this blog post titled, King David–A Man After God’s Own Heart,” on Christianity.about.com, here’s a quick rundown on David’s accomplishments, weaknesses, and strengths, and their life lessons for us today:

King David’s Accomplishments:

David killed Goliath, champion of the Philistines, when David was only a youth and Goliath a giant and veteran warrior.

David was victorious because he trusted in God for the victory, not himself.

He killed many of Israel’s enemies in battle.

Despite several opportunities, David refused to kill King Saul, God’s first anointed king, who was pursuing David out of mad jealousy.

He became friends, like brothers, with Saul’s son Jonathan, setting a model of friendship that everyone can learn from.

King David is included in theFaith Hall of Famein Hebrews 11.

David was an ancestor of Jesus Christ. Jesus was often calledSon of David.”

God called David a man after his own heart.

King David’s Strengths:

David was courageous and strong in battle, trusting in God for protection.

He was loyal to Saul, despite Saul’s crazed pursuit of him.

David loved God deeply throughout his entire life.

King David’s Weaknesses:

King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. He then tried to cover up her pregnancy, and when he failed with that, he had her husband Uriah the Hittite killed.

He took a census of the people, willfully violating God’s command not to do that.

King David was sometimes lax, or absent as a father, not disciplining his children when they needed it.

Life Lessons:

Honest self-examination is necessary to recognize our own sin, then we must repent of it. We may try to fool ourselves or others, but we cannot hide our sin from God.

God always offers forgiveness for our sins, but we cannot escape the consequences.

God highly values our faith in him. Despite life’s ups and downs, God is ever-present to give us comfort and help. (Quote source here.)

paid-in-fullPerhaps one of the most difficult lessons we can learn is concerning our sin that is most hidden. In fact, it is often so well hidden that we don’t even recognize it for what it is–like envy, jealousy, being judgmental, showing a lack of love for others, loving money and possessions, thoughts that go nowhere good; and even in the midst of doing something we think is the right thing to do but we actually have no business doing it. And, and it can be hard to tell if it is something we shouldn’t doing it, like differentiating between seeking justice in the form of revenge instead of showing mercy. And sometimes it is hard to differentiate between seeking justice or wanting revenge. The best thing we can do in times like that is to completely trust God for justice in any situation, and to always show mercy (which is definitely our part in the equation). We must never confuse our own seeking after justice with God’s justice. God said vengeance is his and he means it, too (see Romans 12:19). The apostle Paul stated in that verse, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Most battles that come our way are far bigger than we can handle on our own, even when we try to take matters into our own hands and think by doing so we are helping God out. Often, we are only harming ourselves. It goes back to the verses in Ephesians stated at the beginning of this post found in Ephesians 6:10-20. Standing firm in peace, truth, faith, God’s righteousness, salvation, prayer, the Word of God–those are our weapons. Anything else does not come from God . . . .

A few years back Phillips Craig and Dean sang a song titled, Mercy Came Running (YouTube Video below). I’d like to end this post with a few words from their song as a great reminder to us that it is mercy that should always prevail:

Looking down with longing eyes
Mercy must have realized
That once His blood was sacrificed
Freedom would prevail

And as the sky grew dark
And the earth began to shake
With justice no longer in the way

Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures
To the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me

Mercy came running like a prisoner set free . . .

When I could not reach mercy . . .

Mercy came running to me . . . . 

YouTube Video: “Mercy Came Running,” by Phillips Craig and Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

God Is Always Hiring

now-hiring-1-neon

God is always hiring–what a concept, eh? It happens to be the title of Regina Brett‘s latest book, God Is Always Hiring: 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work(2015). And it’s great news for someone in my shoes who has been unemployed for longer than I care to think about at this point in time. The back cover states that “this book relates tales of discouragement turning into hope, and persistence paying big dividends.” Well, I’m all about persistence that I never knew I had before this long and unending period of unemployment came along to change the direction of my life.

The title of Brett’s book also reminded me of a parable that Jesus taught to a crowd that seems to indicate that God is “always hiring” those who seek him, regardless of whether they come to him early in life or later, even much later. He can use anyone who makes themselves available to him (and he’ll even use those who don’t, but that’s topic for another time). The parable is found in Matthew 20:1-16, and here’s the story taken from The Message Bible:

“God’s kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.

“Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went.

“He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, ‘Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?’

“They said, ‘Because no one hired us.’

“He told them to go to work in his vineyard.

“When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, ‘Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.’

“Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’

“He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’

“Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.” (Matthew 20:1-16 MSG)

God’s kingdom is always a “great reversal” of the system we find operating in the world, such as in the statement, “The first will be last, and the last first.” Another example is Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27-28; see also Matthew 5:43-48). In fact, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7) is about some of the great reversals that make up the kingdom of God here on earth regarding such topics as anger, lust, divorce, worry, hypocrisy, loving our enemies, giving to the needy, as well as other timely topics.

For those who might not be familiar with the term “kingdom of God,” GotQuestions.org gives us the following definition:

The kingdom of God is referenced often in the gospels (e.g., Mark 1:15; 10:15; 15:43; Luke 17:20) and other places in the New Testament (e.g., Acts 28:31; Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50). The kingdom of God is synonymous with the kingdom of heaven. The concept of the kingdom of God takes on various shades of meaning in different passages of Scripture.

Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal, sovereign God over all the universe. Several passages of Scripture show that God is the undeniable Monarch of all creation: “The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). And, as King Nebuchadnezzar declared, “His kingdom is an eternal kingdom” (Daniel 4:3). Every authority that exists has been established by God (Romans 13:1). So, in one sense, the kingdom of God incorporates everything that is.

More narrowly, the kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to God’s authority. Those who defy God’s authority and refuse to submit to Him are not part of the kingdom of God; in contrast, those who acknowledge the lordship of Christ and gladly surrender to God’s rule in their hearts are part of the kingdom of God. In this sense, the kingdom of God is spiritual—Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), and He preached that repentance is necessary to be a part of the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17). That the kingdom of God can be equated with the sphere of salvation is evident in John 3:5–7, where Jesus says the kingdom of God must be entered into by being born again. See also 1 Corinthians 6:9. (Quote source here.)

The apostle Paul give us a great example of this way of living in Philippians 2:1-16 (and Paul was writing from prison at the time he penned these words). Here is Paul’s advice taken from The Message Bible

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing. (Philippians 2:1-16 MSG). 

god-is-an-on-time-godA breath of fresh air . . . . The kingdom of God is very good news, and anyone is welcome regardless of their status, situation, or circumstances. It only requires a willing heart and a belief in God through Jesus Christ. And the requirement is stated in John 3:16-18 (MSG):

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son [Jesus Christ]. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him (John 3:16-18 MSG).

However, back to Regina Brett‘s latest book titled, God Is Always Hiring: 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work.”  Lesson #17 caught my eye with the title, “When things fall apart, they could actually be falling into place.” The lesson opens with the following story on pp. 85-87:

There’s an old saying: “Some years ask questions, some years answer them.” Most of us would rather be living in a year with answers.

Sometimes you go through months or years of uncertainty, where everything on the outside looks stagnant. You’re stuck in a winter where you can’t see the growth. When you look back on those periods of time, you were growing roots.

Some years you see the fruits of your labor, you flower, you bloom, you strut your stuff, and the world sees a bouquet and celebrates. Root years aren’t so attractive. There’s not much to show for them until much later in your life when you realize that those were the most vital years of all.

I thought of that when I heard about Mary Ann Corrigan-Davis. She had a dream job, then lost it and found a more perfect dream. She graduated from college with a degree in French and planned to go into international business. She got her MBA from Case Western Reserve University and expected to get the perfect job in international business as soon as she graduated. 

It took a year of interviews to find a job, and when she did, it was in sales at American Greetings, the card company. She planned to stay briefly and then move on to pursue her dream job. She stayed for 27 years. She ended up as president of the Retail Division in charge of 440 stores across 40 states, worked in Australia, and climbed the ladder all the way to the rung called Senior Vice President of Business Innovation. Then it all came to a screeching halt.

She got downsized. Then her dad died. Then she got breast cancer.

All in one year.

She said, “Lord, You have my attention. What it is You would like me to do?”

It looked muddy and messy at the time, but looking back, it’s clear what that time was for.

She got to be with her dad in his final days.

She got to heal and make getting well her full-time job.

She got to strengthen her faith when she went through chemotherapy and radiation, a faith that was deepened by her years at Saint Joseph Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school.

After Mary Ann survived the storm, she found a huge rainbow. She ended up in the job of her dreams, one that didn’t exist until she got downsized. She’s now president of Saint Joseph Academy, the school she always loved. She likes being in a workplace driven by a sense of mission, not profit.

“Life is like a roller coaster,” she told me. “Sometimes you do want to throw up. You just have to believe it will get better.”

How do you keep believing?

You make denial work for you. You believe in spite of the statistics. You believe past your doubts. You believe anyway. (Quote source: “God Is Always Hiring,” pp. 85-87.)

In an example from Brett’s own life, she describes a time of transition for her (in Lesson #40) when she took a trip with a friend in 2007 to the Wright Brothers National Memorial (in memory of Orville and Wilbur Wright who invented the first airplane and took it on its maiden flight in 1903) in North Carolina. The memorial is a 60-foot monument inscribed with the words, “Dauntless Resolution. Unconquerable Faith”words that transformed her thinking about her own life. And it was that trip that inspired her to write down her dreams of becoming an author when she got back home (pp. 214-215):

Once home, I taped the brochure from the Wright Memorial with the black-and-white photo of that plane on my vision board. I made the covers to all the books I wanted to write and posted them there. Then I wrote at the top: “This or something better.”

Was it okay to tell God what I wanted? Should I seek my heart’s desire or God’s will? Then I remembered what Beth told me: God’s will is your heart’s purest desire. They are one and the same.

Was it okay to post it there in the open? I knew it was when Beth sent me this quote from Habakkuk, a chapter of the Bible that I had never even heard of:

Then the Lord answered me and said, Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.

Wait and it will surely come.

God is rarely early, but God is never late. (Quote source: “God Is Always Hiring,” pp. 214-215.)

Since that time, Brett has authored three New York Times best selling books, including this latest book titled, God Is Always Hiring.” Her story is a great example of how God puts dreams and desires in our hearts, but the timing of it’s fulfillment is up to him. And the words Brett used to end her own story ring out to the rest of us who are still waiting . . . .

Wait and it will surely come . . .

God is rarely early . . . 

But God is never late . . . . 

YouTube Video: “What Faith Can Do” by Kutless:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Being Still

Be still and know that I am GodIf there is one thing that is hard for me to do it is to “be still” for any amount of time. Even when I was a kid, my mother told me I was a bit restless even when I was sick. And in today’s world, we live in such a fast paced society that nobody really knows what it’s like to “be still” for any length of time except when we are asleep at night. Of course, that can all change if one’s circumstances change, like losing a job and still not finding another one after six and a half years. But even in the midst of unemployment and financial challenges, I find it hard to “be still” for any length of time.

However, when it comes to God, it is something we are admonished (in a good way) to do. He knows best, and we don’t know anything compared to Him. And I was reminded of this very fact when I read Job 38-42 this morning. It was humbling to say the very least . . . . And if you want to be humbled, read it. It might even make you feel better if you are going through a really hard time right now. If nothing else, you will get a picture of just how big God is and how little control we have over much of anything in our lives.

For the past couple of months I haven’t written very many blog posts. I was traveling a lot in October and early November, and I guess I’ve reached a point where I am just very tired of my circumstances, living in hotels I can’t afford, and wondering when this particular script in my life will finally take an upward turn. To say it is getting old beyond words is putting words to something that there are just no words for anymore. However, that is not to say that I am disgruntled or down by saying that. Absolutely not! Regardless of my circumstances, I am “up” 98% of the time. God is still in control, and that never changes.

Back to the issue of “being still”–now that the holiday season is upon us (and it’s the busiest season for the entire year here in America), if we ever plan on “being still” for even a moment, it’s not likely to happen right now. Maybe we can put it on our list of New Year’s Resolutions that we probably won’t keep for very long (as New Year’s Resolutions tend to go). Our intentions may be right, but our “flesh is weak” and time never seems to be on our side.

In a few days we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. And following quickly on its heels will be Christmas and New Year’s. In the midst of all of this activity, let me interject a psalm for us to contemplate during this incredibly busy season. It’s a reminder to “be still.”

I’ll keep this post short as that way you’ll have more time to contemplate the psalm. And here it is . . . Psalm 46:

Psalm 46v10God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Here’s wishing you and your family and loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving. And in the midst of the activity, find a few moments to just “be still” . . . .

Be still  . . .

And know . . .

That I am God . . . .

YouTube Video: “Be Still and Know” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Things That Matter

THIS DOESN'T MATTER

STARBUCKS RED HOLIDAY CUPS FOR 2015 — NOT ON THE LIST OF THINGS THAT MATTER

The current controversy over Starbuck‘s red cups for the holiday season 2015 has grown to gargantuan proportions on the internet; however, I’m not going to add to the discussion. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of it’s existence until this morning when I fired up my smartphone and a headline regarding the controversy over the cups was on my news feed. I Googled it to see what I had missed and, fortunately, ran into an article that pretty much sums up my feelings about the controversy, written by Laura Turner, and titled, Starbucks Red Cups, and the Internet Outrage Machine,” (published on November 10, 2015).

I would imagine that many folks who consider themselves to be Christian (and many who don’t, too) woke up this morning just like I did–ignorant of the controversy brewing (no pun intended) over some red cups that Starbucks is using for the holiday season this year. However, the whole matter does brings up the subject of what, exactly, does matter to us? And I don’t think red cups should be at the top of the list. . . or even at the bottom of it. Or, in fact, anywhere on the list.

In an ironic twist, I picked up a morning devotional book by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) titled, Mornings with Tozer (published by Moody Publishers; 1991, 2008), which is a book I had been neglecting for a while but not for any particular reason. The devotion I turned to this morning (which actually happens to be the devotion for tomorrow but I didn’t realize it until after I read it) is titled, “What Really Matters?” And here is what Tozer had to say:

What Really Matters?

“What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 2:22, NIV)

It is all but impossible these days to get people to pay any attention to things that really matter. The broad cynic in our modern civilization is likely to ask: “What really matters, after all?”

It is our personal relationship to God that really matters!

That takes priority over everything else, for no man can afford to live or die under the frowning displeasure of God. Yet, name one modern device that can save him from it. Where can a man find security? Can philosophy help him? Or psychology? Or science? Or atoms or wonder drugs or vitamins?

Only Christ can help him, and His aid is as old as man’s sin and man’s need.

A few other thing matter to be sure. We must trust Christ completely. We must carry our cross daily. We must love God and our fellow man. We must fulfill our commission as ambassadors of Christ among men. We must grow in grace and in the knowledge of God and come at last to our end like a ripe shock of corn at harvest time.

These are the things that really matter!

Prayer: Lord, the world tells me that fitness and finances are the measure for success and happiness. But I know in my heart that my personal relationship with You is the one thing in my life that really matters!

what really mattersRed cups don’t matter, and they shouldn’t even be on the list of things that matter, either, at any time of the year. So what is at the bottom of our need to take up causes that just don’t matter, like red cups at Starbucks? We all do it from time to time and it’s not just about red cups, either, or the other “causes” that aren’t really causes except for the fact that they bring out the “thin skin” in all of us, which is not a very attractive feature on any of us . . . just sayin’ 🙂

Back to Tozer’s devotional book cited above–three pages later, on November 15, Tozer makes the following statement:

Answering God’s Call

“The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel, Samuel.” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:10, NIV)

When will men and women realize that when God calls us out, He is completely faithful to call us into something better?

In his faith Abraham was against idolatry and idol making, but that was not his crusade. Because of his faith, God led him into a promised land, into possessions and into the lineage that brought forth the Messiah. The call of God is always to something better–keep that in mind!

God calls us into the joys and reality of eternal life. He calls us into purity of life and spirit, so that we may acceptably walk with Him. He calls us into a life of service and usefulness that brings glory to Himself as God. He calls us into the sweetest fellowship possible on this earth–the fellowship of the family of God!

If God takes away from us the old, wrinkled, beat-up dollar bill we clutch so desperately, it is only because He wants to exchange it for the whole federal mint, the entire treasure! He is saying, “I have in store for you all the resources of heaven. Help yourself!”

Prayer: What a wonderful God we serve! You are looking out for our very best. Lord, help me to loosen my hold on the things that are blocking the path of Your blessings.

And it is that “loosening the hold” on all of the things in our lives that we desperately cling to that is blocking us from receiving His blessings and the life He would have for us. We let the lust for power or prestige, reputation, relationships, money, possessions, accolades, jealousy, envy, coveting what others have that we want, etc., (that list is endless)–that we cling to so tenaciously–strangle the life out of our relationship with God. And we often try to manipulate our way to get our own blessings (as in what we want) because they mean more to us then God does.

In between those two devotions is a third devotion for November 14 titled, “Too Much ‘At Home’,” and here is what Tozer had to say in it:

Too Much “At Home”

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. . . and admitted that they were aliens and strangers on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13, NIV)

One of the most telling indictments against many of us who comprise our Christian churches is the almost complete acceptance of the contemporary scene as our permanent home!

We have been working and earning, getting and spending, and now we are enjoying the creature comforts known to human beings in this land. You may bristle a bit and ask: “Is there anything wrong with being comfortable?”

Let me answer in this way: If you are a Christian and you are comfortably “at home” in Chicago or Toronto, in Iowa or Alberta or any other address on planet earth, the signs are evident that you are in spiritual trouble.

The spiritual equation reads like this: The greater your contentment with your daily circumstances in this world, the greater your defection from the ranks of God’s pilgrimage en route to a city whose architect and builder are God Himself!

If we can feel that we have put down our roots in this present world, then our Lord still has much to teach us about faith and attachment to our Savior!

Prayer: Lord, although I live at a local address, I pray that You will help me be a globally minded Christian and that my heart will beat with Yours for this lost world.

for God so loved with worldIf every possession we have, every person we call friend, every family member, as well as our careers and/or our retirement plans, or our homes, and whatever else it is that takes up so much of our time and efforts, suddenly disappeared out of our lives, would we still believe in and cling to God (through our relationship with Jesus Christ) as the very source of our life? Would we believe that even in the worst of times He still knows what is best for us? Or do we cling to those “things” thinking they are our “proof” that He exists and that He loves us, and that we have somehow “arrived” by the acquisition of those things or during our constant chase after those things in this life? For the Christian, this material world that we live in is not our home. And the Bible makes that powerfully clear from beginning to end.

Jesus stated in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

1 John 2:15-16 (MSG) states, “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.” 

During the upcoming holiday season with all of its festivities, activities, parties, and gift buying and giving, let’s not lose sight of what really matters . . . .

And red cups don’t matter . . .

Only Jesus matters . . . .

For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son
into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him
is not condemned,

but whoever does not believe
stands condemned already

because they have not believed
in the name of God’s

One and Only Son
(Jesus Christ).

~John 3:16-18

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

Photo #1 credit here (photo courtesy of Starbucks)
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

One Day at a Time

one_day_at_a_timeI’ve been traveling a lot in the past month since I took off for Des Moines, Iowa, from Orlando, Florida, on October 7th to attending the wedding of my youngest nephew (see my last two blog posts titled, A Love Song,” and You Can Go Home Again”). I’ve covered over 3,500 miles of highways traveling through Atlanta, Nashville, southern Illinois and into Iowa to Des Moines; and then on my return trip back to Orlando I took a southern route hitting afternoon rush hour traffic in Kansas City and, again, rush hour traffic the next morning while traveling through Dallas/Fort Worth and east on I-20 into Louisiana and Mississippi with a stop in Biloxi for two nights before finishing the final leg of the trip to Orlando.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, once I got back to Orlando I decided it was time to travel to the west coast of Florida where I had previously lived for over four years to go through some boxes in my storage unit that I had put in it when I left that town to go to Orlando at the end of March 2014. I spent three days rummaging through my stuff and returned to Orlando, only to return again a few days later to that area as I decided there were a couple of things I want to keep with me that I had put in the storage unit. And that is where I am right now.

And again, as if I haven’t traveled enough lately (well, I do love road trips), in a scant two plus weeks and right before Thanksgiving I will be taking another road trip. This time it will be to Arkansas where I will be house sitting the home of my best friend and her husband while they are away for a period of time in Iowa taking care of her elderly mother.

Obviously, all of this traveling of late hasn’t left much time for blog post writing but that’s okay. With over 400 blog posts written during the past four plus years I can use a break every now and then. And I’ve been reminded of one thing over and over again during all of this traveling that I’ve been doing that I didn’t have a clue I would be doing when the month of October opened up. And that reminder is a fact that we all need to keep in mind while we are making our plans for the future–that life only unfolds one day at a time, and we really don’t know what a day may bring even with our best laid intentions and plans.

Jesus had a lot to say about living in the “now” and not worrying about tomorrow. In Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV) he made the following statement:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Lately, those last two sentences have given me pause for thought. We are, obviously, instructed not to worry about our lives. However, at the end of this passage in verse 34, Jesus states that “. . . tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” To think that each day will have enough trouble of its own can be a bit challenging. It’s as if he is telling us that there will be no easy days for us to look forward to just enjoying. However, the Message Bible states verse 34 in this way which makes the meaning a bit more clear:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

While this entire passage is about the subject of worry (or anxiety) and that we should not be consumed by it, the verse that holds the key is verse 33:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (NIV) (these things being the things mentioned in the previous verses in vv. 25-32).

The Message Bible states verse 33 like this:

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

“Don’t worry about missing out” . . . . There is a big difference between being involved in “religious activities” and “steeping our lives in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions,” which extends way beyond what we “do” (as in activities). With that being said, I’m not implying there is anything wrong with being involved in religious activities. It, instead, is a “letting go” of every conception we have about how life should be lived (especially in the “religious” realm) and letting God lead the way from the moment we wake up each day until we lay our heads on our pillows at night.

We tend to put a “halo” on “seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness” and miss the entire point of what Jesus was and is saying about seeking his kingdom and his righteousness. We too often make it a “religious activity” in and of itself, and that is the opposite of what Jesus meant for us to be doing. He meant for us to be living it, not merely going through the motions of being involved in some “religious activity” in the hope of earning whatever it is we think we are earning (heaven, Jesus, etc.). Again, I’m not saying that being involved in religious activities is wrong. It is a matter of the heart and attitude, and not just the mind and/or going through the motions of doing particular activities or looking “Christian” on the exterior in order to appear “Christian” to others and ourselves.

loveIt really does come down to the issue of love. A person can be cold as ice and still be involved in religious activities and think he or she is on the right path to God. For example, grim faces and scolding looks are a dead giveaway. And, we can even hide behind a big smile with all the right words while privately judging others harshly who we think don’t quite fit in. However, without genuine love, we are nothing. Let me repeat that again . . . Without love, we . . . are . . . nothing. And no amount of religious activities or “halo” wearing will change that. We can look and act the part, maybe even carry around a Bible, spout an “Amen” at an appropriate time, and still fool others and ourselves along the way. However, without love, it means nothing. 

1 Corinthians 13 (the chapter on what genuine love looks and acts like) is not just a nice little passage on love to be read at wedding ceremonies. It is a way of life, and without it, we have no life. That is not to say that we aren’t alive (as in breathing). We, obviously, do exist and we live our lives pretty much the way we want to or according to a set of rules we think we should be following, but there is no life apart from love. Not genuine life. 1 Corinthians 13 states:

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

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

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

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

And that is the Kingdom of God. It’s about love–24/7–in the good, the bad, and the truly ugly of life. The classic passage on God’s love is John 3:16-18:

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

When Jesus hung on the cross, the people who put him there were the religious folks of his day. They had all of the appearances of “looking good” and acting religious in front of others and claiming to love God, but they were completely void of love–for God, definitely for Jesus, and for anybody else. Jesus’ worst enemies were the religious folks; the folks who thought they had it right but actually had it so incredibly wrong.

And down through the ages things have not changed. Only a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ built on love can change us, and all of the religious activities in the world means nothing without it. And if we mock or make fun of anyone, we have lost, and we do not love. And we are the losers as we have missed the entire message of the cross.

Many of the religious folks of Jesus day didn’t get it, and that is the same today. In Jesus’ statement to his disciples in John 15:18-25, he stated something that is still true today regarding his disciples:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’”

The Message Bible states that passage (John 15:18-25) as follows:

“If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.

“When that happens, remember this: Servants don’t get better treatment than their masters. If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you. If they did what I told them, they will do what you tell them.

“They are going to do all these things to you because of the way they treated me, because they don’t know the One who sent me. If I hadn’t come and told them all this in plain language, it wouldn’t be so bad. As it is, they have no excuse. Hate me, hate my Father—it’s all the same. If I hadn’t done what I have done among them, works no one has ever done, they wouldn’t be to blame. But they saw the God-signs and hated anyway, both me and my Father. Interesting—they have verified the truth of their own Scriptures where it is written, ‘They hated me for no good reason.’”

We don’t often hear messages about the world at large hating the followers of Jesus. For one thing, we often congregate with other Christians, and we are oblivious to (or look down on) those around us who are not on the same page as us. Because we still tend to think of America as a Christian nation, we live in a sheltered world of our own making that really doesn’t exist. The Gospel causes division wherever it is found (see Jesus’ statements in Luke 12:49-53 and Matthew 10:34-37 (NIV)–also in MSG version; also, click this link for a brief explanation to the question, Did Jesus come to bring peace or not?”), and this is true throughout the Old and New Testaments, too. The apostle Paul and the disciples of Jesus along with his other followers did not suddenly have an easy life when they came to believe in Jesus Christ. If fact, some of them gave up pretty cushy lives for the sake of the Gospel (the Apostle Paul, for example). In fact, Paul, as a Pharisee named Saul before he met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, hunted down and had killed the followers of Jesus. And that kind of division really hasn’t changed at all today. Just look at the number of terrorists groups in our world today who are murdering and persecuting Christians (as well as others who don’t believe like they do). We only have to look as far as Syria and Iraq, and other places around the globe, to see the severe persecution of Christians by terrorist groups like ISIS.

The greatest difference between Christianity and all other religions is that Christianity is founded on love–love for others including our enemies, and a lack of retaliation for a wrong suffered. It isn’t easy to live that way; in fact, it is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit to genuinely change us from the inside out. And if we don’t allow God his rightful ownership over our lives, we can’t mask very well our hatred for those who we don’t like very much. As Christians, we can’t say we love Jesus and hate our enemies at the same time, or treat our neighbors unjustly, or judge others without mercy. Yet that happens more then it should among us who claim to follow after Jesus. The truth is that the kingdom of God cannot be found in those who hate others, and it doesn’t matter what the reason is for their hatred. We only fool ourselves if we have no love for others, and that includes all others, even those we love to hate.

As for the issue of “religious activities,” there are a whole lot of “religious activities” going on out there today that, in the end, won’t mean anything. Again, it’s not about the actual activities but rather the motives behind the activities that count. And many folks, just like the religious folks in Jesus’ day, who are involved in them will never “get it,” either. If love is not at the core of everything we do, everything we believe, and how we treat others (as in all others–with no exceptions), in the end nothing that we do will matter. Nothing. And it’s a tragedy that existed in Jesus’ day and down through the centuries to us living today.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

For God so love the world that He gave his one and only Son . . . .

Without love . . .

We are nothing . . . .

YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” by Avalon:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Coming of the Kingdom

the-kingdom-of-God-is-at-hand-Change-your-ways-and-believe-the-Good-NewsEnd times prophecy has been a major area of interest in the American church culture during most of my lifetime, and especially in the past four plus decades starting with Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth,” which I read at the time it was published back in 1970 when I was a mere 18 years of age. In fact, the book has remained popular over time and is still in print today. The following description of the book is taken from the order page on ChristianBook.com:

The impact of “The Late Great Planet Earth” cannot be overstated. The New York Times called it the “no. 1 non-fiction bestseller of the decade”. For Christians and non-Christians of the 1970s, Hal Lindsey’s blockbuster served as a wake-up call on events soon to come and events already unfolding – all leading up to the greatest event of all: the return of Jesus Christ. The years since have confirmed Lindsey’s insights into what biblical prophecy says about the times we live in. Whether you’re a church-going believer or someone who wouldn’t darken the door of a Christian institution, the Bible has much to tell you about the imminent future of this planet. In the midst of an out-of-control generation, it reveals a grand design that’s unfolding exactly according to plan. The rebirth of Israel. The threat of war in the Middle East. An increase in natural catastrophes. The revival of Satanism and witchcraft. These and other signs, foreseen by prophets from Moses to Jesus, portend the coming of an antichrist…of a war which will bring humanity to the brink of destruction…and of incredible deliverance for a desperate, dying planet.

Of the four views of the end times, Hal Lindsay and his book come from a dispensational premillennialism, pre-tribuation rapture point of view, which is still very popular today in many churches across the nation. While I read widely on end times prophecy in my younger years when it was a very popular topic in the church at large, I don’t keep up with any of the “end times” ministries in particular that have proliferated since that time. So, before you get bleary-eyed on me, this post is not about that particular view point or any of the other three views on the end times. Innumerable volumes have been written on this topic and I do not have either the theological training or desire to enter into that discussion. My point in mentioning this subject is to acknowledge the vast interest in end times eschatology in many church cultures today and to bring up the subject of “the coming kingdom of God” as described in Luke 17:20-37, which states:

“Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

“Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

“‘Where, Lord?’ they asked.

“He replied, ‘Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.’”

There is a good, albeit lengthy, article/commentary on this passage titled, Sign-Seeking and the Coming of the Kingdom (Luke 17:20-37),” written by Bob Deffinbaugh on Bible.org. As noted in his article, the passage is broken down into five main points:

(1) The Pharisees and the Kingdom of God (vv. 20-21)
(2) The Disciples and the Kingdom of God (vv. 22-37)
(3) The danger of over-zealous expectation (vv. 22-25)
(4) The danger of worldly preoccupation (vv. 26-32)
(5) Summation (vv.33-37)

First off, while end times prophesy is usually centered around specific events the will occur leading up to the end of this current age and the second coming of Jesus Christ (a specific event), Jesus clearly stated to the Pharisees in vv. 20-21 that “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, we cannot see it or point to it as the kingdom of God is in our midst (or as another version states, “the kingdom of God is within you” ~NKJV).

So what exactly is “the kingdom of God”? An excellent definition is found on GotQuestions.org and states the following:

The kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal sovereign God over all creatures and things (Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:3). The kingdom of God is also the designation for the sphere of salvation entered into at the new birth (John 3:5-7), and is synonymous with the “kingdom of heaven.”

The kingdom of God embraces all created intelligence, both in heaven and earth that are willingly subject to the Lord and are in fellowship with Him. The kingdom of God is, therefore, universal in that it includes created angels and men. It is eternal, as God is eternal, and it is spiritual—found within all born-again believers. We enter the kingdom of God when we are born again, and we are then part of that kingdom for eternity. It is a relationship “born of the spirit” (John 3:5), and we have confident assurance that it is so because the Spirit bears witness with our spirits (Romans 8:16).

God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient and the ruler over all of His creation. However, the designation “the kingdom of God” compasses that realm which is subject to God and will be for eternity. The rest of creation will be destroyed. Only that which is part of the “kingdom of God” will remain (quote source here).

Repent Remember Return“We enter the kingdom of God when we are born again, and we are then part of that kingdom for eternity”. . . and, therefore, it becomes a part of who we are the moment we are born again (a definition of the term born again can be found at this link) and from that point on it is within us always. However, at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ and his second physical appearance on earth, the kingdom of God will be established on the earth and he will rule and reign at that time (see Rev. 19:11-21; 20:1-6).

Jesus does warn us that as the end times approach, in both Luke 17:22-24 and also Matthew 24:4-8, not to be duped by false messiahs, and also that we would hear of wars and rumors of wars and not to be alarmed. And while current end times prophesies stress actual events going on all around us in this world, Jesus clearly states in Luke 17:26-35 that people on the earth at the time of the end will be going about living life much as they did at the time of Noah and Lot and totally unaware of the coming end when judgment and destruction hits:

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

In a society such as ours that offers so many, many distractions that can divert our focus and attention on so many other things than Jesus Christ, we need to be alert to “the danger of worldly preoccupation” as Bob Deffinbaugh states in his article mentioned above, Sign-Seeking and the Coming of the Kingdom (Luke 17:20-37).” He makes the following statement (p. 10):

In both Noah’s day and in Lot’s, people were preoccupied with “living.” Life to them consisted of the earthly, temporal things which bring men pleasure, meaning, and joy. “Life,” as Jesus is using the term here, is not just one’s physical existence, but one’s source of meaning and significance. When people’s “lives” are caught up in the pursuits of living, they become insensitive to spiritual matters, and in particular to those warnings of the Scriptures and the saints concerning God’s coming and His judgment. The same spiritual dullness which unbelievers face because of their worldliness (finding their “life” in the world, in temporal things), Christians can experience (see Luke 21:34-36). Look at Lot and his family. Lot’s son-in-laws refused to leave Sodom, and thought Lot out of his mind. Lot himself was most reluctant to leave. While Lot’s wife left Sodom, her heart was still there, and thus she turned back to see all that she loved, her “life” going up in smoke. [See the result of her action and what happened to her in Genesis 19:26.]

One of the greatest dangers that faces those of us who are born-again believers in Jesus Christ is, as Bob Deffinbaugh’s writes in his conclusion to his article:

“. . . that of worldly preoccupations, which diminishes our desire for the kingdom, and dims our view of its reality, and dulls our desire for it to come. When our ‘life’ is found in Christ, and we can give up all else, all other things in which the world find ‘life’ then we will eagerly await His return, and we will work to hasten it. This is why Jesus has had so much to say about possessions. Possessions will possess us if we find our ‘life’ to be wrapped up with them. When we use our possessions to further the kingdom, then we lay up treasure in heaven, and we quicken our hearts toward heaven” (p. 13).

He also warns us of “a neatly packed definition of spirituality, with all kinds of external check points. [Much like the Pharisees] they think that by merely ‘following the program,’ [e.g. our own preconceived rules and definitions of what ‘spirituality’ looks and acts like] men will be spiritual, and that anyone who is not ‘in the program’ (whatever that program may be–and there are many programs) cannot be spiritual” (p. 13). He continues by stating:

“There are those as well whose desire to be godly and to sense God’s personal presence in their lives is so great that they lack stability and endurance. They are persistently chasing off after some new claim of spiritual vitality. They go to this church and then the next, the follow after one ‘spiritual’ leader after another. A misguided desire to be spiritual can be the source of many cultish pursuits. Spirituality, like the kingdom of God, will finally and fully come in time, when God has sovereignly determined it would, and in the way He has chosen. We should not seek to be ‘spiritual’ per se, but to be obedient and faithful to Him who both saves and sanctifies” (p. 13).

Whether our own spirituality becomes “stiff and programmed” (and leaves us judging others who don’t look and act just like us) or we care more about all the things–money, possessions, power, accolades, acquisitions, status, etc.–our society offers us (e.g., “the good life) while claiming all of these “external” things are primarily what God would have for us; we need to be on alert that we are on a downward slope that leads nowhere. This life in Christ is not about accumulating “stuff” or acting “spiritual” much like the Pharisees did (and they did both and totally missed the kingdom of God).

What makes us Christlike is not found in material possessions, money, accolades, or acting “spiritual.” What makes us Christlike in internal, not external. And it’s a matter of the heart, not the head or our own will and wants. The kingdom of God is within us, but we can squelch it out of existence if we live for ourselves and what we want and let anything or anyone else take the place of Jesus Christ in our lives. He is our Lord and Savior, and not the things we allow to take our attention away from him.

As Jesus stated, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26). So . . . 

Will we spend our days seeking “the good life” . . .

Or following “the Giver of Life” . . . .

The choice is ours . . . .

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” (2009) by Phillips, Craig and Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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