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Freakishly Clean

America has a new obsession: being freakishly clean.

This isn’t news to anyone who has watched TV or ventured outside in the past year. Every other TV commercial reminds us to wash our hands and wear a mask so we can outsmart our germ nemesis. At every grocery store, pharmacy and Walmart entrance there is a hand sanitizing station standing guard. In restaurants, diners are required to wear masks while entering and being seated, lest they breath unclean air on a nearby diner. At checkout lines there are plexiglass barriers and strategically placed dots on the floor to ensure that all humans remain a respectable and safe six feet apart – to manage rogue droplet transmission, of course.

But not until today, while standing outside at a gas station, did I come to fully comprehend the intensity of America’s cleanliness obsession.

As I waited by my car for the fuel tank to reach full capacity, the pump’s computer screen began to play a little jingle. “It’s freakishly clean… It’s freakishly clean… Can’t be truly clean if it’s not freakishly clean.” As I stood in a trance like state, starting at the screen, I watched as gas station employees danced around wearing gloved hands and masked faces while carrying disinfectant spray bottles. They wiped down door handles to the beat of the music and sanitized computer screens with thespian like enthusiasm. They twirled, spun and skipped all while making every last gas station surface freakishly clean.

And that’s when it hit me: America has become absolutely obsessed with keeping themselves freakishly clean. But the problem is that America isn’t focusing on the kind of clean that really matters.

Jesus put it this way: “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:26) In other words, if you clean the outside of a dish but not the inside of the dish, it’s still a dirty dish. From a distance it might look alright but if you get up close to this internally grimy cup, plate or bowl, you will discover that it needs a good washing before it can be once again utilized for eating or drinking.

And so it goes with you and I. Even if we drown our hands in sanitizer, we’ll still be dirty if our hearts aren’t sanctified. We can disinfect every surface we ever touch, but if we’re disconnected from the one true Living God, we will still be terribly unclean. We can buy into the lie that a mask will protect us, but when the breath of the Holy Spirit isn’t filling our soul, we will still be internally contaminated by sin and death.

This obsession with external cleanliness was a trap set by satan back when Jesus walked the earth and it remains a trap set for you and I today. Like the men and women of Jesus’ day who were so fixated on cleaning up the outside that they neglected what was on the inside, we, too have lost sight of what truly matters most – the cleanliness of the heart

Today in America, not only is the world buying into this external cleanliness trap but the churches – God’s people – are, too. The church is standing idly by while sanitization stations are kept open and sanctification centers (ie: the churches) are being closed. Stores are welcoming customers but pastors, who God says should be spiritual shepherds, are keeping their flocks socially distanced and apart. The doors of God’s house are being shuttered in the name of “health and safety” but what could be more dangerous than disobeying God’s Word which clearly states that God’s people are to gather together (Hebrews 10:24-25)?

We’ve silenced worship with masks and rules that forbid God’s people from singing. We’ve replaced handshakes and hugs with elbow bumps and waves exchanged from six feet away. We’ve allowed our churches to become disconnected, detached and, ultimately, disengaged from the power of God all because we’ve followed the world instead of the way, truth and life of Jesus Christ.

We, God’s church, have become completely obsessed with that which our Lord strictly said we are not to become obsessed with. Namely, the outside of the dish. All the while, our freakishly clean world is perishing for a lack of knowledge, human connection and spiritual regeneration. And my question is, when is the church going to recognize what’s happening, repent and recalibrate to the will and Word of God? When is the American church going to break free from the devil’s deception and get back to cleaning the inside of the dish?

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Is singleness a good thing?

Alright. I’m just going to come right out and say it: there are some scriptures in the Bible that I’m not too fond of.

Case in point: 1 Corinthians 7:8

1 Corinthians 7:8 is the last a verse you’d find in a Christian wedding ceremony and not one we singles like to hear either. In this particular passage, God’s Word reads, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I [Paul} say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.”

I’ll be totally honest with you. As someone who has been single for ten years and prayed for a husband for just as long, this scripture is far from a balm to my soul. It is, rather, a knife through my heart. I don’t like the idea of God deeming lifelong singleness as a good thing because that means He might leave me in this status indefinitely. And that’s not my heart’s desire. The desire of my heart today is what it was ten and twenty years ago: get married, have a family and live at least somewhat happily ever after.

I’m not a Pollyana about marriage. I know it’s tough and rarely, if ever, lives up to the fairytale expectations of newlyweds. But that doesn’t change my desire to be married. Even though I know it would bring its own unique set of challenges, I want those challenges. After living for ten years with a chronic illness, I’m used to challenges. They are a part of life and I’ve accepted that. What I have a hard time accepting is that I might never get the opportunity to face the challenges of marriage because God has deemed it “good” for me to be unmarried.

At times, I have a hard time believing that singleness is in fact a good thing because it so often doesn’t feel like a good thing. When your social media is covered with friend’s wedding photos, it doesn’t feel good. When all of your church small groups are for “married couples,” it doesn’t feel good. When you’re setting the table for one (again), it doesn’t feel good.

In this wedded world, it doesn’t feel good to be on the single sidelines. It doesn’t feel good to be alone while everyone else in your world is finding their second half. In fact, it feels downright bad, lonesome and unfair to be a Miss when all your life you dreamed of being a Mrs.

And here in lies the danger of listening to and basing our contentment on our feelings.

You see, feelings are not rooted in truth. Feelings are rooted in circumstances, comparison and the flesh’s persistent desire for comfort. When we are listening to and trusting our feelings, we cannot listen to and trust God’s Word because our own emotional dialogue drowns out the flawless and timeless truths of God.

And this is precisely what the enemy wants, isn’t it? Satan wants us to be so fixated on our own feelings that we forsake the truths of God. The enemy wants us to be so consumed with what the rest of the world is up to that we fail to recognize what God is up to in our own hearts and lives. Ideally, satan would like those of us who are reluctant singles to read 1 Corinthians 7:8 and be so angry with God over the idea that this status is a good thing that we close up our Bibles and refuse to read another Word.

But that’s not what I’m going to do and, if you’re single, I hope that’s not what you’re going to do either. What I am going to do – and what I hope you do – is keep reading to understand why this status can indeed be a good thing and, perhaps, even the better thing in some cases.

Towards the end of 1 Corinthians 7, God’s Word sums up the advantage of singleness this way: “An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.  I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” (v. 34-35)

Notice those words “undivided devotion.” To my fellow singles, this is the benefit and blessing of our status. We have the opportunity to be undivided, unbroken and uninterrupted in our devotion to Jesus Christ because our attentions are not torn between the obligations and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood. We are given this unique and special status so that we can use the time, whether it be a season or an entire lifetime, to seek Christ completely with our whole heart, mind and soul.

When I take a step back and read 1 Corinthians 7:8 in conjunction with verses 34-35, all my negative, poor me feelings fade away in the light and revelation of what singleness actually is: a gift; an invitation; a sacred status.

Yes, it’s true. Singleness is good. Singleness is a gift and a divine invitation to experience and enjoy a closer walk with Jesus. When surrendered before the throne of Almighty God, singleness is transformed into a sacred status where the solitary sojourner can live consumed by the goodness, love and presence of Jesus Christ.

Beloved, if you’re struggling to accept God’s will for Your life, whether it be singleness or some other set of circumstances, I urge you to keep seeking God in His Word. If a scripture stirs up feelings of frustration or discontent, don’t close up the whole good Book. Instead, press on and read more in pursuit of the character and truths of God. Regardless of marital status, pray for an open heart and ask for eyes to see and receive the Lord’s blessings. And come to Jesus – always come to Jesus-  and He will cover you with His love and saving grace.

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A Lesson on Perseverance

When I think about the word perseverance I picture the running man.

“The running man,” as I’ve come to call him, is an older gentleman in my local area who has been pounding the pavement for as long as I can remember. He is tall, lanky and, by now, quite old. Although I’m not sure how old he is precisely (it would be improper of me to roll down my car window and ask), my best guess is early to mid-seventies. Despite his age, the running man has never abandoned his exercise routine which just so happens to be a long distance run along some of the busiest roads not far from my house.

For decades, I’ve spotted this man out on his runs which he faithfully takes in every season and through all sorts of inclement weather. And, for decades, I’ve been wondering how much longer he can keep up this exercise. Even twenty years ago, when I first started noticing him, he ran at such a slow clip I feared he might keel over right then and there. From my perspective, the man’s labored stride looked unsustainable at best and dangerous at worst.

About ten years ago I noticed that the man’s running pace had declined into a forced prodding. As uncomfortable as it looked, I couldn’t help but admire his determination. Muscle degeneration, stiffness and aging couldn’t stop him from pressing upward and onward (both literally and figuratively since his running route covered quite a few hills). And, yet, he refused to be deterred or defeated. Even if he had to move slowly, the running man was clearly determined to keep moving.

I truly didn’t believe that the running man could get any slower or become any clearer a picture of perseverance – until yesterday.

To call what I saw the man doing a “run” would be an inaccurate description of his arduous effort. In the past year since I last saw him out for his exercise, the running man’s pace has progressed from slow to snail. His every step is painfully strained and strenuous. Even from afar I could see his heavy breathing as he jerked his arms back and forth while shuffling his legs ever so slightly. And yet, he refused to be deterred or defeated. Even if he had to move slowly, the running man was clearly determined to keep moving.

The running man simply will not give up and that’s what makes him such a striking picture of perseverance. Webster’s defines perseverance as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.” In other words, the refusal to quit just because it’s hard. To persevere is to press on even when the road ahead is wrought with challenges; push through pain and overcome discouragement. When a person perseveres, they keep moving forward even when it isn’t easy, and the progress made doesn’t look promising.

Most importantly, those who persevere know that speed is not the ultimate measure of success. Faithfulness is. Dedication is. Resoluteness is. Those who practice perseverance know that the true prize is the character developed on the way to the finish line.

Obviously, these perseverance principles are important for physical training, exercise and running but where they truly shine is in spiritual training.

As God’s word says, “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things.” (1 Timothy 4:8) And key to godliness is perseverance. In order for God to strengthen the spiritual muscles of His people He must test and try them, just like a runner tests and tries his physical muscles. But if we, the spiritual runners, simply give up we will never reap the reward God has in store for us. If we hang up our spiritual sneakers, so to speak, we will miss all the blessings God longs to bestow upon as we press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of us. (Philippians 3:12)

But, you might be wondering, how is it possible to persevere? When the going gets extraordinary tough, how can weak and feeble people find it in themselves to keep going? Is it by our own effort? Are we supposed to soldier on in our own strength? I thought the Bible said we are supposed to be weak so God can be strong. How does that align with this perseverance talk?

The answer is found in James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

The key to spiritual perseverance is joy. When we respond to our challenges with a sincerely joyful heart it is as if we are inviting the Holy Spirit’s overcoming power to come and indwell us. When we choose to rejoice in the fullness of faith instead of complaining and finding every excuse to give up, the Spirit of the living God begins to produce within us the fruit of perseverance. He sows the seeds of resolve and determination that, in time, work in us a harvest of spiritual maturation and completeness.

Beloved, even if the road ahead looks daunting and your spiritual legs feel exhausted, consider it pure joy. Rejoice and refuse to be deterred or defeated. Even if you have to move slowly, keep pressing on and into the challenges ahead knowing that God will use every labored step, no matter how small, to cultivate the fruit of perseverance within you to the glory and honor of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

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The Slow Road to Healing

I remember the first (and only) time a church body laid hands on me and prayed for my healing.

People were speaking in tongues and some others were singing hallelujahs. I remember the pastor’s hand in particular. It was heavy and clammy and when he lifted it off my back I had a sweat spot on my shirt. I hoped that in all of that energy was the delivering of a mighty miracle but, to be honest, I was skeptical.

Not having grown up in a Pentecostal church where the laying on of hands is a common occurrence, I didn’t know what to expect following my first encounter of this kind. Part of me was anticipating a crack of thunder or at least a powerful sensation in my stomach – some sort of “message received” communication from God. But none of those things happened. I felt nothing but that preacher’s sweaty palm on my back.

Despite no shock and awe, stand up and walk variety miracle, I didn’t leave the church entirely disappointed. “I bet tomorrow I’ll wake up and feel different,” I thought to myself. In my mind, all of those prayers and hallelujahs were like an antibiotic. I took them, now they just needed 24 hours to take full effect.

But, after 24 hours, still nothing had happened. And the same was true 48 and 72 hours later.

Nothing changed and nothing did change for years. In fact, just the opposite happened. Over the next seven years, I became sicker, weaker and frailer. From the outside looking in, it certainly appeared that the passionate church and sweaty palmed pastor had failed to usher in my healing. Or perhaps it was me and my lack of faith keeping my body from receiving restoration and fullness of health?

Following that experience and the lack of visible results produced by it, I stopped praying that God would perform an instantaneous miracle in my body. It’s not that I stopped believing God could perform such a wonder. It’s just that I stopped believing He would do it for me. I stopped believing that it was His will for me to be made well in a single moment and, in time, began embracing the belief that there was a purpose for my pain and suffering.

And, praise God, I was right.

For reasons far greater than my own, it was not God’s will to heal me with the snap of a finger or single touch. That wasn’t His plan for my life, my body or my testimony. Since before I was born, God wrote my story with a plot that included years of mysterious symptoms, misdiagnosis and all-out war against an invisible disease. He prepared for me a slow road to healing which, as I came to discover, is no less miraculous than an instantaneous healing.

Don’t get me wrong, instantaneous healing is wonderful and certainly a beautiful testimony to the unrivaled power and majesty of God, but it isn’t the only way God glorifies Himself through sickness. Sometimes God allows people to endure through illness and fight through disease for the specific purpose of demonstrating His unwavering faithfulness and sustaining grace. Often times, God allows pain and suffering because, in and through it, we who experience it are refined and sanctified by it. If we will allow God to have His way in our broken bodies, He will use every ache and hurt like a winnowing fork, removing the wheat from the chaff of our hearts.

Looking back now, I can honestly say that I am thankful God didn’t answer the prayers of those passionate believers who laid hands on me in church.

I am thankful God didn’t give me what I thought I wanted, which was a “pick up your mat and walk” miracle because, had He answered that prayer, I would have missed out on the spiritual regeneration He had in store for me. Had God let me skip out on my extended healing journey, I wouldn’t have had my faith strengthened in the fire of trials and tests. Had I not traveled along the lengthy path of chronic illness, I wouldn’t have the honor of sharing a story that includes being sustained at 65 pounds, upheld with failing organs and carried on a skeletal frame.

I am who I am today because God took me down the slow road to healing. That was His will for me and I will boast in it because it is indeed a wonderful story that glorifies and honors the Almighty God.

If you’re sick, suffering or struggling because God hasn’t healed you yet, I pray this story encourages you. I also hope it reminds you that your story is no less miraculous than someone who experiences a shock and awe miracle moment. Your story, no matter how slowly it might be unfolding, was written specifically for you by God, for your good and His glory. Trust Him with every detail. Remain patient when the timing doesn’t go your way. And keep looking for the mini-miracles along the way, because I promise that if you look into your heart, you’ll see them unfolding all the time.

 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

~ Isaiah 41:10

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A Letter to Americans…

“In this world you will have trouble…”

Remember back in March when our greatest concern was running out of toilet paper? We searched high and low, rejoicing when we found a four pack of not so soft Angel Soft (I trust I’m not the only one). When Walmart finally started receiving regular shipments of Quilted Northern Ultra, we thought the worst was over.

Oh, how naive we were.

By April, the magnitude of our nation’s crisis was in full view – and I’m not talking about the coronavirus crisis. I’m talking about America’s constitutional crisis. The true COVID19 numbers never supported the 24/7 doomsday panic sold by the media since the mortality rate for the virus is in the same ballpark as the seasonal flu. As April came to a close, this fact was coming into full view and yet that’s when our governors and state leaders doubled down on lock downs, business restrictions and mandates. We all watched as a virus called fear was further manipulated to achieve one end: usurp freedom from we the people and enlarge control of government and corporate entities.

As if that wasn’t trying enough, May came along and with it the case of George Floyd. While rule following, law-abiding citizens were still living under the restrictive thumb of tyrants, those same tyrants joined millions of protesters in the streets. They marched. They chanted. And at night they burned, rioted and looted our nation’s cities.

On the ground of cities such as Minneapolis, Portland and Chicago, the scene was like that of a war zone and, yet, something strange was happening during the violent outbreaks. Media silence. As those of us with the mind to search out the truth tuned into live feeds showing mass destruction and chaos, mainstream sources barely covered or falsely covered the uprisings. Instead, they called the rioters “justified” and classified the protesters as “peaceful” – even when cop cars were ablaze in the news anchor’s camera shot.

In between these major crises, there were murder hornets, talk of UFOs and a strange disappearance of hand soap from the store shelves. At one point, cancel culture went berserk, forcing Aunt Jeremiah and Uncle Ben off pancake mixes and boxes of rice nationwide. Then, in the heat of the summer, strictly enforced mask mandates mounted, despite dramatically falling COVID19 death rates.

And that was all before we said goodbye to August.

By the time September rolled around, devastating “wildfires” were raging all over the west coast. Some sources told us that the cause was global warming but the images of arsonists carrying gas tanks and chain saws revealed the truth. These fires were and continue to be yet another deliberate attempt to destabilize and destroy the land of the free and home of the brave.

Meanwhile, all around the country, families with kids have been steeped in confusion over bizarre school policies. Plexiglass shields, students seated six feet apart in the lunchroom and hybrid learning, we have been told, are all part of the “new normal.” But there never was and never will be anything normal about the dehumanizing rules imposed on man to keep him in an unending state of submission.

There is nothing normal about living in fear of germs, hiding behind plastic shields or being assaulted for dawning an unmasked smile in the grocery store.

There is nothing normal about burning down cities, demonizing and defunding police, and stoking the flames of racial division.

There is nothing normal about normalizing pedophilia and exploiting children’s sexuality (see California’s recent law and Cuties for more about this disturbing development).

If it wasn’t already clear to you, I hope it is now: we are at war.

Without a formal declaration or call to enlist, you and I and every person in America has been thrust into a battle for the heart of our nation and future of our republic. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are in the cross hairs. The fundamental truths that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” are hanging in the balance.

The question is, which side are you fighting for? Are you standing for freedom or are you succumbing to the slavery of fear? Are you defending liberty or kneeling to the tyrants who seek to own and control your destiny?

There is no “GET OUT OF WAR FREE” card or exemption from this fight. There is nowhere to run and no place to hide. Like or not, we are all on one side of the battlefield or the other. There is no in-between or place of neutrality. We must all choose to stand with either the good or the evil; the freedom lovers or the freedom usurpers; the God-fearing or the godless.

Dear Reader, the time to awaken is here. The time to choose a side is upon us. The time to stand is now.

“But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – Jesus {John 16:33}

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Divine Disruption

In my hometown, a local business posts silly quotes and jokes on their roadside letter board. Nine times out of ten, the joke is a dud, but every now and again they hit the funny bone, like they did with their current message that reads, “My most useless purchase of 2019: a 2020 calendar.”

It’s funny and true, isn’t it? For all the years to commit to a planner, this was not one of them. There was simply no way to imagine, let alone plan for, the events of 2020. What has happened in American and around the world has been, for lack of a better word, unprecedented. For the well-organized planners out there, this year must be driving them completely bonkers.

And yet, in the midst of the chaos and confusion of 2020, I believe God is up to something truly remarkable. I believe He is taking our unused planners and weaving them together into a tapestry that will bring honor and glory to Jesus. I believe He is apprehending disrupted plans and working them together for the good of those who love Him.

My confidence in this belief is not baseless. It’s Biblical.

Throughout scripture we are provided historical examples of God using disruptions to accomplish His purposes here on earth. One such example is found in Mark’s gospel with the account of Jesus calling His first disciples:

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:16-20)

These verses in Mark demonstrate what I call “divine disruption.” A divine disruption is when God captures a person’s attention by interrupting their earthly plans and disturbing their routine life. You could call the year 2020 “The Great Disruption” because nearly everyone is in the same boat without a planner. We are all having our plans upended.

But the beauty of the divine disruption is just that. It’s divine.

You see, God doesn’t disrupt our plans or our lives simply for the fun of it. He has a purpose for the interruptions and that purpose is invitation. When He silences the noise and presses pause on the world’s regular programming, our Lord extends a “come and follow me” offer to all who are listening. He grabs the sleeper’s attention, stirs them out of their stupor and calls them to the way, truth and life of Jesus Christ.

This is precisely what is occurring right now in America and all around the world. Sleepers are being awoken. The lost are being found. Dry bones are coming back to life. Distracted men and women who previously claimed to have no time for God have suddenly found that their planners are empty and their ears are attune to the still small voice of their Father God.

Friends, in this divine disruption, God is extending to each one of us the blessed opportunity to see this life and the next through the lens of His perfect 20/20 vision. He is calling us to leave our old ways of living behind, surrender fully to His Son and follow Him faithfully.

The only question that remains is will you heed the call?  

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The Power of Suggestion

I had one mission on my excursion to Lowes: get moving boxes. Although that shopping list was short and should have been easy to remember, I nearly forgot it before I even made it through the automatic glass doors on account of the welders.

Okay, so they weren’t actually welders, but the two face-shield wearing women perusing the flowers outside the front door sure looked prepared to fuse together some metal. I first spotted the duo in question while approaching the main entrance to the store. One woman was inspecting a display of hanging begonias while the other stood a respectable six feet away commenting on the lushness of the flora. Their behavior was bizarrely natural, as if there was nothing odd about dawning full-faced head mounted shields while shopping in an open-air garden area. Meanwhile, I was so dumbstruck by the scene that I nearly forgot why I came to the store in the first place.

Once through the doors and into the home improvement warehouse, I was able to recall my singular sensation shopping list and did procure a plethora of variously sized boxes. But even after leaving the store, I still couldn’t shake the sight of the welding women. And even more than the sight of them, I couldn’t shake what they represented: how dramatically our country has changed in such a short period of time.

Think about it. Five months ago, entering any store wearing a head-mounted face shield would have been considered peculiar. Now it’s considered appropriate attire. Five months ago, these two women in Lowes would have been labeled “strange birds.” Now our society labels them as the “safe shoppers.”

Since the coronavirus craziness has taken over, have you had a moment like I had in Lowes? Have you paused and really considered how this drastic societal shift could have occurred and how it could be that so few are openly questioning it? Have you pondered how it could be that, in less than six months, our culture went from “you’re never fully dressed without a smile” to “you’re never fully dressed without a shield”?

For me, all of those questions (and more) came to a head at the entrance to Lowes. And so did the answer: we human beings are easily influenced by the power of suggestion.

To understand how humans can be so easily influenced we first have to understand that our minds were made to be pliable. God fashioned each one of us with the ability to adapt, learn and grow. This feature of our design is purposeful; not a mistake. It’s part of our free will and it enables us to be molded and shaped into the image of Christ. Our mind’s pliability is an asset and a gift, but, if entrusted into the wrong hands, it can become a liability and a danger.

Have you ever seen a cartoon with an angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other? Well, that’s not just a silly caricature. It’s actually quite a good portrayal of the battle for the mind. On one side we have God who influences our pliable minds with holiness, and, on the other side, we have Satan attempting to influence us with worldliness. With his slithering tongue he whispers slick sounding lies in an effort to drown out the truth. He is constantly bombarding our brains with every possible earthly distraction so that we’ll be deterred from listening to, focusing on and honoring the Lord our God.

When satan is in control of the narrative, his suggestions always produce fruit consistent with his agenda which is to kill, steal and destroy. Whether it’s undermining our peace, tempting us to go astray or crushing us with hopelessness, the result is always the same: Less of God’s goodness; more of the world’s brokenness.

The current state of our nation is a perfect reflection of this principle. For months we have been under the siege of fear-mongering and divisive propaganda which has successfully thrown our society into a state of acute confusion and anxiety. We’ve become a people driven by fear instead of a people guided by faith. There’s no denying that the overarching influencer speaking loudest into our culture is not God, but satan.

That’s the bad news. But there is good news. Great news, actually!

Through the redemptive power of Christ, the same minds that have been molded and shaped to live in a state of fear and division can be remolded and reshaped to live in a state of faith and unity. The very same pliable minds that are currently being held captive by the enemy’s destructive suggestions can be see free of his influence. And it all starts by actively silencing the lies and intentionally seeking the truth.

While speaking to His disciples, Jesus emphasized the unparalleled importance of seeking out, tuning into and being influenced by the truth. In fact, He said that by knowing the truth His followers would set them free from the bondage of sin and lies. (John 8:32) Later, He went on to reveal the source of truth by clearly stating that He, Jesus, is “the way, the truth and life.” (John 14:6)

When applied to our own minds and thought lives, these scriptural facts, although simple, become simply transformational. By actively saying “no” to satan’s suggestions, we disarm him of his destructive influence. Then, as we turn to God and intentionally say “yes” to His voice of Truth, His influence becomes the dominating force in our lives. Through the indwelling of Christ, our minds are renewed so we are able to discern what is the “good, acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). Jesus’ Spirit enlightens our discernment with holy wisdom, making it possible for us to perceive what is true from what is false.

Friends, although the current scene in America is one of masked fear and shielded confusion, this need not be where our story ends. There is hope for our people and a future for our nation that is free of the enemy’s influence. There is a way back to peace, unity and joy. And that way is through the truth and life of Jesus Christ.

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Faith’s Fall

We were traveling down a two-lane road at a leisurely 23 MPH when the unthinkable happened: Faith fell out of the car’s window.

To say that Faith fell is a bit of an assumption since I didn’t actually see her exit the SUV via the fully opened window. What I did see when I glanced in the back seat was one dog where there had been two. This terrifying revelation might have gone unnoticed until we reached our final destination had it not been for Molly. Thankfully, her swift (borderline frantic) reaction to her sister’s sudden departure quickly caught my attention.

The moments immediately following the realization that Faith was MIA are an adrenaline-filled blur. Mom, who was behind the wheel, hurriedly pulled the car to the side of the road as I jumped out the passenger door and hit the ground running. My legs were moving at such a feverish pace I’m sure it must have looked as if I were fleeing from a bear. Meanwhile, my lungs went into overdrive, too, as I repeatedly shouted Faith’s name like a panic-stricken parent.

Thank God, it didn’t take but one block before I spotted my little bundle of gray fur standing stock-still in the grass next to the road’s shoulder. Faith looked completely stunned and a bit confused, which I would have been too had I just flown out of a car window. Once our eyes met, I knelt down on the sidewalk and opened my arms wide as she came running to meet me with a look of sweet relief.

As I scooped Faith up and carried her back to the car, three thoughts ran through my mind. The first was a vow to never leave the back windows all the way down ever again. The second was to thank God that she survived the fall completely unharmed. And the third was to marvel at the amazing picture I just received of Jesus’ rescue mission to save mankind.

You see, just like Faith, we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We’ve all exited the protective presence of God via a dangerous leap out a window into the world, so to speak. And yet, while we were still sinners – while we were still standing on the unforgiving ground outside the will of God – Jesus died for us. He left the perfection of Heaven and entered into the brokenness of this earth for the exclusive purpose of pursuing wayward sinners. He ran after us all the way to the cross where He sacrificed His life in order to scoop you and I up and out of our lostness. Then, after paying the ultimate price for our redemption, Jesus rose again and carried us to a reconciled and restored relationship with God.

And, yet, some people are still living in a fallen state which raises the question, why haven’t they been found?

Some believers wrestle with this question which I completely understand since I’ve wrestled with it, too. But Faith’s fall opened my eyes and gave me a greater understanding of our Savior who relentlessly pursues yet will never force anyone to receive His rescue.

You see, instead of hitting the ground and standing still, like Faith did after her abrupt exit out the car window, some people hit the ground running. They actively resist the love and gracious gift of salvation that Jesus is offering. Does this mean that Jesus simply gives up and no longer pursues them? Of course not! If Faith would have run from me, I still would have gone after her. And so it is with God’s children. No matter how fast or far they run, Jesus faithfully and relentlessly pursues lost people until their dying day.

But Jesus will never force anyone to accept Him. That’s where free will comes in. While Jesus runs after and seeks out, it is up to the individual to surrender to His love and fall into His arms of mercy. As scripture says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelations 3:20 – emphasis mine).

For those of us who have been found in Jesus Christ, we know that there is no greater joy than being united with our Savior and no sweeter relief than being reconciled to our Father God. And so, as ambassadors of Christ who have been saved by grace through faith, let us go forth and boldly tell the world our rescue stories. Let us share far and wide the glorious news that redemption and restoration is available to every sinner, no matter why, when or how they fell. Let us faithfully deliver the message to the broken and wayward that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have ever lasting life.” (John 3:16)

 

 

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A Tale of Trickery

It was a cruel trick – and one I should have seen coming.

The fateful trickery occurred back when I was a naïve middle schooler who thought the world was just as warm and wonderful as the summer sun I was standing underneath. But with one mean move by a so-called “friend” I learned that behind the widest of smiles can lie the most cunning of grins.

This truth became evident to me thanks to a young man I will call Charlie for anonymity’s sake. Charlie and I knew each other well and, although I never considered him a best friend, I certainly never considered him a foe. That is, until he set a trap to trip me.

The trap was laid at an outdoor summer gathering with a whole group of our friends. For a reason I couldn’t understand but didn’t question at the time, Charlie singled me out of the crowd and suggested that we race from one end of the grassy yard to the other. Despite being a poor runner, I readily agreed to the competition. A moment later I was braced in a runner’s position and Charlie was counting down from three to one.

And that’s when it happened. Right as I was propelling my body forward with fierce determination, Charlie put his foot out in front of my right ankle and, before I knew it, I was air born. In an instant, I was face down in the lawn with blood on my knees and grass stains on my shirt. As I lifted my head off the hard earth with stars darting in front of my eyes, I looked up and saw Charlie standing a few feet away. He was laughing so hard I’m surprised he hadn’t split a gut. And he wasn’t alone. When I turned my head a little further, I could see that all of his closest confidents were right there with him, laughing at my expense.

At the moment, it’s as if a lightbulb was turned on in the dark room of my mind, revealing that Charlie was not a friend who could be trusted. He was a frenemy who had set a trap to make me fall.

Now, you might be wondering why in the world I’m sharing this story with you. Naturally, you might think I am trying to highlight middle school bullying but, in fact, I want to highlight a form of bullying that goes far beyond the teenage years. I’m talking about government bullying.

At this very moment, Americans are being played by certain powerful individuals and institutions who have set a trap designed to make we the people fall into fear, bondage and captivity. That trap is known as COVID19.

We began hearing about this trap back in January 2020, although few of us had any clue what lie ahead. By March the headlines had shifted into fear mongering at its finest. Every news bulletin announced that millions would die nationally if we didn’t shut everything down for fifteen days to “slow the spread.” So, that’s what we did. We all stocked up on toilet paper and sheltered in place.

But, we all know how that trick played out.

Fifteen days soon turned into thirty and thirty turned into indefinitely. Meanwhile, the millions of cases we were told to fear never materialized, prompting the “professionals” to revise their models downward. But even that couldn’t deter the deceivers from carrying on this trick. They began reporting deaths as “with COVID” and, when that didn’t look serious enough, switched to reporting just cases, regardless of severity. All the while, the news continued to hammer home that the “pandemic” might never end and that we better get used to a new, masked, social distanced “normal.”

Do you see what I see?

Just like Charlie invited me to race, so the American people have been invited to believe the COVID19 hysteria. Just like Charlie stuck his foot out on the count of three, so the government has stuck its media propaganda out in front of the eyes and ears of the masses. And just like Charlie was setting me up to fall, so the deceivers who are pushing this trickery are setting America up to crash and burn. We the people have been played. We have been fooled.

I understand that some people will read this and find it hard to believe. If you read the headlines and watch the news, you’re likely to think I’m sharing conspiracy theories. But you must be on guard against these talking heads, for they are much like Charlie’s snickering friends. They have been in on the plan from the start. In fact, they’ve helped carry it out. And they are playing you, too.

For those of us who follow Christ, what is happening in America should not take us by complete surprise. Scripture is very clear about the reality of wicked people who seek to destroy all things good and godly – and America fits that description. America was founded on godly principles. We need look no further than the Declaration of Independence for proof. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Of course, we know that the enemy is always trying to destroy the way, truth and life of Jesus Christ, so we should expect that he wants to destroy America. And what better way to do it than with virus-born fear?

For decades, godless leaders have been attempting to undermine the Biblical principles upon which this nation was built. We’ve watched this occur in our schools with the removal of prayer in the 1960’s and with the legalizing of abortion in 1973. The enemy has been infiltrating our government bodies and corrupting our medical system with poisons and procedures that destroy rather than heal. It’s all been evil trickery designed to dismantle our land of free people who trust in the Almighty God.

This is why it is of critical importance that we be on guard against these deceivers who want to paralyze us with fear and turn us against one another.

We must turn off the news and tune into the Word of God so we can see clearly what trickery is being perpetrated upon us. Once we do this, we will see that we are being lied to by “those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). It is imperative that we look at the current state of our world through the lens of scripture so we can understand and know the truth. Then and only then will we realize that what we are watching is a campaign by the wicked to destroy and defeat the righteous.

Beloved, I wish I could leave you with a neat and tidy bow to end this post, but such an ending would be disingenuous. Although we know that God is victorious and His people will be preserved, we also know that each day this earth is drawing closer to its final end and, as it does, more calamity and trouble will befall us. But we are not alone during these trying times. The Spirit of the living God is with us and He will not leave or forsake us.

So, dear friend, I urge you to cling to Jesus and never let Him go. Let the trials of this age compel you to seek the face of your Savior more and more every day. And, in the words of Paul, “put on the whole armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)

 

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Remember This

We humans live in a world that isn’t very conducive to living peacefully in the moment. Instead of helping us to be present in the present, the world is constantly tempting us to project into the future. Instead of making it easier for us to rest in today, the world works to keep us distracted by bombarding our brains with “what if” worst-case scenarios.

In the last four months, this reality has become more obvious than ever before (at least in my lifetime). For proof, just turn on the news and watch it for five minutes. Since March, nearly every story has been about “the virus” and the “experts” doom day predictions. Every headline plants a seed of fear that “things are going to get much, much worse” and “might never get better.” If you choose to believe these headlines, chances are you’re convinced that what lies ahead for America is nothing short of apocalyptic.

But these projections and predictions do us no good, especially since most of them never come true. What’s more, Jesus specifically told us that only God – not a human with a PhD or a news anchor – knows what the future holds. Yet these gloom and doom talking points have completely overtaken every airwave in America, from commercials to billboards to email inboxes. And, in the process, they’ve infected the human psyche with fear, worry, depression and hopelessness.

Friends, regardless of which news station you watch or political isle you stand on, you must understand that this future-centric fear mongering is straight from the enemy.

The enemy wants to keep us so obsessed with what might go wrong tomorrow that we miss the blessings of today. Behind every worldly mouthpiece, actively distracting and disquieting us with predictions and projections, is satan himself. He is purposefully feeding us this fear and doubt because it furthers his agenda to kill, steal and destroy the peace and rest that thrives when we humans embrace and live fully in the God-given moment.

The bad news is that satan and his doomsday minions aren’t going anywhere – at least, not until Jesus returns. But there is good news! Thankfully, God has not left us defenseless against these fear-filled attacks. In fact, God has implanted within each of us a precious tool to help defeat fear and restore peace. This tool is the human memory.

Our ability to remember is a priceless treasure – and a powerful one, too.

When we actively set our minds on remembering who God is and what He has done in the past, both in our own lives and in the lives of the saints who have gone before us, we disarm the enemy’s problematic projection tactics. As we recall how perfectly faithful God has been in the past, our present faith is strengthened and future hope restored.

Psalm 77 is a perfect example of how this works. As the Psalm opens, we find David crying out to God in his day of trouble. But he doesn’t linger long in tearful laments. Very quickly David switches his focus to the remedy for his heavy heart: remembering. “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” (Psalm 77:11)

As the Psalm progresses and David does more remembering, the mood of the chapter changes. As he recounts past events that demonstrate the wondrous and mighty power of God, David gains more confidence. From God’s authority over the sky and sea to His redemptive grace and perfect faithfulness dating back generations, David’s hope is revived by remembering the goodness of his Lord.

The restoration of peace that David experienced by using his memory is a lesson to us all.

Just like David, each one of us has been gifted a memory that can be used to recall the unmerited mercy, love and grace of God poured out upon our own lives and the lives of our fellow man. Like David, we can actively choose to remember God’s wonderful deeds and blessings He has bestowed upon our nation for generations.

And, most importantly, we can remember the promises and eternal truths found in scripture. We can open up the Bible, a great treasure trove of memories, and remind ourselves of the words spoken by our Lord and Savior, Jesus. We can feast on the Good News that the peace of Christ is with us in every season and all situations. We can read God’s love letter to us and receive the blessed reminders that our Heavenly Father, our refuge in every storm, will never leave or forsake us.

Beloved, when the world starts tempting you to look ahead and project fearfully into the future, pause and remember Psalm 77. Remember the Gospels and every account of the unfailing, unchanging, unshakable greatness of our God. Remember that God is good and perfectly faithful. And remember at He isn’t even close to finished yet.