People who are familiar with George Orwell’s book, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), can’t help but recognize some of his concepts coming to life in this century. In his dystopian novel the Thought Police are the secret police of the superstate of Oceania, who discover and punish thought crime, personal and political thoughts unapproved by the ruling regime.

When the book was published in 1949, the year 1984 seemed remote and the book itself was considered wild science fiction. It has taken a few more decades, but current reality has moved the book from science fiction into the realm of prophesy.

When thinking about how citizens today can be punished for their words and perceived motivations (their inner thoughts), it is chilling. However, the concept is Biblical:

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:45 (NKJV)

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)

Throughout the Scriptures we are reminded to guard our words and that God knows our thoughts and cares about our motivations, even more than our actions. So why does it bother us when the government seems to be adopting God’s values? Especially when our culture has been doing its best to erase God’s influence?

The problem, as I see it, is that the authorities are not adopting God’s values so much as they are attempting to usurp His authority. Only God can see into a person’s heart and mind.

Human laws, no matter how draconian, can never change a human heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 (NKJV)
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Going the wrong way

This morning I saw tragic news about a woman who died in a fiery crash when she drove onto the nearby freeway going the wrong way and hit a big rig head on.

We can’t know why she drove onto the freeway going in the wrong direction. It was dark, so maybe she didn’t see the warning signs. It was in the middle of the night, so perhaps she was overtired. The news account didn’t mention whether she may have been impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a medical condition. Was it foggy? All we do know is that she was speeding along going the wrong way.

As Christians, we are required to go against the flow of our culture, but we are given clear instructions about how to avoid going the wrong way.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:2

We can renew our minds by studying and applying the Scriptures. Like “do not enter” signs on the freeway off-ramps, the Bible gives us clear warnings when we are tempted to go the wrong way. God’s Word is a light and a lamp guiding our footsteps and we ignore it at our peril.

25 What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. 26-27 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life. 28 Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work. 29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. 30 Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. 31-32 Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:25-32 (MSG)

Please pray today for the family and friends of the woman who died last night, that they will draw close to God and be comforted in their time of heartache.

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Where’s your compass?

With the advent of GPS devices, not many people use a magnetic compass these days, unless they need this old-fashioned device for its dependability. When our electronic tools fail us through power outages or lack of a signal, the lowly compass continues to point true north.

With all of today’s confusion and distractions it can be all too easy to feel lost. Which way will lead us out of the maze and into the right path?

Just as the compass responding to earth’s magnetic field can be relied upon, there is a moral compass that is equally dependable. As Dr. David Jeremiah says in this month’s devotional magazine:

The earth’s magnetic field has existed since Creation, and a magnetic compass will always respond to it. In the same way, no matter how dark our culture gets, how strong the winds of change blow, or how rough the moral and spiritual challenges become, the Word of God will never fail.

Turning Points January 2022 issue

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

Isaiah 40:8 (NIV)

This new year promises to be filled with challenges which can lead us into miry ground. To navigate them safely we need the most reliable guidance we can get. However, just as a compass left behind is no help, the Word of God gathering dust on a shelf cannot light your path.

Your word is a lamp to my feet

And a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)
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It’s New Year’s Eve – Eat, drink, and be merry

It’s New Year’s Eve, time to let loose and party all night long, right? Indigestion, hangovers, and embarrassing memories are just part of New Year’s celebrations, after all.

The adage, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,” is sometimes attributed to Shakespeare or some Greek philosopher, advising us that, since life is short and meaningless, we should indulge ourselves as much as we can before we die.

The quote is actually from the Bible, in the Old Testament Wisdom Literature book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter Eight, where, after listing the many imponderables in this life, Solomon says:

15 So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 8:15

As we see in the verses which follow this statement, rather than promoting a hedonistic lifestyle, Solomon is expanding on the mystery of God’s will, which will remain an enigma to us while on this earth.

When I tried to gain wisdom
and to observe the activity on earth—

17 then I discerned all that God has done:
No one really comprehends what happens on earth.
Despite all human] efforts to discover it, no one can ever grasp it…

Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 (NET)

When the New Year approaches, rather than making resolutions, I like to find a life verse to cling to throughout the coming year. This year I chose 1 Corinthians 10:31.

31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NKJV)

How exactly does one do everything to the glory of God? How can I glorify God with all my actions?

The dictionary defines glorifying as giving honor and praise. We know that we honor our parents or authorities by showing them respect and obedience. In the same way, we honor God with our obedience to His laws and respect for Him as the Creator. We praise Him in worship with thanksgiving for His merciful providence in our lives.

This may not be an easy task, but with the Lord’s help, I will try. New Year’s Resolutions seldom last into February, but once written on the heart, a Scripture verse can last a lifetime and bring you great joy.

The mystery and enigma of God’s love become more clear through obedience and worship.

15 So I recommend the enjoyment of life
for there is nothing better on earth for a person to do except to eat, drink, and enjoy life.*

Eccl. 8:15 (NET)

*[All to the glory of God.]

Happy New Year!

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Christmas Gift

While people often say it’s the thought that counts when giving and receiving gifts, most of us appreciate more the gifts which cost the giver the most. We know that when someone spends either money or time and effort on a gift, that gift is from the heart.

We exchange gifts at Christmas to acknowledge God’s gift to us, but many of us think the cost, or the sacrifice, involved in His gift doesn’t come until the crucifixion, when His beloved son suffered and died for us.

Perhaps I am late in coming to the realization that God’s sacrifice actually began the very night Christ was born. Up until that moment, throughout eternity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were never separated, even for a single moment. I can only imagine the wrench to the Godhead when the Son limited himself to human flesh.

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV)

God’s gift of salvation to those who believe in His Son is the original gift that keeps on giving and the cost to the Giver began not with Christ’s death on the cross, but with His birth.

A Joyous Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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Finding the Christmas Spirit

Do you sometimes feel like you just can’t get into the spirit of the season, or that the Christmas mood escapes you?

Maybe you’ve decorated your home, baked traditional holiday treats, shopped for and wrapped gifts, and you still don’t feel that giddy anticipation of your youth.

Especially when there are no children in the home, Christmas can seem a little flat. If even watching a Christmas movie marathon makes no difference, it might be time to reevaluate your expectations.

Children are entranced by the once-a-year lights, decorations, and sweet treats. The buildup to the big day creates intense anticipation of the joys and toys Christmas will bring.

As adults, we share in their excitement and delight, perhaps wondering why we don’t feel it as they do.

Christians know the reason for all the over-the-top festivities of Christmas. As we mature in our faith, understanding the reality and the enormity of Christ’s miraculous birth, our focus is no longer on the trappings of the celebrations, but on the world-changing event which we celebrate.

It’s no wonder the sentimental songs and movies, the food and decorations, even the gifts we exchange seem to lose their luster when compared to the process set in motion on that blessed night.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 (NKJV)

If you are having trouble finding the Christmas spirit this season, turn to your Bible and let the Holy Spirit guide you.

It’s good to remember that as miraculous and marvelous His birth was, because He came we still have much to anticipate with intense joy.

16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NET)

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:9-11 (NKJV)
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Peace on Earth?

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Luke 2:14 (NKJV)

At this time of year I like to re-read the account of Christ’s birth found in the Gospel of Luke. When I read those words proclaimed by the Heavenly Host, I can’t help but feel a wistful yearning for the promise of peace on earth.

Peace is an increasingly rare commodity in our world and one that is high on many a wish list this Christmas.

Although getting used to shortages and delivery delays, many of us continue to hold out hope that the gift of Peace will arrive just when it is so badly needed.

But how are we to find peace in the midst of the chaos all around us?

Our Lord left His followers with this promise:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.

John 14:27 (NET)

We are not to look to our circumstances (the world) for our peace, but are instead to calm our hearts and take courage from the promises in God’s Word.

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.”

John 16:33 (NET)

Read the Word, meditate upon it, and pray to receive God’s peace in your heart.

And then do your part to bring about peace on earth by treating everyone you meet with Good Will, at Christmastime and always.

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Advent: What are you waiting for?

In the Christian Church we have entered the season of Advent, the four weeks leading to Christmas.

At this time of year, people everywhere are busily preparing for their holiday festivities and traditions with gifts, food, special music, and decorations.

Within the church we see similar activities as our sanctuaries fill with sacred Christmas songs and colorful decorations, but the main preparations are happening within the Christian’s heart.

The word “Advent” means the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. Advent season is a time of waiting and preparing ourselves for that arrival.

The notable thing for which we wait is the joyous celebration of Christ’s birth, a celebration of an event in the past. We prepare our hearts for this celebration by reading about Christ’s birth and life from the Bible. Focusing on how His life changed the world, and changed our own lives, gives meaning to our celebrations beyond outward holiday displays.

The notable person for whom we wait is Jesus Christ Himself and the event we long for is His return.

For Christians, Advent is a yearly reminder of God’s promise and a time to commit ourselves more deeply to a life focused on the most joyous celebration which is still to come.

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Acts 1: 9-11 (NKJV)
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Holiday Harmony

[Updated from original posting on November 25, 2016]

The holiday season is the busiest travel time in the United States, when far-flung family members unite to get re-acquainted, catch up, reminisce, eat, and celebrate faith and traditions.  

Since few extended family members share the same viewpoint on every subject, these gatherings can lead to tensions as conflicting opinions are aired during the festivities.

Prior to Thanksgiving in the past few years, articles and commentaries have been published suggesting ways to persuade family members to your own point of view. In our family, we prefer to skirt around known areas of contention and concentrate on our common bonds of love and history to preserve family harmony.

The family of God has these same issues to deal with, and not just at holiday times. Whether between denominations or within them, you will find any number of theological disagreements, often leading to an attitude of competition or animosity between churches or even members of the same congregation.

family of god

We can choose to try to persuade those Christians who interpret the Bible differently than we do, or we can keep our relationships harmonious by remembering we are the same family. Our political or social attitudes fade into insignificance when we remember Who is the head of our family and what He has done for us.  

Surely we have more than enough family stories to share and reminisce about and more than enough points of agreement to provide loving conversations with one another.

Our shared history and the love of Jesus must be at the center of all our dealings within the family. Everything else is just a distraction.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:10 (NIV)

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Climate change is real

Despite summit meetings and heavy media coverage, the topic of climate change remains controversial.

Geological history shows the Earth’s climate has always been cyclical, but the question remains: to what extent is modern civilization the cause of the current trends and what, if anything, can people or governments do to actually change things?:

Opinions are divided and passionate on the subject, but there is one area of climate change that is undeniable and completely within our power to impact.

For several decades our social climate has been growing rapidly coarser and less civil.

In our own homes, we can hear and see things today that would have been not only unthinkable to speak about in polite society, but actually illegal to broadcast. Constant exposure to scenes of violence, foul language, and degradation in entertainment and the news media is reflected in the way we interact with one another. Combined with the decline in support for morality and ethical standards in our institutions, the social climate has heated up to the point where there is little respect shown to anyone, including those in positions of authority whose job it is to protect us.

As Christians we are tasked with the responsibility to be salt and light in our culture. Salt to preserve God’s Word and light to show the way to Christ and His love. It would seem that we have been overwhelmed by the challenges we face, but have we given up?

Like ripples in a pond, when we make Christ’s influence felt in our own small sphere, those ripples can join with the efforts of our fellow believers to make a powerful wave.

The first century Christians lived in an equally corrupt and pagan society and had an even more daunting task. They didn’t have our access to worldwide communications and travel, but because of their commitment and faith, they lived and proclaimed the Good News of Christ’s salvation and changed the world.

With all the tools we have, imagine what we could do to change the climate of our society today.

I believe that God is the only one who controls the weather, but each one of us can certainly control our own actions. You can make a difference and so can I.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…

Matthew 28:19 (NKJV)
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