Consider the lilies…

25“And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? 26“If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? 27“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28“But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! 29“And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30“For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31“But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

Luke 12:25-32 (NASB)

In these uncertain times, it is easy to become overwhelmed and distressed. Even though we continue to pray without ceasing and rely upon the LORD, even when we tell ourselves, “He’s got this!” worries creep in and sap our strength.

This is a good time to step away from all the noise and dire warnings and try to remember all the beauty and blessings in our lives.

Today is a good day to step outside and drink in the beauties of nature. Whether you are able to visit a park, the countryside, or simply stroll around your neighborhood, there are pockets of glory, if only we seek them out.

Take a camera or use your phone and crop out the distractions and ugliness, centering on the sights which fill you with joy. If we narrow our focus and get close enough, we will be sure to discover treasures.

In moments of stress following your beauty-hunt, you will have your photos to remind you of God’s great love and the blessings in your life.

Whether your soul responds to raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, the world is teeming with often overlooked delights.

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It’s time to get serious. Seriously.

Cover your face!” “Shelter in place!” You must either join the hoards tearing down our heritage and freedoms or cower in order to “stay safe”… resistance is futile.

I grew up singing rousing old hymns like “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Soldiers of Christ Arise.” It was great fun to march around the sanctuary in Sunday school, but as a child I never gave a thought to the real spiritual warfare going on around us.

In recent times the conflict in the invisible realm has become more and more overt, spilling into our everyday lives in ways we cannot ignore.

In a spiritual battle there can be no conscientious objectors. We are either striving against the foe or we are giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

It is time for each believer to don the armor of God and step into the field of combat.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints.…

Ephesians 6:16-17 (Berean Study Bible)

If you are like me, conflict makes you uncomfortable. Christians are a people of peace, loving our neighbors and praying for our enemies. Enlisting in the Army of God doesn’t change that. We are being called to read and study the Bible, pray fervently for God’s perfect will to be done, and to support our brothers and sisters in Christ in every way we can.

We can go boldly into this fray, fearless because we follow a great leader.

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world

1 John 4:4 (New Living Translation)

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31 (New International Version)

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Shame, shame

The Bible tells us that we are all guilty of sin.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 

Romans 3:23 (NIV)

The dictionary tells us these definitions:

GUILT – noun

The fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability; a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

SHAME – noun

The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.

family tree

Many in society now tell us that we should feel guilt and shame for our heritage; the acts of those who came generations before us.

While I may feel embarrassed to learn of misdeeds of my ancestors, I don’t feel in anyway responsible for them. Anyone tracing their genealogy is bound to find a miscreant in the mix. Every family tree contains a few rotten apples. Discovering a smuggler or prostitute in your genetic mix is usually greeted with humor, rather than guilt or shame. These people existed in widely different circumstances, a world vastly different than our own. They can’t be fairly judged by today’s standards.

The Scripture goes on to tell us this:

24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:24 (NIV)

Let each of us search our own life and conscience, make amends or restitution for our own acts, accept God’s forgiveness, and move forward doing good and not harm.

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In remembrance…

We are approaching our most important national holiday in a unique climate this year. At a time when every monument and memorial is being challenged, it seems appropriate to consider the reasons why people establish special celebrations and monuments to their shared history.

Throughout the Bible, from Jacob’s stone, the Altar at Jordan, through the Passover observance and the Lord’s Supper, God uses memorials to remind His people of who they are and WHOSE they are.

Living in the moment is a lovely idea, but without knowledge of what went before, we have no way to evaluate our present moments, no way to make wise decisions, we are at the mercy of our emotions and we lose sight of our life’s meaning.

We’ve all heard the adage that history is written by the victors. While those is power can certainly spin the record of events, there always remains evidence of the facts. Errors inevitably exist but wrongs eventually come to light. It is important not to deny these errors, but it is equally important not to attempt to change the past by wiping out every reminder of it.

Shared history, the good and the bad, binds a people together. Memorials and celebrations are there to help us remember, so we can build on the good and avoid repeating the bad.

This July fourth, Independence Day, the birthday of our nation, is a time to call a halt to the futile attempts to erase our country’s past and to remember how far we’ve come. The United States of America has never been a perfect nation, but we are a good one. We’ve overcome many of the mistakes of our past and, by the Grace of God, we will grow even better in the days and years ahead.

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Fear not

 “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

We’ve faced incredible challenges in recent months and, just when we think things are beginning to get better, the news is full of new assaults on our peace of mind.

While FDR’s well-know advice, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” may seem slightly ridiculous in the face of so many real dangers in our world, the kernel of that advice is sound. Fear saps our strength and muddles our minds at the very time when clarity and courage are most needed.

When confusion, uncertainty, and doubt sown by the minions of the Evil One cloud our vision, we can succumb to discouragement and lose hope.

This is the time to cling to the promises of God if we are to overcome.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:7
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What the world needs now…

“Is love, sweet love.”

Christianity, as we are frequently reminded by our pastors and teachers, is a relationship, not a religion. Every believer is accountable to Christ for their relationship with Him; for the depth of our love for Him. And how is that depth of love determined?

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 

John 14:15

In the 70’s WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) was a popular slogan. However, it was an unnecessary question. We don’t need to try to decipher the mind of God in a particular situation in order to know how we are to respond. The Word is unambiguous. We are to respond with love.

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Mark 12:30-31

If we look closely at this Scripture, we will see that the commandment is to “love your neighbor.” This is an individual relationship. It doesn’t say to love our neighbors, as a group or a demographic. We are to treat our relationships with others as we do our relationship with Christ: one-on-one, with love and respect for each unique person. This is our personal responsibility.

Prejudice and bigotry can only exist when we lump others into segments and groups, making them less “real” in our hearts and minds.

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Beauty for Ashes

To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV)

Just as ambition and a desire for praise can motivate a proud and vain person to create works of great beauty and service for mankind, God can use even our most base instincts and actions to bring about blessings and beauty. He is that powerful and that good.

When hearing daily reports of injustice, violence, and mindless destruction, I cling to the promise from the Old Testament of God’s consolation in the form of beauty and joy.

When Joseph’s brothers threw him into that pit to die and then sold him into slavery when the opportunity arose, it was an act of great evil motivated by the brothers’ jealousy and greed. It took many years, but God used that crime – brother against brother – to save those guilty brothers and their whole nation during a great famine. He brought the beauty of forgiveness and salvation out of violence and hate.

What He did in Old Testament times He is still doing today. Sometimes this happens quickly, other times the change is so slow that we don’t recognize what He’s doing and only when looking back can we see His hand moving for our good and His glory.

Our righteous, loving, unchanging God can turn around even these evil days to bring about beauty from the ashes of despair. Take heart, Christians, the planting of the LORD will be glorified.

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The Weight of Cares

Much of our world today is in turmoil. Coming on the heels of the pandemic, many of us are feeling depressed. We are weighed down with worries and fears for the future.

When reading the news and thinking of the load of cares being described, I began to consider the relative weight of emotions.

We talk about worry and grief as being heavy, while happiness and joy make us lighthearted. So, I pictured these emotions as brass weights lined up beside a scale. The heaviest weight must be grief, but guilt and shame can be equally as hard to bear. As we move along the rack of weights, we see fears and worries which range from heavy to light, but which can overwhelm us when piled up. Floating above the shelf we see the emotions of love, joy, peace, contentment. These defy gravity and may be used to lift us up and help us cope with our burden of care.

Feeling depressed by worry? Add a bit of faith. Weighed down by guilt and shame? Grasp hold of forgiveness and love to bring your emotional scale back into balance.

Musing on my little fantasy, it was as though I heard a voice reminding me that no matter how heavy my burden of care may be, I don’t need to carry it. In fact, when Jesus died on the cross, he paid the price for all of our burdens. That guilt and shame I clutch to my bosom so tightly belongs to Him. All I am required to do is put it down at the foot of the cross and walk away.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
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Memorial Day inspiration

Memorial Day commemorates those who died while in the military service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. These men and women were willing to put themselves in harm’s way to defend what they believed in.

We remember those who died on Memorial Day and we honor all those who fought, who risked making the ultimate sacrifice, including those who survived, on Veteran’s Day.

These brave men and women should be an inspiration to all Christians as we engage in spiritual battle against the forces of evil.

You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to recognize that Christianity and Judaism are under attack. Those of us who believe in the God of the Bible cannot afford to be conscientious objectors in this conflict.

Like those brave men and women we honor this weekend, we must overcome our fear; fear of being mocked, ostracized, or even punished for expressing our faith.

That old hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers, has fallen out of fashion in recent decades, but perhaps it is time to lift our voices to this tune once again.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:10-17 (NIV)
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We all wear masks

Although there is controversy about their efficacy, most people these days are trying to go along with whatever local advice they are getting and masks are becoming a common fashion accessory.

At one time, people wore masks for one of two reasons: either to hide their identity when breaking the law, or, in the case of firefighters and medical workers, to protect themselves from hazardous environments. Today, we are encouraged to wear them to protect others from whatever germs we may be breathing out.

Even though the majority of people wearing masks have good motives, it still makes me uncomfortable not to be able to see a person’s face. A mask may be a barrier to germs, but it is an even greater barrier to openness and trust in relationships.

When this pandemic season is past, will many of us still feel the need to wear a mask? Not a surgical mask or even a homemade one, but that invisible mask we hide behind to protect ourselves emotionally.

Removing the mask takes courage. What if I express my faith to someone and they laugh at me, or worse? What if I stand up for what I believe and I am belittled or attacked? What if I share an unpopular opinion on social media? Will I be “canceled” or be the target of abuse?

These are all real possibilities in our current culture. But what if we all decide that standing up for our beliefs and having the courage of our convictions in the face of these challenges is worth it to strip off the confining masks we hide behind?

Would our culture become a less hazardous environment? And might we encourage others to become bold in their faith and deeply held beliefs?

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 (ESV)
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