Well-seasoned witness

Anyone who spends any time on social media has seen how quickly even the mildest comment can result in a deluge of nasty responses. Say something nice about someone or something and you may be vilified by a horde of strangers who disagree with you. A feeling of anonymity seems to bring out the worst in even ordinarily pleasant people. They seem to feel the overwhelming need to express an opinion on whatever they read online.

Unfortunately, this tendency exists in some Christians, as well. Inflamed by reading negative or destructive social media posts which attack their deeply held beliefs, they feel the need to defend God by responding in a hostile manner, often resulting in a war of words as posts fly back and forth.

I don’t believe anyone has ever changed their mind as a result of one of these flame wars.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Colossians 4:5-6 (ESV)

Christians are to be a sweet-smelling aroma, well pleasing to God (Philippians 4:18). Hostile, aggressive social media comments stink and, like a dish over-seasoned with conflicting spices, they produce a bitter aftertaste.

Let’s all walk in wisdom, speaking graciously toward those we meet online, just as we would with the unbelievers we encounter face to face.

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We are in this together

For years the polls have been reporting a steady decline in church attendance and in those who identify themselves as evangelical Christians. I’ve seen recent estimates that we have fallen below 50% of the population.

Living in a hostile culture where the majority of those in influence tend to ignore, mock, or actively despise the Gospel can make Christians feel isolated and insecure. We may be hesitant to speak openly about our faith for fear of derision or reprisal.

What we fail to remember is that even half of the U.S. population would make a mighty army. Also, there might be many among those polled who hesitated to declare their genuine belief, not wishing to seem backward or unsophisticated to the pollsters.

Throughout the Bible, the followers of Jesus are instructed to love one another and encourage one another, especially in the face of persecution. It was the support of fellow believers that made the spread of the Good News possible.

How dangerous it was in those days to proclaim that Jesus is Lord! The current uncomfortable situation for believers can’t compare to the martyrdom experienced by the early Christians.

First Century believers risked everything to go boldly and openly, to their neighbors first, then farther afield, wherever their steps carried them, sharing the Gospel and proclaiming their faith in Christ in obedience to His command.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28 (EVS)

Ordinary people, just like you and me, trusted Jesus, and shored up by their fellow believers in the Body of Christ, the household of faith did extraordinary things.

 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6 (ESV)

Be bold in sharing your faith. The next person you meet may well be a fellow believer, one who needs your encouragement to speak out. It is more important than ever that we openly support our fellow Christians, letting each one know that they are never alone in this spiritual battle.

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Keeping your balance

During the lockdown I developed a habit of working out every day with an online trainer. Over the months I’ve seen encouraging results, but I still sometimes have a bit of trouble keeping steady during the one-legged balance routines. I was mirroring my trainer, watching and trying to copy his every movement, but I still got wobbly.

One day, I started focusing on my trainer’s stationary foot and, lo and behold, I was suddenly stabilized.

How similar this is to my emotional and spiritual life; when I am focusing on the constantly moving whirlwind of events around me, I begin to lose my balance. When I keep my eyes, my heart, and my mind centered on our unchanging God and His rock solid Word, I stop wobbling and find peace in the midst of the storm.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
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Give me patience, right now!

22 God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, 23 gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways.

Galatians 5:21-23 (CEV)

Many Americans struggle with their weight. It isn’t uncommon to hear someone say, “I’ve got a weight problem. I’ve tried everything and nothing works for me.”

After a lifetime of frustration; wishing, hoping, and praying to lose my extra pounds quickly with miracle pills, fad diets, and gimmicky exercise equipment, God finally answered my prayer. He led me to a common sense exercise program and inspired me to use my years of diet information to begin to eat sensibly from all the healthful foods God provides. After a year and a half of this regimen I am at my weight goal, several sizes smaller, and stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been.

Before, even when the quicky diets worked for a short time, I couldn’t sustain them and often gained back more than I’d lost.

A year may seem like too long to wait, but if God hadn’t stepped in, I’d still be a year older and still unhappy with my body. It seems that my weight problem was actually a wait problem.

This experience has been a lesson I can apply to my prayer life. When I pray about distressing circumstances and don’t see my earnest pleas making a difference right away, it is easy to get discouraged.

It is helpful to remember that God’s timing is not my timing. When I pray, I need to place my concerns into God’s hands, trusting that He knows best, and just get on with my life, doing the right things every day. By following a commonsense regimen, as found in Scripture, I will see improvement, by and by.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

James 1:1-3 (NKJV)
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How childish are you?

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

Ephesians 5:1 (NKJV)

I have three sons and when they were toddlers, each of them put their tiny feet into their father’s shoes and stumbled around trying to walk, “Just like daddy.” It’s natural for small children to try to be like their parents; it’s how they learn.

Most of us have smiled to see small children happily dressed up like miniature copies of their dad or mom.

Little children watch their parents closely and want to be just like them. It’s at this stage in their lives that mothers and fathers have the strongest influence and greatest opportunity to mold their kids. As children grow into teenagers, they separate themselves from their parents as they strive to become independent adults.

While reading Ephesians 5 recently, I was struck with the thought that many Christians seem to have outgrown their desire to faithfully copy their Heavenly Father. They have become like teenagers; wishing to appear sophisticated and adult to their worldly friends.

Nowhere do the Scriptures tell us to follow God like rebellious teenagers; dragging our feet and yearning for independence. While we need to grown in wisdom, we are to remain as little children in our attitude toward the Lord; recognizing our total dependance and showing our love by faithful obedience and imitation.

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

1 John 2:28 (NIV)

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Love is patient…are you?

Before writing, I always pray for God to give me the message, the one for me and for my readers. After praying this morning, two phrases kept entering my thoughts, “Love is patient” from 1 Corinthians 13, and “be angry, but do not sin,” from Ephesians 4. I wasn’t sure how these two biblical commands were meant to go together until I thought about how tired we are all becoming with what’s been going on.

The restrictions and chaos begun when the pandemic hit just keep hanging on and in some instances getting even worse. Many of us are getting fed up. Anger seems to erupt at the least provocation. Perhaps these verses are just what is needed today.

Patience is hard, whether one is awaiting a future blessing or enduring a present trial. Being reminded that to God “a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past,” (Psalm 90:4) doesn’t help much. In fact, I sometimes resent that He exists outside the limits of time and space to which He in His infinite wisdom subjects His creation.

I wondered if the admonition about being angry and not sinning was aimed at my feelings of resentment against God, but soon realized that my ocassional resentment is countered by my trust that He loves me and His timing is always for my good and His glory. I can never stay mad at God.

However, when we hear the news and look around us it is easy feel angry at those we perceive to be responsible for this mess we are in.

Reading the study notes on Ephesians 4, I saw that righteous anger at injustice and wickedness is okay, but clinging to my anger to the point of bitterness and hatred is not. That’s where patient love comes in.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. …

Matthew 5:43-48
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A great gettin’ up morning

Do you remember that old Gospel song, It’s a Great Gettin’ Up Morning (Fare ye well)? That refrain was in my head this morning when I awoke. I smiled and stretched, feeling light-hearted and ready to take on the day. But when I listened to the news with its tragic stories and gloomy predictions, I felt like going back to bed and pulling the covers over my head. Suddenly my burdens seemed too much to handle.

Sitting down with my Bible after breakfast, my eyes fell on the book of Lamentations where I read:

22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness

Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV)

God’s mercies are unlimited, enough to tackle any problem. They are newly available every morning. Instead of allowing myself to moan about circumstances or live in dread of what the future might hold, how much more satisfying to greet each day with gratitude for the Lord’s love and blessings. Dwelling on the bad things in life doesn’t make them go away, just as fearing what tomorrow holds cannot change the future.

Every morning is a great gettin’ up morning when we bring our fears and burdens to God and let Him handle them for us.

Did you wake up this morning? Isn’t that great? Fare ye well, my friend.

This is the day the Lord has made;

We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)
Rise and Shine and give God the glory
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The great reward or the great taboo

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:14-16 (NKJV)

These past few months, many of us have been touched by the death of friends or loved ones. We’ve been surprised and dismayed at losing so many who were close to us.

While there was a time when death was referred to as the last reward, you seldom hear that expression today. It is almost as though our entire culture, Christians included, are in denial about the inevitability of death. When a friend or loved one is diagnosed with a terminal disease, we refuse to speak of it, tap dancing around the subject and even assuring the ill person that they will soon be well, even when the end of life is quite obviously imminent.

This may be understandable for non-believers who think this life is all there is, but for those who believe the Scriptures, who have faith in the everlasting life to come, the transition from this life should be the next great adventure. Of course, those of us left behind (for now) will miss our loved ones. Their passing will leave a hole in our lives. But acting like death isn’t real won’t keep them with us.

As I sat with a family member in the last stages of cancer, I yearned to speak of the Next Stage of life, to help her anticipate a reunion with those who had gone before, and to make these last days ones of hopeful anticipation rather than fear. However, my tongue was paralyzed by the ingrained taboo against even acknowledging her approaching death. I couldn’t even tell her how much I’ll miss her.

It’s only natural to be uneasy about the unknown, the unfamiliar experiences. Doubts come flooding in at such a time. What is needed is encouragment, and assurance of God’s promises, not denial, false optimism, or avoidance.

Shouldn’t we be able to at least discuss with our fellow believers what we and they hope to find in Eternity? While we don’t wish to shorten anyone’s time on Earth, once the end is in sight looking forward with joyful anticipation must surely ease the experience.

For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

2 Corinthians 5:7-9 (NIV)
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The blessing of pain

We have all heard stories of people who lose the ability to feel pain. These people tend to cause themselves injury because they don’t get the normal pain warnings. Rather than being a blessing, lack of pain is a curse.

About the time of the lockdowns, I began working out to improve my health. This experience has given me lots of opportunities to reflect on the nature of pain and my reaction to it.


Pain is like a traffic light. When we are feeling no pain, that is the green light to continue with whatever we are doing. Mild aches and strains are the yellow light signaling caution, letting us know to slow down. Acute or stabbing pains are bright red stop signs. We can ignore the yellow and red lights at our peril.

When first exercising unused muscles we frequently feel the yellow warning aches and pains. If we respond to them by careful pacing, we get the green light to work out harder, building up our strength and stamina without injury. If we misinterpret the warnings as stop signs and give up, our abilities won’t grow. If we ignore them altogether we risk serious injury.

This is also true of our emotional and spiritual muscles.

Becoming vulnerable can be painful and beginning to feel sincere empathy for the first time can cause heartaches, but if we don’t pull away or force our feelings too far too fast, that initial empathy can grow into true compassion and love.

As the Apostle Peter learned in Matthew 14:22-33, the first time we accept the invitation to climb out of the boat and step out in faith onto the unknown depths can be extremely uncomfortable. If we rush ahead of God’s leading we can become painfully discouraged, but keeping safe and never testing our trust in God results in failure to grow spiritually.  We need to be aware of the Lord’s signals.

Sensitivity to pain is a gift and a tool to help us pace ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We simply need to learn to recognize the signals and react appropriately.

 I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.

John 13:34-36 (AMP)
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But that’s not what I meant…

I’ve been reading through 1 Corinthians in my daily devotion using a new study Bible. While reading the commentary and explanatory notes I realized for the first time just how often the Apostle Paul used sarcasm. My previous understanding of this letter to the church in Corinth was incomplete when accepting his words literally.

I started thinking about how hard it is to convey subtlety of meanings using only the written word. On more than one ocassion I’ve made what I thought was an inocuous comment on social media, only to be stunned by a critical response.

I think there are two lessons for us here.

The first, and most important, is to not simply skim the Scriptures, hoping to understand everything from our own limited perspective, but to study them using some of the readily available study guides and commentaries.

The second lesson is one I often heard as a child. To avoid misunderstandings and conflict, it is even more apropos in the realm of social media:

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles.

Proverbs 21:23
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