But God

I was dead.

I was hardened.

I was blind.

I was incapable of seeking God.

I was a son of disobedience.

I was by nature an object of God’s wrath.

I was separated from God.

I was unable to please God in any manner, no matter what I did.

BUT GOD

Rich in mercy

Because of His great love

SAVED ME

By His grace

Not because of anything I had done

As a gift

For His Work

According to His purpose.

Now, I am ALIVE!

A Prayer for America in Her Hour of Greatest Need

Dear Lord, We humbly ask for your intercession for our country.  Evil has arisen and is attacking the freedoms we hold dear in this country.  This evil seems insurmountable. Only you can save us! I pray that you “uncover the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light” (Job 12:22).  Lord, please act because your laws have been broken (Psalm 119:126).  The wicked have perverted justice in our country.  They have accepted bribes.  They have suppressed the truth by their wickedness (Romans 1:18). You hate robbery and wrong but love justice, O Lord (Isaiah 61:8).  Repay the wicked according to their deeds (Isaiah 59:18).  “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).  Let what is hidden be revealed in time to make a difference to preserve America and restore this nation to its Christian roots.  Open the eyes of those who have been blinded, so they will see the truth and act upon it.  Please do not forsake your children who call humbly upon you to let truth be revealed and justice be done.  We are crying to You for help.  Please hear and deliver us out of all our troubles.  Thank you for being near to the brokenhearted and saving the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:17-18).   “To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 16:27).

God is in Control

God is in control. We are not. We like to think we are. We think the institutions and powers of this world are in charge. We are mistaken; they are not. God is.

God has a plan, a redemptive plan, for this world.  There is not one single part of His plan that will not take place. There is not one single thing that will be thwarted. God does not sit around wringing His hands worrying about how He is going to handle those leftists today or how He is going to manage a communist takeover of yet another country.  He does not worry if China has warships in the ocean, or if Russia has interfered with another United States election.  He has it perfectly under control. 

Just because we can’t see His plan, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Just because we don’t like what we think His plan might be, doesn’t mean it isn’t good.  God sees everything from beginning to end. Our vision is myopic. We only see what is right in front of our eyes and not beyond.  We are nearsighted.  We have limits.  God does not. 

Examine history. You can see God’s plan unfold throughout time. We do not know where we are in the process of God’s plan, but we can rest assured in the fact that He has it under control. We tend to only think of things as they occur in our time and place.  However, God promises to work all things out for the good of His children. That good may not always be experienced here on this earth but later in eternity with Him. God has the power to do all things, and He will do all that He has planned.

Christmas reminds us of God’s plan in a special way.  It reminds us not to worry because God has everything under control.  Matthew 1:21 says, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  God sent a Savior to save His people in the form of a baby who was born into humble circumstances.  This baby was 100% God and 100% human.  As He grew, He lived a perfect life and then sacrificed that life as a human sacrifice for our sin.  My pastor said it so eloquently, “God has a people.  They have a sin problem.  His intention is to save His people from their sin problem, and only He will do it.”  Scripture says that “all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet” (Matthew 1:22).  If God can and will save His people through the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, something that it impossible for any other human being to do, there is not a single other thing that God cannot do. 

God is in control.  We are not.  That’s a good thing because we are fallible, limited, myopic people.  In the famous words of a hymn penned by Helen Lemmel in 1922:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of this world will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace.

A Matter of Conviction

Last night I had a conversation with my husband.  You see, our church is opening back up on Sunday with a long list of state-imposed rules.

We have never been mask wearers, nor do we believe we should be forced to wear masks by anyone.  We believe there are all sorts of reasons, psychological and health-wise, not to wear a mask.  However, our pastor has indicated that even if we are not afraid, he recommends we wear a mask for others, especially when we sing.  It is not mandatory, but it is recommended.

So back to the conversation I had with my husband last night.  I told him that I was really nervous about going to church.

“Nervous about what?” he said.

“Confrontation.” I replied.

“What are you going to be confronted about?” he queried.

“Not wanting to wear a mask and being told it is because I am not being kind” was my reply.

Our conversation moved to other things.  Fast forward to this morning.  My husband opens the day as follows:

“Do you know how I know that Satan is involved in all of this?”

“How?” I responded.

“You are nervous about going to church because everyone is so divided.  Why should you be nervous at all about going to church?”  he responded.  “The devil is involved.”

So this got me to thinking back to the days when I was actively counseling clients.  So many times, I would have clients that came into my office feeling extreme guilt over things that were not sinful.  This guilt would keep them from doing all good things including reaching out to God, being around people, and going to church.  I would have to explain to them the difference between true guilt and false guilt.

This circumstance is no different.

You see, true guilt is when you stand before a holy God sinful because you have broken one of His Commandments.  We are all truly guilty before God because of our sin.

False guilt is when people tell you that you should feel guilty about something because of what they believe or think.

True guilt brings you to repentance and a restored relationship with God.

False guilt keeps you from God because it comes from emotional manipulation and not truth.  It keeps you from people because there is a part of you that almost believes the manipulation.  This is by design.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (English Standard Version) states, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

It is not wrong for me to not want to wear a mask anymore than it is wrong for you to want to wear a mask.  It is a matter of conviction not a matter of sin.

I am going to church today, and Satan is not going to separate me from other believers with emotional manipulation.

The battle belongs to the Lord!

Faith Not Fear

What has happened in our country, indeed in most of the world, may have surprised many of us.   However, it has not surprised God.  God has a plan and a purpose for everything that happens.

A lot has changed.  Some pills have been harder to swallow than others.  Still, there are silver linings to everything.  There are things that are working out for our good.  For me personally, I have more time to relax with my family.  I’ve been able to write more.  I haven’t felt nearly as stressed out as when I had a lot more on my plate.  I’ve been able to just chill and watch historical dramas with my husband.  I’ve been able to read my Bible for longer periods of time.  I do not feel an urgency to fit everything into my day.

I don’t know how long this will last, but I do know that God works out all things for the good of those He has called (cf. Romans 8:28) and for His glory (cf. Isaiah 48:9-11; Ephesians 1:4-6).

Faith, not fear, is the response we need.  God has this!

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36 English Standard Version).

 

Why are We so Afraid to Live?

So many people these days seem to be afraid to live.  They are told there is a corona-virus pandemic, so they panic, store up a bunch of food and supplied, and stay hold up in their homes.  There is a lion in the streets, so they turn in their bed, ignoring the world around them.  The big bad wolf is coming, so they hide in all sorts of structures hoping to keep him from eating them up.  The sky is falling, so everyone comes up with their own ideas about what everyone should do to protect themselves.  School gets canceled.  Sports get canceled.  Stores shut down.  Socialization and interaction decrease if not stop altogether.  People watch the world through little screens in the comfort of their own homes believing they are being protected from a scary virus not realizing what the real enemy is: fear.  People have become afraid to live.

The true irony is that people are afraid to live because they are afraid to die.  The fear is so strong that it cannot be overcome by rationality.  It is as if normally sane people have become mad.  People this afraid are very easy to control.

The real answers will not be found in the government dictating what we can and cannot do.  Government control will only intensify the fear.  Put the people in a panic, and they will do whatever you want them to.  There is a wealth of history that shows us what is the end result of this ideology!  (Do the words “Heil Hitler!” ring a bell?)

The real answer is found in understanding that there is a sovereign God who is in control of this world!  All things that happen fall under His direction and His will and are for His glory.

There are many false things in this world.  There are many versions of what is “true”.  What is real though is that Jesus Christ is God, and He is greater than anything that can happen in this world.  If you know God, you know the truth.  If you know God, you will not be pulled around by the nose rings by fearmongering, panic, and the general craziness of this world system.  If you know God, you will know truth and love and the balm of healing these provide in a time where unrest and panic abound.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (I John 4:18 English Standard Version).  Everyone is afraid because they do not know the source of true love.  They do not know the source of eternal life:  God.  Without knowing God, they will die in their trespasses and sins.

Why is everyone so afraid to live?  It is because they ultimately are afraid of the final punishment: death.

Working Out the Wrinkles

Lately, I have been enjoying ironing.  It is a mundane task, and perhaps that is why I enjoy it so much.  It is simple.  There is no stress.  I apply a little heat and a little pressure.  Presto!  All the wrinkles come out.  The finished product is a crisp, clean shirt ready for one of my boys to wear.

As I was ironing today, it got me thinking.  I have a lot of wrinkles in my own life.  Things that make me not so crisp and clean.  Thinks that make me less than I ought to be.  I come by these wrinkles naturally.  They are part of my sinful nature.  I cannot work them out on my own.  I need someone else to iron them out.

You see, for a shirt, wrinkles do not come out on their own.  They do not just magically disappear.  They need to be worked on.  They need heat and pressure applied to them to come out, especially the stubborn ones.

My wrinkles are the same.

Fortunately, because I am a child of God, the Holy Spirit is right there ironing out my wrinkles to make me more like Christ.  He gently applies heat and pressure at different moments in my life.  God works out my wrinkles according to His purposes and for His glory!

Perfect analogy?  Perhaps not.  Yet somehow there is satisfaction and comfort in contemplating how a mundane task in life can point to the handiwork of God!

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31 English Standard Version).

Just Learn to Love Yourself…Not!

“When we learn to love ourselves, we can love God and others.”

This statement generally sends me off the deep end.  Oh, if you could just love yourself, everything would be wonderful!  If you could just learn to love yourself, you could be right with God and man.

Hogwash!!

Loving ourselves is what gets us into trouble to begin with!  I mean, without realizing that we are sinners in need of a savior…that we are not okay without Christ, and we are in fact dead in our trespasses and sin (cf. Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13)…we are lost.  I know a lot of people who love themselves, and this is why they feel they do not need Christ.  Satan loved himself and thought he could usurp God.  God doesn’t say, “Love yourself first, then you can come to me.”  He says, “You have sinned and fall short of my glory” (cf. Romans 3:23).  He says, “You deserve death for your sin” (Romans 6:23).  He said, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  True love comes from God first and is given to us through Christ.

What if instead of falling for the psychology of the world, we understood who God is and who we are in Christ first?  After all, love comes from God (cf. I John 4:7-9…note that in this passage the love referred to is for others not oneself). I love who I am in Christ because of the work Christ did on my behalf.  I do not love myself.  There is nothing inherent in me that makes me lovable apart from the work Christ has done in my life.  Christ’s righteousness transferred to me is what makes me capable of loving God which in turn makes me able to love others.  I am last on that list if I make the list at all (cf. Philippians 2:3).

Sometimes I think that the study of psychology puts blinders on our eyes so that we are evaluating God’s Word through it as opposed to evaluating psychology by God’s Word.  If Satan can twist things just a little, he can keep more people from truly knowing Christ.  It’s like having a glass of cool clear water which is good to drink and refreshing.  However, if you put just a drop of arsenic in it (something you cannot see which poisons the water), a drink from the glass leads to death.

Let’s not fall for the tricks, the slight adjustments to truth, which are propagated by the spiritual forces of evil (cf. Ephesians 6:12).  Satan has a way of making things that lead to death look good.  Just something to think about.

Surviving Private Ryan

“Private Ryan”, my son said to the account manager at the bank.  “I call my minivan Private Ryan.”

We were there opening up his first checking account in preparation for going off to college in the fall.  The account manager and my son were joking about the names they had given their first automobiles.  I just sat there laughing as I contemplated how grown-up he had become.

It was an ordinary day.

I ran to the grocery store quickly as it was our day to “feed the team” for basketball.  We were trying to get all the necessary things done to provide sustenance for our son’s basketball team.  I walked in the door, put down my things, and looked at my phone.

A text read, “Guys, pick up your phone.  I totaled my car.”

Panicked, I called my son.

“Mom, I totaled my car.  I’m near the reservoir.  Come quick.”

I called to my husband, and we rushed out the door.

Driving up to the scene, the horror of seeing our first family minivan crumpled up awaited me.  I jumped out of the car.  As I was running to the scene, I saw my 6’3” baby boy clad in his red Letterman jacked walking toward me.  Yes, my boy was walking toward me.  I examined him all over as I asked, “Are you all right?  Did you bump your head?”

There were no visible injuries, no blood, nothing.  There he was saying, “Yes, I’m all right.”

He proceeded to explain what had happened, how he lost control going around a curve because he over-corrected a bit when he felt his tire go off the road.  After swerving all around, he panicked, let go of the wheel, and hit a tree going 40 mph.  The van landed away from the tree, so I can only imagine how it go there.  It was smoking, and a nice gentleman had stopped to help my boy.  Soon it became a whirlwind of law enforcement, fire trucks, and EMS.

When all was said and done, the car was totaled and the tree was cracked in half from top to bottom.  Mulberry, I am told, is one of the hardest woods, so it had to have been quite an impact.  Yet there my son stood uninjured with the exception of some bruises from the seat belt.

Later, I took him to the emergency room just to be safe.  After several X-rays and examinations, the verdict came back that there were no injuries other than bruises from the seat belt…the seat belt that by the grace of God saved his life.

My son is with me today surviving what happened with Private Ryan because he wore his seat belt.  I call it a miracle and praise God everyday that he gave us more time with this remarkable boy.

At any moment, at any time, on any ordinary day, life can change drastically.  We may think we have control, but we do not.  God decides when we enter this world, and He decides when we leave.  I could be sitting here with a very different story, but by His grace, God chose to let us have a story of survival.  This is not always the case, and we have since heard many stories from others about teens who did not make it.

I asked my son, “If you would have died today, do you know if you would have gone to Heaven?”

“Yes, mom.  I’m convinced,” was the reply.  “But God didn’t want me there with Him yet.”

Ordinary days happen all the time.  They can turn into something that you never would have expected.  Are you ready?

Where Will You be Spending Eternity?

Recently, the very first person that I know of from my graduating class died unexpectedly.  I had not seen her in years, yet now she is gone.  And it hits very close to home because it reminds me of just how mortal I am and how quickly life passes by.

The first thought that comes to my mind is, “Where is she spending eternity?”

I feel like I should know the answer to this question, but I don’t.  If what I believe is real and true – and it is – then it should be the most important thing that I share and know about the people that God brings into my life.  So I am going to share now for anyone who will listen!

Jesus Himself said that He was the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  He didn’t say I am one of the ways, one of the truths, or one of the lives.  He said He was the only way to the Father.

There are a lot of voices in the world today even in the “Christian” sphere speaking different things and claiming different “truths” (I John 4).  However, the reality is that unless we know Christ’s voice and are known by Him (John 10:27-28), we are lost upstream without a paddle.  Our eternal destination is fixed.  It does not matter what any other human being says, has said, or will ever say.  Unless we know the Gospel according to Jesus…the Gospel according to God…we are lost, hopelessly lost (Isaiah 53; 1 John 5).  The only voice that matters is God’s voice, and God has spoken to us through His Word telling us everything we need to know to have a right relationship with Him (John 5:16-47).

You see, we are all hopelessly lost, sinful human beings (Romans 3:23; I John 3).  We are separated from a holy God by our sin (Isaiah 59:2).  Because of our sin, we will die (Ezekiel 18).  God had a redemptive plan though, so not all hope is lost because of our sin (Titus 3:5-7).  He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life and to be the sacrifice for our sin.  Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin (Romans 5:8), then he conquered death by rising again (Romans 4:25).  Without Christ, we will be separated from God forever in Hell (Luke 13:22-30).  With Christ, we will worship God forever in Heaven (I John 5:11-12).  The question is when you die, where will you be spending eternity?