Category Archives: Daily living

Gideon

Gideon: How’d He Do It?

Gideon

There are many spectacular events in the Bible. There were the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea and later the Jordan. The Blind and deaf were healed and people were raised from  the dead. In a separate category, there was the Creation, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection. But there is one miracle, actually a series of miracles, that has always fascinated me: Gideon’s victory over the Midianites in Judges 6 – 8.

Israel had returned to their wicked ways, and as punishment, God allowed Midian to enslave them. Gideon is an unremarkable man from an unremarkable family in an unremarkable tribe in an enslaved nation (6:15). Yet, he is told by an angel that he “shall strike the Midianites as one man” (6:16). After three different, convincing, miracles, Gideon attacks the army of Midian with 300 soldiers divided into three companies. The Midianite army numbered 135,000 swordsmen( 8:10)! That’s a ratio of 450:1! I don’t think the vaunted Navy Seal Team Six would take on such a battle. But one more thing: Gideon’s army carried no weapons (see 7:20 for their armaments). How could this unremarkable man command one of the greatest victories in Israelite history?

The answer is pretty straightforward: He didn’t.

The victory over Midian was God’s work. Gideon was just an obedient servant. He wasn’t a great tactician, and he was not a great warrior. He wasn’t much of a leader at all. He was just a servant.

But he and his countrymen were prone to taking undeserved credit. In Judges 7:2, the Lord said, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” In verse 9, God tells Gideon, concerning the Midianite army, “I have given it into your hand.” This was no common victory; it was all the power of God.

While Gideon was not responsible for the victory, his faith and obedience were required. The three chapters in view record three moments when God helped build Gideon’s faith. In Judges 6:36 -40, Gideon asked for and received two miracles, which boosted his faith. He asked for a fleece to be laid on the ground and moistened with dew while the surrounding ground would be dry. The Lord’s angel caused that to happen. Next, Gideon reversed the request. This time, the ground would be wet and the fleece dry. Again, the miracle occurred, and Gideon was encouraged.

The third faith-builder came when Gideon and his servant were sent to infiltrate the Midianite camp. They overheard soldiers talking of a dream in which a cake of bread tumbled into their camp, struck the tent, and flipped it over. The soldier said, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel. God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp” (vs. 14).

With renewed faith, Gideon was prepared to obey God even in what seemed an odd battle strategy. The Israelite battalion was now a small company of soldiers. The 300 were further split into 100-man contingents. With no weapons in hand, Israel defeated the mighty Midianites.

The victory belonged to the Lord, but Gideon’s faith and obedience were necessary, too. Could God have won without Gideon? Of course. But he chose to use a mortal to accomplish his work.

You and I fight battles daily. Faith and obedience are required. It was hard for Gideon to see the outcome, especially given the odd tactics. But he believed and was obedient! Faith and obedience are simple tools for accomplishing great things for God. If we trust God’s lovingkindness and obey his simple commands, we will gain the greatest victory of all!

The Forgotten Sin

I get it. Nobody likes to talk about sin, but sometimes we need to. The turmoil of the 21st century has obscured our view of sin with the result that there is now The Forgotten Sin.

Some sins seem to reach out and grab us by the collar. The in-your-face wickedness makes us angry. But, in our rush to combat the assault of these wicked thoughts and ideas, we have created an unbiblical hierarchy of sins. We spend all of our time talking about the “bad sins” but fail to address the “lesser sins.”

Some years ago, a public health professional told me that the extraordinary emphasis on HIV-AIDS was hiding the serious nature of older sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea. In her words, we have lost control of syphilis and gonorrhea and will never get it under control again. I wonder if we’re in the same situation with sexual sin.

We know sin separates us from God. But, what sin? Aren’t some sins worse? In Proverbs 6:16-19, Solomon says “hands that shed innocent blood” are an abomination to God. In that very same list, he says that “haughty eyes and a lying tongue” are also abominations to the Lord and are things that the Lord hates. But surely lying isn’t as bad as murder, is it?

Any sinful behavior, no matter how trivial it appears to us, is deadly serious to God.

In our rush to oppose homosexuality, transgenderism, and abortion, we have forgotten “routine” fornication and adultery. In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul begins his list of sins with sexual immorality; it’s right there in the same list with idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, and orgies. Paul says that people who do these things “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

What exactly is “sexual immorality?” The underlying word, porneia, is a very broad word in Greek. It speaks to any illicit sexual activity. Sexual intimacies not ordained by God are sinful. This word includes fornication, adultery, and homosexuality. Yet today, our world assumes that people in a dating relationship are, in fact, having sex. Culture’s greatest concern is whether the sex is consensual and whether the couple has used protection against disease or unwanted pregnancies. There is no concern for the sinfulness of such a relationship. The forgotten sin is sexual immorality.

Let me be clear: sex outside of a God-approved marriage is sinful. Hebrews 13:4 says it is the “marriage bed” that is undefiled. Paul calls us to “abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Those words should speak to you, Christian. Let your life be a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). Your Lord loves you more than you can ever imagine. He wants what is best for you. If we hear his words and abide in his teachings, our life now will be much better. Our lives in eternity will be indescribable.

The world is awash in every imaginable sexual sin. Let the Christian remain pure and holy before his maker.

Are People Good?

Are people good? Are they inherently virtuous? Why does it seem that some people are good and honorable while others are dishonorable and even evil? As expected, there is a Bible answer.

Beginnings

Humanity began in Eden. The Bible tells us that as part of God’s creation week, he created the human species. Most importantly, they were created in his divine image. They were image-bearers of the creator (Genesis 1:27). He told them to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:26-31). It is evident that they obeyed this command, for in Genesis 4, two sons have been born to the first couple. A third son is born at the end of the chapter. By the end of Genesis 5, 10 generations from Adam and Eve are recorded.

On the 6th day of creation, as God prepared to rest from his work, he looked upon the totality of his creation. He declared it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). According to the biblical record, only two humans were alive when God declared the goodness of his creation. There is no evidence of any evil in the world, and there was certainly no sin. This is critical. Mankind was very good when created. Inasmuch as there was no evil in the world, we may conclude that the original couple was pure, sinless, and thus very good.

Unfortunately, something very bad was about to happen in the very good world.

Disaster Strikes

We do not know how long this sinless state continued in Eden, but by the time Adam was 130 years old, sin had entered the world with catastrophic consequences (Genesis 5:3).

A choice was given. Adam and Eve could obey God, or they could disobey. Their choice? Disobedience. God had placed two unique trees in the Garden of Eden: the tree of life of which man could freely eat, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was this last tree that mankind was forbidden even to touch. The presence of those two trees provided a choice for Adam and Eve.

All was well in the garden until Satan entered in the form of a serpent (Genesis 3:1). He immediately questioned God’s authority and even called God a liar. He tempted Eve to eat from the forbidden tree. She surrendered to the temptation, as did her husband, Adam (Genesis 3:6). We must emphasize that neither Adam nor Eve was compelled to eat the forbidden fruit. It was their choice. Because they chose to disobey, they suffered the consequences of their action.

Much of this chapter focuses on the consequences of their sin. Adam must now work harder, Eve will suffer pain in childbearing, the serpent is cursed to crawl upon the ground and eat dust, and Satan will be crushed by one who is yet unborn (Genesis 3:15). But the greatest consequence is not revealed until the end of the chapter. God banished man from the presence of the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). On that dark day in the long-ago, man’s spirit died when he was separated from God, and the process of physical death began as well. Because man could no longer eat from the tree of life, his body began to age and break down, leading to physical death.

The horrible aftermath of the sin in Eden is seen in Genesis 4. The very next generation, the son of Adam and Eve, Cain, worships improperly, then rises up against his brother Abel and kills him. Even more deadly violence is recorded in verses 23 and 24. The horrific picture of murderous rage is painted in the boldest of colors immediately after the sin in Eden.

What happened?

There was only one way to sin in the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve found it. All the joys and pleasures of a perfect world lay before them. But they threw it all away by succumbing to temptation.

Here is the problem for the modern world: Sin was once contained at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But once touched and consumed, sin was set loose in humanity. The very name of the tree explains its dangerous contagion. It opened their eyes and gave them knowledge of sin, thus making them guilty and subject to punishment (Genesis 3:7). The first parents would then spread the influence of sin to their children, who would spread it to their children, and so forth. Sin spreads when we are influenced to choose wrongly.

Sin is not in our DNA. We are not sinful because some ancient ancestor sinned (Ezekiel 18:20). We are sinful because of our choices. Now the upshot of this argument is that people are inherently good. We become evil when we surrender to evil influence.

The real man, the authentic man, is made in the image of God and is, therefore, very good. When we sully the image of God that we each bear, we become evil. Our goal, achieved through Jesus Christ alone, is to find and reclaim the holiness that once defined God’s creation.

Authenticity calls for a return to the original condition seen in Eden. It is not defined by what our corrupted hearts and minds tell us it is. The dark ruler of this world wants you to find pseudo authenticity in anything but the image of God.

We are like a people swimming in a putrid river of sewage. Our world and our culture are corrupt. Sin is everywhere. We are influenced to sin through others, the media, and especially social media. Like those swimming in the festering river, we must not grow weary and must press to reach the other side. To stop swimming means certain death. To surrender to evil temptation means certain death.

Do not give up but continue to search for the inherently good spirit God has placed in each of us. Yet, none of us are strong enough to reach the other side of that river without God’s help. God’s grace empowers us to reach the other side of the river and to return to the authenticity of an image-bearer of God

Yes, people are good.

The Most Dangerous Words of a Christian

I Think

Mankind is expected to think. God gave us the ability to observe, examine, analyze, and reason. Our mind is an amazing tool that can be trained and can even examine and heal itself when injured.  The human mind has allowed us to make stunning discoveries both on and off the planet. We continue to plumb the depths of the sea and soar into the Universe. Sometimes our minds get us into trouble but mostly our ability to think and reason has served humanity well. But when it comes to divine truth, the most dangerous words of a Christian are “I think.”

Our thinking and reasoning have produced innumerable denominations and have deepened the division with Christendom. In the meantime, we are losing the battle for men’s souls. Something is clearly wrong. It’s past time to stop spouting what we think and instead cling to what we can know from the Lord.

I Can Know Truth

“and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:32

You would agree, I think, that truth is unchanging.  Truth does not shift because of changing beliefs or differing perspectives. 2 apples plus 2 more apples equal 4 apples in Daphne, Alabama, and in the Cocos Islands (opposite side of the earth). It’s still four apples if I am a Democrat or a Republican. Truth doesn’t change. The writer of Hebrews says Jesus is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8) which is not surprising given that God is truth (John 3:33) and truth doesn’t change.

While it is important to know truth in everyday life, the balance in your bank accounts, the medicines the doctor prescribes, etc. It is critical to know the truth about God and his plan to save mankind as he revealed it.

I Must Respect the Truth

Here’s the rub. When speaking of Biblical matters, we often say what we think instead of what God says.

“I know there is nothing about mechanical instruments of music in the New Testament church, but I think it’s ok because it uplifts me.” In this case, we have elevated our thinking above that of what the Bible says. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was called to rebuke the prophets of Israel for speaking what they thought instead of what God had said.

They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the LORD,’ when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.”

Ezekiel 13:2

These prophets spoke falsely but still expected the Lord to accept their corruption of truth. A few verses later he explains that they have been speaking from their own heart and not from God’s message (Ezekiel 13:17). In verse 8, the Lord declared “I am against you!”

The Most Dangerous Words of a Christian: Toward A Solution

Those who believe that Jesus is the son of God all affirm their reverence for and adherence to the Bible. It is God’s word delivered through the power of the Holy Spirit and confirmed with supernatural acts (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:16-21). That being the case, we can all agree on the following:

  1. I will stop telling people what I think and instead declare what the Bible says.
  2. I will derive all teaching and doctrine from the Bible. I will not add to nor take from it.
  3. I will reject any teaching or doctrine not found in the Bible.
  4. I commit to a thorough study of the Scriptures to understand and to apply it.
  5. When we speak, we will speak only as the oracles of God, never of mankind.

It’s time to hear again the voice of God as revealed in his “once for all” delivered word (Jude 3). No smooth-talking, well-dressed, well-coiffed, preacher will be tolerated who does not honor the truthfulness and completeness of Scripture.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a hard trait for anyone to master. It is most difficult when we try to forgive ourselves. Those who live in Christ must learn to forgive. Hear the words of Jesus:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14, 15)

Jesus says that if I do not forgive others who have offended me, I will not be forgiven of my trespasses. A parallel verse is in James 2:13, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Personally, I crave both forgiveness and mercy. I need copious amounts of both; I suspect you do too.

If anyone in the Bible had a reason to hold a grudge, it would have been Jesus. The purest one ever born had come to earth for one reason: “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). But despite his sole purpose of helping humanity, Jesus became the target of their wrath. He was arrested, maltreated, and crucified on an old rugged cross. Yet, as he hung on that cross, he uttered this immortal statement, “father forgive them (Luke 23:34).” As the ultimate example of a holy life, Jesus teaches us to forgive.

Christians don’t always live up to the master’s example. Christians can be just as petty and unforgiving as non-Christians. But our failure to exemplify Christ does not lessen the imperative of forgiveness.

Those outside of Christ are often amazed when they see acts of true forgiveness. For example, Georgia Congressman John Lewis’ public forgiveness of Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Or the beautiful image of Botham Jean’s brother embracing and forgiving convicted murderer Amber Guyger as she was being sentenced for the murder of his brother. True forgiveness is so rare in our world that it always turns heads when it happens.

Forgiveness and Hypocrisy

People occasionally blur the line between forgiveness and hypocrisy. They see or hear of a Christian doing something sinful. They immediately cry, “hypocrisy!” But what they overlook is that the Christian is struggling to overcome sin. Along the way, he stumbles. But God has forgiven him. 1 John 1:5-10 is enlightening. We know first the necessity of “walking in the light.” Second, even while walking in the light, the Christian needs forgiveness. And three, forgiveness is forthcoming from a loving God.

There is no hypocrisy. There is only a real struggle to overcome sin in daily life.

This is not to say that hypocrisy never occurs; it does. And sometimes, Christians deliberately act contrary to God’s holiness. In that case, they are hypocrites. But to assert that every stumble or error is an act of hypocrisy is just wrong. Certainly, you and I would not want to be judged that way.

Hiding behind Hypocrisy

Occasionally a person will use the perceived hypocrisy of someone else to justify their own misdeeds. Maybe they’re not really trying to justify themselves as much is there trying to raise their stature among other people. They point out the weaknesses in failings and other people and then conclude that their sin is no worse than the others. It is true that any sin separates a person from God. But it is also true that another person’s sin has no bearing on your standing before God. Another person’s sin does not justify you. We will be judged individually (Romans 14:12).

Hiding behind hypocrisy evidences an unwillingness to confront one’s own sins. It also suggests a desperation to be seen as righteous but without a penitent heart. If you are outside God’s kingdom and judging it by its citizens, you are missing the most important part. We are not and will not claim perfection. We rely on God’s promise of forgiveness as we strive to know Him and pattern our lives after Him each day.

In the beginning, we said forgiveness was a hard trait to master. It’s also a hard act to understand. No matter the depth or depravity of your sin, you can be cleansed and stand righteous before the Lord. After a laundry list of common sins, Paul said: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Come now for the healing and forgiveness found only in Jesus!

morality is dead

What is Evil?

Evil

Evil is ubiquitous. It is in every corner of the world and in the heart of every person. Evil is the reason the world is the way it is today. Marked by chaos and division, the world suffers from the effects of evil. We should know as much as we can about this malevolent power.

The word occurs frequently in the Bible. The English Standard Version reports 531 results or an average of 8 time per book in the Bible. Jeremiah has the most occurrences but tiny 3rd John has the most per words in the book. Solomon used it often in his review of life and happiness in Ecclesiastes where it occurs roughly 4 times per thousand words. The effects of evil are clearly seen in every Bible book.

Philosophers have tried to define evil apart from the Bible and have been quite unsuccessful. They have gone so far as to use the real existence of evil as evidence against the existence of the God of the Bible.

What the Bible says about evil

Let the Bible Speak

Inasmuch as evil is a spiritual concept, we should allow the Bible to reveal it’s dimensions and define it’s horrors. The Bible is truth (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17).

Evil is personal.

The Bible does not view evil as an ambiguous, vague force. Evil surrounds and defines Satan. Jesus perfectly describes Satan while rebuking the religious leaders of his day.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44

In Genesis, it was Satan who lied to the first couple. He directly, and personally, contradicted God – in essence calling God a liar – concerning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The outcome of Satan’s meddling teaches us much about evil. The outcomes are never good. In the Genesis 3 account, the outcome was a severing of the relationship between God and humanity. Man can only serve one master (Matthew 6:24). There has never been a throne big enough for two!

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Romans 6:16

Evil Usurps

Once God was driven from their lives Satan enjoyed freedom to corrupt and destroy. Their family was shattered when their eldest son murdered their youngest son. Cain killed Abel because God was displeased with Cain’s sacrifice. He couldn’t strike out at God but his brother was an easy target. This story is made even more tragic when we realize that God tried to guide Cain. He tried to guide him into a better place.

The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Genesis 4:6, 7

Cain rejected God’s guidance because his heart was blinded by sin. The evil one had taken the place of God in his life and led him to assault and murder his own brother. This is the nature of evil. It forces God off the throne and takes his place with a lawless rule.

Evil is the enemy

Notice the last sentence: “It’s desire is contrary to you…” Despite Satanic protestations to the contrary, sin lies in strong opposition to our God given souls. The NIV translates the passage this way: “it desires to have you…” Sin is the product of evil and actively seeks victims. Peter wrote that “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). An adversary is an opponent. The psalmist often prayed that God would defeat his adversaries. But here, in 1 Peter, the adversary is clearly the devil. The apostles says he is looking for someone he can devour.

Satan is not merely interested in troubling you or causing you inconvenience. He uses evil to consume your life. Like a potent toxin, the devil slowly but completely takes the life of his victim. Yet, we are often unable, or unwilling, to see the danger our adversary contains. He presents himself as a friend, a confidant, or a wizened guide.He may even present himself as a man of faith. He may appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) or he may come quoting Scripture (Matthew 4:1 – 11). Remember, he presented himself to Eve, disguised, as one who would help her reach her greatest potential (Genesis 3:1-6).

To us, Satan presents himself with the face of our best friend. Perhaps he looks like our wife or our husband. He may appear with the authority of an employer or a government official. He could even appear as a nerdy, bullied, misunderstood teenager who just needs to let off a little harmless steam.

Satan is a liar. However he appears, whatever form he takes, will be false. Like a secret agent in wartime he disguises himself as a friendly when he is really an enemy.

What the Bible says about defeating evil

Evil looses

No matter how it may appear, the devil looses. In December of 1944 German forces fully encircled the Allied troops. The German commander promised to annihilate the US forces if they did not accept the surrender terms. The American commander refused.Four days later the reinforcements arrived. The refreshed troops attacked and drove the Germans back to where the battle began. Sometimes, in the moment, defeat may seem certain. Yet, for the one who perseveres, victory comes.

Jesus said:

and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:22

James wrote:

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

And Jesus said again:

Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Revelation 2:10

The Lord told Satan that he would loose. Speaking while the forbidden fruit was still fresh in their bellies God said:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

John says our faith is based upon our faith (1 John 5:4). Paul laughs in the face of defeat and asks “O death, where is your victory” (1 Corinthians 15:55). In the next verse he declares that God has given us the victory through “our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 56).

Satan looses.

So, what is evil? Evil is a real, but false force that seems to encompass us on all sides. It is always bad and never seeks good for mankind. It is our enemy and will be destroyed when the Lord returns. For us, we stand strong against every appearance of evil and await the glory that comes from our Lord. There is victory and it is coming.

Jesus’ Return and You Don’t Know When

Good people struggle with knowing when Jesus will come again. Stressful times make us long for the shattering of earthly chains and the flight to unknown realms. Like a child waiting to be picked up by his parents after a first overnight away from home, we are increasingly homesick as we await the Lord’s coming. Some people call his return The Rapture, although that term is not in the Bible. We are certain that Jesus will return, but we just wish we knew when he would show up.

Jesus is with us right now. He promised the disciples that he was with us always (Matthew 28:18, 19). But he also told us of another return, one that would swiftly take us to glory (John 14:1 – 4). He alone is the way to the Father – there is no other path (John 14:6). But because we do not know the time and date of his return, we must work in his kingdom until we see him come.

When is Jesus’ Return?

This is where we stumble. In our breathless anticipation of his victorious return, we assume too much. “These are signs of the times,” friends say, or “it’s time for Jesus’ to return!” Self-styled prophets declare a date certain for the end. People have been saying these things for millennia, and they have all been wrong.

Avignon, France, was a lovely village in 1348. It lies on the Rhone river, about 50 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. During the late Spring, the Black Death, Bubonic Plague, swept through the town.

“When Avignon ran out of ground, Clement consecrated the Rhone; each morning that plague spring, hundreds of rotting corpses would flow down the stream like a mysterious new species of sea creature.” So wrote John Kelly in The Great Mortality. He also reports that 7,000 homes within the city lay vacant because everyone inside was dead. One resident estimates 62,000 people died in the first four months of the year. (Kelly, pg 150). Many believed that the plague was mentioned in the Bible and was a sign of Jesus’ impending return or the Rapture.

But Jesus didn’t come then.

At about the same time (1337 – 1453), the so-called Hundred Years’ War (actually 116 years) claimed close to 3,000,000 dead. In recent history, World War II claimed close to 100,000,000 across six years of combat capped by the final detonation of two atomic bombs in Japan. Indeed such a deadly war with such a horrendous climax must signal the Lord’s return! J. Robert Oppenheimer, who lead the American project to develop atomic bombs, shed a tear when remembering the testing of those bombs. He quoted from the Hindu holy book, Bhagavad-Gita, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

But Jesus didn’t come then either.

William Miller, a founder of Seventh Day Adventism, announced that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. Many believed his false teaching, disposed of their possessions, and sat down to await the Lord’s return. When the day passed, such sadness followed that the date has come to be known as The Great Disappointment. Miller and those who followed him became targets of jokes, taunts, and even violence. The people who followed Miller were ordinary, everyday people. They were good folk who worked hard and attended church services. They were true believers of Miller. They were confident.

But Jesus didn’t come.

When we declare the coming of the Lord or declare so-called “signs of the times,” we give the world one more reason to laugh and hold us in derision. That may not matter to your faith, but it could throttle those considering coming to Jesus. Let us stick with what we know and accept what we do not. I know Jesus is coming, I don’t know when, but he will come.

A Dickens Reminder

God bless us every one” is the plea of little Tim Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol. Bobbi and I watched the Patrick Stewart version (George C. Scott is the best, just saying) last night. The lead character is Ebenezer Scrooge, a tight-fisted, always-grumpy banker who is visited by four ghosts. First, his deceased business partner, Marley, who warns of a mighty chain that Scrooge is weaving in the afterlife. Then three ghosts who come to prompt Scrooge to change before it is too late. Scrooge’s answer for the poor is to put them in prisons or workhouses. If they die, that will “reduce the surplus population.” Scrooge changes when he is forced to look upon the poor and downtrodden that fill 19th century London and when his own impending death is revealed.

A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 in London. Sharp socioeconomic divisions faced England. These divisions were the background for Dicken’s work. Mid-19th century London was not so different from early 21st century America. The lower economic class has grown poorer while the wealthiest have increased their assets.

The answer is not taxation, which only increases the wealth and the power of the political class, but true charity from Christians who give willingly and not by compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:7). Charity cannot be compelled.

Out of 230 nations, the CIA Factbook says the United States has the third-highest gross domestic product. In 2019, before COVID, Sally, elections, and divisions in the populace, just over 10% of our citizens lived in poverty.

Two-thirds of Americans report living paycheck-to-paycheck. Just one shutdown or one serious illness can destroy 110 million citizens.

Meanwhile, the stock market has soared almost 60% since its pandemic low in March (S&P index).

People become poor for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a layoff or termination, perhaps a sudden illness or accident. Some people are poor because of really bad decisions. Drugs, alcohol, and gambling hurt families at an alarming rate. Maybe surprisingly, the Bible doesn’t use a litmus test to determine who needs help. Maybe, because the victims of poverty often are not the cause of their poverty. Those who refuse to work are excluded (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but their children indeed are not.

Moses wrote, “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be” (Deuteronomy 15:7, 8). In verse 11, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” God’s wrath burns against those who abuse the poor: “The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord GOD of hosts” (Isaiah 3:14 – 15).

Jesus’ command to the young ruler of Matthew 19:21 was clear: Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  This underlines what Jesus previously said about our priorities. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19 – 21).

Last night,  after watching A Christmas Carol, Bobbi heard of a family that had been thrown out of the house where the four of them had been “couch-surfing.” This morning, It dropped to 25 degrees. Can you imagine the mother’s fear?

Thousands of currently employed, hard-working people are facing possible termination because of government-imposed lockdowns.

Many are in your zipcode.

What a mismatch between the happy crowds at the store who buy frivolities for the holidays and those who have less than nothing.

Remember the poor. Do what you can to help, for your work is of the Lord.

It’s So Hard

Nobody ever said righteousness was easy. No one ever claimed holiness was a breeze. The pursuit of godliness is probably the hardest thing you will ever attempt. What’s the old saying, “If it were easy, everyone would do it?”

Abraham struggled with honesty, as did his son, Isaac.

Noah got drunk.

David cheated with another man’s wife and then had him killed.

Peter was two-faced, and Paul was the foremost sinner.

It’s hard to do right. You may look at those guys and think, “Hey! I’m better than them!” Maybe. In some ways. But it’s not about us vs. them. It’s about Jesus and how well we mirror his image. That’s the idea, right? We are to be like him. Look at 1st Peter 1:15. Peter says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.‘”

Even preachers struggle. It’s nice to preach about love, hope, heaven, and glory, all sound biblical topics. It’s much harder to talk about sin, repentance, and hell, but those are biblical too and must be a part of any preacher’s repertoire. Why? Because that’s part of living godly. because it’s as much of God’s word as the easy stuff.

Have you ever repaired or installed drywall or sheetrock? Turn out the overhead light and shine a lamp at a sharp angle onto the wall. The slanted light will reveal every flaw in your work. That’s like the Bible. Scripture makes us uncomfortable because it reveals our failings and shortcomings. It is a bright light on our imperfect lives.

“Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

Luke 12:3

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Psalm 119:105

“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life”

Proverbs 6:23

On the other hand, the world calls gently to us, demanding nothing now but taking souls in the life to come. As Jesus said, Satan “is a liar” (John 8:44). His promises are sweet and pleasing to our ears. He tenderly convinces us that we are free to do as we please. His bite comes at the end, and we lose our souls eternally.

Consider Eve. Satan lied to her in Genesis 3:4. Look what happened.

Don’t forget. We are not alone in our pursuit of righteousness and holiness. Jesus walks with us daily – if we let him – and strengthens us in our battles. His power works in us to purify, sanctify, and consecrate us to his service (Philippians 1:6, 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 13:21).

No warrior ever walks alone. He is strengthened by training of those before, the memories of those who have fallen, and the spirit of his comrades. You are not alone. Jesus trains you through his word, has been here before, and walks alongside you today.

My purpose is to tell you not to give up. Do not surrender to your sinful desires. Reject the whispers of failure and inadequacy. Let those times of greatest temptation become times of greatest prayer and humility. Life is so hard. Lean on Jesus!

5 Ways to be a Christian After the Election

Chaos is the rule.

Trouble is brewing across the nation as we head into the final weekend of campaigning for the presidency of the United States. All of the congressional seats are up for grabs as are a third of the Senate seats. No matter what happens, somebody will be mad.

Philadelphia faces riots after the shooting of an African-American man. The protests are similar to what we saw earlier this year in the Northwest. ((Hurdle, J., Robertson, C., & Oppel, R. (2020, October 28). Days From Election, Police Killing of Black Man Roils Philadelphia. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/28/us/philadelphia-police-shooting.html)) In Washington D.C. protests turned violent after the death of a black man police were trying to stop. ((DeMarche, E. (2020, October 29). Protesters clash with DC police for second night over fatal moped crash. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://www.foxnews.com/us/protesters-clash-with-dc-police-for-second-night-over-fatal-moped-crash)) Armed adical right-wing and radical left-wing groups square-off to “protect” people from the opposing side. ((Fountaine, H. (2020, September 5). Armed group ‘patriots,’ local protesters face off near Jefferson Square Park. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/armed-patriot-group-local-protesters-face-off-near-jefferson-square-park/ar-BB18Km4h)) Thompson-Reuters news service reports that dozens of groups are preparing for protests, hopefully peaceful, depending upon the outcome of the election. ((Timmons, H., & Alper, A. (2020, October 29). Americans plan widespread protests if Trump interferes with election. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://news.trust.org/item/20201029090612-t69f4))

We could be facing civil unrest greater than many have ever witnessed. Christians must not contribute to the troubles. We are people of peace and witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether in-person or via social media we must not lend our voice to the voices of hate.

Be a Christian with your mouth

James says the tongue is incredibly dangerous.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

James 3:5-8

Inspired Solomon says it this way:

A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.

Proverbs 16:27

Christians must not use their tongue (or keyboards) to foment hatred and chaos in the aftermath of the election. The winner is unimportant. How we behave is vital.

Be a Christian; Be salt

Participating in the democratic process is a perfect way to be the needed salt and influence the direction of our country. It was Jesus who reminded us that we are the salt of the earth.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Matthew 5:13

Salt that does not function properly is useless! Don’t use your presence on social media to sow discord. Salt the conversation with words of goodness, hope, and courage. Let the world see your light so that they will give glory to God for what you have said (Matthew 5:14-16). Think about it! God can be glorified because of you! For those weaned on vinegar how wonderful to garnish them with a proper pinch of salt. Maybe I’m weird, but I’d rather people glorify God instead of Biden or Trump.

Be a Christian; Talk Jesus

Conversation is political. If you meet a friend in-person or talk with them online, it is probable that politics is the topic. Often, that chat is pleasant because we agree. Still, the topic is Trump or Biden, not Jesus.

When the original Christians were savagely attacked, they became refugees and went everywhere preaching Jesus (Acts 8:4). Even when unfairly arrested by the religious leaders, Peter and John responded with a lesson about Jesus (Acts 4:5-12).

It doesn’t matter how the election ends; if we don’t know Jesus we are absolutely, unquestionably lost!

Be a Christian; Wander

I read Hebrews this morning. I was struck by this verse:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

Hebrews 11:13

In verse 38 they are described as wandering about but always awaiting the promised glory. We must not become so comfortable with this world that we are not homesick for heaven. Albert Brumley penned the immortal words of the song that begins, “This world is not my home I’m just a passing through…” Let that be our daily anthem. The Biden’s Trumps, Obamas, Clintons, and Bushs are all just temporary. Wander to thoughts of glory!

Be a Christian; Be peace

It’s ironic that an internet search for “peacemaker” returns stories and images of the classic Colt M1873 revolver which was called “The Peacemaker.((Colt Single Action Army. (2020, October 07). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colt_Single_Action_Army)). Not far behind were pictures of the B36 bomber used during the Cold War Years.((Convair B-36 Peacemaker. (2020, September 23). Retrieved October 30, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convair_B-36_Peacemaker))

Christian peacemaking is different.

Jesus called us to peace and expected his people to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Wouldn’t it be great if we were known as people of reconciliation. What if we called for peace after the election? What if our bonding with Jesus were better known than our like for a particular candidate? What glory would flow to the Lord!

Some will claim that Jesus was no peacemaker and they will cite Matthew 10:34. Jesus claim had nothing to do with the everyday cares of the world and surely had no reference to politics! Jesus spoke of the conflict that between ultimate good and ultimate evil. The context is clear.

As I write this on Thursday and Friday before the election next week, I have no way of knowing the outcome. I will vote. Although I do not endorse candidates I suspect most know where I stand. I will promise my readers that I will be a beacon of light, a dash of salt and a voice of peace as I wander through our common future. Will you join me? Your comments are welcomed as always.