60 Second Devos | December 5

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

I want to look at anointer pointer from the Old Testament. This time we’re going to jump ahead to Exodus. In Exodus, we find the story of Moses, and a lot of historical things that happened but also spiritually significant things. Today I want to specifically focus on Exodus 12, which is the institution of the Passover.

At the Passover, God had the children of Israel take a lamb without spot or blemish. They slaughtered the lamb and they painted the doorposts and lintels of their houses with the blood. When the Destroyer saw the blood, he passed over their house.

Fast forward to the New Testament. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’

John 1:29-30

You guys, when we are in this world without Jesus, we are enslaved to our sin. Anybody who has had an addiction knows this; we are slaves to sin.

Jesus came to set us free from that, but we have to submit to His blood. We have to cover ourselves with His blood, metaphorically – with His sacrifice – to know that we can be free.

60 Second Devo | December 4

The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

Exodus 12:13

Genesis 22 records the time God told Abraham to do something shocking – to sacrifice Isaac, the son of the promise that he had waiting for for so long, and the one through whom all those blessings would come. And yet, Abraham was willing.

We also see Isaac was willing. Genesis 22 tells us that Isaac carried the wood, and if he was strong enough to carry the wood, he

60 Second Devo | Advent | December 3

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

The LORD said to Abram: Go from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12:1-3

Today we’re jumping ahead to Genesis 12, where God calls a man named Abram. He tells him to leave behind his father’s house, to go to a land God will show him. He tells him that He will make him a great nation, make his name great; He promises to bless all who bless him and curse those who curse Abram.

And He tells him the coolest thing: “Through you, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” That promise points to Jesus.

Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, and through Him, all the nations of the earth are blessed. But the blessing is a gift that has to be accepted. If it’s rejected, there’s no blessing.

But if we accept the gift, then God calls us out of the pagan nations we live in (This is meant in a metaphorical sense. We don’t literally move out, but we turn our allegiance from worldly practices and cultural norms and turn to God) to follow Him to a Land He will show us someday.

We have to leave behind all the sin that clings so closely and walk in obedience to Jesus. Then through Him, we will be blessed for all eternity!

60 Second Devo | Advent | December 2

I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.

Genesis 3:15

In today’s 60-second devo, we’ll be in Genesis 3.

Genesis 3 records where Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, chose to disobey God’s one command. By doing so, they let sin and death into the world, unleashing a torrent of horrors caused by the ripple effects of all the sins of all the people throughout all the ages. All the evil we see in the world around us today – all the suffering, all the horror – can ultimately be traced back to that one event.

And right there in Genesis 3:15, God records this prophecy. He had a plan.

Now you and I, when we make a mistake, maybe we screw up a drawing or mess up a recipe, we’ll throw it out most of the time. But not God!

Of course the analogy fails because God didn’t make the mistake – people did. He had every right to destroy His rebellious creatures – but He didn’t.

Instead, He put a plan into place that was unbelievable. He Himself would come save the creation; the people He made in His image.

That plan is the hope of Advent.

My second goofy attempt to share daily devotions with my college kids.

60 Second Devo | Advent | December 1

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:3

Advent is a season of waiting.

We wait on Christmas, and while we do we remember the Jews once waited on their Messiah -though many didn’t recognize Him when He came.

But He did come – as a baby – the miraculous Son of God and Son of Man, born of a virgin with no biological father yet mysteriously fully man and fully God. He came, He fulfilled the OT Law, He died as a sacrifice, and He rose again.

Now we look forward to the Day he will come again. It will surely come; it will not delay.

Wait for it.

Knock, Knock: Introducing Myself

An Open Letter

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Heather Davis, I live in the USA, and I am a Christian.

I know the Christian church has a poor reputation these days. She hasn’t always behaved as she should; a fact which breaks my heart. For my part, I am deeply sorry for it, and I hope and pray you have never suffered genuine hurt at her hands. I have, and so have many of my family members, so I can relate if you’ve been wronged at or by the church.

By now, I’ve walked with the Lord for two decades, and one thing He has taught me is that the people of His church are flawed. This includes me. I have deep flaws and have been guilty of not treating others as I want to be treated, along with a list of other crimes.

If we are honest, I believe we are all guilty of wrongdoing. Yet despite our guilt, God loves us. But because He is both holy and just, He cannot let crime go unpunished, nor should He.

His Word tells us what we earn by our rebellion against Him is death. There is also good news in this Book: death is the wage Jesus accepted on my behalf and on behalf of all who will put their trust in Him and let God once more be in charge. This is how He designed us to live.

One thing I’ve learned is that although the church is flawed and full of failings just as I am, it is important – nay, imperative – to judge Christianity by the Christ and not by the Christian.

The church is nothing more than a group of people Jesus has redeemed who are all in various stages of learning to love Him, obey Him, and deny themselves their selfish tendencies. Some are near pros, others are novices. Some are even fakes.

Although I have been hurt, I have also learned to love the church despite her flaws just as Jesus loves me despite mine.

And so, reader, as one restored by Christ to a right relationship with my Creator, I apologize for any and every actual wrong His church may have done to you. I also offer my time to discuss the amazing ways I’ve seen God at work in my life over the years. Many of these are recorded in the archives of this blog.

I invite you to share in my life and ask your hard questions about God. I don’t have all the answers, but I believe in being a safe place to talk about them. You see, if Christianity is true (as I firmly believe it is), it’s literally a matter of life and death, not just a preference or a coping mechanism.

That is both my conviction and my assurance, and I love to share it with others.

In the love of Jesus,
Heather

Like Trees Walking

And [Jesus] took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when He had spit on His eyes and laid His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

Mark 8:23-24, ESV

Healing the Blind

I love the Gospel accounts of Yeshua (Jesus) healing the blind because I know He’s in the same business today. For any who are willing, my Lord still heals spiritual blindness – a blindness far more profound than the mere absence of sight. Of all the blind men He healed, the one that resonates most with me is the healing recorded in Mark 8:22-25.

Distorted Vision

Mark’s account is singular in that Yeshua’s healing did not seem to “take” at first. This unnamed fellow’s sight did not immediately return. Instead, he began to see in stages, and his first glimpse of the world offered a distorted image of reality.

I can relate because I also began to see in stages after the Lord first touched me. He did not heal the abysmal spiritual darkness in me all at once. Instead, my first glimpses of the real world remained distorted by the lens of secular humanism I first embraced as a teenager.

The humanist worldview led me to view life as a silly option and death as the more logical choice. The more I saw through this murky lens, the darker life grew until blackness reigned unchallenged.

Worldview Breakdown

Secular humanism provides insufficient answers to questions of mankind’s purpose and meaning. Their efforts to touch these concepts lead in circles, much like Pooh and Piglet following their own tracks in the snow.

In adulthood, questions began to buffet me in the thick darkness of my chosen worldview:

  • If the end justifies the means, then why does my conscience prick me when I cause someone pain? 
  • If mankind sets the standard for right and wrong, what man gets to set it?
  • When others use me and I feel wronged, am I right or are they?
  • When social standards change, does right and wrong change, too?
  • Is life built on such an unstable foundation as all this?
  • If man is the measure of all things, then what’s the point?
  • Why bother with life at all?

Years spent groping in this philosophical darkness brought no peace but only multiplied my confusion. And quite frankly, the longer I groped in this darkness, the less sense the humanist worldview made.

As I rode the fluctuating and unstable tide of humanistic morality, I knew deep inside there must be a true right and a true wrong. Without a changeless absolute truth, life was purposeless, chaotic, and ultimately meaningless.

The moral question became one of life or death for me.

Beginning to See

This is where Yeshua found me.

He began to heal my spiritual blindness, but at first I saw neither Him nor His truth clearly. Instead, I saw a distorted version of reality blurred by drab layers of humanistic philosophy. At the Lord’s first touch, I saw enough to know He was there although I saw Him only dimly.

It took several applications of the Word of Truth before I saw clearly. And what I discovered was the world, seen through the crystal-clear truth of the Maker of all things, =made a startling, stark sense.

What About You?

I don’t know where you stand, friend. I don’t know if you see Yeshua through His Word or if you see an obscure shadow of Him; a man like a tree walking around. But I pray He will heal you fully so you may see the beauty of the Light of the World and all He illuminates.

Let’s Talk About S–

Sin. I want to talk about sin. Get your mind out of the gutter, ya perv.

Seriously, though, we really don’t talk much about sin anymore, and I think I know why.

As humans, we have an innate understanding of right and wrong. Over time, this understanding becomes twisted by our pride, distorted by repeated suppression, and is subject to a myriad of other deformations. Yet somewhere deep inside, we all know certain things are wrong – even if we only recognize them as a wrong when done to us.

They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them

Romans 2:15

The general term for this understanding is conscience. And like any other human part, it can become scarred-over and calloused until there’s no feeling left.

Which brings us to today.

Instead of sin, we talk about things like lifestyle, my truth, or even illness. Much air is expended discussing our battles or our challenges. When confronted with wrongdoing, Christian influencers may confess their struggles. . . but not their sin.

It’s true we do go to battle against our sinful inclinations; we must struggle against temptation to sin. And yet, more often than not, the words are not used in this way but rather as a clever dodge to avoid responsibility. A struggle or a lifestyle is much more palatable than a willful crime.

What we’re missing in this subtle semantic waltz is the gravity of sin.

Sin is a killer. Period.

Sin is ugly. It is rebellion against the Maker; treason against the King; a refusal of the creation to perform its function as it was designed.

Sin lies. It cheats us of true life. It steals joy and covers it up in an endless, wretched pursuit of meager happiness and fleeting pleasure.

And no matter what name we give to make it sweeter to say, sin leads to death. In fact, death is what the sinner earns – as surely as you earn your paycheck from your employer.

For the wages of sin is death. . .

“But I’m not dead,” you may say, and perhaps you’re right. I wonder, though: can you honestly tell me you have a single relationship that hasn’t suffered a kind of death? Was any type of harm ever done to you by another person? Have you ever harmed another, even mildly?

Death of trust, death of respect, death of joy, of reputation, commitment, communication. Death everywhere we look, if we look with honesty. Even the cooling of affections is a kind of death.

Friends, this horror covers only one kind of death. The rot of sin goes far deeper than this.

. . . but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 6:23)

The good news is, we don’t have to accept death. We can talk about our sin; confess it, repent of it, and be set free in Christ. Expose the canker of sin to the fresh air of truth.

It may hurt, it may be embarrassing, but I can tell you from experience there is no cleaner pain. Like debriding an infected wound, the momentary torment is nothing compared to the relief of healing.

Let’s confess our sin to God our Healer and turn away in true repentance, trusting in the work of the Son of God to break the chains of sin and make us really free.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Romans 6:22

Figs From Thistles

If you’ve ever done any gardening, you’ll know how similar seeds can look. If one were to, say, spill opened seed packets of zucchini and pumpkin. . .

Well. One would have quite a mess of identical-looking, flat, off-white seeds. The only recourse would be to plant them and wait to see what sprouted.

And while our fictitious gardening klutz may not know where to expect zucchini and where to expect pumpkins, she can at least be certain none of her mixed-up seeds will produce oranges.

This is one way I used to introduce the “Fruit of the Spirit Project” to my photography students, complete with samples of the seeds. But the lesson portion isn’t just for students of photography. It’s one I learned from the Master Teacher, Himself (that would be the Holy Spirit), and I wanted to share it with you.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

Many of us read Galatians 5:22-23 as if it were a checklist of character traits to work on. Today, I need to try to be more patient. Tomorrow, I’ll cultivate kindness or set my mind to being more gentle.

I used to do the same. What I learned from my endeavors is that trying to produce these attributes on my own is as practical as trying to grow a unicorn tree or teach my puppy finite math.

Instead, we ought to consider those nine characteristics as evidence.

In truth, we are utterly incapable of growing the fruit of the Spirit with even our most valiant efforts. Why? Because it’s the fruit of the Spirit.

It isn’t a list of things we can work on; it’s the proof of the work of the Spirit in us.

Just like our fictional horticultural friend from earlier will discover where her pumpkin seeds were planted by the evidence of pumpkins, so the fruit of the Spirit is evidence that the Holy Spirit is “planted” in us.

This is not to say we will have a full harvest of completely mature, perfectly ripened fruit all at once. It simply means if we are not continually growing in love, joy, peace, patience, and so on, the evidence points to a lack of the Holy Spirit in us. If these traits are increasing in our lives – even if they are very wee and not much to boast about – well, growth is growth. God will give the increase.

Or as our Lord put it:

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.

Matthew 7:16-17

The fruit of the Spirit is evidence of the work God is doing within us. If you lack it, don’t despair. Ask God to give you His Spirit, then ask for help hearing and obeying His voice. Let Him do the growing. Just be sure make your life fertile ground.

Labor of Love: A Former Teacher’s Thoughts on Teacher Shortages

Disclaimer: I’m not a real teacher.

That is to say, I’ve had little formal training as a teacher; never took courses towards a teaching degree even during my miniscule collegiate experience; and never harbored even the teensiest trifling thought of teaching anyone anything on any basis before my Lord called me to homeschool our little brood of three.

So by the current American view of what it takes to be a “professional” teacher, I’m not one. But I have played one in various contexts. In doing so, I’ve discovered three facts that make me appreciate teachers even more.

Fact #1

Teaching is less a job and more of a lifestyle.

Most teachers are required to have a college degree. Some places even require them for preschool – a truth which never ceases to boggle my mind (as if your average, non-substance-addicted human being isn’t capable of teaching the alphabet, letter sounds, and color recognition !!).

Yet I doubt any degree can prepare you for the actual job. Despite the classroom time, most teachers spend hours arranging and decorating the classroom itself (often partly out of the teacher’s own pocket).

Untold hours are devoted to grading, brainstorming new ways to present key concepts, licensing requirements, helping with athletic events or drama productions, attending meetings, and so on. For many teachers, an average day begins around 7:00 a.m. and often extends past 9:00 p.m.

And despite the stigma, not many teachers take summers completely off. Summer is a time to sleep past sunrise and do some lesson plans and/or curriculum tweaking without the pressure of skipping lunch or prepping for that kid who simply will not stay on task.

And that’s for teachers who are supplied a curriculum. Some of us write our own.

Fact #2

The teaching lifestyle is not highly profitable.

One former teaching colleague graduated with a degree in data science and was asked to step in to fill a sudden gap in the math department during the school year. And he loved the job – until he moved out of his parents’ house.

College degrees are not cheaply obtained, and teacher salaries make the payback difficult for those who enjoy eating every day. Not only is teaching not for everyone, it isn’t affordable for many of us.

Fact #3

Teachers often burn out from fighting battles on too many fronts.

American teachers are often treated as the enemy – or even the servant of the enemy – rather than as the professional, hard-working, child-loving human beings most of them are.

Even in the very warm and wonderful environment I taught in, I experienced a few parents who reminded me of my waitress days and what I always called “low priority customers” – something to think about next time you’re treating your waiter as an inferior being. 😉

In social settings, I’ve spoken with well-meaning parents who simply cannot grasp why a teacher with fifteen or thirty other kids can’t provide the one-on-one time their little Charlie or Susie needs to flourish. It’s as if some folks indulge a bizarre belief that a teaching degree confers upon a person the ability to sidestep the space/time continuum and also perform actual sorcery.

The truth is, most teachers have bent over backwards so often, a side gig as a sideshow freak is a viable revenue stream.

If little Charlie or Susie were the only child with unique needs, it would be possible to help. But close to 15% of today’s kids have some type of learning challenge, while the rest of them are dealing with the heaviness of modern life. The teacher is left trying to present the day’s lesson multiple ways, competing with near-invisible earbuds and fifty-million video game hacks while still giving individualized attention to several kids – all in less than an hour.

Of course, this is assuming the day goes smoothly and there are no external distractions. Which happens, well. . . never.

Support Your Teachers!

If you are a Christian, please remember we are called to treat others as we would like to be treated and to consider others as more important than ourselves. This includes teachers, even if they are getting paid a few coins to shape and mold the minds of our future.

If you are not a Christian, you are still human. You may not have the motivation of realizing Jesus died to pay for all those horrible things you’ve done (though He DID, and He’s always willing for you to accept the free gift of eternal life from Him), but you can still be a decentish human.

Just be nice to your kids’ teachers. Please.