For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.John 5:21
Our world fails to understand the gravity of sin.
Then again, as The Book says, there is nothing new under the sun1. My Lord lived in the same world. The dates were different, the world population was smaller, and the day’s technological marvels would fail to impress the hyper-stimulated modern cynic.
Yet people haven’t changed in the slightest. From the temptation of Eve to the very second you read these words, human beings have underestimated the horror of sin.
To illustrate my point, Mark 2:1-2 tells of a time when four friends lowered their paralyzed buddy through the roof of a crowded building so he could see Jesus. Upon seeing the unfortunate fellow, Jesus declared to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
But the crowd wasn’t impressed until Jesus spoke again and the paralyzed man regained the use of his body.
In a similar way, our prayer requests often reflect a deeper fear of physical suffering than fear we will be guilty of gossip. We are afraid of being murdered while murdering people with our tongues. And yet the truth is, unless we accept the Son of God as our Master, we are already dead.
As it’s been said, Jesus didn’t come to show us how to be good. He came to breathe life into our animated corpses. This life and death dynamic is what I’ve been mulling over after reading and re-reading John 5 a few days ago.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.John 5:24
Friends, Jesus stepped down into a world ruined by sin and took a stand against this great death-bringer. For a time, He forsook His rightful glory and the joys of perfect union in the mysterious community of the Triune and lived as a man. He endured temptation as a man, but He alone never gave into it and so He alone was a fully living Man.
Because of this, His willingness to trade His singular purity secures value sufficient to cover our debt – for we have sinned and earned death; He refused sin and traded His matchless gift for our wages to any who will accept His offer2.
But we must choose to accept His gift of life.
Instead, we bicker and squabble over temporary concerns, pointing out specks in the eyes of others while ignoring the massive planks that blind us3. We pray for health and comfort while using both to drink down death, serving self instead of our Sovereign. In so many ways, we sin, and we do not see it for what it is – the truest and most horrible death. Because we are addicted to death, we refuse to submit to the One who came to offer life.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.John 5:39-40
Don’t miss out on this chance, friends. As the days darken and the rumbles of war send tremors across every land, don’t forget that all sin is death.
Sin is a gilded cage, a poison that tastes like ambrosia. The happiness it promises is fleeting at best, a hollow satisfaction all too easily imploding under the least pressure. Sooner or later, the sweetest sin gives its captives a taste of hell on earth – the flavor of death to taint this life with the enemy’s own eternal destination, one he wants you to share.
Misery, as is said, loves company.
But sin isn’t the victor unless you allow it. The Son of Man still stands ready to receive all who belong to Him. Even now, the One greater than Moses says, “I have set before you today life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life…4”
Turn away from your sin. You are only captive if you want to be. You can turn to the Son of God who came to give you life5 – a sweet taste of it here and now to infuse life’s sorrows with the essence of eternal joy in the presence of God. Jesus
Jesus alone can replace the musty tang of death with the delightful savor of life. But the choice is yours.
1Ecclesiastes 1:9; 2Romans 6:23; 3Matthew 7:3-5; 4Deuteronomy 30:19; 5John 10:10
Originally published for my church family as part of the Brentwood Baptist Daily Devotional.
Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”Luke 22:56-57
I would love to roll my eyes at Peter’s failure by the courtyard fire. After all, mere hours before this triple denial, the man had assured Jesus of his willingness to stick with Him even if it meant prison or death. Brave but hollow words that crumbled under the fierce strain of being noticed by – not a powerful official or Roman legionary – but a servant girl.
Yes, I would like to give a little self-satisfied chuckle at Peter’s crippling fear of the powerless. However, the truth is, I have been just as impulsive in my own walk with the Lord and just as faithless.
On a good day, full of the joy of the Lord and an awe-inspiring sense of His presence, I might swear my fealty, thoroughly convinced in mind and heart of my ceaseless devotion to Him. I will do anything – even die for you, Lord!
But am I truly willing to live for Him?
Like Peter, my denials are not in moments of intimate fellowship with the Lord but when I’m apart from Him, out in the cold and the dark and trying to determine my next steps. However, unlike Peter, my denials are subtle and more difficult to spot.
My repudiations are uglier and more hypocritical than Peter’s because they occur when my proclamations of Jesus fail to match my actual responses to both hardship and pleasure.
Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek when struck, but I’m more apt to strike back in anger when hurt – literally or verbally.
He calls us to lay down our lives for others, but my tendency is to defend my rights from them.
He commands us seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; I often prioritize comfort, convenience, or even entertainment.
He says forgive; I allow for bitterness and grudges.
And make no mistake, these actions and others like them deny the Lord’s trustworthiness and reality in far more destructive ways than words. By my idolatry of self and self-reliance, by seeking worldly things above His Spirit and Truth, and in all ways where my words of devotion to Him are proven empty, His worthiness and goodness are discredited to a closely watching world.
Oh Lord, forgive my unbelief and overcome it! Shape me into a truly faithful and dedicated disciple who exalts You always in both word and deed, amen.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- In what areas of your life do you deny the truth of our faith or the reality of Jesus by your actions or responses?
- How can you best show a world filled with anger, fear, and hopelessness that the hope we have in Jesus is true and worth any sacrifice?
- Pray for awareness of these sneaky denials in your life and ask for help in better aligning your life with the one Jesus gave us an example of by His.
For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.2Chronicles 20:12
This crazy year…
It’s possible I may ruffle a few feathers or step on some toes here, but may I say I’m an equal opportunity ruffler? I try to dishevel and tread equally without taking sides… except the Lord’s side. When it comes to the Way, the Truth, and the Life, I won’t budge a millimetre. I belong to Him, you see.
We kicked off 2020 with wildfires in Australia. Of course, there was also the now-standard biological dementia which is Relativism’s crowning achievement… and it’s all been downhill from there.
A global pandemic, COVID-19, brought widespread lock-downs and economic closures, disrupting the rhythms of an entire planet.
In its wake came economic instability, fear, and the inevitable conspiracy theories. These began a fatal feedback loop, drawing fear out of a tense environment, amplifying it, and pumping it back into the social current.
Thus was born COVID-Madness. Riding the wave of this new socio-psychological pathology came a series of social-media opinion wars cleverly disguised as “facts.”
The pandemic is real and will kill all of us. The numbers of COVID deaths are crazily high, killing more people than the seasonal flu – and here’s a graph to prove it.
NO, the numbers are inflated by the rich and powerful for… reasons. The flu kills more people – and here’s a graph to prove it.
You’re a hopelessly deluded sheep if you wear a mask in public.
You’re a callous, selfish humanity-hater if you don’t wear a mask in public.
People, we need a vaccine to fix this thing so we don’t all die!
No, the vaccine is an evil plot to microchip everyone and infect them with retroviruses so the rich and powerful can become richer and more powerful …
(…I suppose so they can spend their vaccine-inflated wealth burying everyone they slaughtered with their vile plan as they skillfully document graves via microchip technology, then dance about a lonely world populated solely by giant murder hornets and other wealthy mask-wearing vaccine-givers, clutching their money and laughing manically ???)
Thanks, guys. All very helpful and supportive. Really, we needed more division in the country. And this only gets us through April or so.
As if my country wasn’t already on edge, yet another series of what appeared to be racially-motivated killings slammed racial tensions back to the forefront. Many people I love who happen to have more melanin in their skin are hurting and angry – for good reason. I am hurting and angry.
I may be a white woman but I’m still human. So are my brown friends and family. The last thing I want is for a single one of them to be gunned down in the privacy of their home, chased down and shot in the streets, have the life literally squeezed out of them, or some other atrocity all due to a social sickness birthed in slavery and perpetrated by the bizarre human love-affair with evil, division, self, and sin.
Protests were begun – rightly so. But of course, peaceful protests have a tendency to morph into riots. Especially when a country is already pregnant with unrest from a pandemic, quarantines and lockdowns, disinformation wars, and financial trouble.
And July is just around the corner…
I confess: Some days I am just tired.
Tired of hearing angry rhetoric and useless hype.
Tired of social justice movements that ignore actual justice from the perspective of the One who not only made the world but is its sole rightful Judge. Not to mention bearing the only correct assessment of right and wrong by merit of creating all the things…
Tired of a Church too willing to adopt social trends and too lax in her handling of the Word of Truth. (Note: I don’t mean a specific church body but the American church in general here…)
Tired of a people who are too busy defending their opinions to listen to the voices of others; too busy to listen to the Voice of Truth.
Tired of trying to speak of my God only to find my voice is only adding to the global cacophony.
And yet, I dare not stop speaking. I dare not stop trying. Lives are at stake. Eternally.
Lord, guide my words and my heart. Let them both be pure before You and purely Yours. You are the answer – the ONLY answer – to the problems we face. And though we may not like to hear it, the answer lies not necessarily in the here and now but in eternity.
In this world, we will have trouble. You have promised it! But in Your Son and through Your Spirit, we may also have peace – shalom – and we can take heart, because Your Son has already overcome the world. Help me remember that no matter how large the horde of propaganda is, this battle is Yours and Yours alone, amen.
… Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.2 Chronic;es 20:15b
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)
What do you trust in?
It’s an important question as the world reels in uncertainty from the recent shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. Conspiracy theories abound, fear and suspicion mingle, defiance and frustration simmer, and no one seems to be able to get a firm handle on the truth.
Even before this microscopic menace shook the world, my nation already seethed with a sickly admixture of political posturing and spin-doctored semi-truths blended into our daily diet of news and memes.
It’s ironic that in the so-called “Information Age,” it’s become increasingly difficult to find useful information. Most data we are fed is tainted by the agenda of its handlers before being slanted by the agenda of it’s recipients.
Sometimes it seems we are living in a gigantic game of Telephone in which no one remembers either who went first or the words of the beginning message.
As a people, we are well primed for the time my Lord Yeshua (Jesus) warned His disciples against, when “…false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Mat. 24:24)
My brothers and sisters in Christ, now more than ever, we need to be both vigilant in understanding the signs of the times and diligent in accurately handling the truth. But even more, we need to take seriously the ambassadorship for the Kingdom we represent during our exile on earth.
So again as we face the unknown, I ask: What do you trust in?
Is it your freedom to choose or your rights? A political party or a system of government? Your local grocery store, a paycheck, the economy? Do you trust most in a spouse or a friend? Your parent or child? Good health?
Or do you trust most in the unchanging One, the Ancient of Days whose hands have formed you; who knows the length of your days; and whose love and mercy know no bounds?
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:5-8)
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God," My times are in Your hand... Psalm 31:14-15a
How is everyone holding up through this COVID-19 pandemic?
We are doing well here in my corner of the world. Huddled at home but not in fear, enjoying one another and leaning in to God.
This same God, by the way, has faithfully met our needs thus far. Not all of our wants – we are all being required to let go of those these days, huh? But we do not lack anything we need. We have food, water, clothing, and yes, even toilet paper.
He has also supplied joy, peace, and patience as we are compelled to be together almost constantly under one roof, living a different life in April than we could have guessed at in our wildest imaginings at the beginning of March.
Yes, life is uncertain these days; yes, there are shortages; yes, there is a great deal of misinformation and disinformation circulating; and yes, there is a staggering amount we do not know about what will happen.
But allow me to ask a question: How is this different than any other day? Only in our awareness of it. We feel out of control, reeling with uncertainty about what tomorrow may bring.
The truth its, all that’s really been lost is the illusion of control.
Just because a new virus stalks the world does not change this fact, though it has enhanced it. You and I, we never had control over our lives. We simply were surrounded by so much routine, so much accessibility, and so many things obtainable that we weren’t aware of it.
Yet even a month ago when we could pick up toilet paper any day on our way home from work or school, we had no guarantees of arriving home. On any given day, a vehicle accident could rob us of life. Or our hearts could cease to function. Or we could break our necks tripping over stairs as we bring the toilet paper into the house. Or one of dozens of other “what ifs” could happen.
Over sixteen years ago, my life was altered by a virus. Not COVID-19 but viral meningitis landed me in the hospital and triggered a chronic headache condition accompanied by chronic fatigue. And yet, I still do not fear this new threat.
Why? Because I trust in the One who holds my times in His hands. The illusion of control had already been stripped from me only to be replaced by an experience of חֶסֶד (chesed); of the steadfast and unwavering love of the Lord God.
For over sixteen years, He has continually been showing me how good He is, how He can provide, how He does wonders even in the midst of unrelenting pain, how His strength is truly perfect in my overwhelming mental, physical, and emotional weakness.
I not only believe these things to be true, I have lived their truth. I know them like I know my way around my house.
Friend, if you are anxious or afraid, if you feel trapped in uncertainty or by addiction or sin, you don’t have to be. I invite you today to turn it all over to the One who holds our times in His powerful and unchanging hands.
He isn’t asking you to give up control but telling you He is the one who has control, not you.
He isn’t asking you to give up fun but ready to show you true joy and fun are not found in the sin which promises so much and yet produces only temporary pleasure at best, a permanent prison at worst.
He is here in this pandemic, waiting for You to accept the gift of salvation in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ who died to set you free from sin’s clutches.
In Him alone can you find freedom from fear, joy in His presence, pleasure forevermore.
You are invited, friend, but you have to decide: Cling to your illusions? Or trust in the One who made all things and in Whom all things hold together?
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.Joshua 1:8-9
This was among the first passages of Scripture I memorized with my kids back in our homeschooling days.
Today after an incredibly appropriate virtual church service, I watched the kids belonging to a friend and her worship team. While I had this captive, non-teenage audience, I had a little Q and A time with them concerning Moses and Joshua. I briefly told them about when Joshua began to lead Israel following Moses’s death, and I tried to quote this memory verse.
It seems Ms. Heather needs to get back into practicing her memory work. The old memory just doesn’t work so well these days.
Anyway, I’m sure the words were comforting to Joshua when the Lord spoke them to him. They can be equally comforting to us today.
Who knows what the future holds? Some schools are closed, some are not. The grocery store shelves are barren of toilet paper and other random items. Major league sports teams have called off upcoming games. People are scared.
But you know what? God saw this coming. As a matter of fact, there’s a bit of ironic proof it you want to go back and click on the link above to hear the message my family listened to this morning!
If we belong to the Lord, there is nothing to fear. This could be a good time – a very good time – for us to lay down all our frantic distractions and listen to Him.
I can’t help but note that when He assured Joshua of His presence before he went in to take the Promised Land, He also reminded the man to continually meditate on the Book of the Law and be careful to do it.
We have that Book of the Law and so much more; we have the full counsel of the Word of God within arm’s reach in paper or in digital form. We even have a luxury Joshua would have lacked – our choice of translation.
Folks, we don’t have to learn ancient Hebrew to read it (although there’s a much greater depth to it in Hebrew than English can fully capture). We don’t even have to read it at all. We can open the Bible app and have a stranger read it to us. We have no real excuses!
Let’s take this time as a gift – an enforced Sabbath for all the decades and decades of Sabbaths we’ve ignored – and spend more time in the Word.
I know this gal is going to spend a bit more time meditating on it than I have in recent years. The shocking failure of my memory today served to bring that neglected area to the forefront of my attention.
I can’t wait to see what else God brings to mind in the days and weeks to come. I’m sure He’ll reveal other areas where I need to be more faithful or where I need to repent and obey.
I don’t think it will be easy. But I know God and whatever He does, I know it will be good.
And I know there’s no reason to be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go – even if I go nowhere.
If you don’t have that assurance, get into His word and do business with Him today. Why wait? With no sports to distract you and fewer excuses than ever before, take this gift of time and get serious about eternal matters.
I’ll look forward to hearing your stories of how God used the coronavirus pandemic for His glory, whether you choose to share them here or we talk them over in eternity. But don’t delay. Let’s get serious about God and see how seriously good the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob really is.
While you’re meditating on His Word, get outside and explore the world He’s created. You may find some of His fingerprints along the way.
PS – The photo is not a virus, nor is it an alien seed like I told the kids, but it is a fungus. I found it today while walking around my back yard with a one-year-old watching his older friends running and playing. Curious about it? Check out Detective Gluck’s blog post to learn more!
…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7
It’s true that I have not yet faced what can truly be called “persecution” in my Christian walk. Oh, I’ve had a little mockery here and there, but unlike so many of my fellows, I have also enjoyed the luxurious freedom to read my Bible every single day. I am able to purchase numerous commentaries, Bible translations, and Bible study materials. Not only that, but I meet frequently and openly with others to discuss the Word, to pray, and to worship — and I am able to do all these things without fear of being arrested, beaten, slaughtered, or having my offspring taken into state custody.
Still, persecution has been on my mind lately. For one thing, my heart breaks to hear of the pain and the wretchedness experienced by so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ overseas. And while I live in a free land at present, I have enough of a grasp of history to understand the changeable and uncertain nature of governments, borders, and empires. My current freedoms are neither guaranteed nor even likely to last for many more generations, and I cannot promise my children that the relatively friendly world we operate within will be there for the remainder of our lives.
It is a sobering fact that one thing Christians are guaranteed in this life is persecution. In the same letter that today’s opening Scripture came from, Paul also assured Timothy, “Indeed,all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived,” (2 Timothy 3:12-13).
Does that scare me? If I am honest, I must admit that it frequently does. However, we who are in Christ are given another guarantee, one that should help us to endure even the most heinous of circumstances; one that I hang on to when fear constricts my heart. Summed up, it is the guarantee that whatever we endure here and now will be worth the hope of eternity we look forward to once we have cast aside these old tents and taken up residence in our true homes.
We have this guarantee in the words of Jesus, whose sacrifice ensured that the suffering of those who are in Him will not last for eternity: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 We also have it in Paul’s letter to another ancient church, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
So I keep these things in mind. For now, I enjoy my freedoms. I relish my time in the Word and savor public worship and prayer meetings. I am also preparing both myself and my children for what may come, knowing full well that we may or may not live to see true persecution on this hemisphere of the globe.
Whether we ever see persecution or not, we are still called to be a people prepared, and so I pray daily for my family: for our sanctification, for deeper devotion, for stronger, genuine faith. I also spend time reading and reveling in the Word and encouraging my children to do so. We actively memorize and rehearse Scripture, hiding it in our hearts both so we might not sin against God and because of the possibility that what we have stored in our hearts may someday be all we have access to.
I also remind myself constantly that my God has not given me a spirit of fear. I can trust Him. I do not look forward to persecution, but neither should I let the dread of it weigh on my mind, color my decisions, or keep me from living boldly for my God even if it someday means suffering unflinchingly for Him. He has already suffered unflinchingly for me.
So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6