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His Sacrifice

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15

Gracious God this morning I rose thinking of the Son you sent to save us.  I remembered the pain He endured to show His everlasting and deep love for us.  You created this plan and He completed it.  In remembrance of that day I sit in awe and wonder at your glorious ways.  Amen

Over the course of 30 years a survey was undertaken asking high school and college students if they would first try to save their dog or a stranger.  I’m disturbed to report that 2/3 have always voted against saving the person.  In newer studies, adults now vote similarly.  How would you vote if asked the same question?

This study was posted online awhile back and I went to the comments section to see what people had to say.  I shouldn’t have.  It was more disturbing.  People condemning others for being “evil,” “cruel,” and “vile.”  Strangely enough, they didn’t put themselves in those categories!  The folks that would pick an animal over a human (now certainly there would be instances we all might do the same.  Say a person has just attacked you and your dog) fail to see their decision makes them complicit in devaluing human life.

What the surveyors have surmised is the lack of Judeo-Christian values in a person’s life or the watering down of those teachings increases making moral decisions based on our feelings.  In addition, a belief in God elevates human worth over that of animals.  Without that, we see the image of God brought down to having no more value than a squid.

“9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

Throughout the Bible we are reminded that humans were God’s special creation.  So special that He gave us dominion over the earth.  The earth serves us, not the other way around as some would say.  When this understanding of the world’s creation is thrown out the window it’s no wonder the people of this world have turned everything upside down!

A number of my Christians friends have struggled with the fact that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son.  We either secretly or out loud say we hope God never asks us to do something so difficult.  Yet every day parents see their children in the military risk their lives for us.  Police officers, firefighters, lifeguards and others put their lives on the line for strangers.  Because they believe we are worth saving.

The Bible is one of the most tested and proved documents in all history.  And God’s work is all around us to see proof of His ways.  There is little to no dispute that Jesus walked this earth.  Or even that He died a horrible death on the cross.  And whether or not a person believes He rose and ascended into heaven everyone should understand that He went to the cross that day for us.  He spoke over and over about the plan ahead for Him.  He didn’t die because He wanted fame.  He didn’t die to save the whales.  He didn’t die because of some terrible crime He committed.  The Father sent His Son to die to save us.  Because, thank God, He believes we are valuable. And just as our first verse reminds us, we aren’t saved just to be saved, but to spread the Word so that yes, even strangers are saved.

Friend, God in His glorious ways made us special.  I love my dog, Tucker, but he won’t seek justice for me and he won’t take up arms to protect me.  God made us in such a way that we can even ponder these moral thoughts.  He made us so when faced with difficult decisions we can decide on A, B or even A and B.  It depends on if you love God’s creation as much as He does.

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Brain Power

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26

It’s a sad state we find ourselves in where you can get more sympathy for killing cows than human babies.  According to the American Life League more than 61.8 million children have been aborted since 1973.  The elevation of animals over humans sees countless protests for using animals for food as “good” yet protests in front of an abortion clinic as “bad.”  Any Christian who has submitted themselves to the Word of God can easily read God’s directives in Genesis where He has given man, not only caretaking responsibility but also the use of animals and plants as sustenance.  

To be placed in this position by God required making humans unique.  Not only did He give us the concepts of right and wrong along with various emotions but also higher brain power.  While I dearly love my dog Tucker, he will only ever reach a certain level of intelligence.  He’s pretty smart —  kinda like a two year old child.  Which makes him smart and dopey at the same time!

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15

Even someone who we might consider to be the least intelligent among us or someone  with a mental disability excels in mental capacity from the beasts of the earth.   As humans we can be ever thankful for God giving us brains that create and understand justice, morality, empathy, love, anger, sadness, our mortality and beauty.  Our ability to not just dream of the future but to create a path to that future, be it a new building,  a new method for delivering products, designing a rocket, or figuring out how to explore the  depths of the sea, sets us on top of the list of the living things on this planet.  God created a brain so unique in this world that it even knows how to analyze itself!

What a great gift He has given us humans!  I’m so thankful for the responsibility He has given us because with it comes the tools to be great stewards of His creation.

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Contend for the Faith

Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  Hebrews 10:33-35

Our country has become a virtual cafeteria of different religions, cults, and non-Christian world views that are all vying for supremacy on America’s religious landscape.  Our country is also currently confronted by many tough domestic and global issues.  We need Christian wisdom and biblical discernment as never before.  

Ron Rhodes, 5 Minute Apologetics for Today

That phone call that dreary night will never be forgotten, at least by me.  And I wasn’t even the person in trouble.  I wasn’t the one who desperately needed to hear the right words to save a life.  But I was in need of knowing the right words to say.  And because I didn’t have the wisdom, the strength of faith I have now, I must take part of the blame for ending a life that night.  

My friend’s voice was filled with desperation.  She was pregnant.  She was also just 19, a college student far from home, a woman who was having an affair with a married man (who had also gotten another woman pregnant).  I had counseled her before, over and over, trying to get her to stop seeing this man.  He was slimy and untrustworthy.  But of course, he was oh so different with her – a genuine prince apparently.  And so, a life of unwanted, unprepared motherhood was staring at her in the face.  What would she tell her parents?  How could she show her face?  My immediate response? “You must get an abortion of course.”  

This young woman who dreamed of being married one day and having many children was looking for a way to erase her mistakes.  To reboot her dream of becoming a nurse first then having a family.  And I helped her take what seemed to be the easy path.  We washed our hands of it all and moved forward with both our lives.  But I have never forgotten what I did.  And I doubt she has either.

I wasn’t a Christian at the time but I was a member of the human race.  A person that valued fairness and justice.  A person who for the most part thought she was a “good person.”  I had no one in my life telling me different, showing me a different way.  It wasn’t until I drew closer to Jesus that I realized how far from the truth I was really living.  

The problem was I then swung too far in the other direction.  I took up the mantle of “truth” and forgot about the Royal Commandment – to love one another.  And I think when we Christians get ourselves mired in political and social issues we can forget about that place of balance that God seeks for us.  We can forget about what we are really needing to accomplish in God’s name.

In the United States, the Republican/conservative/right leaning parties are automatically associated with Christians.  And yes, there are many of the same values involved.  But to assign our faith to one political party’s platform is a mistake in so many ways.  For one, it politicizes the message of Jesus. For another it assumes that all party stances are within the biblical realm.  It also assumes there aren’t people in other parties that profess their Christian faith.  

And so, when we come personally up against a faith/biblical/moral issue we may frequently pull back from our commission of helping others out of a sin-filled life because we don’t want to be labeled a “right winger,” a “bigot,” a “nut job” or any other derogatory statements.

To be fair, too many of our churches have either abdicated their responsibility to teach their flock about so many hot button issues such as homosexuality and abortion and how to respond correctly.  While others have so politicized their churches you can’t tell the difference on a Sunday between a patriot rally and a sermon.

A new friend of mine told me how she was visiting various churches trying to find a new church home.  One visit took place on the 4th of July – the U.S. Day of Independence.  As she stood for the beginning worship, she noticed all the songs were patriotic ones.  And when the US flag was marched in by worshippers, she got up to leave.  At the door the pastor stopped her and asked why she was leaving.  Her response?  “I came to worship God, not the United States.”  She loves her country but her love of God doesn’t have anything to do with her country.

And so, like the women in my Bible study groups we ask questions that our churches fail to address or in the way they need to be addressed.  We feel safe to dig deep into what the Bible truly says about homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, and more.  But we aren’t theologians – that’s why we go to church.   To hear the Word of God taught to us in ways we can turn around and use them out in the world.  It’s sad, to be honest, to hear Christians desperate for knowledge and yet left unfed week after week.

One of the ladies in my study group recently had a profound breakthrough related to this topic.  She is very sweet and prides herself on creating good relationships.  But she realizes her desire to not “rock any boat” has also been an excuse for not speaking the truth + love when it is needed most.  “I’ve realized that in the past I had the excuse of being naïve as to the expectation of what God wants from me.  But I can’t use that excuse anymore.  I know he wants me to contend for the faith.  I know what is truly at stake.  I’m now struggling to see what that looks like for me,” she said.

I’m not going to take each major issue facing our world today because I am not a theologian with lots of important degrees to back up my words.  But I will direct you to the steps you might take to be better prepared when your friend tells you their daughter wants to start hormone treatments to become a man.   Or, when your co-worker tells you that having a nice house in a nice neighborhood is white privilege and you should be ashamed.  We also need to be prepared to step back and know when a political issue maybe doesn’t have any biblical connection at all and just must be looked at from a “good citizen” point of view.  Because yes, not everything we deal with is a faith hill to die on – but how we deal with those issues is.

You’ll remember at the beginning of this post I referenced the book 5 Minute Apologetics for Today.  It was written in 2010.  But you’ll find most of the issues we face currently.  It’s a great, easy read for giving us biblical perspectives.  In addition, here are 4 steps that were recently explained in my current Bible study on Jude.  

As background, Jude (Jesus’ brother) was writing to a church that was infiltrated by false teachers.  Teachers who were leading lives and encouraging believers to give themselves over to sexual immorality and more.  Towards the end of his letter, before he tells the believers how to confront the false teachers, he gives them these four pieces of advice:

  1. Build up your knowledge and confidence in the Word.  Learn about and study the Bible, God’s character, His promises and the judgment to come.  Be immersed by also finding a good biblical teaching church – not one that just tells you some good stories each week.  Join Bible studies and do the work! Jude 20/Eph 2:19
  2. Pray not in the flesh but in the Spirit.  Go to the Holy Spirit and ask for help in what to pray.  By doing so you’ll show God your dependence on Him.  Ask for help in knowing what issues you should be concerned about and which you should just leave alone. Jude 20/Rom 8:26-27
  3. Keep yourself in the love of God.  Fight to resist your own passions and doctrine that keeps you separated from God.  Lean into God for His promises and His direction. Jude 21/John 15:9
  4. Stay in the hope of the mercy that is waiting for you.  As Jackie Hill Perry says about this, “We have been saved from God’s wrath for God.”  The knowledge and hope of what is to come when Jesus returns should feel like a protection.   We have something better in store for us than man’s approval.  We need to keep our sights on this so the persecution we might face doesn’t silence us. Jude 21/Heb 11:25-26

On a final note, I want to encourage you to do a study on Revelation.  It helps to do it with others.  Don’t just read Revelation.  It’s probably too confusing to be honest.  A good study with people you trust will reveal to you what so many of our churches seem to fail to remind us each and every week – that judgment is coming to all.  We have a greater commission than just being “nice Christians.”  We are commissioned to help God save souls.  We might want to start in our own households.

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Sojourners & Exiles

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:4

We Christians are sojourners and exiles.  This is not where our ultimate allegiance lies!  

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

We certainly aren’t lacking in opportunities to engage in political discourse these days.  From mask wearing to vaccine mandates and budget crises to abortion laws the world around us is in quite a turmoil.  But when, as Christians, are we to engage?  When are we called to join the fight and stand resolutely in our faith?  These next two posts will look at our life as Christians and the political realm.  First, starting with what role the church, and therefore Christians, play in our common citizenry.

But let’s back up a bit.  For those of us living in the United States we’ve seen a serious deterioration from our Christian-held values over the last 70 years or so.  Not long ago almost all businesses were closed on Sundays and you certainly couldn’t by alcohol on that day.  Now, a business that makes the decision to not be open on Sundays because of their beliefs is vilified.  I’ve heard different arguments about whether or not the United States was a special project by God.  Whatever stance you may take on that we can be certain that every single nation was formed by God.  Every single head of state has been placed in their position by God and therefore is subject to His expectations and final judgment.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17

That the United States was founded with God and the idea of His sovereignty at the forefront should not, however, be in dispute.  Besides the federal founding documents, all state constitutions, except one, reference God and His oversight of said government in the beginning of those documents.  It was then left to the citizens, as it has throughout the history of the world, to maintain that stance.

When you get deep in to C.S. Lewis’ great Christian apologetic book, Mere Christianity, you’ll find the concept of a Moral Law.  Through every empire, every phase of human existence we turn to this moral law for guidance.  We know what basically is wrong (ie: killing another human for gain or pleasure) and what is right (ie: helping a widow or orphaned child).  And, as Mr. Lewis argues, no matter your faith or lack thereof those concepts have been placed in our hearts and minds by someone.

But as a society drifts further away from a common faith, as in the case of much of Europe, North America and South America, we create new ways of working around what we know to be right and wrong.  We bend the moral law to fit the desires of our flesh and we seek to be accepted by the world.

You cannot make men good by (man-made)law; and without good men you cannot have a good society.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

And so, as Christians we watch as one of the last bastions of religious freedom, the United States, which also built upon that with many other freedoms, begin to crumble.  And we can so easily misplace our fears on our elected officials and the laws they create. 

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:8-9

At the time Paul wrote this letter to Timothy the Romans ruled with an iron fist.  Anyone that did not submit to their laws was imprisoned, tortured, killed, or pushed out of everyday society.  And Paul reminds not just Timothy but all of us who read this message that we have one commander to whom we must be most concerned – God and His son Jesus Christ.  We are set apart to be holy and live a holy life.

We are reminded that our role in this world is a sort of dual citizenship – to the country we call home and the home that waits for us.  It’s a balancing act that the disciples knew all too well.  We are to obey the laws of our government as good guests yet remembering we have limits based on God’s expectation of our adherence to His moral laws and knowledge of the final judgment.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles,to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12

It may come as a surprise to many Christians in the United States but it isn’t our role to create a “just society.”  It is our role to seek justice for those in need in our communities but we can’t right every wrong.  We need to be comforted that God is in charge and we can, as individuals and corporately do His good works.  But Jesus, time and again, never sought regime change.  He sought heart change. He sought obedience by His followers to God’s expectations.

Being a sojourner did not require isolation from surrounding societies.  Abraham seems to have understood the need to exercise prudential judgment about how, when and with whom to share common activity.  One approach did not fit all cases.

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

So does this mean we shouldn’t try and affect our government’s choices or laws?  No, it’s just remembering who we serve first, resolutely.  It’s remembering the difference between violently protesting a wrong and speaking out within the framework of how God wants us to act.  It’s figuring out where God and the church stands on an issue (ie: abortion) and where something may not be biblical at all (ie: the federal budget).  It’s making sure our heart and mind set firmly with God, not the world.

Believe me, I’ve struggled with these issues a lot.   I’ve stood on street corners waving my country’s flag and promoting a candidate.  I’ve stood up to politicians who have demonstrated a lack of moral character. Neither of which are wrong for a Christian.  I vote in every single election. Which is, in a way, expected as a Christian. But as my faith progresses, I’m taking a new view of my place on this big blue planet.  When I firmly set King Jesus as my authority, as my hope, as the Lord and Savior not just of my world but of every single human that has existed and will exist, my perspectives change.

As Christians we cannot continue to say we trust God, we know God will judge in the final conflict and still scream in outrage at people who disagree with our political opinion.  That message speaks loud and clear to non-believers that we don’t trust God.  That we haven’t set Him as our authority. That we have no concern for eternity. 

It’s time, fellow sojourners, to pull out our passports and remind ourselves of our future travel plans.  To stand resolutely with the one King that will judge everyone for all ungodly acts.  He has not appointed us commissioners of that judgment.  Yet, we are also not called to be passive in our worldly citizenry — sitting back and watching the world fall around us. He has appointed us as soldiers to exhort others to follow Him before it is too late.

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Slow to Speak

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 
But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.  Mark 14:61

I sat in that meeting surrounded by men.  I was the only woman on the coaching staff and that alone put me at a disadvantage.  But I never have had an issue with being “the only one.”  I frequently have found myself in the position of being the youngest, the woman, the questioning, the sober, the only one to say “no.”  So that evening was no exception.  What was uncomfortable was the man in front of the room threatening me.  He also threatened to have the softball program thrown out of the community center if I remained a coach.  

Something inside my head told me to do something I rarely do – keep silent.  I typically will speak up and defend myself but it was almost as though tape were placed over my mouth.  Partially out of a sense of shock and fear that this man might physically attack me and partially because of that voice I remained quiet as he ranted and raved.

When the ranter was out of steam, the president of the league stood up and with his large physical presence made it clear the man was done and needed to leave.  A vote was taken and I stayed part of the coaching staff.  When the meeting came to an end I was shocked again when the other men, many who had rarely given me the time of day, approached me and congratulated me on standing strong and being so “tough.”  As I walked to my car that night my legs turned to jelly and I collapsed in my car in tears.  The ranter’s words were painful but the words of congratulations also overwhelmed me.  I had finally done something they could all respect.  And it was all because I listened to that small voice to keep quiet.

Even though I experienced success that evening with my silence it can drive me bonkers reading how Jesus took the abuse from the Pharisees.  Of course, unlike Him, I couldn’t rain hellfire down on my accuser and work a miracle.  But Jesus knew exactly when to speak and when to stay silent.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry... James 1:19

And that’s my topic this week on being resolute in Christ – when to act or speak and when to rest or be silent.  Because frequently doing the exact opposite of what the world expects is exactly what we need to do to serve God righteously.

But how do we know?  It can be difficult to discern between our wants, needs and fears and the Word of God. I have found over the last few years, however, that God does make things clear when it is important.  Plus, knowing the character of God and Jesus and what is expected of us is tantamount in making good decisions.  God never speaks to our fleshly desires, encouraging us to indulge.  He is prudent, loving, kind, careful with resources, seeks justice and forgiveness, and above all He is holy.

Study the three main traits of Christ (justice, goodness, holiness) for thirty days, begin to practice them in your daily life, and see what God does…you won’t be disappointed.

Joyce Meyer, God’s Character

I’ve found it fascinating that people who want clear answers from God aren’t willing to actually know the character of the “person” from whom they are seeking answers.  Yet, I won’t go to a friend who clearly has difficulty with their finances and ask them for financial advice!  And I won’t seek fashion advice from someone that looks like they’ve just rolled out of bed every day.  

So much of obeying God’s and His Holy Spirit nudgings must start with knowing the road signs to even look for.  And then when we have accomplished that we must start paying attention and actually acting on those directives.

I love reading Sparkling Gems from the Greek each morning.  It’s a yearly devotional that takes scripture and studies it in the original Greek meaning.  Recently, the author wrote of how he was to attend a gathering of fellow pastors whom he hadn’t seen in awhile. He and his wife travelled to the city where the event was to take place.  As they were about to the leave the hotel a clear word came to him to not attend.  He first told his wife he felt the need to stay in the hotel.  But he went anyways not wanting to miss out on the fun.  Each step along the way he was told over and over to not go.  While at the event the message became almost overwhelming.  He left his wife to keep visiting and he returned to his hotel.  Upon entering his room, he realized they had been burgled.  All their passports, computers, important papers, jewelry and more were gone.  And he realized his fleshly desires overtook that warning voice.

How often have we stood in the midst of a situation that calls us to be an outsider, a dissenter, the weird one, the one to step out of line and answer the call of His voice?   And how often have we brushed it aside thinking we know better?  When we don’t know the character of God that will happen frequently.  But when we do know the character of God there’s no excuse.  We repent and tell God to give us another chance to serve Him rightly.

God will frequently call us in our everyday lives to do something that may help us or help others.  That cashier you want to be rude to because she is talking to another co-worker about her personal life? Ya, God might be telling you to say something incredibly kind to her or just keep silent.  That neighbor who yells at you because he doesn’t like where you put your trashcan?  God might be telling you to keep your mouth shut.  That trip you are about to take? He may be saying, “cancel it.” You won’t know if it’s your own worries or desires unless you know Him and His ways.

“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.
“‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.  Zachariah 7: 11-13

God calls us to action and He calls us to inaction.  He calls us to speak and calls us to stay silent.  But if we worry too much about the world and what they will think if we obey those words, then we are sure to be judged.  We must stand resolutely when we hear that voice and through knowing His mind we will be assured He has our backs.

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His Will Be Done

Lesson #11: God is sovereign over all, even unbelievers

“The day of the LORD is near 
for all nations.” 
Obadiah 1:15

There’s a song one of my previous churches used to sing a lot that goes, “Our God is an awesome God.”  That refrain is sung over and over throughout the song.  I’ve always thought that wording was a bit odd.  If we have “our God” then which “god” does anyone else have?  Once, after a service, I went up to the pastor and asked him that question.  I said, “Shouldn’t that song just say, ‘God is awesome?’”  He replied that he’d never thought about it before.  So again, there I was asking the weird questions.  As someone who not only likes to talk but also write,  I sincerely believe that words matter – even words we sing.

In our verse today from the prophet Obadiah he makes it clear throughout the prophecy that there is no “our God” or “your god” but only one God – the God of the Universe, God the Creator of All.  

“The God who made the world and 
everything in it is the Lord of 
heaven and earth and does not live 
in temples built by human hands. 
And he is not served by human hands, 
as if he needed anything. Rather, he 
himself gives everyone life and 
breath and everything else. From 
one man he made all the nations, that 
they should inhabit the whole earth; 
and he marked out their appointed times 
in history and the boundaries of 
their lands.” 
Acts 17:23-26

As Christians it can be dangerous to fall into the trap of “our God.”  It leads us to forget that God’s judgement comes to all, eventually.  So, we get outraged over the seeming lack of justice in our human concept of time.  We forget that God doesn’t just have expectations of us, as His faithful believers, but also of those who have chosen not to believe.  Non-believers don’t get a “free pass,” in the realm of eternity. 

Were there even one datum of knowledge, however small, un-known to God, His rule would break down at that point. To be Lord over all the creation, He must possess all knowledge. And were God lacking one infinitesimal modicum of power, that lack would end His reign and undo His kingdom; that one stray atom of power would belong to someone else and God would be a limited ruler and hence not sovereign.

A.W. Tozer

Even when I was, as a what can only be called a “Christian-lite,” I had to laugh when people put limits on God’s authority and ability.  If you listen to an atheist, you’ll hear all the limits they wish to place on a being that is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. Their expectation is if they can’t figure it out then it just isn’t true.

“It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances. We take such liberties with our circumstances, we do not believe God engineers them, although we say we do; we treat the things that happen as if they were engineered by men.

Oswald Chambers

The atheist can be forgiven because, for whatever reason, God has yet to open their eyes to Him.  But for the Christian to place limits on God is to deny His sovereignty.  As stated in the above quote by Oswald Chambers, we Christians sometimes opt for the “coincidence” excuse when God answers our prayers.  Or we take complete credit for the win or the loss.  Or worse yet, we just assume God won’t or can’t answer our prayers.

So much of our issue with God’s sovereignty comes back to our limited sense of time.  We live in a blink of God’s eye.  And yet we have the gift of looking back over the history of God’s work in our human existence and see His hand throughout.  I heard a good analogy of how God’s timing works along with the issue of free will:

“Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities (God). Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.

On board the liner are several scores of passengers (Mankind). These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.

Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other. So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history. God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfilment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began. We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been disclosed to furnish us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us good hope and firm assurance of future well-being.” A.W. Tozer

One of greatest prophesies in the Old Testament is Isaiah 53 and one in which all Christians should be well versed.  He writes of the coming of God’s Son, Jesus.  Isaiah was called into ministry in 739 B.C.  And when you read his prophesy of Jesus you can’t help but be amazed of the details which came true.  That’s because God has a plan.  He has a plan for every single one of us – believer and non-believer.  He uses bad circumstances to bring us closer to Him, if we choose.  He never makes a mistake. He never has a “Plan B.”  

Our human story that started with Adam and Eve was not a mistake.  It is all going according to plan.  It may not seem, in our small timeframe, to be going all that well right now.  But that is the beauty of faith.  Today, during a meeting of my BSGs, we shared how during this pandemic there has been some amazing blessings.  Yes, a lot of not so great things have happened.  But each of us could share how God has used this terrible time as a means for sanctification in our lives.  

His sovereignty means we can hold on to all of the promises He has made.  God is not a covenant breaker.  If anything, it’s us that likes to break covenants.  Our ocean liner is on a steady path to the glorious port He has waiting for us.  It’s up to us to decide to have faith in our captain that He will get us through any squalls.  Some of us will jump ship thinking we know better.  Some might even try to take over the ship and turn it around.  But God’s will never fails.  So, let’s enjoy the ride and know He will bring us home. 

“Good is not always God’s will, but God’s will is always good.” 

Watchman Nee
bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Justice Will Be Done

Zion shall be redeemed by justice,
    and those in her who repent, by 
righteousness.
But rebels and sinners shall be broken 
together,
    and those who forsake the Lord shall 
be consumed.
Isaiah 1:27-28

My husband and I love vacationing in Kauai.  Our favorite activity is exploring hidden beaches.  When people think of Hawaii, they might picture long sandy beaches lined with palm trees that butt up against beautiful resorts.  But in Kauai there’s very few beaches like that.  In fact, part of the adventure is just finding the hidden turnoff from the highway that will take you to the trailhead down to the beach.  Many of the beaches sit far below the volcanic cliffs of Kauai.  Once you park you then need to search for a tiny indication you have found the trailhead.  And then the adventure really starts.

On one such adventure I was laden down with my beach chair on my back and our small cooler.  The narrow, dirt trail hugged the cliff.  And someone had secured a weathered rope in the most precarious places.  I kept my eyes down, for the most part, keeping watch for pesky roots and vines that would trip me up.  I kept hold of the safety rope, until I didn’t.  In a flash I found myself hanging off the side of the cliff – held up from sure death by my beach chair which had snagged on a few branches.  I had taken my eyes of the sure path laid out in front of me – distracted by the spectacular scenery.

The view from atop the cliff

I was like a helpless turtle on my back with waves crashing on the deadly rocks below.  I yelled to my husband, who was a few feet ahead of me.  He scrambled to me and with a lot of pulling, untangling and the blessing of God I was rescued.

God’s promised justice, mentioned more than 40 times in the book of Isaiah, requires us to do what I had failed to do on that hike – to keep my eyes fixed on the savior with a firm grip on Him.  But thank God He also gives us mercy when we fail. 

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show 
you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!
Isaiah 30:18

You notice that both these verses require that agreement, the covenant?  Those who repent will receive a positive justice outcome.  Those who wait for Him will be blessed with compassion.  When I finally made my way safely back onto the path that day, I thanked God for saving me.  And I promised God that I would be more careful.  I would hold on tightly to the safety rope as the path narrowed and I’d be watchful of tripping hazards.

The book of Isaiah starts almost like a trial.  It describes in detail the failings of the Israelites.  The supposed believers had taken their eyes off God and were living outside His covenant.  They sat accused of murder, robbery, idolatry, and corruption.  They attended temple and brought their sacrifices, all the while leading hypocritical lives.  And so, they were warned of punishment, of judgement. 

One only needs to turn on the news for a few minutes to see the moral corruption throughout the current world.  Thankfully, God has built a safety rope for us.  Not with which to hang ourselves, but rather to grasp hold of and pull us back onto the path.

I was certainly humbled on that cliff in Kauai.  I got a bit cocky with thinking I knew the path well enough to not pay full attention.  God decided He still had some work for me to do. 

But what about those “evil doers?”  When is God’s justice raining down on them?  He promises they will be consumed by His justice.  When we keep our focus squarely and firmly on God, we can have faith that on God’s time, justice will be done.  And, we can thank Him each and every time we fail Him yet are not judged.

I saw heaven standing open and 
there before me was a white horse, 
whose rider is called Faithful 
and True. With justice he 
judges and wages war.
Revelation 19:1

God is waging a war against evil we cannot see.  His justice is at work right now.  And the final judgement is coming.  I heard a well-known evangelist once make the statement: “Imagine the looks on the people’s faces when Jesus comes back – and He is coming back.  All the people that tried to eliminate Jesus from the world about to face justice.”

None of us deserve to be free from God’s promised justice and judgement.  His mercy and love provide that rope for us to grasp when we pray for forgiveness — when we fall down on our knees and say to Him, “Have mercy on me, exalted One!”

30daysofpraise, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

Merciful Judge


We are living in a time that the word “justice” seems to hold so many different meanings – at times almost opposite meanings.  “Justice” to some means punishing people for something they didn’t participate in and happened about 200 years ago.  To others it means being able to take what you want because you feel victimized.  In some cities, “justice” means releasing hundreds of people who are in jail for murder, rape, burglary and the like.  Some people judge in the blink of an eye based on a short video.  Others judge simply because they already didn’t like a person.   And yet others still believe in the idea of investigating a crime, bringing it to a court and evaluating all the facts before passing judgement.   I have a degree in Journalism and English.  I learned that passing judgement in the media was a no-no.  Somehow that lesson has disappeared from journalism school

We can’t seem to escape “un-just judgement” these days.  What you wear, what you drive, where you live, what your skin color is, if you have a college degree or if you are old or young, we are judged by our neighbors, our enemies and even our fellow Christians.  I recently posted on Instagram a picture of a surgical mask.  I stated, “This mask does not symbolize your: kindness, faith, politics, intelligence, wokeness or love.  It’s just a mask.”  The mask, as promoted by governmental officials, has become yet another way to be judged.  Our “Cancel Culture” is swift in its judgement and mercy is nowhere to be found.


Thank the Lord that His judgement is merciful.  I mean He has been trying for thousands and thousands of years to get the majority of humanity on board with His simple rule – Obey God.  He has yet to pass His mighty judgement over us.  It does feel as though that time is getting closer and closer, however.   

So often we want to take justice into our own hands.  But it’s important to understand the difference between daily justice that God calls us to and eternal justice.  At times we think we must step in for God – with acts of anger, revenge or spite.  God does not call us to scream a people in the streets. For one, I find most people screaming don’t actually know what “justice” they need or who should be held to account.  Rest assured that if it’s justice God wants you to accomplish you will have His peace.  Screaming in people’s faces and looting won’t be part of His plan for you.  As Jesus’ people, we are called to step in for the weak and downtrodden.  But we need not be the weak and downtrodden – because through Christ we are blessed and strengthened.  A Christian who obeys God is destined to experience hardship and suffering, but His love and mercy sustains us for greater work.  He asks us to judge others as we are judged by Him – with mercy and forgiveness.

Whether or not a person believes and accepts God and His Son, Jesus, he will still ultimately be judged in the eternal world.  We must believe that Truth.  

“I said to myself, ‘God will bring into judgement both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.’”  

Ecclesiastes 3:17

Until then, God gives us opportunity after opportunity through His mercy to change course.  I, for one, am thankful for the chance to continue my path of imperfect progress without the justice served I deserve each day.

How has God showed you His mercy? Share in praise of God today in the comments below!