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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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The Power In Us

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

How glorious would it have been to live when Jesus was physically here on Earth?  To sit at the Sermon on the Mount and hear His words directly from His mouth?  To be in a busy marketplace and bump into Him – turning to see directly into His face?  Isn’t it amazing how He spent so little time here with us yet the impact has been so astounding that even our days are marked by when He arrived?  And when He ascended, the gift He left behind is something for which we can never be thankful enough.

“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  John 14: 15-17

When you study the Bible you see how Jesus and the Holy Spirit touched lives even before the time we say God became fully human.  Their presence is woven throughout the Old Testament.  So it’s not as though they were created suddenly.  God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all spoke the world into creation and have placed their holy hands on our lives throughout history.

So, today specifically I praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and for being our constant intercessor, our inner voice, our God whisperer.  

It is the Holy Spirit that helps us to pray when we don’t know what to pray – because the situation has gotten so dire.  It is the Holy Spirit who whispers to us to get up and do God’s work.  It is the Holy Spirit who partners with us when we need rescue.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  Romans 8:26

I shared with my BSGs in the past that when I’m really stressed or worried I have a difficult time praying.  My mind is so jumbled and full of negative thoughts I can’t seem to quiet it down.  One of my BSGs responded saying, “I’ve just cried out, “help me!” when I don’t know what to say.”  That’s great advice.  It says it right there in Romans 8.  The Holy Spirit will help us pray.  Will give us the words to speak to God. 

Friends, God is so beautiful and loving that He didn’t leave us orphans.  He didn’t leave us grieving because He left us with a piece of Him inside of each of us.  I once heard a Christian teacher say that we don’t need to attain patience, kindness, love, etc.  We already have all those imputed through the Holy Spirit that lives in us because we believe.   We just need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us release those gifts.  To help us pray the words to fight back against the devil.  To whisper to us “love this person right now.”

We need to believe that God has given us the access to this awesome power.  And once we do that, we should pray to unleash it with all its glorious might.


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Step 2: Humble Servant

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:15

Since the resurrection of Jesus, Christians seem to have been in an interesting battle.  The concept of how we are saved has led to many sermons, books, and even paper nailed to church doors.  The prevailing answer in the modern church age is, of course, that we are saved by grace.  The grace of Jesus Christ dying for our sins.  

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9

That passage from Romans couldn’t be clearer and yet the concept of being saved by works and/or financial contributions to the church ran throughout Christendom for a long time.  Unfortunately, much of our Christian thinking seems to have swung so far in the opposite direction that we have forgotten the other lessons in the Bible.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? James 2:14

As my BSGs work our way through a study of Revelation I keep hearing a few of the same messages.  1) We must repent of our sins and accept Christ today and 2) Our deeds will be counted in eternity.  That balance of accepting God’s grace and also working to please Him echoes so many other Christian balancing acts.

  • Expressing God’s Truth while showing God’s Love
  • His Word is both bitter and sweet
  • To live in this world but not of it
  • Accepting chastisement as a method of God’s love for us

I wonder how many of us each Sunday (or whatever day you attend church) receive constant training on how to walk those balance beams?

This week’s Jesus Mindset focuses on being a humble servant.  The character trait requires of us to first be somewhat practiced at being a loving friend.  For when we take action in the name of God without a loving spirit it becomes almost impossible to be humble.  I’m sure each of us can think of a person in our lives who took on responsibilities simply to gain some sort of recognition.  A church body that forgets Jesus’ primary character trait – loving friend – becomes like the church of Ephesus.  They were “doing” a lot and building larger, more grand buildings but doing it without love.

“The church used to be known for its good deeds,” said one wit, “but today it’s better known for its bad mortgages.”

The evolution from love of neighbor to deeds without love creates a hulking body that God eventually is clearly unhappy with.  And so, we find ourselves searching for the balance.  This week I will highlight three people.  Two sisters and a quiet, humble man.  Each has their own way of “feeding” God’s lambs.  Each have different personalities.  They each find a way to reach that balance of knowing they are saved by grace and yet God asks more of us.  

I love this quote from the book, “The Hiding Place,” which tells the story of love and servanthood in the face of extreme adversity.  This moment takes place as a member of the family is about to die.  They remind her of all the amazing things she did in life because “accomplishment” meant so much to her.  But in her final moments Jesus spoke to her heart and reminded her of God’s truths.

“How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?” she asked.  And then as we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing down her face whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands.  I thank you that You have done all on the Cross and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.”

Tante Jans, The Hiding Place

With empty, well-worn hands.  Hands worn with the work for Jesus.  For when we die we won’t take the certificates of recognition, the medals, the bonuses with us.  But each person we have fed, in His name, will be etched in our hands and hearts.

Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

Jesus has plenty of work for us to do.  The majority of that work could be called “grunt work.” It requires us to get uncomfortable and place our trust solely in the Lord’s hands.  You probably won’t receive any money for it or a headline in the local paper.  What we will receive is a smile from Jesus.

My friend Betsy told me the other day how, while out shopping, she saw a homeless man in an adjoining parking lot.  He was in a wheelchair.  As she got into her car Jesus placed the thought in her head, “Go give him one of your ‘blessings bags.’”  Her church provides these bags to hand out to anyone in need.  She had never just walked up to someone and given them a bag. 

But that day she pulled out of her parking spot and drove over to the man.  He was struggling trying to get his wheelchair closed up so he could lie down on the same spot.  As she approached the man, she could tell he was drunk.  But she kept moving forward.  She inquired, “Do you need some help?”  And he said he did.  She helped him get situated and then offered a blessings bag, which he readily accepted.  As she left she acknowledged to herself that she wouldn’t have taken that action previously – some other force pressed her forward.

You see, Betsy has been a loving Christian for 60 some years.  She has always served her church and family well.  Recently she has been working on the “obeying God” part of her faith progression.  Listening for His voice and taking action to be His humble servant.  God has told her it’s time to move forward.


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Always With You

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 
Isaiah 43:2

Early in our marriage my husband and I started a lifelong habit of calling each other at the end of our workday.  We’d let the other know ahead of time if we would be late or what our ETA was.  When we both worked it served as a way to talk about our dinner plans.  After 32 years of marriage my husband still calls or texts me when he is on his way home.  It was borne out of an incident when he didn’t call me.  My first reaction was to think he’d been in a car accident.  And as the time slipped by my worries grew.  By the time he got home I was in tears from fear of his demise.  He couldn’t understand why I was so upset.  He’d just been out surfing after work with some friends.

So, while the habit of touching base became a good thing it also became a bit of a fear-based obsession with me.  My husband spent many hours driving for his work.  He frequently drove the more than 200 miles to and from Los Angeles.  I worried constantly he would be killed in a car crash.  I lost sleep over it.  I fretted when he didn’t arrive exactly when he thought he would.

I finally realized one day my fears were a result of the fear of being left alone.  I was certain if I lost him no one would ever love me again. 

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. 
Deuteronomy 31:8

We hear the words that God is with us always.  A Christian friend, who was struggling with marriage and family problems, confessed that sometimes we need a real, physical hug.  We need to feel like we are loved and belong.  That we haven’t been orphaned.  Frequently in my prayers for people I ask God to help them feel his hand on their shoulder.  I realize it’s what I really need when I struggle – to feel and know His physical presence in my life.  

Sometimes He will show Himself in the face of a friend.  Sometimes it’s in words from one of my daughters.  He shows Himself in a song that comes on the radio. And sometimes the Holy Spirit will burn inside me.  When needed, I have felt His hand on my shoulder.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 
John 14:18

I was listening to a podcast the other day where the women spoke of this need to feel God’s love for them. They knew the scriptures and could easily quote them.  But they acknowledged that just knowing them wouldn’t suffice.  We need to repeat them and truly believe them.  The devil is constantly looking for ways to tear us away from God’s love.  So, when we feel that loneliness, that fear of being forgotten we need to refocus on God.  We may need to cry out to Him.  We may need to sit in quiet mediation to hear Him. 

There’s been a few occasions in the last couple months where I’ve felt rejected by people who should love me.  Thankfully, in my maturing faith, I’ve turned to Jesus more and more to remind me of the one who always loves me, no matter what.  And He has shown up to comfort me.

Here’s some beautiful scripture to remember and soak in today for anyone who might feel alone.  For anyone who might feel as though they have been left behind or forgotten.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5
But whoever loves God is known by God. 
1 Corinthians 8:3
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! 
Psalms 66:20
Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love. 
Psalms 109:26
No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 
John 16:27
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”  
Psalms 91:14-16
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Jeremiah 31:3
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9
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Awaken

So then, let us not be like others, 
who are asleep, but let us be awake 
and sober.  
1 Thessalonians 5:6

I just finished a study on the book of Numbers.  It finds Israel wandering about the desert grumbling, complaining and disobeying God at every turn.  And God gives mercy over and over at Moses’ pleading.  Until He doesn’t.  There’s so much death in this book because of the unfaithfulness.  Some because God allows the Israelites to try their own path, leading to deaths during wars.  And some because God rains down His punishment with plagues.

It’s so easy for us to read what happened thousands of years ago and judge the Israelites.  They were asleep to God’s ways and character.  

At the end of one of my commentaries was the statement that from God’s point of view there are only three locations in the Israelite journey and only three locations in our own journey.

  1. Egypt: the land of bondage
  2. The Wilderness: the land of unbelief, doubt and falling short
  3. Canaan: the land of inheritance

The question for us is, which location do we currently find ourselves in?

Throughout the Bible we find an underlying message about growing in our faith.  The sooner we recognize where we are and why we are there, the sooner we can move along on our journey.  

For I know that good itself does not 
dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. 
For I have the desire to do what is good, 
but I cannot carry it out. 
Romans 7:18

This statement by Peter is so self-reflective.  He has one foot in the wilderness while reaching with the other into the land of inheritance.  He actively searches his heart and soul, asking God to reveal the blemishes and the blind spots.

We can spend a lot of time, like the Israelites seeing what God is and does.  We can hear the good work He does in others.  But do we, like Moses, truly understand God’s actions?  Do we still ask “why” and wishing we could go back to Egypt?  Or do we ask God to do even more work in us so that we are constantly changing, stripping away our old selves for His glory?

We want to be awake, vivacious, alive in our faith journey.  We need to not just know “of” God but truly know Him – His character, how He works and how much He loves to see us grow.

You either obey, ignore or resist.  

Warren Wiersbe on the will of God

We humans like to blame the outside world for being stuck.  For not reaching our full potential.  We blame our church for not inspiring us.  We blame our circumstances for not having time for God.  We blame fellow Christians who have hurt us.   But the Holy Spirit resides in us.  It is a personal journey lived out for all to see.  King David, in Psalm 51 does some deep reflection on where he is in his faith journey.

For I know my transgressions, and my 
sin is always before me. Against you, 
you only, have I sinned and done what 
is evil in your sight; 
Psalm 51:3-4

The Israelites blamed Moses and God for not quickly and without hardship reaching the Promised Land.  They lacked David’s self-reflection.  They sat for so many years in the Land of the Wilderness.  It took me almost 20 years of wandering to finally wake up and begin understanding God.  So, I have no place to judge them. 

If you are stuck it’s time to look inward.  It’s time to shake off your sleepiness and do a deep dive with God into your own heart.  Only then can He lead you to the Land of Inheritance.

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The Blessing of Hope

And hope does not put us to shame, 
because God’s love has been poured 
out into our hearts through the Holy 
Spirit, who has been given to us. 
Romans 5:5

In February of 2020, my beloved mother in law got some disturbing news.  She possibly had uterine cancer.  We all started praying and hoping for negative tests.  But with each test, each imaging, we were disappointed.  Our hopes for it being “just a thing” were dashed.

In my prayers I lifted her up to God as one of His very faithful daughters.  And when the bad news came, I cried out to Him.  It wasn’t fair.  I couldn’t see why He would allow this to happen.

And as quickly as I cried out, He answered me.  “I have a plan.  You need to trust in me.”  So, I rested my hope in patience and faith and the knowledge that God has been there for her in the past.

Such hope as is the fruit of faith, patience, and experience, namely, the full assurance of hope;

Benson Commentary on Romans 5:5

When I read the verse from today, I wondered about the word, “shame.”  The clarification I found was that Christian hope will not disappoint or be deceptive.  God has proven Himself over and over of His faithfulness.  The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Jews and Christians in Rome, reminds us that even before we were willing to worship God fully He sent His son to die for us.  Think about that.  We didn’t have to prove ourselves to Him first.

You see, at just the right time, when 
we were still powerless, Christ died 
for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone 
die for a righteous person, though for a 
good person someone might possibly dare 
to die. But God demonstrates his own love 
for us in this: While we were still sinners, 
Christ died for us. 
Romans 5:6-8

He goes on to say if God would do this for us, how much more can we expect?  How much more hope can we put in the fact that God will take care of us?

As a maturing Christian this idea of “hope” has gone through a transition in my thinking.  And where I started mirrors what so many non-believers struggle with when looking at Jesus followers.  “If I pray and hope that someone is cured and they aren’t, doesn’t that mean God’s not listening (or doesn’t care or maybe the person doesn’t deserve it?).”  But friends, God’s plans are so beyond our own!

I truly believe that God allows us to experience trials so that we can change our perspective of what living a “good life” in the world means.  We, through our experiences, can offer hope to others that they can come out the other side with renewed faith.  And He uses people around us to show His love during difficult times.

Every single apostle, every single lover of God in the Old Testament went through extremely difficult times.  It was their hope they placed in Him that sustained them.  And it was their experiences that help us to remember He loves us.

As for my mother in law?  Praise God that through surgery and chemotherapy her cancer was eradicated.  But the message I got from God was that even if she succumbed to cancer, He still had her safely in His arms.  Because that is the greatest message of hope that Jesus gave us.  We are saved from wrath.  We are saved from the sins of this world.  And we will find a loving home for us waiting at the end.

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Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!

Out of the same mouth come 
praise and cursing. My brothers 
and sisters, this should not be. 
James 3:10

A prayer to avoid using coarse language

Holy Father, it has become so easy for me to use your name in un-holy ways.  There was once a time that when angered or frustrated I would just say some silly old saying.  But as I drew closer to the ways of the world my language followed.  I want to be closer to you instead, LORD.  I want to speak like your son, Jesus.  I know that anger, impatience, laziness, and bitterness are all roots of my use of foul language.  Help me, Holy Spirit, to cut out those roots so that out of my mouth comes praise, prayer, forgiveness and grace.  I will use my mouth, with your guidance, for these rather than obscenity and coarseness.  Amen


We all remember that moment well.  I was driving the middle school carpool that morning.  A car full of young, impressionable minds.  Just before I got to a busy intersection a car swerved over from another lane in front of me, causing me to hit my brakes.  And just as our basic driving skills become automated, my middle finger and mouth began its ugly automatic work.  The car went silent.  I was immediately convicted of my sin by five sets of enlarged eyes on me.

You’d think that instances like that would’ve got me to stop cursing in anger but it hasn’t.  In fact, knowing about three weeks ago that eventually I’d be writing this post I started more aggressively working on this problem.  And yet, just the other day I think I managed to use just about every curse word available when talking to my husband about politics.  

Nor should there be obscenity, 
foolish talk or coarse joking, 
which are out of place, but 
rather thanksgiving.  
Ephesians 5:4

Have you ever watched a movie where it seemed the director purposely had every actor place a curse word in every sentence the actors spoke?  I have.  And I’ve finally had to stop watching.  I understand when our anger rises up that we again allow our mouths to control our world.  But the gratuitous use of cursing is not something I understand.  Everything, to some people, is “f’ing (fill in the blank).”  It’s become just another adjective.  And yet, it isn’t.

According to one researcher, we swear on average from 0.3% to 0.7% of the time — a tiny but significant percentage of our overall speech.  Given the fact that the average woman speaks about 25,000 words a day that adds up to around 1,750 swear words per day.  That’s a lot of sinful speaking.

When I worked in our local high schools, I would see the prevalence of swearing amongst our teenagers.  Each year it seemed to get worse and worse.  When I would admonish a student they would say, “oops, it was just an accident.”  However, we all know that well-practiced behaviors become simply rote acts.  

We are told throughout the Bible and especially the New Testament that we, as believers in God and then Jesus, are to be set apart from this world.  

Let us behave decently, 
as in the daytime, not 
in carousing and drunkenness, 
not in sexual immorality and 
debauchery, not in dissension 
and jealousy. Rather, clothe 
yourselves with the Lord 
Jesus Christ, and do not 
think about how to gratify 
the desires of the flesh. 
Romans 13:13-14

This verse makes it clear, whether in daytime, nighttime, with Christian friends or non, in our work environment, our home, or alone in our car, we are to clothe ourselves with Jesus.  The worst I have ever read come out of Jesus’ mouth was to call the Pharisees “vipers.”  

In the United States, during the 19th century, there was a craze to come up with “mild oaths” or pseudo-swearwords that replaced profane words with inoffensive ones. They tended to be silly and even poetic. “Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat,” “Holy, Moly,” and “gee willikers!” were just a few. It was a sign of our Christian influence in society. Sadly, we seem to have lost not only that influence but our desire to be that influence.

My BSGs’ (Bible Study Girls) favorite saying is “imperfect progress.”  And that’s what I’m in the midst of – really, aren’t we all?  And as I listen to our media, tv shows, music, and more accept that cursing God’s name as the “new normal” I pray for the Holy Spirit to help me be set apart.  I want my “new normal” to be for the glory of God, not for the fulfillment of my flesh.

If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Transformation Prayer, Uncategorized

Retire Our Gavels

Therefore let us stop 
passing judgment on one 
another. Instead, make 
up your mind not to put 
any stumbling block or 
obstacle in the way of 
a brother or sister. 
Romans 14:10 

A prayer to not be judgemental of others

Holy God, we live in a world that judges us on a photo that gets scrolled by in an instant, our decision at the ballot box, the type of car we drive, or even the color of our skin.  I am guilty of making snap judgements about the people I encounter throughout my day.  But in your world, LORD, we are all equally loved.  I have discovered the uniqueness of your message through Jesus – that you are the father, king, counselor, protector of ALL people.  You are at work in all of our lives, believer and non-believer.  Through the life lessons of Jesus and the prompting of the Holy Spirit I will be the type of person who loves first, rather than judges first.  I want to be loved and accepted for who I am uniquely made to be and I will see others in that same light.  I pray this in your Son’s name, Amen


Recently, my BSGs were talking about why the world’s major religions continue to reject Jesus.  We had a great discussion about the belief systems of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews.  It was great to see how knowledgeable the group was from either taking classes or reading up on the topic.  What stood out to me is how much more restrictive these other religions truly are and how much work they require of their followers to attain their end goal.  And when we start requiring people to work for their salvation it seems to inevitably lead to hierarchies or even caste-type systems. 

You, then, why do you judge 
your brother or sister? Or 
why do you treat them with 
contempt? For we will all 
stand before God’s judgment 
seat. 
Galatians 6:10

Jesus swept this type of contempt away.  In one painful death, we are all promised salvation through belief in Him.  That’s it.  No crazy ritual.  No particular way we dress.  No matter our family background.  No matter our wealth or lack thereof.  No matter our origin of birth.  No need to pray at certain times a day looking in a certain direction.  No flowers and incense placed for offering.  Just, “I believe Jesus is God and my savior.”

What that one act does is it sets us all on even ground.  Because one day, the truth is, we will all die.  Our wealth, status, family tree, how many followers we have on Instagram will not matter one bit.  Therefore, to God, it doesn’t matter right now.  He cares about one thing and one thing only – the salvation of our soul.

So why do we feel the need to judge differently?

Stop judging by mere appearances, 
but instead judge correctly.” 
John 7:24  

Jesus made this statement in defense of healing people on the Sabbath.  The crowd called him “demon-possessed.” He stated that if a boy can be circumcised under the Law on the Sabbath why did they judge Him so harshly for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath?  Jesus wasn’t doing the things the way the crowd demanded they be done so therefore He was a borderline lunatic or heretic.

When I embarked on what I called my “Sparkly New Life” a few years ago I realized my greatest issue at the time was my relentless judging of people based on “The Rules According to Kris.”  It’s easy to get angry and frustrated when people don’t obey all your rules of life.  The statement, “I hate people who….” Or “I hate it when…” easily rolled off my tongue. 

I have noticed this, that when a man is full of the Holy Ghost, he is the very last man to be complaining of other people.

D.L. Moody

The topic of judgement has really got us Christians into hot water over the years.  It seems our history of judging harshly while not loving others really turned people away.  And now, we have flipped to not using judgement at all.  All behavior seems to be accepted at a number of our large denominations.  As a regular ole Christian, the topic of judgement has been difficult to define.  I know I’m to love others but what does loving someone who is actively sinning against the Word look like?

James has two helpful hints on how to treat people:

  1. My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2:1
  2. My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. 5:19-20

In other words, treat the rich man and the poor man with the same respect.  And when we see a fellow Christian on the wrong tract we are to, with the help of God, try and guide them back to the Word.  

Notice there is a distinction between judging the behavior of our fellow Christians and those who don’t know the Word.  It’s unkind and unhelpful to expect behaviors from people who either don’t know what they’re doing is wrong or just don’t believe in God and His consequences.  But no matter the situation we are to act like Jesus – with lovingkindness.  And for us non-perfect people, with the recognition that the log in our eye is our first priority.  

I am so thankful for the grace that God affords me and the love He piles on me.  The days I leave the house looking like I should never have left my bed.  The days I can’t find my smile.  For the days when my beat-up VW bug was my only transportation.  For the days when I couldn’t afford the coolest jeans.  For the days when my child was screaming bloody murder in the store and I couldn’t quiet her.  All of it – my good side and my not so great side that I present to the world – God loves me no matter what.  I want to be like that for others.  A person who sees what God sees in others. 

If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!

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

The Best For You

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
    your peace would have been like a river,
    your well-being like the waves of the sea.

Isaiah 48:17-18

We’ve all probably heard it from our parents at one time or another.  And if you are a parent you are most likely guilty of saying the same – “I just want the best for you.”  As your child (or you as a child) rolls their eyes.  As humans we seem to have the propensity to want to cut our own path through the jungle and trip over our own mistakes.  We grab random vines thinking it’ll help us swing through our problems or create fabulous opportunities.

It’s one thing to see our parents as fallible human beings that may not truly know what’s best for us but when we apply that same logic to God, we’re in for an Indiana Jones style bumpy and dangerous ride.

And we know that in all things 
God works for the good of those 
who love him, who have been 
called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

God has thoughts beyond our thoughts.  He knows the past and the future and he has big plans for each of us.  And when we lose sight and let go of God, we take a lot of unneeded weed- choked paths.  So much of this behavior seems to come down to a lack of trust that God really does teach us what is best for us – or we think maybe He just doesn’t understand what is best for us.

God sees tomorrow – all of your tomorrows – and he is able to prepare you for whatever is to come.

Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principals, #9 Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God sees.

All trusting relationships are built on time spent together, learning each other’s character, experiencing trials and joys and seeing how each person either stands up or lets you down.  Have you assumed that God is going to let you down?  Have you decided that God already has let you down?  And yet, scripture reminds us of the promise that God is always teaching us what is best for us.  Maybe what you were hoping for was not what you needed.  Or maybe God needed you to experience that disappointment so you are tested for a future greater than you can imagine.

When we accept that:

  1. God is God and we are not (PS 46:10)
  2. God’s thoughts and ways are greater than ours (Is 55:9)
  3. And God wants the best for us (Is 48:17; Matt 10:29-31)

We can have a perspective change during our times that might seem hopeless and instead know that God is working for our good.  We just might not know exactly what that “good” is.

My BSGs are starting a new study called, “Everyday Theology.”  Now it might sound silly for a group of devout Christians to read a book that reviews the basics of our faith: scripture, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, salvation, etc.  But each time we open our Bibles and truly approach reading it from a learning point of view we find out something new.  The Bible is a living source of God’s Word which wants to guide us throughout our lives.

I used to be one of those Christians that had a very dusty Bible.  When I did open it, I would close my eyes and then randomly pick a page.  I figured that’s how it worked – God would point me to nothing short of a miracle of words.  But would you ever take the phone book (if any exist these days), open it up and phone a stranger expecting to trust them with whatever advice you were seeking?  It might be great advice but the likelihood that you would take it would be slim.

His Word holds great lessons for us to try and keep us moving in the right direction.  We should pore over it like a treasure map.  It’s a bit complicated because it has so much to accomplish.  But once we start using the map and trusting that it is right, we find ourselves better able to navigate the twists and turns of life.  And isn’t that a great way to start out a new year?

I want to encourage you today to read Psalm 119. It is a perfect example of how God provides order in the midst of chaos. It is the longest chapter in the Bible, composed of 22 stanzas with each stanza containing 8 verses. Each verse starts with the same Hebrew letter — pretty cool. Almost every verse contains one of the following words: instruction, decree, precept, statute, command, judgment, promise, and word. Here is an excerpt:

I have more insight than all my teachers
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the 
elders, for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
Psalm 119:99-102

Join me starting January 11 for my next series! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help create a vision of you! The words we speak and think and pray have a great impact on our life. We will embark on a journey of praying changes into our lives. New Year’s resolutions have nothing on what God can accomplish when we ask for miracles to transform us!

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

Do You Do or Don’t Do?


A year ago I decided to take my weight gain seriously.  My middle-aged hormones were wreaking havoc on my body.  I had gained 35 pounds.  And I was two months away from my daughter’s wedding.  God wants us to take care of ourselves.  1 Corinthians 6 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?”  And so, along with the help of a weight loss app I finally decided to really do something about it.  I was diligent.  By the time my daughter’s wedding came around the dress that I had tailored a few weeks prior didn’t really fit me – it hung loosely in a number of places.  About six months in I was 10 pounds away from my goal weight and decided I didn’t need the app anymore.  Around that same time the Covid19 crisis struck.  And here I am another seven months later with 15 pounds to lose.  You got that – I, of course, gained more weight.  So, at lunch today I sat across from my friend who also tries to watch her weight.  I told her about a great dish the restaurant has that is low calorie.  I knew exactly what to order and what not to order.  And as the waitress took our order, I did exactly what I shouldn’t.  I gave into my cravings.  Not only that, I convinced my friend to do the same.

When we do what we shouldn’t do!

One of my favorite verses from the Bible is quite the tongue twister.  When I heard a young pastor speak on these verses he could barely get it out without laughing.

“I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer myself who do it, but it is the sin living in me.”

Romans 7: 15-17

And the do’s keep going for four more verses!  James makes it a lot clearer:

“If anyone, then knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

James 4:17

We’ve probably all been there with the diet issue.  But how many times do we not do what we know we should do?  For some of us that might be every, single day.  Sinning is our very nature.  We Christians have allowed other people to use the word “sin” against us.  They say it makes us judgmental.  It makes us hypocrites.  It shows we don’t love people.  But sin is everyone’s nature – whether you are a Christian or not.  You can thank Adam and Eve for that.  Unlike atheists, Christians just recognize that we are sinning.  But the enemy wants us to be prideful and say we don’t sin – it’s those “other people.”  Throughout our day we need to recognize our sinful behavior and ask God for forgiveness.  When I blame someone else for “making me upset” or I accuse others of “doing worse than me” that’s pride shining through.  It also gives us cover to do the exact same thing over and over.  Sinning make take the form of fear over faith, worry, improper thoughts, shame or gossip.

My daily sin is being impatient and annoyed with people.  I know not to do it.  But I do it.  Sometimes I’m so caught up in my excuses I forget to take a moment and ask for that forgiveness – to ask for that strength not to do it again.  But I had a recent revelation.  I was living in transgression.  That, my friends, is a sin that is done over and over for a hidden reason.  After one of my prayers of forgiveness Jesus shined a light on it.  My lack of humility.  It was the root of my everyday sinning.  I was making excuses and hiding it.  And until I realized, it there was no chance of me stopping my bad behavior.

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

John 8: 7

You see all the accusers of this woman about to be stoned were hiding their sins, trying to sell everyone on their pious lives.  But you really can’t hide from Jesus.  Satan loves when we try to hide our sins.  I’ve been telling my Bible Study Girls lately that living like that creates a visual of a dark, scribbly mass living inside of us – creating chaos and hatred and all things ugly.  We have a hard time doing the right things for the right reason when we live with transgressions.  

A soul filled with transgressions

And then we have iniquities – where those transgressions become a bondage to our transgressions.  It drives us to repeatedly and continually commit sin.  It perverts all our good intentions.  For example, my sin of being annoyed with cashiers.  When I do it time and again it becomes about a lack of grace, love and humility on my part (transgression).  If I don’t repent and ask God to help this sin can move into an iniquity – where I actually hate cashiers.  I might even call them names, or think of them as lowly people for doing such “menial” jobs.  It becomes a soul crusher.  And satan dances.

Because, as Christians, we make it a point to live with the mind of Christ and the knowledge of God’s Word, we know what “doing good” means.  We can choose to give to the poor.  Or we can choose to ignore God’s call to help the needy.  And in doing so we sin.  And if we consistently withhold God’s treasure from His people our sin transforms into transgression – maybe a fear of losing money, a fear of not having enough money.  And those constant hidden thoughts about money may lead to an iniquity – greed, hatefulness to the needy, miserly behavior.  And none of those creates a loving mind and heart.

Why do we not do what we know we ought to do?  Because we have a sinful nature.  We want what we want, and we want it now.  The closer we try to live next to Jesus and the more we fill our minds and hearts with God, the harder it is to allow room for those sins to become soul killers.  

God knows His children.  He knows we need constant correction.  Let’s just try to keep our lives on the slightly wandering path rather than taking the full off-ramp.  Ask God right now to reveal any hidden sins in you — anything that you need to recognize that negatively motivates your behavior.  He loves you and will gladly honor your request in a way that He knows you need.  Don’t be afraid.  Just ask.   And then do what He tells you.