Welcome to Amazing God Stories! Christian allegories, parables, analogies, fiction short stories as well as creative nonfiction stories that show the variety of amazing ways God has been working in my life. And if He has done all this for me, I can only imagine what He’s been doing for you!
My top three goals are simple:
#3. To brighten your day with a little entertainment, for you to leave feeling a bit better than when you arrived.
#2. To inspire you to keep on keeping on in your own walk with God. God is working in your life as much as He’s working in mine. Maybe something I’ve learned or experienced will help you get through a rough patch or to grow in your own desire to know God.
And the #1 reason: To glorify God – to acknowledge and thank Him for all the ways He has been faithful to me! From the day I met Him, He has been by my side. He’s been my Friend, Coach, Counselor, Father, Teacher, Comforter, Defender, Provider, and a million other things.
This blog is my way to shout to the world that GOD IS AMAZING!
If my stories do what I hope they will do – like, comment, follow, and/or share them!
It would mean a lot to me to to know that they are being read and to hear what you think!
I’ve been hearing a lot about unity from the White House over the last month. I thought I knew what that was, but, based on what I’ve seen lately, I started thinking maybe my definition of unity was flawed. So I looked it up.
According to an online dictionary, unity can mean 1. the absence of diversity, of having unvaried or uniform character; 2. oneness as in combining all parts into one whole; or 3. oneness of mind and feeling among people where they live in harmony or agreement.
I wasn’t surprised with definitions #2 and #3 because that’s how I understood unity – people living in harmony together, agreeing to disagree when viewpoints differed, but ultimately accepting each other as valued parts of a whole. Unity like this can be likened to a large salad – each ingredient remaining identifiable, yet together creating a marvelous meal.
What I didn’t expect to see was definition #1. Absence of diversity? Unvaried or uniform character? That would be like cake batter in which most ingredients lose their individual identity when combined, disappearing in the uniform mixture they create. What would this kind of unity look like in this country? Who decides what that unvaried or uniform character would be? As I think about the increasing suppression of conservative viewpoints and intolerance of Christian beliefs that’s been happening in our country, and all the more since the election, the more alarming this has become to me. When the democrats speak of unity, is this the definition they’re using? Is this what Biden means when he keeps talking about unity? That would explain a lot concerning his actions and the direction this country is going.
I think I know what conservatives believe about unity.
I am beginning to understand what liberals may mean by unity.
But what does God say about unity? Which of the three definitions above does God mean? Or does He have His own definition? I did a search for the word unity on a Bible app and only came up with a handful of scriptures. Looking at the original Greek or Hebrew words didn’t help answer my question this time. Different words were used, and each definition could be interpreted in several ways, which is illustrated in different Bible translations.
Ps. 133:1 A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (ESV)
Ps. 133:1 A Davidic song of ascents. How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (HCSB)
Col 3:14 Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity.
of perfect unity. τελειότητος (teleiotētos) Noun – Genitive Feminine Singular Strong’s Greek 5047: Perfectness, perfection, maturity. From teleios; completeness.
Eph 4:1-3 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Eph 4:13 …till we all come to the unity of the faith…
unity ἑνότητα (henotēta) Noun – Accusative Feminine Singular Strong’s Greek 1775: Oneness, unity, unanimity. From heis; oneness, i.e. unanimity.
1 Pet 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (ESV)
1 Pet 3:8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded and sympathetic, love as brothers, be tenderhearted and humble.
[be] like-minded ὁμόφρονες (homophrones) Adjective – Nominative Masculine Plural Strong’s Greek 3675: Of one mind (intent, purpose), like-minded. From the base of homou and phren; like-minded, i.e. Harmonious.
Are we, then, supposed to choose our own definition of unity? Knowing God like I do, I don’t think He would leave us in the dark in an area that is clearly important in how we are to live. And I was right. I found a whole chapter describing unity.
1 Cor 12:1-30 (NKJ) Spiritual Gifts: Unity in Diversity
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: you know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make it known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given the greater honor to the part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
Unity, therefore, is both oneness and diversity. We acknowledge our differences, not hide, remove, suppress, or attack them. We find the value in each other, and work together as a whole.
This can be applied to our country also. In order to be a strong, whole, functioning, and healthy nation, we have need for everyone – conservatives and liberals, republicans and democrats.
We need each other’s strengths, ideas, and contributions.
We need both ears in order to hear clearly, or what we hear will be distorted.
We need both eyes in order to see clearly, or we lose our depth perception. We also have blind spots that only the other side can see.
We need all body parts doing what only they can do in order to be a fully functioning body.
Let’s listen to each other – really listen and not let out biases color what we hear. Let’s seek to find value in each other. Let’s work together to understand rather than condemn. Let’s pray for each other, holding each other up instead of tearing each other down.
Then, and only then, will America be the great nation we all want.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Ps. 133:1 A Song of Ascents. Of David.)
Sheila contemplated the coin in her hand. The little golden disc, not worth much in the world, was worth something to her. The thrill of spotting its glint in the gutter a few minutes ago as she made her way down the sidewalk still bubbled within her. She had seen pennies before, but there was something different about this one. Somehow she felt a great value connected to it that differentiated it from the myriads of others readily available. Not understanding what that value was but knowing she would not be spending this one, she tucked it carefully in her jacket’s inner pocket – the one closest to her heart – and continued her journey.
Several weeks later, Sheila again contemplated, but this time it was water which captured her attention. Not the beautiful water that surrounded her, but the murky water that covered the bottom of her small boat.
She could feel the gentle rock as small waves lapped at the sides of her boat, none of which were big enough to splash over those sides. The water had not come from there. She glanced at her water jug – nope, it had not spilled. Had the water been there when she entered the boat, leftover from the previous day’s rain? No, she would surely have noticed the touch of icy water sloshing over her toes. Too much water would sink her boat but, thankfully, it wasn’t near deep enough for that. Maybe she should ignore it and just enjoy her time on the lake. She picked up her oars but stopped when she felt cold water cover her foot. Alarm bells rang in her mind as panic rose in her heart. The water level was increasing. It had to be a leak. But how? She hadn’t run into anything. At least nothing she knew of. And she hadn’t dropped anything heavy enough to cause damage. No weak areas had been found during its maintenance check last… last… Sheila had been so busy with life, she couldn’t remember the last time she had had the boat serviced. She had been told how important it was to maintain her boat. Her safety, maybe even her life, depended on it. Now she was paying the price for her neglect.
Heart racing, Sheila calculated the rate the boat was filling against the distance back to the dock. If she rowed fast enough, pushing the oars in deep enough, could she might make back in time to hoist it up before it sank? No, rowing that fast and hard would require more strength than she had. She would have to stop the leak now, before heading back. First, she had to find the source of the leak. Hopefully it was small enough to plug it with something, although she had no idea what. Sheila ran her finger along the bottom of the boat. Even after several minutes, she couldn’t feel anything that could signify a leak. Now what?
Slowly, a video she had recently watched came to her mind. In it, someone had described how the movement of the water under the boat can sometimes reveal the spot where the water was entering. Sheila cringed. That would require jumping into that ice cold water without a wet suit. Desperate now, she felt along the bottom of the boat again, this time for the force of water shooting into her boat, not matter how slight. And again she couldn’t find the source of the leak. Not having any other choice, she accepted the inevitable. She was going to have to go in.
Sheila pulled off her jeans and slid on a pair of soccer shorts. The touch of the chilly air on her legs convinced her to wait until the last minute before removing her jacket. According to the video, the movement of the water could be tracked as the tiny bubbles in it reflected the light from a flashlight. Sheila had a waterproof flashlight in her backpack, which she realized, was now in two inches of water. As she bent to pick up the bag, she heard a plop. Her penny! She had forgotten that it was still in her jacket pocket and now it was down in that dark murky water. For a third time she felt along the bottom, this time searching for the small coin, and rejoiced when her fingers found it. Carefully she tucked it into the zippered pocket of her shorts, dug out her flashlight, removed her jacket, and, bracing herself, jumped overboard.
The shock of the cold water was worse than she expected. Gasping, she shivered while treading water, waiting for her body to adjust. As soon as it did, she took a deep breath and dove under the boat. She expected the water to be somewhat clear since the surface was so pretty, but instead it was dark and murky, just like the water filling her boat. Her flashlight revealed multitudes of bubbles moving in all directions. Those were not the bubbles the man in the video had said to focus on. The important ones were the ones closest to her boat. She aimed her flashlight at the bottom of the boat and watched the direction the bubbles were heading. Her lungs began to complain, but she continued studying until one area of bubbles acted differently than the rest. Noting its location, she swam out from under the boat, broke through the surface of the water, took a few deep breaths, and then dove back down. Close examination of the area showed several tiny streams of water heading toward a central location. That had to be where the hole was. Sheila ran her finger across the bottom, and sure enough, felt the indentation of a hole a little more than half an inch across. Although it seemed small, Sheila knew a hole that big would have sunk the boat already. Why hadn’t it? Confused, Sheila poked her little finger in the hole and felt it narrow the deeper she pushed her finger. Ah, that’s why her boat hadn’t sunk yet. The other end of the hole must still be very tiny.
With lungs screaming, Sheila surfaced and refilled her lungs. As she tread water, she mentally took inventory of her supplies. What did she have that could plug the hole that would last long enough for her to get to the dock? Her rag was too big, and she hadn’t worn socks. None of her tools would work. She needed something small and round and waterproof, like a marble, which she could jam into the hole. Water pressure under the boat would hold it in place until she was able to get it repaired properly. At least that’s what the video had said. But she didn’t have a marble. The few nails and screws in the toolbox didn’t have heads big enough. Tissue paper wouldn’t last long enough. And she didn’t have any chewing gum.
And then she had it. Her coin! It was small and round and the perfect size. Carefully, she removed the penny from her pocket and swam back under the boat. Holding the flashlight in her mouth, she felt for the hole with one hand, and, finding it, shoved the coin into the hole with her other hand. She wiggled the penny with her finger, wedging it deeper and deeper into the hole until she couldn’t move it anymore. Slowly she lessened the pressure of her finger and was relieved when water pressure continued to hold the coin in place. Quickly now, Sheila returned to the surface of the water and took several deep gulps of air before climbing back into her boat.
Replacing her wet clothes with the dry jeans and jacket, she wrapped her arms around her body and waited until her body quit shivering. While she waited, she looked at the almost three inches of water that had made its way inside her boat. She should try to scoop it out, but all she had was her water bottle which would take too long. She chastised herself again for being unprepared and decided to get back to the dock as soon as possible. She knew someone trained in the repair of boats that would be able to remove the water and filth much more efficiently than she could.
As she rowed, she thought about the deceptive beauty of the water. On the surface, it was shiny and inviting, but she had learned the hard way how dark and cold the water under that surface had become as it rejected the warmth and light of the sun, and how easy it had been for that cold darkness to invade her boat. If it hadn’t been for that coin, she would not be heading back to the safety of the shore right now. She knew when she found the penny that it was special but had had no idea just how valuable it would prove to be. And if she hadn’t tucked it into the pocket of her jacket – the very jacket she now wore – she wouldn’t have had it when she needed it. That glittering coin had just saved her boat, and maybe even her life.
Amazing how such a small, seemingly insignificant thing had become the most important thing of all.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, (Eph 2:8)
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:19)
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Tim 3:12-13)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
When I was a new Christian back in the 1970’s, the term ‘Jesus freak’ became associated with those who were excited about Jesus. According to one of the definitions on vocabulary.com, a freak is “a not-so-nice noun that refers to a person who expresses such an intense obsession with something that it resembles addiction”. Obsession is defined as something about which one is constantly thinking about or concerned. So although Jesus freak was meant to be derogatory, I along with many others embraced it because it described our obsession with our God.
Today I am becoming increasingly disturbed with an obsession in our country that has nothing to do with God. When I listen to press conferences, news reports, and commentaries, no matter what’s being discussed, it seems Trump is pulled into it, giving him credit or blame depending on which side of the Trump-fence the speaker is on. It seems the whole country, even the world, shares this obsession. Maybe this is normal and temporary as everyone adjusts to the new president, but there are indications that it might not be going away anytime soon.
Other people have noticed the same and I’ve heard lots of name calling on both sides. I think it would be fair, at least in this blog (since it’s mine and I can say what I want), to call them all Trump freaks. Trump freaks who support him, wanting him to return to power and save our country. Trump freaks who hate him to the point fearing even the possibility of his return. Both groups seem to spend an equally amount of time talking about him.
Being a Trump freak might be fine, if that’s what you want to be. Everyone has the right to obsess over whatever they desire, as long as their obsession doesn’t include harming others.
However, being a Trump freak might not be okay if you call yourself a Christian. By definition, there’s room for only one thing in an obsession, and God makes it clear that the “one thing” should be Him.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:5-9)
Think of it this way. God wants to be the sun in our hearts, minds, and life. He wants everything we do and think to revolve around Him. He wants His light to shine on every part of our life. The result would be that we’d be constantly talking about God, interacting with God and relating life in terms of God.
An obsession on something other than God replaces Him as the sun in our hearts, minds, and life. Everything we do and think revolves around what we’re obsessed with. It penetrates every part of our life. We constantly talk about our obsession, interact with what relates to our obsession, and relate life in terms of our obsession.
Another word for this is idolatry.
It’s easy to see the idolatry of Trump-worship in the scores of people who are glorifying him beyond normal support. The media loves to show how crazy and irrational some of these people are. What’s not so easy to see is the idolatry in those who worship the idea of taking down Trump, everything he did, and everyone connected with him. They are consumed by thoughts of saving the country from his influence and proving how terrible a person he is. The media ignores how crazy and irrational some of these people are.
As I was thinking about all this, I thought about the high places that are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. They were areas set apart, usually on a hill or mountain, to worship and sacrifice to pagan gods. God hated those places and warned the Israelites to destroy them. Instead, the Israelites used them to worship God along with the pagan gods they adopted from the nations around them. God called this practice an abomination, and made it clear He didn’t want to share the worship due to Him.
While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. (Ezekiel 43:6-8)
In the United States today, what is higher than the presidency? Could it be that presidential politics is the western culture’s high place?
We need to make sure we are not involved in idolatry on high political places. We need to make sure we have not replaced God with Trump, or equate the two. We need to make sure God is the only sun in our lives, and that everything we do and say revolves around Him and His ways. And that includes any thoughts about Trump – whether they be thoughts of love or of hate. We don’t want what happened to Israel to happen to us.
For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their idols. When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel. (Ps 78:58-59)
And lest we think He was talking only to Israel…
Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the LORD God be a witness against you, the LORD from his holy temple. For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. (Micah 1:2-4)
If, when we examine our hearts, we find an obsession has taken up residence there, we can take it down just as the Israelites were told to do to the high places they found. To not do so would to disobey God, which is evil.
“For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10-12)
Seeking peace does not always mean being a pacifist, and doing good might involve standing up for what we believe in, so removing a political obsession doesn’t necessarily mean removing politics from our lives. It means we don’t put our political activism alongside God in our hearts. It means we spend more time praying than we do reading and commenting on social media platforms. It means seeking God’s truth instead of repeating lies. It means keeping our tongues from returning insults or condemning people Jesus died for. It means we listen to God for our marching orders rather than jump on anyone’s bandwagon. God may say jump, or He may have something different for us do, which may or may not be what we think we should be doing. Only He can see the big picture. Only He can see through all the deception permeating both sides. Only He knows the future and how one action will impact another down the road. Only He can coordinate everyone for maximum effectiveness. And He will only empower and equip us to do what He calls us to do, not what others call us to do. Otherwise we will be working in our own strength, and possibly in the same manner of those we call enemies, which won’t do much good and may even backfire on us. Joshua learned about following God’s directions when facing Jericho.
As Joshua was sizing up the city of Jericho, a man appeared with a drawn sword. Joshua strode over to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “I am the Commander-in-Chief of the Lord’s army,” he replied. Joshua fell to the ground before him and worshiped him and said, “Give me your commands.” “Take off your shoes,” the Commander told him, “for this is holy ground.” And Joshua did. The gates of Jericho were kept tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelis; no one was allowed to go in or out. But the Lord said to Joshua, “Jericho and its king and all its mighty warriors are already defeated, for I have given them to you! Your entire army is to walk around the city once a day for six days, followed by seven priests walking ahead of the Ark, each carrying a trumpet made from a ram’s horn. On the seventh day, you are to walk around the city seven times, with the priests blowing their trumpets. Then, when they give one long, loud blast, all the people are to give a mighty shout, and the walls of the city will fall down; then move in upon the city from every direction.” (Joshua 5:13-15; 6:1-5)
I believe only God can heal our country. Let’s tear down our high places and give God our whole hearts. Let’s turn from following our own ways and accept Him as our Commander-in-Chief. Let’s do things His way which will allow Him to answer our prayers. Let’s watch Him do what only He can do.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet live, godly and dignified in every way. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior. (1 Tim 2:1-3)
You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. (Matt 5:43-45)
For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:6-8)
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)
Do you be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 15:5-6)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Rom 15:13)
Kayla opened the rest of her letters – the ones that had come from her current friends. Just like she expected, there were several invitations to special events in their lives. A baby shower at the country club, complete with a sit down meal and live music. A birthday celebration at the ‘world famous’ night club on the west side of town, the one that saw frequent police action. A bachelorette party featuring a popular male stripper. All sounded exciting and she instantly regretted not having opened these invitations since some had already taken place. No wonder a few of her friends had gotten weird towards her lately. They must have thought she had deliberately ignored them.
But then her eyes fell on her father’s letters and the letters from her old friends. Suddenly Kayla saw the invitations for what they were – cold, crass, and self-indulgent enticements to engage in passions of her flesh. The invitations had nothing to do with actually loving or caring about her or anyone else. Kayla couldn’t remember ever having deep talks with any of those friends. Sure, their behavior showed that they might have missed her. But had they really missed her? Did they even know – or care – who Kayla really was? No, more likely they had missed the affirmation her presence would have given to their behavior. And her gifts.
Kayla shoved the invitations into her backpack, no longer even slightly interested in them. She preferred the satisfying discussions around simple meals that she used to have with her old friends, the ones who really knew her and loved her anyway. She added calling them to her mental checklist of calls to make when she got home. Placing the rest of the letters into her backpack, Kayla flexed her right foot. Her ankle gave a warning twitch, but most of the pain was gone. Surprised, she got up carefully, balancing on her left foot, and slowly added weight to her right. She was even more surprised as her foot remained firm with just the slightest complaint from her ankle. Taking a few steps confirmed that somehow her injury had mostly healed. Not understanding how, but grateful that it had, Kayla turned to face the pile of dirt. It was time to go home.
Thinking about the advice her father had given her on the phone a few minutes earlier, she looked for a way that wouldn’t require climbing the mound. He had said there were always ways around obstacles, and she would find them if she looked for them. Well, this was definitely an obstacle, and if she was to believe her father, there would be a way to get around it. She had taken what seemed the easy way the first time, but climbing that dirty mound had turned out to be neither easy nor safe. Where was the other way? Kayla walked along the edge of the pile toward the street but found nothing new. Disappointed, she began to doubt her father’s assurance. How could there be another way when it was obvious the pile completely blocked her access to the other side? His advice had always been good before, but what if he was wrong this time? What if he didn’t really mean what he said? What if she had misunderstood him?
Kayla looked back up to the top. She could feel the temptation to just go ahead and climb the thing and get it over with. Her newly healed ankle shouldn’t be a problem so why not? It would only take a few minutes and she could get on with her walk. The longer she stared at it, the greater the desire to start climbing became. The thrill of getting to the top – of conquering this mountain of dirt – was enticing. She was about to give in when the sound of her father’s voice rose in her heart. “There is a way. This is not it. Keep looking.” Startled, she shook her head against her misplaced desire. No! She wouldn’t give in to temptation. Her father wouldn’t say what he didn’t mean; therefore there was another way even if she couldn’t see it at the moment.
Kayla walked slowly around the edge of the mound again, this time heading towards the fence, through which she could see the other side of the dirt sloping down until it almost reached the garage. She considered walking to where the dirt was shallow enough to cross safely, but reconsidered. She would have to go all the way to the garage. Surely this other way wouldn’t involve breaking the law by trespassing. So where in the world was the way her father had promised she would find?
As she neared the fence, she began to notice that the top of the pile seemed to dip in the center, almost as if there were actually two piles. She could picture a truck making multiple dumps along this driveway so she wasn’t very surprised. But what did surprise her was the change in the dip as she approached it. The closer she got, the deeper it went, clearly separating the two piles. Her heart began to beat faster as a new thought tickled her mind – what if the two piles weren’t actually connected? What if they only appeared to be because of her perspective based on where she had been standing? What if there was actually enough room between them for her to pass through? She quickly took the last few steps around the first pile and shouted with joy. There was a path in between them! It was narrow, but totally doable. Her father was right. There was a way!
It took only a few minutes to walk between those piles of dirt and she was on the other side. The sun was bright in the sky, filling her with warmth and light, as she danced her way down the sidewalk. Her house was only a few blocks away now and she couldn’t wait to get there. She was excited to reconnect with her old friends, to heal her relationship with Lisa, and to share what she had learned with her father.
Kayla laughed as she looked up at the sun streaming down on her. No matter what happened in the future, she had the companionship of a few close friends, and even more important, the love and support of her father. Life couldn’t get any better than that.
For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. (2 Peter 2:18)
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12)
Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. (Rom 13:13)
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2 Thes 2:15)
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it. (1 Cor 10:13)
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. (Ps 16:9)
For many years, Samantha had guided her family to work outside their home. Besides teaching, her children also gave frequent talks to a great variety of people who asked, helped out in the soup kitchen downtown, shopped in small as well as large businesses, and donated to relief organizations. If someone had a need, they were to be quick to say yes. Samantha believed in the value of everyone, and instructed her family to use their resources to promote the welfare of others.
Not only concerned for those outside her home, Samantha also worked hard for those within her home. Her family was extremely important to her, and her children, in return, loved her greatly. At first her children had been supportive and grateful for her words to them even though they knew as well as she did that things weren’t perfect. She encouraged them to voice their concerns and suggestions with the intent that they would work on the problems as a family. But as her family grew, so did the problems. Sibling rivalry became a constant source of friction and it seemed she was no longer good enough for many of her children. No matter what she said, someone would complain. If she suggested steak and baked potatoes for dinner, some of her children complained that she ignored their desire for single dish meals. If she directed her family to clean the living room, some of her children complained that she was saying the dirt in the other rooms didn’t matter. Stains settled on shirts were her fault for not having treated them immediately. No matter how hard she worked, there were always more complaints about more messes. Some of her children blamed her that the messes even existed. They yelled, criticized, and threw tantrums. They turned on the siblings that ignored their rants or defended Samantha, and vowed to force them to change or to be attacked, which resulted in more fights as the second group retaliated with anger and name calling. Few children looked at themselves as the cause of many of the problems.
Samantha was concerned with the increasing discord in her family but was frozen from action by conflicting ideas on how to stop it. The stress of indecision weakened her immune system, which allowed viruses and bacteria to begin infiltrating her body. She fought against them the best she could, but could feel herself losing when a cancer took root and began spreading throughout her body.
One day a friend arrived. He had been watching the decline of Samantha’s family and could no longer stand by and do nothing. He suggested that she reduce her outside work for awhile in order to focus on the problems in her house. She followed his advice and began to shift her priorities. But as she did, her hidden illness began interfering with her work. The man recognized the signs of cancer in her and told her and her family that helping her regain her health was one of his top priorities. Until she was healthy, she wouldn’t be able to take care of anyone properly.
The backlash came quickly and violently. Many of the children denied that Samantha was sick and refused to acknowledge the symptoms the man pointed out. They said he was lying in order to take control, and that as long as their mother did things their way, they could take care of all the family problems themselves. They did not want this man in the house, and demanded that he leave. Other children disagreed, saying that the cancer would contaminate any solutions tried and would only result in more problems. They wanted the man to stay, thankful for his help and intervention.
It seemed as if the disagreement would last forever, but eventually, a plan was devised and successfully executed by the first group of children, forcing the man to leave and replacing him with a woman. This woman also denied that anything was wrong in Samantha’s body and threatened to take action against anyone who disagreed. The children in the second group watched sadly as Samantha was put back to work without consideration of any possible health issues. While the first group of children celebrated their victory, the second group worried that the end result would be their beloved mother’s death, and were frustrated with the lack of freedom to voice any more of their concerns.
Will the first group of children care enough about the feelings of the second group to let a doctor examine the health of their mother to verify whether or not she was healthy?
Will the second group of children quietly submit to the woman’s threats, or will they rise up to confront the unfairness of censorship?
Will the man go back to his own life and ignore the needs he saw in his friend, or will he continue to find ways to get her the help he thinks she needs?
Will Samantha survive the intense battle that rages over her?
Only time will tell.
This allegory was written in response to a question I read this morning. My prayer is that God opens all of our eyes to what is true – to see the truth no matter which group of children we are in – to acknowledge what is true and not true in what we see and what the other side sees – and to recognize the truth about the evil spiritual enemy who is the real mastermind behind this battle – for without truth, there can be no healing or unity in our country.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (Ps 25:5)
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! (Ps 43:3)
These are the things that you shall do: speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; (Zech 8:16)
and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)
The huge pile of brown dirt loomed before her, taunting her, daring her to climb it one more time. Kayla stared at it, looking for signs of her previous painful descent. Other than some loose dirt at the base of the pile, Kayla could see nothing but smooth, inviting dirt. It was as if she had never crossed that deceptive mound before. But her limp and the brown smudges that covered her clothing told her otherwise. No matter how safe it looked, she knew all too well how dangerous it really was, and she was not going to make the same mistake again. And yet, she still had to get to the other side in order to get home.
Kayla considered her options.
The mound of the dirt spilled over the curb and into the gutter. To get around it, she would have to walk out onto the busy street. The distance was short so it wouldn’t take long, even with her limp, but she would be in constant danger every step of the way. Even if she stayed as close to the curb as possible, distracted or careless drivers frequently veered off the road, sometimes scraping the curb before pulling back into their lane. If that were to happen while she was walking in the gutter, she would be pinned between the car and the dirt pile – not a risk she wanted to take.
She could cross the street and walk on the grassy area that ran along the other side, which was safer but would require crossing four lanes of heavy traffic, not once but twice. She couldn’t imagine how she could achieve that with a limp slowing her down. A pedestrian crosswalk about two blocks away would provide a safe way to cross but would add four blocks to her walk, and she’d be no closer to home. Not something she wanted to consider with a twisted ankle.
So how was she going to find a way past this giant obstacle when it seemed there was no way? Looking back at the dirt pile, she could feel it calling out to her. Come on up. The dirt has settled and is safe now. You’ll be able to handle it this time. Nothing will happen to you. It makes more sense to climb over than to go the extra distance to avoid the climb. Don’t be scared. Just because you got hurt one time doesn’t mean you’ll get hurt this time. Besides, other people do it and nothing happens to them. Kayla considered the tightly packed dirt. It did seem safe. Maybe this time she could climb it without falling. She knew the problem had been at the top, so maybe if she crawled across the top instead of standing, she’d be okay.
But what if she wasn’t? What if this time it collapsed under her weight and more than just her leg got trapped? What if she got buried alive, and no one saw noticed? Or worse, cared? She could die in there.
Discouraged, not knowing what to do, she sat down. If only the maintenance department had done their job and removed this hindrance already. Too bad they hadn’t while she had been on her way to the park, but then her trip to the park had been aborted. Maybe they hadn’t had the time. Or maybe they didn’t see it as a hazard. Regardless of the reason, the obstacle was still there.
Thinking of the park made her think of Lisa. Should she take her up on her offer to help? She knew Lisa had a car and might be willing to come pick her up. A ride home sounded extremely nice right now. But Lisa might still be working at the park. If she wasn’t, the long hours of picking up trash may have worn her out and she might be napping. And, Kayla had to admit, she felt too guilty to ask anything of Lisa until she apologized for her judgmental thoughts. Her apology might seem manipulative if she ended it by asking for a favor. No, she couldn’t ask Lisa. What about Larry and Buster? They had asked if she needed a ride. But no, she had already intruded enough into their day. Who else did she know?
Shifting position as she considered her short list of friends, she felt her backpack dig uncomfortably into her back. She removed it, placed it on the ground in front of her, and gingerly placed her aching ankle on it, hoping elevating her ankle would ease the pain. She expected her foot to sink into the almost emptiness of the backpack, but instead, the backpack held firm under the weight. Something inside the pack must be holding it up. What did she have in there? A couple of water bottles, some makeup, a bag of trail mix, and…the letters. She had forgotten about them. Since she wasn’t going anywhere soon, this would be a great time to read them.
With a few groans, she pulled the backpack closer, removed a large handful of letters and a bottle of water, and repositioned the bag under her ankle. Opening the bottle, she took a sip of water, then another. The refreshing sensation of the soothing water down her dry esophagus was amazing and her sips quickly became gulps until the bottle was empty. Sighing with satisfaction, she replaced the cap, set the bottle on the ground, and picked up the stack of letters.
The first few were from her father. Opening each, she found similar messages of love and desire to see her in each one. “I love you and always will.” “When are you going to call me?” “I think of you every day.” “I love you more than you can imagine.” “I’m eagerly waiting for your response.” “Come see me soon and I’ll treat you to lunch.”
Kayla felt bad. Ever since she had moved out of state, she had tried to remember to call him from time to time, but for some reason never made the time to go see him. She had thought he was busy with his own life and didn’t care all that much about hers. True, he was always excited to hear from her, but she thought that was just momentary, and that as soon as she hung up, he got busy with something else. But these letters were painting a different picture. Did he really think of her daily? Did he really love her as much as his letters said? Tears welled in her eyes as she thought of the pain he must feel by her mostly indifferent attitude towards him. Not indifference, exactly. She did love him, and enjoyed her time with him, but, well, life just seemed to demand so much of her time and energy that she didn’t have enough left over to share with him. She pulled the rest of his letters from the pile and set them at her side, feeling too convicted to continue reading them. As soon as she got home, she would call him. Right after she called Lisa.
Flipping through the other letters, she recognized the names of a variety of friends, but one particular one stopped her. Memories came flooding back as she stared at Paul’s name. They had once been very close, spending much time hanging out together. It had been a strictly platonic relationship, but very deep. They talked for hours about life, and his wisdom had helped her more than once to negotiate around some tricky situations. She regretted now that she had allowed time and the stress of daily life to put a distance between them. She noticed the forwarding message her father had written across the envelope, and made a mental note to thank him when she called him.
Continuing to flip through the mail, she found other forwarded letters from Pete, Matt, Jonathan, and Phil. She smiled as she saw their names. Good memories warmed her heart as she remembered the hours they had spent together discussing important topics. When the other girls were more concerned with trivial matters, these guys shared her hunger for deeper things. Why had they gone their separate ways after graduation? Or had it just been her that had gone a different way?
The rest of the letters were from some current friends. Kayla looked at them, confused. These friends frequently sent her messages through social media so why would they write to her? Come to think of it, she hadn’t gotten many messages lately. What was up with that? Maybe the letters would explain but first she wanted to see what her old friends were up to. Pulling their letters from the stack, she began opening them.
Most expressed fond memories of their talks, reminders of the many lessons they had learned, regret for allowing their friendship to fade, and an invitation to renew their relationship. Several told of new adventures and life events. A few asked that she call them. A few even gave her warnings about staying true to what she believed. But every one of them mentioned her father in some way or other. “I loved how attentive he was, not only to you, but to me whenever I stopped by.” “His love for the flowers in his greenhouse was amazing.” “He always gave the best advice.” “Say hi to him for me.”
Nostalgia for her friends fought with renewed guilt as she thought of how long it had been since she had called her father. Maybe she should call him right now. No, first she should read the rest of his letters. He might ask about them. She picked up the small stack of letters and slowly opened them, expecting the weight of her guilt to increase with each one. She wasn’t disappointed.
I hope this letter finds you well. I miss our talks late into the night. Call me when you get the chance.
I know we have been out of touch but I think of you every day. I love you. If you need anything, you know how to reach me.
Love you bunches,
Remember when we used to talk about how some people were too tied up with their own concerns to think about bigger, more important issues? I hope that’s not happening to you. A call from you would be great reassurance.
Word has come to me that things aren’t going too well for you. Please call me. I would be delighted if you would allow me to help you a way through your difficulties. With all my experience, I’m sure we could fix things quickly.
All my love,
Please call me. We have some important issues to discuss.
Love as always,
Kayla’s hands gripped the letters to her chest as she allowed fresh tears to spill down her cheeks. She could feel his steady love through these letters in spite of her own lack of response. He may have been busy with other things, but one thing was clear. She was still a priority to him. From her earliest memories, he had always been there for her – guiding her when she was confused, entertaining her when she was bored, teaching her what was important, comforting her when she was hurt, and caring about what she cared about. He listened to every complaint she made, provided everything she needed and more, and sat up with her all night whenever she was sick. He gave her security both when life was good and when it seemed to fall apart. Just because she had moved away physically didn’t mean she had to distance him in her heart as well. And it was painfully obvious to her that the distancing had been one-sided. He loved her so much, and she only gave back a token of that love. Kayla bowed her head over the letters, and gave in to her grief.
After what seemed like hours, something began to grown in her mind. A puzzling thought. How did her father know of her problems? She had not told him the times she had called. And none of her current friends knew her father. So how had he known something wasn’t right? Was it his great love for her? She had to find out.
Paying no attention to her ankle’s objection, she pulled her backpack close enough to dig out her phone. It took three tries for her trembling fingers to dial the familiar number, and she held her breath as she listened for the call to go through.
It was answered on the first tone.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (Ps 36:5)
It was every bit as hard as she had thought it would be. As she stepped over empty soda cans and broken beer bottles, maneuvered around discarded electronics, furniture, and bags of trash, and avoided the holes that seemed to be all over, she realized there was a good reason people warned about crossing this vacant lot. It was not only full of dangerous traps, but it smelled as bad as it looked. The rancid odor of decaying food mixed with the musty odor of rotten wood filled the air. Kayla tried not to breath as, through sheer strength of will, she slowly limped her way through the maze of obstacles. Finally, reaching the halfway point without falling even once, Kayla rewarded herself with a rest stop. Spotting an abandoned armchair, she checked it over for signs of rodents, and seeing none, gratefully lowered herself into it. Exhausted, but proud of her achievement, Kayla sat back and looked at the sky. Gray clouds still swirled, blocking most of the sunlight, but every now and then a tiny sliver of light managed to break through. A longing rose in Kayla’s heart as she focused on those tiny beams of life. She knew, above the clouds, the light in all its fullness was still there, but that wasn’t enough. She wanted to feel the warm sunshine on her face again. She wanted to bask in the light as she had been doing before the phone call. She wanted those clouds that separated her from her beloved light to be gone.
“She’s here somewhere.” The man’s deep voice shattered her thoughts. Kayla froze as she listened. Maybe they weren’t talking about her. The voice had come from her right side, but as from a distance. Maybe they were talking about a stray cat. Please let it be about a stray cat.
“Are you sure it was her?” came another voice. This one sounded familiar. Too familiar. Chills rose along her spine as she realized it belonged to the man in the black hoodie who had glared at her earlier that day. Panic stricken that it might actually be her they were after, she looked around for a place to hide, but the only thing nearby bigger than her was the green armchair she was sitting in. Stuck where she was, hoping her green sweatshirt would blend in with the green of the armchair, she quickly pulled her knees up to her chest and tried to disappear into the chair’s soft, worn out back.
“Yeah, it was her. She had the same limp. Look, here’s a footprint.”
“There’s more. They look like they’re heading for that green chair.”
“Maybe we’ll find more footprints on the other side. Let’s go check it out.”
Kayla closed her eyes as heavy footsteps approached. “I’m invisible. I’m invisible. I’m invisible,” Kayla thought as loud as she could. “Nothing to see here – just a green chair.”
“Hello again.” The voice came from directly in front of her. “So glad we found you.”
Kayla didn’t know what to do. Open her eyes and face what was coming? Or play possum and hope they lost interest and went away? Not ready to face anything, she slowed her breathing as much as she could.
“Is she dead?”
“I don’t think so. I think I saw her arm move. I’m going to try to wake her.”
“No, don’t touch her. She might be sick.”
“But we can’t leave her like this.”
“No, we can’t. I’m going to try something.”
Kayla’s heart raced and she almost lost control of her breathing. What were they going to try? Did it involve hurting her? She remembered the times she had used twigs to poke at insects to check if they were alive. Were they about to do the same with her?
There was the sound of things being moved around, and then a voice. “This should work.” Kayla forced her body to relax, anticipating a jab on her leg. She was not disappointed. The jab came, hard enough to be felt but not hard enough to hurt. Kayla was able to ignore it, as well as several more jabs in other parts of her body.
“Let me try. You’re not doing it hard enough.”
Suddenly a sharp jab to her side caused Kayla to gasp.
“See? I told you.”
“See what? I didn’t see anything. She’s still not moving. We need to call 911.”
Kayla remained still. Why hadn’t she thought about calling 911 herself as soon as she knew she had been spotted? And why on earth would they call 911 on themselves? Something wasn’t making sense.
“Want me to jab her again?”
Not if she could help it. The first hard jab was bad enough; she did not want to experience it a second time. If ignoring them didn’t’ work, maybe acting tough would. She opened her eyes. “Leave me alone,” she told them through gritted teeth.
“We can’t do that.” The taller one answered.
“Yes, you can.” Kayla said. “Just walk away.”
“Naw, can’t do that. Wouldn’t be right,” the second man responded.
Kayla’s heart raced, but she covered it by demanding, “What do you want? I don’t have any money.”
“Don’t want your money.” Larry said. “Buster and I just want to help you, like we tried when we first saw you limping on the sidewalk. This lot is too dange-“
Kayla interrupted, “It didn’t look like you were trying to help, not with those daggers in your eyes.”
“Daggers in my eyes?” Buster asked, sounding confused.
“You do look pretty mean when you get frustrated,” laughed Larry.
“Sorry,” Buster said. “Those ‘daggers’ were not meant for you. I was just frustrated to see that Rory guy grab you. He’s bad news.” Buster said.
“Pastor Rory’s not bad news. He tried to help me.” Kayla declared, crossing her arms.
“He tries to help lots of people – only not for their sake. Rory only does what’s good for Rory,” Buster said.
Larry added, “Many people are fooled by Rory’s false promises. That is no place for you, and neither is this place. If you’ll let us help, we know the safe way through this mess.
Kayla looked at the rest of the vacant lot that she still had to cross. There were even more pitfalls and obstacles on the second half, and with everything placed haphazardly, she couldn’t see a straight path. In fact, she couldn’t see any path. She sighed inwardly at the difficult journey ahead. She had made this far by herself, but she was tired and wasn’t sure if she could make it to the other side. At least not without falling. Turning back to the men, she looked from one. With their faces hidden by their black hoods, they looked every bit as dangerous as the trip across the lot. Maybe they were members of some gang, looking for a target in which to prove themselves. Well, she didn’t want to be a victim. Not if she could help it. She’d rather face the possible injuries of walking by herself than the probable attack by these two, if not their whole gang.
“It’s okay. I can find my own way,” she finally told them.
“Look, we’re not going to hurt you. We just want to give you what we have – our knowledge, experience, and strength – to get you to a safer place,” Larry said. “We really want what’s best for you.”
Buster nodded. “It’s not about us. If you insist, we can go away like you want and let you make your own way. It’s not like we need to help you. We just know what could happen and want to save you from it.”
Kayla wished she could believe them. It would be so nice to have their help. But their black hoodies…
Suddenly Kayla realized if she looked past those hoodies, if she took her eyes off the obvious outerwear and focused on what lay underneath, she could see their eyes which seemed to glow as if reflecting a light. Excited, she looked up at the sky. Had the sun broken through the clouds? No, the clouds still covered the sky so the light wasn’t coming from the sun above. Looking back into their eyes, Kayla felt drawn to the peace that radiated out from them. It was a peace that went beyond anything she had ever experienced before. Evil could not possibly exist in a peace like this. Allowing the peace to seep into her, Kayla sighed as she relaxed. “I could use some help.”
Within minutes, Kayla was once again on her way home, this time supported on each side by strong arms. Navigating around the larger debris, and lifting her over the smaller ones, they made short work of what would have taken Kayla three times longer if she had had to do it herself. When they made it to the sidewalk, they stopped to celebrate. The men high fived each other while Kayla tried to pull out her wallet from her backpack. But they refused any payment, saying they were just happy to help.
“Where do you need to go from here?” Buster asked.
“Oh, just a couple of blocks. I’ll be fine now that I’m out of that hazard trap.”
“Here’s my number,” Buster said, handing her a card. “Call me if you need more help.”
Kayla took it. “I will. Thanks again.”
With a smile on her face, she watched them head back across the not-so-empty lot, amazed at what had just happened. Then she turned and headed towards her home. As she limped along, she thought about how those men were not at all what she had feared. And how the two well-dressed men in the florist shop were not what they appeared either. She sure had misjudged all four of them. And if she had misjudged them, then maybe she had also misjudged Lisa. The only way to tell was to actually get to know her. Kayla made a mental note to call Lisa once her ankle healed. Maybe they could go out to lunch or something.
Suddenly the light broke through the clouds and beamed down on Kayla. She looked up with delight as most of the clouds scattered and disappeared, leaving just a few behind. She took a deep breath, face upturned, and let the warmth of the sun fill her. This was more like it. She wouldn’t have any trouble getting home now that she was strengthened. Not even that pile of dirt was going to stop her.
Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. (Prov 4:14-15)
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Rom 16:17)
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 3:27)
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)
Many Conservative Christians I know are struggling with how to respond to what’s happening in our nation, especially these last few months. Do we fight – or do we passively submit?
I truly don’t know.
However, after weeks of prayer and searching, I have discovered some things and made some tentative conclusions.
These are my thoughts and I make no claim that God gave them to me. In fact, He seems pretty quiet on the subject. Maybe because He’s already told us.
Here’s what I found.
Almost all the scriptures that talk about fighting – meaning actual fighting with weapons and aggression – are in the Old Testament. And most of those seem to be when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. They fought to take possession of the land and to resist enemies that came against them. But here’s the interesting thing: they only fought when and where God said to fight. They attacked cities as God led them to, and left alone the cities God said were off limits (Deut 2). Here’s another thing: they were told to take possession of the land because of the evilness in that land (Deut 9:5), and not because of their self-serving ambition.
In the New Testament, the picture is not as clear. Jesus spoke of not resisting an evil person. Even if mistreated, His followers were not to resist. He said, do not “repay evil with evil” (Matt 5) and to “put your sword away for who takes the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt 26:52). He also said to do to others what we would want others to do to us (Matt 7:12). Paul and Peter both said to submit to authorities and governing bodies (Rom 13, 2 Peter 2). Nowhere in the Epistles could I find a reference telling us to fight other than spiritually.
And yet, Jesus told His disciples that if they didn’t have a sword, to sell their cloak and buy one (Luke 22:36). He said He didn’t come to bring peace to the world but a sword (Matt 10:34). He never told soldiers to stop being soldiers. Several soldiers are even described as devout and faithful men (Acts 10:7, Matt 8:5-13). Jesus also showed a bit of violence when He threw out the sellers and buyers and overturned tables in the temple (Matt 21). If He never sinned, then fighting and violence of itself can’t be a sin.
My tentative conclusion? Fighting as a Christian is not a black and white issue. There will be times that fighting is to be avoided, and other times when fighting is necessary. Romans 12:18 says “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The word ‘if’ implies there will be times that it won’t be possible to live in peace. Eccl 3:8 says, “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
When would fighting not be appropriate?
When it’s all about us – our pride and desires. When we want our way over others for selfish or self-centered reasons. When we want to avenge ourselves (Rom 12:19), or when we want what others have (James 4:1-3). Paul calls that being in the flesh (1 Cor 3:3). When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we became spiritual beings. We are called to live as such. Our focus needs to be on Jesus and His kingdom, not on our earthly lives and possessions. He said in Matt 5:40 that “if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” Paul told the Corinthians (1 Cor 6:7) “to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” That is a hard thing to do when we see life is all about us, or when we believe we are in charge of our lives. Jesus said the Father provides all we need if we seek His kingdom first (Matt 6:31-33), and that He will make “…all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28), which I interpret as living for His kingdom. Instead of fighting, we are called to trust God’s sovereignty and care. Micah 6:8 puts it this way: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Nothing is there says we are to fight to make others do this.
Fighting is also not appropriate when it’s focused on people instead of on evil. God loved and died for us while we were His enemies (Rom 5:10) – and He died for those we call our enemies too. He calls us to “… love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28) And in Matt 5:44-46, He says, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” We fight evil – not people – just like we love the sinner but not the sin. Anger directed at people, calling names and insulting our enemies are good indicators that we are focused on people, which is not right nor will it end well for us. Jesus said, “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says ‘You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt 5:22).
So when is fighting the right thing to do?
When it’s about oppression. God hates oppression. He freed the Israelites when they cried out from their oppression (Judges 6, 10); He used the Israelites to destroy nations for their oppression (Deut 9); and Jesus came to free the oppressed (Luke 4:18). In Is 58:6 God says, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” Fighting to end evil strongholds and to free the oppressed are sometimes necessary. But we should not engage in such fighting unless and until God leads us. Moses found this out the hard way when he defended an oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. That man turned on him resulting in Moses fleeing. Due to his action, Moses couldn’t live with his people or with the Egyptians, and ended up living in exile (Acts 7:23-29).
Without God’s support, we will lose every battle. And just in case we believe God supports us because we think it’s the right thing to do, He has made it clear that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (Is 55:8). Sometimes He called the Israelites to fight, sometimes He called them to stand while He fought for them. I believe it’s the same way today. 1 Sam 15:23 says, “…presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” We can’t presume to know what God wants because it’s what we want. And we can’t know what God wants in specific instances until we pray and ask Him.
So here’s my bottom line.
With evil advancing and causing oppression to increase, we need to humble ourselves before God, get on our knees and pray. Pray like David did. Pray like Jesus taught: “deliver us from evil”. Petition God to save us, fight for us, and free us.
And then we need to listen.
If He says fight, then we fight. But not like the evildoers do. According to the NT, we need to stay honorable so that the world “…will see our good deeds and glorify God…” (1 Peter 2:12), and correct our opponents with gentleness with the hope that “…God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Tim 2:24-26). God will give the battle plans and we need to stick to them whether they make sense to us or not. He is our Commander-in- Chief. We listen to Him and no one else. We need to do things His way and not the way of the enemy. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We won’t learn God’s mind by copying the enemy.
However, I don’t believe God is calling everyone to fight. I believe God is calling some of us to fight, and some of us to pray. Pray that all eyes remain steadfast on Him, that all Christians heed what God tells them, and that God protects us all as we follow His lead.
Whether or not called to fight, none of us should judge the other. “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Rom 14:4) That is not to say we shouldn’t call out when the fighting is not done honorably. I believe riots resulting in death and destruction are not honorable and completely detestable. I call that behavior sin and believe it should be judged. But protesting and resisting peacefully can be both honorable and gentle. Rallies, marches, and actions such as protesting censorship by deleting Big Tech are just a few examples.
On top of everything, I believe God has called ALL of us to fight spiritually because this is ultimately a spiritual battle manifesting itself in the natural. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). We ALL need to be on our knees daily, praying 24/7, and fasting if called to do so. God heard the cries of His people in the OT and delivered them. He can do the same today – if we let Him and not try to do it all ourselves.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Eph 6:10-18)
If anyone sees anything unbiblical in what’s I’ve written, please let me know. Also, I welcome other opinions and thoughts. I’d love to hear what you believe and what God is telling you.
I love clouds. Their endless variations and movements fascinate me. And sometimes startle me.
Like this time.
The other day, as I watching the clouds through the back seat window of a car while traveling along some mountain roads in Virginia, two clouds took on a significance I rarely feel.
One cloud looked to me like a serpent. I could see deadly determination in its eyes. It looked like it was on a war path towards a second, smaller cloud.
Interesting, I thought.
I looked at the second cloud – and saw a bird’s head with fierce eyes rising to meet the serpent, its mouth open in a challenging scream.
My heart jolted for some reason as I recognized the bird. It was an eagle.
Wait… an eagle facing a serpent… in the sky…
It’s a battle!
And then I knew what I was seeing. There is a spiritual battle over our country. An intense, to the death, battle being waged in the spiritual realm between good and evil. Satan is attacking with every he’s got, and America is rising up to fight the onslaught.
The feeling of this revelation was so intense that I can still feel it today. I believe God is telling us a few things.
We can’t get so wrapped up in what we see that we ignore where the real battle is.
We need to pray. And fast if He calls you to that. We need to listen to our real Commander-in-Chief.
We need to stand up to evil wherever it’s found.
We need to fight as Paul directed – using spiritual weapons against the spiritual enemy – or the eagle will be consumed by the serpent.
And no one wants that.
Joshua 5:13-15 As Joshua was sizing up the city of Jericho, a man appeared nearby with a drawn sword. Joshua strode over to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “I am the Commander-in-Chief of the Lord’s army,” he replied. Joshua fell to the ground before him and worshipped him and said, “Give me your commands.” “Take off your shoes,” the Commander told him, “for this is holy ground.” And Joshua did.
Thoughts of the park intruded into Kayla’s light-worship as she limped toward the corner. She had been so intent on getting home that she had forgotten about the people expecting her there. It was well past the start time and most likely everyone was well into whatever the event entailed, which was probably picking up trash. Hopefully enough people turned out that she hadn’t been missed. Tending to her injuries was more important than participating in some kind of work day. She was doing the right thing by going home, which was closer to her now than the park. And yet, guilt was quickly replacing the peace that had flowed through her just moments before. Maybe she should call someone to let them know why she hadn’t shown up. But who? All she knew was that the invitation had come from her church which she only occasionally attended. She didn’t have any members in her contact list, nor did she want to. Those self-centered people held no interest for her, and she had resisted every attempt they made to include her in church business. Kayla had only agreed to the go to the park event to build her reputation with a few influential and powerful members. She had even hoped to be photographed by the newspaper reporter who was going to be there. Having her picture on the front page would show everyone how altruistic she was, and it would ensure that those powerful and influential people would remember her should their memories fail. She might be a nobody right now, but one day she would be rich and powerful herself. It would ruin everything, though, if she lost standing for missing this dumb event without an excuse. She couldn’t allow that. She had to make sure they knew she had tried to show up. If she could contact the church, the secretary would be able to provide a phone number of two. Kayla couldn’t remember whether the pastor was going to be at the park or not, but the secretary would know that as well. The thought about her pastor reminded her of Pastor Rory, who was still way too close for her comfort. What if he decided to try to find her? And then there were those two guys in black hoodies, probably lurking somewhere nearby, waiting to ambush her. Looking around, she admitted she didn’t feel safe. Better to keep going and make the call when she got home. But between there and where she was now lay two big obstacles. The large pile of dirt blocking the sidewalk, and a large empty lot located just around the corner. Actually, the empty lot was not really empty. Rocks and pebbles, along with all kinds of litter lay scattered all across the uneven terrain. Typical litter such as rusty cans, broken bottles, and empty packaging were joined by the not-so-typical tires, crushed boxes, old mattresses, and dilapidated furniture. Getting across this lot was hard enough with two good legs, but her sprained ankle made it an even greater challenge.
Kayla reached the corner just as her phone rang.
“Hey, it’s Lisa. Where are you? I thought you were coming today. We waited as long as we could, but finally had to start in order to finish by noon. The others are still working but I keep getting a sense that something was wrong, like you need help or something. So I decided to call you. Are you okay?”
Lisa. That obnoxiously friendly busybody that everybody kept talking about. Kayla listened to the torrent of words, delighted that she had been missed but wishing it had been anyone else on the phone other than Lisa. A feeling rose in Kayla’s heart, one she wasn’t very familiar with. It was almost like she had done something wrong. But that was nonsense. The only thing she could think of that she could possibly have done wrong was not calling the church group. And that was no big deal since she had planned to call as soon as she got home. Maybe that was it – she should have called before someone from church called her. Well, that was an easy fix. She would just apologize.
“I’m sorry. I ran into a problem.” Kayla turned the corner and kept walking as she talked.
“What kind of problem? Is there anything I can do to help?”
Kayla wanted to say, “Yes! I would love a ride home,” but she couldn’t trust Lisa. Rumor had it that Lisa had a way to twisting the truth to make everything sound much more melodramatic than it actually was. Kayla was sure Lisa would spin her failure to call as irresponsible and inconsiderate. Although Kayla had a good excuse for not showing up at the park, she suspected Lisa would exploit any information she got as much as possible. On the other hand, it was possible Lisa was made to call against her will – maybe the pastor asked her to call – and that she didn’t really want to help and was hoping that Kayla would refuse. So Kayla bit back what she wanted to say and said instead, “No, it’s okay. I don’t want to further inconvenience you any more than I have already.”
“It’s no inconvenience. I want to help. What can I do?”
Lisa sounded genuinely concerned, but then, so had Pastor Rory. No, this had to be a ploy to poke her nose into Kayla’s business. Kayla preferred keeping her life private. She didn’t want a busybody like Lisa to spread all kinds of lies about her, especially if she found out what had happened in the florist shop. It was better to refuse help now than to be let down later.
“Thanks, but everything is okay.” Kayla winced as her lie added to the sense of guilt in her heart. “I appreciate it though. I’m sorry for not calling earlier, and that you all waited on me. Please apologize to everyone for me.”
“Certainly. Well, you’ve got my number now. Call me if you need anything, even if it’s in the middle of the night.”
Kayla said she would and then ended the call. Feeling chilled, she looked up at the sky. Clouds were gathering, blocking the sunlight. Just what she needed. Now she had to go through that hazard filled lot without the strength of the light she had begun to depend on. Where had those clouds come from anyway? One moment the sky was blue without even a hint of whiteness, and the next moment the blue was almost completely enveloped by swirling gray clouds.
Disappointed, Kayla limped the few remaining yards to the lot, where she stopped to reconsider. She could take the longer way home and avoid this lot altogether. It would add almost a mile to her walk, but all of it would be easy sidewalk walking, and just as importantly, there would be people around. She didn’t know where those two thugs had gone and she would feel safer staying on the sidewalk. But would her ankle handle the extra distance? As if in response, her ankle began throbbing almost as bad as when she had first hurt it. The sooner she got home the better. Danger or no danger, this lot was the better way. Mind made up, she entered the lot and began making her way across it.
So intent on her thoughts, Kayla didn’t see the man in a black hoodie standing across the street.
But he had seen her.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:3)
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matt 15:18-19)
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37)
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)