Where is God Not?

When a person calls another person or group names expressing hatred, condemnation, and derision, God is not there.

When a person threatens another person or group with violence or vengeance, God is not there.

When a person attacks another person verbally or physically over their beliefs or opinions, God is not there.

When a person lies, repeats what they hear without checking the facts, or gossips, God is not there.

(Clarification: I know God is everywhere. So when I say “God is not there,” I don’t mean a place outside His presence. What I mean is a place where He chooses not to be involved or to abide. He says in Isaiah 1:15: “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.” 1 John 4:12 says “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” To me, that implies that if we don’t love one another, He doesn’t abide in us. In other words, He’s not there.)

It doesn’t matter the label:

Republican or Democrat

Conservative, Liberal, or Independent

Black, White, Hispanic, or Asian

Gay, Straight, or Both

Male, Female, or Other

Atheist, Christian, Jew, or Muslim

White, Blue, Pink, or Green Collar

Rich, Poor, or Middle Class

Baby Boomer, Millennium, Generation X, or Z

If there is hatred, bitterness, and intimidation, God is not there.

Watching the news, scrolling through social media, and listening to people as they talk, I can see just how many places God is not in our country today.

Which is understandable with all the non-believers – not excusable, but explanatory.

But it is not understandable or acceptable for those who profess to follow Jesus. 

Jesus said some hard things when He was walking the earth – to people who were living in dangerous times. Like we are today.

Things like…

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  (Matt. 5:9) 

 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that 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 5:21-22)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matt 5:38-41)

“You have heard that it 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 His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:43-48)

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 7:12)

Paul had some more words…

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another, you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same thing.” (Rom 2:1)

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good and you will receive his approval.” (Rom 1:1-3)

“To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud – even your own brothers.” (1 Cor 6:7-8)

Hard words. Very hard words. In our humanness, we cannot do this. But when we professed Jesus as our Lord and Savior, His Spirit came to live in our hearts enabling us to live by the spirit and not by the flesh. Enabling, nor forcing. We have to choose day by day, sometimes moment by moment, to follow His way.

If we profess to believe and follow Jesus – then we need to follow all of what He said, not just what we like or is easy. If we don’t, then how are we different than non-Christians?

Maybe we aren’t really followers at all.

Something to think about.

Weeding Through My Feelings

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Psalm 43:3

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

John 8:31-32

The Truth Will Set You Free  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 16:13

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

John 17:17

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

John 8:44

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

Matthew 11:28-29  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I love these verses.

I loved them when I was taking full course loads each semester at a university and working in my spare time to pay for them.

 I loved them when my children were little and I was teaching full time, usually having to put in an hour or two of unpaid overtime each day.

I loved them when I went back to college to pursue my master’s degree while teaching full time, raising two around-teen-age children, and serving leadership roles in several Christian groups.

I loved them when problems piled on top of each other and I saw no way out.

I loved them when the stresses of life weighed down on me while I struggled with strong PMS symptoms each month.

There was just one problem.

They didn’t seem to work for me. Spending time with Jesus didn’t make my work load lessen and I never felt rested for more than a few minutes at a time. Peace, yes. But not rested.  I did make it through – if that counts – but just barely. So I did with this scripture what I did with others I didn’t understand. I filed it under “nice idea, but confusing”, and hoped someday God would explain what He really meant.

Many years went past.

Then today I came across it again. And this time I had a light bulb moment. He’s not talking about our daily life burdens, He’s talking about religious burdens. The kind that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were putting on the people. All the dos and don’ts and rituals and ceremonies. Making sure to follow all the rules was a heavy load to carry. It still is today, if that’s what we’re trying to do.

Jesus came to show us a better way. His focus was on restoring our relationship with the Father, not in adding rituals or ceremonies. He wanted to set us free from religion so that we could enjoy our relationship with our Father. Coming from a very religious upbringing, I can testify that these verses did and still do work exactly as He said.

How did I not see this before?  How could I have read these verses for over 40 years, and never “got it”? It makes me wonder how many other verses I’ve taken out of context over the years. Maybe it’s time to reread the New Testament, this time not skimming past the familiar verses I think I know, but really looking at them in context.

I bet I’ll find enough to write a book.

And maybe I’ll do just that.

Idols by Any Other Name

Sighing, I continued my physical therapy exercises as the You Tube video I was watching was interrupted by yet another ad. Usually I tune out the ads, but something in this one caught my attention. I stopped moving and stared at the tiny screen on my phone.

A young beautiful woman was talking about her abusive past, and that she had found something that helped her overcome it.

Was it Jesus? I had never seen a testimonial ad on You Tube. I continued watching.

She got a good job, was able to save money, and even travel. And she was so thankful. This something had turned her life around.

Was it Jesus? Sure sounded like it. I waited for her to give Him the glory.

Then somehow she lost that something. Everything in her life fell apart. She lost her job, her home, and her happiness. One day a friend led her back to that something, and again her life was restored. And now she wanted to tell the world about it.

About Jesus? I was ready to celebrate with her, but…

Nope. It wasn’t about Jesus at all.

It was about… a bracelet.

A very special bracelet, infused with good energy by specific rituals, and accompanied by clear directions on how to wear it (make sure you touch it frequently to… what?… show it your faith?) and what not to do with it. She attributed all her well-being to this bracelet, and all her problems to having lost it. It even had a name.

I was floored.

Here in America, we don’t worship man-made objects, right? I mean, in this country we can’t just go to the market and buy a god or two. We (Westernized Christians) generally think of idols as pride, wealth, or status. But what if we’re wrong? What if idols actually mean idols? And what if we are as full of them in the Church today as the Israelites were in the Old Testament? As Christ-followers, we have been commanded to seek all our needs from God, to look only to Him. If we seek joy, prosperity, health, wisdom, peace, safety or anything else from anything other than our Father, how is that any different than what the Israelites were doing? And if we are as guilty of idolatry as they were, regardless of what we call our idols (good luck charms, energy stones, and healing crystals, among others), then aren’t we as much in danger of judgment today as the Israelites were back in their day? God is still a jealous God, and will not share His glory with another. We have been warned numerous times.

Let’s do ourselves a favor. Let’s be like Josiah, the king in 2 Kings 23. Let’s examine ourselves and our stuff and get rid of any idols we may have, before our Father has to come down here and do it for us. Then we can enjoy his blessings instead of facing his judgment.


Deut 7:25-26 The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take if for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction.

2 Kings 23:24-25  Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had found in the house of the LORD. Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

2 Cor 6:16  What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will  make my dwelling among them and walk among them and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance.

Number Game

Me: “Where’s the 3?”

My granddaughter: (points to the 3)

“That’s right! Where’s the 5?”

(points to the 5)

“Right again! And where’s the 2?”

(points to a 4)

“No, that’s a 4. Here’s the 2.”

(smiles)

“What’s this number?” I point to a 4.

“4”

“Right! What about this one?” I point to a 1.

(no answer)

“It’s a 1. Can you say 1?”

(smiles and looks down)

“Okay, what’s this number?” I point to a 5.

“5”

“Right! And what’s this number?” I point to a 2.

“3”

“No, it’s a 2. What is it?”

(smiles and looks down)

“Okay, what’s this number?” I point to a 3.

“3”

“Right. And what’s this number?” I point to a 5.

“5”

“Right. And what’s this number?” I point to a 4.

“4”

“Right. You’re so smart! What’s this number?” I point to a 1.

(no answer)

“It’s a 1. What about this one?” I point to a 2.

“8”

“No, it’s a two.”

(smiles and looks away)

“What’s this number?” I point to the 2 again.

(knocks it off the fridge)

“Time to play another game?”

“Yes.”

And off we go.

Later I got to thinking about this number game. Why was my two year old granddaughter able to identify the numerals 3-5 so well, but just couldn’t seem to get 1 or 2?

Then I figured it out!

From birth she has always striven to be older than she was. Now that she’s passed her first and second birthdays, those two numbers don’t matter anymore. She’s older than them (or so she thinks) so they aren’t worth her time. Her interest in the higher numbers, the ones she will be one day, reveals that she’s focused on where she’s going, not where she’s been. In other words… forget the past; the future is what’s important.

It reminds me of what Paul said to the Philippians: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14)

If that number game is any indication, my granddaughter has this mastered.

I’m a Pom Pom (Romans 12)

(for those who don’t know… these are pom poms. The solid orange one is what it looks like before it’s trimmed. The others have been trimmed.)

Prologue:

Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us that while we still sinners, Christ died for us.

When I first met Jesus, I was like that solid orange pom pom. My heart and my life were a mess and falling apart. But just like the pom pom maker tied a string around the center of each pom pom to keep the strands of yarn together, Jesus tied Himself around the center of my heart, keeping me together.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

A pom pom is made to serve a purpose.

So was I.

And now Romans…

Verse 1:  I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

A pom pom is completely subject to its maker. It has no will of its own.

However, God created me with free will. Therefore He waits for me to present myself to Him as a living sacrifice. That means I give up my rights, my wants, my opinions, my stuff – and place myself completely in His hand.

Verse 2: Do not be conformed to the 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.

That messed up orange pom pom looks more like the skein of yarn it came from than a finished pom pom. In order to get it to a more pleasing and usable shape, much yarn has to be trimmed of.

I was no different. I looked, thought, and acted just like the world in which I came out of.  Those worldly ways needed to be trimmed in order to make me into a more pleasing and usable person for God.

Verse 3: 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.

Once trimmed, the pom pom looks so incredibly better that it might be tempted to believe it has become the most beautiful of all pom poms. But that might just cause the others to raise their eyebrows at it. If you look closely in the picture, the pom poms each have some defects. Strands sticking out here or there, or misshapen in some places, none of them are perfect.

I, too, am soooo much better than I used to be, and if I’m not careful, I could start thinking I’m better than I really am, especially when I compare myself to people who haven’t been trimmed as much. I know I still have parts that need to be trimmed and rounded. Thinking soberly, or rationally, about myself, I know I am no better or worse than any other person.

Verse 4: For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function,

Some pom poms are made to be sewn on clothes, bags, or key chains. Others are made to be tossed around by a two-year old…

Likewise, I, being part of a body of many members, have a different function than the others. It might be similar to someone else’s but most like will not be identical.

Verse 5: so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Although there are many different pom poms, they are all part of the group their maker made.

I, along with all the other Christians, form one body, and as a member, I have a responsibility to the other members.

Verse 6: Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;

None of the pom poms were given exactly the same strands. Some have the same colors, but in different arrangements; some were given more unique colors; and one was given only one color. But all are as they were designed to be.

My spiritual gifts differ from gifts given to others in the body. And how I use those gifts also differ. One such gift given to me, a prophetic gift, is much different than what is generally thought of when thinking about a prophet. I don’t prophecy over others, nor do I predict the future. But I can see what God is doing, and hear what He is saying, when He reveals it to me. Instead of fretting that I don’t do what the other prophets are doing, I am learning to use my gift according to God’s grace and my faith. I am learning to accept and enjoy my uniqueness and the way I was designed.

Verse 7: if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;

I am also a teacher – over thirty years in the public school system, as well as many small group spiritual teachings over the years. But I found that my teaching style also often differed from my peers. Which was a good thing, because not every student learned the same way. (My dream/goal is to combine my gifts of prophecy and teaching and create prophetic teachings that God can use to impact His people.)

Verse 8: the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

I LOVE exhorters! However, I am not one. My husband is and sometimes it’s hard not to envy his gift. I know people with gifts of generosity, leadership, and mercy – none of which I have – and all for which I’m grateful for. They are all extremely important in the Kingdom.

Verse 9: Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Just as the pom poms are trimmed of parts that interfere with their purpose, so I am trimmed of what interferes with my relationship with God and His purpose for me. But sometimes I have to do the trimming myself. God teaches me what is good and what is evil. It’s my responsibility to trim away all evil as He reveals it, and keep the good.

Verse 10: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Imagine the pom poms chatting. Which set – A or B – do you think they would be saying to each other?

  1.  Aw, you are so pretty! I love your colors! You look so soft! Here, let me make room for you. You’re so awesome! You are looking better every day! I love how the yellow mixes with your white.
  • Hey, you look stupid with that little piece sticking out. Let me get fix it for you. Hmmm… feeling a little out of shape this morning? That’s too bad. Come back when you have better control over yourself. Pssst… did you see the white one today? Can’t believe it thinks it looks as good as us colorful ones.

God has recently revealed to me that I need to be more like those pom poms in set A. Instead of focusing on someone’s imperfections or differences, I need to see what He sees – a perfect pom pom in the making. This is way harder than it sounds, but also so much more important than I realize sometimes.

Verse 11: Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Pom poms are all they are made to be. A bunch of yarn tied together and shaped into a ball. Pom poms just sit, until a force acts on them.

I am so much more than a bunch of cells shaped into a human, waiting for something to move me. With God’s Spirit indwelling me, my spirit is alive and in love with my Maker, and as long as I stay focused on Him, He motivates and enables me to remain fervent in serving Him.

Verse 12: Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

A pom pom can’t rejoice, be patient, or pray. But I can. I can rejoice in the hope of continual improvements. I can patiently endure the trimming process, like a pom pom submitting to the hands of its maker. And I can pray throughout every day – for myself as well as for others as they go through their own trimming experiences.

Verse 13: Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

I want to do this. I think about doing this. But I end up not doing anything sometimes. I’m glad so many people are so much better at this than I am, but that’s no excuse for me not to. I have my place in the body, and need to help support the rest of the body whenever and however I can.

Epilogue:

Philippians 1:6  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

One day, I will be a perfect pom pom – softly round and perfectly trimmed. But most likely not before I get to heaven. In the meantime, I’m content to be in the hand of my Maker, trimming away the parts I can, and allowing Him to trim the rest.

How about you?

Turn Back to God? But I Never Left.

 If you say, “Turn back to God? But I never left.”

Are you sure?

Let me tell you a story.

There was once a man and a puppy. The man loved his puppy with his whole heart, and she loved him in return. He took care of all her needs: a comfortable bed, the best food, plenty of water, and lots of fun toys. He was quick to take care of any physical ailments, and spent many hours playing with, grooming, and cuddling her.

The only thing he asked for in return was her undivided love, and for her to stay in the yard he prepared for her, which would protect her from danger, and would also keep her from becoming separated from him. She happily agreed because the yard was beautiful and contained everything she needed.

Every time she heard her master coming to spend time with her, she would run from wherever she was and jump into his arms, kissing him with her puppy tongue, and wagging her tail so hard her whole body wagged right along with it. He would laugh and hug her tight, and then put her down to start their favorite game of chase. It was a great relationship which they both treasured.

One day while he was away, she noticed some loose boards in the fence. Curious, she pushed on them and found that she was able to peek into the next yard. She couldn’t see much, but she could hear excited barks. She pushed on one of the boards a little harder, and was able to make out a group of puppies chasing each other. That looked like fun, and she wanted to join in, but she remembered that her master wanted her to stay in the yard he made for her. So she resisted the temptation to call out to them and just watched them instead. Day after day, when the man was away, she would sit with her face framed between the loose boards, and watch. Eventually the other puppies noticed her.

“Hey, would you like to play with us?”

“I wish I could, but I can’t. I’m not supposed to leave my yard.”

“Why not?” asked a tan puppy with black spots.

“My master says it’s not safe.”

“That’s just dumb,” said a scruffy brown puppy. “We’re here every day and nothing has happened to us.”

“Yeah, your master sounds too strict,” chimed in another scruffy puppy, this one white.

“But he loves me and wants what’s best for me.”

The tan puppy ran closer to her. “Really? Then there’s no problem. He wants you to be happy, right?”

“Yes.”

“Would you be happy playing with us?”

“Yes, I think so. It looks fun.”

“Then what’s wrong with having a little fun with us? Your master will be glad that you’re happy. Besides, he’s not home. He won’t even know.”

She frowned. Something didn’t sound right about this, but the tan puppy made sense. “Okay, but just for a little while.”

The other puppies barked excitedly, welcoming her as she pushed past the loose boards.

Looking around, she immediately noticed this yard wasn’t as beautiful as her yard. It was dirtier, and crowded with all kinds of things. Some looked nice enough, like the wading pool, colorful balls, and yummy smelling chew toys. But others, like the thick chains, dirty muzzles, and rusty cages, were kind of threatening. “Don’t worry about those,” they assured her. “Just play with what you want.” So she did, and found being there as much fun as it had looked. Chasing the other puppies, fighting over toys, splashing in the muddy puddles, and barking at nothing were all amazingly entertaining. When she got tired, she rested under the tall, spreading trees. When she was thirsty, she drank from the community water bowl, gradually getting used to the taste of the discolored water. And when she got hungry, she shared the synthetic food the others ate. Eventually she began to worry about the time.

“I think I need to go now.”

“Sure, thanks for joining us. Will you come back tomorrow?”

“Maybe,” she said as she slipped back into her yard.

When the man arrived, she wasn’t quite as eager to greet him. A sense of guilt interfered with the joy she normally felt. Would he know that she had not stayed where he told her? But he didn’t say anything so she put the feeling behind her as they began their daily game of chase. Usually he chased her first. As soon as he touched her, he would run off, laughing and calling to her as she chased after him. It usually didn’t take long for her to catch him, and then they would roll around on the ground with lots of delighted laughter and happy barks. But this day was different. For some reason she could never get quite close enough to catch him.

The next day she couldn’t resist the urge to join her new friends again. The fun was just as intoxicating, and again the man didn’t say anything. Maybe he didn’t know. Maybe he wouldn’t have to know. Or maybe the other puppies were right. Maybe he didn’t care where she went as long as she was happy. So as the weeks went by, she not only joined them each day but arrived earlier and stayed later until she was spending most of her time over there.

Without being aware of it, her joy in her own yard slowly faded. She still loved her master, but found her new friends and their yard much more enticing. The more she played with them, the more she wanted to be with them. Chasing and digging and barking filled her days, and she returned to her yard guilty and exhausted each evening.  Her run-and-jump into the man’s arms was replaced with a crawl, sometimes even reluctantly when she was especially tired. She still enjoyed her time with him, but sometimes had trouble staying focused on him as the thoughts of the other yard filled her mind.  She still ate her good food, but it became more of snack because the cheap food kept her stomach full. And the more of the dirty water she drank, the less thirsty she was for her own clean water.

The man saw the difference – in her attitude, in her lack of cleanliness, and in her health as slowly the unhealthy food and water took its toll. He knew she had been leaving the yard, but he had been waiting for her to realize the consequences weren’t worth the disobedience. And he was hoping her love for him, and his love for her, would be stronger than the pull of the other yard. But one day he couldn’t wait any longer.

“Where have you been going?”

“Nowhere,” she lied, looking away from him.

He shook his head sadly. “Don’t you know that the filth of that other yard, the filth that now covers you, separates us?”

Convicted, she whispered, “I’m sorry. I won’t go back. I don’t want to be separated from you. Please clean me up.”

He did, and their relationship was restored. But the pull of the other yard was strong, as were the voices of the puppies calling to her. So again and again, she continued to leave her yard to join them in theirs. And again and again her master cleaned her when she asked. Eventually though, she came to think like the other puppies. “My master will always be there. He loves me and will always forgive me. So what’s wrong with having a little fun?”

Now for the big question… did that puppy turn away from her master?”

And for an even bigger question… have you turned away from your Master? I know I have. We all have. It’s just a degree of how far into that other yard we’ve gone.

God’s calling us to come back. Can you hear Him?


Deuteronomy 10:12  “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (emphasis mine)

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Amusement Park: Swinging Boat

Amusement Park: Swinging Boat

“Where do you want to sit,” Jesus asked Amalia.

“It doesn’t matter,” Amalia responded with a huge smile. “We’re on the boat. That’s all I care about.”

Jesus smiled back. “Just being on the boat might be enough for some. But I know you. Once we get moving, you’re going to start comparing. So you may as well do that now.”

Amalia looked at the rows of seats. Half were on her right, the other half were on her left. Both sides were facing each other. It looked like they would all get the same ride, swinging both frontwards and backwards. So what did Jesus mean about comparing them?

She imagined sitting in the first row on her right. She pictured the boat swinging forward as high as it could go, and where she would be at its greatest height. Then she pictured how high the last row would go. And she understood. That first row would not rise near as high in the sky as that last row. If she chose the first row, she would not experience as much of the swing as she would if she sat on the last row.

“That’s it, isn’t it?” she asked Jesus. “By choosing where I sit, I can control how much of the swing I experience.”

“Exactly. So, where do you want to sit?”

“I want to experience this ride to its fullest. I choose the back row!”

“I was hoping you would say that. Come on.”

Jesus led her past all the seats on the right side until they got to the last row. “Here you go. This is going to be great!”

Amalia’s anticipation increased as the boat began filling with people. Finally, the ride attendee announced the boat was full, and closed the gate with a clang. He pushed a button, and the boat began its first swing.

At first the swings were small, and Amalia could barely feel the gentle rise and fall. But the swings grew stronger and rose higher on every pass. Soon Amalia felt the need to hold on as her seat became perpendicular to the ground. The only thing keeping her from falling was her seatbelt.

It was exhilarating! The delicious anticipation as she climbed higher, the momentary lull at the very top, and then the stomach-dropping fall made this ride all that she hoped it would be. She laughed as she rose, and screamed in delightful fear at each free fall, knowing she was safe with Jesus.

After several swings, she noticed a difference. Being able to see the top of the rise, or the bottom of the fall, when she was moving forward made the gut-wrenching thrill easier to handle than when she rose or fell backwards. Not being able to see where she was going made it harder to tell when the rise would turn into a fall, or when a fall was finally over and she began to rise again. So even though she knew that she was secure in the boat, and that no fall would last indefinitely, she preferred the thrill of seeing over the alarm of not seeing.

“Just like when you’re walking with Me,” came the familiar soft whisper in her heart. “You love when you can see where you’re going, both when things are going well and you’re heading for great heights, as well as when things fall apart and you can see how much longer before you rise again. But you’re not so fond of experiencing the same things without the help of your sight. Being able to see the WHEN makes the WHAT easier. If you only faced one direction, you wouldn’t get the whole experience.  Just as this boat ride includes ups and downs in both directions, regardless of the seat you choose, your life also includes ups and downs with and without sight. Both the seeing and the not seeing builds your trust in different ways, making your faith complete in a way not possible with just one. And just as you are secure with Me on this boat, you are secure with Me in your life. Once you understand that, you can enjoy the walk with Me no matter which way you’re facing.”

Amanda nodded. This ride was turning out to be one of her favorites. But would it be if she didn’t have Jesus by her side? If she didn’t know He was keeping her safe through every move, both on this ride and in her life?

She was glad she would never have to find out.


James 1:2-4  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Philippians 4:11-12 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound, in any and every circumstance. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Love Signs

Love Signs

Suddenly,

When I least expect it

I see something,

A sign,

That reminds me that

I am loved

By God,

The Creator of all things.

It amazes me

that

The God of the Universe

Loves me.

And

He loves you too.

2 Cor 13:14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Who Do You Choose?

Who Do You Choose?

She looked at him, confused by his reaction. She had worked hard on these vows. “Something wrong?” she asked.

“Well, there are a few things… what did you mean by this line?” He pointed to the first line on the print out.  “I love you, and choose you above all other men. Even when I flirt and play with other men, know that it’s you I choose.”

“What do you mean what do I mean? I mean I choose you to be my husband.”

“But what about the “other men” part? Are you saying you’re going to have relationships with other men?”

“Of course. Other men are all around. It would be crazy to think I would refuse to accept them. That would make me snobbish, wouldn’t it?”

“But I want your whole devotion.”

“Aww.. you sound jealous.”

“That’s because I am. I want you to set yourself apart for me. To love me more than anyone else. To be totally committed to me. To be faithful to me, just as I am with you.”

“I do. I am. Even though I love others too, I love you the most. What’s wrong with that?”

“If you go after other men, you’re not being faithful to me.”

“That’s a matter of opinion. I think I would still be faithful to you because I would be married to you. I wouldn’t marry anyone else. If I did, THEN I wouldn’t be faithful.”

“You’d be sharing your affection with other men. I want to be special to you. I want you to have all your affection focused on me.”

“So you’re saying I can’t love anyone else?”

“Not with your whole heart. I don’t want to be just one of the people you love.”

“I already said I loved you the most. What else do you want?

He sighed. “Let’s drop that for now. What about this other line?” He read aloud, “I promise to honor your values when I’m with you.”

“Oh, that means that I promise to do what’s important to you, to look at things your way.”

“That part is great. But what about the “when I’m with you” part?”

“Because I want to make you happy when we’re together.”

“And what about when you’re not with me?”

“Why would you care what I do when I’m not around you? You won’t be there to see it.”

“That’s not the point. I thought you agreed with my values.”

“I do, most of the time. But sometimes things aren’t so clear. And values in other places are different than yours. If I stuck to your values in those places, it would create problems. People would feel I was being biased or prejudices or critical or something. There wouldn’t be any peace. And you love peace. So by adopting their values when I’m with them, I’m actually living out one of your values.”

He shook his head. “I think you might be confused.”

“No, I just know what’s important.”

“It would also make you hypercritical. You should live by the same values wherever you are.”

“I do. I live by my values.”

Shaking his head again, he pointed to the paper.  “I promise to spend as much time with you as I can.” “As I can?” he quoted.

“Well, sure. I can’t spend all my time with you, can I? That wouldn’t be healthy. I need to spend time getting to know other people, other ideas, other personalities, other beliefs, other…”

“I get it. So how much time would you give me?”

“Oh, at least an hour every day, and maybe a couple of hours on the weekend.”

“That’s all?”

“There’s a lot of stuff to think about. I don’t think I could give you more time. But I promise to think about you more than any one other thing.”

He put the paper down. “So far you have promised to love me as long as you get to love other men too. And you promised to live by my values but only when you are with me. And you promised to spend a small part of each day with me, fitting me in around all your other pursuits. Do I have that right?”

She frowned and pouted her lips. “You make it sound so bad. It’s not really. It’s all about you. I love you. I choose you. Nothing else I do should matter.”

“But it does. I want you to love me with your whole heart, to desire me above all things, to keep me the center of your life, to set yourself apart for me, and to live by my values.”

“That sounds more extreme than it needs to be.”

“My love for you is extreme. My love for you is so much deeper than you can imagine. I long to be with you all day, every day. I long to give you riches beyond your understanding. And I desire for you to return my love. However I’m not going to force you. You can choose to walk away if you want. But if you choose to stay, then loving me with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength is what I require.”

“Require? That’s kind of strong, don’t you think?”

“Yes, require. It comes down to what you want: life with me, or death of our relationship. I love you, and want to give you all I have. I want us to be together forever. But I am not going to force you to choose life with me. It’s important to me that whatever you to choose is of your own free will. ”

She shook her head.  She knew he intensely loved her and that he owned a lot that he promised to give her. And she had to admit no one could love her the way he did, or fill her with such a deep and satisfying joy. She did return his love, at least as much as she was able, but did she love him enough to choose him over her own wants? Was she willing to give up the world for him?

Finally she asked, “Why can’t I have both? You and your world, and me and mine? It’s not so hard to compromise on where we differ.”

“No. You either want me – all of me – or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways. You need to make a decision, and now is a good time. Who do you choose?”

We have each been asked this question by our Maker, who calls us to be His bride.

Who do YOU chose?


Mark 12:29-30  Jesus replied, “This is the most important: ‘Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One, and you shall love the LORD your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

1 John 2:15-16  Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not from the Father but from the world.

James 4:4 You adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever chooses to be a friend of the world renders himself an enemy of God.

Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

Ephesians 3:17-19  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Then you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God….

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Exodus 34:14  for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Hebrews 4:7 again he appoints a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

Joshua 24:15 and if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”