Don’t Get Bit

The water looks so inviting. The colors are amazing, and on a hot day, the thought of how refreshing it will feel is almost more than I can resist.

And yet, I know to stay out of it.

I know danger lurks beneath its dazzling emerald invitation even though I can’t see it.

I know… because the flags tell me.

Yellow is a warning to be careful, and purple warns of dangerous marine life in the water.

I could still go in, but that wouldn’t be good for me. I might even be fine for a while, but sooner or later I will get stung by a jellyfish, punctured by a stingray, or bitten by a sea snake.

The danger is real whether I can see it from where I stand or not.

Knowing of the danger, I have a choice. I can continue to stare at the water, imagining the pleasure of soaking in its coolness, splashing in the waves, and floating up and down on the swells, thus making myself sad or angry – or worse, talking myself into going in anyway,

or I can choose to focus on the refreshing cool breeze as I hunt shells or build sand structures.

It reminds me of life, and how God has warned us to stay out of places that could turn around and bite us. He doesn’t tell us not to swim in order to make our day miserable. He tells us to keep us safe.

In His Word, He has warned us to stay away from sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, stealing, greed, drunkenness, reviling, swindling, devotion to mythology and genealogies,  enslaving, lying, perjury, impurity, sensuality, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, malice, deceit, hypocrisy, slander, orgies, and things like these (1 Cor 6:8-10; 1 Tim 1:3-10; Gal 5:19-21; 1 Peter 2:1).

I could focus on that list, imagining how good they would make me feel, how I have the right to respond in those ways when others mistreat me, and how some aren’t really that bad, thus making myself sad or angry – or worse, reasoning my way or letting others talk me into participating in them anyway,

or I can choose to focus on my relationship with God as I look for ways to spread His love to others.

Everything on that list involves putting self ahead of God and ahead of other people, which is opposite of what Jesus said.

Jesus gave us only two commands: Love God above all, and love others as He loves us. (Luke 10:27). If we put God and His ways above everything else – seeking His kingdom first (Matt 6:33) – and if we seek the good of others before our own good (Philippians 2:3-4) – we won’t be doing anything on that list. We won’t have time for anything on that list. We won’t even have to memorize that list, or any other list that can be found in the Bible.

Those who follow Jesus’ two commandments don’t even need that list.

Let’s be what Jesus has called us to be – His disciples. Let’s adopt the same mindset of Jesus (Phillipians 2:5-8).

Let’s not get bit.


Philippians 2:3-8  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among you, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

1 Tim 1:3-11 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wondered away into vain discussions, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. Now we know the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with whom I have been entrusted.

Galatians 5:16-24 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

1 Cor 6:12-20  “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful to me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by this power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you know know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Galatians 5:14  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Luke 10:27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Is Unity a Salad or a Cake?

What is unity?

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)

in harmony!
יָֽחַד׃ (yā·ḥaḏ)
Adverb
Strong’s Hebrew 3162: A unit, unitedly

Job 10:8  Your hands shaped me and altogether formed me. Would you now turn and destroy me? (BSB)  

Job 10:8 Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity; yet you would destroy me. (NKJV)

and altogether
יַ֥חַד (ya·ḥaḏ)
Adverb
Strong’s Hebrew 3162: A unit, unitedly

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.)

A Penny of Great Value

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)

Political High Places?

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’s Story, An Allegory: Chapter 9 That Dirt Pile Again

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)

Kayla’s Story, an Allegory: Chapter 8 Opening the Letters

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.

Dear Kayla,

I hope this letter finds you well. I miss our talks late into the night. Call me when you get the chance.

Love always,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

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,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

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.

Much love,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

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,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

Please call me. We have some important issues to discuss.

Love as always,

Dad

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)

Kayla’s Story, an Allegory: Chapter 7 Appearances

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)

Fight Like a Christian

Photo by Maria Pop on Pexels.com

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.

For more reading, see https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-fighting.html

Battle in the Sky

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.

No one.


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.

Part 9: Turn From Evil and Do Good (Christian But Not series)

Photo by mododeolhar on Pexels.com

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:16-18)

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, quoting from Psalm 34:12-16) 

This is a crucial time in the U.S. for everyone, but especially Christians. I believe God has been sending us warnings for many years that He’s going to pour out His wrath on our country for our sins. As a country, we have turned our back on Him in favor of the ideology of the American popular culture. We have compromised, turn our eyes, remained silent, or even totally sold out to ways that are not God’s ways. And God’s not happy with that.

There are many individual Christians within the church body that have not sold out, nor hidden. Their lights are shining bright. But there’s so few of them, comparatively speaking, that they seem to be swallowed up by the rest of the country, just like those few campfires in the analogy in my last post. The rest of us have banked our fires or let them go out altogether. God is saying no more. No more sleep. No more compromise. No more hiding. It’s time to choose which side of this spiritual war over our country we want to be on. The fence is shaking and we will fall on the enemy’s side if we don’t jump to God’s side first.

So how do we do that? How do we choose His side? How do we stoke our fire? Is it a matter of words? Do we just say “God, I’m on your side,” and go about out life as usual? Many Christians will no doubt find this adequate. After all, they accepted Jesus and have eternal life. But disciples – the Christians But Nots – those who are…

– Christian But Not satisfied with the minimal requirements of salvation

– Christian But Not satisfied with living a self-centered life

– Christian But Not willing to compromise with evil anymore

– Christian But Not lukewarm in their love and commitment to Jesus

… back up their words with action. They search their hearts and lives, and ask God to show them anything that is not pleasing to Him. And when areas are revealed, they turn from them. They don’t make excuses. They don’t try to justify. They don’t pretend they hadn’t heard. They don’t compromise. They don’t try to interpret them in the light of their American world view. They humble themselves by acknowledging them, asking forgiveness, and turning away from them.

“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)

and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. (Jer 18:8)

Does God want us to pray for Him to relent from the wrath He has warned us about and to save our country so that we can go back to our comfortable lifestyles? No. He wants His Name glorified. He wants to draw as many people as possible to Himself, to save them from the evil one and to live with Him forever. He wants our fires to burn brightly 24/7. He wants that fence permanently gone and our fires to penetrate the enemy camp. That is what Jesus called us to from the beginning.

The war is intensifying. The enemy is on the move and it’s time for the rest of us to join the battle. It’s time to repent and to rekindle our fire and let it burn brightly along with the faithful ones already burning. The future of our country depends on it.

Turning From Evil

What is the evil we need to turn from? Some of it is easy to detect, but most of it has crept into our lives and hearts in deceptively subtle ways.

The sins of some men are obvious, going ahead of them to judgment, but the sins of others do not surface until later. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even the ones that are inconspicuous cannot remain hidden. (1 Tim 5:24-25)

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today”, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb 3:12-13)

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

Let’s look at what God considers evil based on a few more passages of Scripture.

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.(Rom 1:29-31)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Col 3:5-10)

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Eph 4:30-32)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)

Those lists are quite detailed. The funny thing is, if we just knew how to love each other the way Jesus loves us, we wouldn’t need lists like these. But we don’t, and so we do. How many of the sins listed by Paul to these four churches do we engage in but dismiss because we are “under grace”? Paul addressed this in Romans 5 and 6. Just because we are under grace doesn’t give us permission to live a sinful life. There are other numerous reasons we excuse our sins.

How often do we laugh them away, such as saying, “I know I’m not supposed to gossip but…”?

How often do we compromise in order to fit in with our colleagues, such as obscene jokes, boasting, or sexual immorality?

How often do we do them secretly, such as adultery, having a haughty attitude towards others, or entertaining impure thoughts?

How often do we do them for power or to be noticed, such as slander, swindling, or being ruthless?

How often do we use the excuse “everybody does it”, such as obscene talk, dishonesty (deceit), or stealing (like small office supplies from work)?

How often do we refuse to acknowledge them for what they are, such as murder (abortion), hating God (choosing the world over God), or idolatry (worshipping something other than God)?

How often do we just flat out enjoy them, such as foolish behavior, sexual immorality, or greed?

How often do we feel the other person deserves them, such as wrath, maliciousness, or being heartless?

How often do we dismiss them as not as important as others, such as lying (you know, those little white lies), disobedient to parents (they can’t tell me what to do), envy, or an insolent attitude?

How often do we do them because they bring us some kind of relief for our pain, such as stirring up strife, getting angry, being a drunkard, or joining with revilers?

How often do we side with our society which considers them human nature or the way we were born – and thus excusable, such as acting haughty or engaging in homosexual acts?

Struggling with a sinful behavior is not the same thing as living in it. In our human weaknesses, we are not capable of living a sinless life. We will and do fall at times. However that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about sin that we hold on to, refuse to acknowledge, or refuse to give up. We justify that it’s not really sin, or we buy in to the idea we were born with it and can’t do anything about it, or that the good we do in our lives outweighs the sin. We might even feel guilty and ask for forgiveness over and over and over again, knowing deep down in our hearts that we’re just going to engage in it again. We live in our flesh instead of living in the Spirit. We prefer the pleasure of the sin over the displeasure of God.

It’s time to stop making excuses. It’s time to love what God loves and hate what God hates. It’s time to judge ourselves so God won’t have to.

If we were judging ourselves correctly, we would not be judged. But when the Lord Jesus judges us, he disciplines us so that we won’t be condemned along with the rest of the world. (1 Cor 11:31-32) [Note: I’m aware that Paul was addressing the Corinthians behavior at their Lord’s Supper, but I think what he said about judgment and discipline applies to any wrong behavior we consistently engage in.]

Doing Good

Once we turned from sin and returned to Christ’s ways, we can’t hide away in our homes. We need to shine our light into the darkness by doing good whenever we get a chance. God calls us to do both – turn from sin and do good. And not just to those who love us. We are called to do good to everyone, including those who hate us.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16)

But I say to you who hear; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-28, 33, 35-36)

Just as God was clear on what He calls evil, He’s also clear on what He calls doing good.

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? (Micah 6:8)

learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause (Is 1:17)

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. (Matt 25:35-36)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thes 5:12-22)

If we, as the Body of Christ, cleaned up and got busy doing good wherever we could, our country would see such a difference. I’m reminded of a city in the Old Testament who was also given a warning from God.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles; let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:3-10)

If a great city like Nineveh could do it, certainly we can do it, too. And maybe, just maybe, we can save our country and avoid the judgment of God.

Let’s all turn away from evil and toward the light of kingdom living.

Let’s all be Christian But Not.