Am I the only one who said, “I would never do that,” only to find myself one day doing (or saying) the very thing I vowed I wouldn’t? How about this: you’ve given up an unhealthy habit or behavior. You’ve resolved to never engage in it again. You don’t for a long period of time.
Then one day you do. You can’t explain exactly how you got to that point. You’re probably disgusted and disappointed in yourself. You feel ashamed and embarrassed. It’s a terrible, humbling moment.
I had such a moment recently, which prompted me to write this piece. There was an unhealthy behavior I had struggled with for decades. A year or so ago, I believed I had it conquered. It no longer took effort to avoid engaging in it. The thought of it didn’t even cross my mind anymore. It was never going to bring me down again.
Except it did.
One day, a day not unlike the hundreds before or after it, I found myself lured into partaking in that unhealthy act again.
You may be wondering what is my struggle? What is this harmful thing I’m involved with? I’m not going to share that here. Not because I’m afraid of what people might think, but rather because if anyone reads this and doesn’t have the same struggle, they may feel exempt from the point I’m trying to make.
The larger issue here is how fallible we are as human beings. We are capable of anything. Under the right circumstances, we can act nobly and selflessly. Under the wrong set of circumstances, we’re liable to do something terrible and awful. In some situations, we can be brave and courageous. In others we can be weak and cowardly.
In my case, as a Christian, we are often preached to about how God is greater than any of our problems. He’s the answer. (And He is, by the way.) So, when we mess up, as I did the other day, we can immediately feel condemnation and guilt. We may ask ourselves, If I love Jesus, how could I do something so stupid? What is wrong with me? Why after all this time did I slip? Was I not reading my Bible enough or spending enough time in prayer? What happened?
As I’ve written before, God is not surprised by anything we do. There has never been a time where He leapt up from His throne in amazement, turned to His Son and said, “What the??? Did you see that? I was not expecting that.” Nope. Doesn’t happen because He’s all-knowing, all-seeing and all that.
I’m not suggesting we completely dismiss our mistakes or sins. Absolutely not. We should take a careful look at ourselves, ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and His help to show us how we became vulnerable in that moment. Were our defenses down? Were we trying to escape a painful situation? Were we just tired of waiting?
That last one is a biggie for me if I’m being honest. The Bible says how God’s timing is not like ours. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. (Making you look that verse up for yourself. This is blog #71, after all.) I, like most people, have hopes and dreams I’ve been waiting to see come to fruition for a long time. I get impatient. Then I find myself wanting to disconnect, distract myself.
Therein lies the danger.
As I let my mind wander, it can lead me to unhealthy situations. It starts out innocently enough: binge watching a show I like or scrolling through social media. Little by little, however, I become more checked out. I’m less interested in reading the Bible or praying or listening to Christian music. My flesh begins to crave more of the disconnection, more of the distraction.
Until I finally give in to a temptation that hasn’t been able to tempt me for over a year.
Would it help to know that even one of the greatest figures in the Bible (Paul) voiced this same struggle? Don’t believe me? Great. Check this out. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)
First, I take comfort in knowing this man whom God inspired to write a huge portion of the New Testament, who played a vital part in building many churches and helping lead many to Christ, wrestled with the same issues. You’ll notice he doesn’t name his struggles. The point isn’t what they were, the point is that they were.
This was a man who spent far more time praying, fasting, studying than I ever have. Yet he’s saying what I say many times too. I love Jesus. I want to live a life that pleases God. Why do I keep doing things I know do not please Him?
The simple truth is because we’re human. It is in our nature, but God overcame our basic, lower nature. His Holy Spirit helps us recognize a better way, a higher calling.
As I stated earlier, God is not surprised. He saw the temptation before we did. And He already prepared a way out for us.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
If I reflect on the events of the day leading up to my mistake, I can see subtle ways the Holy Spirit was trying to redirect me. I simply ignored the promptings. I made a choice. I’m responsible for my decision. Perhaps I did lose my way a little. I definitely lost focus on what really matters.
I close by confessing I may engage in this or another unhealthy behavior again. I pray I won’t. I pray the next time temptation rears its ugly head I heed the warnings, finding the way out God has already prepared for me. I am not so prideful to believe I can do it by myself.
I don’t desire to ever do it again. But I learned to never say never. And I can rest knowing God will never ever stop loving me and you.
Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Finish the quote.
I bet you probably can.
But just in case, and in the interest of time, here you go:
…was convincing the world he didn’t exist.
Though its origin isn’t from the movie The Usual Suspects, that film arguably solidified its inclusion in our culture and contemporary lexicon.
A few days ago, as I was contemplating my topic for the blog, this quote came to mind. As I now write this piece, it’s Halloween. I’ve already dipped into the candy purchased for the children trick-or-treating. And whether it’s part sugar rush or just a general Kat Controversy vibe kicking in, this quote seems more appropriate than ever.
In the last few weeks, we’ve been inundated with images of horrific attacks by terrorists on innocent Israeli civilians in the Middle East. Wars are raging around the world and our newsfeeds are bringing every brutal moment right to us in record time.
Some might say we in America are heading toward something akin to a civil war. Several years of extraordinary unrest and volatile polarization, fueled by powerful entities and an endless news cycle, are pitting friends and families against one another.
But which is the right side? Who defines that? As we move from a system of universal truth to moral relativism, how can we agree on right or wrong?
There was a time when if a group of people invaded and attacked innocent civilians, they were by that very action in the wrong. They were the bad guys because they targeted everyday people rather than engaging in battles against armed opponents. If a woman, child, the elderly or infirmed were pursued and assaulted (or worse), we agreed the one who committed the assault was wrong. Their behavior was evil.
It hurts my heart to hear so many young people justifying the atrocities of terrorists. My heart hurts for Israelis and Palestinians caught in the crossfire. But there is no nuance, no spin to justify killing non-combatants. You can’t treat thousands of peoples’ lives as collateral damage.
Let me give you an example: a person breaks into a home to steal and kills the homeowner in the process. They broke in because they were desperate for money to feed their family. Does this fact somehow absolve the person from being held accountable for committing murder? Is it now society’s fault so any sentencing should be lenient? Or should the fact that an innocent life was taken unnecessarily be the principal factor?
I’m not suggesting there isn’t room for forgiveness and compassion, though I admit I would be hard pressed to extend that to anyone who hurt or killed someone I love. It would take a lot of prayer and relying on the Lord heavily to get me to that place, if I’m being honest.
The fact remains a crime was committed. The reasons behind it, the circumstances leading up to it, though compelling, do not change the reality: one person’s decision led to the death of another. There is no way to bring back the lost life, yet justice demands the one responsible needs to be held accountable.
What’s troubling me most is that as I’m writing what I know to be true, I realize there are so many who would argue with me over it. There are those who would debate me for days about how it was actually the homeowner’s fault, or society’s, or mine because of whatever. The constant deflection away from core principles of right and wrong is astounding. The blurring of the lines between good and evil, and in some cases, the outright switching of the two, is baffling.
Now I understand some of you may not believe in him. You may consider the Bible a work of fiction or fantasy. You’re entitled to your opinion, of course.
Can we perhaps find common ground that evil exists?
My position as a Christian is that the devil is real, and the Bible is the Word of God. Coming from this perspective, I believe the devil is the full embodiment of evil.
For those who may not know his origin story, the devil was originally the angel of music (Ezekiel 28:14) named Lucifer. All was well in heaven until he got a bit prideful and decided he would make himself as God. Big mistake. The Lord threw him and a third of the angels out (yup, one third of heaven also chose to defy God) and cast them into hell (Isaiah 14:12-15).
Ever since then, the devil has hated humanity because of God’s love for us. The devil can’t stand how the Lord actively desires to forgive and restore us. He also hates God, obviously. So, he spends his time attacking us and poisoning our minds so we will either turn away from God or never get to know Him. He attempts to exact his revenge against God on us. The devil knows he can’t hurt the Creator, so he goes after the Creation (us).
His time of influence is growing short, so his level of expression is increasing. What I mean is he knows better than many of us how God’s Word is true. His end will come. But he wants to bring as much suffering and destruction to our world before the day of Judgement.
He’s a master liar and manipulator.
(Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
You would think because he’s a liar that we could recognize when he’s in operation, right? Lies are being told, he’s behind it. But it’s not that simple. He’s also manipulative and doesn’t show up with red horns, tail, or pitchfork.
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14)
Have you ever experienced a situation that initially seemed great, but over time you realized it wasn’t what it appeared to be? Something looked desirable and good for you, but with time the curtain was pulled back to uncover the truth. It wasn’t.
That’s how the devil (the enemy) works. He makes something or someone seem very attractive and appealing. If we’re not careful and prayerful, we can get lured in and fall into the trap. Next thing you know, we’re stuck somewhere God never wanted us to be.
It doesn’t mean we’re ruined necessarily, but sometimes we get off track and it takes time to restore us. We may have to live out some negative consequences or experience some sadness or pain.
The devil can be cunning and clever, but our God is greater. It is up to us to be mindful and watch out for the enemy.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
As I mentioned above, he’s on a full-time mission (along with that one-third of fallen angels) to destroy us because God loves us. Should we live in fear of him? Absolutely not. As always, the Lord gives us the blueprint for how to deal with him.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
We are called to submit ourselves to God. This means we must first believe that Jesus is the only Son of God who came to earth as the sacrifice for our sins. That his life, death, and resurrection were done to restore us to the Lord. He died on the cross for you and me.
Here’s a fun fact that may get overlooked. After Jesus died on the cross, he descended into hell and took the keys to hell, death, and the grave from guess who? The devil. (Revelation 1:17-18)
Once we believe, it is a constant decision to submit to the will of the Father. In all areas, at all times, we should position ourselves to do as God would want us to do. This most certainly means we should attempt to lead a life free from sin.
The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. (1 John 3:8)
Wouldn’t be one of my blogs without at least one ouch verse. It stings to think that when we’re acting in ways God disapproves of, we’re aligned with the enemy. It doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us or that He’s done with us. In fact, Jesus came and sacrificed Himself, paying the price for our sins. Though our sins are covered, however, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to live Godly lives. We don’t get a free pass to keep sinning.
It’s comforting to know that though the enemy can make something seem so tempting and impossible to resist, the Lord has a strategy for us.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
When we’re being tempted, we are to look for the way out. God always provides a loophole, an escape route for those who believe. It doesn’t mean we’ll always take it. We are fallible. I know there have been times where I ignored my escape because in that moment my fleshly desire was greater than my obedience and submission.
But the Lord is the God of another chance. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Yes, I’ve had to live out negative consequences. There have been seasons of sadness and pain because of my wrong decisions. Yet the enemy was unable to devour me. He couldn’t take me out. And even in the lowest moments, God was still there, still loving, still pursuing my heart, still forgiving me.
I believe we’re living in a time where it’s getting more difficult to easily weed out the lies, to see the enemy manipulating and deceiving, to resist him. As the world abandons universal truths and embraces my truth, your truth, this truth and that truth, his influence grows. It is up to those of us who believe, who know Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life to stand up and speak out.
We must be the eyes for the blind until their vision is restored. We must be bold, wise, and gentle. We must be humble and cultivate intimate time with the Lord, reading His Word, worshipping, and praying.
We need not fear the enemy, because he’s already been defeated. Yet we should not dismiss or ignore him. He’s still on the prowl, still hunting. We need to pray so we don’t fall prey.
Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. Stay alert.
Look forward to hearing from you.
I was a teenager in NY in the 1980s. In high school my favorite radio station was WLIR 92.7 FM. There may be some of you reading this who can’t imagine a time before Sirius XM, Spotify, Pandora, or any of 1,000 different music platforms. But such a time existed, and it was glorious!
The tagline for LIR (as we in the know called it) was “Dare to be different.” They were instrumental in ushering in the New Wave music revolution. They showcased artists that most pop and rock stations wouldn’t even touch. They challenged the programming status quo, and they were successful. They tapped into, and some might even say, helped create a whole new market. People like me did more than just listen to the songs on the radio. We went out and bought the artists’ albums or tapes. (I’m not sure CDs even existed back then. If they did, they were incredibly expensive. But I digress.)
The station took a huge risk changing their format. I, for one, am so grateful they did.
I’m so glad you asked. As a teenager, every time I listened to LIR, I felt like a rebel. This wasn’t my parents’ music or even my sisters’ or brother’s. This was mine. I was on the leading edge. My siblings would eventually know about some of the artists, but that was months or years later. I was already a devoted fan. I was the trailblazer.
Honestly, after my teen and college years, I thought I was done with going against the grain. Yet even though it’s been forty years since I first tuned into LIR, I find myself embracing my inner rebel once more. I never thought I’d resurrect it, but when the world I live in began turning its back on everything I hold dear, I had to say something.
I had to dare to be different.
In 2023, it is astounding to me that values such as love of God, family, and country are viewed as harmful, dangerous, etc.
I’ve been a Christian for over 25 years. That’s not a humble brag; it’s more of a confession. Over two decades ago, I realized there was a God, and I wasn’t Him. I had been raised with religion, but now I was having my own personal relationship with the Lord. This meant I started reading the Bible more. It meant studying and praying. And as my time with the Lord increased, my desire to stay the same decreased.
It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s been an ongoing process. But little by little I developed an inner conviction which would frequently stop me from doing something foolish. At the very least, it ensured that if I did do something foolish, I was quick to repent and not repeat the mistake. In no way have I gotten it right all the time, or even three-quarters of the time.
I think God made sure His mercies are new every morning specifically with me in mind. He knew I was definitely going to use up each day’s supply.
Who wants to rebel in their 50s? There may be a few people out there, I suppose. But I was never meant to be one of them. These are supposed to be the years where I’m settled. I’m supposed to be moving along in my career and looking ahead to retiring. I’m not saying I should be slowing down, but I should be able to take my foot off the gas a little bit.
I realized I can’t. And if you’re someone who doesn’t agree with what’s happening in this world, you can’t either.
In the early days of this global shift in truth and morality, most of us weren’t active. It was subtle, and we didn’t want to make a big deal about seemingly minor issues. So, we made small concessions, compromises. Little did we know that with each go-along-to-get-along moment we were chipping away at the very core, the very heart of humanity.
Does that sound hyperbolic? Perhaps. But when child mutilation is now framed as gender-affirming care, abortion is now reproductive rights, and pedophiles are minor-attracted people, how else can you put it? There is an evil agenda at play. And I daresay that many engaged on the side of it aren’t even aware of its existence. The deception is real. The lie has become the truth. Love has become equated with acceptance. If you don’t accept, then you don’t love.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
My parents loved me, but they were never going to accept any unhealthy behaviors as a sign of their love. No, they loved me enough to let me hate them as they brought Godly correction. I’m here today by the grace of God and their love.
We can’t be silent any longer. I’m not in any way suggesting taking violent action, but we need to be vocal and stand up for what, deep in our hearts, we know to be right, to be true. For instance, men are not women; women are not men. We are not interchangeable. It doesn’t matter what procedures you get, or what hormones you take, you will never be a different gender.
I am sorry if that hurts anyone’s feelings, but in my opinion, it is catering to feelings that has reeked so much havoc. The evidence simply doesn’t support that constant affirmation in all areas helps anyone. Truth must be truth. Our young people are more depressed, confused, and anxious than ever. And yet they’re the most affirmed generation.
It is shown when truth is presented even when it’s in opposition to what feels good. Truth presented in love is what matters. This does not mean I’m suggesting a parent reject a child. You should love your child unconditionally. But when their choices are going to lead to harmful, life-altering decisions, you must intervene. It is not the government’s job, it’s ours. We must try.
Don’t believe me? Great. You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that He jealously longs for the spirit He has caused to dwell in us? But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:4-8)
This verse is another one for the Ouch category. In simple terms, it’s saying going along with the world means you’re against the Lord! I’ve been guilty of embracing ideas or trends in the world, so in those times I was God’s enemy. Yikes. If you love Him, that should sting. I know it does for me. (This is where I’m super grateful for His mercies being new every morning.) When you’re double-minded, you know what God says, yet you go along with the world, even though it’s opposed to His will. You have two minds about the situation, and you will fail.
There is a solution.
We need to humble ourselves before God and resist the devil. Wait a minute. Didn’t it just say we were being friends with the world? How did the devil get into the mix? Well, because this world is his playground. So, as we embrace the world, we’re in essence embracing the devil. You don’t have to be a Satan worshipper to be aligned with him. Whenever we’re world-minded and not God-focused, we’re in danger. Whenever we accept something that we know God does not, we’re in trouble.
Thankfully, there is hope. When we are humble before the Lord, resisting the devil, he flees. I suggest part of that resistance includes speaking out about what we know is ungodly in our world and culture today.
I completely understand. We have non-stop access and exposure to the world’s current craziness. God understands too. That’s why He already gave us the fix. Check this out:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
How do we renew our mind? By unplugging from whatever the world is spewing forth and connecting with the Lord and His unchanging Word. Less time on social media, more time in the Bible, as an example. I can testify that when I spend less time scrolling and more time praising and worshipping, I’m in a healthier mindset. I am stronger in my ability to resist the temptations of the devil.
Let this verse encourage you.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
We were made by the Lord. He equips us for the fight.
It absolutely can feel intimidating to stand up against what seems like insurmountable odds. We may risk losing friendships, associations. We might be ostracized or excluded. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. But when I think about the alternative, I realize there is no other way. And just like a radio station that changed its programming, I’ve decided to change my own programming.
How about you?
I’ll leave you with this. When you get nervous, say this verse aloud and remember:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. Stay a renegade.
Look forward to hearing from you.
I was scrolling through social media recently and came across a post that stated the only things you can bring with you to heaven are souls. Let me be clear, I am not in any way stating I can save a single soul. I couldn’t even save my own! But there was something in that post that resonated with me, and so here I am dedicating a blog to it.
In this world, we need money to purchase the necessities and luxuries of life. Finances affect everyone. Given everything we’ve gone through over the past few years, and the continuing instability of our economy, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been looking over my income and expenses more carefully.
If we’re a parent, we want to be able to provide for our kids when they’re younger and be able to leave something behind for them in the future. Some of us may equate our worth based on the number of dollars in our bank accounts, or the cars and homes we own. Madonna wasn’t wrong when she said we are living in a material world.
But I’ve never considered myself a material girl. In my teen years I thought about labels and designer clothes, but once I was the one purchasing those items, my tastes became far more practical.
In my lifetime, I’ve lived paycheck-to-paycheck. I’ve also had seasons where I was able to have savings and be more generous with my money. Yet when I saw that post, I was reminded that in the end, you really can’t take any of it with you.
Sure, we’ve heard about Egyptian kings and other very wealthy people who were buried with their fortunes. But they didn’t really take it with them, did they? Their souls went somewhere while their riches laid dormant in the grave.
Not to be graphic, but after we’ve passed, our bodies are either buried or cremated. There is, however, a part that does live on. Our souls are eternal. This spirit is what crosses from this world into the next.
As a Christian, I believe our ability to enter heaven is only possible by believing in our hearts and confessing with our mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He is the Son of God who came to save us. He was crucified, died, and was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day.
I know He sits at the right hand of God and is in constant intercession for us. Jesus’s sacrifice gives me, and anyone who believes in Him, access to an eternity in God’s presence.
If we choose to deny Him, our spirit will be sent somewhere else. I can’t explain to you exactly what hell will be like. I pray you and I never find out. But what am I certain of, is that God is not there. I don’t need to imagine lakes of fire and torturous situations that would scare even the greatest horror film director. All I need to think of is that I would be forever separated from the Lord. That’s terrifying enough for me.
On my worst days here, when I don’t feel close to God, I know He’s still there. I know it’s only a matter of time before my emotions will line back up with the Truth. He’s with me and for me. He’ll never leave me nor forsake me.
But I can leave Him, can’t I?
I could choose to deny Him. I could choose to walk away and condemn myself to an eternity without Him, to doom my soul to an endless time in hell.
Here’s something I learned a long time ago: the Lord is gentle. He is firm and strong, but He will never force Himself upon you. We were created with free will so that when we decide to accept His love, it’s our choice. Yes, He’s always been knocking on the door of our heart, but we had to open that door. We had to agree with Him.
I thank Him every day for helping me, guiding me, showing me the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And then one beautiful day so many, many years ago, I turned to Him. Best decision I ever made.
But let’s get back to heaven and eternity. We can’t take our earthly fortunes with us. I don’t believe that means we shouldn’t work, earn a good living, and give to our family, friends, and those in need. On the contrary, God loves a cheerful giver. (Look it up. That’s Bible.)
Stock markets can crash. Inflation can rise. There are so many ways our earthly money can lose its value. God assures us there is a treasure that won’t be taken away or destroyed. Don’t believe me? Great. You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
I encourage you to read all of chapter 6 in Matthew. Jesus gives a great teaching on how to view money. This is the chapter where He explains how you can’t serve both God and money. Most of us would say we don’t serve money. Think it about though. If every day when the mail comes, you’re dreading seeing the bills, you may be serving money. If you’re worrying about the prices of food at the store, or gas at the pump, you may be serving money.
It’s normal to have a reaction when filling up your car’s tank now costs double what it did a year or two ago. I completely understand. What I believe God is saying to us is that He is bigger than an unstable economy. Our trust must be in Him and Him alone. It’s a cliché, but it does make sense: “Do your best and let God do the rest.” Be responsible. Don’t spend recklessly. And if money gets tight and you’ve done your part, trust the Lord to make up the difference.
That’s not just some fluff. I’ve watched Him move mightily in seasons where I was scrimping just to get by. I ended up with more than I should have had because I believed the words of the Bible. I had faith to know He could and would take care of me. I made practical choices, but ultimately, He blessed me beyond what my budgeting decisions could have afforded me.
I particularly like how in the verse quoted above it states how where your treasure is your heart will be also. That’s a sobering concept. Our heart will focus on what we treasure or value.
I want my heart focused on the Lord and on telling everyone I know about His great love for us. I want to share the good news of Jesus to a world that desperately needs Him. I want my loved ones to have personal relationships with Him. I want to use my gifts, talents, and abilities to serve Him.
That’s my heart.
It doesn’t mean I’m always operating in that mode. There have been times when I definitely let my heart consider something or someone a more important treasure. Trust me, it doesn’t work out well. Check out this verse:
“And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:19-21)
This would fall under the Ouch category. It’s a needed wakeup call, a strong reminder. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. So, whether we’re in pursuit of more wealth, or resting on our laurels, we’re missing it. Our primary focus should be on loving and serving Him, using our resources to further His kingdom here on earth. What does that mean? Helping those less fortunate. Donating time and money to organizations that show His love to the world through providing food, clothing, healthcare, etc., and most importantly, sharing the good news.
I love how this verse describes what we should do. Check this out:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
You can’t buy your way into heaven, obviously. We have access because of Jesus’s sacrifice. Point blank period. This verse speaks to sowing toward an eternal reward. Yes, there are rewards in heaven. Jesus spoke to His disciples about going ahead to prepare mansions for them. (You need to look that up for yourself too.) To me, the greatest reward will be dwelling in the presence of God forever, but if you want to throw in a mansion, who am I to tell you not to do it?
Did you notice how in the above verse it uses the word command. It doesn’t say suggest or even strongly recommend. It says command. This isn’t an option. It’s a requirement. And who doesn’t want to “take hold of the life that is truly life”?
I appreciate it may be challenging when bills are piling up, rent’s due and the car breaks down. I’m not making light of those real situations. I’ve experienced those tense moments. I’ve sat and cried wondering how I was going to make it. And then I was gently reminded of this verse:
But seek first his kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
As I mentioned before, please read all of Matthew chapter 6. It is a phenomenal teaching. The key takeaway is always to seek first the kingdom and the Lord’s righteousness. As we do that, everything else will be given to us. We may not get everything we want but our needs will be met. Fix your eyes upon Him.
Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. And guard your treasure.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Wildfires. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Floods.
Economic instability. War. Famine. Division.
I could list many more issues currently plaguing our world. There seems to be no shortage of chaos. Living in such unsettling times can be difficult. Even if we tune it out, it’s still all around us.
I live in a small town in the woods. (True story.) I can remove myself from a lot of the day-to-day insanity simply by staying off my phone, or not watching TV or listening to the radio. It’s a luxury I don’t take lightly.
I remember in the past when I didn’t have the same option to disconnect and unplug so easily. It was far more challenging to trust God when I was so immersed in the culture. I’ll be honest, I had more than my fair share of times of doubt.
Even now, as I sit outside with the chickens clucking nearby, I wonder What happened to us? Can it get any worse? The answer is yes it can, and it very well may.
Talking heads will give their expert opinions on why things are the way they are. (You know how I feel about experts.) The blame game is being played by all sides. “It’s all their fault. They’re the problem.”
Spoiler alert: We are the problem. Our recklessness, pride and arrogance drive us as we believe we can do a better job of running things than the Creator. In our hubris, some are fully deluded, embracing all manner of false teaching that serves only to elevate our selfish desires. We blindly press on not realizing we’re sowing seeds of destruction.
You may be reading that and saying to yourself, “Not me. I’m good.” Your missteps may not be as flagrant or obvious as those you see around you. But trust me when I say, we could all do better.
But when we’re bombarded with such negativity and, in some cases, pure evil, it’s difficult to hold onto hope. It’s hard to not become discouraged and just want to drop out of it all. It’s easier to stay in our own little world, limiting our exposure to anything ugly.
God created this world for us and gave us authority and dominion over it. What a tremendous blessing. But this gift comes with responsibility. We should treat the planet and one another with great care.
(If you’ve read any of my blogs before, you know where I’m going.) The answer is: Jesus. The reason I wrote earlier how things were likely to worsen, is because the Lord already warned us through His Word.
I’m not just referring to the Book of Revelation (though there is a lot there to check out). God is so good to us; He warns us in advance of trouble. And He gives us the way out. You don’t believe me? Great. You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NKJV, emphasis added.)
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)
This is a quote from Jesus. He was speaking to His disciples, but it applies to anyone. He wanted them to know they could trust in Him just as they did the Lord. For many of us, that’s the first step: believe. We must believe Jesus is the Son of God. We must understand that our Father in heaven loved us so much He sent Jesus to be crucified and die, a perfect sacrifice, so that we could be restored to God. For without Jesus’s death and resurrection our sin would have kept us far from God. (That is a place I never want to know again.)
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Peace. Have you ever experienced true peace? I have and it is indescribable. I’m not talking about a mini break from the world lying on a beach. I’m talking about being in a state where what’s happening around you can’t disrupt your calm, a place of contentment, a place of true rest. Notice He says, “not as the world gives do I give to you”.
I believe it gives with conditions or strings attached. It gives but there’s always a veiled threat they’ll take it away. What the world gives, it can (and probably will) take back. What the Lord gives is yours.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
I consider this verse another mic drop moment for Jesus. It has a two-fold message: 1) peace is found only in Him and, 2) you will know trouble in the world, but relax because He’s already overcome it.
I realize that seems way easier said than done, especially in today’s world. But historically speaking, the world has always been a place of great accomplishment and great disaster. I offer it is our human nature which leads us toward the disastrous and it is God’s prompting which directs us to our great achievements.
The bottom line is, as I’ve written before, we live in an imperfect world, filled with imperfect people. Our world is broken. We are broken. But God isn’t. In fact, His greatest desire is to heal us. As we draw near to Him through prayer, conversation, reading the Bible, we open the door of our heart to let Him in to help. His Word is meant to draw us closer and show us the blueprint for life.
One essential element is this: to know peace, you must know Jesus. Period.
We are not the first people to face a chaotic world. I encourage you to read about the first church and the hardships they endured, or even contemporary churches in areas where Christianity isn’t welcome.
Facing difficulties and tribulations in our world is nothing new. How we handle them is key. Check this out:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
In the verses I included in this piece, please note how God mentioned to “let not your heart be troubled” more than once. That was intentional. I suggest if your heart isn’t troubled, you’re at peace. How does one attain it? Through Jesus Christ alone. Any other so-called peace is fleeting and fake.
I love the verse above because it is such a wonderful reminder that no matter what craziness takes shape in this world, we cannot be separated from His love.
Nothing. So, take some time to disconnect and unplug when the bad news overwhelms, if you can. And with every new morning, give the Lord thanks that no matter what is going on, He still loves you. Because of His great love for us, we have access to peace in the midst of chaos. May we remember that and rest in it. And may we become bolder so that we can share this good news of His love to others. Just imagine what might happen if more people accepted His love and peace.
Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. Nothing separates you from His love.
Look forward to hearing from you.
We all have wants. Whether it’s material possessions, a certain position or career, a goal, a relationship, whatever it may be, we all have them. We also have needs.
I would argue a want is something we desire but without it we can continue living in relative peace. A need, on the other hand, is something which the absence thereof presents a clear danger to our well-being. We want to eat pizza for dinner. We need nourishment to survive. We don’t need to have pizza to survive (though it is darn tasty). But at some point, we need to give our bodies the sustenance it requires.
My point is the two words do not mean the same thing. Yet many times we confuse a want with a need. We want success so badly we exaggerate its importance. We feel we need success. Our focus shifts away from working hard and believing we’ll get there to an almost desperate, driving pursuit.
We want to be in a relationship which is healthy and normal. But when we start to need to be in a relationship, we can get into trouble. Once again, our thinking is out of balance. We may settle for something less than what is best for us. (I know whereof I speak. Trust me.)
Most of the time, the answer is no. We’re satisfied. They say it’s the best time to go food shopping. You’re not hungry, so you’re less likely to visit the snack and dessert aisles and add a bunch of items to your cart not on your list that aren’t good for you.
The best advertising and marketing campaigns are designed around convincing the consumer he or she cannot live without their product. Social media only amplifies this messaging. It’s not just formal commercials. It’s influencers and celebrities advocating for this brand or that product or program.
Then there’s always peer pressure, which never ends. Yes, it’s most common in our younger years, but I offer it never truly disappears. As adults we just get better at filtering it out, or our peers just get subtler.
Your life would be better if…
Your career would take off if…
You’d drop that weight quickly if…
Your skin would look healthier if…
Your relationships would improve if…
We’ve all experienced the disappointment of believing in something (or someone) and it not working out as we expected. The pain can range from a mild irritation to a devastating sadness.
As I often state, I’m a resident expert on absolutely nothing. But in the course of my time here on earth (why does that sound like I’m an alien logging in my journal?), I know I’ve definitely given situations more importance and attention than they deserved. Whether it was in my professional or personal life, in my mind something (or one) entered the need category instead of resting appropriately in the want one. When things didn’t turn out as I expected, I was crushed. Looking back, I realize it would always have hurt. No one likes it when things go south. But the degree of pain I was dealing with was directly correlated to the increased level of importance I had given the whole matter in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everything is my fault. Of course, it isn’t. What I am saying is we should have clear distinctions in our minds (and hearts) about our wants versus our needs.
The short answer is we can’t, at least not in our own strength. I’ve written before about how a relationship with the Lord is the key to everything. That’s because it is. I’m not saying your life will be easy breezy, but you can have access to wisdom and direction that you wouldn’t have under normal circumstances. In the past, I made a lot of wants into needs, and never knew it until it was too late. But by God’s grace, I’m learning to recognize the shift going on in me and redirect myself.
I say yes, and His name is Jesus. There are many verses dealing with relying on Him for every situation. You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.) I included a few here, but strongly encourage you to do a search on your own.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)
There are two essential pieces to this verse: 1) being content and 2) knowing He’s got you. I suggest being content doesn’t mean all your wants are satisfied. But because God will never leave you or forsake you, your needs are met. Doubt me? Great. Check this out:
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
I’d drop the mic here, but I don’t have one. And if I drop my laptop, I might break it. But you get the point. Our needs are met in and through Him. This doesn’t mean we should sit back and just expect everything to come to us. Sometimes it happens that way. Sometimes we must get up and earn it. But in either case, it is the Lord who is our Provider. He gives us the means and opportunity to have our needs met.
This is why I say relationship with Him is the One need we must satisfy first. Because without Him and His unfailing, unchanging love, we can easily fall prey to having wants turn to needs which may then turn to disappointment and sorrow.
Does this mean we’ll never be disappointed? No. But He will always be there to comfort us, and He will never be the cause of our sadness. Check this out:
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19, NKJV)
I leave you with this, let Him into your life and your heart. He can and will supply all your needs. I can testify to that. And He will never leave you wanting for unconditional love and acceptance.
Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. Please remember, you may want many things, but you need Jesus.
Look forward to hearing from you.
I never wanted to sound like my parents. No kid ever wants to utter a phrase that begins with, “Back in my day” or “When I was your age”. I shuddered just now as I typed those words out. Yet I find myself saying things like that on an almost daily basis.
In fact, on a recent vacation visiting with family, one of the younger kids said they felt sorry for us. I snapped my head around and sharply replied, “Excuse me?” She then proceeded to say how boring our lives must have been when we were young. She believed there was nothing to do, except look at the dinosaurs. I glossed over her obvious joke about my age, and then reminded her how we had freedoms and fun she’ll never know.
We didn’t spend the bulk of our time basking in the glow of a screen or phone. Nope. On the weekends we were up and out early. At my house, we had chores on Saturday: spring and summer it was mowing the lawn, pulling weeds from the flower beds, and picking up dog poop; in the fall it was raking leaves and picking up dog poop; and in the winter it was shoveling snow and, you got it, picking up dog poop. (We had two dogs, so there was a lot of poop.)
Our rooms went through inspection on a weekly basis as well. General Dot (aka Mom) would come through to check that we had fresh sheets on the beds, and they were made. Hospital corners were a must. (If you don’t know what a hospital corner is, you may be too young to read this. Just kidding.) If your area didn’t pass muster, you had to do it again.
It was this weird dichotomy. On the one hand, our parents were on top of us, making sure our rooms were clean, we did our homework, brushed our teeth and bathed on a consistent basis. On the other hand, we could fly out of the house and be gone for hours without them knowing where we were or having any way to contact us.
If we were hanging out at a friend’s house in our neighborhood, we knew someone somewhere would rat us out if we got caught doing something we shouldn’t. For this reason, we either crossed a main road to the development behind us to smoke our cigarettes and trash talk, or we’d hang out at our friends’ houses who lived the next town over and whose parents either worked all day or weren’t around much.
The only downside to hanging with friends outside of the neighborhood was the dreaded drive back home. My mom never got her driver’s license. So, when it came to carpools, it was all the other moms and my dad. Guess who was usually tasked with driving a gang of teenagers home at night. Yup. Guess who had to sit up front next to my all-seeing and knowing father and pretend I hadn’t been doing anything he wouldn’t approve of for the past four to six hours. Good times.
During the school year, it was pretty simple. Get up far earlier than we wanted to, grumble our way through breakfast with a mom who was a morning person. God bless her, Mom was up early and cheerful. Now, I have been up early, and I have been cheerful. But I’ve never been both at the same time! Get ready, get on the bus, and go to school. Now, here’s where kids today and us separate.
Back in my day, (good grief) I don’t remember having a backpack, just a broken back. There were no iPads or laptops. Sure, we had computers, but they were in a locked room, and no one was stealing those and getting away with it. Each one was about the size of a small car! Did I mention we also had typing class? For you younger readers, in typing class we worked on these old machines called typewriters. We’d insert a piece of typewriting paper into it, and-. I’m making myself feel older by the minute. If you really care to learn about it, you can do an online search. But just know this, typing 90 or more words a minute used to be a big deal.
So, as I mentioned, I don’t think I had a book bag or backpack. But I did have a ton of books. Schools issued these things called textbooks. They were like online searches but printed out. Most of them were older than us. On the first day of classes, we would bring them home and my dad would take them and put paper bag covers over each one. This meant he would take paper bags from the food store, cut and fold them to fit over the covers of each textbook. The idea was to protect these sacred relics. I must admit I had the cleanest book covers in school. Pops was a genius. Now, we have paper covers over each book obscuring the title or subject. How would we know which one was which, you may ask? Well, here’s where we got to be creative. We would draw on the paper covers! My oldest sister was a legit artist, so her books always looked like they belonged on display in a gallery. I was not blessed with her talent, so mine were typically the subject name, English for example, written in bubble or block letters and shaded to give it a 3d effect. It was sort of like graffiti artwork but for the academic sector.
The next morning you’d get on the bus hefting those weighted monstrosities along with your spiral notebooks, 5-subject please, and a Trapper Keeper™. No wonder so many of us were diagnosed with scoliosis during our annual nurse visit. My arms grew six inches and my back turned into a letter C by the time I was fourteen.
In theory, you would put your books in your locker and only grab the ones you needed for your next class. The problem was most of the time your locker was located nowhere near any of your classes for the entire day! So, rather than running back and forth between class periods (did I mention you only had about 5 minutes in between classes?), you’d grab whatever books you need for the first 4-6 classes. Let the bicep building and low back contortion commence!
The worst was when you had gym class earlier in the day. You’d get all sweaty and gross and no one used the showers after (did I mention the 5 minutes between classes?), so you’d be pretty ripe for the rest of your day. The only comfort was that everyone else was too, except somehow the popular girls always looked fresh and clean. Fresh and clean and mean. But that’s a story for another time.
OK, so school wasn’t the best (for most kids it never is). But we had the bus rides to and from to have fun. This was way before kids were chauffeured to school. You got your behind on the bus. Period. Your parents were paying taxes for those buses, so you were going to use them, even if the snowplows had come through and obliterated your bus stop. You’d either stand in the street and take your chances or ascend mount snowbank curb and take your chances. The only time Dad would drive us to school was if we had an early appointment or a project that would get demolished on the bus. Mom and Dad didn’t do our projects for us, but they helped. There was no way they were going to let their hard work and surviving my multiple meltdowns during the design and building process, go to waste. But we’d only get a ride to school. Once the project was seen and graded by the teacher, my folks couldn’t have cared less what happened to it. They just preferred we didn’t litter the street with its carcass.
We had one turn on our bus route that I labeled Dead Man’s Curve. We had a particular bus driver who was very nice, but I’m fairly certain had been or aspired to be a race car driver. He would take that turn on two wheels. (Yes, I realize a bus has more than two wheels. That’s my point.) I have fond memories of looking over at one of the girls on the bus as we’d near the turn. Will today be the day he tips the bus over onto its side? Nope. Whew. We live to see another bus ride.
Another interesting part of the transportation adventure was the after-school bus ride. I still have mild anxiety recalling how panicked I was figuring out which bus I should take. It wasn’t the same drivers or routes as during the regular day. Several times I walked onto the wrong bus. There were few things more embarrassing than having to turn tail and get off to try to find your bus. Were there adults there to help us? They were around but mostly to shout that the buses would be leaving soon, so stop goofing around. I always felt better when I had someone with me who was going my way. Even if we weren’t friends, for that moment, we were comrades in arms on the long journey home.
I lived at the front of my neighborhood. The buses would enter through the back. Here’s where it gets weird. Even though the bus would drive literally past my street to exit the neighborhood, it didn’t always stop at my corner. So, I’d be dropped off at the back end of a long street which crossed mine about a half mile further up. I’d watch as the bus sputtered and kicked out black smoke chugging merrily down the road and past my street! This extra cardio session was so much fun after a full day of classes, after school activities, and arms loaded with books and schoolwork. It was even more delightful on those cold fall and winter evenings when I was just praying I’d get home before the sun set.
I was fortunate to stumble through the door to the smell of something good being prepared in the kitchen. Mom made us home-cooked meals almost every night. At the time, we definitely grumbled about some of the dinner choices, to which Pops would casually remind us there was bologna in the refrigerator. There were no special meals for each family member. You ate what Mom made or you didn’t eat. You can’t imagine how much I’d give to have one more of her home-cooked dinners now.
I have great memories of being dropped off at the multiplex-a major deal in the 80s. For a long time, there were a couple of theaters that had two or four screens and might play a few different movies, but when the multiplex opened, it was an event! They had 10 screens! On a Friday or Saturday night, it’d be packed with teens and tweens who were dropped off in groups, some might say ravaging hoards. It was as if each parent’s vehicle was suddenly a clown car. How many kids just got out of that station wagon? (Yeah, we had those cars too.) We’d all pile out and the steps to the multiplex were electric with energy. Kids were hanging out everywhere. The neon lights from the theater’s sign were so bright, you could see them from the highway. It was the place to be if you were a teen in the 80s. You were either there, at the mall, or maybe at the ice- or roller-skating rink. I spent more time falling than skating, so I tended to choose the mall or the theater.
I saw some of the most iconic films at the multiplex, such as: Ghostbusters, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Purple Rain, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid, The Outsiders, War Games, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pretty In Pink, Lethal Weapon, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and A Nightmare On Elm Street, to name a few. The best part was staying over one of my friend’s houses that night and reliving every moment from the movie we’d seen, memorizing every line, falling asleep laughing.
Summers were spent in each other’s pools. I remember my friend had cable before us, so we’d split our time between swimming and watching the same dozen European music videos in rotation on this phenomenon known as MTV Music Television. I don’t know if there’s been a cultural moment quite like the first time the channel went live. Here were bands you knew (and most you didn’t, in the beginning) lip synching to their music. Most of the videos were pretty crude and lacked a lot of artistic integrity, until Michael Jackson took over. I know I’ve written before how his Thriller video was must-see TV. It was a cultural high point. You had to be there.
And that’s probably the best way to describe growing up in the 80s: you had to be there. And I was. And it was totally tubular and totally awesome!
Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. And if you’re stressed out, just take a chill pill.
Look forward to hearing from you.
I was inspired to write this because I’m watching a country I love become less and less recognizable to me. I know that sounds dramatic, and perhaps it is. But what I’ve always loved about this country are the freedoms we have: speech, religion, the press, to name a few.
My parents were huge fans of history, so I was raised learning all about the founding fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. I was saddened to learn these documents aren’t even really taught in most schools anymore. How can this be? If we are to understand who we are as a nation, we need to go back to where it all began and those principles, ideals, and structural cornerstones. Without this knowledge, it’s like trying to build a skyscraper without any blueprints for reference.
The founding documents have been deemed problematic by some. Do I sit here and deify the men and women who forged this country? No, they were human, flawed. Was every decision they made perfect, honorable and righteous? Obviously not. I refer to them as ordinary people living in extraordinary times guided by their Creator.
We should look at what they did in the context of the times when they lived. Imagine what someone twenty years from now might think about beliefs and actions we currently hold as acceptable. Would they consider us foolish and scoff at us? It’s very easy to judge a historical situation through a contemporary lens. This is in no way excusing certain practices such as slavery and other atrocities committed here. But what I believe separates us from others is that, though we’ve yet to live up to the ideals and principles of moral character and righteous, fair treatment outlined in our founding papers, we strive to live up to them.
Now, if you’ve read those few paragraphs and disagree with me, that’s OK. In this country, you have the right to hold an opposing view from me. It is the great push-and-pull of free speech which helps us on our journey. If our beliefs are never challenged, and we are never called upon to defend them, how strong are they?
As most of us know, speakeasy was a term made popular during the time of Prohibition (1920-1933). The 18th Amendment “made the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages illegal in the U.S., but that didn’t stop people from having drinks.”1 Fun fact: I wasn’t aware that people could still drink whatever alcohol was in their homes, just not outside of it. The speakeasy was any venue (bar or nightclub, for example) that continued to secretly sell alcohol to the public in violation of the amendment. It’s thought the term may have come from patrons having to whisper or have a special passcode to gain entry to these establishments.
Bottom line: folks who wanted to enjoy cocktails outside the home had to do it discreetly. There could be real consequences if they were caught in a speakeasy. But within the walls of the building, they could partake freely. Now, regardless of how you feel about drinking alcohol, and there is certainly a case to made against it, the point I’m making is imagine being able to live a certain way for years, and then one day the government tells you what you’re doing is against the law and you can be jailed for it.
Now imagine you wake up one day and the government has decided you can’t say certain things, write or post certain content because it’s been deemed unacceptable. Labels like misinformation and disinformation are slapped on ideas, beliefs, theories, and questions that were once considered perfectly ordinary or normal.
As a free-thinking individual, you could hear different viewpoints on any topic, at your discretion. If you chose to only hear what supported your opinion, that was your choice. But if you wanted to hear another perspective, you could access that material with relative ease.
The past few years highlighted how far removed we are from those days. Government and private entities solidified themselves as the arbiters of everything. They will be the ones to decide which information is fact and which is fiction. I won’t waste time going through the myriad of topics that were suppressed, vilified, mocked, and ridiculed because they differed from the predetermined suitable narrative. You probably know some of them, I’m sure. But the list is long and growing.
There is a reason the Bill of Rights was articulated in our Constitution. The drafters of this new form of government, unprecedented in world history, were doing everything they could to ensure protection for the citizens from the government. They had fought a bitter war to divest themselves from the oppressive grip of a monarchy. They wanted to make certain government was kept harnessed and restrained. They knew all too well the consequences of unchecked power over a people.
Here’s where knowing the Declaration of Independence comes in handy. It states,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,2
Seems clear. Our rights come from the Lord not from the government or any person. It defines the role of government as securing our God-given rights. Government’s power only comes from us giving consent.
But it doesn’t feel that way very often lately.
Let’s go deeper into the concept of free speech. A term I hear often, but no one can seem to define accurately, is hate speech. They’ll give you examples of what they believe it is, but as I’m sure I’ve written before: speech you hate isn’t hate speech. Offensive speech is protected.
What? How can that be? It’s an awful thing being said or posted. It shouldn’t be allowed.
Think about it. If someone says, “Puppies are cute,” no one is going to really lose their minds (unless they prefer cats or maybe have a dog allergy). But if someone says, “Puppies shouldn’t exist,” some people might get very upset (me included). Yet if I believe free speech is absolute, (and I do), then I don’t have to agree with it, but I stand with them for the right to express it. Now, I can respond to their speech or protest or do whatever to demonstrate my firm disagreement. As horrible as I may believe it is, they still have a right to say it.
The puppy example is, obviously, rather benign. I didn’t want to start a firestorm by bringing up something more controversial. My point is this amendment exists for a reason. Here’s what it says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”3
Other parts of the world can have you fined or jailed for what the government decides is hate speech. If someone posts something I find awful, such as, “There is no Jesus,” or mocking God, I don’t like it. But if I want them jailed for it, I set a scary precedent. What if the tables are turned on me? What if the government decides talking about Jesus or sharing my faith is dangerous? (But that could never happen here, right?)
Government partnering with private companies to censor and regulate speech online and elsewhere terrifies me. Social media platforms are doing what the government is not able to do. It’s a sneaky way around the Constitution. Scary. Once again, we’re relying on a select few to determine what is appropriate for us all. That runs in direct contrast to what we’re supposed to be about in this country.
Let’s remember our rights are God-given.
Oh, the number of scriptures dedicated to how we should speak and the power of the tongue. It’s like the Lord knows us so well or something. You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)
Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. (James 3:4-5)
In this passage, it likens the tongue to the rudder of a ship or a small spark of fire in a forest. Powerful. The rudder, though a small part, steers the whole ship. A little spark can spread and consume a whole forest. Our tongue, likewise, can either be creative or destructive.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
Clearly, God wants us to speak kindly to one another, to use our powers for good, if you will. But this can be challenging, particularly when we’re facing adversity. Here’s what I should pray more often:
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3)
Am I the only one who needs to keep my mouth in check? Keep in mind, I’m taking direction from God not government. I’m policing my own speech. It’s not being imposed upon me by some totalitarian authority. I’m not being bullied or threatened with expulsion for non-compliance. The Lord loves us in spite of us. We can’t win His love. It’s His gift to us. We’re neither forced nor coerced to work on any area of ourselves which could be improved. We choose.
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)
Life and death in our words? I know I’ve written about this before. We remember the words that hurt us or shut us down, perhaps more so than those which built us up and encouraged us. We can crush or kill someone’s hopes or dreams with words. In contrast, we can bring life to those same hopes or dreams with words.
For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. (1 Peter 3:10-11)
I put this verse last because it addresses the theme of this whole piece so well. Another term for deceitful speech is lying. If you ever read the Bible (and if you haven’t, please do so), God cannot stand lying. He knows we will make mistakes, bad decisions, etc. It’s when we lie to ourselves, others, and especially Him where things get more complicated and bad. First, lying to God is a colossal waste of time and energy because He’s got the whole all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful thing. You can’t lie to Him. It’s just insulting, honestly. Second, God doesn’t want us to trick or manipulate anyone. Last, He doesn’t want us to be dishonest with ourselves.
I was never the best at writing concluding paragraphs. (Some things never change.) To sum up, our rights were not, are not, and never will be from the government. They are given to us by God. As such, we are accountable to Him for all of it. In the Bible, He details how we should use our words: carefully, to edify, and never to lie. We have free will. This means we choose whether to heed His guidance or not.
His promises are true and reliable. They’re not based on some capricious whim or vain imagination. They stand the test of time, as do the divinely inspired principles and concepts in our founding documents. I pray we realize that soon and begin to turn back to the One who gave us our rights, and not rely on those who seek to take them away.
Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. Your rights are a gift from God.
Look forward to hearing from you.
“You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“Aren’t you ashamed?”
“Shame. Shame. Everybody knows your name.”
These phrases were part of my childhood. I’m not looking for sympathy here; it’s just a fact. Usually, they were used by my parents in a joking manner. Occasionally, however, they were used as a genuine inquiry or correction, and not only by my parents.
I’m not a fan of it. I’m also not a fan of its partner guilt. Are you familiar with their work? You do or say something you shouldn’t have. You regret having done or said the thing. Guilt settles in and makes you feel horrible. Shame arrives to finish the job.
I don’t believe we should make ourselves or others feel ashamed or guilty. But I do believe in accountability and taking ownership of our behaviors. I believe in feeling conviction not condemnation.
I’m so glad you asked. When I first dedicated my life to the Lord, I was a bit confused about this as well. Because the initial actions are the same in both cases. We do or say something wrong. That happens in both situations. But here’s where the paths diverge. In the guilty option, we recognize our mistake and begin to beat ourselves up over it. Shame attaches itself and further stokes the fire of humiliation and regret. We can spiral as we replay what we said or did over and over. We can convince ourselves that even if we apologize, nothing will change. When (or if) we do apologize, we may remain persuaded that this mistake will never go away. It’ll always be a part of us now. We’ve got a mark against us that can never be erased.
In the guilty option, part of the problem may be because we’re relying on ourselves and the other person (or people) to forgive us and let us off the hook. But what if we went to the Lord first and asked for His forgiveness before we spoke to anyone else?
In the conviction model, we still say or do something wrong. We recognize it, not because we begin to beat ourselves up and condemn ourselves. No. In this instance, it is the Holy Spirit as a representative of God who will nudge us. Let me state this clearly: God’s conviction is a call to turn it around and begin anew.
In my life, this is typically how it goes down. I’ll be thinking of saying or doing something. I’ll feel a tug within me steering me in a different direction. I ignore this gentle prompting and go ahead with my initial plan. Chaos on some level ensues. When the dust settles, I look up to the heavens and say, “I know. I know. I should have listened.”
In the early days of my faith journey, I would still feel some guilt and shame. That’s perfectly natural. And that’s the problem.
What does that mean? Well, it’s natural to feel bad if we say or do something wrong. But when we want to make amends, we need to ask the Lord for guidance. It’s taken me a long time, and I haven’t gotten it down 100%, but I’m learning that the Creator of the whole universe might just know a thing or two more about life than me.
In my case, there were usually a bunch of red flags displayed before the mistake was made. I just chose to ignore them. Once in a while, I do get blindsided, but not often. The point is, I made the mistake. Now what, if anything, should I do to make it better or right? Is it even possible?
Here’s where taking it out of our hands and putting it into His makes all the difference. I may have the instinct to apologize right away. And it’s good to want to make amends quickly, to not let things fester and brew in the silences and separations. But sometimes God will call us to not say or do anything immediately. He is the only one who knows the hearts and minds of everyone, so though I may be ready to address the matter, the other party may not be.
We made a mistake, and we feel bad. We don’t like feeling that way. We want to stop feeling that way as soon as possible. But what if the other person isn’t ready to receive your apology? You get ahead of God’s timing, expecting a resolution or restoration, and end up hurt or disappointed.
Now, you must be prepared when God does tell you to apologize, there is still no guarantee the other person will accept and forgive. You’ve got to be ok with that. (It’s not easy.) But your response and your effort are in alignment with God. That’s what truly matters. The other person may (or may not) come around. There may (or may not) be a reconciliation. But when you follow His lead, you can hold your head high. Free from guilt and shame. Yes, you don’t deny the mistake. But you’ve asked God to forgive you. You’ve gone to those you may have wronged and asked the same.
This is an area of struggle for me. I like to believe I’m quick to forgive others. But when it comes to forgiving myself, I have a difficult time. It is only by the grace of God that I’m improving in this area. The Lord has shown me that when I hold onto it, I’m not trusting Him and I’m being selfish.
Yes, because the focus is on me. It’s about my mistake. It’s about me. It’s all about me. I become self-absorbed. Typically, we think of being self-absorbed as self-minded, thinking more of yourself than you should. But you can be self-absorbed in a negative way too. You’re obsessed with focusing on all you did or said wrong. What’s the center of your attention in both examples? You are.
If we don’t know someone personally, all we need to do is look at our devices to see people who seem to have abandoned what were once universally agreed upon as basic truths and distinctions between right and wrong, good and evil. In my opinion, this is a reckless way to live. But it doesn’t surprise the Lord. You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:17-20)
The Bible is indeed a love letter to those who want to know Him. But to those who willfully turn away, it’s a very stern warning. The part which grabbed me was “their glory is their shame.” Wow. That’s heavy. But think about it. How many videos have you seen of people reveling in doing the wrong thing? They’re convinced freedom and liberty means doing whatever you want without fear of consequence. I pray they realize the error of their ways before it’s too late. I honestly don’t want anyone’s destiny to be destruction. How about you?
God warned us there would be people who reject Truth and embrace and excuse all bad behaviors. Yet we’re surprised when we encounter them. But it should always be shocking. May we never get so comfortable with evil being seen as good that we don’t speak out against it. May we never get quiet and ashamed of believing in the Lord. Check this out:
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
I remember when I first heard this verse, it stopped me in my tracks. We deny Jesus now, He’ll deny us then. Yes, contemporary culture is making it more difficult to speak out, to proclaim our love for Him. We get censored, shadow banned, shut down, screamed over, taken away. But we can’t stop. Because in that screaming crowd there may be one who can still be reached. Or maybe that one won’t be in the crowd, but they’ll be on the sidelines listening to everything. You never know. But God does.
And what are we so ashamed about anyway? Why do we care what people think? Check this out:
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him (Jesus) will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11)
If you believe what it says, He’s got your back. Stand tall and share His love to this crazy world. And be sure to let conviction fall and change you when you go the wrong way. Check this out:
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:1-5)
These verses struck me. We may not realize this, but if we don’t confess our sin, if we don’t bring our mistake to the Lord, that sin festers within us. As it says, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away..” and “day and night your hand was heavy on me…” Conviction ignored will start to feel like a heavy hand on us. God is merciful, but He demands accountability. He already knows all the mistakes we’ll ever make. The point of confession is to release us and bring us back to wholeness. We can’t get there without Him.
God loves us, but He hates sin in any form. And there is a time when this world will come to an end. His judgement will be rendered on everyone. Check this out:
And when He (Jesus) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (John 16:8, NKJV)
The way I see it, there’s a day coming (and no one knows when) when we will all be judged for everything. Those who willfully stayed in a place of self-absorption and unrepentance, rejecting Him, will be held eternally accountable for that choice. I’m certain there will be judgements against me as well. Yet I know this one thing, if I believe and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, my end will not be the same as theirs. I pray many will come to see He is the Way the Truth and the Life before it is too late.
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. Ask His Holy Spirit to guide you and convict you daily, so you may avoid the pitfalls of this world and live your life unashamed.
Look forward to hearing from you.