Monday, February 7, 2022

A World Divided by Fear

What happens when your life, your country . . . literally the whole world is gripped by fear? Disaster! But it does not have to be that way.

Once almost an entire nation was engulfed in fear that led to a near national collapse. Upwards of three million Hebrew people fled the land of Egypt in a massive and historic exodus. Their leader was Moses, who was led by the Lord God. The Hebrews were guided from Egypt toward a promised land God had waiting for them. As they approached, Moses sent out a team to survey the land. Over a month later, the team of 12 came back and gave a report to the nation. They all agreed on the facts of what they saw, but disagreed on the conclusions. They agreed it was a bountiful land that would be good for their people, but because it was occupied and would have to be taken by force, 10 of the 12 feared they would be defeated, while two of the 12 were confident they would be victorious. Consequently, the nation immediately sided with the 10 and fear spread to every family. Though the Lord God promised they would secure the land, the people refused to believe Him.

Fear paralyzed them. It also divided the nation, created anger toward its leadership and fostered rebellion and lawlessness to the point where people planned to kill the two who encouraged obedience toward God. But praise God for the two men, Caleb and Joshua, who courageously gave a good report to their Hebrew nation and remained firm in their conclusions. In the face of death threats, with the whole nation staring down on them they never buckled, saying, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-8)

Praise God for Moses. When God was angry at this fear-filled nation and had enough, Moses prayed, and because of his prayers God spared them.

Then in an interesting twist, when they learned how God’s judgment would be poured out on them for refusing to obey, they went up to take possession of their promised land, but did so out of fear. There was no faith in God or love for Him. They were godless zealots whom were defeated because God was not with them.

And praise God for Jesus. When He suffered and died as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, He died for all our fears. And when He rose again from the dead, He conquered fear. And for all who turn from their sins and walk faithfully with Him, they are called overcomers by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

National fear almost collapsed the entire Hebrew nation. This is why fear is so dangerous. It is not just an emotion, but a violation of God’s holy law. Many times, God directly says, “Do. Not. Fear.”

Since March 2020 the headlines of the Covid 19 pandemic have been voiced by the 10. The data, story lines, projections, conclusions; all of it has been exempt of God and has inspired nothing but fear, creating a world filled with anger, division and rebellion. In fear people have flocked to get vaccinated. In fear people have risen up to protest getting vaccinated. In fear people have lashed out at government and health officials. In fear people have condemned the unvaccinated.

Though the voice of the 10 broadcasts fear across the globe, it does not get the final word. God does. Let us be wise and discerning and not fall for the emotional tricks that lead to fear. Let us be firm in our resolve to believe the Word of God no matter the odds, let it produce a spirit of optimism and hope. And instead of lashing out at our opponents, pray for them as Moses did.

A prayer for you - “Lord God, examine our hearts to see if fear is a controlling element in any of our decisions. Reveal if we are allowing fear to gain a foothold through things we are reading, watching or listening to. If fear has a home with us, we repent. We admit our sin and ask you to help us to turn from fear and completely trust in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Thursday, January 6, 2022

How to Know What is the Right Thing to Do

How do we know information that we are reading, watching, listening to or being told is accurate? Maybe we will say, “Because it comes from my mom”, “It sounds believable”, “Everyone is saying it”, “I read it on the internet.” Since we live in a time of disinformation, fact-checkers and fake news, how do we know what is true and thereby make important decisions, comments or accept certain beliefs on things?

As we close out 2021 and begin 2022, let us call out for wisdom and seek it like vast treasures hidden in our backyard. The Bible speaks of people who “. . . have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). Discernment is a form of wisdom. It causes a person to stop and consider, and provides understanding and good judgment.

When what is true could be false and what is false could be true, and the implications of such are costly, we need discernment. When the pressure is on from family, friends or others, we need discernment. When our job, health, finances, or our very lives are on the line, we need discernment. It helps us see more clearly what is truth versus error and good versus evil, so we can wisely respond to what is before us.

How do we practice godly discernment? 1. Pray. Ask God to provide you with discernment or understanding over your situation in order to make a wise decision. 2. Read the Scriptures. It is the source for wisdom, where God will show you something in His Word to give needed guidance. 3. Identify the costs. There are consequences to decisions, so identify what they are for deciding or believing one way or the other. 4. Identify pressures. List out the various pressure points you are feeling to go this direction or that. 5. Research. Take time and effort to read, ask questions, learn and gain as much information as you can. 6. Getting advice. Search out a few people you would consider to be wise, maybe with differing points of view, and get their input. 7. Trust God and act. After you have done all this, there comes a time to stop dithering, place your complete faith in God and make a decision.

Godly discernment is a faithful guard, protecting us against lies, deception and manipulation. It can literally save our life and the lives of those whom we love. But there is a high cost. It means we question things when we are discouraged from doing so. It means we may have to separate from the crowd, while we go one way and they another. Though the cost is great, the benefits are worth it. There is a peace that abounds knowing it is well with our soul when we have chosen to do right, no matter the outcome. There is also a sense of confident trust in God, knowing we have obeyed Him, as best we understand, and He will take care of the unknown.

How do we obtain such a form of wisdom, that the Bible calls more valuable than silver or gold? It comes through a covenant relationship with Jesus. He is the very embodiment of wisdom and discernment. When we turn from our own understanding and disobedience, then call upon Him with all our heart, He will save us and give us the gift of Himself and His wisdom.

A prayer for you - “Lord God, open the eyes of the confused, frustrated, fearful and anxious. Give them godly discernment in the situation they face. Turn them towards yourself, for you are the very wisdom they so desperately need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”


Monday, November 29, 2021

Christmas Is Not About a Baby

Is Christmas about a baby?  A cute, cuddly little one that His mother held in her arms?  If so, then why is Christmas offensive to many?  Who could be turned off by an adorable baby?  Why have schools changed from Christmas break to winter break?  Why do people file lawsuits to stop Christmas celebrations?  Why do most Islamic and atheistic governments either ban or strongly condemn Christmas?  Because they understand perfectly, that Christmas is not about a baby . . . but a man.  Not a fictitious man with a sled and reindeer, but the very real God-Man, who stands with nail printed hands opened wide to all humanity as their Supreme King and Savior.

The ancient Christmas story originates from the Bible and one quote in particular is the reason for Christmas opposition.  It comes from Matthew 1:23, “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

The Christmas story characters Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the Shepherds, Simeon and Anna all saw baby Jesus.  Each person recognized He was not a normal human infant boy.  He was different.  He was sent from Almighty God in heaven, and born with a divine mission.  He was born with the titles of Christ, Savior, Lord, Son of the Most High, Son of God, King and Immanuel.  Each person recognized but did not fully understand, the boy was clearly not just human, but deity in human form.  And each recognized the baby was not going to fulfill any divine mission, but the God-Man He would grow into . . . would.  King Herod, Jesus’ arch enemy when He was two years old, understood this.  That is why upon learning about Jesus, Herod made a failed attempt to kill the toddler, to try and prevent Jesus from growing up into a man and challenging Herod’s title as King of the Jews.            

Immanuel, God with us, was an offense to Herod and still is to many.  The title communicates there is one true God.  It means there is a Supreme ruler, a Sovereign King over humankind and the universe.  It also implies the King is Judge over all.  The idea that God left His home in heaven and came to earth in the form of a man, angers the prideful, immoral and arrogant.  “Leave us alone”, they say.  “We don’t need you.  We have education, science, our own laws, our own morality, and for some, even our own religion.”  To them, they scoff at Immanuel, “We don’t want God with us.” 

For others though, Immanuel has come as Savior to rescue them from their slavery to sin.  He was welcomed and worshipped.  Followers believed in Him, repented of their sin and received His gift of forgiveness.  They received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and will one day enter into their eternal home in heaven.  To them Immanuel is hope, new life and redemption. 

Christmas is not about a baby, but the God-Man, Jesus.  To some He is an offense, while to others He is hope.  What is He to you?  This Christmas fix your eyes upon Jesus, the One who died and rose again for you.  Today, receive His gift of forgiveness through faith and repentance.   

A prayer for you - “Lord God, open our eyes to see Jesus, not as a baby, but the true and living God-Man.  The One who came to Save us from our sins and one day judge the world.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Thank you. Two Simple Words.

Early in our marriage while we were eating dinner one evening, I said to Kathe “Thanks for dinner, honey.” She responded a little surprised so I followed up with, “You have taken the time to put it together and it tasted great so I think you deserve a thanks.”

One of the easiest ways to celebrate Thanksgiving is by sharing a simple “thank you” with someone who has served us. On the public platform our culture seems to do fine with this. It is normal for celebrities and politicians to express thanks while the cameras are rolling and crowds gathered. However, what are we like when our guard is down and have nothing to gain? In those moments how often do we express “thank you” to our spouse, parents, children, co-workers, friends or classmates?

Thankfulness is a character issue. It is about humility. When we say “thank you”, we are lowering our self and elevating another. When we do that, we are giving people a sense of dignity.  We are honoring their act of service toward us no matter how insignificant or routine it may seem to them or others.

Thankfulness is also about awareness. In order to give a “thank you” it requires that we shift the focus from our own world to someone else’s. It is where we hit the pause button in our busyness for a moment and acknowledge what someone has done on our behalf. It is a simple act of courtesy that is polite and the mark of a true gentleman or lady.

The life altering effect of Jesus’ suffering, death, burial and rising again from the dead is dependent on our attitude toward thankfulness. It takes a sense of awareness to realize all that Jesus did for you and the people of the world. Awareness is required to realize it was done because you are a sinner and need a Savior. And after you are aware of this it takes humility to say “thank you” for all He did. In that moment, life-change happens because you have lowered yourself and exalted Jesus in your heart. The Scripture says, “Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name” (1 Chronicles 16:8).

A prayer for you - “Lord God, help us to be a thankful people.  Open our eyes to be aware of what others have done for us, both in our homes and from strangers among us.  Then give us humility to lower ourselves and exalt others with a simple thank you.  Greatest of all, help us to thank you for saving sinners just like us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”