We thank You for Jesus. We thank You for love. We thank You for spring. We thank You for this beautiful world that You created for us and that we handed over to the enemy.
Father, they shut down our schools. They shut down our workplaces. They shut down our flights. They shut down our hotel stays. They shut down our supply lines. They shut down our sports arenas. They shut down our movie theaters. They shut down our beaches. They shut down our playgrounds. They shut down access to our loved ones in the hospital.
They even shut down our churches.
But they couldn’t shut You down. You are still here with us, still bringing hope. Still healing. Still working miracles.
We lift up the medical personnel on the front lines, the grocery store workers, the delivery truck drivers, the postal carriers, the restaurant employees, the police officers, the firefighters, those that have lost loved ones, those that have lost their jobs, those that have lost their retirement funds. We lift all of them up to You, Lord.
We are all affected in some way. We lift all of us up to You, Lord – where we should have been all along.
Please carry us all through this time, Lord. Please light the way to cures, not only for this virus but for the distance that we created between humans long before anyone had heard of COVID-19. Yes, and a cure for the distance we have placed between us and You, our loving God. Please use this tragic time for good. Bring us back to You and Your Word.
We need You now more than ever.
In the precious name of Jesus we pray.
“Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Remember, O LORD, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past.” Psalm 25:4-6
For my 7th birthday way back in 1982, gifts from my family included a baseball bat, glove, and ball. I was thrilled to begin learning how to play, for I had watched my older brother play in a school or recreational league in the late 1970s. I soon learned that catching and hitting a baseball was not nearly as easy as he and his friends had made it look.
In the backyard with both my brother and father, I struggled as they tried patiently (and sometimes impatiently) to teach me the basics.
I can still hear them, saying each time I swung and missed or failed to make a catch: “Keep your eyes on the ball,” as if that was the secret of the whole thing.
While the advice was confusing at first, it eventually resonated, and sure enough, with some practice, I learned how to catch and hit.
There’s a Bible story that provides similar advice to what my family gave, but about life rather than baseball. When the apostles are alone on a boat on rough seas in the early morning hours, they observe Jesus walking on the water. They are so shocked, they at first think He is a ghost, but Jesus tells them not to be afraid.
“Peter, suddenly bold, said, ‘Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come ahead.’ Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, ‘Master, save me!’ Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand.”
from Matthew 14:28-31
As a new believer reading through the entire Bible for the first time a couple years ago, I was not surprised that Jesus could walk on water. I had first heard this portion of the story when I was a child.
No, the surprising aspect of this story for me was that Peter walked on the water, too. Peter, who really wasn’t so different than you or me.
His faith allowed Peter to walk on the water towards Jesus, but why did he sink?
He didn’t keep his eyes on Jesus.
Instead, Peter allowed himself to be distracted by the waves and wind – by fear.
We are living in bizarre times. Fear in the form of panic is spreading much faster than the coronavirus possibly could. Fear is a weapon of the enemy, and there are those who use fear for their own means. For ratings. As power grabs. To control.
I know what it’s like to live in fear. I used to let fear control my every action. I was afraid to drive. I was afraid to speak to people. I was afraid to go places alone. I was often afraid to leave the house at all.
All of that has changed since I accepted Jesus into my life as my Lord and Savior. What Jesus didn’t immediately lift away, JC, my true love, has helped me overcome.
Virus or no virus, I will not lock myself away again. I lived too long like that. I refuse to let anxiety and fear control my life any longer. I will not give the enemy a stronghold again.
To be clear, I am not recommending being foolish. Everyone should take common sense precautions. To do otherwise would be to test God.
No, what I am saying is remain calm and rational. While chaos churns around you, keep your eyes on Jesus. That really is the secret of the whole thing.
For those of us who are saved, death is not something to fear. If Jesus wants me to die of the coronavirus, then I will die of the coronavirus. Panic won’t change that either way.
I would prefer to continue living, though, for JC and I still have much to accomplish for Jesus before we go to the Perfect Place. We have only just begun – until Jesus says otherwise. He has the perfect plan, executed with perfect timing.
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. […] The LORD says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.'”
from Psalm 91
While I did learn to catch and hit, I unfortunately wasn’t destined to play on any teams. I still love watching baseball in person, though, or, oddly enough, in movies like Field of Dreams.
As much as I’d like to throw the ball around with someone, I don’t have anyone to do that with these days. I think my brother has gotten too old! He never takes me up on the offer.
My glove’s ready, though. When that time comes and my number gets called, I’ll remember to keep my eyes on the ball and, most importantly, on Jesus.
We lift up all those affected by sickness. May You heal them and bring them comfort. May You calm any hearts stricken by fear and panic. May You fill leaders at every level with wisdom and compassion; lead them to salvation or on a closer walk with You; for those who will not accept You, use them for good anyway. Please help all of us keep our eyes on Jesus.
They can’t put one past me. At least not for more than three decades. Perhaps for my next trick, I’ll figure out why Pi Day is celebrated on March 14.
I happen to know JC dislikes puns, so she won’t enjoy this portion of the post. I’d better move this along.]
Every day is a blessing from God. As an “extra” day, we should use February 29 to give extra thanks to God. I have been spending Leap Day listening to gospel music, mostly Mahalia Jackson. What a gift from God she was. She passed away before I was born, yet the gift of Mahalia lives on for all of us thanks to her recordings.
Though I, of course, had heard of her long before then, I first started exploring her music three weeks ago when I was looking for a traditional version of a hymn. Her amazing voice blew me away. I’m now working my way through some of her early recordings, during her years with the Apollo label (1946-1954).
For those of you who have dropped by for the first time and are wondering what this place is all about, JC and I also today published a new page:
Or maybe you’ve been here for awhile and are still trying to figure this place out. You can access it through the link above or clicking “About” on the main menu.
Let’s see, it’s been over a month since I’ve checked in with a post here. I had that little stretch where I was writing a post almost every day in January. That seems so long ago now.
I am enjoying and becoming more comfortable in my new job, a true blessing from Him. I am so grateful to Jesus for all of the wonderful aspects of my life.
Thank You for the many blessings You have placed in my life. Special people, like my best friend and true love, JC. My family, even if they drive me crazy. My friends, even if I drive them crazy.
Thank You for my home, plentiful food, warm clothes, and all of Your other provisions. Thank You for love. For Your love, unconditional and eternal.
Thank You for forgiveness. For loving me despite my many faults. For helping me to trust You. For forgiving me when I don’t. For counting every tear.
Thank You for everyone that has ever visited this little blog. May they find what they seek.
In the Holy name of Jesus I pray.
“What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.” Luke 6:22-23
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you today and every day.
I gotta close with some Mahalia this time. Bask in her light.
Civil rights leader Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., would have turned 91 on January 15. Today, the United States observes this hero’s birthday with a national holiday (third Monday of January). I was thinking about him today, and I thought it’d be interesting to hear a complete sermon of his. This is one I found over at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.
Reverend King delivered this sermon on February 4, 1968, in Atlanta, Georgia – two months to the day before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Known as the “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, it took place at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where Reverend King was co-pastor with his father.
The sermon, which I recommend hearing in full, covers a wide variety of topics still very applicable nearly 52 years later. As its core, Reverend King uses Mark 10:35-44. James and John ask Jesus if they can sit at His right and left hands in His Kingdom. Ultimately, Jesus tells them it is not up to Him, but to His Father. When the other apostles complain about James and John’s question, Jesus also notes that the true leaders among them will serve everyone else.
As Reverend King notes in his sermon, “[W]e have some of the same James and John qualities. And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It’s a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.”
The sermon is only about 38 minutes, yet covers:
Compulsive-buying/keeping up with the Joneses
As I mentioned, Reverend King was assassinated two months later. Eerily, he concludes this sermon with how he would like to be eulogized at his funeral. This would prove to be his last sermon at his home church. [Read his actual eulogy by Dr. Benjamin Mays.]
I want to close out today with a couple of verses chosen by JC in Reverend King’s honor that speak to the kind of harmony that everyone should be fighting to achieve here on Earth:
“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.”
from Revelation 7:9
“And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people.” Revelation 14:6
In yesterday’s post, I briefly mentioned introversion. I want to clarify that being an introvert is not a bad thing. For introverts like me, it is simply part of how God created us – like having brown eyes or blue eyes. The same goes for extroverts, for that matter.
I once had an extremely extroverted manager at work who seemed to view my introversion as a kind of sickness, but I completely disagree with that view. Oddly enough, we actually worked well together because our polar opposite personality types allowed us to fill the gaps of the other.
I don’t know if there are truly more extroverts in this world or if it just seems that way because they have the loudest voices. I think some natural introverts act in an extroverted fashion as their coping mechanisms, so that would also tend to increase the apparent number.
What exactly is an introvert anyway?
Despite perceptions to the contrary, we generally don’t want to lock ourselves permanently away from society in a log cabin in the mountains somewhere to write poetry or whatever – though there may be times where we feel like doing just that.
We don’t hate people. No more than any other group unfortunately does, anyway.
We don’t think we’re better than others are, though our quiet tendencies can sometimes be misinterpreted as aloofness.
We don’t feel the need to fill every moment of silence with talk, especially small talk. There is such a thing as comfortable silence. That is one way God manifests His presence among two or more people. It is hard to hear Him (or anyone) if you are always talking. The best way to listen is by being quiet.
The clearest explanation I have heard about introversion and extroversion went something like this:
An extrovert’s energy is drained by being alone. To recharge, she or he must be around people.
An introvert’s energy is drained by being around people. To recharge, she or he must be alone.
Both extroverts and introverts can flex as needed to various situations.
As an introvert, I am not always able to be alone when I need to recharge. For example, in the middle of a busy workday. If I see those situations coming, I try to mentally prepare myself for them. Essentially, I try to get an extra charge so that my energy (and tolerance) lasts a little longer. Beforehand, I do a lot of praying, reading of scripture, or listening to praise music.
In the middle of the situation, I also have similar mechanisms to get mini-charges until I can be alone. It only takes a few seconds to say a quick prayer in your head: “Thank You, Jesus” or even “Help me, Jesus” or one of my favorites, “Please make them stop talking, Jesus.”
You can also keep a favorite verse somewhere you can easily see it – on your phone or a notepad, for instance. If you can’t do that, then memorize one and repeat it in your head.
When JC was helping me overcome the anxiety that used to control nearly every facet of my life, she suggested I repeat “Be still and know that I am God!” in my head as soon as I began to feel anxious (from Psalm 46:10). This often calmed me.
Again, this is not to say introversion needs to be overcome, like anxiety. Far from it. Introversion can actually be a superpower when used wisely. However, introverts do have to learn to function around people without letting their batteries go completely dead.
So, find a verse or two that speaks to you and spiritually charges you, and try using them in the midst of a draining situation. Here are a few potential examples:
“Those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
“He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:2
I don’t have an idea yet for today’s post. I guess we’ll see where things go.
I am traditionally a very introverted person. I have to make myself talk to people, rather than relying on my instinct of slinking past them and hoping they don’t see me. I have become better at talking to people since I was saved, though. That’s not to say I am some kind of expert, simply that I have improved.
One thing I have noticed is that smiling and saying “hello” to random people can often produce a smile in return. I see it as a small way of putting a little more joy into our world. The other aspect of it is the acknowledgement of “Yes, you are there, I see you.” We all too often ignore each other.
Something else I have gotten into the habit of doing is saying, “Have a blessed day” instead of the more routine “Have a nice day.” I find this particularly effective when interacting with over-stressed people who work in retail or food service industries. This brings a smile 99% of the time, followed by an enthusiastic, “Thank you, you too!” Similar to above, it is a way of saying, “Yes, you are here. What you do is appreciated.”
My third example of ways to make people smile actually appeals more to my introverted side. When people do something for me or do an exceptionally good job for me, I give them handwritten thank you notes. Some of them have been pleasantly shocked by this. I also use these opportunities to include a verse of scripture. In fact, I try not to send any card without including scripture.
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35
In the lead-up to the battle of Jericho, Joshua, leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses, sent two spies into the city. There, they spent the night at the house of Rahab, a prostitute. The king of Jericho found out about the incursion and sent word to Rahab that she was to oust the Israelites. Instead, she hid the men and claimed to the king that they had already left (see Joshua 2:1-6).
The passage below begins with a quote from Rahab as she talks to the spies:
“‘Now swear to me by the LORD that you will be kind to me and my family since I have helped you. Give me some guarantee that when Jericho is conquered, you will let me live, along with my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all their families.’ ‘We offer our own lives as a guarantee for your safety,’ the men agreed. ‘If you don’t betray us, we will keep our promise and be kind to you when the LORD gives us the land.’ Then, since Rahab’s house was built into the town wall, she let them down by a rope through the window.” Joshua 2:12-15
Using a scarlet rope, the men descend the wall of the city from Rahab’s window. They return to camp and report to Joshua (see Joshua 2:21-24).
The Israelites mount an offense, crossing the Jordan to Jericho (see Joshua 3). The Lord gives Joshua specific instructions on how to conquer the city in seven days (see Joshua 6:2-5). Following the Lord’s instructions, on the seventh day:
“When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it. They completely destroyed everything in it with their swords—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys. Meanwhile, Joshua said to the two spies, ‘Keep your promise. Go to the prostitute’s house and bring her out, along with all her family.’ The men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, mother, brothers, and all the other relatives who were with her. They moved her whole family to a safe place near the camp of Israel.” Joshua 6:20-23
What I love about this story is not that the Israelites lived up to their promise of sparing Rahab.
No, it is God who saved Rahab. For her house was built into the walls of the city – the very same walls that collapse in the above passage. Only after the collapse did the spies retrieve Rahab and her family. For her house to survive collapse was nothing short of divine intervention – a true miracle.
In the New Testament, the author of Hebrews includes Rahab in the faith “hall of fame,” noting:
“It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down. It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Hebrews 11:30-31
James also references Rahab, placing her faith in the context of her actions:
“So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.” James 2:24-26
What an amazing God! Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.
Nostalgia can be fun, but it can also be a barrier to spiritual growth if you dwell too much on the past. For one thing, we tend to remember the best parts and forget the rest. While this is only natural, it can make the “good ol’ days” of our lives seem idyllic in a way against which our lives today can never hope to compete.
The Israelites of the Old Testament come to mind. It seems every few miles on the way to the Promised Land, they are complaining to poor Moses about something. Here is but one example:
“‘If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.'” Exodus 16:3
God and Moses have literally led these people to freedom. God has even worked visible miracles to do so, including the parting of the Red Sea. Yet, they are remembering the good ol’ days . . . of being slaves in Egypt. Here is how the Bible describes that slavery:
“The Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.
“The Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.”
from Exodus 1:11,13-14
Rather than placing their newfound freedom in perspective, the Israelites choose to obsess over the best part of their former lives – the Egyptian version of the all-you-can-eat buffet. They forget that the costs of admission to that buffet were their bodies and spirits.
This is not to suggest we should dwell on negative events from our past. In fact, you should discard anything that is holding you back and take only the good memories with you. Just don’t obsess over those memories.
As always, Paul has some good advice on the topic:
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Paul is focusing himself and telling himself to forget his past. Along the same lines, let’s go back to the Old Testament. This is from Isaiah:
“I am the LORD, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.” Isaiah 43:16-18
Here, God is telling us, humanity, to forget His previous miracles because His future miracles will be even bigger.
People will sometimes say if only God still did big miracles – like the parting of the Red Sea. Saved Christians don’t need to see those kinds of miracles, though, because, as Paul said, we have the Holy Spirit in us, and we intimately know Jesus. These are far bigger miracles than parting any seas. We are carrying within us the very same power that brought Jesus back to life.
The faithful of Isaiah’s time were only able to read or hear about what we are blessed to have. They were still faithful, even without the gifts we have.
“All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.”
I grip my flashlight a little tighter, wishing for the millionth time since I was a little boy that it really was a lightsaber. I’m in the middle of my daily walk, which I started much later than usual, and the sky is black. I’m entering a long stretch of dark road between the comforting illumination of my apartment complex and the lights of a busy street somewhere up ahead.
In the daylight, the only real concern I have in this area is dodging droppings left on the sidewalk for me by my Canadian friends – beautiful geese who gather to honk and laugh as I dance around their little presents.
In the dark, though, everything seems different. My flashlight is bulky and metal, chosen specifically because it resembles a lightsaber hilt. No little plastic flashlight would do. Yet, the light it produces seems frail. Barely penetrating the void.
Through the mist of rain, I see a shape ahead. Someone coming towards me?
My heart begins thudding. For a moment, I am afraid.
Then, I remember two things.
1.) I’m a child of God, and
2.) God sees just as perfectly at night as in the day.
I bravely press on. I pass the ominous shape.
It’s not a person at all.
Not even a goose.
It’s the back of a sign pointing the way to my apartment complex.
I thank the Holy Spirit for reminding me last night that I don’t need a lightsaber. All I need is God.
May Jesus bless you. Thank you for reading.
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
“To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.”
from Psalm 139:12
In the course of our lives, there are people who touch us, inspire us. People who help us become who we are. Perhaps a teacher…a grandmother…your mom…a best friend…a coach…a co-worker…an uncle…a sister…a pastor…an aunt…a brother…maybe even a niece…a nephew…a son…a daughter. Whoever your special people are, these people who have touched your heart, have you told them how you feel? Have you thanked them?
If they are still alive, seek them out. Call them. Write them. Visit them. Do anything to let them know.
Life being what it is, it may seem it is “too late.” Perhaps they have passed away, for instance. In that case, you can still write them a letter only you will ever see. Still express to them what they meant to you. Still thank them. Or, perhaps, seek out a close member of that person’s family. He or she would probably love to hear what their relative meant to you.
I’ve had a number of people who have been critical in my life so far, who have touched my very soul. I’ve talked about a couple of them on this blog, and there are others. I am blessed, very blessed to have had many loving, caring people in my life.
I realize, however, that not everyone feels that way. Maybe your life so far hasn’t been what you hoped it would be. Maybe you can’t think of even one example of someone you’d like to thank right now.
And that’s okay.
Because I have an example for you. Someone that loves and cares for you unconditionally. And that is Jesus Christ.
Imagine the greatest love ever, whoever you have loved or has loved you the most, and you are not even close to how much Jesus loves you. His love for you is infinite, as vast as the universe.
He knows everything you ever did (John 4:29) and ever will do. Think about that for a moment. The power of that. Jesus knows everything about you, yet He still loves you. Fully.
You may have broken every single commandment, but He still loves you.
You may have hurt every single person in your life, but He still loves you.
Every single person in your life may have hurt you, but He loves you.
He gave up His life for you, died for your sins and mine. The sins of all humanity, past and future.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
If you don’t yet know Jesus, then I ask you, I beg you to take a moment to consider this gift He is offering you.
You need only to believe in Him as God’s Son, who died for you and rose three days later, accept Him in your heart as your Savior, and He will forgive your sins and grant you eternal life in the Perfect Place – Heaven.
While this locks you in for a wonderful afterlife, it also gives you an opportunity for a new life right here, right now in this world. Open your heart, and He will use you. Open your heart, and He will show you His plans for you. Open your heart, and you will know the depth of His love.
You will be a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). You will see the world in a whole new light. What was dark before, you will fill with His light. What worried you before, He will battle for you – indeed, He has already won.
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.
Who will you inspire?
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:16-21