Mixed Signals



Did you ever date someone who gave you mixed signals? I had a few experiences like that. They would say they didn’t want to date me, but then their actions would not match their statement. I am sure many of us had to work our way through those mixed signals given to us by the opposite sex in our dating years.

Unfortunately, mixed signals are quite common when it comes to the world of religion, as well. Have you ever been around one of those people that claims to be a Christian but doesn’t live it? They don’t only claim to be one, but they use all the right vocabulary when they talk about religion, sprinkling their conversations with a generous amount of Bible verses and good-sounding theology.

Meanwhile, their lives are filled with all of the things God hates with no conviction to change. They look just like the world in almost every way and defend it as acceptable in the eyes of God.

They are what we would generally call a “hypocrite.”

Hypocrite: : a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs

Last night my daughter was telling me about a young TV star who presents quite the confusing Instagram. She claims to be a Christian, but on her page she posts verses alongside almost pornographic images of herself. While this is a blatant example of hypocrisy, this is not uncommon among movie stars and athletes.

But it isn’t just movie stars and athletes that are hypocrites. There are plenty around. I am sure you can think of at least one right now.

And these hypocrites can really wreak havoc when we are trying to share the good news of the gospel.  Their lack of holy living, their arrogance, and their disinterest in interpreting the Word of God correctly can really be stumbling blocks for many people. They do an immense amount of damage for the cause of Jesus Christ. And it can be frustrating for those of us who are really trying to live out a godly life and share the good news with others.

So what do we do about these folks giving mixed signals?

These are the folks that are living in sin, so while some confrontation may be in order, you have to decide very carefully if it should come from you. If you do decide it should, make sure your heart is brimming over with love for that person.

But if you don’t believe you should be the one confronting the person, then what can you do with all of the damage this person is doing by their mixed signals?

I would make a few suggestions–

  1.  Keep striving to live a holy, godly life. The seeds we plant will yield fruit in the future. And people will see that fruit. They will see the fruit of the hypocrite and they will see the fruit of the one who was dedicated whole-heartedly to God. Just keep doing what’s right.
  2. When these names come up in your conversations about salvation with others, point their eyes away from the hypocrite and to the Word of God. As believers, Jesus is our perfect example. We need to keep our eyes on Him and get them off of people– whether they be sincere Christians who struggle with sin (of which I am one) or blatant hypocrites.
  3. Pray for the hypocrite. Pray that God would open his or her eyes so that they could see the truth of God’s Word. So often we express frustration or irritation with someone, but we rarely will pray for that person. And, honestly, it is actually pretty hard to pray for someone who is making your life more difficult, so that does make sense. But praying for someone not only helps them, but also changes your heart–filling it with genuine love from the Father for this person.

While it seems that hypocrites are increasing by leaps and bounds in this current age, I doubt this is a new problem. Wherever you find freedom of religion and a pop culture that includes Christianity, you will find hypocrites. After all, you won’t be a hypocrite if you know your freedom–sometimes even your very life– is on the line. I guess that would probably be the one bright spot in being part of the persecuted church. No fakers there.

But, while persecution is probably coming to the Western world sooner rather than later, in the meantime we need to not only put up with hypocrites, but try to genuinely love them, praying that the blinders would be lifted from their eyes.


Two Types of People

in everything

I was listening to Gateway to Joy the other day and heard Elisabeth Elliot say something like this: “there are only two kinds of people: the kind who complain and the thankful kind.”

And I had to ask myself:

Which kind am I?

I guess none of us are either kind all the time, but which kind am I most of the time?

The really great thing about this question is that we get to choose what kind of person we will be. It isn’t like the question are you short or tall? While we can’t change our height, we can change if we are a complainer or if we are thankful.

I would say that I am overall a pretty happy person, but these last couple of years have challenged that a bit. I have been thrown out of my norm, forced to develop a new normal, and I have rebelled a bit against that. I have had many moments– even months– that I have not been thankful. I have blamed it on my circumstances.

But God, I don’t want this in my life.

Slowly but surely, God is teaching me that my joy is not dependent on my circumstances. My grateful heart is not dependent on what’s going on in my life. Instead it comes from a heart surrendered to the will of the Father, trusting in Him and knowing that whatever is going on in my life is for His glory and my best.

This is a very hard lesson to learn, no matter what change in life we face. Or what circumstances. We all have them, don’t we? We traverse on this troubled and fallen earth where trials abound. We can all think of plenty of reasons to complain. But when we choose thanksgiving, we are like a lighthouse on this dark earth.

Let me give you an example.

I know two older women who have now lived out most of their lives. They have married, raised a family, and watched grandchildren grow up. They have health issues and life has changed considerably for both of them over the past ten or so years, giving them much to complain about.

But these two women are like night and day in how they face their circumstances and the contrast is remarkable.

The one complains frequently about her circumstances. The other one chooses to be thankful despite her circumstances. The complainer talks negatively about everyone around her. The other one does not. The complainer rarely has a positive thing to say. The other one is inspiring and full of joy. The complainer is lonely and has few friends. The other one is loved dearly by many. One is showing me what not to be like when I am old and one is creating a beautiful legacy.

One of these women is joining the roiling, heaving mass of discontented humanity and the other one is standing out like a lighthouse on the shore, offering hope despite life’s hard times.

This contrast has given me cause for great thought. I want to be creating a beautiful legacy of joy and thanksgiving. But how do I get there?

Perhaps the change starts in our minds, where we first get our initial thought of complaint. Most of us are wallowing in sinful, negative thoughts before ever speaking. And if we want to change, we need to recognize this. 2 Corinthians 10:5 commands us to take every thought captive. Captive. Instead of  letting our thoughts take control of us, we are to take control of them. This is where I fail so often.

I have that thought of sadness or irritation and I will feed it. Instead of taking it captive, I will set it out to pasture to gobble up all of my peace. And yet, life is so much better when I take those thoughts captive as instructed in scripture.

And so I am learning to choose joy and thanksgiving. In my Bible Challenge reading this week, I read that wonderful passage in I Thessalonians 5, including verse 18 about giving thanks always. God’s Word speaks to so many of our problems and struggles. But changing is no easy process and needs to be done very intentionally through the power of the Holy Spirit, just like the rest of our Christian lives. Intentional submission to God’s sovereignty, intentional scripture study and prayer time, intentional choices that lead to pure, holy, and thankful lives. Until one day God calls us into His presence to live with Him forever. The Hope of Heaven–now that is something for which to be truly thankful!


A Word of Caution About Sleepovers


I was probably seven or eight at the time. I lay in a sleeping bag in the midst of ten or fifteen other girls. I am sure there was a lot of giggling and jumping around. There was probably lots of junk food. The memory is very hazy.

However, there is one part of the evening that isn’t even slightly hazy. And that is the part where the girl hosting it turned on a horror flick. Sure, it was pretty innocuous as horror flicks go now, but to my little-girl brain it was just awful. I couldn’t sleep for the rest of that night or for several nights afterwards. I can still see part of that movie if I think about it long enough. That was how much of an impact it made.

Pictures can stay in our memory forever.

I remembered this vividly the other day when I was having a conversation with some moms who really want to follow their instincts and say no to an activity for their children but are worried about offending others. This memory came rushing back as they talked. I wish I would never had gone to that party. If my parents had had any idea what movie would be turned on at that slumber party, I highly doubt that they would have allowed me to go. After all, what parent allows their small children to watch horror movies?

You’d be surprised.

And then there is the whole over-sexed culture to think of, as well. With pornography rampant among teenagers and grown men, we cannot be too careful with our young children. Remember Josh Duggar and what he did to the girls spending the night with his sisters? Do you think their parents would have ever left their daughters sleep there had they any inkling?

I am not here to tell you that your child should never sleep over at a friend’s house. That is not my point at all. But I would just like to suggest that this is an area where we use extreme caution.

If you are going to send your child to stay the night at anyone’s house, do your homework first. We would never send our child to sleep at a stranger’s house and yet, so often, that is, in essence, exactly what we are doing when we send them to a school friend’s house.We wouldn’t put our child in the ocean amidst sharks, and yet somehow sending them to spend the night with strangers is okay. Sleepovers are best if the other family is known well. If your daughter is friends but you don’t know the family, then perhaps you could spend some time getting to know the parents or, better yet, develop a friendship with them.

Our job as parents is to stop worrying about what people will think and to protect our children. There are, at best, really undiscerning parents out there who don’t care what their kids watch, listen to, or do at a sleepover. At worst, there are predators who are hooked on pornography lurking in some of these homes. We must protect our children, at all costs.

My unpleasant sleepover experience was just a small blip on the line of my life. I am no worse for wear and it could have been so much worse. However, to that little seven-year old who was me that was forced to watch something that scared the daylights out of her, it was a traumatic and frightening blip.

Sleepovers are okay, but let’s do our homework. Protecting our babies is way more important than worrying about what someone will think of us.

What Does the Bible Say About Me


There is such a push from the world to be self-centered. And most of us are listening. Have you considered just how much things have changed in the last twenty years?

My husband came into the house the other day and started talking about how different it is in business  since he first started. People, as a general rule, have become much more selfish. There is little grace and expectations have become almost impossible to meet. It can be frustrating. Thankfully, we still have many wonderful customers who aren’t like this. But the gracious and kind customers really stand out now. They used to be the norm.

And just a few days ago, a friend was telling me how she and her husband were trying to save seats at a Christian event. She told me she could not believe how rude and unkind people were, calling them names and treating them very unkindly. Some even pushed past them and took a few of the seats they were saving! And these people call themselves Christians.

There have always been selfish people. But it seems to be out of control now. Every decision, every choice is made based on how it will affect them. It doesn’t matter what is better for the church, community, or family. If it makes them work or uncomfortable, they won’t do it. If it is to their advantage then they will do everything they can to make it happen– even calling someone a name. I could write a lot more about this, but I am guessing you probably know exactly what I am talking about.

This week, in preparation for a speaking engagement, I did an in-depth study of scripture to find out exactly how we are supposed to think about ourselves from a biblical perspective. What I found was contrary to most everything we are told in our classrooms and through the media. I knew this, but to study scripture and see it so clearly was a great reminder.

Here is some of what I learned–

  1. We don’t need to learn to love ourselves, because we already do love ourselves. We are told to love others as we love ourselves no less than eight times in scripture (Here are a few of those verses: Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; Galatians 5:14) This does make sense if you think about it– whether one of us is thinking about how unfortunate and inferior we are or another one of us is thinking about how amazing and beautiful we are, we are both consumed with one thing–SELF.
  2. When we are saved, our love for Jesus should become more important than our love for self. (Matthew 6:33; Galatians 5:20; John 3:30) This is part of the transformation that takes place in the life of a believer. Oh, this may not be an instant change for all of us, but there can be no denying that genuine salvation changes us. And it changes our priorities.
  3. This means that as we mature, we should be thinking of ourselves less and less. (Philippians 2:3) Think over your Christian life for a few moments. Can you see how you have become more unselfish as you have grown closer to Christ? Self-denial continues to be a daily struggle for me, but I do know that I am way better than I used to be. God is slowly and surely transforming me. Of course, thinking of ourselves less does not mean that we don’t take good care of ourselves or enjoy life. In fact, God has given us all things to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17). But we need to carefully stay balanced in our care of self. As we grow, we should also offer more and more grace and kindness to others, as we consider their needs and wants before our own. This is where we really see our hearts. Oftentimes, when I have a disagreement with someone, I will recognize afterwards just how stupid it really was. I have these arguments because I want my own way. This battle for self rages within all of us and it is one we cannot ignore. If we feed the monster of self it will continue to grow and grow. If we aren’t becoming less selfish, we are growing more selfish. There is no neutral.
  4. We actually end up with more peace and joy when we put Jesus first (Proverbs 10:28). This seems to be a puzzling paradox, doesn’t it? How can it be possible that the less we are consumed with self, the happier we will be? And yet, it is true. God has designed it so that we will actually end up with far more joy and peace if we obey Him, than if we chase after happiness on our own.

It is really hard to believe just how far this culture has come in worshiping self. This self-worship has even crept into our churches, so that many of our churches are filled with strife and discord, instead of the unity that God intended among true believers.

But I found out that the Bible teaches us that we should think less and less of ourselves as we mature as believers. That our perfect goal (impossible this side of heaven) would be to always glorify God and never think of our selfish desires. While we will never reach that goal, let’s try to look more like Jesus every day. Next week around the Thanksgiving table with extended family, let’s be the ones that don’t have to be right in the family arguments. Let’s be the ones that reach out to the lonely widow sitting in church despite our busy, hectic morning. And let’s show grace and mercy to people who wrong us. In taking the focus off of ourself we will really stand out in this world of self-absorbed people. In fact, it may even give us a few opportunities to witness– so be ready!


Red Cups and the Media

red cups

I know I am coming in a little late on this Red Cup story. By now the frequent postings about it are being replaced with the awful news of terrorist attacks happening in Paris. I am glad the red cup posts are disappearing but I am very sad that it took such an awful tragedy to replace them. Let’s be praying for the people of that city! But before the red cup story vanishes completely from history, I thought I’d share this quick post.

First, let me say that of all my 500 plus–and mostly conservative– Facebook friends, not one– not one— posted anything that implied in even the slightest way that they were irritated by Starbucks changing their cups. Now if Christians were up in arms about this, I think I would have seen the “for/against” debate raging all over my Facebook page. Instead of a debate, I just saw, plastered all over my page, post after post after post saying how ridiculous it was to get upset about red cups.

So I ask you: who are these elusive folks so upset about this?

I did a little googling and it looks to me like the whole thing stems from one irate customer who claimed that Starbucks was declaring war on Christmas by changing their cups. I don’t know this guy, but I can tell you that I don’t want to be included categorically with some guy like this and I am guessing you don’t either.

And I can’t help but wonder–is there a possibility that the media lumped all of us Christians together and then exaggerated this story to further divide this country? To make us Christians look like ridiculous nit-pickers?

I really have no idea, but it sure does look suspicious to me. I mean, first off–who in the world would possibly care what Starbucks puts on their cups? Secondly, why would we expect them to promote the true meaning of Christmas when they stand against almost everything else taught in the Bible? Starbucks is one of the most liberal companies in the world. Even I know that and I rarely watch the news. If we don’t like it, we don’t need to buy their coffee.

I know this has just about died down in light of the very serious and newsworthy happenings in Paris going on, but I just thought I’d send out a reminder: Don’t believe everything you hear coming from the liberal media. They are biased and have proven themselves to be very untrustworthy. If they tell us that Christians are up in arms about something, we’d better do some of our own investigating before we jump on any bandwagon for or against.

Just a few thoughts for this Saturday afternoon :)

Forsaking and Fleeing



Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.

These words startled me when I was reading my assigned passage from the gospels for the Bible Challenge the other day. I have read through Matthew many times, but for some reason, these words from the second half of Matthew 26:56 really made me stop and think that morning.

Peter’s denial happens later on in that chapter but before Peter ever denies Christ, Matthew tells us that all of the disciples have left their Messiah’s side when they realized that Jesus was being arrested.  As I went on in the chronological reading, I discovered that Mark recorded this in much the same way–

 Then they all forsook Him and fled. (Mark 14:50)

These eleven men (the twelfth had just betrayed Jesus), had seen Jesus, our Savior, Himself in the flesh. They had walked and talked with Him. And yet they fled from His side when the going got rough. They had seen Him turn water into wine (John 2:1-12), watched Him raise a dead man (John 11:38-44), and had witnessed the healing of the multitudes (Matthew 12:15). These same eleven men had watched as a few fish and several loaves of bread fed a huge, starving crowd–twice! (Matthew 14:17-21 and Matthew 15:33-39).  Astonishing and incredible miracles were just part of the course of a day with Jesus and these eleven men had witnessed them over and over again as His disciples.

Not only did they see miracles, but they sat under the teaching of Jesus, the perfect Teacher. They had learned wisdom and doctrine from God Himself.

They have spent three amazing years following and serving the true Messiah. And yet, when things get a little frightening, they all flee.

All of them.

Not one single one of them stood by Jesus when He was arrested.

Thankfully, their legacies do not stop there, amidst failure and fear. Instead, every single one of those disciples (with the exception of Judas, of course) went on to live devoted and whole-hearted lives for Christ. They traveled to places like India, Russia, and Persia spreading the gospel. They all, without exception, went on to do big things for the sake of Jesus Christ. (See Below)

What encourages me about this is that, quite clearly, failures and lapses in courage do not disqualify us from running the race that has been set before us. God knows our thoughts and desires. He can see when our hearts are stubbornly rebellious or when we are repentant and ready to submit to Him. He sees every sin we commit. Every failure. Every time we cower in fear. And yet, despite all of this, He loves and forgives us.

Somehow, knowing that the disciples forsook Jesus at such a critical time but then went on to spread the gospel far and wide is reassuring for me. It means that we can forsake and we can run, but there is forgiveness waiting for us when we choose to continue moving on for the sake of Christ.

God’s free gift of salvation and forgiveness for sins is not for perfect people who have mastered their sinful natures. Instead, it is for me. And for you. It is for cowardly, sinful people who make really bad choices and fail over and over again. How thankful I am for God’s marvelous grace and mercy!


If you are not familiar with what happened to each of the disciples, here is a brief overview taken from this article at Christianity.com

Into All the World
Reports and legends abound and they are not always reliable, but it is safe to say that the apostles went far and wide as heralds of the message of the risen Christ. An early legend says they cast lots and divided up the world to determine who would go where, so all could hear about Jesus. They suffered greatly for their faith and in most cases met violent deaths on account of their bold witness.

PETER and PAUL were both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, since he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.

ANDREW went to the “land of the man-eaters,” in what is now the Soviet Union. Christians there claim him as the first to bring the gospel to their land. He also preached in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, and in Greece, where he is said to have been crucified.

“Doubting” THOMAS was probably most active in the area east of Syria. Tradition has him preaching as far east as India, where the ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder. They claim that he died there when pierced through with the spears of four soldiers.

PHILIP possibly had a powerful ministry in Carthage in North Africa and then in Asia Minor, where he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation the proconsul had Philip arrested and cruelly put to death.

MATTHEW the tax collector and writer of a Gospel, ministered in Persia and Ethiopia. Some of the oldest reports say he was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.

BARTHOLOMEW had widespread missionary travels attributed to him by tradition: to India with Thomas, back to Armenia, and also to Ethiopia and Southern Arabia. There are various accounts of how he met his death as a martyr for the gospel.

JAMES the son of Alpheus, is one of at least three James referred to in the New Testament. There is some confusion as to which is which, but this James is reckoned to have ministered in Syria. The Jewish historian Josephus reported that he was stoned and then clubbed to death.

SIMON THE ZEALOT, so the story goes, ministered in Persia and was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.

MATTHIAS was the apostle chosen to replace Judas. Tradition sends him to Syria with Andrew and to death by burning.

JOHN is the only one of the company generally thought to have died a natural death from old age. He was the leader of the church in the Ephesus area and is said to have taken care of Mary the mother of Jesus in his home. During Domitian’s persecution in the middle 90’s, he was exiled to the island of Patmos. There he is credited with writing the last book of the New Testament–the Revelation. An early Latin tradition has him escaping unhurt after being cast into boiling oil at Rome.

Even If Heaven Didn’t Exist


I remember having conversations years ago in high school with classmates who just couldn’t comprehend how I could be having any fun at all in life–

I didn’t drink or do drugs or party.

I didn’t go to R-rated movies.

I got up on Sunday mornings to go to church.

I did not have sex until my wedding night.

As a teen, I did or didn’t do these things because I was a Christian and Christians, at least back in those days, had a pretty specific list of things that identified them as true believers. I was so blessed to be in a family where I was taught to follow God and to obey His Word. Sometimes the obedient behavior came from my heart and other times it was just done out of duty or routine (that is just the simple truth).

As the years passed, I continued to live my life based on the Christian principles found in the Bible. Only my motivation became more about my realization of my wicked sinfulness, my desperate need for a Savior, and the amazing way God had offered a way for me to be reconciled to Him through His son, Jesus. My outward behavior became a reflection of my love for God and was no longer about a set of rules. Upon getting married as a twenty-something, my husband became my partner in this walk with God and we continued in the typical Christian lifestyle. We both had grown up with such a rich, godly heritage of which we both feel so undeserving. 

As the years went by and because of our deepening love for God and growing knowledge of His Word, we carefully made decisions about what TV shows we would watch and what music we would play on our car radio, basing our decisions on whether or not our choice would please the God who saved us. We tried to live our proper roles as husband and wife, as taught in scripture. And we trained our children to obey and respect us and tried to teach them to know God and to walk with Him. We didn’t commit adultery and tried to be very careful in our relationships with the opposite sex.

Oh, we weren’t even close to perfect and we made lots of mistakes and so many wrong choices. We’d argue and fight. Sometimes we’d watch something we knew we shouldn’t. But we’d confess and move on, always desiring to stay on the narrow road, despite our flesh that would sometimes demand otherwise. 

As our children grew older, our dedication to our Lord and Savior was tested and tried, but we continued to do our best to make choices to honor and please Him. We made unpopular decisions about what our children could watch, listen to, and read. We made difficult decisions about what our daughters would be allowed to wear. And we made very tough decisions about who they could hang out with and where they would be allowed to go.

Now, please hear me carefully. We made choices, yes, all by God’s grace and we made a lot of mistakes, too. This isn’t about us. This is about the life of peace and joy we can have when we walk in obedience to God’s commands as written in scripture.

A lot of people view their decision to become a “Christian” as a life insurance policy for their eternal destiny. They have no interest in living a life dedicated to Christ here on earth. Their main goal is to avoid hell. But I want you to know that I am so thankful I have lived a Christian life, even if there is no heaven.

Don’t get me wrong–I believe there is heaven. I believe, according to what we read in God’s Word, that I am going there when I die. But I want you to know that the choices of obedience I have made throughout my life have not only led to a better life in eternity but they have led to a better life now.

Our family has been spared great despair and heartache because we have chosen to follow God and obey His Word.

This is not about how great we are because, quite frankly, we aren’t all that great. Our family is filled with sinners saved by grace. We still argue and struggle and do sinful things. Quite frequently. No, this isn’t about us. This is about God’s tremendous grace extended to sinners who have accepted His free gift of salvation and truly desire to live lives that please Him.

The standards and guidelines set forth in scripture for our lives are not put there to make us miserable. They are there for our protection. God sets them for US. He knows that we are protected from terrible consequences when we follow His Word.

We are spared messy relationships and heartache when we save sex for marriage. We are spared hardened hearts and many temptations when we do not put evil things before our eyes. We are spared agonizing addictions when we avoid alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. We are spared disunity and broken relationships when we follow God’s plan for marriage and parenthood.

And so there is a reason God gives us the guidelines that we read in His Word. If we choose to obey, we will avoid horrible consequences. Oh, we can’t avoid all the bad stuff of life. We will still get sick and lose our jobs and have really hard things happen to us. But when we are walking in obedience and right relationship with God, He will give us peace and meet our needs, strengthening and protecting us in even our darkest trials and moments of deep despair. 

I used to be really disappointed that I didn’t have a more exciting testimony. My life has been pretty boring compared to most. But I have come to realize that I am blessed beyond measure. I do not take it for a granted anymore.

While I know that some of you were blessed to grow up in Christian homes and have stayed on the straight and narrow, having a similar testimony to mine, there are just as many– if not more–of you that are living a life that’s just full of the consequences of your sinful and unwise choices.

The really good news is that today is a new day! Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. We can begin to obey God and His Word right now. We can’t change our past but we can change our future! Start living for God today, choosing to obey Him even when it’s really, really hard.

And you, too, will learn that a life lived for Jesus not only gives us the promise of heaven but sweetens our life here on earth, as well. So much so, that even if heaven didn’t exist, I’d still choose to follow hard after God.

The Prison of Worry


I would like to tell you that I am worry-free. But, alas, I am not. There are just so many things that can go wrong! If we are the kind of person that thinks too much, we can tend to be worriers. Am I the only one who thinks there is something desperately wrong if I am unable to get a hold of my child on their cell phone for ten minutes or if I have a strange pain somewhere?

Worry can be so debilitating.

It steals our peace.

It controls our thoughts.

It takes our joy.

And the wonderful reward for all this worry?


Absolutely nothing.

The time we spend worrying steals our present, yet makes no difference in the future. Worry keeps us locked up in a prison of our own making, far away from the joys and blessings of life.

When I was a young twenty-something, I was positively crippled by worry. I would lay on my sofa for wasted hours feeling sick because of worry. It was so awful. But God rescued me. He taught me to take my thoughts captive. I learned to move my mind from my worry to something else. Oh, the first few months it felt impossible. But it got easier and easier, until it became a habit. Of course, every now and then, a few question marks show up in my life to remind me that I haven’t mastered worry.

Theologically, I have learned that worry is really an affront to God. When we worry, we are telling Him that He doesn’t know what He is doing. That we can’t trust Him.

But this week as I was reading in Luke 12 for the Bible Challenge, I found some very practical and helpful principles for this raging battle with worry and anxiety that so many of us face–

  1. We are loved and valued by the Father. Luke 12:7 tells us that not even a sparrow is forgotten before God and that we are of far more value to Him than many sparrows. We need not fear.
  2. The Holy Spirit will guide us through trials. Luke 12:11 tells us that the disciples brought before magistrates and authorities for the sake of Christ will be given words to answer the accusations through the Holy Spirit. When I read this verse the other day, I felt comforted to know that if (or when) the church faces persecution, we will not be alone. And there are other verses throughout scripture to show us that the Holy Spirit is there to comfort and to counsel us: John 14:26; Romans 15:13; 2 Timothy 1:14.
  3. Worry changes nothing. Luke 12:25-26 asks this: And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? 
    When things are outside our control, many of us tend to stew and fret and make those around us miserable (if we are honest!) and yet, all that frustration and misery won’t change one thing. That is sobering to think about, isn’t it? Especially for us worriers. How many precious hours have we wasted on this time-sapping activity?
  4. God promises to take care of us. A little further on in Luke we read this in verse 28: If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?  Worry is probably a timeless sin that has affected almost all human beings at one time or another. And yet, Jesus tells us here that we can trust the Father. He will care for us.
  5. Knowing God and making Him known needs to be our first priority. I don’t think it is an accident that verses 34-35 (Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.) follow right after this whole passage on worry. After all, worry is often the result of having our priorities a little out of order. It is much easier to yield our will to the Father’s when we can keep our worldly possessions in perspective or when we truly want to please the Father in all things first and foremost– even before our own health or popularity, before any relationship, or before our reputation. When we really keep God first in our lives and seek His kingdom, it helps us to sift and sort through all of the trivial–and not so trivial– things we worry about.

Of course, all of these principles are well and good, but if you are in the midst of a battle with worry this may feel a little rote to you. And some of you are facing really big struggles right now, with no good conclusion forthcoming. Illnesses, loss of jobs and income, straying kids. There are very legitimate causes for concern in so many of our lives. If this is the case, I encourage you to pray, begging God to help you live out these principles in your life. If you are a true believer, the Holy Spirit is there to comfort and guide you.

Sometimes in the midst of a deep, dark trial that has me captured by worry, I find myself unable to even pray. If you find yourself in a similar place ask a friend or family member to pray for you until you get though the worst of this.

But, most of all, let’s keep our eyes on the Father, the author and finisher of our faith. He will never leave or forsake us. Let’s glorify Him by showing the world that we trust Him implicitly instead of staying locked up in our prison of worry.


A Romp Through the Thicket


Last Sunday night was a beautiful autumn evening. We hadn’t changed the clocks yet and so the sun sat low on the horizon as we stared at the breath-taking fall sky. We decided we had enough light remaining to take a short walk along the path we have behind our house. Our two dogs danced excitedly at our feet as it dawned on them what we had decided to do.

I have never seen a dog smile, but when we take our dogs for a walk I sometimes think I almost see them smiling. They are never happier than when they are exploring the pathway ahead of us. We think nothing of it and let them wander to their heart’s content, while we walk and talk.

Surrounding the path are corn fields,woods, and brush, with lots of places for our small dog, Belle, to explore that our Lab could never reach. And this particular evening Belle decided to follow her nose into the deepest parts of the thicket.

She is a dog, so she has no capacity to stop and think: Is this wise?

Which is too bad, for dangers abound in the thicket.

Hours later, while we were watching football, my daughter had Belle on her lap. Suddenly she cried out in dismay, “There’s a tick! And another one! And another one!”

My husband and I walked over to take a look. Sure enough, there were several small black things with legs that looked suspiciously like the dreaded disease-carriers.

Ugh. I hate those things.

How thankful I am for a husband who will do the honors of removing ticks (and splinters!) and so I found him a tweezers and he started removing the ticks.

Within a few moments, he had removed eleven of them!

Along with the ticks, he found several harmless burrs clinging tightly to her chin that were making it hard for her to open her mouth.

This romp through the thicket had been more costly than most.

The next day I gave her a bath and found one more tick lodged at her eye. I gathered my courage (is that what it’s called when you do something you absolutely don’t want to do?) and removed it myself. A dozen ticks in all.

At first, we thought they were deer ticks because they were so much smaller than the normal ticks we normally find around here. But after doing some googling and then later talking to the vet, we came to the conclusion that it must have been a nest full of just-hatched dog ticks.

As I bathed her, I thought of the possibilities of lyme or another tick-born disease. She seems fine, but now we will be watching her to make sure. But it seems unlikely (thankfully!), as they were not deer ticks and they are the ones that usually carry the disease.

So why I am telling you about my dog’s romp in the thicket?

Because we so often do the same thing!

We Christians will be traversing the straight and narrow and doing pretty well, too. But then something distracts us to our right or left. Or sometimes behind us. And we stray off the path.

We do have the capacity to ask ourselves: Is this wise? But, normally, that is not the question we are asking ourselves. No, our question often centers more around our selfish desires and whims and looks more like this: Do I want this?

Since we have a whole culture encouraging us to do what makes us happy, we consider that the blessing of man and move off the path into sin.

But how rarely we come away unscathed.

Some of us will get away with a few harmless burrs. Others will find a tick or two clinging to them. An unfortunate few will give their lives for their whims and come down with some terminal disease. At the very least, our clean, snow-white garments will become stained, torn, and dirty and the name of Jesus disgraced.

While sin looks like a blast, it rarely is. And the ironic thing is that while we chase after our happiness, leaving the path of righteousness to chase after things of the flesh (see Galatians 5:19-21 below), we really are eroding our only opportunity of true joy and happiness, which is to follow God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).

Psalm 16:11 puts it this way–You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Following our own path does not lead us to joy and, more likely than not, will lead us to heartache.

I am truly amazed at the amount of people who call themselves Christians and yet regularly commit these sins, without conviction and generally defending them to be acceptable, listed in Galatians 5: 19-21: Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,  fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

As if somehow these are no longer really sins.

As if God has changed.

But God hasn’t changed. And we are to avoid these things. Not only to please God but also to protect ourselves.

My pastor said something so profound yesterday about this whole topic of sin in our lives. It is something we should all consider as we leave the path of holiness and righteousness to chase after our dreams in the thicket:

Holiness always comes before joy and happiness.


Compromise with the world will not lead to happiness. Sleeping with that co-worker will not make us happy. Getting a different husband or wife will not make us happy. Getting drunk will not make us happy. Neither will cheating on our taxes, lying to stay out of trouble, or filling our minds with ungodly entertainment.

But following God whole-heartedly? Staying on the straight and narrow path? That is how we experience true joy and happiness.

Which is such a wonderful truth, isn’t it? God has designed it so that, in pleasing Him in all that we do, we actually are at our most joyous, happiest selves. True believers are not sad that they can’t join the world or participate in all its “fun” because we see it for what it is.

I love that God loves us and cares enough about us to bring us true peace and joy in following hard after Him. What a gracious and kind God we serve.

So let’s stay far from the thicket. Whatever beckons from the deep underbrush will never be worth the price we pay for it. Instead let’s keep our feet on the path of righteousness, living a life of godliness and purity, setting a glowing example for those who are following after us.



How Well Do You Know Jesus?

How Well

One of the things that I find really fascinating in this current church age are the lies that are told about Jesus. One clear example is from the movie Walk to Remember. It’s the story of a terminally ill pastor’s daughter who falls in love with the typical bad boy. While the story was beautiful, there was a line in there that was not biblical in the least. The teen-aged girl and her father sat on a porch swing talking about her relationship with this boy and she made this statement–

“I believe He {Jesus} wants me to be happy.”

Her father never pointed to scripture and said no, your happiness is not the purpose of life (which any godly pastor would have done, by the way).

Have you heard that statement before? Do you believe that Jesus wants you to be happy? What other misconceptions do we have about Jesus?  Thankfully, the lies we have heard about Jesus are cleared up quite nicely as we read the gospels. If we believe the Bible, then we simply cannot believe these statements–

Jesus wants me to be happy and to fulfill my dreams.

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Mark 8:34)

Jesus says that we will be loved and adored by the world.

If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.(John 15:19)

Jesus came to bring peace on earth.

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)

Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

Jesus expects us to eliminate poverty.

For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. (Matthew 26:11)

Jesus never said a negative word to anyone.

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. (Matthew 23:13-14)

Jesus tells us that we need to be like the world to win the world.

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.(Matthew 5:13)

Jesus unified people wherever He went and expects us to do likewise.

And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, “He is good”; others said, “No, on the contrary, He deceives the people. (John 7:12)

So there was a division among the people because of Him. (John 7:43)

Jesus’s death and resurrection means that I can do anything I feel like doing.

She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more. (John 8:11)

 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10)

Jesus would never allow anyone to spend eternity in hell.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— (Mark 9:43)

Jesus would never be so narrow-minded as to say there is only one way to heaven.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)

Have you, too, heard these lies about our Savior and King? Does it pain your soul like it does mine? Jesus has been remade to be someone who He is clearly not in so many of our churches. Can you understand why it is so important for Satan to undermine our trust in the Word of God? For it is there– and only there– that we can truly learn about our Savior.

If you are continuing in the G4L Bible Challenge with me, you will be discovering who Jesus really is for yourself. When I sat down and read the gospels through for the first time last year, I became really and fully aware of just how warped the view of Jesus is in the minds of most people–even many Christians. And I believe this is mostly due to the fact that we do not know the Word and what it says about our wonderful and merciful Savior.

The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) give details about the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. While each of the gospels tells each event just a bit differently and some add details that others don’t include, they all harmonize in a marvelous way. Each author is from a different background and education and, at the time, was writing for a different audience, and yet, we can clearly see that God is the Master Author of them all.

The more we study the scripture, the more we will get to know Jesus. So keep reading. And if you haven’t started, I hope that you will join us! You can find the reading schedule here. You can just pick up with us where we are (Week 43, Day 4) or you can start from the beginning. Just get into the Word and start learning to know who Jesus really is.