THANKFUL: FOR WHAT AND TO WHOM? (November 20, 2022)
“Thanksgiving.” What do you think of when you hear that word? At this time of year, no doubt family, friends, freedoms, and food come to mind—and maybe football! It is true that in spite of all the problems in this world, we have so much to be thankful for. But is being thankful or having a grateful attitude enough, or is there more to the equation than that? Does our inner appreciation simply vaporize into thin air, or should it be manifested in some tangible way? Is it directed toward something or someone outside of ourselves? We can demonstrate our gratitude by means of verbal expression, and we should. We can share with others in need and help others less fortunate than ourselves by paying it forward, and we should. But unless our gratitude is directed toward the source of that for which we are thankful, we miss the point entirely!
The old hymn, simply called the “Doxology”, which dates back to the 1500’s, says this: “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.” Everything we have is a gift. Family, friends, freedoms, food—and yes, even football—are all gifts. But there can be no gifts to receive unless someone exists to give those gifts. We are told in James 1:17 that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” God alone is the source of our gifts, the Giver of everything for which we should be grateful. He alone should be the One to whom we direct our thanks. However, His gifts include so much more than familial or material blessings. Think about these gifts for a moment:
1. God gives the gift of work and it’s rewards: “…everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”(Eccl. 3:13) Our ability to earn a living to provide for our necessities and wants comes from God Himself.
2. God gives the gift of good things: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:11) Ours is a good Father, who gives only good gifts to His children.
3. God gives the gift of His Son: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God didn’t spare His Son, but sent Him so that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. That’s more than merely paying it forward. That’s paying it all!
4. God gives the gift of eternal life: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) We sinners deserve death, but through God’s gift we can have eternal life. And it’s free! We can’t earn it, or else it would be a wage, not a gift.
5. God gives the gift of grace: “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Eph. 4:7) Grace is getting something we don’t deserve. Because we all have sinned we all deserve death, but through Christ’s gift of Himself, we are offered grace by which we can be saved from our sin and the inherent judgment that follows.
6. God gives the gift of righteousness: “…those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:17) When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are declared righteous in the eyes of a holy and just God, because we are now clothed in Christ’s righteousness which has been imparted to us.
7. God gives the gift of the Holy Spirit: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) The moment we repent of our sin and place our trust in Jesus, who paid our debt on the cross, He gives us His indwelling Spirit, who is not only our Comforter, Advocate, and Guarantor of eternal life, but also our Guide in all the Truth. What a gift!
8. God gives the gift of “spiritual gifts”: “…each has his own gift from God…as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Cor. 7:7; 1 Pet. 4:10) God gives to each one of His children special abilities or aptitudes for the purpose of serving one another and glorifying Him. He will never ask of us something we cannot do, because He has equipped us for every good work!
9. God gives the gift of belonging: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) When we put our faith in Jesus and receive Him as Savior, He grants us the right, or authority, to become part of God’s family, not only as children, but joint-heirs with Christ! “…and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:17)
If you have already repented of your sin and placed your trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then you are the recipient of all these gifts, and you certainly have a lot to be thankful for. If you haven’t made this eternal destiny-changing decision, you can make it right now. Admit that you are a sinner. Believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins. Confess Him as Lord and Savior. Then give Him the thanks He deserves! “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18)
This Thanksgiving, don’t just be thankful for the gifts. Be thankful for the Giver!
DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE SNAKE (JULY 12, 2022)
I am not particularly fond of snakes. A few live in my woodpile and near the garage, and I occasionally spy one slithering through the grass while mowing. The ones around here are usually small garter snakes, although once by the back fence I found a three foot long rat snake, which looked a little more ominous! But they’re harmless to humans, non-venomous, and they keep down the mice and frog population. Nevertheless, I’m not too eager to initiate a more personal relationship with them. And I’m thankful that they aren’t of the variety found in other parts of the country or the world.
I read of a couple near Corpus Christi, Texas, who spotted a four foot rattlesnake while doing yard work. The husband grabbed a shovel and chopped off the snake’s head. But when he bent down to pick up the severed head, it bit him! He was rushed to the hospital experiencing seizures, loss of vision, and internal bleeding. His kidneys began to fail. While the normal snake bite victim requires two to four doses of anti-venom, this man required twenty-six! Then there was the chef in China who cut off the head of a live snake while preparing a delicacy called “cobra soup”. Twenty minutes later he came back to throw away the head and it clamped down on his hand. The venom killed him! The reason a snake’s head can bite after being severed is because a snake’s metabolism is much slower than a human’s, and its internal organs can stay alive longer. Its muscles can still function up to an hour after being killed.
There is a snake mentioned in the Bible that is much more dangerous than any other species found in the animal kingdom. We’re introduced to this creature in Genesis 3:1. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.” What was this creature, or rather, WHO was this creature? We’re given the answer near the end of the Bible, in Revelation 12: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” The serpent in the garden was this dragon who fought in heaven. He’s none other than the fallen angel, Lucifer himself, the “deceiver of the whole world”. Genesis 3 describes him as more “crafty” than any other creature God made. He is cunning, deceitful, and extremely dangerous. Ever hear the expression, “You sneaky snake!”? That originated with Satan, the father of lies. Earthly snakes can only live by the instincts given them by God. They can’t reason, discern good from evil, make moral or ethical judgments, or have a personal relationship with the Creator. They can only attack the body. But Satan desires to destroy both body and soul. He is the master of deception, and his goal is to corrupt what is good, attack God’s image in people and His imprint on nature, and turn every one he can against the Truth. That’s why he convinced Eve to doubt God, why he appealed to her desires and pride. And when she and Adam took of the forbidden fruit, that intentional, willful act introduced sin and death into the world. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) But not only did Satan try to thwart God’s plan for mankind in the garden, he tried to thwart God’s plan for a Savior at the birth of the Messiah!
In Revelation 12 we read: “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” The woman was Israel; her child was Jesus. And Satan was right there, waiting to destroy the child. How did he attempt this? By appealing to Herod’s pride, he influenced the king to order the slaughter of all the baby boys in an effort to kill the Christ child. But God’s predetermined plan, which was from the foundation of the world, took Satan’s actions into account! While God spared His Son at birth, He did not spare Him on the cross. In fact, that is precisely why Jesus was sent into the world, not to condemn it but to redeem it, to rescue and save sinful people who have no hope of being made right with God. But when his attempt to kill the Messiah failed, Satan tried again at the beginning of His public ministry.
After Jesus’ baptism, when the Spirit appeared like a dove, and the Father voiced approval of His Son, Jesus went immediately into the wilderness, where Satan tempted Him to sin. He tried the same tactics he used in the garden, appealing to the human desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life. To accomplish this, he challenged Jesus in Matthew 4:6, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,‘He will command his angels concerning you,’and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ Did you catch that? Satan even quoted from Scripture! But Jesus did not yield to temptation. He lived a perfect life, free from sin, which qualified Him as the only suitable substitute capable of taking the punishment for our sin. And He did just that when He died on the cross and rose again, conquering sin and death. This was prophesied way back in Genesis 3:15. When God meted out the consequences for the participants in the original fall, He told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman,and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The woman, Israel, and all those who are now called children of God, are at odds with Satan and those unbelievers whom he influences and uses for his purposes. Not only that, it was prophesied that Satan would “bruise Jesus’ heel”; that is, oppose the work of Christ and seek to damage and destroy Him. He caused a lot of trouble, but he ultimately failed! When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He completed the work He was sent to accomplish. By doing so, Jesus bruised Satan’s head. He dealt Satan a fatal blow. He crushed the serpent’s head! He trampled Satan under His feet. And a snake with a crushed head can only thrash around for a little while. He has no power over us. He’s as good as dead!
When Satan tempted Jesus, he only quoted Psalm 91:11-12. He omitted verse 13! Why? Because Satan is deathly afraid of something…something he doesn’t want us to know! And it’s found in vs. 13! “You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.” He doesn’t want you to know this because it points to his defeat! Psalm 91 was written to those who “dwell in the shelter of the Most High” because they “will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” In other words, if you are a child of God, you are safe from the snares and power of the devil. Not only that, but you, too, will be able to tread on the lion and trample the serpent under foot! Satan goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He is that crafty serpent who seeks to deceive and destroy the whole world. But he has no power over those who belong to God. Why not? Revelation 12 again: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” It is through the shed blood of Christ that Satan has been defeated and that we can experience victory!
Satan is certainly making a lot of noise in our world today. He strikes fear in the hearts of many. He still desires to inflict as much doubt, damage, and destruction as he can in the short time he has left. But he’s just thrashing around like a dead snake. His head was crushed two thousand years ago when Jesus fulfilled God’s eternal redemptive plan by dying on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. If you have put your trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, you can have perfect peace, for His perfect love casts out fear. Therefore, you should love Him, obey Him, serve Him, and wait eagerly for Him.
And you don’t have to be afraid of the snake!
THERE IS HOPE! (April 9, 2022)
Do you sometimes get frustrated or stressed out over the condition of our world today? Are you tired of the destruction, violence, strife, and contention in our culture and society? Does it seem as though the law is paralyzed, that injustice abounds, and what little justice there is often gets perverted? Well, I just described the conditions in Israel in the 600’s BC. (Read Habakkuk 1:2-4.)
But there is hope! Here’s the rest of the story: God is not indifferent or sitting quietly on the sidelines watching us self-destruct. On the contrary. (Read verse 5.) Here’s what God has to say, in His own words: “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” Friends, don’t get frustrated or angry because evil seems to triumph over good. Don’t get discouraged because situations or conditions appear hopeless. Don’t quit because your prayers seem to be unheard or unanswered. God is working in a way that you wouldn’t believe even if He told you!
So take heart. One day He will make all things right, and we’ll understand His perfect plan completely. Trust Him, and wait for Him. He is still sovereign and He is still in control!
SOMETHING ABOUT THAT NAME (March 13, 2022)
Do you know the meaning of your birth name? Some parents choose names for their children because of the meanings; others simply because the names sound nice or clever or unique, like the parents who named their baby girl “Abssidy,” spelled “ABCDE”. Now that’s unique! Names often reflect a person’s personality, character, or attributes. The English name “Percival,” for example, presents an image of a weak, timid, milquetoast young man, whereas “Hrothgar” suggests a muscular, rugged, outdoors he-man. When you hear the name “Moses” you think of a strong leader, the Ten Commandments, or the Red Sea crossing. When you hear the name “Abe”, the bearded face of our 16th president comes to mind. What about “Tiny Tim”? For most people, they picture Bob Cratchit’s crippled young son in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. (Or, if you’re my age, a pasty-faced, long-haired hippie with a ukulele and high, squeaky voice singing Tiptoe Through the Tulips!) And then there’s the name “Jesus”.
I have long held that cursing, or swearing, or using vulgar and blasphemous language—whatever you want to call it—is wrong for the one who desires to please God. In Ephesians 4:29, true followers of Christ are commanded to “let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.” While this admonition encompasses any speech that is designed to tear down or hurt another, it also includes foul language and taking the Lord’s name in vain. The word “saprós in the original Greek is translated “corrupt, unwholesome, foul, harmful, dirty, bad, evil, filthy, rotten, abusive, or hateful” in various translations. I think you get the picture. Not only do I choose not to use such language, whenever possible I choose not to listen to it either. Often one cannot avoid hearing bad language, especially in our post-modern society where the general public seems to be suffering from a deplorable lack of vocabulary. However, I can choose to turn off the radio or television if those are in my control, and I can refuse to view movies or DVD’s that use such language—language that is often accompanied by wicked and immoral scenes and situations. “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes. I hate the works of those who turn aside. It shall not cling to me.” (Psa 101:3) Again, this references viewing those things which are base, worthless, shameful, evil, vile, vulgar. But I digress.
Allow me to focus on one aspect of this kind of corrupt communication: Taking the Lord’s name in vain. Has it ever occurred to you that the only name ever used as a curse word or in swearing is the name of Jesus? (including “God”, “Lord”, and “Christ”) When was the last time you heard someone—be it on the street, at work, on the radio, or in a movie—use “Allah,” “Mohammed,” “Buddha,” “Krishna,” “Ghandi,” “Pope Francis,” “Joseph Smith,” “Billy Graham,” “Mary Baker Eddy,” or any other name of a god or religious leader as a curse word? I never have. And I doubt you have, either. Why is that? Why is the name “Jesus Christ” the only name by which people curse? I’ll tell you why: Because, as the old hymn says, “there’s just something about that name”! There’s something about that name that is vastly different and unique from all other names. It is the name of the one TRUE God. And Satan hates it. The Bible has a lot to say about that name, and the One behind it:
- It is an excellent name throughout all the earth (Psa 8:1; 148:13; Heb 1:4)
- It is a name that is due glory and honor (Psa 29:2; 66:2)
- It is a holy and reverend name (Psa 33:21; 111:9; Isa 57:15; Matt 6:9; Rev 15:4)
- It is a name that is everlasting (Psa 72:17)
- It is a great and terrible (awe-inspiring) name (Psa 99:3)
- It is a strong tower (a place of safety and security) (Prov 18:10)
- It is an exalted name (Isa 12:4)
- It is the one and only name (Zech 14:9)
- It is the name of the One who saves from sin (Matt 1:21; Acts 10:43)
- It is a name to which even demons must subject themselves (Luke 10:17)
- It is a name in which repentance and remission of sin is preached (Luke 24:47)
- It is the only name by which we can become children of God (Jn 1:12; 1 Jn 5:13)
- It is the only name by which we are not condemned (Jn 3:18)
- It is a name by which we receive answers to prayer (Jn 14:13-14)
- It is a name that gives eternal life (Jn 20:31)
- It is a name that can save (Acts 2:21; 4:12; Rom 10:13)
- It is a name that washes, sanctifies, and justifies us before a holy God (1 Cor 6:11)
- It is a name above all names (Eph 1:21; Phil 2:9)
- It is a worthy name (Jas 2:7)
- It is a name full of powerful imagery and meaning: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 53:6); Emmanuel—God with us (Matt 1:23); Jesus—Savior (Matt 1:21); The Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6); The Word of God (Rev 19:13); King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 19:16).
But perhaps the most significant truth about that name is this: It is the only name to which every knee will one day bow. Every single knee. No exceptions.“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11)
So why not ponder this “name that is above all names” for a moment? Meditate on the Person behind it. Place your trust in Him, be free of your sin, become one of His children, and receive the gift of eternal life. “For whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
And while you’re at it, why not show that name some respect!
CAN THE TRUTH BE ILLEGAL? (January 1, 2022)
“What happens when speaking the truth becomes illegal?” This is the tagline appearing on the front cover of Fugitive of Faith, my latest novel exploring the erosion of Americans’ First Amendment rights and religious liberties. I’m afraid the answer is right around the corner, because the truth just became illegal in Canada.
On December 1, 2021, the Canadian House of Commons passed Criminal Code Bill C-4, addressing conversion therapy. On December 7, the bill passed the Senate and received Royal Assent the following day, which means it will now become law in early January 2022. I won’t go into the bill’s details here, but you to read the wording and it’s portent for yourself using these links: https://www.parl.ca/Docume…/en/44-1/bill/C-4/third-reading; https://www.gracechurch.org/news/posts/2307
The purpose of this legislation is to make it a criminal offense, punishable by up to five years in prison, for promoting (in any form) conversion therapy, which is labeled as harmful to persons and society. The bill defines conversion therapy as “a practice, treatment, or service designed to (a) change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual; (b) change a person’s gender identity to cisgender; (c) change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth; (d) repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour; (e) repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity; or (f) repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth.”
Did you catch the attack on heterosexuality and birth gender? It is now illegal in Canada to attempt to persuade someone to change their sexual orientation to heterosexual (yet perfectly legal to persuade them to be anything but heterosexual). And it is now illegal to attempt to persuade someone to change their gender expression back to their original birth gender (yet perfectly legal to persuade them away from it). This is not only a one-way slippery slope, but a direct attack on the very definition of marriage and gender as defined by God in His Holy Word. That is why I am so alarmed about this new law.
It remains to be seen how this law plays out in Canada, but my gut feeling is that it will not go well for those who take a biblical stance on marriage and gender. The question is, how long before this issue becomes law in the United States? Not long, I’m afraid, if we remain silent and do nothing. The Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act and trump the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, has already passed the House and is up for debate in the Senate. Several legislators are on record as saying this bill overrides our rights to free religious expression, and the current administration is eager to sign it into law. The Equality Act, and similar bills sure to follow, will undoubtedly be used to silence and punish those who openly declare God’s view of marriage and sexuality.
So what should we who believe in the Bible and/or free speech do? Should we simply remain silent and let the legislators hash it out? Or should we speak up and let our voices be heard? Should we fight for our right to free speech and religious liberty? If so, how do we sound off? And how do we fight back? Those are the questions that Pastor Pete Holloway of San Francisco faces in Fugitive of Faith when charged with preaching “hate speech” from his church pulpit. What does the Bible say concerning our response to bad legislation and anti-biblical laws? What rights does our Constitution guarantee us? What are we to do?
I say we should pray. Pray earnestly. Pray fervently. Pray for our country, for those in authority over us, for those who are defending our freedoms. Pray for wisdom to know how we should get involved. This is not just a battle for the future of our country or our culture. It is a battle for truth…truth found in the person of Jesus Christ and His Word. And we know what Jesus said about that truth: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).
One day the whole world will know Who Truth is. And I want to be on His side!
WILL YOU STAND IN THE GAP? (September, 2021)
(based on Pastor Pete Holloway’s fiery sermon in Fugitive of Faith)
A battle is raging in America. I’m not referring to the looting and burning of our cities or the breach of our capital by a handful of protesters. I’m not referring to the attack on our constitution or the selling out of our country to foreign powers. It runs much deeper than disagreements over politics and social issues. The battle is in the spiritual realm, and it is a battle for Truth. This world hates Truth, because it hates the Author of Truth. So we shouldn’t be surprised when those who stand up for it face persecution for doing so. But should we abandon Truth just because it becomes unpopular, or when it is attacked, or even outlawed?
In the prophet Ezekiel’s day, the people of Israel had become unfaithful, turning their backs on Jehovah, Who told His prophet, “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” Imagine, the Lord could not find even one man in the entire nation who was willing to stand up for Him. How tragic! And then in the garden after Jesus was arrested, we read this statement in Mark chapter fourteen and verse fifty: “And they all forsook Him and fled.” Not a single disciple remained faithful in that hour. Not one!
However, it doesn’t pay to flee from God. Don’t run from Him. Don’t run from difficulties. Don’t run from troubles, or trials, or persecutions. Run to Him, and He will see you through. Noah went into the flood and he was brought through it. Daniel went into the lion’s den and he was brought through it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went into the fiery furnace and they were brought through it. David went into the valley of the shadow of death, and he was delivered through it. Stephen was stoned and went into death itself, but he saw heaven opened on the other side, and he was brought safely through it. All those who have gone on before us, who have died for the Truth, faced their deaths knowing what was on the other side.
Even Jesus, to demonstrate God’s love for us, went obediently into death, willingly laying down His life. But praise God He was brought through it! He rose again victoriously, and today intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father. And soon, very soon, He is coming again in power and glory and majesty, not as the suffering Savior this time, but as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! And every knee will bow, even those who despitefully use you and persecute you, and every tongue will confess, even those who do not obey God, and who reject Him, denying His very existence. They will all bow, and they will all confess that Jesus is Lord. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but fear not. I have overcome the world.” The key is not to flee from trouble, or to fight it in our own strength, but to face it with an eternal perspective.
Yes, we ought to obey God rather than men. Yes, we ought to earnestly contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Yes, we ought to fight the good fight of faith. But we should fear God in it all, not man, for the fear of man brings a snare. Friends, our victory lies in the blood of Jesus, as does our power and our strength, our hope and our peace. Don’t stop to consider the cost of following Him and standing for His Truth. It is so worthwhile. Just remember this: It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
IT’S FINALLY HERE! (March, 2021)
I never thought it would happen in the United States of America. In other countries, and in other parts of the world perhaps, but not here. And certainly not in my lifetime. But I was wrong. Many of us were wrong. It’s here, it’s gaining momentum, and it’s here to stay.
What I’m referring to is religious persecution in our country. People who practice their God-given mandate, and who exercise their first-amendment rights are experiencing coordinated push backs and attacks for merely speaking and practicing what they believe. Individuals, organizations, and now government officials are going to great lengths to silence the voices of all whose beliefs and practices are not in lock-step with the new “status quo” of those who subscribe to the anti-biblical agenda and cancel culture of our day. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the Bible unequivocally states, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12). That includes Christians in America.
Those who believe the Bible to be God’s infallible, inerrant, eternal Word of Truth for faith and practice, and who try to live according to their consciences are now squarely in the cross-hairs of the liberals, the leftists, and the legislature. Jack Phillips, the baker who refused to make a custom cake for a gay wedding, has been sued and taken to the Supreme court multiple times. Other bakers, florists, and wedding coordinators are being targeted as well. Remember when the LGBTQ community boycotted Chick-fil-A simply because its founder and CEO stated that he personally believes in the biblical definition of marriage and supports conservative Christian causes? (The boycott resulted in record sales by the way.) Churches have been targeted and fined, and pastors threatened for not maintaining the ever-changing health department guidelines during the Covid pandemic and for refusing to shut down worship services or to refrain from singing. John MacArthur’s Grace Community church in Sun Valley, California, immediately comes to mind. When threatened with jail time, the eighty-one-year-old pastor responded, “I’ve never had a jail ministry before!” The list could go on and on.
And now the federal government is getting involved with the Equality Act, a landmark piece of legislation guaranteed to bring restrictions and retribution to anyone who believes and states God’s clear standard for marriage. Some elected officials are even on record claiming that religious freedoms and first amendment rights don’t apply to what they define as “hate speech”. Prominent journalists whose articles appear in major newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, big tech CEO’s, social reformers and influencers, and legislators have been calling for this for some time. And now it’s arrived.
But here is the twenty-thousand dollar question: What will you do when speaking and practicing the truth becomes illegal in this country?
That is the question Pastor Pete Holloway faces in the contemporary Christian adult novel Fugitive of Faith, my second book, to be released by Ambassador International in July. When the San Francisco pastor is threatened with fines, reeducation, and incarceration for violating the state’s new hate speech law, he chooses to flee rather than face arrest. What follows is his incredible journey as a fugitive, a journey where uncertainty, danger, and intrigue await around each bend. As he struggles to remain one step ahead of the law, he is forced to confront his options. Should he join the resistance and fight back, should he flee until the unjust law can be overturned, or should he return to take his stand and face the consequences? As he wrestles with his conscience, he discovers things hidden deep in his heart which must be addressed before he can find resolution and peace. Is he courageous enough to confront them, or has his journey been in vain?
THROUGH THE LENS OF TRUTH (November, 2020)
If you wear glasses, as I do, you may have progressive lenses which correct vision deficiencies, or polarized lenses which filter light through a shade or tint. Many windows have Low-E glass, which minimizes the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light that comes through the pane. The lens through which you look in some fashion alters what you see. Even the way you view a tapestry influences your understanding of its artistry. From underneath, it appears to be nothing more than a tangled web of random, individual threads. But when you turn the piece over and view it from the top, those same threads now reveal their form and function as part of a beautiful, harmonious design.
I once flew out of an airport on a dark and dreary day during a heavy thunderstorm. As the plane climbed, all I could see out my window was a gray nothingness. But it wasn’t long before the dark gray gave way to a lighter gray, and when the plane finally broke free from the laden clouds, I was greeted by the most brilliant sky and blinding sun I’d ever seen! And the clouds underneath were now pure white. I was viewing the same storm I’d seen from below, only now I was viewing it from a different perspective, through a different “lens”.
Every one of us views life through a particular lens. That lens is often influenced by our upbringing, experiences, circumstances, and beliefs. How we look at life greatly impacts how we live life. Do you remember the 70’s song “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash? The lyrics describe his feelings after weathering one of life’s many storms:
“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way, Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind, It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day.
I think I can make it now, the pain is gone, All of the bad feelings have disappeared, Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying for, It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day.”
Some people view the glass as half empty while others view it as half full. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes the wrong perspective on life, which he labels “under the sun.” This is a natural, fatalistic, man-centered view that can only lead to one conclusion: “So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.” Viewed through that lens, life becomes meaningless, unfulfilling, even torturous. If we look at life through our frustrations and fears, our problems and pain, we will live like we feel—miserably.
But life doesn’t have to be viewed or lived that way! He concludes his book by describing the correct perspective on life. “Solomon sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth…the end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Life should be viewed through the lens of Truth. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and of the Word given Him from the Father, “your word is truth.” Through faith in Jesus Christ, who promises to make the old new, we can rise above our circumstances and see how things truly are from God’s perspective! He lifts us out of the miry clay and sets our feet upon a rock. And then, by viewing life through the lens of God’s absolute, eternal Truth, we can can live it out with purpose, joy, and peace, no matter the circumstance in which we find ourselves.
Through which lens are you viewing your life? Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life more abundantly.” Do you have that abundant, fulfilling, and eternal life in Him? Does the way you live your life reflect that? As my wife’s friend so aptly put it, “Step out of the physical into the spiritual; then you will see the eternal, and that will make all the difference!”Get your eyes off yourself and turn them toward the Savior.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”
A PERSPECTIVE ON THE CARONAVIRUS PANDEMIC (April, 2020)
As my wife and I sit quarantined in our home, our normal lives interrupted and brought to a virtual standstill, I am mindful of those who are more than merely inconvenienced as we are. I think of family members and others who daily risk their health and lives on the front lines helping others, I feel for those who have lost their jobs and income, and I grieve with those who have lost loved ones due to the virus. Fear, frustration, and finger-pointing seem to be the order of the day, fueled by much of what we see and hear in the media. And yet I see something positive, something hopeful emerging from all of this, just as the early crocus announces the passing of winter and the coming of spring. With the busy pace of life slowed to a crawl, I’ve had lots of time to reflect on the unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves.
There are several ways to look at this crisis. One, of course, is to view it simply as a random natural phenomenon or a cruel twist of fate that has unleashed itself on the world without warning or inherent meaning and purpose. But where does that leave us? Our immediate response is to scramble for solutions, to find a resolution and a cure, and once that has been achieved, to search for answers such as how did this happen, what can we do to prevent it from reoccurring, and when will the next big disaster hit. We are left with the mind-numbing conclusion that we must then prepare and wait for the next crisis, which history tells us will surely come, and hope that it doesn’t happen in our lifetime or in our children’s lifetime. But this view does not answer the question of why, nor, to be perfectly honest with you, does it offer much encouragement.
However, there is another way to look at it. What if disasters such as this do have meaning and purpose? Could there even be an eternal reason for this and other world-wide calamities? If I can get you to, as one of my wife’s friends so aptly put it, “step out of the physical into the spiritual, then you will see the eternal, and that will make all the difference!” Please indulge me for a moment.
First, what if these events are God’s “warning shots,” fired across the bow of an off-course, out-of-control ship of humankind that is rushing headlong toward destruction? Is He trying to get our attention before it is too late? The Bible says that in the last days wars, pestilence, and natural disasters will increase in frequency and intensity. In fact, God shouts of His pending wrath and judgment more than He speaks of heaven. Think about that. Would He bother warning us if He were intent on punishing and destroying everyone, or if there were no alternative? The truth is, only a good and loving God would warn us and provide a way of escape. He does both. He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins, so that by believing in Him we might have eternal life in heaven with Him instead of eternal death in hell without Him.
Second, what if these events are opportunities to serve God by demonstrating His amazing love and peace? The way we respond to such calamities says a lot about what we believe. During these times of difficulty, we can strengthen our horizontal and vertical relationships, refocus our lives on what really matters, and point others to a loving God Who has always been speaking to us. I heard recently how the persecuted church in China has been influenced by this pandemic, which one might think would further isolate and silence it. On the contrary, Chinese Christians are sharing the gospel more boldly and openly than ever before, because now the pervasive face-recognition technology of their totalitarian government cannot identify those behind the mandatory masks! God is using these times to advance His kingdom and his church, against which even the gates of hell cannot prevail.
But Satan is also using these times for his purposes. He is the father of lies, and like a thief he comes to steal, kill and destroy. Whereas Jesus offers forgiveness, hope, and eternal life for those who believe in His name, the evil one uses fear, confusion, despondency, and death to deceive and distract people from the truth, robbing them of the chance to find peace with God.
Whether we admit it or not, this pandemic will affect all of us in one way or another. But how will it affect us going forward? When it has passed and life returns to some form of normalcy, will we remember and act on what God was saying to us through it, or will we ignore Him and pick up our lives where we left off, unchanged to any real degree, until it is too late to do anything about it? There yet remains hope! The question is, in Whom does our hope lie?
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.” ~Robert Critchley
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
THE PIECES OF OUR LIVES (June 10, 2019)
What do a 50’s diner, a graveyard, and a porch swing have in common? By themselves, absolutely nothing! But throw in a couple of teenagers, a mystery man, and and an elderly widow, and they begin to mesh together into a compelling story of God’s eternal love in the midst of trouble, turmoil and tragedy. That is what is at the core of A FUTURE AND A HOPE, dedicated to “everyone who, at one time or another, ever doubted the goodness of God.” Our lives are like a jigsaw puzzle made up of many seemingly unrelated “pieces,” much like that diner, graveyard, and porch swing. Sometimes it’s easy to see where the pieces fit in. Often, it’s difficult or nearly impossible. And then there are the times when the pieces just don’t go together at all. It’s like we’re trying to assemble the pieces of our lives but we’ve lost the box with the picture on the cover to guide us in completing the puzzle.
King David recognized how difficult it is to navigate through life without the proper directions. But he knew where to turn for the answers. In Psalm 16:11 he wrote, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” David’s life was anything but easy. It was not smooth-sailing or trouble free. As a youth tending his father’s flock, he faced a bear and a lion with nothing but his bare hands. He confronted Goliath with nothing but a slingshot and five stones. He experienced the wrath of King Saul who twice threw a spear at him and pursued him into the wilderness in order to kill him. His own son drove him into exile in an attempted coup. He lost his best friend, a wife, and several children. In spite of all the hardships in his life—some of which were self-inflicted via his own choices—David knew that God was the one who was in control. He was confident God would show him where all the pieces fit together, and which path to take. In spite of all his troubles, fulfilling joy and eternal pleasures were his as long as he remained in the presence of God.
And so it is with our lives. There may be times when life just doesn’t make sense. We find ourselves in situations and circumstances that are too difficult to navigate. We might even feel overwhelmed to the point where it seems as though the very “shadow of death” hovers over us. And we might be tempted to ask the question, “If God is good, why is all this bad stuff happening to me?” Perhaps He is trying to get our attention. Perhaps He is allowing us to go through the refiner’s fire. Whatever the reason, God has a plan and purpose for our lives. And it is for His glory, and our good! Jeremiah 29:11, which is at the heart of A FUTURE AND A HOPE, says that very thing. But it is a promise only to those who place their trust in Him and and acknowledge Him as Lord of their life. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I have been greatly encouraged by the lyrics of two songs in particular: Ron Hamilton’s “Rejoice in the Lord” and Andrew Peterson/Ben Shive’s “Is He Worthy?”
“God never moves without purpose or plan, When trying his servant or molding a man, Give thanks to the Lord, though your testing seems long, In darkness He giveth a song. Oh rejoice in the Lord, He makes no mistake, He knoweth the end of each path that I take, For when I am tried and purified, I shall come forth as gold.”
“Do you feel the world is broken? (We do) Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)
Does the Father truly love us? (He does) Does the Spirit move among us? (He does)
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? (He does)
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? (He does)
Is He worthy? Is He worthy? Of all blessing and honor and glory?
Is He worthy? Is He worthy? Is He worthy of this? He is!”
Will you allow Him to put the pieces of your life together? Will you acknowledge Him as Lord of your life? Will you surrender to His perfect will for you, whatever that may be? He is sovereign. He is worthy. He is good. And He loves you!
THE BIRTH OF A WRITER (January 7, 2019)
My earliest memories of being interested in writing go back to the fourth grade. My father had a home office with an old manual typewriter acting as the centerpiece on a large, gray metal desk. It was a particular thrill to insert a clean sheet of 8-1/2 x 11 typing paper into that machine, attempt to align the top edge where my first keystroke would land, and manually set the tab and margin stops. The anticipation of what was going to roll off my fingertips in the next few minutes was almost too much for a nine year old to handle.
Several hours later, with the wastebasket half full of crumpled “do-overs” and ink-stained fingers from untangling repeated key jams, I might be lucky enough to have one lone page of my new masterpiece. Neither the smudge marks due to the unavailability of correction tape or White-Out, nor the fact that the A’s and S’s never seemed to align with the other family members, failed to dampen my spirits. The excitement of yanking the completed paper out of that magnificent machine was almost as great an emotion as the one at the beginning. Then it was off to force either parent (whichever had the misfortune of being closest to me at the time) to sit and listen with feigned interest and forced enthusiasm as I breathlessly read them the first page of my story.
Somewhere in that creative writing process I usually lost interest in the project, either adding a quick ending after one or two pages and calling it quits, or never completing my great novel at all. But given enough time, I was always drawn back to that magical machine which contained, within it’s maze of keys, bars, springs, and spools of black ribbon, the next incredible adventure just waiting for someone like me to come along and set it free.
And now, some fifty-two years later, it finally happened. With the aid of computers and keyboards, I have not only saved an entire forest from annihilation, I have finished my first book! A Future and a Hope is a 376-page young adult Christian fiction novel about a young man who discovers that when life takes sudden and unexpected turns, practicing what you preach is not always easy. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I don’t know if my dad’s old typewriter is still around. It was probably sent to the scrap yard years ago, to be melted down and resurrected as a steel tire rim or a metal floor lamp or some such thing. But if it were still here, I’m pretty sure it would be proud of me for finally finishing what I started.