One Hero

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT

For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.
Romans 5:10 NLT

There is only one hero in the Bible.

I may say “Bible Heroes” and many names might come to your mind, but there is only one hero in this story. Every other name in the whole book, and in all of creation, and in all of time — has not only fallen short of being a hero — but they have all played their part as an enemy of the one true hero.

So why are we tempted to lift them up as heroes? Why are we tempted to see them as either who we strive to be like or those on a hero level we could never reach? Aren’t those perspectives horribly flawed? Who wants to be wise like Solomon with his wives and chasing after other gods? Who wants to be outwardly bold like Peter yet denying the Lord three times and demonstrating his racism and hypocrisy to be called out by Paul publicly? We could go through the whole list and see that there is truly only one hero.

Add to that the fact that anything good in the saints is the gift of God, of what He put in them by His Spirit to accomplish ther God works He set before them — and the “honour amongst men” evaporates quite quickly.

So why do we judge each other?

Why do we lift up human teachers and human leaders for ourselves instead of being led by the spirit and taught by The Teacher?

LORD, you are worthy of ALL the glory, ALL the honor. You are the hero of the gospel. Not us. Not others in Bible stories that have become familiar and rote and easily repeated like a practiced nursery rhyme. LORD, help us to always see you at work mightily in the midst of so many of your enemies — of which we ourselves have even stood foolishly in opposition to your sovereign will. LORD, forgive us for measuring and comparing ourselves instead of humbly submitting in awe and wonder at the hero who inspires and changes and uses his enemies and calls the beloved and friend. Thank you for your grace and mercy and love. Amen.

Can Anybody Hear Me

Original lyrics: Harold “Hop” Ballinger aka SparklecityHop

It feels like life’s waves

Are gonna wash me away

Don’t know which way to go

Don’t even know if I can stay

[Can you even hear me?]

They pull me back and forth

Like I have no control

This struggle inside of me

Is it fire or is it cold

[Can anybody hear me?]

Don’t even do the things I want

Couldn’t even tell you any dreams

I’m only hanging by a thread

Or that’s sure the way it seems

[I’m drowning in the silence!]

Is there anybody out there

Does anybody really care

Oh, they tell me you’re a Savior

But are you really even there

[Are you really even out there?]

If I call out your name

If I turn and go your way

Are you faithful to your promise?

Do you do, and not just say?

[Tell me, Jesus]

Will you bring me hope and joy?

Will you walk here by my side?

Will you take this old dead man?

And bring him back to life?

[Please help me, Jesus]

Voisey Beat : Ocean – Loop 1 by stargate music

What is a Wannabe?

“Wannabe” is a secular/slang term, but we can still discuss the term within the scope of Christianity. If “wannabe” is about “not meeting the qualifications” even though “someone wishes to be a part of” — several verses come to mind immediately on the subject.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’
Matthew 7:21‭-‬23 AMP

These spoken about want to… they even sought to enter… but they weren’t prepared… they weren’t qualified.

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish [thoughtless, silly, and careless], and five were wise [far-sighted, practical, and sensible]. For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take any [extra] oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delayed, they all began to nod off, and they fell asleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! The bridegroom [is coming]! Go out to meet him .’ Then all those virgins got up and put their own lamps in order [trimmed the wicks and added oil and lit them]. But the foolish virgins said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No, otherwise there will not be enough for us and for you, too; go instead to the dealers and buy oil for yourselves.’ But while they were going away to buy oil, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut and locked . Later the others also came, and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open [the door] for us.’ But He replied, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, I do not know you [we have no relationship].’ Therefore, be on the alert [be prepared and ready], for you do not know the day nor the hour [when the Son of Man will come].
Matthew 25:1‭-‬13 AMP

So we can see there are wannabes when it comes to the Good News as well. In fact, our enemy is a wannabe. We know that he wants to destroy us:

Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 AMP

This enemy has schemes and strategies and uses deceit:

Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil.
Ephesians 6:11 AMP

But our God has won the victory:

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us]. For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37‭-‬39 AMP

So how do we know whether we are a wannabe or are the genuine article?

Jesus had this to say:

Jesus answered him, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a person is born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God.”
John 3:3 AMP

When Nicodemus asked further on this topic in John chapter 3, he is given this Word:

Jesus answered him, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a person is born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God.” “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes and has decided to trust in Him [as personal Savior and Lord] is not judged [for this one, there is no judgment, no rejection, no condemnation]; but the one who does not believe [and has decided to reject Him as personal Savior and Lord] is judged already [that one has been convicted and sentenced], because he has not believed and trusted in the name of the [One and] only begotten Son of God [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, the One who alone can save him]. This is the judgment [that is, the cause for indictment, the test by which people are judged, the basis for the sentence]: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For every wrongdoer hates the Light, and does not come to the Light [but shrinks from it] for fear that his [sinful, worthless] activities will be exposed and condemned. But whoever practices truth [and does what is right—morally, ethically, spiritually] comes to the Light, so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are—accomplished in God [divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence on Him].”
John 3:3‭, ‬16‭-‬21 AMP

We see the contrast. Wrongdoers hate the light, and they love the darkness. They do not believe or trust God. They may know about Him, but they do not know Him. They never turn away from their sin to repent and to follow The Way of Christ.

On the day when David went out to the battlefield to bring food for his brothers, he didn’t show up wanting to be a fierce warrior and victor in front of everyone. In fact, it seems that he was amazed that none of the men dressed like fierce warriors (who should be trusting in the LORD to supply victory) were actually living up to what they looked like outwardly. He did not say to himself, I want to be a great fierce warrior, so I will prove myself here. NO! He said:

David said, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.”
1 Samuel 17:37 AMP

David’s own brothers accused him of being overconfident in asking about such things, but to David, he had asked a simple question. We see clearly that the wannabes will accuse a man of being prideful if they are cowering in fear when the man of God is equipped and fully trusting in the LORD. The man of God isn’t hoping that one day he will be strong enough to stand against the enemy — He is accepting that God fights for Him and has prepared him already for today’s amazing opportunities that look like impossible obstacles to mere men. The man of God does not faithlessly “try”, He does. The man of God does not shrink back from the light fearing that his sin or faithlessness will be revealed — He practiced truth plainly and openly even while humbly knowing that the victory is being delivered by the hand of the LORD. There is room left for doubt and second guessing if a man is trusting in himself, but what is impossible for the LORD God Almighty?

One might ask, but how do I get there?

I can tell you that it isn’t something you are going to build up on your own by “wanting harder” or “striving harder” or “acting more religious” or “gaining Bible knowledge”. Jesus was talking with Nicodemus in John chapter 3, and:

Jesus replied, “You are the [great and well-known] teacher of Israel, and yet you do not know nor understand these things [from Scripture]?
John 3:10 AMP

And we can see from the parable of the ten virgins that trying to get your oil through someone else just isn’t going to do the trick. You need to walk and talk with The Teacher, you need to be prepared, you need to already be walking in the light now, not “wannabe walking in the light someday”.

There is not time nor room for wannabes.

Have you decided?

The Joyful Fool?

I’ve recently started responding to insults with what I call “foolish joy”. For example, when someone recently insulted me saying that a song that I wrote and performed “sounded like something a five year old would put together” — I said “I know, isn’t it great to just truly let go and enjoy the experience joyfully like a child who is just happy to be creative and have fun!”

I’m sure they either A) thought that I was such an idiot that I didnt understand, or B) realized that their being a troll couldn’t touch my joy — either way, their goal of feeding me their poison was hopefully clearly evident as unsuccessful.

And I don’t value their opinion, so who cares whether they think of me as a no-talent idiot or as a joyful fool. The point is that if more trolls encountered more “joyful fools” who do not just “react” to what the trolls are doing/saying, and if we “joyful fools” stayed our joyful course (maybe even feeling sorry for the bitter fool wasting their time being offended by others and spewing their poison), but refused to drink it ourselves — maybe they might seek a different way.

Yeah, I’ve found myself on both sides — being the grumble, complainer, accuser — and being the joyful fool. I think the world view is that the joyful fool is an idiot, because he gets stepped on and abused by the bitter folks. But the joyful fool might be the wisest of us all, maintaining his own joy — and willing to allow those wicked people who enjoy bitterness and grumbling and complaining and judging and oppressing to know the poor substitute for joy they have found in being evil towards others.

I’ve found this especially helpful when I interact with other believers where there is a disagreement and the discussion departs from discussing evidence and facts and truths to getting personal with accusations, etc. I’ve found that joyfully overlooking the personal attacks and praising the name of Jesus and His grace and mercy defeats the goal of the enemy to offend and spread their poison. In many cases, not responding to these personal accusations will enrage the religious because their goal is to get you to “react” in the normal way a man naturally would, instead of being wise spiritually. And by praising the name of Jesus and glorifying God at the same time, the attack is not only thwarted between you and the person of flesh and blood in front of you, the true enemy hiding in the shadows and pulling the strings will be reminded again that he is defeated and that his time here is short.

I’m not going to tell you that this approach doesn’t come with consequences. If you want other people to honor you and think that you are knowledgeable and successful and powerful and important — them the joyful fool bit isn’t for you. You would probably be better off insulting and abusing and complaining and oppressing and demonstrating your dominance, spreading your selfish ambition like a poisonous troll. That approach will help you climb the ladder on the backs of others and prove your “defeat over all your competition”.

But all of that seems such a poor, poor substitute for joy.

He who is slow to anger has great understanding [and profits from his self-control], But he who is quick-tempered exposes and exalts his foolishness [for all to see].
Proverbs 14:29 AMP

“Listen carefully: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves [have no self-serving agenda].
Matthew 10:16 AMP

Lord, help us to be willing to humble ourselves, to be willing to face opposition and not just “react” in our nature, but to continue walking with undistracted purpose and focus through your spirit. Help us to stay the course of the narrow path, truly as travelers simply passing through this land, because we are headed home to your loving arms. Do not let us be distracted to the right or the left, but lead us steady and firm wherever we should go. Forgive us for our many wanderings, and discipline us in your grace and mercy. You are a patient, loving, God who is slow to anger and faithful to forgive. You are wise and your ways are higher than the ways of the world. Help us to be the same with one another. Amen.

What is at Home Within You?

Let the [spoken] word of Christ have its home within you [dwelling in your heart and mind—permeating every aspect of your being] as you teach [spiritual things] and admonish and train one another with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16 AMP
https://bible.com/bible/1588/col.3.16.AMP

This verse speaks first about something that happens TO US:

  • The spoken Word of God
  • Making its home within us

And then about what WE DO in response:

  • We teach (spiritual things)
  • We admonish and train one another with spiritual wisdom
  • We sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs in thankfulness to God

The gospel is the opposite of a virus, it is the cure. But it travels amongst us in a very similar way. The Word of Christ is spoken — and it travels through the air and is received by others “who have ears to hear” — and it is received into our hearts ands minds so that it permeates, infects, overwhelms, impacts every aspect of who we are.

Once we become aware of our own sinfulness. Once we stop listening to our own self justifications for why we have done the things we have done, why we have said the things we have said, why we have thought the things we have thought — and we realize our own filth in comparison to God’s perfect will –and we see our undeniable need for both forgiveness and for change — we know that we need the cure for no longer being blind to what is right and wrong. And the cure is not to ignore or forget the truth about ourselves — but to look to Christ the LORD and Saviour who provides cure and change from the inside out by coming to live in us and through us.

I remember SciFi movies from when I was young about body snatchers and alien imposters, where a person was replaced by someone else who looked and sounded like them, but whose actions were different enough to draw attention and cause suspicion that the person was an imposter. But I’m not talking about an imposter/replacement of a person by someone else — I’m talking about a surrender to walk with a companion and a comforter. A born again experience that changes the hearts and lives of men and women.

And this change, this “coming of the new”, it produces symptoms. Those symptoms are what we do in response to the gospel. Can those symptoms be faked? Well, teaching, correcting, training, and singing can easily be manufactured and imitated and performed by a mere man or woman to pass the “eye test” of onlookers. But spiritual wisdom and thankfulness to God has to pass the “smell test” of those who walk with Christ themselves and know His sweet aroma personally. So don’t judge others by outward appearances — teach, train, and admonish with spiritual wisdom — and sing and rejoice with thankfulness that flows from thankfulness to God.

And each of us has our part to play in this.

First, have you heard the spoken Word of Christ?

Have you received Christ into your life by turning away from your own ways to God’s will?

Have you believed that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead?

Have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus Christ is LORD?

If you cannot say yes to these four questions, if you have any doubt in your mind at all at this point — it is not too late to get it right, to make a change, to believe and receive. The Word of God would compel you to “choose today who you will serve” because “we are not promised tomorrow” and that “today is the day of salvation“. You can do this right now. Right here. It is between you and God, and He is here with you closer than the breath in your lungs.

If you know Him, tell someone today the hope you have found in Jesus — because we can all use hearing more of the spoken Word and praise and thankfulness being poured out into the world around us. Help build up and encourage, and even correct in love your fellow believers so that we all grow in spiritual wisdom. And give your thankfulness to God an outlet in praise and worship and service to God.

I stumbled upon this original song by a new acquaintance this morning on an app where I like to sing in thankfulness to God with people all over the globe. Don’t hide your light. Shine bright, friend!

What is at home within you? Is it Christ? Then GO, SPEAK, TEACH, TRAIN, CORRECT, and SING! This is your act of worship, to DO THE WILL OF GOD!

Why is this happening to me?

What is this teaching me?

Though the fig tree does not blossom And there is no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive fails And the fields produce no food, Though the flock is cut off from the fold And there are no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord ; I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation! The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].
Habakkuk 3:17‭-‬19a AMP

This morning, I am reminded that the day will bring its challenges — but that a person who has prepared for the day’s challenges by remembering their many blessings and praising and rejoicing the Lord will be ushered near to Him.

Enter His gates with a song of thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, bless and praise His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy and lovingkindness are everlasting, His faithfulness [endures] to all generations.
Psalms 100:4‭-‬5 AMP
https://bible.com/bible/1588/psa.100.4-5.AMP

What a wonderful way to begin our day with the Lord – to enter with joy, thanksgiving, and praise!

Now that our hearts and minds are prepared for the day, and we have laid down our pride and expectations and demands for the day to meet us “on our own terms” — what will we learn today?

It’s what you think about it!

It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” – Dale Carnegie

Contentment and gratitude should breed activity and direction.

Being content and grateful doesn’t mean that we are complacent. If I am unhappy for valid reasons, I don’t need to just lie there in my misery and try to convince myself (lie to myself) until I believe I am happy – like some homeless Zen master. I need to change my thinking from being “this is where I am stuck” to “where am I going from here“.

Yes, there are circumstances where we need to “look on the bright side” — but a healthy mindset drives us forward in purpose and in action.

I’m reminded of the lyrics from a song of my youth that says “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades… Well I’m heavenly blessed and worldly wise… Things are going great, and they’re only getting better”. And I wonder, do we realize right now that we’re are Heavenly blessed? I wonder, are we being wise to the ways of the world? And I wonder, are we standing on the promise that God has good in store for us?

Do you feel unchallenged, unappreciated, unsuccessful, stagnant? Do you feel stressed, anxious, unsure, and filled with doubt about where you are right now? Are you worrying about how many more tomorrows you can weather if they all turn out like today?

It doesn’t help us to run around looking for an immediate way out in a spirit of fear. Emotion can have us trading a manageable circumstance for a worse circumstance just because we are in a hurry to “get out”. That’s where the still calm voice of the spirit can share the fruit of self-control and patience with us to reveal so many valid reasons for gratitude and contentment. We must take control of our thoughts and not let an emotional drunkenness that comes from pride and expectation and self-interest lead us down the path of self-destruction.

So first, we should assess ourselves with a sober mind — not biased by emotions like fear, bitterness, anger, or disappointment — but with humble self reflection and with trusted constructive criticism. But we don’t just stay where we are. We don’t just lazily accept where we are. We set our eyes and hands and effort upon what must be done, what must be said, what bridges must be built, what new lands and opportunities must be explored.

We do not have to foolishly waste time and emotional strength begrudging our current circumstances. We acknowledge our purpose and our goal, and we act and we move. We don’t put off today’s work to make time for grumbling and complaining. We work today towards our tomorrow, grateful for the eyes to see that we are strong enough to weather whatever winds and waves come today, because our foundation is solid.

My foundation is solid because it is built upon Christ Jesus, my Lord and Savior. I may take a beating at times from the circumstances that surround me, but I’m not alone in my walk through this life. I have a companion much stronger and wiser that is leading ands teaching me along the way. On my best days, I do not work for my employer, my customers, my family, myself, or even for honor and recognition — but I work because I am gifted and able to do so because of His grace and mercy and favor towards me. On other days, shamefully I have to admit that I can forget how much He has done for me and continues to do for me. It hurts my heart to think about how many times I have forgotten Him, even while He is always there for me — eager to forgive me, eager to restore me, eager to discipline and teach me every time. And can you see how the grace of God restores me to a sober- mindedness that is necessary for me to truly take a step forward instead of backwards?

I hope that you know my Jesus too as your personal Lord and Savior. I’m not trying to rope you into religion. I’m just hoping that you have met Him, that you have talked with Him, that you have felt His healing touch, and received His life giving Word. I don’t care where you are sitting on a Sunday morning, I care whether or not you truly know Jesus, closer than a friend.

Have you ever truly sought Him out?

Have you ever truly laid down your life and followed Him?

Have you ever truly confessed with your mouth and believed in your heart that He is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead?

I’m not asking whether you have gone through the motions before, or fulfilled some religious tradition or ceremony. Have you truly?

If you haven’t, I’m encouraging you today to take that step between you and God. And if you have taken that step truly between you and God privately, you should also be eager to take steps publicly to acknowledge this new life that you are choosing — to walk in the way of Christ instead of in the way of the world. Jesus said that, “You will know my disciples by the way they love one another.” Seek out true believers who LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Don’t just settle for a dead, Sunday morning religion — know Jesus and walk with Him and talk with Him and learn from Him everyday. He is your teacher. If you need a brother to talk with, reach out to me. God bless!

Provider and Disciplinarian

And you shall remember [always] all the ways which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart (mind), whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and allowed you to be hungry and fed you with manna, [a substance] which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, so that He might make you understand [by personal experience] that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord . Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your feet swell these forty years. Therefore, know in your heart (be fully cognizant) that the Lord your God disciplines and instructs you just as a man disciplines and instructs his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk [that is, to live each and every day] in His ways and fear [and worship] Him [with awe-filled reverence and profound respect]. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat bread without shortage, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are satisfied, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by failing to keep His commandments and His judgments (precepts) and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have increases, then your heart will become lifted up [by self-conceit and arrogance] and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; it was He who brought water for you out of the flinty rock. He fed you manna in the wilderness, [a substance] which your fathers did not know, so that He might humble you [by dependence on Him] and that He might test you, to do good [things] for you at the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember [with profound respect] the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore (solemnly promised) to your fathers, as it is this day. And it shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will most certainly perish. Like the nations which the Lord causes to perish before you, so shall you perish; because you would not listen to and obey the voice of the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 8:2‭-‬20 AMP
https://bible.com/bible/1588/deu.8.2-20.AMP

“Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out before you, and to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “Know [without any doubt], that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked (stubborn, obstinate) people. Remember [with remorse] and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; from the day you left the land of Egypt until you arrived in this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord .
Deuteronomy 9:4‭-‬7 AMP
https://bible.com/bible/1588/deu.9.4-7.AMP

So circumcise [that is, remove sin from] your heart, and be stiff-necked (stubborn, obstinate) no longer. For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of Lords, the great, the mighty, the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the stranger (resident alien, foreigner) by giving him food and clothing. Therefore, show your love for the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear [and worship] the Lord your God [with awe-filled reverence and profound respect]; you shall serve Him and cling to Him [hold tightly to Him, be united with Him], and you shall swear [oaths] by His name. He is your praise and glory; He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which you have seen with your own eyes.
Deuteronomy 10:16‭-‬21 AMP
https://bible.com/bible/1588/deu.10.16-21.AMP

Jesus answered, “The first and most important one is: ‘H ear , O I srael , the Lord our G od is one Lord ; and you shall love the Lord your G od with all your heart , and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength .’ This is the second: ‘Y ou shall [unselfishly] love your neighbor as yourself .’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:29‭-‬31 AMP
https://bible.com/bible/1588/mrk.12.29-31.AMP

Lord, help us to not take credit ourselves for the great things you are doing. You forgive us when we humbly confess our sins, but you resist the proud. Amen.

Separation and Reunion

So clearly true and visible today:

A time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.
Ecclesiastes 3:5 AMP

I’m reminded of the reuniting of Joseph and his family, and of Jacob and Esau, and Lazarus and Jairus’s daughter that Jesus raised from the dead to be reunited with their family, and Eutychus raised by Paul to be reunited with his family and friends, and the Prodigal son returned to his father, and so many dead souls raised to life to be reunited to an abiding relationship with the living God, and the reunion that awaits all of creation when Jesus returns — yes, I long for reunion.

A physical separation does not have to be an emotional or spiritual disconnection. In fact, for those with emotional and spiritual ties that bind, physical separation can “make the heart grow stronger” as the old saying goes. But for unhealthy “connections” in our lives (that only want us around for whatever we are “useful to them” for, etc.), physical separation from them is good for us and will reveal more clearly the truth of the relationship. The old saying, “Set a bird free…” comes to mind, and is true about the cleansing and revealing power of separation.

But while separation is the end goal for those unhealthy connections, it is not the end goal for the healthy connections. Reunion is the goal.

For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart. And not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, and revealed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give account.
Hebrews 4:12‭-‬13 AMP

Lord, we trust you are separating and reuniting in this time with a wonderful purpose and plan. Keep watch over us, protect us, and grant us measures of faith and peace to see us through whatever today will bring our way. Amen.

COVID-19 on April 15, 2020

As I sit working from home for part of the fifth week in a row, I am encouraged by a lot that I see happening around us — people helping each other, people encouraging one another, etc. Yes, there are also people that are being led around by their fear — hoarding things, grumbling loudly, casting blame in every direction they can, seeking to manipulate others for their own political or personal agendas, seeking to leverage their authority to oppress others, etc. — but I can see the roses amongst the thorns. We can really tell a lot about what a person’s life is founded upon when challenges set in.

I’m also encouraged by the recent data showing that the number of new confirmed cases per day is apparently on a down trend (Source: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html ):

COVID Daily Cases

As an American who is interested in how our leadership is handling this pandemic, and as I realize that the USA has the highest total number of confirmed cases, I know that we can’t blindly compare:

  • the number of cases/deaths in a large country like the US where there is much more transportation and everyday free movement between cities and states and where testing is widely available and encouraged
  • to a smaller country that is more isolated and remote with little testing widely available
  • without taking into account the population.

When looking at the top 10 most affected countries, the US has the highest jump in confirmed cases (seen in green below):

Top10Affected

However, when we take into account the population of the various countries, we are not one of the highest in number of deaths per population. Obviously, I’m not celebrating that other countries have a higher or lower death rate per population, and I’m not on some US specific agenda. I would love to see everyone have as low as possible death rate across the entire world — but the only data we have on something new like this is to make comparisons:

Deaths per Population

I’m encouraged that our efforts as a nation of Social Distancing and then Staying at Home over these past 5 weeks have the statistics at least indicating that we may have flattened the curve. I’m encouraged that the case statistics are now on what appears to be a down trend:

FlattenTheCurve

While these trends encourage me that our efforts are having an impact, every number on this graph for the deaths in the US is a real person — with even more people around them that their death has impacted in some way:

USDeaths

I realize that even still today, there are many who are mad and disgrunted about the shutdowns and inconveniences. I realize that there are even still today people who want to blame all of this on conspiracies, etc. and who deny that it was ever something we even needed to address. For some, even after it takes the life of someone close to them, they may still not be able to accept the interruptions and inconveniences they have undergone as being helpful to protect others — as a reasonable and worthy sacrifice on behalf of their fellow man. But I say, even if it were contrived, and even if we are to be wronged by someone — isn’t it better to accept being wronged for the benefit of others?

I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 6:7 in this instance. I really like both the KJV and Good News translations of this verse from the original Greek:

Original Greek: ἤδη μὲν οὖν ὅλως ἥττημα ἐν ὑμῖν ἐστιν ὅτι κρίματα ἔχετε μεθ᾽ ἑαυτῶν δια τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀδικεῖσθε; δια τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀποστερεῖσθε;

KJV: Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?

GN: The very fact that you have legal disputes among yourselves shows that you have failed completely. Would it not be better for you to be wronged? Would it not be better for you to be robbed?

And I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 as well:

Original Greek:   ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ χρηστεύεται  ἀγάπη οὐ ζηλοῖ  ἀγάπη οὐ περπερεύεται οὐ φυσιοῦται   ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ χρηστεύεται  ἀγάπη οὐ ζηλοῖ  ἀγάπη οὐ περπερεύεται οὐ φυσιοῦται

KJV: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

NLT: Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

Lord, help us and guide us in these times to follow in your footsteps, to walk with you, to trust in you, and to not let fear, anxiety, or the challenges of the day gain a foothold in our lives. You are greater, and you are faithful and true to the end. Amen.