Peace in the midst of chaos

Every day we are bombarded with news of some person or group expressing outrage. Everyone seems to be on the lookout for a reason to be offended. There are chips on enough shoulders to build that controversial wall.

The most minor slip of the tongue or keystroke is blown into a major incident and becomes the cause for marches and protests. Even when your home team wins the Super Bowl, it is an excuse to cause a celebratory riot. While there are all too many really serious incidents deserving of moral outrage, when we over-react to every petty offense, we are left with no appropriate, proportional response to actual crime or catastrophy.

Today’s constant diet of crisis being fed to us by the media has resulted in an epidemic of emotional indigestion.

So, what is the correct reaction to all the turmoil? How do we find peace of mind and heart amid the cries of outrage and dire warnings of doom? As always, the antidote to our toxic culture is found in God’s word:

Rx

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. – Philippians 4:6-8 New King James Version (NKJV)

You may take this prescription daily, as needed. There are no known unhealthy side-effects.

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Sodom & Gomorrah redux

My heart goes out to the families and friends of the murder victims in Florida.

Whenever such a heinous act is committed, it’s natural to wonder why and what we can do to prevent a recurrence. In today’s posting, columnist,  Todd Starnes  answers our first question, “Why did this happen?” He believes, as do I, it happened because evil exists.

As usual, this latest tragedy is being treated as a political failure calling for more and stricter laws. Surely, if only we elect the right leaders and enact the right laws, nothing like this can ever happen again, right?

We live in a society where the long-ago citizens of those cities whose names are synonymous with decadence and evil, Sodom and Gomorrah, would feel completely at home. Were they to step into today’s culture they might ask themselves why God destroyed their towns (ref. Genesis 18 & 19) while allowing our nations to thrive.

sodom destroyed

In our rush to remove every Biblical admonition and moral precept from our lives as “old-fashioned values” we have placed a seal of approval on every vile act ever recorded in the Bible as being condemned by God. Bible believers are publicly mocked or called insane, truth is subjective, gender is a social construct, all moral teaching has been removed from education and the public square, and we wonder why evil is rampant. When right and wrong are out of fashion, what else should we expect?

The real question we should be asking is, “Why has God stayed His hand?”

 

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Something is missing…

“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth” Psalm 96:9 (KJV).

Definitions of worship
1 : to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power. 2 : to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion. 3 : to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission (Webster’s Dictionary)
worship prayer
With the decline in church attendance beginning in the 1960’s, churches and denominations began tweaking their worship services in order to find the secret to once again filling their pews on Sunday mornings. They surmised that the younger generations were bored with traditional services, the classic hymns, Bible readings, and sermons emphasizing the holiness of God.
     Church committees decided to make their sanctuaries into “come as you are” entertainment centers where everyone could feel comfortable. Plush theater chairs replaced uncomfortable pews.  Hymns and hymnals made way for upbeat praise songs projected on a screen. The goal was to give people a joyful experience, complete with coffee shops and snack bars where they could enjoy fellowship; a sort of combination Starbucks gathering place and a rock concert, with the addition of testimonies and scriptures extolling the blessings and benefits one could receive through God’s unconditional love, where praise teams perform covers of contemporary songs popularized by Christian recording artists and rock out repetitious choruses meant to whip the audience into an emotional state.
     After attending many of these modern worship services and leaving dissatisfied, I searched my soul. I’ve always believed what we get out of worship depends on what we put into it, but no matter how I tried to participate uncritically, something was missing. I asked myself what I hoped to find in these services. Was I being unreasonable? After reading and praying, it dawned on me just what was missing from these modern services: a sense of reverence. As it says in Psalm 96, we are to fear our holy God. He is worthy of our reverent worship. He is our all-powerful, righteous Creator and worthy of respectful, even fearful, worship. His sanctuary should feel holy, different than a concert hall.
     Years ago we sang a call to worship which began with the words,
“Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descended,
Our full homage to demand.”
This set the tone for reverent worship, our full homage. Although fellowship is important in a church body, there are any number of clubs and associations we can join for socializing. Worship in beauty and holiness is the unique purpose and responsibility of the church.

 

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How Do You See Yourself?

From the self-help gurus of the past to today’s  “life coaches”, most experts recognize the powerful impact visualization can have on a person’s achievements. If we want to accomplish anything, we first have to be able to see ourselves doing it. Self-image can be a propelling force or a limiting boundary. This is true in every area of a person’s life.

My father was the original do-it-yourselfer. If a thing needed doing, from remodeling our home to transforming a little girl’s swing into a mighty steed with the addition of a roughly-carved wooden horse head, he gave it his best shot. His spirit infected me to the point that, even today, until I’m proven otherwise, I assume I can do almost anything. I joke about this with my friends, saying that I can still do anything I’ve ever done, until the day that I can’t. Therefore, because the last time I tried to do a somersault I succeeded, I can still do one. Even though the last time was more than 30 years ago, until I try again and fail, I’m still a woman with the potential of doing somersaults. If I were to put my theory into practice, the results would be comical or tragic, but there is still the merest possibility that if I were to begin training with a skilled coach, I might eventually have another somersault in me. That attitude of potential is empowering, and helps me to accomplish my more practical goals.

That old Sunday school song, “I Am a Promise”, beautifully illustrates this attitude with the words, “I am a great big bundle of potentiality”.  If you see yourself as a person full of untapped potential you are more apt to tackle new challenges, to expand your horizons, and learn new things. In fact, studies show that you tend to be more optimistic about life in general.

When we tell a child, “You could grow up to be President”, we are not telling them they are fully capable of performing the duties of that high office. We are trying to establish in them a pattern of imagining themselves achieving great things. Then, we teach them the skills and knowledge to attempt some of those things.

Some people see the glass half empty, some see it half full, and some can’t see beyond the smears and flaws in the glass. These latter folks are those with self-limiting self-images. If I see myself as capable, as valuable, as worthy of respect, then my actions will reflect that self-image.

I am a promise to be anything God wants me to be.  That is true for Christians of any age. Your potential may be undeveloped or you may need some new knowledge or skills, but these can be acquired.

Look into the mirror and see that potential, keep that promise.

13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

 

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The First Raindrop

When I struck out on my daily walk one early morning, I noticed it begin to sprinkle. Just a handful of drops dotted the pavement, with the first drying up almost before the others hit and I managed to complete my route before the rain came down in earnest.

Later in the day, those first showers became a full-fledged rainstorm. Even though the first drops I noticed had little effect, they were absolutely necessary for this storm to have come.

Something…someone…has to be willing to be first.  Without a first there can be no second, no hundredth, no millionth.

This is a lesson for all of us.

Most of us would be willing to be the first at something if we were guaranteed success. We admire the successful pioneer in any field, but we don’t usually remember those who came before, those who attempted the same thing and failed.  Fear of failure is a powerful force, too powerful for many people to even attempt to overcome.

Fear of being the first and failing can lead to inertia, paralysis, and a lack of achievement. This applies to Christians, as we deal with an increasingly hostile culture. Fear of failure, of being mocked or ignored, can keep us from being the first in a situation to speak out against the wrongs we see.

But, what if you are the first raindrop and you hit the pavement, sizzle, and evaporate? Is that a failure, if the ‘pavement’ is made a bit cooler and more receptive? You can make things easier for those who follow and, as more ‘raindrops’ join in, eventually, the deluge of change may come.

You ask, “What difference can I, a single person, make?” Well, history is a vast record of revolutionary changes, and every time, someone took the first step.

If we are to be available to do God’s will, we must be willing to be the first raindrop.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9New International Version (NIV)

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Why the controversy?

I have three lovely granddaughters, the children of my oldest son, and now my middle son and his sweet wife are expecting my first grandson. This week they shared their latest ultrasound photo of this precious little boy. The image below isn’t the one of my grandson, but it is remarkably similar (although I think mine’s cuter, naturally).

ultrasound-baby

Today is the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which began the national controversy surrounding abortion-on-demand and opened the way for millions of precious lives to be cut short.

There will be millions of women sacrificing time, and spending travel budgets and vacation days from work, to brave frigid temperatures to March for Life in Washington, D.C. and all around our country. There will no doubt be large crowds attempting to shout down these women in the name of “choice”.  The men and women on each side are equally, vehemently, devoted to their own side in what is described as a “controversy”.

As a mother, a grandmother, and a woman who has lost four little ones to miscarriage, I simply cannot understand the viewpoint of those willing to kill a baby in the name of convenience or expediency.  When we can witness these little ones with beating hearts and watch them developing into unique individuals at each step of their journey from conception to birth, how can anyone try to deny their humanity?

There are few sane people who would condone killing a child, for any reason whatsoever. How can it be controversial to outlaw killing them while in the womb? Seeing the violent hostility many on the pro-abortion side show toward the women trying to save these little ones, I scratch my head.

Admittedly, when I was an unmarried teenager, around the time of the Roe decision, I accepted the view that these “products of conception” were merely clumps of cells. “My body, my life” sounded bold and empowering. After losing a child to miscarriage, my mind, and my heart, began to change. The advent of the ultrasound confirmed what I had begun to realize; these are our children being ripped apart and thrown away.

We now have incontrovertible proof that children in the womb grow, move, and feel pain. They hear their mother’s voice and even recognize music. There can be no controversy about that. The only question remaining is whether anyone has the right to kill them “on demand”.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13 (NLT)

 

 

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Reaching out

The comic strip Pearls Before Swine, by Stephen Pastis, once featured Rat saying to his friend the goat, “I have not gone to church in a long time.”  The goat responds, “Oh, yeah? Why is that?” and Rat replies, “I’m perfect, now.”

It is seldom a search for personal perfection that brings people into church. In a healthy Christian church we are made aware of just how impossible it is for anyone to achieve perfection in this world and we are drawn ever closer to the source of all perfection, Jesus Christ. So, why is it that many people stay away from church because of an awareness of their own imperfections? How many times have you heard a person say something like, “Oh, I couldn’t go to church. The roof would cave in.”  These people are expressing, in a facetious way, their own fears of being found unwelcome or unacceptable to the church body. Or even to God.

After stumbling in their faith walk, even long-time church-goers can withdraw from the fellowship because of shame and the fear of rejection, at the very time when they most need the support of the church family.

I once visited a small rural church with “Welcome, Fellow Sinner” posted prominently over the entry.  I learned there had been some controversy when the sign was first hung, but the congregation had gone on to embrace the philosophy it represented.

Although church discipline has fallen out of favor in today’s permissive climate, we need to remember that repentance comes before forgiveness. Guiding our fallen brother or sister to recognize the need to turn back onto the narrow path is one of the helping hands we are expected to give.

Church fellowships are designed by God to support and nurture believers as we stumble along on our walk of faith and obedience. Walking a rocky path is easier with others by your side holding your hands in the slippery places.

It is good to remember when reaching out to support someone in danger of slipping…or who has already fallen…that the path ahead contains many perils and this same person could be the one to help you just around the next turning.

Romans 3:23 (NIV) 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

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God’s gift of humor

I was recently introduced to the Christian satirical website The Babylon Bee. This site skewers our human foibles in categories of News, Christian Living, Celebs, Politics, Church, Lifestyle, Sports, and Entertainment.  After being pointed to the site by my son, I spent hours on New Years Day reading through the archives and laughing out loud. The writers on this site have the gift of cutting through all our pretensions, those of Christians and non-believers, alike.

laughing at pc

Having spent a quarter century as a pastor’s wife, I laughed loudest at the spoofs about church life. I found myself thanking God for the talents of these writers to show us our foolishness in such an entertaining way. I confess that I laughed louder at those articles which were not pointed at my own opinions or practices, but even when I did feel their sting, I could see the humor and it made me pause and reflect.  That’s what the best humor, especially satire, does; it allows us to look at ourselves without defensiveness or resentment. We recognize ourselves and see how ridiculous we can be. It reminds us of all the things we share as flawed humans.

Much that we read and view is mean-spirited. Many comedians encourage their audiences to laugh at the “other”, not at themselves, and use their wit to wound, rather than heal.

How refreshing to find a place where everyone is mocked equally, in a spirit of love.

A cheerful heart is good medicine… Proverbs 17:22

 

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Words to Live By

In 2018, this weekly blog will enter its tenth year. The past decade has seen changes, upheavals, turmoil, and tragedies, as well as celebrations and blessings too numerous to count, both personally and worldwide. However, there has been one constant. Our eternal Creator God has not changed and my faith in His Word has grown stronger through it all.

This excerpt from a year-end post in 2009 still rings true in my life:

With Christmas over, we can begin to look forward to God’s gift of a brand-new year and many of us write lists of resolutions we hope will give us a fresh start.

This year, there was a book of quotations under my Christmas tree. One of the pithy phrases, in a chapter called “Words to Live By”, stood out as though printed in bold type. Thgift bookis string of ten two-letter words stood out from the rest:

 If it is to be, it is up to me.

As a Christian, I believe it is all up to God, yet I know He uses individuals to bring about His will and that when we are not attuned to His leading, or are unwilling to respond, we deny ourselves blessings. God’s will most definitely will be done, regardless of any human intervention, but He wants us to share in His perfect plan in order to experience every joy He has for us.

In that light, I see the above quotation as a reminder to be available, willing, and sensitive to God’s leading.

Has God given you a dream for His Kingdom? Perhaps He has inspired you to grow in some new direction of service in His name. God often speaks to His children in this way. If some idle notion comes into your head which would advance the Kingdom, it just may be God’s way of presenting you with an opportunity to share the joy. With this in mind, I am going to try to respond, when God uses my own observations, insights, and hopes to invite me into the work of the Kingdom, by reminding myself that if it (the dream) is to be (a reality), it is up to me (to respond to God’s leading).

(In 2018) I encourage you to pray as if everything depends upon God and work as if everything depends upon you.

This could be a very exciting year.

Wishing you a blessed New Year!

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Is Christmas Disappearing?

I live in avanish household of word-lovers. Conversations are thick with puns and creative word play, so it wasn’t too surprising when I announced to my son the other day that I was planning to dematerialize Christmas this year, his predictably melodramatic response was, “No, Mom, no! You can’t make Christmas disappear!”

Of course, we both knew I was merely beginning my annual oration about limiting gift lists and concentrating on the non-material aspects of the holiday in an attempt to downplay the gifts and focus on The Gift.

What we celebrate at Christmas is God’s gift of His Son to die for our sins. If you are a Christian, you may respond, “Well that goes without saying”….and, unfortunately, it does go without saying in many homes, and not only the homes of those who are actively antagonistic or dismissive of Christianity. Many Christians have also allowed the commercialism and sentimentality of the season to push the true meaning of Christmas to the side.

It might make us more appreciative of what Christmas means in the world today if we were to imagine what it would be like if I actually could “dematerialize” the historical event and we were able to see a world without the influence of Christianity.   It is an historical reality that Christianity has impacted the world for good. From the fields of higher education and medicine, to law, government, and science, much that we have today we owe to Christians and their beliefs. We can observe countries where the Christian influence has been historically limited to get some idea of what the whole world might be like, if Christ had never been born.holy family

This realization, alone, should be enough to make more of us take a few moments to really celebrate Christ’s birth.

Give gifts, have parties, bake cookies, and decorate to your heart’s content, but please take just a few moments to remember why we celebrate and Who it’s all about.

[Orig. Post 


As many of you know, I write Christian fiction as J.B. Hawker. If you would like to receive updates when I have a new book, or a promotion, you can sign-up for my monthly email newsletter by clicking on the gift box (below). Your Thank You gift is a collection of my Christmas short stories and recipes, Cozy Christmas Sweets:subscribe

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