Author: Jan Grace

As an ordained minister for over 30 years, I have pastored two churches and have spent time on staff as a worship leader. I have been married to Phyllis, the wife of my youth, for over 45 years and we live near Des Moines, Iowa. We have a son and daughter-in-law, along with 2 grand cats. My wife and I attend Lifehouse Community Church in Urbandale, Iowa. I've published 10 books, all available at jangrace.org

The Gettysburg Address and Today’s Civil War

When I think about this beloved nation of ours, I can’t help but wonder just what’s in store. The words of Abraham Lincoln keep playing over and over in my mind (I changed the first four words to reflect today’s year. Lincoln’s words are in quotation marks).

Twelve score and four years ago ”our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

”Now we are (again engaging – my emphasis) in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war…”

Civil War may seem a little strong, but what should it be called? No, I’m not referring to the first civil war but the one that’s happening in our nation today. It doesn’t take much astuteness to see and feel the division and hatred.

During the four years of the War between the States more than half a million soldiers died. Both sides of the struggle, fighting for their ideologies and passions, lost more lives than in all the other wars this nation has been in throughout its two hundred forty-four year history combined.

Was it worth it then? It depends on who you ask as to what answer you’ll receive. I personally think so, but then again, I wasn’t around when it happened. To me, it was because all lives mattered and many were being treated as some sort of subhuman.

But is the war that’s being fought today the same as it was those many years ago? Are we fighting over things like slavery and the color of a person’s skin?

Or could it be something else?

Frankly, I believe it’s something else.

People are becoming more and more self-centered, more addicted to their own wants and desires. They don’t want to answer to any person or any God. They want to be in control.

Actually, it’s always been that way, but as time goes by the demand keeps growing. Laws are being passed by people who have the same desire for control. And with each new law, each new ”freedom” from antiquated and stuffy rules and values, there becomes an even greater desire for more and more ”freedoms”.

Now we’ve reached the point where almost anything is allowed, almost everything is legal, yet for many, it’s not enough.

So when will it stop? When will this war cease and life return to ”normal”?

This civil war is not like the first. This war will not end when one side surrenders. It won’t be over if a different person is in the White House. The division will become wider and wider. We have to understand there’s no winning this war unless everyone wins. Unless what’s good for one is, truly, good for all.

And the only way that can happen is for people to recognize there is a God in Heaven Who has the wisdom and ability to turn things around.

”Happy are the people who’s God is the Lord.” Psalm 144.

But as long as people keep fighting the ”God thing”, they will never quit fighting one another or each other’s ideologies.

I hate to make it sound so simple, but the only hope for America is God. Not my understanding of God, not your understanding of God.

But the Bible’s revelation of Who He is as demonstrated in the life of His Son Jesus Christ.

It’s time for each of us to humble ourselves before God and each other.

That is if we really want to see this nation healed.

Masked or Unmasked (NOT about the coronavirus)

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10 – 55:11 ESV)

If by now you haven’t been informed about the benefits of wearing a mask to help curtail the spreading of the coronavirus, then you’re definitely an oddball; in fact, you’re a one-in-a-three hundred million kind of an oddball.

But I’m not going to talk about the virus this time. I know how disappointed you must be, but please allow me to act a little unamerican.

However, I do want to talk about masks. Or perhaps a different way of saying it, I want to talk about keeping things in that shouldn’t be shared, and vice-versa.

In the above passage of scripture, God makes a couple of statements that we must take note of. One, He tells us that the things He speaks or allows to proceed out of His mouth make a notable difference in the world. It should since it was His word that created everything, and set into motion the laws which govern the universe.

The second thing is that He releases His words on purpose. Because His words are so powerful He must be wise as to when to speak and when to not speak.

In other words, and in a way we can surely appreciate and understand, He decides when to be masked or unmasked.

And we should be wise as well.

Scripture teaches us that our words are very powerful. Our words can create life, and they can take life. Solomon wrote, ”death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Jesus said, ”By your words you’ll be justified, and by them you’ll be condemned.” Again He said, ”Out of the abundance of the heart a person speaks.”

Even Pastor James weighed in on the subject of words.

”For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

”So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” (James 3:2 – 3:12 ESV)

Jesus taught that the heart and mouth are inseparably connected. It’s how God created us. It’s how He is, in that His heart and words are inseparably connected. But even though His heart is perfect (and ours is not), He still chooses what and when to say something. He doesn’t just let everything fly willy-nilly.

Neither should we.

It’s like trying to control the spread of any infectious disease. Certain times a mask should be worn, other times it should be removed.

A thought occurred to me that some people have it all wrong, where their words are concerned. They mask words that could be spreading life but unmask words that are deadly to society. Even Christians have been masking the treasure they have embraced, as in the new life in Jesus, but have joined in political warfare, and the divisive words that do nothing but spread hatred and confusion.

We sometimes mask the wrong message.

Love and life spread just as easily as hate and death and it’s up to you and me to share the message of hope while we can.

With the Lord as our example, let’s be choosy with our words. Let’s use our tongue purposely to help steer others to the One Who is the author of Truth and Justice. And, understanding words are like seeds, let’s think about what kind of garden we’re planning before we remove our mask and let everything fly.

Let’s unmask words of hope and mask words that do nothing but undermine the gospel message.

I realize wearing a mask can be very uncomfortable, but just think of the lives it could save.

An Unholy Agenda

There are several trains of thought running throughout the social media world these days. Each camp is accusing others of having, what I’ll refer to as, an unholy agenda. What I mean by that is an agenda or some sort of diabolical plot to force the masses into a certain way of thinking. A particular way of believing and acting.

There are the folks on the right who are convinced that everything happening is designed to affect the upcoming election so the liberals win. Of course, the folks on the left are touting the same thing. Still others are buying any and all conspiracy theories about the major unseen players who are pulling the strings that control every nation on the planet. I’ve noticed something. The wilder, the more unbelievable the theory, the quicker people are to grab hold of it and blab it to the four winds.

And again, there are some people  mixing ideologies from the right and the left, creating a myriad of ”hybrid” groups; each with their own particular agenda.

I’d like to address the unholy agenda issue by saying each group is correct. The others do have an unholy agenda, and they are extremely focused and disciplined in seeing their agenda come to fruition. 

But guess what? 

There are really only two camps, two groups, two agendas. Only two. 

All those I’ve mentioned belong to one group. Their goal is to have their own way. To make a world that’s governed according to their personal beliefs. After all, their beliefs are the correct beliefs. Just ask them. 

Whether  they are right, left, or middle; all are right in their own eyes. 

And they each have an agenda.

Remember the conspiracy group? The one’s who believe there are string-pullers behind the scenes? Well,  they’re probably more accurate than the other groups. 

Because there is someone with THE unholy agenda who only wants to steal, kill, and destroy. He’s after control, and ultimately to be worshipped as god. He’s been working his plan since before the garden of Eden and is very much focused on seeing it come to pass.

And he’s using all these agendas as a diversion; to keep those who belong to the Most High God, Who alone has mankind’s best interest in mind, out of the way of righteous and holy warfare.

Many of God’s people seem to have chosen a political side and damn the others. Or maybe another, more accurate way to say it is ”to hell with the others who aren’t in my camp.”

It’s so very sad, but I believe it’s the truth.

People of God, it’s past time to shake ourselves free from every unholy agenda; every unholy alliance. God has called us to choose His ways and thoughts. He’s told us to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God. He’s demonstrated how He expects us to love the world.

To focus on His holy agenda will require us to lay down our rights and the opinions that keep us from engaging in His business of worldwide evangelism and discipleship. 

We cannot free the one’s trapped in darkness if we don’t walk in the light. And we can’t walk in the light if we won’t walk in love. 

There’s coming a day when all we’re experiencing will be history. Eternity will have arrived. There will only be two camps remaining.

The righteous and the damned. 

I’ve heard it said that this coming election is the most important one in the history of our nation. Maybe so. 

But there’s something far more important than an election. It’s the condition of our world’s souls.

Can’t we set aside our fussing and fighting about our ”rights” and instead pick up God’s Holy Agenda?

”To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 – 1:12 ESV)

Judgment in the House of God

There’s coming a day, one that is fast approaching, when the American Church will be put on the spot by God.

You may say you don’t believe it. You just may think I’ve lost what marbles I once had. That’s okay, I might agree with you at some point.

But not this time.

But why would a loving God do such a thing? Doesn’t He want the best for us? Absolutely! But His best and our best could quite possibly be two different things.

Here’s a rather lengthy passage of scripture, but I believe it should be read and understood.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:1 – 12:11 ESV)

You see, THE work God is trying to do in us is much more important than our comfort or ease. Scripture declares He is going to keep working in us until Christ be formed in us; until He is flowing through us as He did through His Son Jesus. After all, the Word declares He’s coming for a Church without spot or wrinkle.

Folks, I think we have a little ways to go before we’ve ”arrived”.

Malachi gives a prophetic word about the end times. I believe he could be writing about us. And while I believe the Lord is coming FOR His Church, I believe He’s coming TO His Church first.

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me”, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1 – 3:5 ESV)

Notice He’s coming like a refiner’s fire and a fuller’s soap. Why? To purify His people, His ministers, His ”royal priesthood”. Do you remember the first three chapters of Revelation? That’s exactly what Jesus was doing when He stood in the midst of the candlesticks (the churches).

Peter also made a statement concerning God’s people and God’s timing.

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ”If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?“ Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:17 – 4:19 ESV)

Here are five areas where I believe the hand of God will be placed; bringing about a good scrub. Five areas of personal and corporate Church life.

  1. Our use of finances. Who is truly Lord of our finances? Not just the tithe, but the whole amount? What kind of stewardship are we practicing as a people, a church? Do we spend so much on ourselves we have nothing to do kingdom business with? Is ”marketing” about souls or our own image? Are we trusting in the Lord, or in the uncertainty of riches?
  2. Selfies and superstars. The platform we’ve raised for ourselves and our superstars will be leveled before God is through. The last shall be first, and the first shall be last. He who exalts himself shall be abased. He who humbles himself shall be exalted. There’s room for only one Star, and His Name Jesus.
  3. Cockiness verses consecration. God hears the ”strut” in our speech and the way we carry ourselves. Boldness with and in God is much different than simply showing off. Boldness in God is the result of true consecration and faith. The world will never be won by slick words, cocky speech, or well-crafted phrases. They will be won as Jesus is lifted up.
  4. Saints or shell games. Remember the old shell game, where a pea is hidden under one of three shells and you try and guess which shell has the pea after the shells are shuffled? Sometimes we are like shells. Empty, but projecting ourselves as having the ”pea”, or the gift of whatever. Always moving about, staying busy with ”ministry”, but holiness isn’t really in our heart. Expect the purifying fire of God. Acknowledging one’s emptiness prepares the way for glory.
  5. Belief or belligerence. The level of faith isn’t determined by how loud we shout, or how many people we can ”out argue” or ”put in their place ”. Pointing out the unbelief and sinful actions of others doesn’t elevate our faith. Not does it turn people to Jesus.

These are just examples of areas that are coming under the thumb of God. He desires to pour out His Spirit in unrestricted and unparalleled ways. He understands the extreme lateness of the hour and what it will take to bring as many people into His kingdom.

Our attitudes, as well as other areas of our personal and corporate church life, will be examined. Not by me. No, I’m already sensing the increased scrutiny and desire for greater holiness.

No, the Judge is at the door. He will judge righteously and completely.

Count on it.

The Big Guard Dog and the Protesters

Okay, so there’s this big dog. A good dog, but it’s really big. Its size makes it look much meaner than it is.

All day long it patrols its yard, ready to bark if and when its challenged by an intruder; someone it doesn’t recognize or senses to be a threat.

Remember, the dog is good. It has never attacked anyone, but simply guards its territory and alerts the owner of a possible problem.

It’s good and it’s big. But it stays with its fenced yard, doing what it has been trained and disciplined to do.

Enter several scores of protesters.

These protesters have heard about the danger of big dogs; big guard dogs. They read a story about some rogue dogs in another area going wild and killing an innocent person.

So, since a big guard dog did something it wasn’t trained to do, since it didn’t show any concern for its victim, the protesters decided to show everyone that all big guard dogs are vicious and must be punished.

The protesters approached the fence. Of course, by now the big guard dog is barking and growling, standing on its side of the fence. Still a good dog, but alert to possible danger.

So far so good. Up to this point both sides of the fence appear to be peaceful.

This could be a picture of what took place at the Iowa State Capitol Building last night. I watched a live stream from the Capitol for awhile, grieved by what I was seeing.

If it was just people on one side of the fence trying to make their point about how “Black Lives Matter” I’d be completely fine with that.

But while the big guard dog (the Iowa State Police) was standing on its side of the fence, doing what it was trained to do (protect and serve) and well within its parameters, the protesters began throwing objects at the big guard dog; taunting, provoking, and just daring the big guard dog to break its training, discipline and purpose, and respond like any ordinary animal.

If the big guard dog would have busted out and began attacking the protesters, it would have been much worse than it was. As it was, I believe the only retaliation the big guard dog used was tear gas to disperse the protesters and ease the pent up emotions on both sides of the fence.

And although the protesters were warned at least three times to disperse, each time the warning was ignored.

Instead, they kept up their provocation; just daring the big guard dog to bare its teeth and attack them.

My many thanks to the big guard dog that kept its cool, stayed its ground, its discipline, and its mission.

I pray the protesters realize they were flirting with a fight they would never win to prove a point that really didn’t need to be made.

Protesting police brutality by protesting all police is much like the protesters provoking the big guard dog.

The big guard dog is good and it’s needed. And, in my book, it’s appreciated.

A Faithful Man

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.  (Proverbs 28:20 NKJV)

Faithfulness. It’s something many people struggle with. Maybe not in their marriage, work, or finances, but in their spiritual life. 

Now don’t turn me off or quit reading. And preacher reading this, don’t be so quick to agree with me, thinking I’m writing about those who are hit and miss where church attendance is concerned.

Lately I’ve been doing some thinking about my place in the Body of Christ. Where do I fit? What am I supposed to do? Am I bearing fruit? Is the Lord pleased? You know, questions like that.

I mean, I understand the parable of the talents and how it’s so important to make the most out of what God endows us with. He gifts each person with various abilities and ministry grace. Whether they use them or not is up to them. 

How I should be using my gifts has been capturing my prayer time, and my thoughts throughout the day.

The Lord was very clear in the above scripture. Faithfulness begets an abundance of blessings. 

But the rest of the verse doesn’t say anything about unfaithfulness, or does it? What’s he mean, “but he who hastens to be rich…”? 

Maybe we should consider the meaning of faithfulness. 

Faithfulness entails much more than church attendance, serving in various capacities at church, and whether or not we pray and read our Bible every day. Faithfulness has everything to do with relationships, with God or with people, depending on the context of discussion.

Faithfulness specifically is about dependability. Is a person dependable? If so, they are most likely faithful.

Let’s take the question, “Is the person faithful to God?” After all, this is the one I’ve been asking myself. Sure, I can list a number of things I’ve done through the years that ought to look good to God. I’ve certainly done better at this Christian thing than some others I’ve known. Yes, I’ve done my share of bad stuff, things that look terrible on my list. But all in all, I have a fairly good record. 

But I have a strong feeling that’s not how the scoring is tallied, if indeed there is scoring at all.

No, I believe the writer of Proverbs was thinking of something a bit different. So I’ll try to explain.

Doing the right things, saying the right words, and being at the right place aren’t necessarily the attributes of a faithful man. Of course, people see someone who does all those things and they’d all agree, “There goes a faithful man.”

But what about the part of a person’s life that isn’t seen by anyone but God? For instance, I’ve found myself comparing my life with other preachers, authors, and musicians; things I have done, wanted to do, or would still like to do. I look at how many “likes” and “shares” my social media posts get, and compare them with others doing similar ministry. I browse my Amazon account periodically to see how many books people have purchased or downloaded for free. And I find myself being discouraged that my “ministry” isn’t as popular as I feel it should be.

Can any of you identify with me?

So I asked the Lord about it all. I didn’t whine to Him, but I did kind of want to know why people aren’t knocking down my “ministry door” like they did the apostles Peter and Paul. 

Want to hear what He said?

You probably guessed it. 

In essence, His word was, “I’ve only called you to be faithful with all I’ve given you. The size of ministry is not an indication of whether ministry is good or bad.”

He reminded me of some pastor friends of mine. They serve a small, rural community. They’ve done so for over twenty years. Probably not much opportunity for a packed house or large offerings.

But they are where they’re supposed to be, doing what they’re supposed to be doing. 

God calls them faithful.

And God is calling me, and I dare say you as well, to a life of faithfulness. I don’t have to be the best, have the biggest following, or say the wittiest and wisest words. I don’t have to become a household name, as long as I’m faithfully lifting up the Name above all names.

Trying to raise up “my” ministry comes under the heading of “he who hastens to be rich”. Of course it’s okay to want to reach more people with a life giving message. Of course the Lord wants us all to seek and save the lost. 

But ulterior motives, the ones we know are lurking just under the surface, can be easily hidden when we’re dishonest with ourselves. Having to be the best, have the best, and always look the best isn’t always the best in God’s eyes. Especially if our heart is more concerned about the image we portray to man than how our heart looks to God.

Please, my intention here isn’t to point fingers at anyone but myself. I’ve found myself “needing” to do this, that, and everything else because other preachers, authors, and musicians seem to be getting ahead by doing those specific things. 

That may be perfectly fine for them. It’s not for me to say. It’s between them and God.

All He’s calling me to do is be faithful. 

He’ll take care of the rest.

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with Me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to Me. (Psalm 101:6 ESV)

After The Storm Passes

I was communicating with a friend on Facebook a little while ago and mentioned we need to get together after the storm passes, referring of course to the coronavirus “storm”.

As soon as I hit the post comment button, I had these thoughts – “What am I doing IN the storm?” “How can I make it THROUGH the storm?”

Have you ever stopped to consider the way you enter a room, a situation, or even a storm pretty much determines how you’ll leave it? Or the actions you take within have a bearing on the way you’ll live without?

What if we’re so consumed with the storm itself that it becomes our sole focus? Can we become so paralyzed with fear we stop living, even after the storm has long passed?

Matthew, one of Jesus’ original disciples, told of such a situation he and his pals went through. A storm of storms, if you will.

Picture this:

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him. Matthew 8:18, 23 – 8:27 ESV

Jesus told His disciples to get into the boat because they needed to get to the other side. The journey was something like 5-8 miles. Lots of water to traverse. Not exactly easy to to do when everything is calm. But it became almost impossible part way into the trip.

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. Matthew 8:24 ESV

“There arose a great storm…” I looked up the Greek word for storm, just to try and get a better picture of what Matthew and the boys were dealing with. I mean, how bad could it really have been? Just how big were the waves? Swamped? Surely he was exaggerating, don’t you agree?

It couldn’t have been nearly as bad as some of the stuff you and I have had to deal with. Right? Matthew was used to having it easy, having been a rich tax collector. So he got a little wet. Big deal.

Actually, it WAS a big deal.

The Greek word Matthew used for “storm” was “seismos”. Ring any bells? It’s the word we translate as “earthquake”. 

“There arose an earthquake…” The disciples weren’t just contending with winds and waves. The whole lake was shaking, which would have caused the waves to be much greater than a strong wind storm could ever muster. 

No wonder the boat was swamped. 

And no wonder they were worried and feared for their lives. 

But you see, if they had recognized a certain truth before they went INTO the storm it would have helped them DURING the storm. 

What was the truth? Jesus’ word.

“He gave orders to go over to the other side.” In other words, “Here is God’s will for us at this moment. We’re going to the other side of the lake.”

As far as He was concerned, since He knew what they were to do, then come hell or high water they would make it to the other side. He could get in the boat and enjoy some shut-eye while they made the trip.

It’s something the disciples SHOULD have known BEFORE the storm, but thankfully they learned it by the time they reached the other side.

And, thank God,  Jesus was with them the whole time.

Jesus always keeps His promises and always honors His Word. No storm will keep Him away from you. No earthquake or spiritual shaking or quaking can stop Him or you from fulfilling your destiny in Him. 

YOU can apply the brakes. YOU can jump ship. YOU can throw up your hands in fear and frustration and shout to whoever you think may listen, “I’ve had enough of this mess! From now on I’m going to take everything nice and easy. Forget it! I’m gonna play it safe so I’ll never have to weather another storm.”

Yes, you can do those things if you want to. But is that really how you want to live? 

If you don’t have faith to walk with God through the storms of life, you’ll never have faith to walk anywhere. Faith is not faith until it’s tried by fire.

What are YOU doing with your faith in THIS storm? Have you noticed Jesus in the boat with you? If so, have you been trying to wake Him up? 

Maybe you could take your cue from Him and just sit back and rest a while.

And let the peace that passes all understanding keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

It will help you greatly once you get through this ordeal.

After the storm passes.

Photo Courtesy of National Geographic

A Deceptive Spirit of Unity

I believe there’s a dangerously deceptive spirit of unity being advanced throughout the world. It’s not that I think unity is wrong. It’s even something God loves. He wants us to be kind and join with others for a common good, whether we see eye to eye with them or not. American, Chinese, European or any other nationality, it doesn’t matter. There’s much we can do together.

But there’s a difference between humanitarianism and humanism. As it was years ago at the Tower of Babel when mankind defied God and decided to do life completely contrary to God’s commands, so it is today. Of course, this is just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Society likes to boast about all man has accomplished. I applaud all the great and wonderful inventors and inventions of the past and present. I enjoy my home, vehicle, electronic devices, and life in general. I feel I’m a very blessed man, thanks in part, to those who had a vision and passion to do what others couldn’t do, and see things others didn’t see.

That’s all well and good.

The problem is, and here’s where the deception comes into play, mankind, no matter how united we become, cannot overcome our biggest flaw. We cannot think our way out of the spiritual dilemma we are in. We cannot become so unified we rid ourselves of our accountability to God. We will never find the perfect miracle drug to rid the world of physical death, either. The result of Adam’s original transgression can only be eradicated God’s way.

Whether or not one believes in original sin or God or the Bible, truth will never be overcome by deception. And no matter how wise man thinks he is, compared to the Fount of Wisdom, he is nothing. At best, the wisdom of man is foolishness to God.

The world is somewhat focused on the latest pandemic, and the unity rhetoric is in full swing. “Let’s join all our resources together and defeat this virus. We can outsmart this thing. We can do anything we set our mind to. We can because we are!”

I hope something is developed. I want to see the world get better and people all over the globe live in peace. I really do.

But until we truly humble ourselves before our Creator God and acknowledge we are nothing but frail pieces of flesh and bone without Him, the extent of our efforts will only prolong the inevitable. We’ll make a show of our abilities, we’ll praise and laud one another’s efforts, and shout into every microphone we can find. “We did it. We did it without God, faith, or prayer.” However, in spite of our best efforts, we’ll still come up short.

Mankind’s boasting doesn’t make them any smarter, nor does it help them rise to a higher plane of existence. Just the opposite. Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools.

Just ask ol’ Nimrod and his Babel buddies. When they were just on the verge of attaining their lofty goal, they found themselves totally filled with a spirit of confusion.

And without God that’s exactly where this world is headed.

Tough Times Aren’t Necessarily Bad Times

A well known Psalm, probably the best known of all the 150 Psalms, is the 23rd Psalm.

Here are the first three verses.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3 ESV

I share this for a couple of reasons. First, it’s very comforting for a person to remember the Lord is watching over them, as a shepherd watches over his sheep. 

Second, and my primary reason, is a truth about still waters. Still, quiet, waters during times such as the world is experiencing right now.

Tough times. Hard to deal with times. So many uncertainties. Multitudes of voices proclaiming contradictory messages. Economic crises, health issues, social restrictions…

Like I said, tough times.

But tough times, if I understand the scriptures, aren’t necessarily bad times.

Bad times, to me anyway, are times when nothing good happens. No redeeming quality can be seen during the time or afterwards. But it is not a bad time if something of eternal value can be accomplished in us, through us, or around us during the times we’re feeling overwhelmed.

On the other hand, tough times have more to do with some sort of change, inconvenience, disruption, disappointment, or trying to deal with things way beyond our ability to control.

Kind of like today. 

But what if we changed our outlook, and instead of bemoaning these tough times we began to embrace them? I mean, what if we took the down time most people are experiencing and ask ourselves a couple of “what if” questions?

Questions like, “What can I learn about myself during these crazy times?” “Since I can’t change my circumstance, how can I use this opportunity to better myself both spiritually and emotionally?”

Here’s where Psalm 23 comes in. 

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Notice, there seems to be a progression, or steps God takes in our lives, where He brings us from initially acknowledging the Lord as our Shepherd to where we can actually walk in His “paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.”

Jesus said it a different way.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:1,2,4 – 15:8 ESV

In this passage, Jesus calls Himself the true vine. The vine each of His “branches” are connected to. 

Now look what happens to each and every branch. Did you see it? They get pruned.

Cut. 

I’d call that a tough time, wouldn’t you?

Why the cutting? So each branch becomes as fruitful as it was created to be. To be the perfect expression of the vine. To be able to bring glory to the true vine.

Remember, the Father is glorified when we, the branches, bear much fruit.

Or, as David said, when we walk “in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.”

Tough times, times when we’re more or less forced to slow down (or maybe even shut down), can be part of the “pruning” process.

David told us the Lord made him to lie down in green pastures. No walking, no running in place, no activity. Next, there are still waters. I believe the picture he’s painting is that of a place to lie down right in front of the still waters.

Have you ever been next to a pond or lake early in the morning? Typically that’s the time when the water is the calmest.

Have you ever stood on the bank and looked into the water and seen your reflection? When the water is calm, or still, that’s when you can see what you truly look like. 

It’s kind of like looking into the mirror of God’s Word. (James 1)

Unless we see our true self, unless we acknowledge our true condition, accepting the image for what it truly is, we can never grow to become our best self. 

And the Father will not receive the glory due Him.

I realize tough times are, well, tough. But why not make this time count? Why not embrace this time as a God given opportunity? An opportunity to grow in His word, to learn to recognize His voice better, and an opportunity to set aside any sin or habit that may be holding you back from your God given destiny.

Tough times are times when we see what we’re truly made of. And if we’ll be honest with ourselves and God, we’ll then discover tough times lead into tremendously fruitful times. 

And that’s good.

A Prayer For Our Leaders

Father God, in the Name of Jesus, I give you thanks and praise for those you’ve placed in authority throughout this great land.


I pray, first of all, for the President and all of his cabinet and advisors, for all senators and representatives, governors, and law enforcement. Any person who has a position of authority. Give to them wisdom and discernment so they will know how to lead this nation in a godly and dignified way. May they be surrounded by men and women who love you and your kingdom. May they hear your voice and have the courage to always do the right thing, regardless.


Protect them from any physical, mental, or spiritual attack. Let every weapon formed against them be squashed. May each lie spoken in secret be exposed and let truth prevail.


Father, give to our leaders the ability to lead in a righteous manner. May the spirit of wisdom and revelation fill their hearts and minds. Influence and inspire them today, and may they know their labor is not in vain. Anoint their thoughts with your peace, and may they rise above the opinions, accusations, and threats of any enemy, both foreign and domestic, to govern in a way that pleases you.


I pray for unity among our leaders. Not so much that they’d agree with each other on every issue, but rather set aside their personal opinions and ambitions for the greater good. That you would be glorified throughout the land.


As in the days of old, when Jonah preached to the great city of Nineveh and the king of the land led the nation in true repentance to God, may it be so today throughout this great nation. May the spirit of repentance and supplication prevail in the land.


And may this be a time like no other in history, a time of revival and great deliverance.


Lord, heal our land.


I pray also for all those in spiritual authority. May they have your heart as their closest advisor, and may they also have close companions that will love them and help watch over them in truth and love.


Keep them from the evil one. May discouragement be far from them and remind them often their labor is not in vain.


Help them to lead your church with wisdom from on high and divine insight. Open your word to each person who is called to preach. Raise up warriors who will stand in the face of adversity and opposition to boldly proclaim your will.


Anoint, O God, mighty prophets who will discern the signs of the times and bring clarity to the chaos that’s running amok.


You have invited us, saint and sinner alike, to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Well, this land needs mercy and grace.


Thank you for hearing my cry.


1 Timothy 2:1-4; Romans 13:1-5; Ephesians 1:17-21; Ephesians 3:15-19; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:3-4; Proverbs 24:3-4; Nehemiah 1

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