IN HONOR OF OUR VETERANS

Veterans of WW IIOur fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places. [Ephesians 6:12 (ERV)]

This morning, I quietly read my Bible, some Billy Graham, and prayed. Over coffee, I looked through the newspaper and watched the news. I laughed at a political cartoon, read editorials that both praised and criticized our president, and heard politicians from opposite sides of the aisle disagree about taxes and health care. Once at my computer, I checked my calendar (Bible study tonight) and read about Tuesday’s election. In my email, along with news from friends and Christian devotions, I got an action alert from a local conservation group asking me to contact my representative about a proposed bill. I also received several Veteran’s Day advertisements.

Veteran’s Day wasn’t meant to be another reason to go shopping. Originating in 1919 as Armistice Day, it celebrated the end of World War I — said to be the “war to end all wars” until WW II proved that wrong. In 1954, Armistice Day became Veteran’s Day — and a day to honor all military veterans for their service, patriotism, and willingness to sacrifice for the good of our nation.

Within the first two hours of my day, I’d experienced an incredible amount of freedom, in large part because of those veterans we’ll honor this weekend. We are comfortable and secure in our homes, able to speak openly, vote, run for political office, read without restrictions, gather together freely, and worship openly. We can even safely complain both about and to the government. We can do all that and much more because of the men and women who took a stand against evil—not just with their votes, voices, prayers, or money—but with their service. In many cases, they returned home with scars both visible and hidden. In some cases, they returned in body bags.

I came of age in an era of anti-war/anti-military sentiment and I continue to abhor the thought of weapons and warfare. Nevertheless, time has taught me that sometimes fighting evil means real soldiers and an actual battlefield. As the character Ransom learned in C.S. Lewis’ novel Perelandra, when reasoning fails to defeat Satan, one may have to resort to actual combat. The struggle against the enemy is not always a spiritual one; sometimes it is physical and the hands God uses belong to real men and women. Until the day when our weapons can be turned into agricultural tools, we will continue to need people who will put their lives on the line to fight evil. While we continue to pray for peace, may we also pray for the members of our armed forces (both past and present) and thank God for their service. Let’s remember to express our deep and lasting gratitude to them, as well.

The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. [Isaiah 2:4 (NLT)]

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THE TRAIN WILL COME

And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. [2 Peter 3:7-10 (NLT)]

train tracks - Galena ILAlthough more people prefer to believe in heaven than in hell, the Bible tells us that hell is as real as heaven. It exists whether or not someone likes the idea of a place of eternal punishment or refuses to believe in its actuality. The Bible uses words like fire, brimstone, pits of darkness, torment, anguish, weeping and gnashing of teeth to describe it. I won’t pretend to know what hell is like but, based on Scripture’s description (whether literal or figurative), hell doesn’t sound like any place I (or anyone I know) would deliberately choose to be.

As Christians, do we believe in heaven and hell? Do we truly believe in judgment and that Jesus is the only way to salvation? Why, then, do we seem so casual about sharing the gospel message? While fear of hellfire makes a poor basis for people’s acceptance of Jesus, concern for their final destination should be good motivation for our evangelism.

Pretend we’re at the train station. We see someone laying on the train tracks but he tells us there’s no need for concern since there’s no train coming. Although we don’t know exactly when it will arrive, we’re sure there is a train and that it is moving down that track. If we truly believed him to be in the path of that speeding train, what would we say or do? Would we walk away and quietly wait on a nearby bench or would we try to convince him to come to safety? Would we try to pull him off the tracks? If we are sure someone will spend eternity separated from our loving God, what will we do to keep that from happening?

Last April, the news aired video of a man collapsing onto the subway tracks. A utility worker spotted his fall and jumped off the platform to rescue him. The barely conscious man was scooped up and lifted back to safety just seconds before a train sped into the station. Fortunately, Jesus doesn’t ask us to step into the path of a speeding train in our witness. He does ask us, however, to clear the tracks the best we can. We do that simply by sharing the Gospel message.

If we understand what lies ahead for those who do not know Christ, there will be a sense of urgency in our witness. [David Jeremiah]

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. [Acts 1:8 (NLT)]

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SAY NO TO HATE

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. [Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)]

Say no to hateI walked into the university workout facility and was greeted by a large sign telling me the school says no to hate. I was surprised that a Christian University felt the need to say what should be obvious. Has hate become so much a part of our everyday lives that we have to be reminded not to do it? There wasn’t a sign telling us not to pee in the pool, have fist fights, or swear. Evidently, certain acceptable behavior was assumed but not hating wasn’t! Apparently, the sign is necessary because people feel freer to express their prejudice, intolerance, and bias than do any of those other things.

Monday, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker re-established a task force on hate crimes. It will advise him on issues such as the prevalence, deterrence and prevention of hate crimes and support for hate’s victims. In 2015, the state had 424 hate crimes including intimidation, vandalism and assault. The Massachusetts Anti-Defamation League found a 44% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the first nine months of 2017 and the state’s hate crime hotline has received more than 2,000 calls since it began just a year ago.

One look at the news tells us that Massachusetts is not alone. Hate (and its cousin anger) make the headlines regularly—violence in Charlottesville, a sport star’s home vandalized with racial slurs, Asian-Americans told they don’t belong here, swastikas painted on Jewish temples, and a Texas mosque burned to the ground. Trucks become weapons in the hands of extremists and shootings in theatres, shopping centers, schools, concerts and churches almost seem commonplace. Last night, a local pastor was interviewed about the large security/safety staff now present during any church function. His church is not alone; many places of worship have felt the need to protect themselves from haters.

Hate can express itself in subtle ways through slurs, intolerance, intimidation, harassment, marginalization, and exclusion. Hate is also a crime when a criminal offense is motivated by race, ethnicity, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religion, or disability. Whether or not a crime is committed, in God’s book, hate is an offense. Worse, hate is like an infectious disease—the victim of hate often becomes a hater himself!

As Christians we are allowed to hate evil. We can and should hate things like hypocrisy, godlessness, violence, greed, immorality, exploitation, dishonesty, brutality, deceit, abuse, idolatry, betrayal, false teaching, corruption, intolerance, and hate. What we must never do is hate people. Rather than hate, we are commanded to love and that love isn’t limited to Christians or people who think, look, speak or act like us. We are to love all of God’s children. There’s plenty that’s wrong in our broken world; let’s not add to it by spreading hate through bigotry, intolerance, racism, discrimination or prejudice. We shouldn’t need a sign that tells us to say no to hate. Let us be the ones who demonstrate God’s love in this broken world of ours.

You have heard that our ancestors were told, “You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.” But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! … You have heard the law that says, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! … If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. [Matthew 5:21-22a, 43-44, 46-48 (NLT)]

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ROSE-COLORED GLASSES

rose colored glassesAnd we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. [Romans 8:28 (TLB)]

When someone has an unduly optimistic or positive view of things, they are often said to be wearing “rose-colored glasses.” According to Adam Anderson, a University of Toronto professor of psychology, our moods actually affect the way we see things and, as moods change, so does our visual perception. “Good and bad moods literally change the way our visual cortex operates,” says the professor about a 2009 study he conducted. ”In a positive mood,” he explained, “our visual cortex takes in more information, while negative moods result in tunnel vision.” He concluded that the better our mood, the better able our brains are to comprehend what it is our eyes are seeing. In short, we see better when we have a positive outlook and are wearing rose-colored glasses!

I imagine it was a set of rose-colored glasses that allowed young David to see the possibility of defeating the huge Goliath with his sling. In all of Saul’s army, there had to have been other brave men equally skilled with a sling. Because of their despair and pessimism, however, they never saw what was right in front of them—an enormous man, encumbered by a coat of mail weighing 125 pounds, wearing heavy bronze leg armor, and carrying a javelin, spear and sword. Instead of seeing a man so weighed down that he needed another man to carry his shield, they saw an undefeatable opponent. David, however, saw someone who wouldn’t be able to move fast enough to dodge a well-aimed stone. That stone wasn’t from a child’s toy sling-shot; it came from a shepherd’s weapon used to kill wild animals. According to Malcom Gladwell, that sling had the stopping power of a .45 caliber handgun. With their defeatist attitude, Saul and his army only saw the power of the enemy. David’s optimism allowed him to clearly see both the enemy’s weakness and his own strength and skill!

Like Saul and his army, when the disciples found themselves in the midst of a storm, the fearful men had tunnel vision. They only saw danger and impending death. If they’d put on some rose-colored glasses, they would have seen the one who can calm storms sleeping in their boat! Rose-colored glasses can help us see what is right in front of us. A positive attitude is what helps us notice any weakness in the opposition, find detours in life’s roadblocks, identify solutions to our problems, and spot help when we need it.

We actually can purchase rose-colored glasses but, unless they have corrective lenses, they’ll not improve our eyesight. Faith in God, however, is what offers us the kind of rose-colored glasses that give clarity to life and allow us to see the big picture. It is knowing Jesus that enables us to face each morning with optimism, joy and hope. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that allows us to see our challenges as opportunities to do God’s will. So, put on your rose-colored glasses and see what wonderful things the day will bring!

I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you wisdom to see clearly and really understand who Christ is and all that he has done for you. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can see something of the future he has called you to share. I want you to realize that God has been made rich because we who are Christ’s have been given to him! [Ephesians 1:16-18 (TLB)]

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WITH FEET OF CLAY

It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. [Ephesians 2:4-6 (MSG)]

The same Jesus who turned water into wine can transform your home, your life, your family, and your future. He is still in the miracle-working business, and His business is the business of transformation. [Adrian Rogers]

TIGER SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY - WILD BERGAMOTIn the Sunday school stories we learned as children, the Bible’s heroes were larger than life. When we read about them as adults, however, we read the parts skipped in Sunday school and realize they were real people with feet of clay. Yet, it’s their sins and weaknesses that make their lives as relevant today as they were centuries ago. No matter how great, all except Jesus were flawed. Peter denied knowing Jesus, Matthew was a dishonest tax collector, Thomas doubted Jesus’ resurrection, Noah and Lot got drunk, Abraham lied to protect himself, David was an adulterer and murderer, Rahab was a prostitute, Jacob deceived his father, Jonah refused and fled, Sarah doubted and grew impatient, Samson allowed lust to lead him, Paul persecuted Christians, Elijah got so depressed he wanted to die, Gideon dared to question God, and, in spite of his great wisdom, Solomon disobeyed Him. The disciples argued amongst themselves and deserted Jesus, Isaac played favorites with his sons, and both Eli and Samuel tolerated the shameful behavior of their boys. Nevertheless, flawed as they all were, there is much to learn from their stories. We see the possibility of transformation and redemption. The prostitute was instrumental in an Israelite victory and became one of Jesus’ ancestors. The corrupt taxman became a disciple and turned his record keeping skills into gospel writing. The Pharisee became Christ’s messenger throughout the Roman Empire and the fisherman who denied Christ became the leader of the disciples. In spite of their faults, all of them were saints of God.

Like us, the Bible’s heroes disobeyed and doubted, erred and strayed, lied and cheated, quarreled and despaired. Their sins illustrate God’s mercy; we truly do have a God who can forgive seventy times seven and more. Moreover, when we see that such flawed people can achieve great things, we see examples of God’s power. When He touches a life, great things happen. In each of the Bible’s heroes, we see God’s transforming power. He doesn’t just turn water into wine, He turns sinners into saints!

No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. [Ephesians 2:9-10 (MSG)]

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HUNCHES

Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind? Who is wise enough to count all the clouds? Who can tilt the water jars of heaven when the parched ground is dry and the soil has hardened into clods? [Job 38:36-38 (NLT)]

alligatorThe Bible gives us plenty of instances of God directly speaking to His people—Noah, Moses, and Joshua were all given specific directions before building the ark, liberating the Israelites, or crossing into the Promised Land. On the other hand, there are many people who furthered God’s plan without His specific instructions. As far as we know, God didn’t tell Moses’ mother to place her son in a basket and lay him among the reeds of the crocodile infested Nile, yet she did just that. What caused a mother to literally send her beloved baby down the river? Yet, that very action furthered God’s plan; as the son of an Egyptian princess, Moses received a royal upbringing and an excellent education, all of which he needed in his later confrontations with Pharaoh.

There’s no mention of God telling Joshua’s spies how to get their information about Jericho. Granted, Rahab was a prostitute which might explain why they stopped there. Still, she probably wasn’t the only harlot in town and hers wasn’t the only house near the city wall. What made the men choose the one house where they’d find a woman who believed enough in the Israelites’ God to lie to the king’s men and save their lives?

Did the spies and Moses just catch lucky breaks? My husband often says, “Luck is better than skill!” but I don’t think luck had anything to do with it. We can’t truly comprehend God and, since we’re created in His image, it would seem that there is a part of us that also is beyond our understanding. An EEG can’t detect it and neither CT scan nor MRI can show it; nevertheless, it is what provides us with inner guidance and enables us to discern right from wrong, recognize danger, and become suspicious when things don’t seem quite right. It goes way beyond experience, aptitude, and skills. God has blessed us all with an innate intuition through which He steers our minds, changes our perspective, reveals opportunities, and helps us rethink situations so that we can choose His plan, even when we’re not sure what it is. It’s that strong inner feeling that something is the right thing to do, not just for our benefit but also for the benefit of those around us. It was what brought the spies to Rahab and caused Moses’ mother to place him in the river.

Unfortunately, not all of our inner feelings come from God; the enemy also is whispering into our ears. Being mortal, we are prone to errors in judgment and not every hunch, feeling, or instinct should be heeded. The Book of Judges tells us that, when there was no king in Israel, “All the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” [17:6] In fact, after listing all of the nation’s appalling moral failures, Judges reiterates that thought in its last words. When God provided us with intuition, he did not abdicate his authority over us. The Israelites needed a king to govern them and we certainly need our King to rule us. Whatever we think intuition is telling us should be in line with what God has already told us.

Intuition isn’t our problem; it’s not adding God and prayer to it that is. We all will have intuitive moments but must discern their source by going to God’s word in the Bible and to His throne in prayer. The closer we are to God, the more likely we are to know whether or not that feeling in our gut comes from Him or from the spicy burritos we ate for lunch.

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. … Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. [Galatians 5:16-17, 25 (NLT)]

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