Category Archives: Faith

Spiritual Blockage

Last week I once again signed up to write a few devotions for my church during Advent. While normally greedy by picking between four and six, I chose two (mostly because we were asked to pick only one or two).

As I read through the suggested passages of the first day I chose, I noticed what I can only describe as a spiritual blockage. I couldn’t care about the passages, had no desire to prayerfully seek out wisdom and discernment, and allow God to use his voice through me.

It was a bit startling, and… sad. I honestly had no idea how much I’ve been struggling of late until that moment. I’ve kept it quiet, putting on a brave face—for myself as much as for everyone else.

I could attempt to convince myself that pretending to be strong and “together” was for the benefit of those around me, because they need me to be strong. That may be partially true, but I must also be honest if I am to learn and grow.

Pride is once again my main motivation.

Anyone who’s read my blog for a while knows I don’t enjoy admitting I’m weak. In fact, I hate it.

Yet it must be done. If I continue to allow pride determine my thoughts and actions, it becomes an idol and leaves no more room for God.

My apathy toward the passages mentioned above was God’s way of slamming a door in my face and saying, “You’re neither prepared nor equipped to uplift others until you let me uplift you.”

I like to think God uses the words I write to speak to others, but (again, I must be honest) most often the words that spill from my fingers end up speaking to me. That last statement above in quotes is one of them. I had to stop typing for a few minutes, because I could no longer see through the sudden tears. Just thinking about them now makes me want to cry all over again.

Because that’s who God is. Always aware, always standing by, ready to give us whatever we need—as long as we remain open to receive and accept what he offers with gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving.

And humility.

“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless… But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-29, 31 (NLT)

Banish the Dark

I’ve always said our life is built in the moments. We are to live in those moments. We need to avoid dwelling on or live in the past, because it can’t be changed. Nor should we worry about the future, because we can’t control or predict it.

We should also avoid getting so caught up in the moment we’re not doing what we need to do to make that moment better.

For instance, it’s easy to wake up to a dark and cloudy morning and not look for or see the sun peek through a break in those clouds.

I took the above picture this morning as I walked into a coffee shop. If not for the bright orange ball reflected off the store window, I would have missed it by the time I bought my coffee and headed back to my car.

One of the first lessons I learned on my faith journey is that darkness can never banish the light.

I too often wallow in my daily frustrations—this morning being no exception. Yet watching that beautiful sun inevitably rise reminded me that it still rises to banish the dark—in spite of the clouds—-and God is still sovereign.

A Spiritual Competition

In reading Leviticus, I’ve discovered some of it is about what’s not said. For example, see previous entry about sacrifice. Since then, I’ve been noticing other things that are never said, or in this case, what God will never say.

I’m reading a bible study on the book of Romans, and one chapter talks about comparing ourselves to others, whether it’s in our professional, personal and/or professional lives. It’s understandable, since so much of what we do and and are is based on competition: competition for food, land, and other resources. It’s how we survive and thrive as a species.

One way to win any competition is to study our competitors and see if we are better or worse than them. Perhaps plan accordingly so we can win against them. Too often, though, when a competitor (real or imagined) exceeds our abilities, we become disillusioned instead of motivated to improve. Again, understandable, but not wise.

All of that, especially disillusion, should never affect our spiritual life. To God, the grace, mercy, blessings, and yes, even conviction, he extends to us are not dependent on anyone else. That’s the definition of relationship. For instance, I treat my husband different from my son different from my friends. To tell my son he needs to be exactly like my co-worker would be silly and more than a little weird.

Since God seeks to build a relationship with each one of us, he never has and never will say, “you lose, because so-and-so prays, and/or works better than you.” Because God’s resources–gifts if you will–are abundant. They’ll never run out, so we need to quit acting and believing as though they will.

An Upside-Down World

The seven deadly sins are: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth.

Contrast those with the seven corresponding virtues: humility, charity, chastity, gratitude, temperance, patience, and diligence.

Whenever I see a “celebrate [specific] pride month” declaration (and they seem to get more numerous every year), I cringe. I have to fight my own pride on a daily basis so it doesn’t get the best of me, because I know first hand the damage it can do.

Isaiah warns us in 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

He continues with, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (Vs. 21)

The rest of the chapter goes on with what the Lord of Hosts will do to those who rejected him and his law.

Similar warnings are repeated in 2 Timothy 3:1-4: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,”

I wouldn’t be surprised if this passage is where the seven deadly sins originated.

I also found that not only are people embracing pride, gluttony, sloth, etc., they’ve been vilifying anyone who embraces the seven virtues such as humility, chastity, and diligence.

It’s easy to get angry, scared, or depressed in watching the warnings written from six to two thousand years ago unfold before our eyes. I’ve been silently screaming at the sky like Grandpa Simpson for months now, because my own warnings seem to make little difference. The only ones who hear are those who already agree. Sometimes I wonder why I keep trying to plant seeds on what is obviously infertile ground.

I can already hear the thoughts of some of you. Your fingers are itching to respond, to tell me what I appear to be missing:

God himself. The power of the Holy Spirit working in our heart and in the world. Yes, we are being warned, and things do appear to be falling apart. Yet God himself is not deterred, broken, or swayed, so neither should we be deterred, broken, or swayed. Just because the ground looks hard and infertile, it could merely be parched, awaiting for me to toss out a few seeds so God’s Spirit can sprinkle a little rain that’ll allow that seed to take root and grow.

Yes, we live in an upside-down world, but God is still working. Diligently and without pause—even if we don’t often see the results.

He still expects us to do our part, and not by focusing on the seven deadly sins so much as making sure we’re living instead by the seven virtues.

Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

That’s a question people have been debating for centuries. Those on each side of the argument are adamant their point of view is correct, and they each have the scripture to back it up.

On the side of baptism being a requirement:

Matthew 3:13-15: “Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. ‘I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,’ he said, ‘so why are you coming to me?’

“But Jesus said, ‘It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.’ So John agreed to baptize him.”

Mark 16: 16: “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

Acts 2:38: “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 13:24: “Before [Jesus] came, John the Baptist preached that all the people of Israel needed to repent of their sins and turn to God and be baptized.”

Colossians 2:12: “For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.”

On the side of baptism being unnecessary:

Mark 1:4; “This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.”

Aside: This could be used to prove both sides of the argument, because notice the word should instead of must. Also, it states that baptism shows they had repented, not that baptism was required for forgiveness.

Mark 16: 16: “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

Aside: You may wonder why I use this scripture for both. Simple. The last sentence does not say anyone who refuses to believe and be baptized will be condemned.

Luke 3:16: “John answered their questions by saying, ‘I baptize you with [Or in] water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. [Or in the Holy Spirit and in fire].’”

Acts 8:14-17: “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.”

Aside: Another example that can be used to prove both sides of the argument. However, Peter didn’t baptize the believers with water, but laid hands on them instead.

So which is it? Must I be baptized with water in order to receive salvation?

Since there are scriptural references going both ways, I turn to what I know about the nature of God.

There are many churches such as the Salvation Army that don’t believe water baptism is a requirement. Does that mean every member of the Salvation Army is doomed to Hell?

What about the countless children who didn’t live long enough to be baptized? Does God send them directly to the fires as well?

Since God is love, I don’t believe so, any more than my parents would permanently turn their backs on me because I refuse to shower.

I also have never been baptized (that I know of), nor do I anticipate ever doing so. Is my soul in jeopardy although I’ve given it and my life to God, and asked forgiveness of my sins through the blood of Jesus Christ? If I am to die without a minister or preacher pouring water over me, is my entire life a waste?

I acknowledge that perhaps I test God by not being baptized, but I also trust in God’s love enough that he won’t hold it against me. As Mark 1:4 said, baptism is an outward expression that we have repented of our sins. It comes after we accept salvation, not before, or even during. I show through my other actions I have accepted Jesus as my savior.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit is what matters.

Why then did we baptize our son when he was a baby? Does that make me a hypocrite, or at least uncertain as to my belief, willing to jeopardize my soul, but not my son’s?

No. As Mark 1:4 said, baptism is an outward expression of what’s already taken place in the heart and soul. My husband and I wish to show our friends and family that we will teach our son about and (hopefully) accept Jesus as his savior for himself someday.

In the end, like accepting Jesus for yourself, the same holds true for baptism. If you find it necessary, by all means get baptized. If you don’t think it’s necessary, that’s okay, too–as long as your faith is sincere in both cases.

A Harsh Rebuke

Mark 8:33: “But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (ESV)

I often wonder what Jesus felt at that moment. Knowing his life would soon end, was Satan tempting him to stay? Was the rebuke as much for himself as for Peter?

Curiosity aside, when God does something that goes contrary to everything I want or think I need, I argue with him. I beg him to change his mind. Intellectually I know God will always do what’s best, and that I will never, ever win an argument with him. Still, I continue to try. He doesn’t rebuke me as harshly as Jesus did Peter, but I wonder if perhaps he should.

Or, maybe it’s not God who needs to rebuke me, but me who needs to rebuke myself and Satan for muddling my heart and my mind with the things of man to the point I can’t focus on the things of God.

It’s easy to do. We are finite creatures on this earth. We have our daily struggles and distractions that to focus on God’s long, eternal view can be near impossible. We lose sight of our trust and faith—whether it’s due to our worries, our doubts, or our pride. Perhaps a combination of all three. We have to remember that even when we get lost, God never does, and he never loses sight of us or what he wants to accomplish through us.

When we feel lost, we have to remember and speak Jesus’ own words: “Get behind me Satan, for my mind will not be set on the things of man, but on the things of God.”

What Would Jesus Do?

That was a popular question few decades ago, further popularized by the acronym WWJD. It was a simple way to get people to think before they act, and with the hope they’d make the right decisions. It fell away rather quickly for many reasons, one of which is, can we really know what Jesus would do in any given circumstance?

That said, if I created a poll that asked: If Jesus were alive on earth today, would he wear a mask? I’ll bet the results would be an even 50/50.

The fact that our opinions would be split on the question means we’re asking the wrong question, and our motives for asking are improper. It’s placing Jesus in the middle of an argument and asking him to take sides so we can point to the opposition and say, “See? You’re wrong!”

Sure, no one that I know of has asked this particular question, but they’ve asked others (such as would Jesus be a Republican or a Democrat; would he approve of turning people away at the border; etc.). I also wouldn’t be surprised if people have thought of this question and just haven’t asked it outright yet.

Regardless, Jesus won’t take sides, because this is a human question, not a godly one.

Some might at this point say, “Aren’t you assuming to know the mind of God here? How do you know he won’t take sides? This is an important question!”

Sure, for us. Not for Jesus. Whether or not people wear a mask does not determine the health of their soul. Jesus won’t assume that someone wearing a mask knows and follows him anymore than someone not wearing a mask doesn’t know or follow him. Eternally speaking, the question is irrelevant. He will, in the end, ask, “Is your mind, body, and soul right with me?”

So what’s the point of this entry? Is it about masks, what Jesus would do or not do, or something else?

We’ve been in a frenzy about a virus to the point of obsession for the last four months. No matter where we go or what we do, it’s literally in our face. We can’t escape it from the news, from social media, and at every gathering (online or in person), it’s too often the main subject of discussion.

I think we need to stop and return (or keep) our focus to Jesus, because no matter what—whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake, virus, or disease that’s about to destroy our body, he’s still in control and—both figuratively and literally—has our soul well in hand.

Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. ~ Colossians 3:2-3 (ESV)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV)

No Bad News

I think we can all agree social media and much of the Internet can be a toxic place. It’s where we vent, argue and too often call each other nasty names—all without having to accept any consequences thereof.

We also have the choice to either not participate, or offer something better.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to offer something better.

Over the last few years, I’ve written short devotions for my church (about 300 words or one page each). Some are pretty good—if I say so myself—and there’s nothing stopping me from sharing them with the rest of you.

The surest cure for emotional and mental toxicity is emotional and mental positivity. While some of you may not share my faith, I promise nothing of what I share from now on is an attempt to preach at or convert you. My only desire is that you find a little joy and hope in my words.

Consider my page from now on a no bad news area.

Shout It Out

I doubt anyone in this country has never heard the phrase, “Separation of Church and State.” It’s often attributed to the First Amendment of the US Constitution in that no church can interfere with state policy or law. It’s been used to eliminate any religious activities or symbols on public property, including prayers during public events (such as school football games). Some have even gone so far as to tell anyone appointed or elected to public office must leave their religious convictions at the door. Others use the phrase and the First Amendment to mean that we have a freedom from religion instead of freedom of religion. Amazing how one little word can change the entire meaning of something, isn’t it?

Yet anyone who’s ever read the Constitution knows that phrase is not there.

So where did it come from?

When our country was in its infancy, many had questions about what the new government had the power to do or not do. One of those concerns was religious freedom. In England, only one church was recognized by the state, and those who wanted to run for any public office were required to be a member of said church. Some churches, in this case the Danbury Baptists, were understandably concerned how they and their members would be recognized by the US Government—if at all, and if they would continue to enjoy their freedom to worship as well as take part in public/state policy-making.

In 1802, they wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson looking for those answers.

Jefferson responded in part: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ʺmake no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,ʺ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.” (Emphasis mine).

Both letters can be found here:

Many Christians (especially conservative Christians) hate the “separation of church and state” phrase, because—for one—it’s wrongly attributed to the First Amendment. The second reason I mentioned above in that it’s used to stifle religious freedom and expression instead of protecting it—especially in the public square to the point some politicians are using it as a religious test for governmental appointments (which is also unconstitutional and goes against what Jefferson said in his letter).

So why do I bring all this up now? Simple. Have you noticed that no one is using it anymore?

I believe it’s because government has—for the most part—finally succeeded in shutting them up and shutting them down. They’ve no more reason to bludgeon us with it.

As such, if we want to keep our churches open and free, we need to quit balking at using that phrase and shout it from the figurative rooftops.

Because that “wall of separation” not only means—as the phrase has been used for at least as long as I’ve been alive—that no church can interfere in government/public activity, it also means the government can’t interfere in any church activities. That includes forcing them to shut down down completely or holding services for only a certain number of people.

It’s not enough to say closing churches is unconstitutional anymore (whether temporarily or permanently). It’s become so cliche that it’s background noise that won’t even invoke an eye roll. Now, if we say it’s a violation of separation of church and state, that might make their ears perk up a bit.

In short, it’s time to play by their rules and use the same words they’ve used against us for so long.

Christ’s Mandate. What Is It?

I recently commented on a thread in Facebook about how we as Christians are responding to current societal and political issues of late. They are as varied as one can imagine: from accepting any and all governmental orders, to fighting tooth and nail for our constitutionally protected freedoms. Almost every single one uses different scriptural references to back up their point of view.

No, this isn’t about whether or not the Bible is rife with contradictions.

Nor is this post about politics (so you can relax).

It’s about our mandate as Christians, and to answer the question: does God expect us to create heaven on Earth?

My answer:

Many Christians keep making the same mistake some of Jesus’ followers made: that he came to overthrow human kingdoms and begin a new, literal and political kingdom as well as a heavenly one.

Some think our mandate is to make society look how we think Jesus would want it, when in truth the “Kingdom of God” is within all of us once we become one of Jesus’ followers. We are the kingdom, not government, not countries, not society as a whole. Our mandate isn’t to change the world, but to bring Jesus to those who need him, so that they themselves may be changed.