Category Archives: Faith

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.

Small Crises

I experienced a bit of a crisis earlier today that nearly drove me to literal tears. My pastor sent a church update that said in part:

Q: When will we meet face-to-face again?

A: No one knows. Montana just announced a three-phase opening. In phase one, churches can gather with no more than 10 people present. Phase two allows churches to gather with 50 or less people. Phase three has no restrictions. My sense is that it will be months before we can gather for worship face-to-face again, with a strong possibility of more seasons of isolation to come (emphasis mine).

I honestly wanted to scream after reading that. Not weeks to go back to fellowship, but months and more isolation to come?

It was then I realized not only how much I miss going to church, but how much I appreciate and need the fellowship that goes along with it.

Yes, my church posts online sermons on Sundays, and will start offering online classes. But it’s not the same. I “attended” a live online Easter service with my son, but while a good service overall, it made me sad. I doubt I can watch more. The online courses are the same way for me, so why do something that only makes me angry or sad? A part of me wonders if I should quit entirely. After all, what’s the point of attending or supporting a church that’s no longer a church except via computer screen? It’s cold and disconnected, and that’s not real worship or fellowship to me.

I was thinking on my way home today that once my church finally returns to normal, and I decide to continue to go, I will still be angry for a long time afterward. None of you need to guess as to why; I’ve made my position clear on all of this.

One could sat that God is aware of the limits we’ve been put under, so in no way do those limits limit him.

All true, and I can’t argue against it.

One could also say I’m being petulant, and I can’t argue against that, either. Yet I must also acknowledge my feelings—whether or not they’re rational or justified—before I can move past them.

Now that I’ve splattered my emotional brain vomit all over your screen, I will admit to something that happened a few minutes ago. While writing this entry, I researched the online classes available so I could mention them here. Turns out none have started yet. Instead, the link led me to a signup page with a poll asking what type of class I’d be interested in—along with a request to facilitate one.

Guess what God whispered in my ear when I saw the request to facilitate?

During trying times like this, God often asks us to be part of the solution, and I am not exempt from appointment no matter how much I mope (or maybe it’s because I mope?).

Dang it.

Obey… Without Question?

I’ve seen some use scripture (such as Romans 13:1-7) to justify doing everything our leaders tell us to do without complaint. Some even go as far as telling others they’re not being “good Christians” if they don’t also obey.

On the surface, yes we need to obey the law. One reason is what good are we to God if we’re all in prison?

How then can I justify rebelling instead obeying the laws (or orders) signed by some governors and mayors at this time?

The simple answer is: they’re illegal orders.

During declared emergencies (which is what happened here), no one–not even the President or Congress–has the right to suspend our constitutional rights (except in the case of martial law, but it has not yet been declared). Plus, the US is not run by rulers, as such. Our Constitution is based on the premise that everyone in authority are our servants, not the other way around. The People have the power, not our elected (or appointed) officials. No member of our government has a legal right to violate our constitutional rights, so to rebel against orders that violate the Constitution is actually obeying the law, not the other way around.

To change directions a tad, in a comment on my last entry I touched on why all these orders about staying home, avoiding all social gatherings including church, etc. goes against God’s law.

Leviticus describes in detail what a person must do when/if they get infected with a contagious disease. First, it must be verified by a priest, and if confirmed, they must quarantine themselves in seven-day increments until the symptoms completely disappear and stay gone for another seven days. In every case (including leprosy), the person infected is responsible for making sure no one else gets infected (see Leviticus 13:45).

One thing I’ve noticed about Leviticus is not only what’s said, but what isn’t said. When it comes to preventing the spread of disease, the onus is always on the infected to prevent the disease’s spread. Under no circumstances were the healthy forced to quarantine themselves, act like they themselves are infected regardless, stop working and shut all economic and community activities down. Also, not once (that I know of) did God tell his people to not gather for fellowship, worship, and praise.

Those who stress passages about obeying authority also tell us that any violation of God’s law is exempt from obeying said authority (although there may be a cost for disobeying). For instance, God would never obligate us to commit a crime such as murder simply because the governing authority tells us we must.

The same goes for government officials taking away our God-given and constitutionally protected rights. It’s our legal duty to put a stop to it either by protest, petition, voting and/or through the courts. Anything less is actually violating what God said about obeying authority, because all those avenues I just mentioned are legal, and our right to exercise.

One question to think about when considering God’s character through all of this: when given a choice, would God want us to willingly choose oppression to the point we fear everything and everyone around us, we can’t work to feed our family, gather together in fellowship, and openly praise and worship him?

The Heartbreak of Asking for Help

I consider myself far more lucky and blessed than most, especially now. I still have a job (even if my hours can be shortened depending on how much work I have to do), and we have a good nest egg that’ll last us a while even if I didn’t have any work. And no debt.

A church member asked for help and told me how humbling it was. How she worded it, I could tell how much effort it took to do so. She was forced to set her pride aside, and even admit to herself and others she couldn’t take care of herself or her children as well as she needed to.

I wanted to cry after I read that. Not because I know exactly how she feels, but how difficult it would be for me to do the same.

Many consider self-reliance a virtue, and asking for help is a weakness.

While I think self-reliance is a virtue, asking for help when faced with no alternative is also a virtue. None of us is perfect or can do all things at all times. We, after all, don’t balk at hiring a plumber when a pipe breaks, or taking our car to a mechanic for an oil change.

Someone on Twitter created a poll on what pastors considered the greatest chapter in the Bible. Suggestions included Romans 8, I Corinthians 15, Psalm 23, and Isaiah 53. I didn’t know the answer, but I added what I thought was the most important chapter in the Bible–at least during these current tumultuous times: Ecclesiastes, specifically chapter 3, verses 1-8 (ESV):

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

There is also a time when we need help, and a time to help others.

Whatever time this is, we should also remember one of my favorite verses, Ecclesiastes 7:13 (NLT): Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked?

We may not like the season we’re in, but God doesn’t ask (or expect) us to like it. We must accept it eventually, however (we have no choice, after all), yet also with the knowledge that it won’t last. Seasons never do.