My “Jesus Revolution”

The theater was dark, though we got there early. A few people trickled in, but not many folks for the first showing Saturday morning. There were some young people, including my daughter and granddaughter, though I’m not so sure my daughter would consider herself a “young person”. Most of the people I noticed were like me, older and had gray hair; one person had a walker.

The thing is, the movie was about us old folks in a younger time. A time that was full of color and questions, when we seemed so full of life, yet death was never far away. It brought back memories, both sweet and sad. Friendships were transitory, yet there are a few names that I still hold in my memories and my heart.

Haight-Ashbury. How did a (somewhat) good, religious girl end up there? I say religious because religion was all I knew—and I was just as empty as those seeking enlightenment with drugs and pursuing meaningless relationships.

I played the guitar and sang over the PA systems of Greyhound buses. I sang on street corners in San Francisco. I hitchhiked around California trying to convince people to join me in the legalistic bondage I thought was Christianity. But it wasn’t. I was driven to please a man-made god, not recognizable as the God described throughout the Bible.

For me, home wasn’t good; in fact, I was sent to boarding school in Washington state (I was originally from Oregon) when I was 13, almost 14 years old. When I graduated from the academy, the thought of returning home terrified me, so I pleaded with my dad and stepmom to send me to college in California. It was 1968.

I was socially awkward and never seemed to fit in there. I thought I wanted to serve God (though I didn’t know Him) and didn’t have any other plans for my future. I’m not sure why I went to college other than to avoid an unpleasant home life.

I made it through about three years of college with no guidance before I realized my various activities weren’t conducive to academics. I remember going to one of my religion professors and asking him why we needed the cross since we had the law. I figured that all we needed to do was go to church on the right day of the week, and all would be good. I don’t remember what he answered me.

I eventually dropped out of college and got involved with a vegetarian restaurant down in Haight-Ashbury. It was a quasi-Christian outreach—I don’t know what else to say about it because as we were trying to promote vegetarianism, while at the same time some people from girl’s Teen Challenge in the area were witnessing to us. The reality of the situation is that they had the words of life. We had a dead religion that could not protect us in the face of the demonic activity and darkness of that area.

Memories flit through my brain as I try to piece the confusion of those years together. I didn’t stay in one place very long because my restless, searching soul found little peace. Once when I was still in school yet hitchhiking back and forth to San Francisco, I took every pill I could find because I couldn’t handle the emptiness and confusion inside myself—I was suicidal and had been for a long time. I lost a day but not my life—God seemed to have other plans for me.

I bounced around between “the Haight” and an inner-city ministry in S. California. I didn’t find what I was looking for at either place. Finally, one night when I was back in San Francisco, I knew that I had come to the end. This restlessness and the emptiness in my soul was so strong that, when the restaurant closed for the evening, I was going to silence the tyranny inside me by walking to the Golden Gate bridge and jumping off. I was silently screaming, yet I calmly closed the door and walked away. But then… God has a way of interrupting our plans!

Someone stopped me. They invited me up to one of the Christian communes in the area because a group of people there were going to be praying for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That was something novel I hadn’t tried, so I thought, “sure, why not?”

Something radical happened to me that night. I’d like to explain it, but I can’t. Jesus met me in a powerful way, and He saved my life—in more ways than I can count. The obsession with suicide was gone, though the battles were not over.

That night began a faith journey for me, and it was completely unfamiliar and very difficult. I began letting go of my reliance on my performance for salvation and started to rely on the finished work of Jesus.

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8)

“I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through His Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height, and depth of God’s love.” (Ephesians 3:16-18)

It has been a faith journey. I was a slow learner, and about 20 years later when my life seemed to fall apart, I walked away from Him—my old acquaintance suicide returned, though he didn’t stay. I came back to the Lord even stronger. …even though I walked away from Him, He did not forsake me!

From my past, my family and my religious upbringing, the most difficult aspect of having a relationship with Jesus is believing in and receiving His unconditional, undeniable love for me. Uninhibited, unrestrained unlimited love and acceptance. Yes, that’s what the cross did for me and will do for anyone who comes to Him.

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Adversity is a word that I don’t use, or I haven’t used very much. I think it is somewhere outside of the familiar with me, something extreme that hasn’t often been my experience. It is used in the Bible, in the Old Testament anyway, and I wonder if, although the word isn’t a particularly a common one, the experience of adversity is.

“One who is righteous has many adversities, but the LORD rescues him from them all.” (Psalm 34:19)

Adversity is defined as a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty—a more familiar way to understand adversity is to identify it as “trials”, and we are very familiar with that word and the experience! …the one who is righteous has many trials, but the Lord is our deliverer.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2)

Another word in line with adversity, is adverse—something or someone acting against or in a contrary direction…hostile. Sometimes, people we love will say or do something to us that has an adverse (antagonistic or harmful) effect. It hurts! …and it is our inclination to hurt back. It’s one thing when strangers or people we don’t know very well say or do something that hurts us, but when it is close to home, we (at least I do) tend to react more than when our emotions aren’t so involved.

Another word that runs along the same line and has a lot to do with adversity and adverse situations is “adversary”. We of course, know who the adversary is—and it isn’t a person who lives in our house, a divisive person on social media, or the person holding a differing political view; it isn’t anyone we can see, for that matter.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:8-10)

I cannot begin to list all the adversities and deceptive schemes the devil has in his portfolio to devour and destroy people—yet we know that is his goal. Jesus, in contrasting the life He offers those who call on His Name to the activity of the enemy, said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11) The thief comes for our destruction; the Shepherd came for our salvation.

The caution here (I’m talking to myself), is to make sure that we recognize who our adversary is. We need to consider our attitudes when we are drawn into conflict or controversy. When we feel the need to defend ourselves and our point of view. When we snap at someone for making a mistake or saying something wrong, or we don’t agree with what is said. …and when we let the little things, or not so important things people do or say, annoy us.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens….” (Ephesians 6:12)

I’m convinced that the enemy seeks to insert a wedge amongst friends and family members. Yet for the most part, people are much too important to us than to let whispers of division, animosity, and the feelings of being slighted cause rifts in our relationships. We’ve learned to respect and talk about the things that divide us. However, the enemy also seeks to cause division on a larger scale…

“Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create divisions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them because such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.” (Romans 16-18)

It appears that the closer we get to meeting up with Jesus in the air, the harder the enemy is trying to divide us, causing offense and conflict, and destroying unity in the body of Christ. Not just between friends and family members, but also in churches, communities, and within nations.

Someone I respect and follow on social media recently called out some well-known pastors, condemning them and their ministry. Not so called “prosperity” teachers or the proponents of false doctrines, but Bible teachers she has a personal issue with. Calling them false teachers and insinuating that they are not saved. We need to be careful that the “righteous cause” we support or promote on one hand isn’t causing divisions within the body of Jesus on the other. “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4)

We each come to Jesus with our unique personalities. We are formed by God, knitted together in our mother’s womb— “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13, 14) God didn’t use a cookie cutter, and we bring to Jesus our different life experiences and brokenness. We are naturally divided, yet the Holy Spirit brings us together in one body, the body of Christ. “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

My desire is to be aware of adversity, acknowledge who inflames it, and avoid divisions amongst family and friends —and within the body of Christ.

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Can’t Get There From Here!

I have some close ties to a religious cult (a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious, and its adherents). When I believed the things they believed, I didn’t consider it to be cultic, and I am sure they don’t, either. It doesn’t change the fact that the gospel they preach and the Jesus they know is “another gospel” and “another Jesus”, like the apostle Paul talks about in his letters to the churches in Corinth and Galatia.

“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-7)

Not knowing who did it (but vaguely suspicious who it was), I was subscribed to a magazine published by, what I think, is an offshoot of a denomination that I left because of the inaccuracy of their handling of scripture. I don’t want to pursue that thought other than to say that the enemy is making sure that deception is abundant everywhere we turn, and the doctrines of demons are prolific! Everywhere!

We are told in Paul’s letter to Timothy, “Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, through the hy0ocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared…” (1 Timothy 4:1-2)

“Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived…” (2 Timothy 3:13)

It is very difficult to see people I love and respect follow down a rabbit trail of lies and deception. And how do I know that I’m not the one being deceived? It is crucial to know that!  –It’s a matter of truth, and being set apart or sanctified by the truth, as Jesus prayed to His Father: “Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify myself for them. So that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (John 17:17-19)

 I am reminded of the story of Moses and the introduction of the ten plagues to the Egyptians—three of the signs the Lord performed through Moses and Aaron, the magicians in Egypt were also able to perform. However, there was a limit to what they could do through their sorcery and occult practices. The enemy is limited in his power to deceive, and when we are saturated with the truth of God’s Word and are empowered by the Holy Spirit, the enemy reaches the end of his tether.

There are seven specific (I am sure there are more, but these come to mind as I’m writing) vulnerabilities whereby the enemy can get a foothold of deception in minds:

  1. Inadequate or incomplete knowledge of the scriptures. I thought I’d read an article in the magazine I received, and one their “proof” texts, one that was used to substantiate a point they were making, had nothing to do with what they were saying. They just gave the reference and I had to look it up to find out what the verses said—they were trying to get to a place where the scripture wasn’t going! We become vulnerable when people present as facts things that cannot be backed up by the whole of scripture.
  • Misuse of Scripture. Currently, with the rampant spread of perversion, many attempt to justify their sin with scripture—a way of doing that is to discredit or deny the relevancy of the Bible today. Although the blatant, obvious sin is offensive to God, so is religious idolatry—which is the basis of legalism. The insidiousness of the misuse of scripture is an attempt by the enemy to bully and intimidate those who sincerely seek to serve Jesus.
  • Giving the teaching of others—books, “prophesies”, teachings, sermons, etc.—a significant place in our lives, to the point of becoming as much or more reliant on them, so that, subtly, the Bible takes a lesser place. We often are prone to forget that the Holy Spirit who spoke the Word to faithful men, lives in us today. I’ve seen people giving so much heed to a “prophet” that they cannot see how far they’ve strayed from the Word.
  • Mixing truth with lies. It doesn’t take much at all to miss the trajectory of the stars when you are just one degree off in your calculations. When I browsed through the magazine that was sent to me, there were some things printed there that I strongly agree with. The problem was with everything else.
  • Deferring to the opinions of others in contrast to having firsthand knowledge. Because of my background, I put a lot of time into Bible study; however, I know that I need to stay current in the Word, reading it, listening to it, spending time with Jesus. I know some very intelligent people, well-educated people who I disagree with. But when it comes right down to it, my confidence is in Jesus, not degrees. I have the Holy Spirit living in me and I have this promise, “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. …The LORD will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life.” Psalm 121:2-3, 7)
  • Pride and self-righteousness vs. humility and Christ’s righteousness. My confidence is in Jesus, not in my ability to win an argument. This is tricky, because these qualities cannot be seen, though they do make themselves evident over time. A clue for identifying spiritual pride or self-righteousness is by the words spoken—whether they emphasize what a person can or must do for God in contrast to what Jesus has done for us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Veering away from the simplicity of the gospel. “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3 NKJV)  It is easy to add to the gospel—Jesus + ….. = salvation, and to get trapped by the idea we need to clean up our lives to come to Jesus. Remember, if we could be sinless by ourselves, we wouldn’t need a Savior. The apostle John reminds us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)

I’ve noticed that cultic beliefs and “doctrines of demons” come riding in on the backs of fear and condemnation—that is why I keep several verses handy for when they show up:

“…For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

“Now this is His command: that we believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us.” (1 John 3:23-24)

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19)

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

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Silent Night

My parents were married on Christmas Eve in 1939; about eleven years (and a couple of sons) later, I was born. Four and a half years after that, my mother died. Christmas Eve was always special to me, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to understand, why, when the strains of that beloved Christmas hymn would begin playing, I would begin crying. I’d like to make all the deep connections and explain the special significance— but I can’t. There is something about a mother and her child that grips my heart, though.

Silence doesn’t come easily nowadays. With the bustle of the holidays, the exuberance of the season, the kids, the holiday movies, the shopping, and food prep … the words of the song speak of a time long ago and a scene far away. And yet, there was shouting and songs of joy—exuberance over a baby, a newborn King. An angel choir filling the sky with the sounds of joyful exaltation—a different kind of noise!

And when it isn’t the holidays, there is always something demanding our attention—appointments, grocery shopping, favorite shows to catch up on, podcasts, news reports… There is always something, whether it is the holidays or not.

I’ve never been able to handle the barrage of noise and crowds on my senses. Noisy restaurants are dismaying! But I realize that I have become immune to “silent” noise—word games on my iPad, scrolling through social media, following news reports to distraction (there was a horrific murder close by recently and it is so easy to spend too much time reading the reports of the investigation). I read to keep updated on current news but end up frustrated. The art of silence is lost in the plethora of media offerings.

Those are some of the things I do to myself, and they are not necessarily bad, but they aren’t particularly beneficial, either.

I’m vaguely suspicious that, if I am not careful, the enemy might attach thoughts and attitudes to the things I give attention to—a whisper of fear, a strand of frustration instead of faith, an inclination toward self-serving rather than serving others.

 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatian 5:13)

It’s difficult to hear God speak when I’ve got so many other sounds and voices vying for my attention. Of course, I have my quiet time with Jesus in the morning, but I know that isn’t the only time He wants my attention or to speak to me. The one thing I’ve found about spending time with the Lord is that is never seems to be quite enough. Yet life has demands and I open the door and let the day flood in, and I soon move into the busyness and distractions of the day.

In the midst of our activities, however, the Holy Spirit invites us through the Word:

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. …For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.” (Psalm 62:1, 5)

“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling…” (Isaiah 30:15)

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)

I really want to see a change in me this year. Not a resolution, because I am decidedly bad at that sort of thing. I know that I have in the past felt the need to fill up the empty times and spaces in my life with activities and noise, whether silent or out loud. I’ve felt anxious and restless when things are too quiet, or I don’t have something always playing. I am amazed at my propensity to gravitate to entertainment when someone else is watching—even if am not the one who initiated it!

What I really want to learn (and I suspect the there are others that do, too) is to be at peace with myself and my God. One thing I am convinced of, though, is that the enemy does not want us to wait on God. That means he is going to throw up every kind of obstacle and distraction to get our attention away from the One who brings salvation and hope to the hungry. …the One who gives strength to those who wait quietly for Him and offers peace to our restless souls.

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Keep Looking Up!

I’ve heard the saying, “You don’t appreciate what you have until it is gone” (or something like that—I’m not sure I got the quote exactly right). For an example, as an American, I don’t really know the extent of freedom I have enjoyed, until I begin to see that freedom slipping away.

I understand, because of the history of Israel during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel, that righteous people dwell in the land – “…Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18) The book of Romans puts it this way: “ ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone an left, and they seek my life.’ But what is God’s reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal’” (Romans 11:3-4) – however, it wasn’t overtly obvious because the government “bowed the knee to Baal.”

There has always been a remnant of Israel, Ezekiel 11 and Romans 11 confirm it; and God’s faithfulness towards Jacob serves to encourage the followers of Jesus today.

What began as an autonomous nation, the United States took a substantial risk because people thought for themselves and spoke what was on their mind. Although imperfect, it gave its citizens the freedom to safely hold differing views. No matter the view, though, there was a standard of morality that it wasn’t “ok” to violate. Over time, the boundaries of morality became blurred, and the boundaries shifted—what was considered wrong or evil became acceptable and those who took a stand for biblical morality became despised.

Or as the prophet Isaiah describes:

“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! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21)

My daughter works part time in retail sales and during the holidays, what is most often a fun job, is not fun at all! What crafter would not love working in a crafting environment—except for the holidays. You know, the time we celebrate the first coming of the Messiah, being with family, music, and food… However, during the holidays, she’s also noticed increased demands, testy temperaments, and a sense of entitlement by some customers.

I was commiserating with her when she came home from work the other night, frustrated with the seasonal demands and expectations; and it started me to thinking (again) about this post and the fact that it is easy to subconsciously nurture a similar attitude of entitlement as concerning the country and the culture where we live.

Things are changing in this country, and they are not getting better! Like the frog in the pot, the temperature is going up and if you’re not paying attention, you are going to get cooked! What is happening all around us concerning gender dysphoria, abortion, marriage (and the perversion of it) to name just a few of the issues of our times, is building a highway paved with human logic and doctrines of demons that many people are heading down. Church people are heading down. If someone doesn’t have a strong background in the Bible, not a “proof-text” knowledge, but a Holy Spirit ignited knowledge of God and His Word, then they are susceptible to the enemy’s lies.

I’m spoiled, as I can imagine a lot of people are also. We are used to freedom, doing what we want (if we can afford it) when we want, saying what’s on our minds with no fear of backlash. But that has been slowly (and now not so slowly) changing. Christians are finding that the freedom to run their businesses in alignment with scripture very costly. In fact, for many that freedom is gone. The freedom to speak about our faith in Jesus is considered hate speech by the culture that surrounds us.

The last couple of elections in this country, I’ve heard people, and commiserated with friends that, “if only Christians would get out and vote, we could make a difference.” That must be it, right? “I’m doing my part, why can’t others do theirs?” It’s kind of a slippery slope, though, because that puts us in a position of suspicion and judging. And believing that God needs our help to get things done. …like saying He is sovereign, but He still needs our help.

The problem goes much deeper than that. From Bible teachers to news reports, I’ve learned that much of the modern church believes a compromised gospel, which isn’t the gospel at all. The apostle Paul confronted that problem in the Galatian church: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. …As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-7, 9)

Although Paul was addressing the problem of Judaizers, the fact remains that any “gospel” or religion apart from the gospel of Christ is a distortion of the truth or a downright lie! …and we know who the father of lies is!

We can look at the history of the Israel and be encouraged that God keeps His promises. We can also look at the Jewish people and be reminded that all through history they have been hated. Irrationally hated, and it is again increasing—look at the news! There is a spiritual war being waged against God’s people—we cannot as Christians, grafted into God’s family, expect that we will receive better treatment than they did – and do. It is a battle against good vs. evil, God’s kingdom, and His people, against the powers of darkness.

Looking outside the window right now, I see the landscape covered with snow. Kids playing in the snow, sledding down hills, getting soaked but having the time of their lives. It reminds me of being perched on a sled at the top of a steep incline, gripped by fear and excitement for the ride—once it starts, there is no stopping—gaining momentum, and no turning back. It is both scary and exhilarating at the same time.

I look at the things happening in the world right now and I recognize that we are sitting on the top of the slope—maybe we have even started down! Deception is rampant, there are wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution is rising even in countries where we thought we were “safe.” The culture hates Christians, and many people are departing sound teaching and giving heed to the doctrines of demons. Lawlessness has increased exponentially, and the love of many has grown cold.

On second thought, we are hurling down that path! We are being set up for a global currency and the things that need to happen to bring about a one-world government are shifting and coming into alignment.

We can resist what is happening, deny what is taking place, be gripped with fear by the animosity rising—or we can, with a whoop and a holler, yell, “Let’s go, Jesus!” We’ll keep looking up because His grace is sufficient for us, and His redemption draws nigh!

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I don’t want to be deceived! …and I don’t imagine that there is anyone who does. The tricky thing about deception, though, is that anyone who is deceived doesn’t know it. There’s a confidence that it happens to other people, but it “won’t happen to me!” We’re too smart, know too much, not that simple or naïve… We just don’t believe it could happen to us.

I consider myself pretty smart and pretty savvy to the crazy cons that are being pulled nowadays. Of course, I got here by falling for some scams and losing quite a bit of money. And I believed a religious “scam”, if you will, for a long time. I call it a scam, because any deception of the enemy is a scam to steal our faith, our peace, our hope in the Messiah, and our testimony of His grace.

The thing is, deception is growing as we get closer to “catch up” point with Jesus. (I use “catch up” because some folks don’t like the word “rapture”—although 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” –you might check the various translations of harpazo which here is translated “caught up”.)

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars who consciences are seared….” (1 Timothy 4:1-2)

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:12-13)

I had the impression that they way to avoid deception was to stay in the word, reading the word, listening to the word, studying the Bible. I’ve altered my opinion just a bit when I read James 1:22:

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

That should be obvious; however, I’ve heard people twist and mangle scripture to try to make it say what they want it to say, to justify sin. I’ve also heard people grasp onto that verse and run straight into the arms of legalism.

Remember the scriptures when Jesus was tempted by satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13)? Satan used scriptures, yet he didn’t love God, didn’t want to obey him—and doesn’t want anyone else to, either. The devil knows scripture and how to manipulate it for his purposes—that is one tactic that he hasn’t changed.

Legalism is deceptive, too; it doesn’t make you a better person, though—only Christ living in you through the Holy Spirit can do that. The apostle Paul addressed the issue with the Galatian church:

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? ….” (Galatians 3:1-3)

The Bible tells us of some other ways people can be deceived:

Pride in their intelligence or wisdom…

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he can become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God….” (1 Corinthian 3:18, 19)

Thinking they are “good people” apart from the righteousness of God:

“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:7-8)

Sin is deceptive!

“For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.” (Romans 7:11)

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13)

Wealth can be deceptive:

“…As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the Word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22)

Another couple of avenues of deception:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8)


Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

We are cautioned several times by the apostle Paul and James, the half-brother of Jesus, “Do not be deceived!” …which means it is in our power to resist deception; and the best way to do that is to know Word, and to be filled with the Word-giver, the one who spoke the scriptures to chosen men of God…

“…knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)

“…from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15-16)

The sky’s the limit to the direction the enemy wants to take deception—he knows our vulnerabilities and uses them tactfully. He still uses the line, “Did God actually say…?”

For instance, the Creator of life does not intend for us to “love our neighbor” by killing babies. The enemy has twisted (and used people and politicians in doing so) our understanding of love. Showing compassion does not mean encouraging someone to violate the principles and judgments of our righteous God. Human beings are not smarter, wiser, more loving, or more compassionate than our heavenly Father.

Peter gives us some sage advice as we face increasing deception:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:6-9)

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“Behavior Modification”

I’ve been thinking about this for a while—there’ve been several occasions recently that have trigged my thoughts about this topic (behavior modification), Christianity, and evangelism.

Let me start with a quote I read recently, so you will have an idea where I’m going with this. …so, you can either keep reading or stop because you think I’m spouting heresy.

“Christians have nothing to be smug about; we are not righteous people trying to correct the unrighteous. As one preacher said, ‘Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread’ The chief difference between the believer and the unbeliever is forgiveness.” –R.C. Sproul

In a situation that I am familiar with, a woman (at work) was let go from her job because she addressed (negatively) a young boy about his desire to wear a dress for a Halloween costume without consulting the mother, who was close by.

Why would someone do that? A need to evangelize behavior? I’ve been there!

As Christians, we believe the scriptures about gender: “But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and the two will become one flesh…” (Mark 10:6-8) Two genders, marriage between a man and a woman. Yet, if someone does not have a relationship with Jesus, trying to convince them of truth found in the scriptures is pointless. Even if someone were to go about changing their behavior, what would be the point if they don’t have a relationship with Jesus?

I, of course, admit a sense of feeling that I need to get myself cleaned up for God. The wearing of my best clothes for church (a dress), the rather stern reverence (ok, that one left a long time ago), and the careful adherence to making myself look “spiritual”. (However, a lot of that “spiritual” business left me when I got divorced and I was faced with my own brokenness.)

But there is a bit of that “saved by grace through works” still in me and I want it gone!

For my sake.

For the sake of my children and grandchildren.

For the sake of everyone I encounter!

Our culture is broken, seriously broken, and it is natural to want to fix it, to fix people so that they won’t look or act so contrary or broken. It is even growing exponentially antagonistic towards Christians. Yet, I sometimes wonder if I want people to “get saved” so that I can live a more comfortable, convenient life, or whether I long for others to experience the saving grace of Jesus.

My early church experience (from my perspective) was based on the Mosaic law, a lot of do’s and don’ts, with a little bit of Jesus thrown in to make it legitimate—it focused on behavior and appearance. Christians are supposed to look and act according to a set standard of looking and acting—which sounds logical or religious according to human opinion—however, that’s not what God looks at. (“…for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7)

Rather, change comes from the inside because the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us.

Here are some biblical Christian identifiers:

“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:12

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14)

“…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  (Colossians 3:12-14)

If we aren’t changed on the inside, it doesn’t matter how nicely we’re dressed or what we look like on the outside!

And this is the important part: When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He makes the changes. This takes our faith to a whole new level!

We’re familiar with these verses: “…but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

…and, “For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Roman 5:1)

“Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The problem starts when we exact from ourselves or others a certain “standard of holiness” that is based our expectations of what holiness looks like and paying no mind to the internal turmoil of a soul.

It is our faith that makes us righteous, not our good works or appearance.

And our faith is, that the God who saves us, really saves us from the inside out: “For it is God who is working you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

I have had the emphasis put on the verse before this one to the point that Philippians 2:13 became a mumbled side note. However, the emphasis is on Gods work, not ours. The verse that leads up to this one is: “Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” (2:12)

The point is, we work out what God works in us. If we are changing our outward appearance or actions according to someone else’s opinion (no matter how lofty an opinion it is!) we are not working out God’s inside job.

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:4-5)

And I come back to faith. There is nothing we can do to purchase our salvation—we couldn’t but Jesus did. And by faith, He will make the necessary changes in our lives. Hallelujah!!

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I love the fresh fruit and vegetables of summer, though I don’t live where I can have a garden. Also, I’m pretty sure I have a brown thumb—plants don’t seem to survive under my care. But I am pleasantly surprised and blessed when I go to church and there is a box of the abundant overflow of someone’s garden. Squash, tomatoes, beans, apples…

I’m always a bit hesitant to take any cucumbers, though. I’m not sure why (because I’m not a gardener), home grown cucumbers are often bitter either just on the ends or all the way through. I’ve heard it has to do with how much they were watered when they were growing, but I don’t know. I do know that I really do not like bitter cucumbers!

I picked up several cucumbers at church recently—I took small ones—and hesitantly cut into them. I was pleasantly surprised that they were sweet and good to eat. However, it got me to thinking about bitterness and how unpleasant it is to bite into a bitter one. Whether bitter just on the ends or bitter all the way through, I don’t want them!

Bitterness in people is distasteful, too; and like cucumbers, it starts out as a little bit and soon becomes unpleasantly bitter. And I’ve noticed as people grow older, they either grow sweeter or increasingly bitter.

The Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul, wrote, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ sprigs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…” (Hebrews 12:15)

The picture that scripture portrays is one of a seed that sprouts, develops roots, and a plant springs up and causes trouble—like a weed, that if not dealt with, will eventually overtake a garden.

Just an itty-bitty thing. A thoughtless comment, an injustice or offense, an inconsiderate action, an unintentional slight or a moment of forgetfulness… And we subconsciously pull out a tally sheet and a seed is planted.

It is interesting to consider the first part of the verse: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God…”. When we have an accurate picture of who we are and the grace by which we are saved, we can extend that grace to others. I think the problem, with me, anyway, is that I often forget the grace of God towards me, and I don’t have an accurate picture of how completely wretched I am apart from it. So, I become stingy with the grace I show to others.

Paul wrote in Ephesians, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away for you with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32)

I’ve struggled with this, particularly with my daughter and granddaughter—my struggle is this: I see them talking the way I talk, complaining the way I complain, annoyed the way I am annoyed—mirroring me. And when I am driving? Oh my! Let me tell you!

There is a country road, what I would call a highway, between where we live and church. The posted speed is 35 mph because it goes by the small, regional airport. Just driving down the road with no cars around, I drive a comfortable 45 mph, as most people do (or faster!). However, a few people drive the speed limit, and it drives me crazy. And sometimes, people don’t use their blinker turning in to the airport. …or some other driving “infraction”, some other place, or some other time. …or some person in the checkout line at the grocery store doing something I find annoying.

I get a little grumpy. And verbal. And very expressive of my opinions—just in my mind or to my daughter or granddaughter, but the thought, the attitude of offense is there.

And I must think, Do I have a root of bitterness inside me? Do I feel offended, slighted, not receiving the consideration that I think I am due?

This may be one of my “rabbit trails”; however, do I love my neighbor as myself? …or do I love myself a little too much and my neighbor not quite enough?

And how does a “root of bitterness” start and grow into a weed?

There were injustices when I was little; my mother died, there were inequities and sometimes cruelties with my stepmom and (like most people) with life in general. I didn’t know how to deal with it, so, in frustration, I swallowed it—like a pill, bitterness is often swallowed instead of surrendered.

Bitterness is sneaky; it hides where I’m not looking. The only reason I know it is there is because it slips out of my mouth when I’m judging instead of loving. …and when I hear my words coming out of my children’s mouths.

I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that I can’t “fix” it, I can’t cleanse myself; however, I have this hope, “If we [I] confess our [my] sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us [me] our [my] sins and to cleanse us [me] from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

This is my prayer:

Lord, take the bitterness of our hearts, fill us with joy, and—“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer!” (Psalm 19:14)

In a few weeks, I will be getting together with family members that I haven’t seen in many years to celebrate the life of one of my brothers, who passed away this summer. Although I have been a Christian for a long time, I recall many conversations with family

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I like putting myself into the story when I read the gospels—feel the heat, smell the dust, the food cooking, and the occasional breezes stirring amongst the people—talking with friends about Jesus, trying to get closer to Him to hear His words.

And on Sabbath, entering the synagogue—I hear that He’s in town, and He is there that day! I fade into the crowd as the watchers eye Him closely. There’s a man over there with a withered hand, and they pushed him forward. The hand, useless to him, but not to the watchers. Would He do it? Would Jesus, seeing him, heal him? If He did, and it seemed as though He couldn’t help Himself, He would be breaking their Sabbath law.  

Jesus knew. He always knows what they’re thinking, what I’m thinking. I try to grasp what He is saying to the watchers:

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4)

I don’t understand—it sounds like He is saying that if I’m not doing good, I’m doing harm; if I am not saving life, I am killing!? I don’t hear a third alternative.

Jesus was angry. Grieved that the watchers couldn’t hear Him, weren’t receptive to the news that they were doing harm instead of good. It made me question the synagogue leaders, the Pharisees, who I looked up to with admiration. What was their motive? Weren’t they God’s voice to the simple folk like me? I must get closer to this man, Jesus—He speaks with such authority!

Jesus spoke with authority, something the people weren’t used to; yet how did the temple leadership have such a grip on them? Fear will do that. Jesus said that they put heavy burdens on the people that they themselves were unable to bear. The teachers of the law were indeed doing harm instead of good, destroying lives and killing hope.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?” (2 Corinthians 3:7, 8)

And he wrote through the leading of the Holy Spirit to the Galatian church, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3) If we are not careful, we’ll become like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, doing more harm than good.

Jesus spoke with an authority that convinced people to walk away from the lives they knew into an unfamiliar faith walk with an unfamiliar God—it was practically treasonous to follow Jesus, forsaking the traditions of their leaders! The either/or of the situation, the doing good or doing harm took a commitment from them—There was no room for indifference or complacency.

As I’ve read through the Old Testament, there is a pattern, a cycle of wandering away from God, idolatry, and apostasy (abandonment of a previous loyalty) that characterized the Israelites. We may argue now that Jesus has come, that can’t happen to us because we have the Holy Spirit living in us. However, the apostle John tells a different story.

To the church at Ephesus, he wrote: “I know your works…you cannot bear with those who are evil…I know you are enduring patiently…But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2:2-4)

And to Pergamum, he wrote: “I know where you dwell…Yet you hold fast my Name, and you did not deny my faith…But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel…” (Revelation 2:13, 14)

Thyatira: “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance…But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality…” (Revelation 2:19, 20)

To Sardis: “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die…Remember, then what you received and hear. Keep it, and repent…” (Revelation 3:1-3)

And to the church at Laodicea he wrote, again, the words of Jesus: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot not cold, I will spit you out of my mouth…” (Revelation 3:15-16)

There are plenty of examples given in the New Testament of people not walking “in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25), and I can’t think of anything more devastating that a person letting go of such a fantastic gift! Especially considering the condition of the world and the time we are living. Especially since we have an enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. Especially since delusion and deception and rampant!

Let’s serve Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, not with complacency, but with passion and determination!

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Like Thunder…

I had an interesting experience a couple of nights ago—actually, terrifying would be a more accurate description. I don’t wake up from a sound sleep easily, yet this time I was startled awake with such intensity that it took quite a while to calm down.

We moved to Eastern Washington about 10 months ago and we are still getting acclimated to the weather here—we moved from central California, and it is quite a change! I’m sure we experienced thunder and lightning storms down south, but it was nothing memorable; they would pass by and then be gone. Not here! We’ve had storms for several days and one seemed to last all night long.

That’s when it happened. I was startled awake by an extremely loud crash, probably magnified by my dream state. It sounded like a heavy truck slammed into our apartment building—I knew it was thunder, but it seemed like so much more! I was gripped with fear and my heart raced. I felt disoriented and it took a bit to capture my thoughts and take them to Jesus, and my blood pressure to lower!

Several thoughts went through my mind—

The presence of God is signaled by the sound of thunder and His voice compared to the crash of thunder:

“On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain…then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God…And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.” (Exodus 19:16, 17, 19)

“He covers His hands with lightning and commands it to hit its mark. The thunder declares His presence; the cattle also the approaching storm.” (Job 36:32-33)

“Keep listening to the thunder of His voice and the rumbling that comes from His mouth. Under the whole heaven He lets it go, and His lightning to the corners of the earth. After it His voice roars; He thunders with His majestic voice, and He does not restrain the lightnings when His voice is heard. God thunders wondrously with His voice; He does great things that we cannot comprehend.” (Job 37:2-5)

 And I thought of judgment:

“The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them He will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of His anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:10)

“But the multitude of your foreign foes shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the ruthless like passing chaff. And in an instant, suddenly, you will be visited by the Lord of hosts with thunder and with earthquake and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.” (Isaiah 29:5-6)

“Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire on the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:5)

“The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!” And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was the earthquake.”  (Revelation 16:17-18)

I wonder what it will be like when Jesus returns in the clouds. I can’t imagine we’ll go quietly! Revelation 19:6 hints at the sound: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.”

Although I have confidence in my salvation by faith through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, in His atoning sacrifice for my sins, when I heard the thunder, I was overwhelmed with the awesome power of God. I had a sense of what those people who have rejected the Savior will experience at that time, “Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,” and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’” (Luke 23:30)


“Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Revelation 6:15-17)

Although I had an inkling of the fear of that moment of judgment, I recalled, with the Holy Spirit’s help, scriptures of comfort and truth, scriptures such as:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace You [I] have been saved through faith….” (Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-8)

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  (Titus 3:4-7)

I am so grateful to have the scriptures for hope and encouragement; however, I also appreciated being startled fearfully awake. People we may know, friends or relatives are going to hear the Lord’s voice thunder and they will be terrified. They won’t have the scriptures, the hope, or the personal relationship with Jesus that will save them from the wrath to come. Though they may not be open or receptive to hear the good news of Jesus now, it is my prayer that their hearts will be opened to receive Him.

And that is why I write today. We don’t know when Jesus is going to return for his bride, but we know He is! He cautioned us to be alert and the scriptures give us signs of His immanent return. Now, more than ever we need to be interceding for the lost—even the people we don’t particularly like! Because “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

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