Society today says truth is relative. That means that whatever people decide is true then becomes truth for them. So, everybody’s ideas – whatever truth people have defined – are completely equal and equally valid. Everybody is right, and nobody is wrong, even when people believe the exact opposite things. It is, they suppose, a form of tolerance and completely nonjudgmental. As Christians, though, we know that truth is objective and absolute. Truth is a Person: the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who love the truth will love Him. Those who hate the truth will not. This week’s blog is a little different. This week, I’m asking for your help. I have written an essay on truth that I’m planning to use as my example for a “This I Believe” project for my senior high school English class. I am asking you to read my short essay and pray over it. Please ask for God’s anointing so it will touch the students and teachers who read it.
This I Believe by Angela G
I believe that there is a such thing as absolute truth. That means that on a given issue when people believe opposite things, somebody is right and somebody is wrong. There may be no way to tell at the moment who is who, but that doesn’t mean that everybody is right just because objective reality can’t be proven in the moment. Contradictory beliefs can’t both be right, and therefore, absolute truth exists.
Five years ago, a dress broke the internet. For days, social media talked about little else. What color was the dress? Was it white and gold or blue and black? People were losing their minds over it. How could the exact same picture be viewed so differently? Even worse, some of the same people who saw the photograph as white and gold one day were dismayed to find that it was blue and black the very next time they looked. What in the world was going on, and what was the actual color of the dress?
The dress, according to those who stood in the very same room with it, was actually blue and black. Through a series of polls, it was discovered that the amount of time a person spent in sunlight determined how much the person assumed light and shadows. Morning/day people saw the dress as white and gold because they mentally subtracted short wavelength light. It’s all very complicated, but the point is that after days and days of hysterical comments, not-so-scientific polls, and memes and jokes, the dress still and always was the very same color it was when the picture was taken: blue and black. There was a right answer and a wrong answer to the question of its color no matter how people’s perceptions said otherwise. Absolute truth exists.
Why It Matters
But why does it matter? What is the big deal if some want to say that they see things one way and some want to say they see things another way? Why can’t everybody be right? And, why does it drive me crazy when people say, “That is true for you but not for me”? I think it is because I love the truth. The truth sets me free to be able to measure my actions against what is reality instead of what is delusion. It’s like the difference between building your house on a foundation of sand versus a foundation of rock. Perceptions might shift and slide, but when something is true, it never changes. It just is. And then I can make my decisions from there.
Absolute truth does exist whether we can know it in a moment or not. Even if people might not be able to access the answers immediately or even in this life, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Truth is truth no matter what people think, and when you find it, you can stop looking. There is a comfort there.
Thank you for taking time to read my essay and ponder the ideas. I’m planning to present this to the three other teachers who work with me to use as the example to show kids how to write their own “This I Believe” essays. Please pray that the other teachers will use my essay as their example and that all the teachers and students who read it will come closer to knowing and loving Truth. In my lesson, I also included a link to this song This I Believe by Ed Sheeran for the kids to listen to. Please pray that they click, listen, and consider the gospel. Thank you!
People emptied store shelves this week as news of the coronavirus, both real and fake exploded in the media. Hand soaps, sanitizers, tissues, and paper towels were some of the first to go, but by far the biggest gaping holes could be found on the water aisles. Even with no imminent threat to any water system, people still grabbed pack after pack to take home “just in case.” Human beings are made of water, and we can’t get very far without it. On a subconscious level, it represents life. In the Bible, though, water is a symbol of God’s power over it.
Water Symbolizes the Power to Destroy Life
In the flood narrative in Genesis 6 and 7, God used water from both from the deep and the sky for destruction. People had become wicked and fallen angels were causing all sorts of problems. So, God destroyed all of mankind except Noah and seven of his family members.
In Exodus 14, God parted the Red Sea with Moses’ staff to allow the Israelites safe passage on dry land. When the Egyptians tried to follow them, God caused the water to flood back over them. Everyone who could not make it back to shore perished.
In 1 Kings 17, King Ahab of Israel was unfaithful to God by worshipping Baal and teaching God’s people to do the same. At God’s word through the prophet Elijah, God withheld rain. No crops could grow, so there came famine in the land. In 1 Kings 18, after a clear lesson about who exactly was the one true God, God again brought the rain to stop the destruction.
In Mark 4, Jesus and His disciples were in a boat when the waves of a storm started beating furiously at the sides. As the water started to fill the boat, the men were afraid and woke up Jesus who was asleep in the stern. “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” they asked Him. But Jesus simply rebuked the storm. “Peace, be still,” He said, and the wind and the waves obeyed.
In each case, water is symbol of destruction. For the wicked, God flooded the earth, drowned the Egyptians, and refused rain to idolaters. On the other hand, God used the very same situations to protect those He loved from harm. He gave Noah foreknowledge to prepare to survive the deluge. He gave the Israelites supernatural safe passage by parting the waters of the sea, and He brought them rain again when they repented of their idolatrous ways. Finally, He used the threat of destruction by water to teach His disciples to have faith in God and His protection. In every situation, God was and is in control. He has power over the elements to destroy or preserve life.
Water Symbolizes the Power to Give Life
In Exodus 17, the people of Israel, having just escaped the Egyptians, were thirsty in the desert wilderness. There were no natural lakes, rivers, or streams around, so God instructed Moses to use his rod to strike a rock. From there, enough water flowed for all of them to drink freely.
This is a physical picture of what happens spiritually when someone believes on the Rock of Christ Jesus (1Corinthians 10:4) as Savior. In John 7:37-39, Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” “Living water” is the Holy Spirit. Without Him, there is no life (John 6:63).
John 4:14 also speaks of the Holy Spirit as a “well of water springing up to eternal life.” Once we partake of Him, we will never thirst for our old ways again. We will have a new relationship with sin so that we hate what we once used to love.
Ezekiel 36:25 says, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.” At the time, the priest was speaking of the ritual water purifications and the cleaning of the outside of the body. However, it is also a prophecy that would only be fulfilled later with the New Covenant when the Holy Spirit will clean the inside. He continues with, ” I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
Revelation 21:6 speaks of the “water of life.” Isaiah 12:3 talks about the “wells of salvation.” Both of these are about redemption from sins and the power (water) that only comes from God Himself who is the fountain (Jeremiah 2:13).
The Holy Spirit is known as living water. He and only He has the power to give life that lasts forever. When Moses smote the rock, this was a physical picture of Jesus, our Rock and Redeemer, being put to death on the cross. After Christ’s death, the Holy Spirit, the fountain of living water, could come. We are born again through the spirit and baptized in water. This represents being buried, dead to our old lives, and rising again to a new life in Christ Jesus. Water washes us physically while the blood of Jesus spiritually cleanses us from all sin. In John 3:5, “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” Water symbolizes the power to give life. Without it, we remain dead in trespasses and sins.
Water Symbolizes the Power to Sustain Life
In Psalm 1, we learn that those who delight in the Lord will be like trees planted by rivers of water. When we are born again, we get plugged into the source of life. That nearness to Him sustains us to bear the fruit of the Spirit and never wither on the vine. John 15:6 warns about what will happen to those who do not remain connected to the Source. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
In Isaiah 58:11, God lets us know that He will guide us. We are compared to “a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” We are separated to Him, and God satisfies us and keeps us alive in every sense of the word.
Ephesians 5:26 speaks of “the washing of the water by the Word” as we renew our minds. Once given Life, we must continue to cleanse our minds from the filth of the world by reading the Bible every day.
And once we have tasted the precious water that only comes from God Himself, we are thirsty for more. Psalm 42:1 says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.” This is His gift of grace to us. The more we desire Him, the more we seek after Him. And if we seek Him with all of our hearts, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).
The living water of the Holy Spirit, once obtained at conversion, keeps us healthy and growing into maturity. He sustains us with His power to bear fruit and renew our minds, making us ever desiring more of Him.
Water is a Symbol of God’s Power Over Life
In the Bible, water is a symbol of God’s power. God has the power to destroy and the power to save from destruction. He has the power to give both physical life and eternal life. Once that life is obtained, God has the power to sustain a person in it. He matures us and draws us nearer and nearer to Him. Whatever happens with the coronavirus in the coming weeks, Christians must remember our true Source for water doesn’t come from a store. It comes with power from our God who can protect us and sustain us in any situation.
In times of comfort and prosperity, everyone wears a mask. It’s called the “mask of civility,” and it is a polite, controlled covering of whatever lies underneath. During times of crisis, however, the masks come off to reveal people’s true natures, whatever they may be. Recent reports from both the news and a friend’s firsthand account from China have revealed the depravity of mankind in a situation in which society has come undone. Whether the coronavirus comes to our country or not, it is worth considering how we would react in a similar situation near us. As born again Christians, what should our behavior look like in comparison with those who are not? How do we continue to bear the fruit of the Spirit in a time of crisis?
Only Two Kinds of Trees
The Bible tells us that we will know who people are by how they behave. Matthew 7:17-18 says, “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.”
But what makes a “good tree”? In Matthew 19:17, Jesus says “No one is good but God.” It is the Spirit of God, Himself, in us that makes us good trees. When we were saved, the Holy Spirit came to live inside of us and changed us into a new creation. The Holy Spirit’s presence in us gives us a new nature with new desires. The more we yield to Him, the more power He gives us to reject our old ways and, instead, behave more like He does. These “fruits” are the natural product; they are the characteristics we possess as we choose His ways instead of our own. The closer we get to God, the more power we have, and the more fruit we will bear.
What makes a “bad” tree? Sinful flesh produces certain types of fruit
that reflect the old nature. This certainly doesn’t mean that unsaved people
can’t behave in perfectly noble ways. That just means that it isn’t something
we can count on when we are dealing with unconverted people.
In fact, understanding the two-tree system is paramount to having the
correct mindset. We can’t go into a crisis expecting everyone to be “good.”
That would just set us up for disappointment, anger, and frustration when they
are not. We have to get into our heads before the situation occurs that sinners
sin. It’s what we did before we were saved, and it’s what we would still be
doing without our Savior. We have to go into the situation knowing that we are
all accountable to God for our own behavior, so our standard has to be what God
expects and not how other people are reacting.
The Fruit of the Spirit
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Love is hard to define, but the Bible gives a definition in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. Because God’s love is in us, it flows out from us. It allows us to see other people as objects of God’s love and to want the best for them even when they might not “deserve it” by their actions. Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” And, Matthew 7:12 gives us the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
My friend Jason is a Christian who has been visiting Hong Kong for the past couple of months. While there, he has witnessed a lot of hoarding of necessary supplies like masks, water, and toilet paper (see his pictures above). He said, “But this Wuhan Flu thing is making people crazy here. Absolutely ZERO compassion on one another. People buying up everything themselves with NO regard to others. It’s literal Thunderdome.”
As Christians in this situation, we must remember that our resources are not our own. God has given us our financial position to help other people. We can’t just look out for ourselves or treat others the way they treat us. Instead, we must be concerned about other people and help when we can simply because God loves them too.
Joy is a gladness of heart. It is a feeling even stronger
than pleasure or even happiness because it is in reaction to the eternal
instead of the temporal. We can have joy even in the middle of a great trial
because we can experience God’s presence, assurance, and comfort. Plus, we know
that this life is temporary. Psalm 30:5 says it this way: “…Weeping may endure for a night, but
joy comes in the morning.”
In a video entitled Heartbreaking Suffering in China, a woman is furious about the injustice of the government in light of the tragedy. This highlights a grave danger for the children of God. If we focus on the world and the things that are hurting us and the ones we love, anger and despair will be the result. Instead, we must acknowledge our temporary situation but focus on worshiping God and fulfilling His call on our lives. Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” This life is not all there is, and no matter what happens, we can never forget that..
Peace is the opposite of distress. It can be found by
trusting in God no matter what. Philippians
4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and
supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to
God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will
guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We bring our requests
to God and leave them at the altar, and He, in turn, gives us His peace.
While in Hong Kong, my friend Jason was staying next to a building where the government quarantined some people who had just returned from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. The people were “bussed in under protection and ushered in under covering.” Even though the quarantine was only a precaution, and there was no physical evidence of illness, people were “losing their minds…everyone desperately clinging to life.” When life and death situations occur for people who are not secure in their eternity, distress is the immediate reaction. If we are ever in a similar situation, we must remember who is in control in our lives. We must choose to reject the chaos around us and trust God, to accept His peace in trade for our distress.
Patience is the ability to wait even in situations in which we are severely tried. I think the key here is to understand that God’s ways and timing are not our own. If God is for us (Romans 8:31) and He fights for us (Deuteronomy 3:22), then we can trust Him to take care of us. Otherwise, we might start to get worried or discouraged when things don’t seem to be happening exactly the way or in the timing we think they should. But, we need to remember that God will give us strength. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”
In a YouTube video by A Minute to Midnight entitled Wuhan Coronavirus – The Truth. Shocking and Concealed! a man comes on about the 15 minute mark. He explains that the entire society had been halted as people were quarantined. Emergency services were not functioning, and hospitals were so backed up that even people with other serious conditions could not be seen in a timely manner because of the lack of manpower and supplies. Innocent people were unable to get help but basically told to go home and die.
In this situation, it would be so important for the child of God to trust in Him. God is a healer. He can heal where there is no medicine. He can provide where there are thought to be no supplies. We must wait on Him and not lose heart. Even seemingly impossible situations are nothing to our God. Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.” God will take care of us in our time of need.
Kindness is the care we take of other people when we help them. Goodness is when we do things to be morally right and a blessing to others. These two are about doing the right thing with integrity when dealing with other people. We must love our neighbors as ourselves. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, this looked like taking care of someone at a personal cost of time and money. In Acts 28:2, the islanders showed Paul and his group kindness when they built a fire and welcomed them out of the cold and rain.
By now, everyone has probably seen the video of the Chinese woman spitting on the buttons in an elevator. She was angry at others after a fight and decided that deliberately spreading germs would be an acceptable way to handle it. In another video, it is a man. This kind of behavior isn’t right by anyone’s standards of morality. It can make you angry unless you realize that these people are lost and feeling helpless. We must still remain good and kind in the face of the actions of humanity.
Jason personally saw a situation in which mainlanders flooded into Hong Kong. “A LOT of them not wearing masks, and I noticed they’d use the bathroom and not wash their hands and then go out and touch railings. Or spitting on the ground etc etc.” But his admonition to us is the real Christian reaction to this behavior. He said, “Also still be kind… Don’t use that as an excuse to start treating them like animals or whatever.”
Faithfulness is when we are full of faith, when we persevere
down the path God has set for us. It is about trusting in God no matter what. Romans
5:8 says, “And we know that all
things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the
called according to His purpose.” Whatever happens, we can’t get weary
in well-doing. We must cling to the hope that God is in control of our lives.
Very few people in China are Christians. Leaked videos show angry people speaking out against the Chinese government, the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), which has set itself up as their god. Jason said, “The Chinese people are suffering… More videos like this WILL come out… Distrust in the govt at an all-time high. If only they just trusted the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.”
The people there are ripe to hear about the kingdom of God. As Christians, we possess the gospel, the hope for all mankind. In times when the world is falling apart, our peace can show people a better way. It is up to us to be witnesses when we can. Our faith is a testimony that God is real and can save anyone. Jason said, “But I think it’s time to consider leaving my comfort zone life back home and trying to do something out here for the Lord. If he gives me the strength to do it.” More than any other time, the time is now to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us.
Gentleness involves being humble and thankful to God, using
our words and actions to lift others up instead of tearing them down.
Circumstances can change in a moment. Our lives are held in the palm of God’s
hand. We shouldn’t think we are better than others because of our position. We
should use our position to help people and cry out to God on their behalf.
Jason said, “Pray for the people of Hong Kong… They will definitely need it… the few members of the Body of Christ here are probably under siege badly. Not sure how this city will heal when this passes, when people’s dark hearts have been exposed to one another.” We must realize that the world will be dark if and when a situation like this hits our land. But we are the light of the world. It’s up to us to shine.
Self-control involves saying “no” to what is bad for us and “yes” to what is good. Sometimes that means keeping silent when we want to speak. Sometimes that means speaking when we want to keep silent. During a crisis, it means restraining our fleshly desires in favor of following what the Holy Spirit tells us to do.
At one point while out and about, Jason got his empty bottle of hand sanitizer stolen from out of his backpack. More recently, a story came out in which hundreds of rolls of toilet paper were stolen by men with knives in Hong Kong. That is just one of the many stories coming out right now. People are stealing masks and medical supplies, and hospital workers are accused of taking hospital items home for themselves. In a crisis, we will definitely need the power of God to control ourselves. To give instead of take, to share instead of steal. We must remember that God will supply our needs when we submit to Him instead of doing things our own way.
When it comes to trees, there are only two kinds: good and bad. In a crisis, we will be expected to bear fruit with the power of God inside us, but we can’t count on others to do the same. Jason said about his experience, “I was naive. I knew that, yes, we are all sinful by nature, but deep down I wanted to believe there was goodness in everyone. That everyone deserves a chance. I still believe they deserve a chance with Jesus Christ… But my view of everyone being ‘basically good’ is finally gone for good.”
As Christians, we will need to be kind to others and pray for them, to trust in God and His timing, and to witness to others. But, we can’t do it alone. In John 15:4-5, Jesus says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. …he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” It all comes down to our relationship with God and how close we are to Him. We must submit ourselves and allow Him to change us to be more like Him and less like us. But that process can’t start when the crisis begins. It has to start today. We must get closer to God than every before so we can stand and bear the fruit of the Spirit in the evil day.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord,and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” It’s a verse that some take to mean that if you are good and love God, He will give you what you want. I don’t see it that way, though. I think it means that if your delight – what you want – is the Lord, you will have Him. Last week’s blog was about distractions. This week is about focus. What is the one thing you want more than anything else?
Solomon Asked For Wisdom
In 1 Kings 3:9, Solomon got the chance to ask God for anything he wanted, and he chose wisdom. “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” He wanted to be able to judge God’s people fairly, but he didn’t feel like he was equipped to do it on his own. Here was a man who asked for a tool to do the job that God had called him to do. James 1:5 tells us that we can have the same thing if we will but ask. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
Agur Asked For Two Things
Proverbs 30 was written by a man known only as Agur, son of Jakeh. In Proverbs 30:7-8, he also makes a request of the Lord. He says, “Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die): remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me.”
Here was another guy who asked God for something that would help him navigate our world. He wanted God to fix an apparent character flaw within himself. He also wanted God to give him just enough so that he wasn’t too rich so he became proud or too poor so he would have to steal and give God a bad name. I certainly can relate to both of these requests. Agur wanted to live a life that pleased God, so he asked for the tools he felt he needed to achieve it.
But David Asked for God Himself
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.
Psalm 27 is one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible. Written by King David, a man after God’s own heart, it’s full of a passionate faith. In it, he makes the declaration that he wants only ONE thing from God (one thing have I desired of the Lord). He will set his mind to getting it (that will I seek after). He wants to be part of God’s family forever (that I will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life). And, he wants to be close enough to God to know Him and someday be in His presence (to behold the beauty of the Lord). Finally, he wants to be able to have a relationship with Him, to be able to ask God questions and get answers (and to enquire in His temple).
David was a man of war. He had blood on his hands, not just from battles, but from his own sin as well. As a king, he lived a life of passion and power on the one hand but integrity and purpose on the other. Like all of us, he was human, but he was a human being who loved God with all of his heart. When he looked at his life and thought about what the most important thing was to him, the answer was clear: he wanted God above everything else.
What Do You Want?
Some people look at their lives and play the “if only” game. If only I had better health. If only I had a better job, a different spouse, more money, more time, etc. They have set up scenarios in their minds in which all of their problems could be solved if only this or that were different. But so many others have testified that even upon receiving that one thing they were asking for, there was still a hole, a void, a need for something more. If you aren’t careful, even when you get what you want, something else earthly will become your new “one thing,” and the cycle will begin again.
In these last days, I think it is important for each of us to examine our own hearts. What do we want more than anything else? The Bible tells us to pray unceasingly, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ALWAYS asking for something. I often ask for the tools to achieve the calling God has put on my life. I also ask for strengthening of character and the provision to give me the ability to live a life that pleases Him. But when I consider my heart’s greatest desire, like David, mine is the Lord. I think it HAS to be in order for us to get through the times of hardship that the watchmen have warned us will come in these last days.
Anchor in Jesus
Hebrews 6:19 says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil.” In essence, the desires of our heart to be with God in spirit now and in person someday is what anchors us, grounds us, keeps us. There is a chain that goes from us straight through the veil, the doorway between the physical and the spiritual realm, and attaches itself to the throne of God. In that way, we can’t be blown by winds of (false) doctrine or tossed in the tempest of the wicked. Instead, will be founded on the Rock of Christ Jesus.
Want to hear the hymn “Anchored in Jesus”? Listen to it on my No Longer Lukewarm YouTube channel. I read my blogs for those who like to listen while they are doing something else. I also have a playlist called Hymns With Hannah. Here I collect all the hymns and “specials” from our talented worship team. Subscribe for new music each week.
People say “Keep your eyes on the prize” to remind others to focus on achieving their goals. The Bible says it this way in Hebrews 12:1-2 “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” We have to put away distractions that capture our attentions and, instead, keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. This week, I believe the Lord showed me four kinds of distractions for Christians that can get our heads out of the game.
1. Fellowship With Darkness
A few days ago, a sister in Christ posted a video entitled End Unrighteous Fellowship. It was about limiting time spent with non-Christians because of the spiritual effect they can have on us. Of course, we can’t be rude, and we have to spend certain amounts of time with people at work and even some family members who aren’t saved. But, we shouldn’t actively seek them out for fellowship/fun.
As soon as I heard the video, my mind instantly went to the three ladies I run with at work. We are all on the same team in public education. As such, we spend hours and hours together aligning lesson plans and putting out fires. Occasionally, we eat lunch together, especially on in-service days when we actually get more than 30 minutes to eat and can go to a restaurant. The weird thing is, more often than not when I leave those meetings/lunches, I’m repenting for something I said or thought during that time. Sometimes, though, it’s not even anything I can name. It’s just a general feeling that I am out of sync with the Lord.
The Object Lesson
Then I got the object lesson. It was Sunday night, and just as I was putting on my boots for church, I got a phone call from one of my co-workers asking about something at school. When I was done talking, I put my phone on the arm of the couch and then forgot about it. When I got to church, I didn’t have my cell phone to record the night’s hymns for my YouTube channel playlist called Hymns With Hannah.
I was distracted, and I wasn’t able to do the job that I believe that God called me to do. I think He was showing me a physical example of what actually happens in the spiritual realm. Whether it is ungodliness or just worldliness, time spent with people who don’t have Jesus as their centerpiece can cause us to miss important details in the work that God has for us to do.
Another Object Lesson
That Wednesday night, I did have my phone. As Sister Hannah went to the front to prepare to lead worship, I looked at the videos in my gallery. Were there too many videos there? Would there be enough room? What if the recording stopped in the middle because there was no more space? I started deleting old videos and pictures. The first chords were starting as I hurriedly clicked over to the camera, but I was too late. I missed the opening words of the hymn. Instead of trusting that God would have me covered for the assignment He led me to do, I panicked and missed something important.
Typically, Christians are some of the most personally responsible people you will ever meet. But sometimes that need to be responsible can leave us feeling like it is up to us to take care of all the details. Philippians 4:6 doesn’t say “Be anxious for only the really important things that you can’t afford to get wrong.” It says, “Be anxious for nothing.” And, it doesn’t say, “Just work really hard and double check everything.” It says, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Of course, there are details we must attend to, and we can’t live recklessly. But the main thing is that when it comes to the actual jobs that God has called us to do, we must keep our focus first and foremost on Jesus. He will take care of us. We just need to keep in very close contact with Him and be led by the Spirit in all things. We can’t let fear or anxiety get in the way of being effective for God. Isaiah 41:10 tells us not to be dismayed. It says that He will strengthen us, help us, and uphold us with His righteous right hand. We just have to trust Him.
3. Social Media
I don’t need to tell anyone here that social media can be a distraction. We all know it. Every time you look in your feed, someone is signing off for a Facebook fast or checking out of Twitter for a while or taking a hiatus from Instagram. People feel the need to break away entirely because it is so very hard to keep in moderation.
Either One More Object Lesson or a Phenomenon
What I wanted to mention here, though, I haven’t heard anyone else say. Maybe it is because it only happens to me, and it is just one more object lesson. Or, maybe it is because it’s a feeling that’s kind of hard to describe. But lately, I have had this feeling when I’m on Facebook like I’m caught in one of the old-time Star Trek’s tractor beams. My mind is almost like in a kind of quick-sand. I want to click out and do something else, but it takes real effort to wrench myself away. It’s a new feeling. I really don’t remember this happening until just recently, and It doesn’t happen every time. It’s also much stronger with my phone than my laptop. But, there have been many times lately in which I have even likened it to feeling kind of drugged.
The Effects of Social Media
Now, we don’t know the long term effects on the brain of the super dopamine hits that come with “likes” and “shares” on social media. What we do know is that Satan is the prince of the power of the air (waves). And, he knows his time is short. Whether it is psychological, spiritual, or both, there is a real danger in losing ourselves in “the scroll.” When you can sit down to check Facebook at 6:30 PM, and five minutes later it’s 8:30 PM, and that is all you have done, that is a problem.
Now, not all social media is bad, for sure. I connect with many Spirit-filled Christians online, and we discuss issues that are important for iron to sharpen iron. We support each other, pray for each other, and help one another keep abreast of the things happening in these last days. But, the Bible tells us to walk in wisdom. In Ephesians 5:15, it says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” We must make our time both purposeful and limited on social media. We have to prioritize time spent getting closer to Jesus.
4. “Hidden” Sin
This last one is a late entry. I finished my article yesterday and was just waiting until after church to publish. (I always do that in case the pastor mentions something I need to add.) But last night, I had a dream that gave me my fourth point.
In the dream, I was on the couch with an old boyfriend from high school, and we were kissing and touching. Now, in real life, this person is someone whom I thought about and wanted for a ridiculous number of years of my life. After I got truly converted just a few short years ago, I understood that I did not want him as a person at all. He was an idol I had set up in my heart.
Anyway, in the dream, I was the age I am now. I knew we were both married, and I knew that it was wrong, but it was dark, so no I thought one could see. Then I opened my eyes and realized that it was only dark TO ME because I had my eyes closed. Everyone else could see just fine. In fact, other people were in the room, including my mother, a person I am desperately trying to win to the Lord. As soon as I realized that everyone could see, I disengaged. I then went to work on my blog, feeling terrible that I had destroyed my Christian witness.
Mark 4:22 says, “For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.” If anyone reading this has sins that you think are hidden, I believe the message here is that they are only hidden TO YOU. You may be trying to overcome them in the flesh, all the while thinking that it is between you and the Lord, but others who are watching you see more than you think. Plus, your efforts to hide those sins are distracting you from the work God has for you. It’s time to lay those sins at the foot of the cross, make no provision for them, and seek deliverance. God can then remove the idol you have set up in your heart. Then your witness for Him will be pure and undefiled, and your attentions will be stayed on Him.
The Hour Is Late
The hour is late. We must guard our hearts and minds. Examine yourself and take these four areas of distractions for Christians to the Lord in prayer. There are many prophetic voices warning that 2020 will come with some difficulties. We must be ready to face the new year with a renewed mind, firmly grounded in the Word, and strong in our walk with the Lord.
If you have ever gone bowling with a child, chances are, you know about bumper bowling. It’s simply an adaptation to the lane for young children who are first learning to bowl. With the touch of a button, bumpers come out to cover the gutters so that bowling balls will stay on the lane. Nobody likes a gutter ball, and it’s a lot more fun for everybody when pins are hit. The other night in my prayer closet, a thought occurred to me about how the Christian walk is a lot like bumper bowling. What started as a random thought turned out to be a full-fledged analogy after seeking God in prayer.
The Straight and Narrow
Matthew 7:14 says that it is the narrow way that leads to life (KJV). That is the exact path a bowling ball needs to travel to hit all ten of the pins. A little to the left or right, and you might only get a few or end up with a split. But for little ones just learning the game, aim can be lacking. With bumpers, balls that might be skewed too far to one side or the other are gently bumped back toward the center for a better chance at hitting something. Proverbs 3:6 tells us that when we trust in the Lord, He will make our paths straight (NIV).
Bumpers Are Boundaries
So what are the boundaries that God has set up to keep His children moving safely down the narrow path? First and foremost is the Holy Spirit. He guides us into all truth and lets us know when our thoughts or actions are not pleasing to Him. God chastens those He loves. Listening to His correction and submitting to His will for our lives is like a gentle bump back to where we need to be on His lane.
Second, like 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us, we must “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” This is actually where the thought for this analogy came from. I felt like I was continually catching myself out of bounds with my thoughts and having to reign them back in. At times, we can have the tendency to “overcorrect.” Having trouble with feeling worthless? Be careful, or you will overcorrect to pride. We go from one bumper to the other, ever trying to hit that perfect sweet spot in the center.
Third, we must be always trying to conform ourselves to what we see in the Bible. We must be doers of the Word and not hearers only. When we catch ourselves acting in a way that is contrary to what the scripture says, we need to stop what we are doing and repent. That just means we need to turn around and go the other way. In 1 John 5:17, we learn that “all unrighteousness is sin.” We must try to behave the way the Bible commands. We must stay away from the behaviors that grieve the Lord.
The Weight of the Ball
One ingredient in the bowling experience that can make a big difference is the weight of the ball. Young kids can’t lift very many pounds, so maybe a six or eight pound ball is all they can handle. Older kids and strong men can lift balls as heavy as 12 to 16 pounds. Lighter balls are easier to swing and release, but often the heavier balls can pack a bigger punch to the pins.
As believers, we are not all given the same advantages and disadvantages on our Christian walk. Some of us live easier lives and may only hit a few pins. Some have lived through terrible calamities and may end up with a perfect strike. God uses each of us for His purposes, but often those who have come from desperate situations can make a big impact for others going through the same trials. And people called to lives of hardship can often focus more on the Lord than those who live lives of ease.
Where Do the Balls Go?
Unless you make a wild swing, all the balls on the lane end up in the same place. They go back to the docking station next to the bowlers to be used on their next turns. The Bible is clear that believers can lose their salvation if they choose to leave the narrow path. Otherwise, all genuine, Holy Spirit-filled Christians will end up with Jesus no matter how many pins are hit in the process.
What Are The Pins?
The pins are rewards in heaven. Matthew 16:27 says, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” Now, we are not working for our salvation at all. All balls on the lane end up in the docking station with Jesus. But, everyone’s aim and success with the bumpers will not be the same. Some will knock down many pins, making a big difference for the kingdom of God and living a life characterized by sacrifice that will translate into big rewards in heaven.
In 1 Corinthians 3:14, we learn that “If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.” Some, on the other hand, even with the bumpers will still hit the gutter. In 1 Corinthians 3:15, we hear that “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
The Foul Line
Last but not least, the foul line is important in the game. Bowlers must stay behind the line when delivering their swing to keep the game safe and fair. Lanes are polished so that they are very slippery, so people can fall and get hurt. Also, the line acts as a neutral starting point so that no one player has an advantage. If someone does end up over the foul line, any points scored are forfeited. Satan is our adversary in this life. He is constantly trying to lure us over the foul line so that we can be hurt or deprived of our points. It is up to us to stay close to the Lord and well back from his line so that we may keep the rewards we have earned. Colossians 2:18 says, “Let no one cheat you of your reward…”
A Final Thought About Judgement
Maybe, like me, you haven’t thought of bumper bowling in a very long time. It is kind of a weird comparison for the Christian walk, but it works. No matter what size ball we have been given, it’s up to us to use the bumpers to keep ourselves on the straight and narrow path and try to hit the pins that make a big difference for others and will reap rewards in heaven. Every single one of us will appear before the judgement seat of Christ. We must all give an account, and we all want to hear those words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” After all, pleasing Jesus is the very best prize we could win.
Last week, I published a blog on The Mandela Effect and the Character of God. I got lots of comments on social media as well as on my YouTube channel where I read the blogs for people who like to listen while they do other things. One person on my video simply commented “NPC.” Unfamiliar with the acronym, I looked it up on the online urban dictionary. The definition hit me pretty hard. But what the man with the skull avatar meant as an insult to me has become my new fervent prayer: “More of you, less of me. Lord, let me be an NPC.”
What Is An “NPC”?
NPC is short for “non-player character.” It’s video game language for any character that is not controlled by an actual human player. Also called a “bot,” an NPC is like an “extra” in a movie. It responds to actions or dialogue from real players with a predetermined script. In the context of the Mandela Effect, in which some say that we are actually only participating in a simulated reality, NPCs are those people who cannot think objectively but simply repeat programmed “opinions.” It was a favorite insult on Twitter in 2018 when pro-Trump supporters put cartoon faces over the tops of news anchors who spouted liberal talking points.
When I realized what the man was saying, I immediately understood two things. First, he was insulting me for not thinking for myself. Second, in the context of who I am in Christ, I could take this as a great compliment. My article was about having faith that God is who the Bible says He is. Even more, it was about refusing to accept that He would act in a way contrary to that. I was repeating the truth of the Bible without deviating or stopping to entertain any possibilities apart from it.
In essence, I was refusing to think outside the biblical “box.” And I was encouraging others to do the same. It was an “aha” moment of sorts as I processed through the idea that my commitment to the Truth of the Bible meant that I didn’t want to think “for myself.” But no sooner had I patted myself on the back for being just an empty vessel, the Lord showed me that I’m not quite there just yet.
Not There Yet
That night was a Wednesday. As I drove to church for evening services, the song “Nobody” by Casting Crowns and Matthew West came on the radio. The lyrics go, “I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody who saved my soul…I’m living for the world to see nobody but Jesus.” Yes! I thought. I’m a nobody, a nameless Christian just believing what the Bible says and living the way God commands us to do. But God loves to use both irony and foreshadowing, and 1 Corinthians 10:12 pretty much sums up what happened next: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
It was about 20 minutes later during the service when an idea popped into my head to do something in worship that sounded incredibly embarrassing. The song leader was wrapping up the last song, and I knew I only had a couple of minutes to decide if I was going to do it or not. So the arguments started in my mind. Surely it can’t be God leading me to worship in a way that was outside my comfort zone. Maybe it’s just the devil trying to embarrass me. Maybe it’s simply a meaningless wild hair. If it is God, I want to submit, but why would God want me to do that? I was still arguing when the song ended and the pastor started his sermon.
The sermon was about Exodus 33:18 in which Moses, after receiving an answer to his prayer and a great compliment from God, didn’t just say “Thank you.” He asked to see God’s glory. He wanted more of God. But how many times do we just want what we want? We think God might be asking us to do something, but we misunderstand – or worse, refuse to submit to Him. Then another thought popped into my head: maybe I wasn’t such an empty vessel after all. I still had a ways to go before I was an NPC, simply speaking truth and responding without thought to the Master’s wishes. There were still way too many of my own thoughts, desires, and opinions rolling around up there. There was still way too much of me and not nearly enough of Him.
My New Prayer
So I prayed, “More of You, less of me. Lord, let me be an NPC.” I want to believe God and speak and act in a way that the Bible tells us to do. I want to die to self and live for God, responding without question when I believe it might be God doing the asking. Of course, we must always test the spirits. God will never suggest things that go against scripture. But sometimes He might want us to do things we don’t understand, things that might even cause us personal discomfort. But NPCs don’t get embarrassed or offended. They simply do what they are programmed to do without thought or argument. And that’s the way I want to be.
If you were a child before the 1990’s or 2000’s, you probably remember merry-go-rounds. They were fast, and they were fun. They were also, apparently, lawsuit magnets for the many injuries sustained when centrifugal force met gravity. There are very few merry-go-rounds left in modern parks, but as I was pondering the latest warning from God’s watchmen one day, it occurred to me how a merry-go-round is an excellent analogy for the judgement of God.
Merry-Go-Rounds Pick Up Speed
The first thing I thought of is the fact that merry-go-rounds start slowly but pick up speed. I remember taking turns doing the running and the rush of adrenaline as I pushed as hard as I could and then hopped on at the last second. If you could get an adult to do the pushing, that was all the better. That last arm swoop after the run was such a rush as the spin got exponentially faster.
The judgement of God also starts slowly as He gives the opportunity for people to repent. When we don’t, the natural consequence of living outside of God’s way of doing things is trouble. God is a God of justice and mercy. His judgement rolls both into one. He punishes nations so that distressed people will turn to Him for help. Historically, God has punished nations for sin using famine (lack of food), pestilence (illness), wild beasts (demonic entities), and the sword (war).
Think about how much more in-your-face evil has become in just the past few years. We are also hearing about old-time diseases like measles and tuberculosis making a comeback. Crop losses in the heartland this past summer have left empty shelves, and “rumors of war” are a daily occurrence. I don’t think it’s our imagination that the judgement of God is building up into one big “push” that will leave America spinning.
Scaredy Cats Sat in the Center
Second, everybody knows that different parts of the merry go round make for a very different riding experience. Little ones and scaredy cats always sat in the center. There was still a little bit of a whirl, but the ride was pretty safe if you held on tightly. Older kids, mavericks, and thrill seekers sat on the edge – or even on top. There, the spin was significantly faster, and the pull was intense. Even holding on didn’t necessarily guarantee that you would stay on when things got going fast. There was a risk involved. It was dangerous.
When the judgement of God hits a nation, where we are in Him will give us a very different judgement experience. Those who fear God stay close to Him. We will still see the turmoil, but the ride will be a lot safer with His protection. Those who choose to stay far from God will feel the full force of the world’s spin. The world has a powerful pull on a regular day. When times are tough, people might choose to do things they would never do in ordinary circumstances if they haven’t already made the decision to do things God’s way. Even holding on, there may be some who fall (away).
How Can We Position Ourselves?
Make no mistake, the judgement of God has already started in America and is picking up intensity. Now is the time to get closer to God. Now, before the last big swoop when things spin faster and start to seem out of control. Make time every day to read the Bible and spend time in His presence. Search yourself for areas of your life that you have held back from Him, and give Him your all. Practice leaning on Him and listening for His voice to guide you in every decision you make now so that when trouble comes, you will be protected in His shelter.
Focus during a crisis is imperative. If you have done any flying, you know that before the airplane even takes off, flight attendants spend several minutes discussing safety protocols. That way, in the event of a real emergency, passengers will know what to do. Recently while on a flight, it occurred to me that the instructions for oxygen mask usage held a very good lesson about staying connected to God. They also show us how to handle ourselves when real-life turbulence hits.
Keep Looking Up To the Source
As you probably know, oxygen masks drop down from overhead compartments when cabin pressure drops. Keeping our eyes focused on where the oxygen comes from would be helpful in the event of a crisis. As children of God, we experience trouble on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes it is just little things that seem to add up to big things as Satan seeks to wear out the saints. That’s why we should keep our eyes focused on Jesus instead of the situation around us. Nothing we face is a surprise to Him. Nothing is too hard or too much. We should always keep looking up.
Start the Flow of Oxygen
Oxygen masks are attached by a tube to the air flow system in overhead compartments. You must give a tug on the cord to start the flow of oxygen. As our source for life, we must keep connected to God through constant prayer. He is the source of our strength and our peace. A strong prayer life is not just speaking to God but listening to Him by prayerfully reading the Bible. The tugging of our fervent, effectual prayers will avail much.
Put on Your Own Mask First
If oxygen masks come down, that means that cabin pressure is off. People can lose consciousness very quickly without the proper amount of air. If you are traveling with someone who needs help with a mask (like a child or the elderly), you are instructed to put on your own mask first so you don’t pass out before you can help those around you. Children of God must have the life-giving connection to God before we can try to help others. Otherwise, we’re just trying to share limited, frazzled resources, and that’s the quickest way to burn out. Think about the acronym “HALT.” If you are hungry, angry/upset, lonely, or tired, you are less likely to be able to react to situations in a godly manner. That’s why it is imperative for us to stop (or halt), take care of ourselves, and reconnect to God. He can refresh our peace. He can give us the strength to continue on and to help others.
Affix the Mask and Tighten the Tabs
For the mask to work, you have to put the mask’s cup over both your mouth and nose. If you leave your nose out of the mask, you won’t be getting enough oxygen because the nose is actually the main pathway to the lungs. We have to be “all in” for God. He must cover us completely as our only source for life-giving breath. We can’t withhold certain parts of our lives as “our own.” We have to surrender everything, or we will be leaving parts of ourselves vulnerable to attacks from the enemy.
Then Assist Other Passengers
After we have our own mask on, then we help others. This is a very important lesson that some Christians today seem to have forgotten. When we get wrapped up in our own troubles and drama, we forget that there are other people out there who need our help. By focusing our eyes on Christ and staying connected to God in prayer, we can take that peace and strength He gives and turn our focus outward instead of inward. We can look around us to find those who need our help.
The Bag May Not Inflate
The last thing the flight attendance mentions is the fact that the oxygen bag may not inflate. Even if it looks like there is no air in the bags, oxygen is still flowing through. This is the same thing with our faith. Just because we can’t physically SEE God working in our lives, doesn’t mean He isn’t there. We know by faith that He is. We have to trust that by staying connected to God through prayer, He will give us the peace that He promised us.
When travel gets bumpy and pressure is intense, it is imperative that we keep focused on and connected to our source for life. We must stay in constant contact and allow Him to refresh us so that we can help others and have faith even when we don’t see or understand what He is doing at the moment. It is in this way that we can make it safely to our heavenly destination.
Evangelizing the lost can be discouraging. The sheer number of people who are walking around without Jesus is immense. It reminds me of the parable of the starfish in which thousands of starfish wash up onto the shore after a storm and lay dying in the hot sun. But saving the lost isn’t about picking them up one by one and hurling them into the Water. It’s about being an ambassador and witness for Christ. It’s about planting seeds that God can water and praying, hard, for the harvest. And no matter how frustrating it can be when it feels like our efforts are in vain, the Bible gives us three very good reasons why we can never stop trying to get the starfish into the water. We can never stop trying to save the lost.
We Have to Keep Trying Because We Love Them
For some starfish, their lives on the beach are hard. Some of them are genuinely hurting, struggling, and gasping for air to breathe. They don’t understand their condition. They don’t know that there is a better Way. The connection between their pain and the lack of Living Water escapes them. Here is where we must be a witness. We must live our lives by constantly immersing ourselves in Christ. We must continuously refresh ourselves in the Word of God. Our lights will then shine brightly, and when they ask us, we will be prepared to give the reason why we have hope.
But what do you do when many of the starfish don’t want to go into the water? Their little suckers are attached to the sand with an iron grip. They don’t understand that they will die without the breath of life in just a short time. They are happy sunning on the shore in their sin. The good news of Jesus is little more than an annoying memo to them. But even if they don’t understand their condition, we do. Love says we must pray for them to have eyes to see. We must plant seeds that Jesus can water in His time to save the lost.
We Have to Keep Trying Because We Love God
For starfish, the ocean gives them the oxygen they need. Time spent outside of the water means a countdown to death, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The sea is vast and teeming with life. There is enough room and provision for all starfish to live. God gives breath to all creatures, and Jesus died so that all may live eternally. When we tell other people about what Jesus has done for us, it honors God. When we give witness about the things God is doing in our lives, we give Him glory. Not every person we talk to about Christ will accept Him. In fact, for some, our love for Jesus will be the very thing that makes them hate us. We can’t give up, though. Our motivation should be to please and honor God, and that must sustain us.
We Have to Keep Trying Because It Is a Command
The storm in the parable explains why the starfish were washed to shore, but what explains the little boy’s desire to restore life? A different child might have been more interested in poking the little creatures with sticks or pulling off their legs. Kids learn what they are taught at home. This boy’s family taught him that life is valuable. Maybe his father even suggested that he go down to the beach to see what he could do to help. As for Christians, we are commanded by God, our Father, in Mark 16:15 to do our part to save the lost. “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” It’s not an option. It’s not just for a few. The commands in the Bible are for everyone just as much as the promises are. We must be obedient to God even when we are busy or tired, and even when it takes us outside our comfort zone.
That’s Why We Can Never Give Up
Jesus Christ has the Water that gives life. He offers hope and comfort for today and eternal life for tomorrow. As His children, we know Him and how amazing it is to be a part of His kingdom. It’s not for us to keep our great God, Comforter, and Friend a secret. We can’t sit around in lawn chairs building sandcastles while people are hurting and dying all around us. We must be His hands and feet to bring others to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Until that day, and as much as is within us, we must love people, love God, and be obedient to His call to “go.” We must never give up on the starfish. We must continue to try to save the lost.