God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. Psalm 47:8

God Cleaning the WorldPresident Barack Obama recently visited both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two cities obliterated when the United States dropped nuclear bombs on them in 1945, ending the war with Japan. As first sitting U.S. president to see these landmarks, he did not apologize for the actions of his country, but only spoke of healing between the two nations. The other day, a Minneapolis woman was killed while driving her grandchildren home in her own neighborhood. She was the innocent victim of gang violence. This week, the Iraqi army prepares for a major assault on the terrorist organization ISIS in the occupied city of Fallujah.


How can anyone say “God is in control?” The world seems to be falling apart! Today is Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for those who have died in service to the United States of America. Many also commemorate departed loved ones who may never have been in the armed forces, but hold special places in the hearts of those left behind. Is there really any point in remembering all those who have gone before us, whatever their mark on life?


I believe many of the answers to these questions can be found in the words of the songs we as a nation sing on this holiday of memories. We sing of “heroes proved in liberating strife/who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.” It is the shining example of those who unselfishly and willingly fight for freedom who give us reason to hope. Our country’s “alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.” Our free nation shimmers in God’s light in times of deep distress as well as joyous celebrations. “Let the Hero born of woman crush the serpent with His heel” goes the second verse of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. What a glorious, victorious image, of Christ “marching on…with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me!”  It is Christ’s redeeming love to which we cling, bringing us the hope that our nation and this world are in His hands. Indeed, the seldom-sung last verse of “The Star Spangled Banner” says, “Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.”


Victorious Savior, You are indeed in control! Let us never doubt that “from every mountain side,” Your grace and freedom ring! Amen


Bear BaitThe Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 1 Timothy 4:1-2


Have you ever been bear baiting? Not many of us have. I endured this peculiar and disgusting ritual many years ago when I was dating a man I like to call “Mr. What Was I Thinking.” This guy was an avid hunter of just about anything that moved; I had never fired or even held a gun. Nor had I ever had the desire to kill anything or anyone. But in the spirit of complete idiocy, I agreed to venture off with this jack pine savage, into the wilderness, in a truck filled with the most vile, repugnant conglomeration of dead animal parts, unrendered fat, and other things I cannot name. The bait stunk to high heaven, but apparently bears think it is an irresistible treat. My hunter friend set this bait out in the wilderness and went back a day or two later in hopes of finding the bear feasting away, oblivious to the fact that a two-legged predator wants to blow it to smithereens.


To God, our sin is repelling. What misguided humans think looks (and tastes and feels and maybe even smells) great, is to our Lord a stinking mess. I’m not sure if certain sins smell worse to God than others. Perhaps premeditated murder is way more nauseating to Him than say, a little idle gossip. In today’s Scripture, Paul names some pretty serious sins in his first letter to Timothy. I’d like to think that to God, my presence is a fragrance like the costly nard Mary used to cleanse Jesus’ feet before she wiped them with her hair. I sincerely try to expel all impurity from my life and ask the Holy Spirit to help me guard against future impurity. I believe my body is God’s temple and I have confidence that the mind of Christ is within me. Daily repentance of my offenses keeps me closer to walking in God’s light than if I allowed unconfessed sins to pile up like dirty laundry. Although I know I am redeemed and forgiven, keeping my iniquities in check bears consideration.


Good and Gracious God, let my thoughts and my ways rise up as a fragrance pleasing to You. Amen


Jezebel_TheVirtuousGirl_orgWhen Jezebel heard (that Jezreel was on his way), she put on eye makeup, arranged her hair and looked out of a window. 2 Kings 9:30


Jezebel thought she had her priorities straight. In fact, she thought she was invincible. Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who married Ahab, a king of northern Israel in the 9th century B.C. She convinced her husband to abandon the worship of Yahweh, and led him to worship the pagan gods Baal and Asherah instead. Jezebel went so far as to insist her religion be the only religion in Israel, killing many Israelite prophets and treating God’s people cruelly. Isaiah was the Prophet in Residence at this time, and he repeatedly warned both Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel that they needed to repent of their sins and worship only the One true God of Israel.


A few years later, Ahab died and was succeeded by his brother, Joram. But Isaiah’s successor, Elisha, arranged for a more honorable man named Jehu to become king in order to destroy Ahab’s lineage. Jehu quickly got rid of Joram, which made Jezebel the last force to be reckoned with in the house of Ahab. When Jezebel heard that Jehu and his armies were coming to her palace, she got dressed up in her queenly garb, donned an elaborate wig, applied sixteen coats of mascara, and formally presented herself in front of the royal window. Silly girl. She seemed to have forgotten that Elijah had prophesied that Ahab would die, his royal line would be obliterated, and Jezebel would be eaten by dogs. All that finery didn’t do her much good in the end.


The average woman in the United States today spends two years of her life putting on make-up. The average amount spent on cosmetics by Ms. Everyday Woman is about $15,000 over the course of her lifetime. I confess I’m guilty of using cosmetics, since I don’t have much to work with. But God doesn’t care how we think we look to others. To Him, we could not be more perfect in his eyes than we are at any given moment. Too bad Jezebel didn’t understand that turning her life over to the God of the Israelites would have been the smartest, safest, and most rewarding thing she could have ever done.


You are the One True God, and we know You love us just as we are, Lord. Help us to make You the center of our lives each and every day. Amen


Teenage Girl Visits Doctor's Office Suffering With Depression

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; You encourage them, and You listen to their cry, Psalm 10:17


Of all the skills I needed in my thirty-plus years of counseling work, listening was the most important. Good counselors can make a person feel as if his or her issues are the most important ones in the world. It is not so much what counselors may say that fosters positive changes, but rather how well those counselors are able to help their clients hear their own words and formulate solutions to their own problems. Often, a first session is spent listening to the person “dump” all of what is burdening him into the lap of this person who has agreed to help. I remember learning to insert “mental footnotes” where important statements popped up in this “dumping” period. I would then circle back and ask the person what was meant by such-and-such a statement and what the significance of those particular words might be. Often, this sifting through the rubble of the “dump” was the first step to achieving positive forward movement.


God must be exhausted, with all the listening and the “rubble” sifting He must do with all of His children! But coming to God is often the first step in resolving the perplexities of life. And God does listen. But how does He “answer” us? Few can say they’ve actually heard God speak audibly to them, but if we listen and watch, He does “circle back” and bring to mind critical parts of our thinking that may be keeping us “stuck” on a problem. Perhaps God places another person or resource in our path just when we need it. Or maybe we have an epiphany all on our own, a singular understanding of why something isn’t working, for which there is no explanation except God’s hand. And in the time our “dumping” on God seems to echo back nothing but silence, the message may be to keep the faith, maintain our obedience, and just plain wait. Oh, how hard it is to wait!


Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Hmmmm. The word “wait” appears twice in one short verse. Let’s put a “mental bookmark” on the word “wait” and know that sometimes, that’s what God wants us to do!


Lord, sometimes You ask us to wait when the craziness of life swirls all around us and threatens to do us in. Give us faith, patience and most of all obedience that You do listen to our cry. Amen


nodemons.gifOne day, the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Acts 19:15


I have never put any stock whatsoever in the power of witches, wizards, wiccans, astrologers, Ouija boards, tea leaves, fortune telling, or reading the entrails of animals. (Ick!) Even before I was a Christian, I always thought anything smacking of the occult was a bunch of hooey. After becoming a Christian, I even had a hard time accepting that evil spirits, let alone Satan himself, operated behind the scenes of everyday life.


Then I read Frank Peretti’s novel, This Present Darkness. The story takes place in a typical small town in America, where a nonbelieving news reporter and a zealous pastor discover some real-life sinister plots brought about by behind-the-scenes forces of good and evil fighting for control of the physical world. While the wheels were churning in my baby-Christian mind over this book, I experienced some very clear signs that evil forces were operating in my own life. And I quickly learned how the power of prayer could literally stop these malevolent occurrences in their tracks.


No, this doesn’t mean that everything in our lives will always turn out “okay.” God has a plan, and because we are human, sometimes our will clearly is not in line with His. But there is comfort in the story of the seven sons of Seva in Ephesus. These nasty brothers had a good business going, casting out demons in the name of Jesus, even though not one of them believed in Him. Finally, a particularly cantankerous spirit spoke from the mouth of the man he possessed. He said, “Jesus I know, and I know of Paul, but who are you?” Then the spirit pounced on the men and beat them soundly, sending them packing.


As the five o’clock news will tell us, evil abounds in our world, and for the rest of “this age,” evil is unavoidable. But the New Testament challenges us to follow the Light of Christ, knowing He is stronger than any evil which might suck us into a life that is not pleasing to Him. He leads the way, He makes the paths straight, and He will be faithful in helping us walk in integrity and purity.


Lord, even the demons believe in You and they tremble (James 2:19). Help us to remember the power that You grant us to repel and disarm evil in this world. Amen