vote-handsBut our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20


Applications for U.S. citizenship have been about six per cent higher in the past few months than during the 2012 presidential election cycle, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. While that’s not a huge increase, many factors may be contributing to more applications being submitted. President Obama’s executive orders allowing undocumented immigrants to delay deportation are currently under hold due to an ongoing law suit, so many service agencies have begun helping people obtain citizenship as soon as possible. There is also much speculation that the increased interest in citizenship may be due to specific presidential campaign rhetoric, thus influencing some to feel a special need to vote in the upcoming national election. Immigration officials say there is no hard proof of this phenomenon. It is clear, however, that an increasing number of people wish to be citizens of this great country with all of its benefits and privileges, not the least of which is the right to vote for our national leaders.


The Bible says we are citizens of heaven, and we gain that status not with a lengthy application process, but by the simple fact that we choose to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has “the power that enables Him to bring everything under his control” (Philippians 3:21). And this “control” is a loving act by God who has adopted us into His family and made us not only His children but “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). We know that God’s mercy is great because He “testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:4). God’s “platform” is right there in the Bible for us to read. No high-cost television commercials, no campaign staff, no lavish fundraisers. Just the gospel message that “God sent His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).


Choosing a presidential candidate is an important decision every four years. Choosing to serve God and His only Son Jesus Christ is an important decision for eternity.


God of All Nations, walk with those who wish to be citizens of free-world countries and of Your kingdom which has no end. Amen


incoming-logoFor I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Romans 7:18-19


“Friendly Fire” is a military attack on friendly forces while attempting to attack the enemy, due to errors or inaccuracy. During the First World War, the term was adopted by the United States military to describe shells falling short of their intended target. More recently, the words have come to mean any military accidental harm of one’s own personnel. Accounting for only two per cent of all casualties, “Friendly Fire” is often seen as an inescapable result of combat. But the effects of these errors can be catastrophic for unintended targets, and for troop morale. Reductions of these incidents involve identifying the causes and overcoming repetition through further training.


I am sometimes guilty of “Friendly Fire.” Try as I might, I cannot seem to steer completely clear of hurting those I have no intention of hurting. I become annoyed with the people I love the most, and I say and do things to those I care about that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It seems that our closest relationships are often ones in which we let our guard down and show our most unbecoming side. Why? In verse 17, Paul says it’s not really him making the mistakes, but “it is sin living in (him)” (v. 17). Rules and laws make known to us what is right and wrong: “For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (v. 7b).


But Paul continues: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because…the law of the Spirit…has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-3). It is only with Christ’s indwelling goodness that we can manage our “sinful flesh” and be delivered to a better mindset “governed by the Spirit (of) life and peace” (v. 8). When we do hurt others, we can ask for their forgiveness, and grant others the same forgiveness we seek. This is the behavior God intended for His children, and He will help us avoid further “Friendly Fire.”


Indwelling Christ, fill us with your mind and keep us from sinning against others. Amen


PIgs FlyI will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. Jeremiah 33:6


Jesus said, “With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). There has been much written about this passage, about how faith can move mountains and heal diseases and turn the worst of sinners into saints.


But what is impossible with God? For me, I know it is impossible for me to go back to the way I was before I laid down my life for Christ. I will never be a non-believer, a doubter, a skeptic about God’s existence or about His sovereign power and His abiding love and grace. I can never again look at a sunrise and say that what I see is just cosmic particles assembling themselves randomly on the horizon. I will never not have known “the peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), and no one will ever be able to tell me that God has not performed miracles in my life because I am living proof He has. I will never be unforgiven, and I will never have to worry that my sin will separate me from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39). No one will ever convince me that God isn’t in control; He will be in control until eternity, which is a very, very long time.


Isaiah 45:5-7 says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from Me there is no God. I will strengthen you…That people may know, from the rising of the sun…that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” I read these words, and it is impossible for me to fear anything life throws at me, including death. Yes, I may lose my courage in the face of things that happen to me in this life, but I cannot fear the God Who fashioned this world and placed me in it. I am certain that God will give me strength for the best and the worst this life has to offer (Matthew 6:34, Isaiah 41:10).


Yes, with God all things are possible. And the impossibility of me ever ceasing to love the Lord my God resides in my heart and soul and mind precisely because of His unfailing love for me.


Everlasting God, keep the impossibility of my love for You alive with each new day! Amen


Pepper PotTherefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24


Many years ago, I visited the island country of Haiti as a tourist. We were told that families kept a “pepper pot” on the stove, a stew of sorts that often remained on a low burner for many days, weeks, and even months. The household cook added to the pepper pot every so often, and the family just kept eating from the same container of stew every day. The idea sounded disgusting and unsafe to us American tourists! We all agreed we could not eat from a pot that sat day after day without its contents being removed and stored in a refrigerator while the pot was scrubbed clean and put away for its next use!


I grew up in a family where resentments often seemed like that Haitian pepper pot. Because of my mother’s untreated alcoholism and the lack of helpful resources for the rest of our family, we tallied offense after offense against one another until we had quite a pot of stew! We also were not a religious family and had no framework for the need to clear our consciences and forgive each other on a regular basis. By the time I left home, I had built up so much animosity towards my parents, I thought I never wanted to see them again.


Fortunately, Jesus became my Lord and Savior not too many years after I moved out. And eventually I also learned about Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, programs which point to a Higher Power for help in dealing with many hurts and grievances. I learned to channel my energy into forgiveness and tolerance, and found the peace of mind that comes from being reconciled to God and to the people in my life. American drama critic and editor, George Nathan, said, “No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched.” Jesus said to “settle matters quickly with your adversary” (Matthew 5:25).  Letting go of grievances is good for us, mind, body and soul.


Gentle Savior, guide me into a pattern of forgiveness and tolerance for those I love and for those who are hard to love as well. Amen


Jesus Washing FeetWhoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. Mark 10:43-44


I believe it was no coincidence that I ended up in several public service jobs helping people: vocational rehabilitation counselor for the disabled, county social work, and counseling in our state’s two-year college system. While serving in those capacities, I learned a lot about myself and about this journey we call life. Even before I professed Jesus as my Lord and Savior, the lesson was clear: I was nobody special. I saw people struggle to make ends meet and find their place in a world which seemed to have spun out of control through no fault of their own. Young people injured in diving accidents or car crashes, adults who lost good paying jobs because of economic downturns, war veterans who came home as very different people than they were went they left, and weary immigrants who came to the United States in hopes of crafting a new, saner life for themselves and their family. I saw the faces of fear and disillusion, but I also observed great courage in the face of horrific challenges. Time and again, I saw people beat the odds and come out swinging. Call it faith or tenacity or stubbornness, but the human spirit can do amazing things in the face of trials.


Two of Christ’s disciples, James and John, asked Him what they thought was a reasonable question: to be allowed to sit at His right and left side in heaven (Mark 10:35-45). How preposterous, we cry! Yet a plague of entitlement lurks among us in today’s world. Many think they should have things handed to them without any responsibility or effort on their part to earn those things. Others believe they can lead simply by being more outspoken, louder, and more demanding, rather than approaching leadership as an opportunity to serve. The amazing thing about Jesus’ response to His demanding disciples is that He didn’t send them packing! He used the incident as a teachable moment, He forgave them, and He challenged them to let go of their entitled behavior, roll up their sleeves and serve.


No matter how important we think we are, or how impressed others may be by our accomplishments, we can each choose to serve others above ourselves. Now that’s the spirit of leadership.


Father, forgive us when we believe we are privileged above others. Remind us of Your unfailing love for all humankind. Amen