helllfire-brimstone-preacher-20698030For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:17


When I accepted Jesus as my Savior at a crusade, a woman was “assigned” to meet with me. At that time, I was married to a very difficult man, and I told this woman I was afraid to stay in the marriage. “Divorce is not an option for Christians,” she said in a condescending tone. I wanted to believe everything this woman said to me. Thus, I spent nearly two decades before leaving a husband who was verbally, emotionally and financially abusive to me. I’ve wondered how my Christian walk might have flourished more quickly and easily had I left that marriage sooner. I was very glad to meet and marry my second husband, a strong and loving man and a faithful Christian.


Just a few years ago, my wonderful husband and I attended his nephew’s wedding to a girl of a different Protestant denomination. The groom had dutifully attended classes with a pastor from the bride’s church, and agreed to join her church so the wedding could take place there. When the pastor addressed the wedding guests, he made it clear that only those who belonged to that church would be allowed to take communion. That meant that the groom’s parents—my brother and sister-in-law—sat in silence while many the people, including my husband and I, paraded up to the altar and “fraudulently” partook of the Lord’s Supper right under this pastor’s nose. Our daughter is married to a wonderful man of the Hindu faith, and he whispered to us, “I double-dog dare you to go up there.” So we did.


Jesus came into this world to save the whole world, not just part of it. In Paul’s first letter to his protégé, Timothy, Paul urged him to make “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving…for all people—that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-3). Paul’s message was clear that all people are included in the family of God. He continued, “There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Now that’s not so scary!


Holy God, You said all people will see Your salvation (Isaiah 40:6). Let that be our clear message too. Amen


Rock-BottomHear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your Most Holy Place. Psalm 28:2


The famous line, “I’ve been down so long, it looks like up to me” has a long and interesting history detailing people’s descent into despair. The line was first used in a song called “Turn My Money Green” written and performed by Memphis blues musician Furry Lewis in 1928. The song has been referenced directly or indirectly by many artists since its creation, including Richard Fariña with his 1966 novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, The Doors with their 1971 song “Been Down So Long,” and Canadian rap artist Drake with his 2016 single “Fake Love.” Each of these works expresses the woes of life, including alcohol, drugs, relationships, money (or lack thereof), and just plain ol’ depression.


The Bible says hitting rock bottom may actually be the closest place to the top one can experience. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of stories about individuals as well as entire nations whose existence appears to be on the brink of disaster, until a loving God comes to the rescue. From Noah building the arc to escape God’s wrath upon the people to Moses leading the Israelites through the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, God is there like a superhero to carry out a rescue mission just in the nick of time. In the New Testament, Christ comes with an even more encouraging message: believing in Him gets us the complete package of forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. When Christ healed the sick and cast out demons, He instantly brought society’s greatest sufferers from a place of desperation to wholeness and freedom from suffering and oppression. And throughout modern history, people in all sorts of traumatic and life-threatening situations have been sent help from God in the form of aid workers, first responders, doctors, nurses and volunteers who often risk their own well-being to help those in need.


We can be thankful we live in a time when modern medicine and social justice programs help make life easier for many people. If each one can reach one and help, we can make those people’s “downs” into “ups.”


Merciful God, hold us when our lives are “down.” Lift us “up” in Your love. Amen


Gang Members CartoonWhen they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13


How do we choose the people we hang out with? We can’t choose our relatives, and we have to be around our classmates, co-workers and certain people in authority. Our neighbors might fall into this unchosen category also, particularly if we (or they) are naturally friendly. But we do have a choice about people with whom we spend much of our time.


After Jesus had been baptized by his cousin John, and after He had fasted for forty days and been tempted by the Devil, He came back down the mountain because He had a job to do (Matthew 4:1-13). Jesus needed to find twelve men to work with Him on a very special project called Saving the World. How did Jesus chose those twelve men? He must have known that one would deny Him and another would betray Him and all of them would act like complete idiots and spend much of the time confused about what was going on. And how did Jesus get each of them to stop what they were doing instantly, leave everything and everyone familiar to them, and follow Him when they knew nothing about Him? I expect Jesus had a really special look in His eye—one of profound love and kindness, like nothing any of these men had ever seen before. We know Jesus had super powers, but Peter and Matthew and the others had no clue about any of that in the beginning. Yet they trusted Jesus, even though they didn’t really understand all that He stood for until much later.


After Jesus’ death and resurrection, we learn in Acts that the disciples had learned quite a bit. When Peter and John were arrested by the chief priests for healing a lame man, the priests were “astonished” by the testimony of these “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:1-21). The common denominator was that these men “had been with Jesus” (v. 13). In the end, we see the disciples not only learned about Jesus; they carried on His ministry and established His church. Hanging out with Jesus can mean miracles happen.


Saving Lord, may we stay so close to You that we imitate You always. Amen


ColoringWoe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Matthew 23:13


People sometimes speak about “coloring outside the lines.” This statement means that, sometimes, it is better not to stick to the status quo or the way things have always been done. People who “color outside the lines” are seen as change makers, forward thinkers, creative enthusiasts. As children, we may have been admonished to be neat and color inside the lines, but that’s not where creativity seems to come from.


Jesus asks us to stay within the lines that God draws for us. There is no line between me and you, or me and anybody else. We are all the same in God’s eyes. And if we begin to move the lines or say that this person or that person shouldn’t be inside the lines, we simply are not living the way God intends for us to live. In Matthew 11, Jesus asked John the Baptist’s followers, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see…? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces” (vs 7-8). Although the Baptist doesn’t look like other religious leaders of the time, Jesus makes it clear that John is “more than a prophet” (v.9) He is the one God has sent to prepare the way for the Son of God (v. 10).


Jesus also said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:37). The only people who ever made Jesus angry were those who insisted on drawing lines between themselves and those they somehow viewed as “other.” Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye,” Jesus said, “and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). The Lord made it clear that “to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).


Lord, the lines You have drawn for us are perfect. Help us to live comfortably within them. Amen



Jesus traveled about.., proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household…;and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. Luke 8:1-3


Why are some people willing to wager their safety, money, or sanity, while others play it safe? Risky behavior is sometimes deadly: sky-divers and mountain climbers have serious or fatal accidents more frequently than the general population. “Generally speaking,” the website states, “men tend to take more risks than women do.” This difference may be traced to age-old behavior differences between the sexes. “While women tend to behave responsibly and make staid decisions, the burden is on men to impress them through acts of boldness and strength.” I don’t know what per cent of the population would want to take the risk to relay this information to their lifelong partners, but I for one prefer to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground, and I am not impressed by men acting boldly.


In Biblical time, more men likely risked spending time with this mystical Jesus. In the Jewish culture of the era, women did not have the freedom to venture into the public eye, particularly with an itinerant Preacher Who had the Roman officials all in a dither. But what about Joanna, the wife of King Herod’s household manager, Chuza? Luke reports that Joanna was among those whom Jesus had “cured of evil spirits and diseases” (v. 2). Perhaps a healing compelled her to follow Jesus around, supporting Him with “her” money (rather, her husband’s money, provided by his boss Herod Antipas, the Roman ruler of Galilee). This makes me wonder, how did she get out of the house? Did they have a joint checking account, or was her “allowance” sufficient to support Jesus and a couple dozen other folks? Any woman of that time would be subject to a punishment from her husband or father equal to or worse than the government’s. But no gender differences here. She risked it all for the sake of her Lord and Savior. Are we that daring?


Radical Lord, embolden us to risk what we are able to follow You! Amen