A Matter of the Heart

Like most Americans, I was shocked and grieved at the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The politicians (at long last) seem serious about helping solve the problem of gun violence in our schools. They are considering stricter gun and red flag laws, longer wait times for purchasing a gun and deeper background checks. All of these sound good but they are strictly defensive solutions to the problem.

You see, the real problem in all of these shootings is a heart problem. The shooter’s heart is filled with hate and self-loathing and he is going to take as many people with him in his desire to end his own life. Every other component in these situations is external to the shooter except for his own heart problem and mental instability. I would bet that every shooter suffers from some form of mental illness but with many of these shooters the problem lies deeper within them. It is about their heart.

Scripture states that “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 If all a person thinks about is their hatred of others then that person becomes by definition a hate-filled person. Sooner or later, that hatred will surface. It will surface in ways that may seem non-violent, i.e. hateful words or it may surface in ways that will hurt others physically. Every weekend we watch as this hatred takes the lives of innocent people in our cities. We need to call it what it is: evil in its purest form.

Murder is evil and mass murder is evil unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Why are so many of our young men committing these crimes? It’s simple, their hearts are filled with hatred, a form of evil. As society works on stopping these crimes, we must work together to change the environment this hatred grows in.

Each of us has a level of influence in our society. Are we contributing to a hate-filled atmosphere? Do we view others who do look like us or do not agree with us politically as our enemy and do we hate them in our hearts? Do we listen to news shows that just stoke the hatred? If so, we need to stop. We can begin with ourselves and be determined to not contribute to the problem. We must truly learn to love our neighbors as ourselves if we want to change the atmosphere in this country. And it must not matter if our neighbor is not racially, ethnically or politically in line with us, we must learn to love others. If we do learn to love them that love will spread and the atmosphere in our cities will change.

Voir Dire

Voir Dire, pronounced “vwah deer” is a French phrase that means “to tell the truth.” It is from the Latin and is primarily used in the practice of law when attorneys question jurors to determine their fitness to sit on a particular jury.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are admonished to tell the truth. The Scriptures are full of references about the consequences of lying versus telling the truth. It should be a simple thing to tell the truth but it isn’t.

From the time we first learn to speak we must be taught to tell the truth, it does not come naturally. “Did you eat the cookie?” we are asked and we answer, “No.” All the while we have cookie crumbs on our faces as we finish chewing the last of the offending cookie. We grow older, “Did you hit your sister?” No,” and the bruise is fresh on her arm. “Why are you late from your date?” “The car ran out of gas.” Again, we face our parents with our hair askew and our clothes rumpled.

As we move towards adulthood, we are taught the art of social lying. “How are you today?” The inevitable “Fine” comes out of our mouths before we even process the question. I remember seeing a newborn that was lacking in beauty to say the least. The mother was basking in the praise being showered on her baby. I had to really work at saying something that was not a lie and yet did not hurt the mother. “He sure looks like his Daddy,” worked in that instance but it was hard to not lie outright.

Telling the truth takes work and practice. We must use wisdom when speaking in order to not hurt others. “Speak the truth in love,” we are admonished in Ephesians 4: 15. This is not an easy task. Ask any husband about what he says when his wife asks him about what she is wearing. My husband has developed dodging the question into an art form.

Not to make light of the subject, I find myself evaluating my answers many times. Did I tell the truth? Did I throw in something accidentally that wasn’t true? Did I exaggerate the situation? Did I hold back important information? It takes discipline and practice to learn to speak the truth. How are you at “voir dire?” Let our readers know of any tips you use in order to help you tell the truth. It is a difficult habit to develop.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Reductive

Have you ever used the word reductive? Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines it as, “of, relating to, causing or involving reduction.” When you use it in a non-scientific sentence, you are talking about reducing something or someone. I have been thinking about that term in relationship to Jesus.

You see, Jesus claimed to be many things. The most astounding claim He made was that He was in fact, God’s Son, and one with the Father in essence. His words, not mine, “I and My Father are one.” John 10:30 The one cardinal doctrine in mainline Christianity is that Jesus, God’s Son, is in fact, also God.

Any other characterization of Jesus is reductive. Some claim He was a prophet. Some believe He was the finest man who ever lived. Several offshoots of Christianity believe Jesus was an angel. Some Eastern religions believe He was an Avatar, a special being who came to earth to enlighten mankind. None of these definitions are inherently bad, they are just reductive. They reduce Jesus to something less than He claimed to be.

When deciding who Jesus is, we must take His claims seriously. He is either who He claimed to be or He is a liar. There is really no other choice. If you have decided that Jesus is something less than He claimed to be, then please, read the Gospels and make an informed decision. Is He the Son of God, i.e. one in essence with the Father, or not? Any other opinion about who He really was is reductive.

Image by Jeff Jacobs. Courtesy of Pixabay

The War College

The National War College is situated in Washington D.C. Its mission is “to educate future leaders of the Armed Forces, Department of State and other civilian agencies for high level policy, command and staff responsibilities by conducting a senior level course of study in National Security strategy.” It is imperative that our future leaders have more than a cursory understanding of how to prosecute a war, the economic and social costs associated with it, and a diplomatic way to gain a strategic advantage over foreign actors to protect our national security during the time of war.

We look around the world and see wars in various nations. Those that lead the fight in those wars are at a distinct advantage if they have an understanding of the military, social and diplomatic courses of action that should be taken in order to have a successful conclusion to that war. The strategy they use will make the difference in their subsequent victory or defeat.

The same is true in the spiritual realm. Scripture is clear when in tells us that there is a war being fought in the spiritual arena. Angels and demonic forces are at odds constantly in a war for the souls of men and women on this planet. Just because we don’t see it does not mean that spiritual battles are not taking place. Humans also play a part in this war but most people are not even aware that the war is taking place.

Chapter six in the Book of Ephesians clearly defines this war. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” It also tells us what to do in order to stand against these forces of darkness, i.e. we must put on “the whole armor of God.” We must dress ourselves as a soldier dresses himself for battle. We must put on truth, righteousness, and salvation. We must be ready with the gospel of peace, have the shield of faith and be able to use the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. We must also be warriors in prayer in order to stand in the battle.

As effective as this armor is, it takes time and practice in order to learn how to use it well. One must fight in several battles to become experienced and battle hardened. Our leaders especially must be schooled at the War College in order to teach us how to fight successfully in this war. I have seen many a minister and missionary fight difficult battles and emerge victorious. I have also seen several fall in defeat.

Is this War College only for ministers and missionaries? Of course not. Just as our National War College teaches diplomats and civil servants to think strategically, so must we who are not “professional ministers” take classes there in order to learn to recognize our enemy and not be ignorant of his devices.

Ministers and missionaries are automatically signed up for the college but the rest of us are recruited for different classes as the need arises. Last year, I took the Endurance Class. I hadn’t signed up for it, but as events cascaded around myself and my family, I realized I had been drafted into the class and learned to fight the battle on a different level. Believe me, if it wasn’t for my armor, prayer, the grace of God, and loving support from other believers, I would not be standing today.

Are you taking a class at the War College? Is it one you didn’t sign up for but were drafted into? Take heart. God is faithful and He will help you withstand the battle you are in. Learn to use your armor, pray, and ask others to pray for you during this difficult time. You will emerge victorious if you don’t give up and continue to trust God through the darkness. It’s only a class and it will come to an end at just the right time.

Image by Alison Updyke. Courtesy of Pixabay

Never Gonna

This week WordPress let me know that I had been blogging for five years. It was one thing that I was “never gonna” do. And yet, thanks to all of you, it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

I am So Thankful for all of the reads, comments, prayers and love you have sent my way. You have made the journey worthwhile and I thank you from the bottom of my heart! May the Lord Richly Bless each and every one of you!

Image by Firmbee. Courtesy of Pixabay.

Orwellian

This week our government announced it was forming a Disinformation Governance Board under the Department of Homeland Security. It was couched under the guise that it was being formed to protect the public from disinformation from foreign sources. Understandably people who are concerned about the government using this board against its own citizens are speaking out. The idea of it is truly Orwellian.

One has to ask themselves, “Do I want my government to be a sifter of information and then purvey what they believe to be acceptable information to the public?” Of course not. It is reminiscent of The Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s novel 1984 where the people in the ministry were constantly spreading propaganda to the public in an effort to have them believe the lies the government was disseminating to its citizens. This Disinformation Governance Board could easily become like Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

Is this something new that is happening in our society? Hardly. Our society has been slipping into an Orwellian dystopia for many years. For example, the Ministry of Truth had a department where they rewrote history to fit with the current orthodoxy of the day. People were punished for speaking certain words and those words were taken out of the dictionary. By taking words out of the dictionary the government was trying to control the thoughts of the individuals in the society. Does our current “cancel culture” reflect any of that form of speech control? Do our “alternate history” teachers use a similar approach when teaching our students a history that reflects their orthodoxy?

When one looks at repressive totalitarian regimes around the world, there is always a pattern when it comes to “Disinformation.” One only has to look at the Nazis or the Stalinist regime of the former USSR. The government first comes for their political enemies. Next, the media is constrained to only spew government controlled information. The political dissidents are arrested next and finally the governments always come for the Christians and the Jews. It is a pattern seen over and over in countries like China, North Korea, Russia, and the former Nazi government of Germany.

Why do they always come for the Christians and the Jews in the end? Because they are the people who believe in liberty, free speech, and take a moral stance that is in direct conflict with totalitarian regimes. Do you think it can’t happen in the U.S.? Take a good hard look at what our government is proposing and then tell me why you don’t think it could happen here.

Thanatos

The other day I was asking the Lord about the things that were happening in the world. The world seems like it is in a desperate state at the moment. I was laying in bed that evening about to go to sleep when I heard the word Thanatos. I knew the word was probably Greek and so I looked it up on the internet. Ancient Greeks believed that Thanatos was the bodily incarnation of Death. “Hm-m-m,” I thought. The next morning I looked up Thanatos in my New Testament Greek dictionary and it was the word Death.

I thought about it for a moment and looked in Revelation 6, 7-8. “When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name on him who sat on it was Death (Thanatos), and Hades followed him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”

Many believers don’t believe the four horsemen of the Apocalypse will be released until the church has been taken to heaven in the Rapture. They believe that the seal judgments will not start until after that event. For me, I don’t know.

Could the horsemen be riding now? I have thought about it this past week. When I look around the world what do I see in Mariupol, Shanghai, Chicago, New York, Yemen, Africa, etc.? I see Thanatos. Is he riding on his pale horse or just walking the streets? That’s for you to decide. For me, I can see him riding through the world bringing death and destruction. Perhaps it is later than we think on the prophetic timeline.

Painting by Gustave Dore

Fine Linen

Last week when I was reading the Easter story, I noticed a few things about Joseph of Arimathea. Scripture tells us that Joseph went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus after the crucifixion so that he could bury it. The text in Mark 15 tell us that Joseph received permission from Pontius Pilate . It then tells us that Joseph “bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen.”

It struck me that Joseph was giving his best to Jesus. He could have bought any kind of material but he bought fine linen, which must have cost him a pretty penny or denarius if you will. I checked the current cost for linen and regular linen will go for about $5.00 a yard. However, fine linen can run you up to ten times that much, i.e. $50.00 a yard. So even by today’s standards, buying fine linen was costly indeed.

Maybe that doesn’t impress you much. Perhaps you’re thinking, “What are several yards of cloth going to cost you, four to five hundred dollars? So? But that is not the extent of Joseph’s generosity, not by a long shot. The text then tells us that Joseph “laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of stone.” We know from the Gospel of Matthew that this was Joseph’s new tomb. No one had been put in there before. Talk about expensive. Can you imagine the cost of having a tomb carved out of rock? Just like today, an endeavor like that would be extremely expensive; and yet Joseph didn’t hesitate to give his tomb to Jesus. By today’s standards the tomb could have cost upwards of $50,000 dollars.

I don’t know about you but before this past weekend, I had never really considered the cost of what Joseph had done. I knew he shown courage when he asked Pilate for Jesus’ body but I had never really thought about his generosity. When I think about what he did and how quickly he made his decisions, I am impressed.

And the takeaway? For me, it is to examine myself and check my own level of generosity. What would I be willing to give to the Lord? Would I hang on to my money or would I be willing to give him my best? Definitely a question I need to think about as I move forward this year! What about you, how is your level of generosity?

Image by D William. Courtesy of Pixabay

Scars in Heaven

This week is Holy Week for those who believe in Jesus Christ. It is the week when Jesus entered Jerusalem, held the Last Supper, was crucified and rose from the dead. There is not a more important week in Christianity. Today is Good Friday, the day Christians celebrate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

When Jesus came back from the dead, He had a spiritual body. You could look at it and touch it. He would appear in one place and soon after appear in another. Doors and walls were no obstacle to Him. He didn’t look exactly the same as He had in life, but there was one thing on His body that made Him recognizable; His scars.

When He rose from the dead, His body had the scars from His crucifixion. One of His disciples Thomas would not believe Jesus rose from the dead unless he could touch His scars. He wanted proof that Jesus had in fact risen from the grave. When Jesus appeared to the disciples, he allowed Thomas to touch His scars and see for himself that He was real. Thomas’s response was, “My Lord and my God.”

For all eternity, people in heaven will see the marks the crucifixion left on His body. His sacrifice will be paramount to His followers, for it will be the only reason they are there, having been reconciled to the Father.

Image by Tre Harris. Courtesy of Pixabay

Slain

Behold the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.

SO WHAT DOES THAT REALLY MEAN?

In Revelation 13:8, we see Christ described as “slain from the foundation of the world.” Before the world was created, before man was created, Jesus knew that man would be a sinner and that someone would have to pay the penalty for that sin. Before we were even created, He willingly chose to come to earth and pay the price for our sins.

It is hard to comprehend that kind of love, that kind of sacrifice, but that is exactly the kind of love that brought Jesus into the world and eventually onto the cross.

During this season, place your eyes upon Christ on the cross, dying for the sins of the world; for you, for me and for everyone who ever existed. That is the kind of love that God has for us and that is the sacrifice He made for us.