In the bleak, desperate days of World War II America was deeply divided. Armistice signings unleashed the hopes and dreams of our “Greatest Generation” who laced up for a post-war building boom like none other ever. Now we’re “deeply divided” again, having failed to learn the cost for the freedom our brave ancestors purchased with their blood.
Holidays are made for families. Hearts are tugged together, mending hurts with mercy where needed. Elders seem older and slower. Little ones grow quickly, replenishing hope for tomorrow. Mom’s specialty dishes draw ooh’s and ahh’s of anticipation rewarded. For a fleeting moment time stands still. Objects in the mirror of your mind seem closer than they are.
“I see trees of green, red roses too, and I think to myself, ‘What a wonderful world!’” 3,000 years ago the most powerful ruler on the planet wrote a hit song describing the path to that world. You can almost hear King David hum it as he wrote: “How happy and fulfilled are those whose rebellion has been forgiven, those whose sins are covered by blood. How blessed and relieved are those who have confessed their corruption to God! For He wipes their slate clean and removes hypocrisy from their hearts.” (Psalm 32:1-2) When you think to yourself, is your world wonderful?
What on earth can we learn from sand? Carpeting the water-logged two-thirds of the earth, it’s the result of timeless pounding of wind and waves. Sprawling expanses of burning, desert sand once served as the floor of our planet. It’s everywhere underfoot, even in the Bible. God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as sand. God’s thoughts of us outnumber the grains of sand. He advises, “Build on a rock because if storms batter a home built on sand, it collapses and is swept away.” Like an hourglass, your sands of time creep through life’s bottlenecks until the last few grains pick up speed and slide into their final resting place. What have you learned from these few lines about sand? “Everyone who hears my teaching and applies it to his life can be compared to a wise man who built his house on an unshakable foundation. When the rains fell and the flood[ came, with fierce winds beating upon his house, it stood firm because of its strong foundation.” (Matthew 7:24-25)
What are your expectations for the next thirty days? Do you believe good things will happen for and to good people? Are you convinced that bad people will get their just desserts? Do you suspect that in another dimension, not understood by us mere mortals, that this is some sort of virtual drama whose final act has already been played out? Are we simply cardboard cutouts filling the seats at a virtual game of life? Or are we surrounded by a great cloud of real witnesses somewhere far beyond our current state?
These IQ-less critters will never be valedictorians. Their natural bent for following and flocking makes them easy prey, remaining alert for unwelcome, night visitors. Sheep willingly move en masse when just one of them takes off, even to march over a cliff, being utterly helpless and hopeless. Evolutionists could make a more compelling case to link us with sheep than apes. The Bible refers to us as “sheep without a shepherd.” As the Good Shepherd for those who put their trust in Him, Jesus Christ guides us out of harm’s way to leafy grazing and quiet waters. Our benevolent Gatekeeper is also the Lamb of God, our Stand-in on that cruel cross. Canadian songbird, Anne Murray, warbled, “I sold my soul, You bought it back for me and held me up and gave me dignity. Somehow You needed me.” “For you know that your lives were ransomed once and for all from the empty and futile way of life handed down from generation to generation. It was not a ransom payment of silver and gold, which eventually perishes, but the precious blood of Christ—who like a spotless, unblemished lamb was sacrificed for us.” 1 Peter 1:18-19 Posted September 29, 2020
To describe how you’re feeling, you might say, “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m a 4.” But wouldn’t it be clearer if you said, “If life is a garden, mine is filled with dead flowers and parched soil.” That’s a “word picture.” From missiles in the Middle East to mayhem in the Midwest too many are dying in this era. We shrink from the subject of death, but the Bible minces no words: “Every human being is appointed to die once, and then face God’s judgment.” How would you describe death, using a word picture? Think of it as ….. a revolving door. It’s not the end of your existence. It’s the vehicle that transports who you are from the constraints of time into the next room of eternity. Francis Schaeffer asked, “How should we then live?” But “How should we then die?” “You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; He canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14) Posted September 14, 2020
This 3-letter word packs a wallop like no other. Its mere whisper unleashes a Goliath-dropping blow. This mighty mite cracks bank vaults, unites warring factions, seals mammoth deals and defines destinies. So potent, it levies consequences even if you ignore it. Not long ago a friend who began walking with Jesus Christ as a teenager stepped into eternity. Sadly, as an adult he had often used this word rather than its antonym. Yet God who is a faithful, forgiving Father welcomed this prodigal son’s return, all because as a child my friend had said ….. “Y-E-S!” “Yes, God, I’ve sinned against you and want Your forgiveness. God is wanting and waiting for each of us to say “yes” to His loving offer. But He won’t wait forever. Is procrastinating a gamble you’re willing to take? “Jesus Christ is the Son of God … and He has always been and will always be for us a resounding “YES!” 2 Corinthians 1:19 The Passion Translation Posted August 30, 2020
You begged Santa for a puppy, but got Pick-up-sticks. It hurt, but eventually you got over it. Well, mostly. Then your heart was set on taking Wanda to “Holiday on Ice,” but that stud bully, Jefferson Pierpont Cheapshot, asked her first, and you got the cold shoulder. Grief is the residue of something or someone that’s been wrested from you, leaving an ache for which there’s no vaccine. You’ve experimented with under-the-counter pain relievers. But they only exacerbate when you were hoping for eliminate. What’s taken from us leaves a vacuum which we fill with sorrow, anger or revenge. I’ve heard it said that “When Jesus is all you have, you’ll find that He’s all you need.” But just maybe Charlie Brown is on to something when he mumbles, “Good grief.” Maybe grief is a gift from God to remind us that losing – whether it’s a dog or a date – is not the end of the world -- unless it’s what the Carpenter from Nazareth meant when He cautioned, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?” That question bears repeating: “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?” “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (Jesus to His close friends just before He was crucified for your sins and mine. John 16:22) Posted August 14, 2020
God will never ever condemn those who trust in Jesus. Why would He? He has forgiven and forgotten all our sins. His Son fully paid for them once and forever. If He ever remembered them, Jesus’ sacrifice would be meaningless. Even those dearest to you who intend to love you unconditionally will sooner or later fail you. But not Jesus! No matter what. Romans 8:31-39 Posted July 31, 2020
Our country is hemorrhaging from a racial gash perhaps too deep to heal. Whose ideal America should prevail? Our founders wrestled with this and risked death on the high seas to inhale freedom. This, they felt, could only exist in a law-abiding system of checks and balances. They settled on three God-given rights that would satisfy the desires of each individual as well as promote the common good: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Dutch Sheets writes, “When I pray for revival in America, I know the breaches in America’s history well – injustices, acts and our many sins. We have failed, sometimes egregiously. Yes, our nation has a flawed past and perhaps an even more flawed present.” Only the God who in love formed us can reach back into the past and heal angry wounds we’re responsible for or merely inherited. Forgiveness and cleansing are His ideas. Two millennia ago on a hill far away a dark-skinned, 30-something man who had never sinned, hung naked on a cross to pay reparations for us, accepting the death sentence we rightfully received for sins committed by every human of every race. He did this to give each of us total forgiveness and an endless future with Him. His name is Jesus. Here’s His pledge: “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” It would be a tragedy to not seize this opportunity. George Toles george@HisDeal.org Posted July 15, 2020
Our nation is engaged in a heated debate about how we should respectfully treat each other. News and opinion outlets are airing the views of all sides. Which position has the ring of truth? Who has the authority and power to create a lasting peace? What can heal the din of angry voices, clouds of tear gas, sloganeering, destruction and physical violence? The One who created us in a variety of skin suits, loving each of us with all of our differences, speaks through His friend Paul: “No longer do we judge anyone by human standards. God, through Christ who died for us, has changed us from His enemies to His friends. He’s given us the assignment to deliver to each other that life-giving message.” If we choose “NO God,” then we’ll have “NO peace.” But if we choose to “KNOW God,” then we’ll “KNOW peace.” “Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1 Will you let your “no” be “know” and your yes be yes? Posted June 30, 2020
Remember the childish taunts hurled at you by that hateful bully at school? Perhaps those hurtful catcalls came with hostile epithets: “Hey, Fatso! Porky! Carrott-top! Yo, mama’s boy!” When his abuse became unbearable, tears could flow, prompting “Whassa matter, cry-baby?” As we mature, we learn that when things are not going our way, there’s a more productive, grownup alternative to whimpering, “Why me?” This wisdom is found in what occurred in Jerusalem two millennia ago. Thousands of pilgrims from throughout the Middle East had assembled to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. Suddenly there was a loud noise, like the groans of a low-flying 747. What resembled tongues of fire appeared, and people of every ethnic group heard total strangers speaking in their own language. The message, clearly heard by everyone, was that Jesus Christ, who had been crucified a few weeks earlier, was indeed their promised Messiah. The throngs responded by asking Jesus’ friends the two questions we must answer today: What does this mean? … and … What should I do? This is no time to be a why-baby. “What” is the wiser question to ask. And Peter had the right answer: “Whoever calls out to the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:21 What does this mean to you? What will you do? Posted June 15, 2020
Have you discovered the joy of being fascinated with words? In periods of limited contact with the outside world we have the unsought gift of time for otherwise unthinkable pursuits. Take two of the tiniest words in our lexicon: may and can. So often incorrectly employed. Let’s begin with definitions. “May” expresses possibility. (“You may be right.”) It also communicates permission. (“May I have seconds?”) “Can” describes ability. (“She can type fast.”) Curiously, it too connotes permission. (“You may be excused.”) When dealing with permission, either may or can is kosher. “May” is also the name of a month, and “can” is an object that you can – or may – kick down the street. Which is correct? (1) “If I may, can I ask you a question?” or (2) “If I can, may I ask you a question?”) Depending on the situation, both are proper. In closing …. “May the Lord bless you and take care of you; may the Lord be kind and gracious to you; may the Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26) “I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.” (Philippians 4:13) Posted May 31, 2020
Grandparents had a kaleidoscope toy that you looked through like Capt. Kidd’s pirate telescope. At one end were chips of varying shapes and colors which, as you rolled it, changed places like a high-stepping band’s halftime formations. The corona virus of 2020 goose-stepped across our world. Each of us, like our toy kaleidoscope, views the crisis through a different lens. But dread, danger and death pollute everyone, causing many to wonder, “Where is God when we need Him most?” David, the Goliath slayer, wrote, “The Lord is my best Friend and my Shepherd. … He restores and revives my life. Lord, even when Your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness … I’ll never be lonely for You are near. … So why would I fear the future? … when my life is through, I’ll return to Your glorious presence to be forever with You!” QUESTION … “All kidding aside, what must I do to be saved?” JesusCares.com Posted May 14, 2020
In high school we logged many miles in our old school bus. After we’d been on the road for what seemed forever, some yokel would break the silence, screaming, “Are we there yet?” These days in our quarantined quandary people are asking, “Will we ever see the good, ole days again? Can we return to yesterday when all our troubles seemed so far away? Is this our new normal? What’s next?” It’s easy to grow impatient, marooned in our Fauci cages. Or we can proactively probe for a pony buried in this pile of manure. Well, by George, I found one! A dear friend has lived as the prodigal for most of his colorful, affluent and glamorous life. Imagine the roller coaster ride his caring, praying family and friends have been on as he soared with the rich-and-famous, but settled into a destructive lifestyle. Would he ever return? Would his fate ever be learned? Well, I’m here to tell you that at last he’s raced home back into the arms of his Savior, Jesus Christ, whom he first placed his trust in as a teenager. As in the ancient story, our prodigal’s Father in heaven is throwing one, honkin’ Welcome Home feast! My wandering friend took the long and winding road, sampling the plastic fruits of fame and fortune, only to find that Father knows best. Who’s driving your bus? Have you let Jesus take the wheel? “…I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16 “I am certain that God who began the good work within you will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matthew 16:26 “Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” Romans 8:34 Posted April 30, 2020
“Let’s stay in touch” is often said at the outset of a new friendship or the rekindling of an old one. Pandemics come with strict, no-touch guidelines for those who are socially active. We can be only so close to another person, with only so many present in one place. Introverts equate being quarantined to a paid vacation. For them the forced separation of being housebound is like winning the Publishers Clearinghouse whereas the extrovert would happily trade his Costco card to be in a flash mob. How are you coping with this pan-demonium? What about giving this a try? “Don’t worry about anything; Pray about everything; Thank God for everything, Then God's peace will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. I have learned to be content in any circumstance.” Peace and contentment. What more could you desire? Shall we let the learning begin? Posted April 15, 2020
How the mighty have fallen! Even global Goliaths have been brought to their knees by a microscopic organism, the baffling coronavirus. So does size really matter? We’ve been told on good Authority that faith, no bigger than a tiny mustard seed, can move the Himalayas. How did this paralyzing, panic-fueled pandemic start? Will this plague run its course before we incur irreparable damage? Wall Street’s bull has been gored by Main Street’s bear as currency runs for cover. Can laid off workers pay their bills? Will there be enough food and necessities? The headline-hungry media fan the flames of fear. Is the situation out of control? Why is God allowing this dismantling of life’s routine freedoms? What do Mardi Gras, Halloween, the Lone Ranger, Zorro and billions of us have in common? A flimsy, surgical mask. If God is wearing one, what’s He doing behind it? Smiling? Smirking? Weeping? If He removed His mask to dispel your fears and give you hope, what would He say to you? “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 Posted March 30, 2020
What are your most “felt” needs? The so-called experts say they are: 2 B loved 2 B long 2 B significant Let’s take a quick inventory. Do you feel loved? Even if you have no living family or friends, know that God loves you lavishly. Each breath is a gift of His love, the Love that traded His Son’s life for yours. Do you have a sense of being connected? If you’re a Jesus-follower, you’re a member of His Body of believers worldwide. You may feel like you’re only a toenail in His Body, but you’re of great value. Need proof? Tear off your toenail. Do you believe your life matters? Jesus says He knows when a mere sparrow falls, so imagine how precious you are to Him. You’re worth the life of His Son! 2 B loved, 2 B long, 2 B significant. Everyone has those three needs. How can you encourage the next person you’ll be with? "My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action.” 1 John 3:18 Posted March 14, 2020
The days of whine or roses Laugh or run away Based on if I say, “I will greet the day And see what God proposes.” I have a choice to make; Will I see life’s trials As mud pie or chocolate cake? Is His promise real or fake? Am I living for His sake? Here’s what will count; When I see troubles mount: Will I trust God like Moses? It’s my choice to make In these days of whine or roses. How will you deal with life’s next curve ball? “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14) Posted March 1, 2020
The few bookstores that are still open are bulging with self-improvement titles that have certainly paid off for their well-heeled authors. Their tempting promises include “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” and “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” I get it -- if I have good fortune, these happiness hucksters contend that I myself must make it happen. The late George Carlin got it: “I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, 'Where's the self-help section?' She said, “If I told you, that would defeat the purpose.” Hope is a many splendored word. There’s aspirational hope, as in “I hope I win best-in-show.” There’s emotional hope, as in “I hope she’ll say ‘yes’ when I propose.” And there’s biblical hope, a well-grounded expectation that relies on God’s promises, as in “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 What are you hoping for? How sure are you that it will come to pass? “And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You.” Psalm 39:7 Posted February 15, 2020
Standing in a batting cage, your heart starts racing when that faceless pitching machine begins launching SAM (surface-to-me) baseball missiles at your ill-prepared sense of timing. One after another, here they come, ready or not. Email had a similar effect on me today when it delivered the bad news that yet another friend has cancer. They say the number of new cases is declining, but if your family has been touched by this dreaded disease, one is one too many. When you hear “shadow,” you’d rather it come from your photographer than your physician. But best of all, from that Old Testament songwriter: “Whoever goes to the Lord for safety remains under the shadow of the Almighty and can say to Him, ‘You are my defender and protector; You are my God; in You I trust.’ He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers and from all deadly diseases. He will cover you with His wings; you will be safe in His care.” Next time you’re thrown a killer curve, where will you turn for safety?” “God says, ‘I will save those who love me and protect those who acknowledge me as Lord. When they call me, I will answer them; when they are in trouble, I will be with them. I will rescue them and honor them. I will reward them with long life; I will save them.” Psalm 91:14-16 “Even in my suffering I was comforted because Your promise gave me life.” Psalm 119:50 Posted January 31, 2020
“Is there any of you who is wise and understanding?” The setting could be Gasworks Park in Seattle. The audience is consummately diverse. Business types wearing “casual Friday.” Students with backpacks. A scattering of pup tents, grocery carts and their transient residents. Standing in their midst is a late 20-something man. The cut of his jib is ordinary. But his dancing eyes and commanding composure have you waiting for his answer to his question. A few hands go up, likely in sarcasm, implying, “Okay, smart guy. I s’pose you have a corner on the mental market. What’s your point?” Our moderator makes room for a long, pregnant pause. Then continues. “You are to prove it by your good life, by your good deeds performed with humility and wisdom. But if in your heart you are jealous, bitter and selfish, … such wisdom does not come down from heaven.” What filters will you trust in 2020 to wisely determine what is real and what isn’t? “The wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace.” James 3:16-18 Posted January 14, 2020