“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”—Joshua 1:9 (NIV).
“Our country is going to hell in a hand basket?”
“Things are getting darker in this nation.”
“What’s to become of our future?”
I’ve heard, and probably expressed similar thoughts about the United States in the past. Maybe that’s because I used to be a news junkie. Not anymore. While I still skim the daily headlines and catch the nightly news, I don’t allow the negativity to dominate my thought life
Recently, I was listening to Kelly Shackelford, CEO of Liberty Institute, speak about the attacks on religious freedom in America. I was dismayed, but encouraged, after hearing Shackelford share some of the many cases the institute has had to defend during its 40-year history, including religious liberty.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”—Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV).
What would you tell an atheist if he wanted concrete evidence before he would believe in our Creator God? A video posted on a Facebook page called “Jesus Christ is King,” led me to post the question above on my own page.
Before I posed the question, I viewed the four-minute video called “Dear Mr. Atheist.” After watching it, I started reading the comments from others, left by both believers and nonbelievers. While a few comments of the almost 115,000 were kind, most were not. It was a battle of the believers versus the nonbelievers. Many comments were hate-filled.
As a Christian, I left a cordial comment. An atheist responded to my comment—in a nice way, I might add. When I mentioned to this individual that he might want to read Lee Strobel’s “The Case for a Creator,” he responded with “I will need more than a book for me to believe. Show me the evidence, that’s all I need. Simple, concrete evidence.”
“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?”—Galatians 5:13 (MSG).
Freedom (noun) 1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint; 2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc. 3. the power to determine action without restraint.
Ask someone what the word means to them and you’ll most likely get an answer similar to the following: “It means doing what I want.”
As I reflected on this response, I wondered, “Is that what’s wrong with our world?” Too many people doing what they want, instead of finding true freedom in Christ and doing what the Word calls us to do: “Love others as you love yourself.”
I can’t think of any other word resonating with Americans more than the word “freedom.” Some television commercials claim purchasing their product will set you “free.” When we celebrate our country’s independence, we sing songs of freedom. Politicians know how to use the word to add weight to their campaign or cause.
Yet scripture teaches us the only truly free people in the world are those who have made Christ their Savior and Lord and Master. Jesus Christ said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it”—Proverbs 22:6 (NIV).
Did you know the recent school shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon marked the 74th one since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012? In 2014, so far, there have been 37 school shootings and as of February, about half of the incidents were fatal.
In the latest shooting, at least one student was killed and a teacher was injured by a lone gunman who later took his own life. According to police the teenage gunman had an AR-15 type rifle, a semi-automatic handgun and nine loaded magazines in his possession.
Have school shootings become the norm in our country? According to press reports, each gunman, including the ones involved in the Columbine High School massacre, occurring in 1999 were outsiders—loners who didn’t fit in or who had been influenced by our culture of movie and video violence.
In the case of the Columbine massacre, 12 students and one teacher were murdered by two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Although Harris and Klebold’s motives still remain unclear, their personal journals reveal they wanted their actions to rival the Oklahoma City bombing. USA Today referred to the Columbine massacre as a “suicidal attack [which was] planned as a grand—if badly implemented—terrorist bombing.” The two had also been influenced by violent movie and video games, according to the press.
“It was my hand that laid the foundations of the earth; the palm of my right hand spread out the heavens above; I spoke and they came into being”—Isaiah 48:13 (TLB).
When the first plants arrive in local nurseries and garden centers, I get a fever—not one caused by a bug—but one caused by my addiction to planting new shrubs and flowers. I’m always amazed at the variety and the colors and immediately start picturing where a new plant might fit in one of my many flowerbeds. I didn’t have a single bed when I moved into my new house in 2007. Seven years later, I have 10—and I’m still not finished.
I’m like Forrest Gump who started running one day and didn’t know when to stop. I started building flower beds and didn’t know when to quit. Later, in the heat of summer, I groan, wondering why I have this addiction. Tending my flower beds brings me great joy, even when I lose a bush or flower to disease or one of nature’s creatures, because it’s all part of the process.
Last year, I had to dig up 18 rose bushes afflicted with an untreatable disease. It was the same rose rosette virus that killed two-thirds or some 3,000 bushes in the Tulsa Municipal Rose Garden.
“Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name”—Psalm 103:1 (NLT).
How often do you remember to be thankful? Other than Thanksgiving, do you take time on a daily basis, even throughout your busy day, to say, “Thank you God!”
Recently, I attended a one-day Christian writers’ workshop. Earlier this year, I had been unable to attend another one for which I had registered, but I was blessed to get my money back after enrolling. I like attending at least one conference or workshop a year—more if I can afford it and if I have the time.
On this particular day—a Saturday—I discovered many reasons to thank my Abba Father when I stopped at the end of the day and began to count my blessings. When the day dawned, however, I had awakened with a heavy heart. Feelings I had expressed in an email to a friend the previous day had not been acknowledged, either with an email, text or a phone call. Was the person upset? Would this person decide to end our budding friendship?
“I was born for that purpose. And I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth are my followers”—John 18:37b (TLB).
While attending one of my grandchildren’s events at an area school last week, I made a trip to the restroom. Written on one of the walls were the following words: “If you love Jesus, add your mark below.”
I didn’t have time to count the number of students who had left a mark below the statement but I estimated there were more than 100. Since this is a small rural school, I was encouraged by the number of youngsters who had declared their love for Jesus.
After the event, I was visiting with my grandchild and her mother in the hall when I noticed several students sporting t-shirts proclaiming their hope in Jesus. Encouraged again by this show of faith, I smiled.