Disney’s Pixar released its latest animated movie on Christmas day. For now, the movie is only available on the subscription service, Disney+, but if you have a chance to see it you should.
Soul is the story of a man who suffers a fatal accident the very day his dreams of playing with a professional jazz band come true. Joe Gardner awakes to see himself as a bodiless soul moving away from the earth to “The Great Beyond” where the dead merge peacefully with a great cosmic energy source. Sure that this must be a mistake, Joe runs away and falls into a different other-worldly place, “The Great Before.” Here, he is tasked with mentoring a young soul who is preparing for life on earth.
Even from this short description, it’s obvious this movie does not project a Christian worldview. So why should Christians watch it? And what can they learn from it?
1. It provides a good opening to discuss death with children and teens.
Although the premise sounds frightening, death gets the Disney treatment in Soul, making it far from menacing. The movie actually produces an optimistic feeling about death, but for the wrong reasons.
For older children and teens, you can ask what they think happens after death and find out just how much they’ve been influenced (or not) by the culture they live in. For younger children, this would be a good time to discuss the difference between make-believe stories and true stories.
For children of any age, the movie provides a good springboard to remind them of the truths of the Bible. God is the source of human life. He made us with a purpose, and he wants to spend an eternity with us. Death shouldn’t scare us if we love God and believe in his promises.
2. It helps us rethink our purpose.
This is one of the most philosophical children’s movies I’ve ever watched. In fact, children won’t understand half of it. The heart of the story is for adults.
The villain in this movie isn’t death; it’s never finding—or perhaps losing—our reason to live.
Perhaps you can relate to that. Have you failed to achieve your dreams? Or are you still chasing dreams, believing you won’t really live until you—what? Get married? Have enough money? Become successful in your career? What if you never do? If you were to see your life flash before your eyes today, would you say, as Joe does, “My life was meaningless”?
Too often we equate meaning and value with reaching goals, performing better than others, or checking things off our to-do list. We search for that one passion, that one accomplishment, or that one person that will give our lives meaning. This movie reminds us that instead of focusing in and obsessing on one thing, we would often do better to look around us and find joy in the little things of life.
Yes, God made us with a purpose. But our most basic purpose is simply to love God and be loved by him. That alone makes life worth living and gives life value. When we remember that and really embrace it, we see everything else in our lives with a clearer perspective.
3. It reminds us that negative self-talk comes from somewhere. Don’t let it come from you.
There is a heartbreaking scene near the end of the movie when one character is lost in a cloud of negative self-talk. She hears her own voice: “I can’t do it.” “I’m just not good enough.” “I have no purpose.” And she hears the voices of all the mentors who put her down, judged her harshly, and discouraged her.
If this scene doesn’t make you want to hug your children and tell them you love them just the way they are, you need to watch it again. Maybe you should hug yourself, too, and resolve to love yourself more.
Whether it’s our children, our spouses, our friends, or even strangers we meet as we go through the day, the words we say can build them up or tear them down. We need to remember that. That doesn’t mean you should never correct your children or disagree with your spouse. We just need to find ways to do it that helps instead of hurts.
And we need to remember that the value of other people should never depend on what they achieve, how good they are at something, or what they do for us. We reflect God’s love when we love people just because they are. Remembering God’s love can heal us from our own negative self-talk and keep us from contributing to others’.
A fresh start.
We stand at the beginning of a new year. 2020 kept a lot of us from pursuing our dreams or reaching our goals. And we still have a while to go before life returns to normal. Hitting ‘pause’ on some of those goals may not be the worst thing we can do.
Perhaps we should begin 2021 by taking our eyes off our goals for a while and let go of our desperate need to find meaning in our lives. Remember that God loves you. Remember that there are many ways you can make a difference in other people’s lives.
Today, look beyond your own dreams and desires and see what’s already there—a life waiting to be lived.
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(Hug photo by Ekaterina Shakharova courtesy of Unsplash.)
Every year at Christmas, I love seeing pictures of the nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. The sky above is aglow from the light of a brilliant star. Awe-struck shepherds stand nearby or kneel before the manger bed. Sheep and barnyard animals crowd around with bowed heads or sneak a peek at the Christ child.
The scenes are peaceful and joyful and beautiful.
When we sing about that first Christmas, we remember the angels who spoke of Jesus’ coming. An angel appeared to Mary telling her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31). An angel appeared to Joseph to say, “ Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). And an angel appeared to shepherds in a field near Bethlehem. “Do not be afraid” he told them. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
“Do not be afraid.”
We can only imagine what Mary, Joseph, or the shepherds thought of that angelic command. Or what Zechariah thought of the same command given by the angel who announced he and his wife would have a child in their old age. They were to name him John, and he would “go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13, 17).
Given these messages of joy and hope, what did they expect to happen next? Could they possibly imagine God’s plan included a gruesome death for both John and Jesus at the hands of their enemies, the persecution of Jesus’ followers after his death, and the complete destruction of Jerusalem only a generation later?
“Do not be afraid.”
In the Bible, that phrase usually appears during a time of turmoil and uncertainty. It’s often followed by circumstances getting worse, not better. “Do not be afraid” is not God’s way of saying, “Don’t worry-everything is going to be great.” It’s his way of saying, “This is going to be hard. Stay focused on me, and don’t let fear get in the way because I have work for you to do.”
“Do not be afraid.”
Looking back on the year of 2020 we have seen much turmoil and uncertainty, with a global pandemic, civil unrest, a reeling economy, and bitter political battles. Our nation is deeply divided, and many families and churches are finding themselves divided as well. We turn to our Bibles, desperately searching for reassurance and hope, looking for the words, “Do not be afraid.” But we can’t take those words out of context. Not one person who was told to not be afraid received a get-out-of-trouble-free card and a happily ever after. Neither will we. Not yet.
Life will continue to be hard. Stay focused on God, and don’t let fear get in the way. He has work for us to do. It’s not time yet for the happily ever after. But God is with us. Jesus the Emmanuel is proof of that. Do not be afraid.
I’m sure most of you have heard the news by now. The news media has pronounced Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 US presidential election. Many who supported Donald Trump are left today with feelings of bitterness, anger, and fear of what the next four years will bring. Throughout the election season, I have not written anything about the election, politics, or the state of the nation. In fact, I haven’t written anything at all. My own feelings were too raw and emotional. But today I feel the need to write to you, my fellow Christians in the United States and elsewhere.
For many Christians, Donald Trump represented their best hope for preserving what is left of religious freedom and Christian convictions in this country. To them, the idea of making America great again meant returning to a time when most of the country believed in God, when prayer and Bible reading were accepted and even expected parts of public life, and when the laws reflected Christian beliefs about marriage and the sanctity of life. They fear that our move away from Christian beliefs and principles means that God will reject America and remove His favor from our country.
I can understand these feelings, but I do not share them. While there are many promises and warnings given to nations in the Old Testament, I can’t find any in the New Testament. I can’t find anywhere that Jesus called a nation to follow him. I can’t find anywhere he told his followers to seek a good country with moral laws and settle down there. I can’t find anywhere Jesus talks about the governments of men at all, except to say, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) and “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
The New Testament makes it clear that we are sojourners in this land, wherever we may live. Other ways to translate this word are strangers, aliens, foreigners, and visitors. Peter referred to Christians as sojourners living among unbelievers (1 Peter 2:11-12, KJV). Jeremiah warned the Israelites to remember they were sojourners in Babylon (Jeremiah 35:7). Even the Jews were considered sojourners in the land of Israel, the land God had promised them, because ultimately the land belonged to God, not them (Leviticus 25:23).
Jesus certainly treated his followers like sojourners and aliens. He told his disciples they needed to be willing to give up everything for him—their families, their property, their homes, and even their lives. He told them to expect persecution and hatred because the light they would share would be hated by the darkness. He sent them out into the darkness to carry his light to people who felt at home in this world but were strangers to God.
This world is not my home. I’m a sojourner here. I have a job to do while I’m here and it’s a difficult one. I’ve been called to stand firm in my faith while others mock me and even hate me because of it. I’ve been called to live a life according to God’s ethics while showing his love to people who live by a very different ethic. I’ve been called to preach the gospel of forgiveness through Christ by my words and deeds. I’ve been warned that I will face persecution and I may asked to sacrifice much. But I’ve been given a promise of eternal joy in the presence of the one who has called me to do these things.
That promise is worth waiting for. So today take joy in the promise of a future with the Lord instead of dwelling on the fear of the present in a dark and weary land.
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:3-8)
In this chaotic and painful time in our national history, I want to take a moment to remember a young man I used to know and make sure his story is not overlooked.
Jason went to high school with my son. They were close friends from their freshman year when they and another friend entered a lip-sync competition acting out “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.” In their junior year, the three boys helped create their school’s first robotics team and led it to a state championship. They surprised us all by winning the “Aspire” award which recognizes not only robotic design and programming but “gracious professionalism” and community outreach.
I’ll never forget attending the robotics world championship that year, where my son and his friends represented their school and their state. The championship was held at a professional football stadium, and it was filled with junior high and high school students from around the world who were committed to their education and to building a better future. My husband looked around and said, “Everyone always asks, ‘Where are all the good kids?’ They should see this. This is where the good kids are.”
The boys graduated high school and started college. My son and one of his friends went into computer programming, but Jason decided to become a doctor. I watched from a distance as he completed college and medical school and started his residency at a hospital far from home and family. I would see his posts on Facebook, and we got together a few times when he was home visiting. We always smile when we talk about Jason and laugh about how he would eat my husband’s favorite cookies when he came by our house or how he would bring six quarts of ice cream to my son’s apartment and leave three behind when he left.
So what happened to this bright, charming doctor-in-training? He’s not dead. But he could be.
Last night I saw a Facebook story he posted that said, “Stopped by the police pulling out of Quik Trip. Let’s see what I did this time!” This morning I saw his follow-up post: “Apparently ‘getting into your car without unlocking it’ is grounds for detainment and vehicle search.”
I was watching the morning news when I saw the post. I was looking at footage of an unarmed black man being tazed by a police officer and a young black girl asking a police officer through her tears if he was going to shoot her. And I found myself crying, too. I am not black, and I have never been on the receiving end of the blind prejudice that leads people to hate and fear others simply because of the color of their skin. But in that moment, I felt a small portion of the horror victims of prejudice must feel. I looked at Jason’s posts again and thought, what if that had been my son?
What if Jason hadn’t responded calmly when armed police officers pulled him over and told him to get of his car? What if he had reacted with anger over being stopped – again – without just cause? Would he have been arrested, or tazed, or beaten? Would he have been shot? What if that had been my son?
My son is not black, and I have never had to discuss with him how to respond if stopped by a police officer without just cause. I never had to say, “Keep calm. Answer respectfully. There might be a legitimate reason why you’ve been stopped.” I’ve never had to worry that the reason might not be legitimate – that it might be based on the racist belief that every black man is dangerous and guilty until proven innocent.
Jason is not dead because he kept calm and didn’t get angry. But today I am angry.
Let me say that again. I AM ANGRY.
I’m angry at police officers who misuse their authority to harass people out of anger, prejudice, or unjustified fear. I’m angry at their fellow officers who know better but do nothing because they don’t want to rock the boat. I’m angry at city and county officials who turn a blind eye to abuses of power, at police unions who protect the guilty, and at judges who do nothing more than slap the wrists of offenders who would be jailed if not for their uniforms. And I’m angry at my friends and neighbors who scoff at people calling for reform, refusing to believe there is anything wrong.
What if it was your son being pulled over and searched for “getting into a car without unlocking it”? What if it was your daughter being tazed and dragged from a car at a peaceful demonstration? What if it was your father laying on the ground bleeding after being shoved by a police officer? Wouldn’t you be angry? Wouldn’t you be livid?
These people aren’t my sons, daughters, or fathers, but they are my neighbors. When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” – this is who he meant (Matthew 22:39). When God commanded his people to “judge your neighbor fairly” – this is who he meant (Leviticus 19:15). When the Bible tells us to seek justice and to treat everyone with equal dignity – this is who it’s talking about. And when our neighbors are treated unfairly – again and again and again – we should be angry and we should demand justice.
You may think from what I’ve said that I am anti-police, but nothing could be further from the truth. I served as a prosecuting attorney for over 5 years. I worked with city police officers, deputy sheriffs, federal agents from numerous agencies, and even tribal police. I hold in great esteem the many men and women I’ve met who serve their communities with integrity, risking their own lives in the pursuit of peace and justice.
But not every person with a badge wears it with integrity. Some use their power and authority as a bludgeon to make themselves feel strong by making others weak. They foster distrust instead of peace and make their communities weaker instead of stronger. Their actions should be called out instead of being justified or swept aside.
I want my son and daughter to live in a community that is safe. I want them to be treated fairly. I don’t want to be afraid for them every time they go out because someone may target them based on the color of their skin. If I would fight for those things for my children I have to fight for them for everyone. I don’t want to be writing a eulogy for my son or for his black friend, but I wonder if it might come to that. It could if things don’t change. If we don’t change. And I think it might start with getting angry.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
In Disney’s latest big-screen movie, Onward, two brothers have a chance to do what so many of us have dreamed of doing—spend one more day with a loved one who has died. Onward is set in a magical world of elves, pixies, centaurs, and manticores, where magic has been all but forgotten. But one spell, powered by a legendary stone, may be enough to bring back a father to two boys who barely remember him.
The film deals with an emotional question many of us have asked in our own lives. If I had one more day with my father—or mother, spouse, best friend, or child—how would we spend it? What would I say? What would I most want to do? Where would we go? If I only had one more day….
We have a limited amount of time on this earth. We know that. But somehow we go through most of our lives taking time for granted. There’s always tomorrow to say the things I need to say to the people I love. There’s always tomorrow to do the things I need to do. There’s always tomorrow—until there isn’t. Most of us aren’t ready for those tomorrows to end when we lose someone we love. Nor are we ready to be the one who leaves.
The Bible reminds us that we have a limited number of tomorrows. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall” (1 Peter 1:24). “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field” (Psalm 103:15).
For Christians, there is hope beyond our mortality. We are promised eternal life in a world made new. But that doesn’t mean we should waste the time we have on this side of eternity. Jesus told many parables about being ready (Matthew 22:2–14; 25:1–13) and making good use of our limited time (Matthew 24:45–51, 25:14–30; Luke 13:6–9). Paul spoke with great urgency about doing the work of God with a clear focus (1 Corinthians 7:29, 9:24). The writer of Hebrews also encouraged us to push forward with determination like runners racing to the finish line (Hebrews 12:1).
The whole Bible encourages us to use our time well. We can start by asking ourselves if this were my last day of life, what would I wish I had one more day to do? What would I wish I had one more day to say? Aren’t those the important things I should be doing and saying today?
In Disney’s Onward, the father of Ian and Barley Lightfoot spent time creating a spell that would bring him back from the dead for 24 hours to be with his boys. We don’t have that option. As parents, we need to use every 24 hours we have to raise our children well and make sure they are prepared for the future.
That brings me to my favorite scene in Onward, which happens during the climactic battle near the end of the movie. Throughout the movie, Ian and Barley’s mother, Laurel, does all she can to protect her boys. That’s what moms do, and this mom turns out to be pretty fierce when her boys are in danger. But in the end, Laurel passes a sword to her son to finish the battle. She could have held onto the sword and tried to get in position to continue the fight. She could have looked around for someone else to take up the sword. Instead, she throws it to her son, trusting him to be the brave, wise, strong young man she’s trained him to be his whole life.
That may be the hardest thing any parent has to do—letting go and letting our children succeed or fail on their own. That’s why we shouldn’t wait too long to pass the sword to them. I love that the Word of God—the Bible—is called a sword in Ephesians 6:17. A sword is something we need to be careful with. It’s dangerous in the wrong hands. But a trained warrior can do an awful lot with it.
We need to train our children to use the Word of God well—to study it, memorize it, and be guided by it. We can’t simply tell them what to believe about the Bible. We need to show them how to learn from it themselves. We need to equip them to take up that sword and fight battles we can’t fight for them.
We have one today and a limited number of tomorrows. How are you using your time now to make sure you have no need for one more day?
May the fourth - "May the Force" - get it?
It's May of 2020, and you're probably feeling as stir-crazy as I am, so I thought I would start with a little fun. Today is May 4th, which became known as Star Wars Day in 1979, two years after the first Star Wars film was released. The iconic greeting, "May the Force be with you," has been used in every Star Wars film from the first to the last, so it's fitting that it should be the basis of a holiday-of-sorts to celebrate the film franchise.
I can't say I'm a BIG Star Wars fan, but my family did visit both Disneyland and Disney World within the last year to visit their new Star Wars lands. And we subscribed to Disney+ so we could watch the new "Star Wars: the Mandalorian" series. I AM a big fan of fantasy and sci-fi stories, in general, especially those that build a new world I can step into in my imagination.
I recently read a quote that helps explain my love of fantasy stories:
“Fairy tales do not tell children dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” – G.K. Chesterton.
Dragons may belong to the fairy tale realm and not the real world, but the real world has more than its share of scary things that seem far too big to defeat. Stories let us face pretend dragons in a virtual world so we can imagine ourselves strong enough to face actual dangers in the real world. We need more of that bravery and heroism in our world today so we won’t fall apart in the face of a global pandemic that could be our biggest dragon yet.
Something else I like about fantasy stories is the reminder that a hero never wins a battle alone. Almost every hero story involves a community of people working together to defeat their enemies. That kind of community is usually required in real world battles, too. In addition, nearly every fantasy story involves something extra that makes victory possible in the end. In fairy tales, it’s magic. In Star Wars, it was the Force. It’s something you have to believe in and tap into. But it’s there, invisible to the eye until it’s called into action.
I hope you can relate to that something extra in your life. I hope you have discovered something bigger than yourself that works through you when you surrender your will and let it work. I hope you have found a fantastical story you can truly believe in because you can see the truth of it in your own life. I hope you are facing your dragons today with something much greater than magic, the Force, or even science, on your side.
“May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” – Ruth 2:12
“May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” – Numbers 6:24-26
It’s Good Friday, and many people are wondering how to commemorate the day if they can’t attend services at their local church. Easter just won’t seem like Easter this year. But that can be a good thing.
I ran across these verses this morning:
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)
Although Paul was talking about Jewish festivals which pointed forward to the coming of Christ, we too can get caught up in religious holidays and forget that they are also “a shadow” of our reality in Christ. It’s wonderful to be able to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection together as a body of believers. But our gratitude and worship should extend beyond a single day, or week, or season. As Christians, we should be celebrating our risen Savior every day of the year!
Please don’t feel guilty for not attending Easter services this year in person. Instead, take the time to remember the reality behind the celebration. Worship God “in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23), even if it’s in your bathrobe in front of the television watching a live-stream service.
May God bless you and your family this Good Friday with the assurance of his faithfulness.
A storm blew through our area a few days ago bringing wind, lightning, and heavy rain. At one point in the evening, I thought I heard something fall outside near our front door. I peered through the window but couldn’t see anything out of place. The next morning, when my husband stepped out the door to go for a walk, he found our carved stone welcome sign on the ground in multiple pieces.
I don’t remember when I bought that sign, but it has made three moves with us and hung beside the front door at four different houses. It has welcomed family, friends, neighbors, delivery men and women, and even a few door-to-door salesmen. I always think it’s nice to have a welcome sign near the door, and the sandstone material and carved Kokopelli of this one remind me of my southwestern heritage.
Now, it’s in the trash can.
It seemed like an ominous sign during these days of “social distancing.” It’s not a good idea right now to have friends and family over for a visit. Delivery drivers drop off their goods and move away from the door as quickly as possible. We wave hello to neighbors when we drive or walk by, but we keep our distance and don’t stop to talk. It’s not a very welcoming environment—at least not in the traditional ways.
I’m trying to find other ways to welcome people into my life. I’m calling family members more frequently. I’m checking in with friends by email or on Facebook. I can share words of hope and faith through my blog and on Instagram. I can continue to support my church and other good causes through donations. I can offer assistance to neighbors who need someone to run an errand.
Being a welcoming person doesn’t require a stream of people coming through my front door. It just requires an open heart.
The broken welcome sign made me think of another important point. There are some things I don’t want to welcome into my house now or ever. Panic is not welcome here. Unkind and unhelpful words are not welcome here. Greed and hoarding are not welcome here. Doubt of God’s love and mercy are not welcome here. These things creep in every once in a while when I let my guard down. I can entertain them like welcome guests or I can show them the door. I need to stay vigilant and be un-welcoming to these unhelpful thoughts and attitudes.
That may be harder than ever right now, but I also need to remember that this health crisis is temporary—no matter how many weeks or months it lasts. It cannot deprive us of the permanent promises of God to his people: “You will receive a rich WELCOME into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11).
What about you? What are doing to be a welcoming person in this time of closed doors?
In my Bible Study on the Armor of God, I have a chapter on peace. With all that is going on in our world right now, I thought peace would be a good thing to talk about today.
Many people think of peace as the absence of conflict and fear. We feel an emotional sense of peace when all is well with us. But true peace – biblical peace – is so much more than an emotional feeling. It is a state of mind, an attitude of readiness and calm in the midst of any circumstances. When Paul told us to strap on shoes “fitted with … the gospel of peace” as part of our spiritual armor, he was preparing us for battle (Ephesians 6:15). To be truly effective in battle, we need our hearts and minds to be at peace.
I’ve heard it said that courage is not the absence of fear; it’s doing what’s right in spite of our fear. We could also say that peace is not the absence of fear. It’s finding an inner calm while facing our fear.
Most people I know try to fight fear by being strong and acting as if there is nothing to fear. They push fear away and refuse to feel it, or they stuff it down inside and refuse to deal with it. I’m going to recommend something quite drastic instead. Let’s look for the good side of fear.
To begin, we have to admit that our fears are valid. There is good reason to be afraid right now – afraid for our health and the health of our loved ones, afraid for our jobs and income, afraid for our economy. Every decision we make will have unknown ramifications. Do we stay in and further damage the economy or risk losing our jobs or businesses? Do we go out and risk being infected or spreading an infection we didn’t know we had? Each of us has our own unique situation and our risk factors, so our level of fear may be higher or lower than others around us. But we all have something to fear if we’re honest about it.
Next, we should realize that fear can motivate us in good ways as well as bad ways. If we choose to focus on the good, fear can actually help us. Pain is something none of us want in our lives, but we would be in big trouble if we couldn’t feel pain. When you put your hand down on a hot oven range, it’s pain that motivates you to move your hand away quickly, minimizing the damage. Fear can also help us minimize damage by keeping us from doing things that can harm us physically or emotionally. Being afraid of a rattlesnake is a good thing. Being paralyzed by that fear is not.
So how do we find peace and maintain an inner calm in spite of real things to fear? Here are my thoughts:
1. Be informed. Learn what you can about the current medical crisis, looking to trustworthy sources for your information.
2. Be careful. When possible, take the advice of medical professionals and keep your risk of infection low.
3. Be compassionate. I hope you can say like I do, “There are a lot of people worse off than me because of this situation.” Your next thought should be, “Is there anything I can do to help someone today?” –even if that just means staying inside to keep the virus from spreading.
4. Keep praying. Pray especially for those who are facing this crisis without God, without the assurance of their eternal salvation and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
5. Focus on what God has done for you. Take time during this crisis to renew and deepen your trust in the God who is greater than any fearful circumstance and who has promised to never leave you or forsake you.
6. Let your peace be a light for others. If you’re going out, keep smiling, be kind to others, and serve others to the best of your ability. If you’re staying in, be a positive influence on social media and with anyone you talk to.
7. Be willing to face risk for others. I could say a lot about this point, but each of us will have to figure this one out for ourselves.
We can find peace in the face of our fears—not by denying the fear but by trusting in the God who is greater than our fears.
Christians should live what they say they believe. That includes voting according to what we believe. But we need to go further than just voting according to our conscience, supporting candidates who agree with us on what we think is good and bad.
There are several hidden motivations that can affect Christians when we vote if we forget to think deeply about what we believe. I’ve discussed three of those hidden motivations in the last few posts. Today, I want to discuss freedom.
One reason we might want to make America a more “Christian” nation is to keep the blessings God has given us, including the freedom to worship him and to speak freely. If we were ever to lose those freedoms, we believe we would also lose the ability to teach others about God and his plan of salvation because our freedoms allow us to spread the gospel throughout our own nation and the world. If our nation is obedient to God he will continue to bless us with freedom, and we can use our resources for God’s glory. We can win people to Christ, in this country and in others, by our nation’s example of righteous living. Can’t we?
Perhaps the question should be, do we? It is nice having the freedom to attend church openly and to join Christian organizations, but when is the last time you used your freedom of speech to tell someone else about Jesus? How much of your resources (time, money and talent) are you investing each week in spreading the gospel of Christ? Is the church you freely go to encouraging you to study and grow in God’s Word, or is it just a nice place to meet with people who share your values and traditions?
In other words, are you using your freedoms for God’s glory or for your own comfort?
It would be great if all Christians in America truly used the freedoms and resources with which we are blessed to do God’s work in the world. But even if we did, should we assume that we can do God’s work better with the gifts of freedom and prosperity than without them? God’s Word would seem to indicate that the opposite is true.
The book of Acts takes up the story of the disciples and apostles after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the good news of the gospel to a large crowd of people in Jerusalem “and about three thousand people were added to their number” (Acts 2:41).
Had Peter been living in the United States, that might have been the end of the story, but he lived in Israel in the first century, where freedom of speech had never been heard of. Shortly after Pentecost, Peter and his friend John were arrested for preaching outside the temple. “They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand” (Acts 4:3-4).
After their release from jail, Peter and John continued to spread the gospel, ignoring the threats and warnings of their nation’s religious leaders. New disciples sold their belongings and shared all they had with one another. When one couple lied about the amount they had received for selling some property, God struck them dead in punishment, and “more men and women believed and were added to their number” (Acts 5:14). Stephen was stoned to death for telling people about Jesus. Believers were persecuted in Jerusalem and many were forced to leave the city. But “those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). Peter was arrested again and set free by an angel. James, the brother of John, was executed. Paul was accused, beaten, and chased out of almost every city that he ever visited. And still the Church grew!
The Bible makes one thing perfectly clear. God is able to overcome any obstacle in the furtherance of his work. You don’t need to be free to worship God. You don’t need to feel secure to tell others about Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Christ is spreading all around the world right now, in communist countries, in Muslim countries, in places where God’s people face imprisonment, beatings, loss of jobs or property, and even death.
Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, peace and prosperity—none of these are necessary to the work of God. They may even be a hindrance, if we come to love these freedoms more than we love God.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
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What is my mission as an author? The goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.