Friday, December 15, 2017

It Just Takes One

Sometimes, I get a story stuck in my head, and I can't seem to let it go until I've worked it out to its end. Some of them, like the most recent one, start with a dream.

The night before last, I had a dream that there was a large organization of young men who were rallied together and had kidnapped several young women with plans to gouge out their eyes. (Maybe the history lessons that afternoon about jihad and the Armenian genocide during World War One didn't help...) There was an escape attempt by some of the women that was unsuccessful, and then I don't remember dreaming anything else about it.

But it was not a dream I could let end at that point. The story seemed to need to play out, so throughout the day, more would be added until it has finally almost reached it's culmination, and is definitely at a much better point. To skim through it for you, one young woman was strong in the Lord and found peace in the midst of the situation. She continued to pray and sing praises to the Lord. This made an impression on at least one of the captors and on the other women.

At a turning point in the story, when she was in trouble, women all over the compound were on their knees in prayer. She was also in prayer. The one captor on which she'd made a big impression asked her to speak her thoughts out loud. Her thoughts were prayers for all the captors, many of whom were in the room with her, and she prayed for them each by name. A change came over all of them. They ended up releasing her from the room, and later, releasing all the women from the compound, as well as any men who no longer wanted to stay, since their plans had now ceased and they no longer knew what was going to happen. The one woman, however, chose to stay.

She ended up leading two men, the one captor (James) and the leader of the organization of young men (Collin), to Christ and a relationship with God through Him. For a short time before the men turned themselves over to the police, she helped them grow through songs, prayers, and Bible studies. A pastor even came to visit and pray with them, amazed by the changed lives.

The men peacefully went to prison, willing to own up for their sins. Sister, as they now called her, promised to visit them. The transformation in the men led to them sharing Christ with others in the prison system. Visits from Sister and her pastor led to even more changes.

When the men were released from prison, James and Collin went to work at a company owned by Mr. Brian, (James' former employer). He was willing to hire James back, as well as hiring Collin, because he had heard of their changed lives and said, "Behind every great man is a great woman," recognizing the impact that Sister had made. As it goes on, because of the men's new lives for Christ, they had a huge, positive impact on the company's morale, production, etc.

It was at this point in the story, that God led me to a message: It Just Takes One.

It just took one woman who was faithful to the Lord, who would not let her peace be stolen from her, to make an impact and create change. Her impact changed the bad situation, an organization's plans of harm, a prison system, a major company, and many lives. Extended family members, and others who heard about it in the news, also came to seek Christ.

So what? It's just a made up story and doesn't mean anything, right? That kind of thing could never happen, right? Wrong!

I have read and heard a number of missionary stories with my children and I will tell you, every single one of them is about an individual who decided to step out on faith. There are some of them who were alone in their ministries. George Muller, Mary Slessor, David Livingstone, Gladys Aylward - these are just a few. Many of the individuals we consider Bible heroes (Joseph, Moses, Noah, and Paul, just to name a few) were really just ordinary individuals who loved God and followed Him. There are many more modern-day missionaries doing the same.

Not only that, there are people right around us in our local communities, every day, stepping out in faith and making a difference for Christ in the relationships around them. That's all it takes - stepping out in faith. Listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit and go where He leads. Help that person you see in need. Give a smile and a kind word to the grouchy-looking cashier or waiter/waitress. Offer to pray for - and with - people.

For the past couple weeks, I've been wanting to share some of my Christmas poetry with you, but God never hit the "Go" button on that. Last night, He hit the "Go" button on this story. Is He hitting a "Go" button in your life today? What is He prompting you to do? Be the change. Make an impact. God can use even you.

It just takes one.


Isaiah 6:8  Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

More Than Thankful

Last night, our daughter said how excited she was for all the yummy food we would have for Thanksgiving, but that she knew it was about more than the food, because some people won't have all the food.

She and I talked about the first Thanksgiving. Yes, the Pilgrims were thankful that the native Americans helped them. Yes, they were thankful that their crops did well. Ultimately, they were thankful for God's provision. God provided friendly neighbors to help them and teach them. God provided the good weather conditions for their crops. God provided for their survival in the new land.

This conversation strengthened my resolve to remember those less fortunate than us.

Be thankful for your family. Remember widows, orphans, and those estranged or otherwise separated from family. Be thankful for your parents. Remember those who have lost their parents. Be thankful for your children. Remember those unable to have children, who have lost children, who have children with challenging behavioral, emotional, developmental, academic, or other issues that make life/parenting hard.

Be thankful for your health. Remember those with pain or illness (chronic or otherwise), long-term or life-threatening health conditions, or other physical or emotional health issues.

Be thankful for your food. Remember those who are hungry or even starving. Remember those who battle with eating disorders.

Be thankful for your home. Remember those who are homeless, or live in inadequate shelters. Remember those without proper heating/cooling, pest control, furnishings, or safety. Remember refugees. Remember those affected by hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, mold, theft, etc.

Be thankful for your safety. Remember those who live in constant fear, abusive situations, war zones.

Be thankful for your freedoms. We are relatively free in speech, religion, right to bear arms, pursue careers of our choice, etc. Remember those without these freedoms. Many countries are not as open. Remember the Christians around the world persecuted and killed just for accepting Jesus. Remember women and others in other cultures who lack many rights. Remember those persecuted just for believing differently or for being compassionate to people who believe differently.

Be thankful for rest, relaxation, comfort, and entertainment. Remember those who do not have access to such luxuries.

Yes, be thankful. But more than thankful, be mindful. Be concerned. Be prayerful. Be active in improving the lives of others as you are led by the Lord.

Do not be like the Pharisee in the temple who prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get," (Luke 18:11‭-‬12 NIV, https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.18.11-12.NIV). That's the wrong kind of thanks.

Here is a link to a video that goes with this topic: https://youtu.be/-9pNeT55U_c.

Be thankful for God's blessings in your life, but don't let them end with you. May your cup overflow.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God," (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

What Can I Do for You Today?

Ask not what God can do for you today, but what you can do for God today.

This thought came to my mind the night before last. I had read a post from someone on Facebook who said she didn't believe in God (or thought if he did exist, he was pretty horrible [but she used stronger terminology]) because her grandmother died from cancer ten and a half years ago and she lost a newborn child in the last year. She definitely has reasons for her heart to hurt, but I'm sad that she has turned away from God instead of toward Him. I have lost family and gone through hard times, but my relationship with God has made those times easier to get through.

I looked at the person's personal page as I sought ways to pray for her. I wondered if she was someone whose heart was prepared for discussion about God or if she was too closed off at this time. I got the impression that she would want a God who would give her what she wants, and turn away from him if she didn't get her way. She is not alone. There are many who see God (and other humans) this way. If someone is not useful in helping them reach their personal goals, then they have no desire to interact with them. Sometimes, after some introspection, someone with the best intentions may find this true of themselves. I know I have. Consider your prayers and how they sound. Are they filled with requests like "Please help me to ____" or "Please _____ for me"?


That made me think of our Sunday school discussion this past Sunday. (Questions taken from The Gospel Project Chronological: Jesus Saves, Volume 9, Fall 2017 Personal Study Guide.)


  • How does our perspective of earthly promises impact how we view God's promises? We can view God's promises as we view people-made promises. If we have people in our lives who break promises, then we might also expect God to not keep his promises.  The opposite can be true, too. Then again, we might see how great our God is that we can trust Him to fulfill His promises even when we cannot trust others to fulfill their promises.


  • What can get in the way of your belief in God to be faithful to His promises? When we don't get what we want or think we need, that sense of entitlement can lead to distrust of the one(s) who did not meet our expectations. Also, God's timing may not be what we hope, and God may not answer in the way that we think He would or should.


Sometimes we have a tendency of seeing our relationship with God as one-sided. What can He do for us? What blessings will He give to us? How will He get us out of the trouble into which we got ourselves? How will He protect us from the (deserved) consequences for our choices? If something goes wrong, why did He allow that to happen to us? How could He do that to us? 

So, that brings me back to the beginning: ask not what God can do for you today, but what you can do for God today. It should not be about us. It should be about God. How can we know what God wants? By spending time with Him! For any relationship to grow, it takes a commitment of time to get to know the other person. We need to build our relationship with God through quiet times in prayer and Bible reading/study so we will know what God wants. 

One thing we know God wants is our thanks and gratitude. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Psalm 100 is also a good passage to read about giving thanks. These are just two of several places in the Bible that refer to giving thanks. This past Sunday our pastor, Jared Allen, mentioned keeping a record of what you are grateful for each day. I used to keep a gratitude journal, initiated, I think, by a 1000 Gifts (by Ann Voskamp) book study of which I was a part. It definitely led to a more grateful outlook as I began looking for things for which to thank God each day. I also was a part of a study (Beth Moore or Priscilla Shirer, I think) that mentioned fingerprints of God. That is what I look for nowadays - ways that I notice God touching or acting in my life or the lives of others. Those are definitely things for which I can be thankful!

Our pastor also said, "The giver of the blessings deserves the thanks." How can you show thanks to God today? How can you share His love with someone else who desperately needs it? How can you shine His light and show His glory? Are you willing to be obedient so He can work through you and touch the lives of others?

Isaiah 1:17 - Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

James 1:27 - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Matthew 28:19-20 - Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Philippians 2:3-4 - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Joshua 24:15 - But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

Here are a couple interesting reads you might like:


  • Since the wording of my question is similar to what was said in this inaugural speech, I felt compelled to read it. "Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You" John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961. http://www.ushistory.org/documents/ask-not.htm
  • My daughter found a book at Barnes and Noble yesterday called The Book of Amazing Stories: 90 Devotions on Seeing God's Hand in Unlikely Places. I have a feeling that would be a really powerful book to read.
  • Check out Bobi Ann Allen's website (bobiann.com) and look her up on Facebook or Instagram. She has a couple posts about being thankful on her website and has been doing daily posts lately on Facebook and Instragram about thankfulness and gratitude. They are great reminders and prompts to be thankful.

Now is the time, if you haven't already done so - go ahead and ask the question:

"Lord, what can I do for you today?"

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Focus, Focus, Focus!

I get so frustrated, sometimes, at my son's lack of focus. He can get distracted so often throughout the course of  the day and I am frequently having to redirect him back. Getting his schoolwork done can be such a chore some days.

Yesterday, he experienced the natural consequence of having to do his math assignment while Sister was outside playing because he didn't get it done earlier in the day. Today has been quite frustrating so far, too. I couldn't get him to sit down and eat his breakfast (the food he requested), but as soon as we start school, he's hungry. Even then, I have to frequently tell him to either eat or do school because he has wandered off to rock in the rocking chair, check something out in his room, look outside, roll on the carpet - who knows what!

As I was going to bed after midnight (again) last night, I lay there talking to God, saying for at least the third day in a row - and probably the seventh or so time in the last two weeks - that I felt far from Him. I told Him that I want to draw closer to Him again. I want to meditate on Him, His word, and His provision and action in my life. I want to be in His presence, to be able to kneel on the floor of His throne room, giving Him honor and praise (at least figuratively at this time).

Then, it hit me that I am as distracted as my son. I was up late because I had read articles on the computer. I had checked on just about everyone on Facebook. I complained about technology issues while trying to participate in an online book party (not that we need any more books in this house...). Then, when I went to get ready for bed, there was a book lying on the bathroom counter. I read some of it while brushing my teeth...and then kept reading...just one more chapter...and then, it was late.

I don't know how many nights it has been now that I am the last one awake in the house. My children and husband are all asleep before me. I'm missing out on connection time with my husband and that makes me sad. But I haven't changed it yet.

I get distracted throughout the day, too, just like my son. I jump between one activity to another, often not even completing the first one (or second, or third) until much later - when I wander back through that room and realize "Oh! I forgot I was working on that!" I think my husband has gotten to the point of just shaking his head at me.

But I want a change. I am praying for will power and renewed focus on what is really important. I want to focus on what needs to be done and what will have the most value - to God, for my family, for others, and for me. I want to provide more structure for my son so he can be successful, too.

One more point. I am so frustrated with my son! It is very apparent in my voice tension and volume, in the words I choose, in my physical posture, and I'm sure it is written all over my face. Unfortunately, this also rubs off on my daughter, who huffs and mumbles about her brother and his behavior similarly to what I hear myself doing. Again, this makes me sad.

Does God respond to us in this way? Usually, I don't think He does. I think He is patient with us and waits for us to make the decision. He lets us experience the natural consequences of our choices, and hopes that we will choose better next time. (You know, I think I sometimes do that too, trying to let my son make the choice about his activities with the hope that he'll choose better next time.) I don't think God typically gets frustrated and huffy with us. Then again, we can experience a separation from Him. It doesn't feel good, just like my son doesn't feel good when he knows I'm frustrated and upset with him. And have I ever told you about the time God shoved me? My kids love that story. Yes, I believe God does sometimes speak or act in such a way to get us back on track, to help us refocus. Sometimes He gives us a shove in the right direction - literally or figuratively.

I could use your prayers.

  • Please pray for my interactions with my son, that I may respond to him with gentleness and respect, but still be strong about what is expected. 
  • Pray for him to be more willing and cooperative. We have discussed his behavior a few times and he says the way he acts is in his control, so pray that he will choose to be in control.
  • Pray for me to avoid unnecessary distractions in my own activities. This would help in so many areas - leading and guiding my children, closer connection with my husband, more pleasant environment, less stress about what isn't getting accomplished.
  • Pray for me to align my actions with what is truly important.
  • Pray that I will have a renewed depth of my relationship with God, that I may go to bed truly in worship and praise rather than apologies.
Isaiah 45:22 "Turn to me and be save, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other."

Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Proverbs 4:20 My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 

Proverbs 25:15 Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.


Please share any additional Bible verses or thought that you have.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Does Satan Pick His Nose?

3 John 4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

In high school, I got a sense that my calling in life was to raise children to know, love, and follow God. When I worked in the school system, and before I had children of my own, I realized that the children in that calling didn’t have to be my own biological children, but could be any child with whom I had contact. I couldn’t bring up the subject of God with the children at school, but I could impact them with God’s love.

With my own children, it’s a different story. I can talk about God and having a relationship with Jesus all day long. We can discuss Him at any time of the day, in any school subject – no matter what we’re doing, God can be remembered. This is so important to me, that God not be confined to specific times or activities in our lives but that He is intentionally invited into it all. When the children bring Him up instead of me, my heart swells.

I remember once, when we were walking around the neighborhood with some friends, my daughter asked, “Does Satan pick his nose?” She must have been three or four years old at the time, but I loved that she was thinking about spiritual things – well, at least in a way… Or the time, around the same age, when she told us that she knew she had Jesus in her heart. When asked how she knew, she said, “Because He talks to me and you [Mama and Daddy] can’t hear it.”

I have had even greater joy recently. My son accepted Christ as his Savior and I can see the influence it is having on him. I see greater grief over his sins. He treasures his new Bible. He wants a Bible verse written on his birthday party invitation. My daughter accepted Christ about a year and a half ago. She has already read through the whole Bible. Both kids do nightly devotionals on their own (or shared between the two of them) – by their own will, not because we require it. At least five mornings a week (during the school year at least), the kids and I have a Bible and devotional time. Sometimes it lasts 20 minutes and we just read our passages. Sometimes it lasts over an hour because of the discussion that ensues. Sometimes you hear bits and pieces of the message brought up throughout our daily activities.

Another neat thing has been that, when our family switched service times at church and started bringing our children with us every Sunday, my daughter started taking notes on the sermon. Some days, she doodles in her notebook more than taking notes. Other days, she writes at a feverish rate. The best part? Both kids will bring up the sermon points at other times in our week, or beyond that even!

Something heard from the kids at least weekly in our house right now is some version of this: “Are you feeling stressed? Are you worried or anxious about something? Have I got a sermon for you! I remember it as if it was _______ ago!” (Here, they insert the length of time since the sermon – now up to two months. Thank you to Cody Fisher, our favorite local magician, for the wording and oft-included sound effect at this point in the discourse). “We were in the gym at First Baptist Church. Bob Sheffield was preaching…” This has brought so many laughs, but the thing is – the sermon made such an impact on them that they remember it as one to which to refer. (http://www.fbcrr.org/sermons/you-asked-for-it-questions-about-anxiety)

Then there was Pastor Jared Allen’s sermon about taking the Lord’s name in vain. After a tour of the Williamson County Courthouse and participation in a mock trial, Daughter brought up a question about the oath, because of the promise being made “so help me God.” That was the beginning of a good discussion. (http://www.fbcrr.org/sermons/you-asked-for-it-questions-about-taking-the-lords-name-in-vain)

Then, this past Sunday, Jared Allen and Chris Johnson tag-team preached about loving our neighbors. On Tuesday, one of our morning devotions was about being a light in the darkness of this world and praying for our neighbors and friends. Since it was Halloween and we don’t do scary, but some of our friends and neighbors do, we talked about showing love and kindness to others even when we have a different view about something. That’s when Daughter brought up the sermon, about everyone being lovable and having worth in some way – that we should believe that and act that way. Even if we disagree, that doesn’t remove anyone’s worth. We need to look for the good in every person. This, of course, comes from my child whom I always say is good at loving the imperfect. (For example on a non-human level, she adopts stuffed animals with crooked noses and loves what we call “bed-head” guinea pigs.) (http://www.fbcrr.org/sermons/?category=Love+Where+You+Live)

I find the verse at the top of this post to resound often in my head these days, that I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

So, back to the title question: Does Satan pick his nose?


What would your answer be?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Scary No More

Halloween is less than a week away. All around, there are witches and ghosts, vampires and monsters, demons and dead people. Evil, death, and darkness are glorified and celebrated. But, it's all "just fun" and nothing serious, right?

Sure, I used to celebrate Halloween when I was younger. I dressed up. The costumes I remember are a fairy princess, a gymnast, and a circus clown (not a scary clown). When I was in high school, I do remember one year that it wasn't quite that tame, and some friends and I decided - last minute - to go out as dead high school students. Really creative... In college, there were a couple years I dressed as a gypsy. As a kid, we used to decorate our house, play scary music, go trick-or-treating, attend the haunted house, etc. I didn't see any problem with Halloween. It was "just for fun."

As I've gotten older, had my own children, and gotten more serious about my relationship with Jesus, my views have changed. Why in the world would I want to glorify evil and darkness? Why would I want to purposely cause fear for myself, my children, or anyone else?

The Bible warns against witches, witchcraft, and magic many times. It warns against evil in general even more. In Galatians 5:20-21, witchcraft is included in a long list of acts of the sinful nature. After the list, Paul wrote, "I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says: Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. Even if you aren't actually practicing witchcraft, etc. yourself, the attention given to it makes it more acceptable. I don't want to be found detestable to the Lord. I don't want to miss out on the kingdom of God because I was "just having fun" playing around with evil. No thanks.

Cute costumes, visiting neighbors, getting candy - those things don't bother me. The problem is, it's hard to isolate those things from everything else Halloween. Even if you choose to think that you are celebrating Halloween in this "safer" way, what about every other child and adult out there? What about their costumes, decorations, pranks, etc.? You can't insulate your child and still participate.

It has become quite sickening the last few years. The decorations have gotten more disturbing. When yard displays now have lynchings, dismembered bodies, dead and bloody babies hanging from trees - it has gotten way out of hand. Why is this being considered acceptable and fun? Why is glamorizing murder, death, and evil okay?

This is not just a one-time-a-year thing, though. This is a year-round thing to consider. When a Christian is okay with praising God, being in the light, and living uprightly on Sunday, and then living in darkness with evil filling their minds, spilling out of their mouths, and teaching it to others at other times, I see a problem. I think as a society, we have allowed evil and violence to infiltrate so much in our lives (t.v. shows, movies, video games, books, news...) that we have blurred the lines of distinction between good and evil, right and wrong. This should not be, my friends.

Christians, we need to practice what is right. We practice to improve a certain skill, action, or habit. If you practice filling your mind with evil and celebrating it, that is not pleasing to the Lord - and the more you practice at it, the better (or worse, in this case) you'll be. Practice what you want to be true in your life.

Whatever you fill your minds and hearts with is what will come out of you. In Matthew 12:34, Jesus says, "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Oh, be careful little eyes what you see. Be careful little minds what you think. Be careful little mouths what you speak. Be careful little hands what you do. Be careful little feet where you go. Anything we put in our minds, words and stories we hear, has a habit of replaying itself over and over. Fill your hearts and minds with the word of God, so that your thoughts, words, and actions may be pleasant and life-giving.

Christians should be careful about what we are displaying to the world. We are supposed to be set apart. How will anyone see value in a life lived for Jesus if there is no difference between the way we live and the way non-Christians live? Churches, in my opinion, should not be creating haunted houses. Why is the spirit of fear being invited into churches when we are not supposed to have a spirit of fear? "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline," (2 Tim. 1:7). "But now, this is what the LORD says - he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel; 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine,'" (Isaiah 43:1). Over and over the Bible tells us "do not fear." Fall festivals can be just as bad, but I think they can be done in ways that are edifying for the participants and pleasing to the Lord. For example, the church we attend has a Fall Festival. There are activities and treats, games with candy prizes, and people wear costumes (generally okay, but some scary since the whole community is invited to this free event). The thing I truly love about our Fall Festival, however, is that every game is intentionally and carefully planned, and there is a Bible verse posted with every game. As my family participates, I make a point that we read each Bible verse out loud. It keeps our minds in the right place, allows other people around us to hear the verses, and calls their attention to the fact that the verses are posted all over.

Delight over evil no more. "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it," (Psalm 34:14). "Avoid every kind of evil," (1 Thess. 5:22). "Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way," (Psalm 4:14-15). "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life," (Psalm 4:23). Work to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and...take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ," (2 Cor. 10:5).

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves'" (Luke 17:1-3). "'Everything is permissible' - but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible' - but not everything is constructive" (Romans 10:23).



"Create in [us] a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within [us]. Do not cast [us] from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from [us]. Restore to [us]  the joy of your salvation and grant [us] a willing spirit to sustain [us]" (Psalm 51:10-12).

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Allegiance

Today I want to share some thoughts that I have been mulling over for the past two years. This has nothing to do with the recent controversy about people protesting during the pledge. I will admit right now that I'm not sure how I feel about that. Let me also say right now, that I don't expect everyone will agree with me on my thoughts.This is a highly emotionally charged topic for some people. I also recognize that I might be wrong with some of my thoughts. I am a flawed human being like everyone else, just sharing on a topic I've been thinking about for a long while. I welcome your comments, even if you disagree with me, but please be kind and respectful.

Two years ago, in 2015, a friend posted on Facebook about the sense of unity and patriotism that seemed to define the American people after 9/11 had seemed to disappear. He said, "Why can't we remember that we are all Americans? While race and religion are beautiful things, we seem to perverse it in a way that creates conflict and division. Let's not wait for another abhorrent act like what occurred on 9/11 to help us see past our differences."

This friend is a military veteran and I agree with him on many points, even in the post he wrote, but at the time he wrote it, it stuck a chord with me that I really needed to investigate. Yes, I am an American and have been proud of that for a long time. My husband and I even decorated a bathroom with patriotic colors and items. We considered doing our living room that way, too. We have a flagpole in our front yard (although it doesn't get used as often as it should). We each have at least four patriotic shirts. But...

My immediate reaction was that it is more about God than about country. If for some reason I believed that God was calling me to leave this country and move elsewhere, I would do it. Abraham did. I have loved America, but things are changing, not for the good. Just like a person who chooses wrong, there are consequences, which may include broken relationships. I can love and care for those around me, and work together with them in ways, but I will not choose to agree with sin no longer being sin. I will help feed, clothe, and care for anyone regardless of their race, religion, or beliefs. Yes, we are all Americans, but our ultimate, primary allegiance should be to God. There are some differences that should not be overlooked or “seen past." We need to say 'no' to these things, just as God did and does. What if someone said to Lot, “Why can’t we all just remember that we are citizens of Sodom?” Should that have been of higher allegiance to him than God?

I am a Christian before I’m an American. My true citizenship is in heaven. We pledge allegiance to so many things. Our family routinely pledges to the American flag, Christian flag, Bible, and AWANAs. Those in public schools pledge to the Texas flag and many pledge to other organizations such as Boy/Girl Scouts. To how many groups/things are we going to give our allegiance, and is this right?

What if our "one nation under God" is no longer under God? What if we are going the way of Sodom, Gomorrah, Ninevah, and Babylon? Is that a nation and government to which I want to pledge allegiance? Is it Biblical to pledge allegiance to one's country? These were my big questions.

Here are some things I've found in the last couple years to help guide me on this topic:
  • Romans 1:25-32 - They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. This sounds very much like our country in this current age. I wanted this whole passage here, but the part that speaks most about allegiance is verse 25, where Paul talks about created things being worshiped and served instead of the Creator. This could apply to governments and organizations.
  • From Haventoday.org: These kind of ungodly decisions serve to remind us that the world in which we live is hostile to things of God. It reminds us that we live here as “aliens and strangers,” that we’re temporary residents of a foreign land. But it still remains a world that God so loved that he sent his only Son (from John Freeman, president of Harvest USA, italics mine)
  • Jesus wept over Jerusalem and her refusal to turn to him as its shepherd (Luke 19:41-42). He didn’t stop loving her.
  • A father (or mother) loves his child and stays devoted to them even if they sin. God loves us and is devoted to us even if we sin. Maybe we should love and be devoted to our country/government even though she sins. – Hebrews 13:17 says Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.  ----- but what about when those leaders are wrong? In Acts 5:29, Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!"
  • Romans 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's right and just because it's right doesn't make it popular.
  • Jeremiah 29:7 - Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
  • Romans 13:7 - Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
  • Romans 13:1-2 - Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
  • Matthew 6:24 - No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
    • I found this passage interesting for this point:
      • We can’t give our loyalty to two masters and be pleasing to both. Whether the choice is between God and money, God and man, God and a government or nation, the choice is always the same, one or the other. It seems that Jesus is saying ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’. In light of this it just doesn’t seem possible to me to give my loyalty to God, and then try and give it to a government at the same time. Jesus also said ” My kingdom is not of this world”. Jesus has a kingdom, and just like an earthly kingdom , I can’t be loyal to two kingdoms at once. It would be impossible to be loyal to the USA and Iran at the same time! It’s the same with being part of the kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to be loyal to his kingdom, and if we have given our loyalty to God’s kingdom, how then can we try and give it to America or any other worldly kingdom? – Matt Young, Red Letter Christians, May 23, 2013. https://www.redletterchristians.org/the-pledge-of-allegiance-2-reasons-why-christians-should-not-say-it/

  • I think one of the biggest points I've gotten over the last two years is that we need to be careful that we are only speaking intentionally, saying only what we really mean to say and not speaking without thinking about every word. If you are pledging allegiance to something, then I think you need to really believe that you will uphold what you say.

  • Matthew 5:33-34 - "Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all..."

  • Jeremiah 4:2 - "and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, 'As surely as the LORD lives,' then the nations will be blessed in him and in him they will glory."

  • Deuteronomy 23:21-23 - If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth. Now, this is about making a vow/pledge to God, not to men, but I think it still makes the point that we should be intentional and think before we speak, being sure that we will do what we say we will do.
  • I recently read one of my daughter's school books (Shades of Gray by Carolyn Reeder). One of the characters loved his country (America) but refused to fight in the Civil War. He was not disloyal to the people or the country. It was an intentional, personal decision based on his beliefs, and his nephew, who took great offense to this, came to respect his uncle very much for his strength of character. We can love our country without agreeing with the masses and joining in their activities.
  • I found this article that I thought presented many good points about whether it is biblical or Christian to pledge allegiance to anyone or anything other than God. It was very helpful to me and I suggest checking it out: https://www.gotquestions.org/pledge-of-allegiance.html.

So, if you are around me and there is a call to pledge to the American flag, will you see me covering my heart and reciting it with the masses? I do agree to abide by its laws and do my best to be a good citizen. I support "liberty and justice for all," although I think people misconstrue what that should look like, but that's another topic. In some ways, I'm extremely proud of our country. In other ways, I'm extremely disappointed. But, I still love this beautiful land and its people. I still want the United States of America to be successful. I want her to be pleasing to God and pray for that. At this current time, yes, I will continue to pledge allegiance to my country, but as an individual and not a member of a mass, and with intentional thought about every word that comes from my mouth, not mindless recitation that has been memorized over the years.

What are your thoughts? Did I strike a chord with you? Will you change the way you approach pledges of allegiance to your country and/or other organizations? I hope you will consider your words and actions and be intentional about whatever you decide.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17