Whatever Things Are True

Some verses that the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4 were running through my mind this morning when I first woke up. The specific verses are found in Philippians 4:4-9 (NKJV):

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

I was also reminded of the fact that Paul was in prison in Rome at the time he wrote his letter to the Philippians (which is the Book of Philippians in the New Testament). He was in prison because of his faith in Jesus Christ. GotQuestions.org provides the following background on Paul:

The apostle Paul was probably about 60 years old when he died. By first-century standards, he lived a rather long life.

Paul was born in the Greek city of Tarsus likely around AD 6, and he probably died sometime around AD 64, which means he would have been nearing age 60. Considering the hardships he endured and the times in which he lived, Paul would have been considered an old man at his death.

Initially, the Roman government treated Christianity as a sect of Judaism and thus usually afforded it a measure of religious liberty. But by AD 64, Emperor Nero was aggressively persecuting and killing Christians, blaming them for setting a disastrous fire that destroyed Rome in that year. Paul may have been one of many Christians who were falsely arrested and brutally executed at that time. It is also possible that Paul was arrested in the ensuing years, “chained like a criminal” (2 Timothy 2:9), and sentenced to death for his heroic faith and tireless efforts in advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

According to tradition, Paul was executed by beheading in Rome, although the exact circumstances of his trial and death were never written down. (Quote source and the rest of the article available here.)

Living in America where Christianity has flourished for a couple of centuries and religious freedom is written into our Constitution, we do not read accounts occurring here in America of the brutal types of persecution like Paul endured during his lifetime or that Christians in other parts of the world today are enduring. However, the landscape of religious freedom and attitudes towards Christianity here in America appears to be changing and waning.

In an article published on September 14, 2022, titled, Christianity in the U.S. is quickly shrinking and may no longer be the majority religion within just a few decades, research finds,” by Li Cohen, social media producer and trending reporter for CBS News, she opens her article with the following:

Christianity has remained at the forefront of the nation’s political and social conversations for centuries—but new research shows that could be changing. 

A new report by Pew Research Center and the General Social Survey published on Tuesday found that the large numbers of people in the U.S who practice Christianity are declining. The religion’s demographic has been dwindling since the 1990s, the report said, as many adults transition to an identity of atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” 

In the early ’90s, about 90% of people in the U.S. identified as Christians, the report said. In 2020, Christians accounted for about 64% of the U.S. population, including children. Meanwhile, those who are not affiliated with a religion has grown from 16% in 2007 to 30% in 2020, according to the research. All other religions, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, accounted for about 6% in 2020. (Quote source and the rest of the article available here.)

Let’s compare Paul’s time, as stated above in this quote– “Initially, the Roman government treated Christianity as a sect of Judaism and thus usually afforded it a measure of religious liberty. But by AD 64, Emperor Nero was aggressively persecuting and killing Christians.” –with our own. Here in America we also have a measure of religious liberty at this time, but that is not to say it will always be so, especially as Christianity in America continues to decline.

George Yancey, sociologist and professor of sociology at Baylor University, has written an article published on August 19, 2019, titled, Is There Really Anti-Christian Discrimination in America?” on GospelCoalition.org. He is also the author of Beyond Racial Gridlock: Embracing Mutual Responsibility” (IVP, 2006), Hostile Environment: Understanding and Responding to Anti-Christian Bias(IVP, 2015), and Beyond Racial Division: A Unifying Alternative to Colorblindness and Antiracism (IVP, 2022), and coauthor of One Faith No Longer: The Transformation of Christianity in Red and Blue America” (NYU Press, 2021).

In Yancey’s article, Is There Really Anti-Christian Discrimination in America?” he writes:

According to a recent survey, about half of all Americans believe that evangelicals face discrimination. Some have even talked about them facing persecution. Others argue that Christians are merely mistaking their loss of privilege for persecution. We are clearly living in a post-Christian society where Christian faith is no longer automatically respected. But does a post-Christian world mean that Christians are subject to discrimination?

Having studied Christianophobia—or the unreasonable hatred and fear of Christians—I can answer that question. First, I’ll look to see if Christianophobia exists to any meaningful degree. Then, I’ll examine the nature of Christianophobia to assess if it does represent unreasonable hatred of Christians. Finally, I’ll explore evidence of anti-Christian discrimination in one place in our society: academia.

Anti-Christian Attitudes

Are anti-Christian attitudes widespread, or are we talking about a couple of nutcases? In my bookSo Many Christians, So Few Lions,” I document that about 32 percent of all Americans like conservative Christians significantly less than other social groups. In comparison, about 31 percent of all Americans like Muslims significantly less than other social groups. So it’s fair to say that if we’re concerned about anti-Muslim prejudice, then we should also be concerned about anti-Christian prejudice—at least prejudice against conservative Christians.

It’s also worth noting who tends to have this type of animosity. My research indicates that those with anti-Christian attitudes are more likely to be white, male, wealthy, highly educated, politically progressive, and irreligious. Those first four markers indicate individuals who have quite a bit of per-capita social power.

Mild Disgust or Irrational Hatred?

On to the second question, about the nature of those who don’t like Christians. Do they merely feel mild disgust, or is it irrational hatred that can lead to discrimination? I sent a questionnaire with open-ended questions to a group of progressive activists who tended to be white, male, wealthy, educated, and irreligious. They were the type of people one would expect to exhibit Christianophobia. And they did. Here are just a few of the answers I received on my survey:

Kill them all, let their god sort them out.

A torturous death would be too good for them.

I’d be a bit giddy, certainly grateful, if everyone who saw himself or herself in that category were snatched permanently from our societal peripheries, whether by holocaust or rapture or plague.

I am only too well aware of their horrific attitudes and beliefs—and those are enough to make me see them as subhuman.

Clearly we are seeing the type of hatred that is unreasonable and can lead to discrimination. It is the type of dehumanization one expects to precede unfair treatment. But does it? Is it possible that values of tolerance and fairness among secular progressives inhibit their willingness to mistreat Christians?

Discrimination in America Today

To examine that question I looked at academia, an area where one expects to find the type of highly educated progressive secularists likely to have anti-Christian animosity. I asked academics if they would be less willing to hire someone who is either a fundamentalist or an evangelical. I found that more than half would be less willing to hire a fundamentalist, and almost two in five would be less willing to hire an evangelical. The academics answering my survey explicitly stated they would discriminate against a job candidate who is a conservative Protestant. (You can read about this research in my bookCompromising Scholarship.”)

There is other research indicating that conservative Christians face discrimination in academia. Stanley Rothman and Robert Lichter find that academics with socially conservative perspectives wind up with lower-status academic positions even when controlling for their productivity. Albert Gunn and George Zenner show evidence of religious discrimination against Christian medical students.

Some will argue that Christians still have advantages in America, such as political power. I don’t dispute that there are benefits to being a Christian in the United States. However, such advantages don’t negate the fact that among powerful individuals who tend to be politically progressive and irreligious, unfair treatment of Christians is possible, and perhaps even likely.

For example, my recent book looks at the media. My co-author and I find evidence that media are less sympathetic to stories where Christians face hate speech or violence than identical stories where other groups are victimized. Social institutions such as academia, media, entertainment, and the arts are likely to be places where anti-Christian prejudice and discrimination take place. Those institutions greatly shape our cultural values, and thus those with anti-Christian attitudes are in a position to create and sustain anti-Christian perspectives.

There is evidence that anti-Christian hate can lead to discrimination. Is it persecution? This is a complex question I recently struggled with. By a clinical definition of persecution, yes, Christians are persecuted in the United States. But I still discourage Christians in the United States from saying they are persecuted, since what we face today isn’t what most people envision when they think of persecution.

However, as Christians we should be aware that anti-Christian discrimination is real. Further, those likely to engage in such discrimination have an ability to shape larger societal values. Thus, anti-Christian discrimination isn’t going away any time soon.

How should we deal with this reality? (Click here for quote source and to read the rest of his article.)

In an article titled, Is There Persecution in America?” by Megan Bailey, former Social Media Specialist and Content Producer for Beliefnet.com, she opens her article with the following:

Today, just like in the book of Acts, Christians are persecuted all over the world for following Jesus. While Christian persecution takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ.

Trends show that countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are intensifying persecution against Christians, and perhaps the most vulnerable are Christian women, who often face double persecution for faith and gender. North Korea was ranked #1 for the 17th consecutive year as the most dangerous country for Christians on the World Watch List.

These trends make sense for many American Christians. Persecution of their religion only happens in faraway countries, right? Wrong. Christian persecution is happening right here at home, on our own soil. Many here are attacked for their faith too. While it might not be at the level of beheadings or burned down churches as seen in other places of the world, it still is a problem that is growing. Traditional Christians are facing increasing intolerance in this country through the fines, the lawsuits, the jobs lost, and the public disdain felt.

Here are some of the ways that you might be experiencing Christian persecution in America, without even realizing it. (Quote source here along with the rest of her article where she discusses persecution in politics, on college campuses, and in public schools.)

So let’s now head back to the verses at the start of this post, specifically those words found in Philippians 4:8: whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Paul was in prison when he wrote those words. They remind me of some other words Paul wrote in Romans 12:18. While persecution is done by others and we have no control over it, we can pray, stand in faith, and remember the words of Paul in Romans 12:18: If it is possible…

As far as it depends on you . . .

Live at peace . . .

With everyone . . . .

YouTube Video: “Stand in Faith” by Danny Gokey:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Anxious For Nothing

This morning a verse showed up in a daily devotional that I read while I  was still in bed, and it is found in Philippians 4:6 (NIV):

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Many books have been written regarding this one verse as the primary topic. One of my favorites is a book by Max Lucado titled, Anxious For Nothing(subtitled: “Finding Calm in a Chaotic World”), published in 2017.

Anxiety is different from fear. As Max Lucado states in Anxious For Nothing,” on pp. 4-5:

Anxiety and fear are cousins but not twins. Fear sees a threat. Anxiety images one.

Fear screams, Get out!

Anxiety ponders, What if?

Fear results in fight or flight. Anxiety creates doom and gloom. Fear is the pulse that pounds when you see a coiled rattlesnake in your front yard. Anxiety is the voice that tells you, Never, ever, for the rest of your life, walk barefooted through the grass. There might be a snake… somewhere…. (Quote source: “Anxious For Nothing,” p. 4–paperback edition).

Anxiety takes our breath, for sure. If only that were all it took. It also takes our sleep. Out energy. Our well-being. “Do not fret,” wrote the psalmist, “it only causes harm” (Psalm 37:8). Harm to our necks, jaws, backs, and bowels. Anxiety can twist us into emotional pretzels. It can make our eyes twitch, blood pressure rise, heads ache, and armpits sweat. To see the consequences of anxiety, just read about half the ailments in a medical textbook.

Chances are that you or someone you know seriously struggles with anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental, anxiety disorders are reaching epidemic proportions. In any given year nearly fifty million Americans will feel the effects of a panic attack, phobias, or other anxiety disorders. Our chests will tighten. We’ll feel dizzy and light-headed. We’ll fear crowds and avoid people. Anxiety disorders in the United States are the “number one mental health problem among… women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men.” (Quote source: “Anxious For Nothing,” p. 5–paperback edition).

Regarding Philippians 4:6, GotQuestions.org provides the following information:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). This verse gives clear direction and offers genuine hope to the believer in Christ.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, there are a number of things that they may have been worried about. Paul is writing to them when he is under house arrest, courtesy of the Roman Empire. The church in Philippi had supported his missionary work, and they may have been concerned for his well-being (Philippians 1). Apparently, there was some discord in the church with people acting selfishly, and they needed to focus on the example of Christ (Philippians 2). False teachers were also attempting to upset their confidence in Christ (and in Paul’s teaching) by teaching that some form of obedience to the Law was necessary for salvation (Philippians 3). And, finally, the discord in the church had reached such a point that Paul calls out two women by name and asks them to get along with each other (Philippians 4:2).

Paul then concludes his letter with the admonition in Philippians 4:4 to “rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Here was a church facing external pressures and internal problems, and they may have wondered if it was even possible to break out in joyful celebration.

If discouragement over the problems addressed in the letter (or anything else) was robbing the Philippians of joy, then Paul gives the solution in Philippians 4:6. There is no need to fret and worry about the way things are. The solution is to give the problems over to the Only One who can actually do something about them. The Philippians are to pray in every situation, bringing their petitions (requests) to God and offering prayers of thanksgiving for what God has already done.

Paul does not promise that God will do every single thing they request. They were not being handed a blank check. But he does promise that, when the Philippians pray about things, God will change the Philippians themselves: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). When they really pray about their problems and choose to be thankful, God will give them peace.

Although written to the Philippian church, the principle of Philippians 4:6 applies to all believers. When we have problems and worries, we often forget to pray about them. Then, when we do pray, we may think that the only help that God can give is to grant the request as we have presented it and change the situation. God may very well do that. He has the power to change any situation, but He will not be limited to that. God does not promise to change every situation to our liking. What He does promise to do is give us peace during any situation. In other words, God may or may not change the circumstance, but He will change our disposition toward it so that it does not cause us inner turmoil.

Practically speaking, Philippians 4:6 gives us a model for the kind of prayer we need to pray when we are anxious or worried. First, we reject worry: do not be anxious about anything. Then, we simply ask God for what we need: in every situation, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And we thank Him for all that He has already done: with thanksgiving. Finally, we rest, knowing that He loves us and will work things out for our good and His glory. God’s peace is then ours.

There are a few lines in a song written by Tony Wood and Kevin Stokes that sum up the principle of Philippians 4:6 beautifully:

Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered “peace be still”
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will

Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child
(Quote source here.)

As noted above, Philippians 4:6 is immediately followed by verse 7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

In an article published on February 23, 2021, titled, Be Anxious For Nothing,” by Michael Bradley, cofounder of Bible-Knowledge.com, he writes:

Paul gives us a major revelation in this verse [verse 6] with how we can be anxious for nothing with the words that come right after he initially makes this statement. Notice he says that we are to make all of our requests known to God in prayer–and if we do, then the peace of God can enter into us to guard our hearts and minds through Jesus.

This is why Paul is using the words that the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” will now enter into you to guard your heart and mind from getting all worked up and out of control.

Once you go to God the Father in prayer to ask for His help to handle a serious problem or situation, then His peace will be able to start to flow into you.

And once His peace starts to flow into you, then you will feel His peace starting to calm you down–even right in the middle of the worse kind of storm cloud you could imagine yourself falling into.

I have heard testimony after testimony of people who have fallen into the worse kinds of storm clouds you could possibly imagine–and then all of sudden they would feel the peace of God come into them after they had prayed and committed the problem into the hands of God.

They had no idea how long it would take for God to resolve the problem. They had no idea as to how God was going to handle the problem. All they knew was that God had heard their prayer and that He would now handle the problem for them.

Once this fact was really grabbed by their minds and their spirits, then the peace of God was able to enter into them. And once the peace of God entered into them, then they were able to calm down and be anxious for nothing–exactly like what this verse is telling us to learn how to do.

So in one powerful and profound verse, God is telling us to be anxious for nothing–but at the same time He is telling us exactly how to be able to do this–and that is by going to Him in prayer and telling Him exactly what you will need to handle the problem, and then fully commit and surrender the problem into His hands for His direct handling.

Once you have fully surrendered the entire problem into God’s hands, then He will release His peace into your mind and emotions so He can calm you down and help you to be anxious for nothing. (Quote source here.)

After these two verses, in the next two verses (Philippians 4:8-9), we are reminded to meditate on these things:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

I’ll end this post with the words from Philippians 4:6-9 taken from The Message Bible:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

So, pray about absolutely everything, with thanksgiving, and… 

Be anxious . . .

For . . .

Nothing . . . .

YouTube Video: “My God is Still the Same” by Sanctus Real:

Photo #1 credit here (YouTube Video–15 minutes)
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

God Turn It Around

This morning I want to share a few songs on YouTube for anyone who might be needing a shot of encouragement…

I have always tried to be an optimistic person, and even in the worst of situations, I try to find the silver lining. In fact, I frequently pray for God to show me silver linings in difficult situations.

For example, I tend to look back at when I lost my job in April 2009 and I never found another job after searching for a bunch of years, and I can still let myself get upset at what it did to me financially and in other ways, too.  And that happened ten plus years before I would have reached official retirement age. However, there are some real pluses that I had to go searching pretty deep for over these past dozen-plus years in order to find a silver lining. And over these past dozen-plus years I have found several silver linings.

So, I want to offer these seven songs below as a source of encouragement, and remember these words from Hebrews 13:5 that state:

Keep your lives free from the love of money
and be content with what you have,
because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;

   Never will I forsake you.

YouTube Video #1: “God, Turn It Around” by Jon Reddick featuring Matt Maher:

YouTube Video #2: “Stand in Faith” by Danny Gokey:

YouTube Video #3: “My God Is Still The Same” by Sanctus Real:

YouTube Video #4: “Shall Not Want” by Elevation Worship and Maverick City:

YouTube Video #5: “Heart of the Father” by Ryan Ellis:

YouTube Video #6: “Rise Up” by Cain:

YouTube Video #7: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Austin Stone Worship:

Photo credit here

5 Psalms To Start With Every Morning

I must confess that I found these five psalms grouped together in an article published on June 13, 2019, titled, 5 Psalms to Read in the Morning: To Help Start Your Day with God’s Peace and Strength,” by Debbie McDaniel, a pastor’s wife and contributing writer on IBelieve.com. She opens her article with the following:

Sometimes when we wake up in the morning, our minds might already start racing before our feet even touch the floor. Hearts burdened, spirits heavy, worry begins to creep in before we’ve fully started our day. There’s so much in this life we can start to feel anxious about, even when we know Truth and believe that God’s in control. Fear can be a daily battle, and we may wrestle with feeling great pressure under the weight of responsibilities we’re carrying.

If you’ve found yourself there recently, here’s hope from God’s Word. The Psalms offer countless verses of real-life struggles and prayers for God’s strength and covering. No matter what we may be facing today, we can choose to set our hearts and minds on His truth, believing that He is with us and giving us strength, every step of the way. (Quote source and complete article are available at this link.)

The list of the five psalms in the order they are mentioned in this article include:

Psalm 121 – (Our help comes from the Lord)
Psalm 103 – (God is our Redeemer, and crowns us with love and compassion)
Psalm 91 – (God will protect our way)
Psalm 46 – (God calls us to find rest and peace in Him)
Psalm 23 – (The Lord is our Shepherd and He will lead the way)

Several year ago I started praying Psalm 23 (NKJV) almost everyday in the morning when I first wake up, and again at night before I drift off to sleep, and sometimes throughout the day (I memorized it several years ago). For me, it seems that no matter what the circumstances might be at any given moment, it is a psalm that can calm my soul and center me on Who and what is important. It is without a doubt my most favorite psalm.

Psalm 23 (NKJV): The Lord the Shepherd of His People

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Of the remaining four psalms mentioned above, I would be hard pressed to pick my second most favorite psalm in that list as they are all very inspiring. Here are the remaining psalms listed above in the order they are listed.

Psalm 121 (NKJV): God the Help of Those Who Seek Him

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Psalm 103 (NKJV): Praise for the Lord’s Mercies

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.

The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all.

Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
Bless the Lord, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Psalm 91 (NKJV): Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

Psalm 46 (NKJV): God the Refuge of His People and Conqueror of the Nations

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

I’ll end this post with a quote found at the end of the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post (the article is at this link):

It’s a new day ahead my friends, and a gift straight from God’s hand. If you woke up this morning, then we can be assured that God has great purpose for our lives, for this day. May He help us to lift our eyes and hearts towards Him; choose to find joy and live every moment for His glory. (Quote source here.)

Amen? . . .

Yes . . .

And Amen . . . .

YouTube Video: “Stand in Faith” by Danny Gokey:

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Psalm 24

Continuing with my “on again, off again” quoting of a psalm from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament on this blog, let’s take a look at Psalm 24 which is a psalm composed by David.

In an article published on September 9, 2020, titled, Psalm 24: The Earth Is the Lord’s, and Everything In It,” by Guy Roberson, contributor on PeopleForJesus.org, he writes:

The question this Psalm asks is one of the most important any man or woman can think about: “What does God require of me?” This is the ultimate issue that everyone faces, a question everyone must answer. The danger with the big questions of life, of course, is that we seldom stop to think about them. This Psalm brings us face-to-face with the ultimate issue of life and forces us to think about it….

First, if we are going to enter the Lord’s presence we should reflect on His sovereign supremacy. His unique majesty is displayed for us daily in the heavens and the earth. By observing God’s glorious creation, we see what a distinct privilege it is to enter His presence. He owns the earth—everything and everyone in the world (v. 1), even if you think you own it. Not only does God hold title to the earth but also to everything in it (v. 1b). This is what is meant by the fullness thereof. All that fills the earth, everything contained in it, also belongs to Him. “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it” (Deut. 10:14). John Wesley stated this correctly: “When the Possessor of heaven and earth brought you into being, and placed you in this world, he placed you here not as a proprietor, but a steward.”

By what right does God claim title to the earth and everything in it? Simply stated, it is His because He made it. The psalmist points us back to creation, the founding of the earth out of the waters, as God’s right to the earth. The Almighty spoke the earth into existence out of nothing (Gen. 1-2; cp. Rom. 1:18-32).

Second, we were created for God, for His pleasure and for the purpose of worshipping Him (Col. 1:16Rev. 4:11). We fulfill our purpose of glorifying God also by living our lives in relationship and faithful service to Him (1 Sam. 12:24John 17:4). King Solomon tried living for his own pleasure, yet at the end of his life he concluded that the only worthwhile life is one of honor and obedience to God (Eccl. 12:13–14).

Third, we should realize what an indescribable privilege it is to be invited into the presence of the Lord, but we have nothing to offer Him but ourselves, our hearts, our time, and our affection. Picture the joyous scene as the Israelites carried the ark of the covenant up the hill to the city of Zion. Their excitement grew with every step and the words of this psalm filled the air as they marched, reminding them of the qualifications for their sacred service. Soon they would enter the Lord’s holy place. As they climbed the hill to Jerusalem, they were forced to examine themselves, to search their hearts and lives for any impurity.

Fourth, we, too, should concentrate on offering our inner character and outward actions to the Lord. Notice what the Psalm has to say about this: “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god” (v. 4). The results: You will receive God’s blessing and His righteousness (v. 5). (Quote source and the rest of the article is available at this link.)

Here are the ten verses found in Psalm 24 (NIV):

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.

Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
He is the King of glory.

In an article published on July 11, 2020, titled, Psalm 24–His Glory Redeems the Earth,” by Bunni Pounds, contributor on ChristiansEngaged.org, she writes the following at the end of her article:

We are commanded here in this Psalm [24] to open up the gates and the doors of our lives regardless of how heavy they are… and with that command comes a promise that the “King of glory shall come in.” They might seem heavy or impossible at times to lift up, but God is mightier. The Lord is mighty in battle. He is the Lord of hosts. As we seek Him by making ourselves available to His presence and receiving the power of His blood, the gates of our hardened and stony hearts spring open and we find freedom. He comes rushing in and overtakes our rejections, our sin patterns, and our numb hearts. 

God is not just the King but the “King of glory” and His glory comes into our lives and changes us forever.

Then we pause like the word Selah implies here at the end of this Psalm. [Selah is found twice in Psalm 24 NKJV at the end of verse 6 and at the end of verse 10.]

Selah literally means–Stop and think about it. We take a break in His presence. We stand in His glory that is unmatched. The earth, as it pertains to our lives, is redeemed and the fullness of His glory changes everything. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”

Political Corner: In a career or activity that most people, not just Christians, think is dirty and difficult, it is important that people of faith that engage in politics understand that God has a purpose for all institutions. We are called to bring righteousness into the political arena laying down our anger, fears, and pride, and walking with a pure heart in a system that is all about who gets the most power and influence and navigating it with humility. Jesus has called us to be salt and light–so that means we bring His redemption even into politics. It is time for some servant leaders in this field. Let’s not be short-changed by doing politics like the world system does it. (Quote source here.)

A closing thought on Psalm 24 from verse 10 comes from BibleRef.com and states:

This closing verse of Psalm 24 describes the glorious King as “the LORD of hosts.” This divine title occurs well over two hundred times in the Old Testament. Its first occurrence is in 1 Samuel 1:3. Isaiah and Jeremiah combined use this phrase well over one hundred times.

The name “LORD of hosts” identifies the Lord as eternal and ruler over all the angels and stars. The title reflects the truth that, although Israel’s earthly king was David, her real king was Yahweh. Prophetically, the glorious king who will enter Jerusalem is the Lord Jesus. He is the Lord of heaven and earth by virtue of creation and redemption. Colossians 1:15–17 describes Jesus as having created everything in heaven and on earth, not only visible objects but invisible. The invisible would include the angelic host. He also holds everything together. Someday the Lord of hosts will return to earth with mighty angels to execute judgment on unbelievers and to reign from the throne of David (Isaiah 9:6–7). (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from Psalm 24:10 (NKJV) which states:

Who is this King of glory?. . .

The Lord of hosts . . .

He is the King of glory. Selah . . . .

YouTube Video: “Psalm 24” by the Prestonwood Choir & Orchestra , October 20, 2019:

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The Future of America

Here in America yesterday we celebrated the 4th of July and the 246th birthday of our nation since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776 (see the post, The 4th of July,” published on my main blog.) In the research I conducted for that post regarding this particular American holiday, I found varying views.

In my email this morning I found a link to an article published today (July 5, 2022) on The Christian Post titled, In historic low, only 38% extremely proud to be an American: Gallup,” by Anugrah Kumar, a Christian Post contributor. Here is some of the statistics from his article:

A new Gallup poll has found that only 38% of adults in the United States say they are “extremely proud” to be American, the lowest percentage recorded since the analytics and advisory company began asking the question in 2001.

Gallup suggests the revelation may not be surprising given that the poll was conducted between June 1 and 20, at a time when “a pandemic-weary public is struggling with the highest U.S. inflation rate in more than four decades.” The survey was conducted among a random sample of 1,015 U.S. adults.

In addition, Gallup added, the poll was held soon after mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, which claimed 31 lives, including 19 children. It also preceded the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

The 38% expressing extreme pride is four percentage points lower than in 2020 and nearly 20 points lower than it was a decade ago, according to the survey.

However, 65% of U.S. adults still express pride in the nation, the survey found. About 27% say they are “very proud,” another 22% say they are “moderately proud,” and 9% say they are “only a little.”

The combined 65% for those who are “extremely” or “very proud” is two points lower than in 2020. Only 4% say they are “not at all” proud.

The poll shows that Republicans (58%) continue to be ahead of Democrats (26%) and Independents (34%) in showing pride in being American.

It also reveals that 72% of men are “extremely” or “very proud” to be American, compared to 60% of women.

Age-wise, about 80% of Americans aged 55 or older are “extremely” or “very proud” of their nationality, and the percentage drops to 64% among those aged 35 to 54, and 48% among those aged 18 to 34.

Another Gallup survey, conducted around the same time, shows that only a quarter of U.S. adults have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court, the lowest since 1973.

In a Gallup survey in May, only 18% of American adults said they approved of the way Congress was handling its job…. (Quote source here.)

As noted in this article, “age-wise, about 80% of Americans aged 55 or older are ‘extremely’ or ‘very proud’ of their nationality,” and the drop in percentage occurs in the younger generations aged 54 and below. So what will this nation look like as those who are currently 55 and older die over the next few decades? Of course, there are other factors that enter into the direction America is taking going forward, too.

I came across that list of factors this morning in an article published on March 5, 2021, titled The Life Cycles of Empires and Nations,” by Sajjad Choudhury, Product Operations Manager at Onfido. He notes that there are seven stages that all nations have followed in history and that are they still following today. In the opening of his article, he quotes the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831):

“What experience and history teach is this—that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.” [From: Lectures on the Philosophy of World History: Introduction (1830, tr. H. B. Nisbet, 1975) introduction; quote source here.]

He includes a description of these seven stages in his article at this link. I also discovered that I had published a blog post on my main blog back on October 20, 2016, titled, Now is the Time,” that also mentions these same seven stages from an article published on July 6, 2011, titled, The Life Cycles of Empires: Lessons for America Today? by Eric Snow, a contributor on Beyond Today. The following is taken from the Snow article:

Seven steps in the life cycles of great powers

Glubb Pasha [Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb,1897-1986, who was a British soldier, scholar and author] learned that different empires had similar cultural changes while experiencing a life cycle in a series of stages that could overlap. He generalized about empires having seven stages of development, identifying these successive ages as follows:

1. The age of outburst (or pioneers).
2. The age of conquests.
3. The age of commerce.
4. The age of affluence.
5. The age of intellect.
6. The age of decadence.
7. The age of decline and collapse.

Each stage helps progression to the next as the values of the people change over time. Military, political, economic and religious developments all influence an empire’s people to act and believe differently over time. (Quote source here.)

Snow notes the following regarding Stage 7: The age of decline and collapse:

What are some key signs of decline?

What are some common features of an empire’s culture in its declining period? Glubb describes developments like these:

1. Rampant sexual immorality, an aversion to marriage in favor of “living together” and an increased divorce rate all combine to undermine family stability. This happened among the upper class in the late Roman Republic and early Empire. The first-century writer Seneca once complained about Roman upper-class women: “They divorce in order to re-marry. They marry in order to divorce.”

The birthrate declines, and abortion and infanticide both increase as family size is deliberately limited. The historian W.H. McNeill has referred to the “biological suicide of the Roman upper classes” as one reason for Rome’s decline. Homosexuality becomes publicly acceptable and spreads, as was the case among the ancient Greeks before Rome conquered them.

2. Many foreign immigrants settle in the empire’s capital and major cities. The mixture of ethnic groups in close proximity in these cosmopolitan places inevitably produces conflicts.

Because of their prominent locations within the empire, their influence greatly exceeds their percentage of the population. Here diversity plainly leads to divisiveness.

We see this today in the growing conflict in European countries such as France and the Netherlands, where large numbers of immigrants are stoking violent cultural clashes. German chancellor Angela Merkel [note: this article was published in 2011] recently made headlines when she stated that attempts to create a multicultural society had “utterly failed” and immigrants must do more to integrate into society.

3. Both irresponsible pleasure-seeking and pessimism increase among the people and their leaders. The spirit described in 1 Corinthians 15:32 spreads throughout society: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

As people cynically give up looking for solutions to the problems of life and society, they drop out of the system. They then turn to mindless entertainment, to luxuries and sexual activity, and to drugs or alcohol.

The astonishingly corrupt and lavish parties of the Roman Empire’s elite are a case in point. The Emperor Nero, for instance, would spend the modern equivalent of $500,000 for just the flowers at some banquets.

4. The government provides extensive welfare for the poor. In the case of the city of Rome, which had perhaps 1.2 million people around A.D. 170, government-provided “bread and circuses” (food and entertainment) helped to keep the masses content. About one half of its non-slave population was on the dole at least part of the year.

True, helping the poor shows Christian compassion (Mark 14:7). But such help also can lead to laziness and dependency (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Such problems are especially likely when the poor believe state-provided charity is a permanent right or entitlement.

Is America on a downward cultural and spiritual spiral?

Considering this list of indicators of an empire’s cultural and moral decline, is it reasonable to deny that the United States has entered the stages of decadence and decline?

True, the tidal wave of social and cultural decay unleashed by the 1960s in America has ebbed some in recent years. The rates of abortion, divorce, illegitimate births, drug abuse, welfare dependency and violent crime have either declined or gone up much more slowly.

Furthermore, some indicators of decline have good, not just bad, results. For instance, some immigration is helpful. As skilled, educated immigrants arrive, they normally benefit America economically while being a “brain drain” from Third World countries. And, indeed, the United States has historically embraced vast numbers of immigrants.

Nevertheless, the present flood of immigrants, legal or illegal, equals in impact the wave that arrived at America’s shores around 1900. Today, they are far more apt to be a divisive force. Why? Unlike a hundred years ago, America’s intellectual elite overall has adopted multiculturalism (the promotion of immigrants maintaining their prior distinct cultures) and has rejected assimilation (adopting the existing national culture) as its ideal.

Today multiculturalism is the ideology underlying a potentially ultimate political Balkanization, wherein society is fragmented along ethnic and cultural lines. (For evidence, see the liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger’s 1991 bookThe Disuniting of America). A lack of cultural unity inevitably leads to conflict in a free society such as in the United States. (Quote source here.)

Note that Snow’s article was published back in 2011, long before the Covid-19 pandemic started in March 2020, and the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in May 2020 that started the rioting outbreaks in cities across America, along with Cancel Culture, the January 6th insurrection, #MeToo, BLM, the mass shootings, and everything else that has transpired leading to the latest polarization on the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court handed down on June 24, 2022. One can hardly take a breath before some new dividing point makes the headlines on the national news and social media. Let’s not even talk about the ever increasing inflation rate that is ongoing for who knows how much longer, and will prices ever go back down?

In Snow’s concluding remarks in his article, he writes:

Are we paying attention?

How should we react to the historical insights of Sir John Glubb Pasha’s “The Fate of Empires and the Search for Survival” as they relate to America, Britain and other related English-speaking nations?

As he notes in his examination of a number of previous empires, the processes of history often repeat themselves. We shouldn’t believe that America will automatically avoid the fate of other great empires that declined and fell in the past. (Quote source here.)

This brings us to the topic of hope. A Christian’s hope is not based on the survival of a nation, whether it is America or any other nation on the globe. A Christian’s hope is defined as follows (per GotQuestions.org):

Most people understand hope as wishful thinking, as in “I hope something will happen.” This is not what the Bible means by hope. The biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.” Hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown (Romans 8:24-25Hebrews 11:17). Hope is a fundamental component of the life of the righteous (Proverbs 23:18). Without hope, life loses its meaning (Lamentations 3:18Job 7:6) and in death there is no hope (Isaiah 38:18Job 17:15). The righteous who trust or put their hope in God will be helped (Psalm 28:7), and they will not be confounded, put to shame, or disappointed (Isaiah 49:23). The righteous, who have this trustful hope in God, have a general confidence in God’s protection and help (Jeremiah 29:11) and are free from fear and anxiety (Psalm 46:2-3).

The New Testament idea of hope is the recognition that in Christ is found the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises (Matthew 12:211 Peter 1:3). Christian hope is rooted in faith in the divine salvation in Christ (Galatians 5:5). Hope of Christians is brought into being through the presence of the promised Holy Spirit (Romans 8:24-25). It is the future hope of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6), the promises given to Israel (Acts 26:6-7), the redemption of the body and of the whole creation (Romans 8:23-25), eternal glory (Colossians 1:27), eternal life and the inheritance of the saints (Titus 3:5-7), the return of Christ (Titus 2:11-14), transformation into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2-3), the salvation of God (1 Timothy 4:10) or simply Christ Himself (1 Timothy 1:1).

The certainty of this blessed future is guaranteed through the indwelling of the Spirit (Romans 8:23-25), Christ in us (Colossians 1:27), and the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:26). Hope is produced by endurance through suffering (Romans 5:2-5) and is the inspiration behind endurance (1 Thessalonians 1:3Hebrews 6:11). Those who hope in Christ will see Christ exalted in life and in death (Philippians 1:20). Trustworthy promises from God give us hope (Hebrews 6:18-19), and we may boast in this hope (Hebrews 3:6) and exhibit great boldness in our faith (2 Corinthians 3:12). By contrast, those who do not place their trust in God are said to be without hope (Ephesians 2:121 Thessalonians 4:13).

Along with faith and love, hope is an enduring virtue of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 13:13), and love springs from hope (Colossians 1:4-5). Hope produces joy and peace in believers through the power of the Spirit (Romans 12:1215:13). Paul attributes his apostolic calling to the hope of eternal glory (Titus 1:1-2). Hope in the return of Christ is the basis for believers to purify themselves in this life (Titus 2:11-141 John 3:3). (Quote source here.)

Peter, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus, wrote the following in 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV):

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

All five chapters in 1 Peter are focused on “a living hope” and they provide much encouragement in hard times, and at anytime, too (1 Peter is available at this link). It’s a reminder for us to keep our eyes focused on the One our hope rests in no matter what is going on in this ever changing world of ours.

While we do not know what the future holds, we who believe know the One who holds the future. With that in mind, I’ll end this post with the words of Paul from Romans 12:12 (ESV)…

Rejoice in hope . . .

Be patient in tribulation . . .

Be constant in prayer . . . .

YouTube Video: “Hope in Front of Me,” by Danny Gokey:

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Shifting Tides

I read three articles that were linked in three different emails I received this morning that all lean in the same direction. They are all reflections on what it means to be a Christian. For both Christians and skeptics, I offer the links to these three articles/posts for your consideration.

The first article, published on June 7, 2022, is titled, How I Discovered That Faith Isn’t Intellectual Suicide,” by Dr. Guillaume Bignon, who “was born and raised in France, where he studied math, physics, and engineering science. He currently works as a software engineering manager. After a wholly improbable conversion from atheism to Christianity, Guillaume earned a master’s in biblical literature with an emphasis on the New Testament and a PhD in philosophical theology. His areas of interest include the metaphysics of free will, natural theology, and soteriology. Guillaume is an executive committee member of Association Axiome, a society of French-speaking Christian scholars” (quote source here).

To pique your interest, here are the opening paragraphs of his article/post:

“If any of my family or friends could see me now, I would die of shame,” I thought 15 years ago as I stepped into that Paris church as a French atheist starting an investigation of the Christian faith.

I had left the Catholic church years before that, when I was old enough to tell my parents I didn’t believe. And in the years that followed, I’d grown rather scornful toward religious believers. “They’re not thinking. They’re superstitious. They’re irrational. What a waste of time,” I thought. “I’ll stay as far away from religion as I can.”

Well, that didn’t exactly work out.

The most unlikely circumstances conspired against me: A random meeting with a stranger while hitchhiking on the other side of the world led to a long-distance relationship with an American model and actress who claimed to be a Christian—and believed in abstinence before marriage. The only way to be with her was to disprove her faith, to leave her antiquated beliefs behind and be happy together. This led me to read the Bible in an effort to understand it, and it brought me to that church to see what Christians do when they gather. But even as a professing atheist with no intention of converting, I felt some shame even being in the building, as if I had done something intellectually subpar already—being among the religious. Dreadful.

This outlook on religion was partly based on my own prejudice, of course, but also partly fueled by the French culture around me, where being religious is socially acceptable when superficial, but deeply ridiculed when taken seriously. This sentiment dates back at least to the Enlightenment, when French thinkers like Baron d’Holbach said, “To be a good Christian, it is essential not to have a brain, or at least to have one that’s well and truly shrunk” and “All good Christians must be in a state of sweet simplicity, predisposing them to believe things that are not in the least bit credible without a second thought, on command of their spiritual guides.” Today, we find these same presuppositions in the writings of extremely popular French atheist philosopher Michel Onfray, who says, “I do not despise believers. I find them neither ridiculous nor pathetic” but goes on to call them “naïve and foolish” and accuses them of being filled with “neuroses, psychoses, and . . . aberrations,” suffering “a personal mental pathology . . . ushering in a wholesale pandemic.”…. (Quote source here.)

You can read the rest of his article/post on his road to becoming a Christian at this link: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/how-i-discovered-that-faith-isnt-intellectual-suicide.html

The second article, published on June 8, 2022, is titled, Bless My Mess and Sanctify My Stuff and I Will Be OK! NOT!!!!! by Randy Burbank, an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church, and Lead Pastor of Oak Hill and Mt. Vernon Methodist Churches. He writes:

Calling this a crazy world out there doesn’t do justice to describing our current culture. Crazy doesn’t come close to describing the malady of our times. When you look at the development of civilization the most immediate thing that is clearly in focus is that even the most primitive civilizations recognize that there exists some “higher being”–A.K.A. a “god”. This is a powerful acknowledgement–to realize there is “someone” out there with more power and wisdom than us puny human beings. And thanks to The Bible–yes, that outdated and irrelevant book for our times–we know that the ONLY “higher being” is God–or using His name that He revealed to Moses–Yahweh!

The Bible reveals to us seven indisputable, ironclad, unassailable, and undeniable facts about Him and ourselves. And here they are… (click here to read them).

The link to his post is located here:  https://kingdompastor.wordpress.com/2022/06/08/bless-my-mess-and-sanctify-my-stuff-and-i-will-be-ok-not/

The third article, published on May 30,2019, is titled, 7 Reasons the World May Hate That You’re a Christian,” by Dale Chamberlain, M.Div., author, speaker and contributing writer on Crosswalk.com. He opens his article with the following:

There’s nothing new about the fact that Christians can be a polarizing group of people. From the very beginning of the Christian movement, followers of Jesus around the world have been persecuted, arrested, threatened, beaten, tortured, and put to death.

In light of all that, some of us might be feeling silly for taking to the internet and complaining when people simply make fun of us.

Nevertheless, while believers in the West might not experience the same level of persecution as historic Christians or fellow believers around the world today, we do feel the sting of not being liked. Maybe it has even cost you a promotion at work. Or maybe it has limited the relationships you have with certain people. 

But why does the world hate Christians so much? Our message is one of love. God loved the world so much that he sent his Son to die for us that we might have life. Yet, we still seem to rub people the wrong way.

Sometimes, Christians are disliked through no fault of their own. Other times, we needlessly bring it upon ourselves. It takes wisdom and spiritual maturity to know when we’re being hated for the right reasons.

Here are seven reasons why the world may hate that you’re a Christian, some good and some bad… (click here to read those seven reasons).

The link to his post is located here: https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/reasons-the-world-may-hate-that-youre-a-christian.html

As I reflect back on my own life, I’ve been a Christian since I was a very young girl raised in a nondenominational church atmosphere that tended to hire Baptist pastors. A one-sentence description of “becoming a Christian”–e.g., salvation–is repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” which occurred in my life at the age of 10 (circa 1962). I’m also member of the Baby Boomer generation (born between the years of 1946 and 1964), and my generation is about to enter or have now entered their retirement years with the youngest members turning 58 and the oldest members turning 76 during 2022.

During the past couple of decades, especially in work settings, I started noticing that the Christian influence that was mostly evident in American society clear up until I entered my late 30’s (circa late 1980’s) was waning, and especially since the start of the new Millennium (circa 2000).

In an article published on October 30, 2019, by Lifeway Research titled, Are We Seeing the First Non-Christian Majority Generation?” by Aaron Earls, online editor of Facts & Trends, he writes:

“Christianity is only one generation away from extinction.”

When considering the eternal scope of the church and the promises Christ has made, that famous line may not be true, but American Christianity has reached the generation in which it is no longer the majority.

In America, at least two-thirds of Generation X (67%), Baby Boomers (76%), and the Silent Generation (84%) say they’re Christian, according to new analysis from Pew Research.

Among millennials, however, slightly less than half (49%) identify as Christian. A similar number say they’re not Christian.

Around 1 in 10 (9%) claim to be part of a non-Christian faith, while 40% are religiously unaffiliated.

The unaffiliated number is well above previous generations.

Only 10% of the Silent Generation is unaffiliated with any religion. That climbs to 17% of Baby Boomers and 25% of Generation X.

Religious service attendance has similar generational shifts.

Today, as many millennials say they never attend a religious service (22%) as say they attend weekly or more (22%).

Including those who attend once or twice a month, 35% of millennials say they regularly attend religious services. Almost twice as many attend infrequently or never (64%).

In previous generations, church and religious service attendance is much more common.

Among the Silent Generation, regular attenders (61%) outnumber irregular and non-attenders (37%). Only 12% say they never attend, while 50% attend weekly or more.

Baby Boomers (49% regular attenders, 50% not) and Generation X (46% and 53%) are fairly even split.

Few Boomers (14%) and Gen Xers (15%) say they never attend, while around a third of each say they attend weekly or more.

The General Social Survey has tracked a similar increase across age demographics in those who say they never attend.

The young adults have historically been group most likely to say they never attend church, but the growth in those numbers has been dramatic in the last few decades.

Through the 1970s and 80s, the percentage of Americans who said they never attended religious services remained steady, with the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds hovering around 15%.

The percentage steadily increased over the next three decades. In 2018, the percentage of Americans who never attend religious services reached 30% for the first time.

Among 18- to 34-year-olds, it climbed to an all-time high of 35%.

In many ways, millennials and other groups who aren’t at regularly at church have stayed away because the church has not demonstrated they value and welcome them. (Quote source here.)

Earls continues in his article to give suggestions with steps churches can take to draw younger generations at this link: https://research.lifeway.com/2019/10/30/are-we-seeing-the-first-non-christian-majority-generation/

From the statistics cited above it is apparent that there is a shifting tide going on in American society when it comes to Christianity–not only what it genuinely means to be a Christian, but also in the skepticism among the non-believing segments (when it comes to Christianity) of our population.

In my search for information to include in this post, I came across information on a book published in 2019 titled, Jesus Skeptic: A Journalist Explores the Credibility and Impact of Christianity,” by John S. Dickerson, journalist, speaker, and Lead Pastor at Connection Pointe Christian Church. Amazon.com provides the following information on this book:

Can we know if Jesus actually lived? Have Jesus’s followers been a force for good or evil in history? A respected journalist set out to find the answers–not from opinion but from artifacts. The evidence led him to an unexpected conclusion: Jesus really existed and launched the greatest movement for social good in human history.

A first-of-its-kind book for a new generation, “Jesus Skeptic” takes nothing for granted as it explores whether Jesus actually lived and how his story has changed our world. You’ll

– learn what heroes like Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman believed about Jesus
– discover how Jesus inspired women’s rights, education rights, and modern hospitals
– see visual proofs of Jesus’s impact, never before compiled in one place
– be inspired to continue Jesus’s fight for human rights, justice, and progress

“Jesus Skeptic”
unveils convincing physical evidence that will enlighten seekers, skeptics, and longtime Christians alike. In a generation that wants to make the world a better place, we can discover what humanity’s greatest champions had in common: a Christian faith. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the chorus from the song, Heart of the Father (see YouTube video below):

Jesus, Your name is power
It’s breath and living water
And your Spirit guides me
To the heart of the Father
Let Your praise ring louder
Every day and every hour…

‘Cause Your Spirit guides me . . .

To the heart . . .

Of the Father . . . .

YouTube Video: “Heart of the Father” by Ryan Ellis:

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Psalm 8

Recently on this blog, I have been publishing some of the psalms found in the Old Testament Book of Psalms. This morning I read the following psalm as part of a devotional I have been reading title, Praying Through the Most Beloved Psalms in 30 Days,” by Dolores Smyth, nationally published faith and parenting writer, and contributor on Crosswalk.com. Here is the psalm for today:

Psalm 8 (NIV)

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

BibleProject.com provides both a visual commentary and written commentary on Psalm 8 titled, Ruling the World through Weakness in Psalm 8: What Do Babbling Babies Have to do with Strongholds?” by Cheree Hayes and the Bible Project Team. The visual commentary is available on their website at this link and on YouTube (YouTube video is below):

The written commentary on BibleProject.com opens with the following:

Why would the creator of the universe choose to rule the world through the babbling cries of needy humans? Psalm 8 describes Yahweh as the King of creation who made dependent humans his royal partners. This is unexpected and wonderful news to those who understand their need for God. But it’s offensive to those who want to rule their lives apart from Yahweh. Throughout the Bible, we see people violently oppose God’s strategy for ruling the universe. And this opposition creates a lot of chaos. So Yahweh establishes a stronghold of protection wherever one of his children humbly recognizes their need and calls out to him. Let’s take a closer look at Psalm 8 to understand more about how God chooses to rule his world. (Continue reading the commentary at this link. It’s not long.)

This psalm is about praising God and how praise establishes strongholds against our enemies. When we are upset by something or abused by someone, what is often our first inclination? We want to strike back, to seek revenge, or to cause our adversary damage in some way. (As an example, think about divorce.) That is the way of the world, and we see it going on all around us and in the daily, nonstop 24/7 news cycle. It’s the theme of a lot of movies–to get revenge. Yet the ways of God are exactly the opposite of how the world reacts when our enemies, both seen and unseen, come against us; and how we, as Christians, should react when abuse comes to us through the actions of others.

First, let’s take a look at spiritual strongholds. In an article titled, What does the Bible say about spiritual strongholds,” (author’s name not mentioned) published on CompellingTruth.org, the article states:

A stronghold is defined as “(1) a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack; (2) a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld.” Strongholds are designed to be a safe place. As believers in Christ, we need to make the Lord our stronghold. He is our safe place and refuge (Psalm 27:1).

Throughout the Old Testament, God speaks through the prophets about how He will destroy enemy strongholds (Amos 1:71012Hosea 8:14). While these referred to physical strongholds, we can draw metaphorical parallels from them. The word “strongholds” is used metaphorically only one time in the New Testament. In 2 Corinthians 10:3–5, Paul writes: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

 

This passage shows us that spiritual strongholds are arguments, lofty opinions, and thoughts that are raised against the knowledge of God, or, are held in esteem over Him. Strongholds are rooted in pride because they rely on the self. They lead to a prideful heart, unhealthy thought patterns, and habitual sins that we just can’t seem to overcome. Anything that we trust in besides the Lord can become a spiritual stronghold.

Because strongholds are spiritual, our battle to fight them takes place in the spiritual-realm and needs to be fought with spiritual weapons. Ephesians 6:10–18 affirms that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal weapons, but spiritual ones that enable us to stand strong against the Devil’s schemes. These are the weapons God has provided for us: “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:14-18a).

If we are wise, we will tear down spiritual strongholds in our lives using these spiritual tools, restoring our full trust in the Lord (Proverbs 21:22). Tearing down strongholds is not easy, and when we begin to fight we will most certainly experience resistance. There can be both carnal and demonic spiritual strongholds in our lives, families, and churches, but Christ’s power enables us to be free from them and also gives us the ability to operate in His power to help others be free from them, too. Instead of depending on ourselves and being in bondage, we can fully place our trust in God and His love for us and make Him the only stronghold we have: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2; see also Psalm 94:22).

Even though we will experience resistance when we begin destroying spiritual strongholds, we can remain confident that in doing this we are being used by the Lord to build His Church, and He will not allow Satan to triumph in the end (Matthew 16:18). Jesus has already won the war. Psalm 144:1–2 says:

“Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.”

It’s our responsibility to be warriors for Christ to tear down spiritual strongholds and fight the spiritual battles here on the earth using the weapons God has given us. Though we are in a fierce battle, we can be confident knowing that we are on the winning side. (Quote source here.)

In a post titled, Praise as a Weapon,” by Tracy J. Robbins, wife, mother, teacher and writer, describes one of the most powerful weapons we as Christians have, and that is praise. She writes:

However, I’ve learned that praise will silence the enemy, give us strength and lighten our load, and save us from our enemies. Therefore it’s an effective weapon. We can fight the enemy and even our own negative feelings with praise. Praise creates an atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to work and move and for God to answer prayers.

“Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2 (NIV)

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV)

“I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” Psalm 18:3 (ESV)

Praise is a weapon that is different from other kinds of weapons

It’s both a spiritual offensive and a defensive weapon. God has given us different kinds of spiritual weapons to use. They are stronger and more powerful than any weapon of this world with which we might do battle. Praise as a weapon might seem unnatural but it IS supernatural.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4 (NIV)

We praise in and by faith

Praising in the middle of a battle DOES seem counterintuitive and contradictory. We praise when it doesn’t make sense to do so because we have faith in the power of God. Praise is a weapon of faith—it’s a fight of faith. We praise in spite of the circumstances surrounding us.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV)

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT)

Praise is often a sacrifice and act of surrender

Praise is a weapon to use in spite of our feelings (and our negative feelings are sometimes even overcome with our praise). Because of this sometimes our praise is a sacrifice…because we don’t FEEL like doing it. It will cost us our time and our energy.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15 (NIV)

**Other verses using the phrase “sacrifice of praise”:  Jeremiah 33:11, Psalm 50:14, Psalm 107:22, Psalm 116:17, and Amos 4:5.

Praise invites God into the situation…. (Quote source here.)

At this point, I will direct you to her post at this link, where she describes how praise invites God into the situation; how praise acknowledges that God is greater; and how praise causes the enemy to flee. She also includes stories from the Bible where praise was used as a weapon in the lives of King Jehoshaphat, Paul and Silas, David, and Joshua in the battle of Jericho. She ends her post with some practical steps in using praise as a weapon. (Click here to read her post.)

I’ll admit that whenever I get upset about something, praise usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind; yet praise is very calming, and it take our mind and focus off of the situation and puts it where it belongs–on God.

I’ll end this post with the words from Psalm 150 (NIV):

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything . . .

That has breath . . .

Praise the Lord . . . .

YouTube Video: “Psalm 8 (How Majestic Is Your Name)” by Shane & Shane:

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For The Good

Romans 8:28-30 (NKJV), written by the Apostle Paul, state the following:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

So what does it mean that all things work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to His purpose? There are a lot of things that are not good that happen in our world and to us. And it’s also a hard question to answer especially if our life resembles a jigsaw puzzle of what seems like “hit or miss” opportunities. For example, take Joseph’s life in the Old Testament. What a jigsaw puzzle his life started out to be at a very young age with some real tragedies, but in the end when he was old, it all came together perfectly according to God’s purposes. In fact, from God’s perspective Joseph’s entire life was mapped out by God before he was even born. Nothing in his life happened by accident.

GotQuestions.org answers that question as follows:

When a Christian utters the phrase all things work together for good, he or she is referring to a portion of one of the most quoted, claimed verses in the New Testament, Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Or, as the KJV translates it, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

God works all things together for good—both His good and our good. As God is glorified, His people benefit.

In Romans 8, Paul contrasts a life lived in selfish pursuits (the flesh) and one lived in league with, or in accordance with, God (the Spirit). He impresses upon readers that our sovereign God is all-knowing, all-wise, and all-powerful.

Those who love God can trust His goodness, His power, and His will to work out all things for our good. We journey together with Him.

The promise that God works all things together for good does not mean that all things, taken by themselves, are good. Some things and events are decidedly bad. But God is able to work them together for good. He sees the big picture; He has a master plan.

Neither does the promise that God works all things together for good mean we will acquire all that we want or desire. Romans 8:28 is about God’s goodness and our confidence that His plan will work out as He sees fit. Since His plan is always good, Christians can take confidence that, no matter our circumstances or environments, God is active and will conclude things according to His good and wise design. With this knowledge we can learn to be content (see Philippians 4:11).

The fact that God works all things together for good means God’s plan will not be thwarted. In fact, we are part of His plan, having been “called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). When we trust God and His way, we can be sure that He is active and powerful on our behalf (see Ephesians 3:20).

God knows the future, and His desires will be accomplished. “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’” (Isaiah 46:10). Even when things seem chaotic and out of control, God is still in charge. We sometimes worry about what’s happening to us because we do not know what is best for us. But God does.

The principle of God working all things together for good is well illustrated in the Old Testament account of Joseph’s life. Early in Joseph’s life, Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery. In Egypt, Joseph rises to a position of responsibility. Then, he is unjustly imprisoned and forgotten about by his friends. God gifts him the ability to interpret dreams, and through that ability Joseph is once again raised to a place of honor and power. When drought forces Joseph’s brothers to seek food elsewhere, they travel to Egypt and encounter Joseph, who eventually saves them from starvation and grants them a livelihood in his new land.

Throughout his life, Joseph trusted God no matter his good or bad circumstances. Joseph experienced plenty of bad things: kidnapping, slavery, false accusations, wrongful imprisonment, rejection, and famine. But in the end God brought things to a wonderful, life-affirming conclusion. God blessed Joseph’s entire family through those painful circumstances and through Joseph’s faith. (You can read about Joseph’s life beginning in Genesis 37.)

Paul’s life is another testament to how God works all things together for good. Paul suffered shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment, murder attempts, temporary blindness, and more—all within God’s plan to spread the gospel (see Acts 9:16 and 2 Corinthians 11:24–27). Through it all, God was steadfastly working to bring about good and glorious results.

After promising that God works all things together for our good, Romans 8 concludes with the wonderful fact that God trumps everything that comes against Him and those who belong to Him. The Christian is assured that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35–39). God’s love is everlasting, and His wisdom is infinite. It doesn’t matter who or what attempts to thwart God’s plan; no one and nothing can. God will work all things together for the good of those who love Him. Our decision to align our will with God’s and to always trust Him will be rewarded. (Quote source here.)

Those are very encouraging words, so let us take life one day at a time, and give every fabric of our being to God first thing every morning in prayer. God knows all the pieces of our own puzzles (our lives) even when we can’t see the forest for the trees. We are called to have faith and to trust in God, and not to worry about anything (even the jigsaw puzzle pieces of our lives). In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he states the following in Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV):

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I’ll end this post with the words from Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways…

Acknowledge Him . . .

And He shall direct . . .

Your paths . . .

YouTube Video: “For The Good” by Riley Clemmons:

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Our Advocate

Earlier today I published a blog post on my main blog titled, Let Us Pray,” since today, May 5, 2022, is the National Day of Prayer here in America, and it is commemorated by Presidential proclamation every year on the first Thursday in May. You can read that post at this link.

I ended that post with the words written by Paul found in Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) which state:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Over the course of the past dozen years, I’ve learned some things about life that I knew nothing about before they occurred, and even then it took a long time to understand the implications–sort of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It reminds me of a quote I included on the main page of this blog by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), pastor, author/editor, and spiritual mentor who was often thought of as a 20th Century “modern day prophet.” Tozer stated: “I rarely know where I am going in my life’s journey but… I look back and see that God has been leading my every step and I did not even know it” (quote source here).

Proverbs 16:9 states: We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” My own personal plan included working until normal retirement age or longer (which didn’t happen), and there was no way I could have ever foreseen in advance what actually transpired during the past dozen years and where it has led me. Over time I have learned that there is far more going on in this world than we can imagine, and certainly more than we have the ability to control. James 4:13-14 expresses this sentiment:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 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.

When it comes to prayer, there is nothing in this world that is more important then prayer, even when we have no clue what to pray about or how to go about praying for something we aren’t even sure how to pray about. But prayer is talking to God about what is on our heart–all of it–the good, the bad and the ugly; worries, fears, anxiety; the unknown future; why things are happening that we never expected; and the sheer tiredness of waiting. However, as Paul reminds us in Romans 8:26-28 (MSG): “… the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

The NIV states Romans 8:26-28 as follows: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

In John 14, Jesus is comforting his disciples before his crucifixion and resurrection. In John 14:1, Jesus starts by telling them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” Then in verses 15-21 Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit–the Spirit of truth–to his disciples:

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.

And a few verses later, in John 14:25-27, Jesus states:

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

GotQuestions.org gives us a description of the Holy Spirit as our advocate and counselor in answer to the question, “What does it mean that the Holy Spirit is our Paraclete?” (the term Paraclete means advocate, counselor, intercessor, helper):

After Jesus announced to His disciples that He would be leaving them soon, He gave them a statement of great encouragement: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16–17).

The Greek word translated “Comforter” or “Counselor” (as found in John 14:162615:26; and 16:7) is “parakletos.” This form of the word is unquestionably passive and properly means “one called to the side of another”; the word carries a secondary notion concerning the purpose of the calling alongside: to counsel or support the one who needs it. This Counselor, or Paraclete, is God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity who has been “called to our side.” He is a personal being, and He indwells every believer.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus had guided, guarded, and taught His disciples; but now, in John 14—16, He is preparing to leave them. He promises that the Spirit of God would come to the disciples and dwell in them, taking the place of their Master’s physical presence. Jesus called the Spirit “another Comforter”—another of the same kind. The Spirit of God is not different from the Son of God in essence, for both are God.

During the Old Testament age, the Spirit of God would come on people and then leave them. God’s Spirit departed from King Saul (1 Samuel 16:1418:12). David, when confessing his sin, asked that the Spirit not be taken from him (Psalm 51:11). But when the Spirit was given at Pentecost, He came to God’s people to remain with them forever. We may grieve the Holy Spirit, but He will not leave us. As Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” How is He with us when He is in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father? He is with us by His Spirit (the Helper—the Parakletos).

To have the Holy Spirit as our Paraclete is to have God Himself indwelling us as believers. The Spirit teaches us the Word and guides us into truth. He reminds us of what Jesus has taught so that we can depend on His Word in the difficult times of life. The Spirit works in us to give us His peace (John 14:27), His love (John 15:9–10), and His joy (John 15:11). He comforts our hearts and minds in a troubled world. The power of the indwelling Paraclete gives us the ability to live by the Spirit and “not gratify the desires of the sinful flesh” (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit can then produce His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23) to the glory of God the Father. What a blessing to have the Holy Spirit in our lives as our Paraclete—our Comforter, our Encourager, our Counselor, and our Advocate! (Quote source here.)

So what is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives today? GotQuestions.org gives us this answer:

Of all the gifts given to mankind by God, there is none greater than the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has many functions, roles, and activities. First, He does a work in the hearts of all people everywhere. Jesus told the disciples that He would send the Spirit into the world to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-11). Everyone has a “God consciousness,” whether or not they admit it. The Spirit applies the truths of God to minds of men to convince them by fair and sufficient arguments that they are sinners. Responding to that conviction brings men to salvation.

Once we are saved and belong to God, the Spirit takes up residence in our hearts forever, sealing us with the confirming, certifying, and assuring pledge of our eternal state as His children. Jesus said He would send the Spirit to us to be our Helper, Comforter, and Guide. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (John 14:16). The Greek word translated here “Counselor” means “one who is called alongside” and has the idea of someone who encourages and exhorts. The Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in the hearts of believers (Romans 8:91 Corinthians 6:19-2012:13). Jesus gave the Spirit as a “compensation” for His absence, to perform the functions toward us which He would have done if He had remained personally with us.

Among those functions is that of revealer of truth. The Spirit’s presence within us enables us to understand and interpret God’s Word. Jesus told His disciples that “when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). He reveals to our minds the whole counsel of God as it relates to worship, doctrine, and Christian living. He is the ultimate guide, going before, leading the way, removing obstructions, opening the understanding, and making all things plain and clear. He leads in the way we should go in all spiritual things. Without such a guide, we would be apt to fall into error. A crucial part of the truth He reveals is that Jesus is who He said He is (John 15:261 Corinthians 12:3). The Spirit convinces us of Christ’s deity and incarnation, His being the Messiah, His suffering and death, His resurrection and ascension, His exaltation at the right hand of God, and His role as the judge of all. He gives glory to Christ in all things (John 16:14).

Another one of the Holy Spirit’s roles is that of gift-giver. First Corinthians 12 describes the spiritual gifts given to believers in order that we may function as the body of Christ on earth. All these gifts, both great and small, are given by the Spirit so that we may be His ambassadors to the world, showing forth His grace and glorifying Him.

The Spirit also functions as fruit-producer in our lives. When He indwells us, He begins the work of harvesting His fruit in our lives—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These are not works of our flesh, which is incapable of producing such fruit, but they are products of the Spirit’s presence in our lives.

The knowledge that the Holy Spirit of God has taken up residence in our lives, that He performs all these miraculous functions, that He dwells with us forever, and that He will never leave or forsake us is cause for great joy and comfort. Thank God for this precious gift—the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives! (Quote source here.)

GotQuestion.org has answers to 75 specific questions on the Holy Spirit including the gifts of the Spirit, and all of those questions and links to the answers are available at this link. It is a great resource for any question you have regarding the Holy Spirit. Do check it out.

I’ll end this post with the words of Paul found in Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience/forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control….

Against such things . . .

There is . . .

No law . . . .

YouTube Video: “Spirit Lead Me” by Michael Ketterer & Influence Music:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here