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truth

When Truth Stumbles in the Public Square

It’s time to stand up for truth…

Most of us were probably taught as children to tell the truth, but we quickly learned the truth could be dangerous. Did you hit your brother? All of a sudden, the truth doesn’t sound like the best option. We try to frame the truth to make us look better. He started it. Or we flat out lie. Ummm…no?

Without truth, there is no justice. Without truth, there is no sure ground upon which to stand. Without truth, there is no freedom.

Isaiah, chapter 59, describes what happens to a nation when truth is no longer valued. When truth doesn’t matter, lives are filled with hatred, destruction, and desolation. There is no peace. Evil acts against God are rampant. Peoples’ words stir up rebellion and revolt.

“Justice is driven away and righteousness stands on the sidelines, for truth has stumbled in the public square and morality cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14).

When truth no longer matters, justice, righteousness, and morality disappear.

It’s time for God’s people to stand up for the truth.

Our culture no longer values truth. We hear statements such as, “truth is relative.” (That’s a lie.) Or, “that’s my truth.” (Lie.) Or, “truth depends on your perspective.” (Again, lie!) There is no such thing as relative truth. There is no such thing as your truth or my truth. Truth is found in God’s word. Truth is found in the person of Jesus.

As our society moves farther away from the unchanging truth, the world becomes more and more unjust, rebellious, and chaotic. In the midst of the turmoil, God’s people must stand up for the truth. Our world desperately needs an anchor, and godly truth is the only anchor that will hold in these stormy waters.

When truth stumbles in the public square, we do not cower in fear. We do not question what we know to be true. On the contrary, we stand strong in the truth of God’s word and the person of Jesus. We live out the truth in our every-day lives and speak it into the messiness of our lives and our world.

Everyone wants something true, something to believe in, something that is sure. Though they may not know it, that something they’re looking for is only found in Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He’s the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and the wise navigator for every life.

Dear God, in the whirlwind of today’s society, plant my feet firmly in your word. Help me know the truth, live the truth, and stand up for the truth. Keep my eyes on Jesus. Fill me with love for others and the courage to share the truth. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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truth

What’s More Valuable than Your Soul?

Truth forces us to choose…

We meet Nicodemus in John, chapter three. He’s impossible to forget. He’s a moral man, a prominent religious leader among the Jews. He holds a powerful place in his community as a member of the Pharisees and the Jewish ruling council.

In spite of his lofty religious position, he was drawn to Jesus. He had seen the miracles and heard the teaching. He had to find out for himself. Were the Pharisees correct? Was Jesus an imposter? Or was Jesus the real thing?

Late one night, after dark, Nicodemus discreetly visited Jesus. He had much to lose. Aligning himself with Jesus would cost him his powerful position in the community. More than that, a follower of Jesus faced a very real risk of losing his life as well as the lives of his family members. To talk to Jesus was to jeopardize everything. Still, Nicodemus had to know. He approached Jesus, saying, “Master, you must be a teacher sent by God.”

As usual, Jesus responded in an unexpected way. “Jesus answered, ‘Nicodemus, listen to this eternal truth: Before a person can perceive God’s kingdom realm, they must first experience a rebirth’” (John 3:3).

Jesus blew Nicodemus’s mind by saying he must be born again. What is born of flesh is fleshly. To be spiritually alive, we must be born again by the Spirit. The need to be saved, to be born again, to be reconciled to God through Jesus, is an eternal truth.

Because of the truth of salvation through Jesus, every person alive faces a choice. Will we risk everything we have to follow Jesus? Will we jeopardize our positions, our wealth, our very lives to be born of the Spirit?

In Mark, chapter 8, Jesus lays out what it means to follow him. He says if we truly want to follow him, we must dethrone ourselves and place him on the throne of our lives. We must continually surrender our will to him. Mark 8:36-37 says, “For what use is it to gain all the wealth and power of this world, with everything it could offer you, at the cost of your own life? What could be more valuable to you than your own soul?”

Nicodemus chose Jesus. We see Nicodemus again in John, chapter 19, taking Jesus’s body from the cross and preparing it for burial. Maybe we’ll get to shake his hand some day in heaven. He made a dangerous—but wise—choice.

The choice still faces each of us today. If we are wealthy and powerful, but lose our souls, what have we gained? What is more valuable to us than our souls? Are we willing to take the crown of lordship off our own heads and throw it at the feet of Jesus?

Missionary Jim Eliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Choose to be born again. Choose eternal life. Choose Jesus.

Lord Jesus, sometimes it’s hard to lay down my own desires to follow you, but today I choose to totally surrender. I want to follow you. I want you to use me and my life as you see fit. Nothing is more important to me than my soul. Thank you for making a way for me to be born again. In your name I pray, amen.

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truth

Earth’s Very First Lie

Knowing the truth matters…

God created a paradise on earth. He placed Adam and Eve in this paradise filled with trees that were beautiful to look at, fragrant to smell, and filled with delicious fruit and nuts. Four rivers ran through the garden, and gold filled its soil. It was perfect.

There was only one caveat. In the middle of the garden, God put a tree that bore spectacular fruit. It was the only tree from which Adam and Eve couldn’t eat.

Genesis 2:16-17 is very clear: “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

One day, the biggest liar of them all showed up in the garden. He spoke the very first lie recorded in the Bible: “You won’t die…God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).

Adam and Eve wanted that fruit. Why shouldn’t we eat it? It looks delicious. It will make us as wise as God. God is so unfair not to let us eat it. So Eve slowly reached out and touched the fruit with one finger, then wrapped her hand around it, and pulled it off the tree. She stared at it for a few seconds, and finally took a huge bite. She handed it to Adam, and he had a bite, too.

Just that quickly, paradise changed. Adam and Eve changed. Mankind changed. And nothing was ever the same again.

What can we learn from the very first lie?

  1. God’s word is truth. Satan is the father of lies. John 8:44 says that the devil is full of nothing but lies. When he speaks, he speaks his native language of lies and deception. In contrast, God’s word is always true. Hebrews 6:18 says it is literally impossible for God to lie. That’s why we absolutely must immerse ourselves in the Bible—because we must know what is true. Our eternal destination depends on knowing the truth.
  2. We tend to justify our sinful desires and actions. Adam and Eve wanted to eat that fruit, so they justified their desire to disobey God. When we start thinking God’s word doesn’t apply to us because our situation is so unique, we’re in trouble. When we justify desires and actions we know violate God’s word, we’re heading down a dangerous path that will lead to our destruction if we don’t change direction.

God’s word is the source of all truth. God’s word in our hearts prevents sin. God’s word keeps us moving in the right direction. It reveals the lies of the enemy. We ignore the truth of God’s word at our own peril.

In John 17:17, Jesus prayed for us. He said, Your word is truth! So, make them holy by the truth.” Amen and amen. Let it be so.

Dear God, teach me the truth. I know your word is the source of truth. Give me a desire and determination to read and know your word so I will not be deceived or confused about what is true and what is a lie. Order my steps in your word. I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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truth

The Most Dangerous Lie of All

This lie has fooled so many…

Two Truths and a Lie is an icebreaker to help people get acquainted at a party, a training session, or a meeting. If you’ve never played, the title gives it away. Each person prepares three statements—two of which are true and one of which is false. The group has to guess which statement is untrue.

When the group discovers which statement is the lie, some people are happy because they weren’t fooled and others perhaps disappointed because they didn’t spot the lie. Everyone is a little better acquainted and no one is hurt. After all, it’s just a game.

But sometimes the truth isn’t a game. There are some lies that hurt us. There are lies with the power to destroy us forever.

Here’s one of them:

Good people go to heaven. Bad people go to hell.

This is absolutely FALSE, and is one of the most dangerous lies.

The truth about salvation matters more than anything else because it determines where we will spend eternity. If we’re wrong about tithing, we may miss a blessing. If we’re wrong about forgiving people, we carry grudges we weren’t meant to bear. But if we’re wrong about salvation, that’s forever. Nothing matters more than knowing the truth about salvation.

If we’re not saved by being good, how are we saved? The answer is in Acts 16:31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

This is more than believing Jesus existed. To believe in the Lord Jesus means we believe Jesus’s death and resurrection is the only way to be forgiven of our sins and to receive eternal life. We accept Jesus as our Savior and as Lord of our lives. When we do this, we are saved.

And when we’re saved, God is preparing a home for us in heaven. We’ll spend eternity in the presence of God in the city he planned and built just for us.

Don’t be fooled by a lie. Heaven isn’t for people who donated lots of money to charity. It isn’t for kind people. It isn’t for people who are better than that one guy at work. Heaven is for anyone who calls on Jesus for forgiveness and chooses him to be Lord of their lives.

If you aren’t sure you’re saved, Jesus loves you and wants to forgive your sins. You can be saved today by praying the prayer below from your heart. When you do, Jesus forgives your sins, saves your soul, and prepares a home for you in heaven. Friend, nothing matters more than that.

Dear Jesus, I believe you died on the cross to pay the price for my sins. I believe you rose from the grave. Forgive me of my sins. I want you to be Lord of my life from this day on. Thank you for forgiving me, saving me, and giving me eternal life. In Jesus’s name, amen.

 If you accept Jesus as your Savior, we want to celebrate with you. Let us know in the Reply section.

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Claim These 17 Words Today

Need some words to live by?

I love me some Chick-Fil-A. Give me a Chick-Fil-A sandwich with extra pickles and some fresh-out-of-the-fryer waffle fries with a large unsweet tea and I’m a happy girl. I don’t need a cow to tell me to, “eat mor chicken.” I’m a self-motivated chicken eater.

Chick-Fil-A’s vision is to, “be America’s best quick-service restaurant.” Their purpose is, “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A.”

There’s a lot more to running a Chick-Fil-A than just knowing the vision and purpose. I’m sure there’s written info about how to run a cash register, how to make a milkshake, and how to greet customers. But their vision and purpose provide a concise statement that gives overall direction to the organization.

Have you ever wished for a concise statement about how to live a Christian life? Ephesians 5:15 says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.” Did you ever wonder what that meant? How do you live wisely? How can we be careful about how we live?

In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, we read seventeen wise, concise, and directional words. In these few words, we see an overview of how we should live. We are given values that enable us to live wisely. Here are the seventeen words:

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.

So simple. So short. And yet so powerful. Stick, “I will,” in front of each sentence, and you’ve got some forceful and compelling words to live by.

Of course, the Bible gives more detailed information about how to live, but these words give a great overview. If everyone embraced these seventeen words, what a change that would make in the world. Families would be stronger. Addictions would be broken. Kindness would abound. All this and more would result if we stayed alert, lived out our faith, acted with courage instead of fear, and walked in the strength of God.

And just imagine if we did what we did because of love. Everything. All the time. Y’all, that kind of living changes the world. That’s the kind of life Jesus lived. And that’s the kind of careful, wise living Jesus wants for us.

It’s only five actions and only seventeen words but they sure pack a punch. Let’s strive to be awake and aware, rooted in the truth of the faith, fearless, and strong in the power of God. And at the core of it all—our calling and purpose—is love. Let’s love God with all our hearts, and love others in the way God has loved us. May we live wisely and walk worthy of our incredible calling.

Dear God, I want to live with these seventeen words embedded in the fabric of my life. Lord, keep me alert, true to my faith, courageous, and strong. And fill me with a supernatural love that reaches out to warm the world and point people to you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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grace

It’s OK to Give Yourself a Little Grace

You’re doing better than you think…

The criticism we heap on ourselves is often worse than any criticism we receive from others. We want to be the perfect husband or wife, the perfect parent, the perfect person. We long for the unattainable goal of perfection.

But we find ourselves making mistakes. We use bad judgement. We fail. And, sooner or later, we must face the truth: We aren’t perfect.

When someone else makes a mistake or fails, we are inclined to offer grace, understanding, and encouragement. But when we’re the ones who messed up, we can be very hard on ourselves. Instead of beating ourselves up, maybe we need to give ourselves a little grace.

It’s OK to analyze our mistakes. We can almost always learn something from a mistake or a failure. But it’s not OK to be so hard on ourselves that we doubt our worth, our purpose, or God’s love for us.

Romans 8:1 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” We are free from guilt. We are forgiven. No punishment awaits us. We have been set free—free from shame, free from guilt, and free from the tyranny of our own thoughts.

God’s love for us is unconditional. God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us. He loves us so much that he calls us his children—his sons and daughters. We are heirs of God’s glory. God isn’t disappointed in us when we mess up. In fact, he isn’t even surprised. His grace, mercy, and love are abundant, and they don’t disappear in the midst of our mistakes.

In God’s hands, our mistakes and failures do not equal defeat. They are just another step on our journey. “The steps of the God-pursuing ones follow firmly in the footsteps of the Lord, and God delights in every step they take to follow him. If they stumble badly, they will still survive, for the Lord lifts them up with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). We may fall down, but we won’t stay down. We may stumble badly, but God himself will lift us up with his strong hand.

Friend, you’re not perfect, but you’re perfectly loved. Your mistakes and failures don’t define you. You have permission to give yourself a little grace. You’re doing better than you think. Let go of those things that are behind. The past is past. Instead, reach for your future, confident of God’s love, goodness, and faithfulness.

Dear God, I’m amazed at your great love and forgiveness. Thank you for forgiving my sins, mistakes, and failures. Help me forgive myself. Give me wisdom to learn from my past and then to let it go. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Psalm 23

Empty or Overflowing?

How much we get is up to us…

Isn’t it awesome to go to a restaurant, order an iced tea, and know they’re going to refill our cup over and over, as much as we can drink? One sip or five refills plus a to-go tea—it’s up to us.

In Psalm 23:6, David says, “…my cup overflows.” Not, “my cup has a little in it.” Not, “My cup is full.” No—our cup actually overflows! Luke 6:38 also promises overflowing blessings: “…Abundant gifts will pour out upon you with such an overflowing measure that it will run over the top! Your measurement of generosity becomes the measurement of your return.” Our generosity determines our blessing. Just like iced tea in a restaurant, how much blessing we get is up to us.

The fullness of our cup isn’t limited by God’s generosity, but by our own. How much blessing do we want? How full do we want our cups to be? Here are five levels of filling. Where are we now? And where do we want to be?

  1. The Empty Cup: The Miserable Christian. We all get empty once in a while, but God never intended us to live continuously empty and miserable. A broken cup leaks. Jesus understands brokenness. He was broken so we could be made whole.
  2. The Least-Filled Cup: The Minimalist Christian. The minimalist lives from storm to storm, from struggle to struggle, constantly battling. Jesus didn’t come to give us a minimal life; he came to give us abundant life.
  3. The Half-Empty Cup: The Pessimist Christian. Even when things are going pretty well, this person dwells on the bad, focusing on the negative and ignoring the positive. Flip that attitude by focusing on the good God has done in the past and the amazing work he’s doing right now.
  4. The Full Cup: The Selfish Christian. The selfish Christian has a full cup but focuses only on their own wants and needs. Answer my prayer. Meet my needs. Bless my children. Ask this question: If God answered all my prayers, would the world change? Or would only my world change?
  5. The Overflowing Cup: The World-Changing Christian. As we continue to say “yes” to God, as we continue to be generous and obedient, he continues to pour into our lives until we overflow with his love and grace. As God’s goodness spills out of our lives, it touches those around us, changing the world one heart at a time.

When a server in a restaurant asks us if we want more iced tea, we choose to say “yes” or “no.” Our answer determines how much tea we get. We can’t blame the server for not bringing more tea if we said “no.”

In the same way, God’s great mercy, grace, and love just keep on flowing…as long as we keep on saying “yes” to his leading. Each next step, each obedient action, each act of kindness and generosity keeps our cups full and overflowing, leaving a trail of salt and light that changes the world.

Dear God, thank you for being the Good Shepherd. And thank you for offering to fill me to overflowing with your goodness. Help me be obedient to your instructions. Help me say yes to your leading. Let me be a vessel the overflows with your goodness and changes the lives of those around me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Handling Life's Problems

We All Need a Little Rest

When’s the last time you really rested?

They were travelling from town to town, preaching, casting out demons, and healing the sick. It was a busy time of ministry for Jesus and his disciples. Crowds followed them wherever they went. There were so many people with so many needs that Jesus and his disciples didn’t even have time to stop and eat (Mark 6:31).

In the midst of preaching repentance, performing miracles, and changing lives, Jesus said something that sounded crazy. Something unexpected. Instead of doubling down on the work, Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31).

Even Jesus recognized the need for rest. In our super-busy lives, we may find ourselves exhausted, depleted, empty, and grumpy. To be effective, we need time to rest and refuel.

When is the last time we really rested? Do we feel guilty when we take time to rest and recharge? Do we think someone is going to outdo us if we disengage from work?

Rest refreshes our energy and increases our ability to stick with our work over the long haul. It also makes space to bond with our family. Stepping away from work to relax with family is one of the most important things we do in life. It creates an essential bond and breathes life into our relationships.

Remember, after God created the earth and everything in it, he took the seventh day off to rest. In the Old Testament, God instituted the Sabbath, one day each week when everyone took a break from their work. While we are no longer under Old Testament law, the principle of rest remains.

Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest” (Matthew 11:28). Psalm 23:2 says, “He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love…”

In the midst of our many tasks, appointments, assignments, and obligations, when we are worn out and exhausted, let us hear the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calling us to rest a while with him. He promises to show us how to relax, how to experience quietness and peace. He will show us the way to recover our joy and our lives.

Resting isn’t being lazy. It isn’t wasted time. Resting is an investment in our physical health, our mental health, and our spiritual health. So, take a deep breath. Slow down. Think about the goodness of God. Enjoy your family. You’ll feel better. You’ll do your tasks better. And you’ll please God.

Heavenly Father, give me wisdom to value rest. Help me recognize when I’m exhausted and when I need some quiet time to unwind and rest. Give me strength to work hard and help me balance hard work with seasons of rest. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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God's presence

A Shepherd and a Best Friend

We literally lack nothing…

A cliché is a phrase that once was thought provoking but became boring or ineffective because of repetition. A cliché isn’t necessarily untrue. It may be just as meaningful now as when it was first penned, but we stop being impacted by it because we’ve heard it too many times.

Psalm 23 is a good example of a Bible chapter that could become a cliché. Many of us have heard this chapter over and over. It’s been read at hospital beds and funerals. It’s been a favorite memorization assignment in Kid’s Church. It’s so well known we could easily stop feeling its impact.

Let’s turn fresh eyes and an open heart to the first verse of Psalm 23 and move past the cliché to the richness of this verse.

“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1). The word translated as, “shepherd,” is from the Hebrew word, “raah.” It actually has two meanings. The first meaning is shepherd. We like to think we’re smarter than sheep. We like to think we can shepherd ourselves. But we’re prone to go our own way, get lost, get injured, or get in trouble.

We desperately, urgently, constantly need a shepherd.

John 10:14-15 says, “I alone am the Good Shepherd, and I know those whose hearts are mine, for they recognize and know me…I am ready to give my life for the sheep.” When we lean into the guidance of the Good Shepherd, we have everything we need and absolutely nothing to fear.

We needed a shepherd. And we also needed a friend.

The second meaning of “raah” is, “best friend.”  A best friend is someone we value above other friends in our lives, someone we trust, and someone in whom we confide. Our best friend is the first person we call when we get good news or bad news. When we just want someone to hang out with, we look to our best friend.

Jesus is not just our shepherd. Yes, he leads us and protects us. Yes, he provides everything we need to thrive. But he’s also our best friend. He can be trusted and can handle all our secrets. He rejoices in our good news and comforts us in our bad news. He’s always available and he always cares.

How blessed are we? Our shepherd is also our best friend. We lack nothing. Every physical need—supplied. Every spiritual need—supplied. Jesus is a companion who will never leave us or forsake us. He is our redeemer, the forgiver of our sins, and the one who conquers sin, death, and the grave.

Jesus is both our Good Shepherd and our best friend forever. We have nothing to fear. And we lack no good thing.

Dear Jesus, you are my closest friend, always with me, always listening, and always caring. And you are my Good Shepherd, leading me, protecting me, and providing for me. I am abundantly blessed. I know I will lack no good thing. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

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The Definition of a Winner

Does someone have to lose for someone else to win?

I like to win. You probably like it, too. When I was in fourth grade, I won a writing contest. When I was in middle school, I won a spelling bee. When I was in college, I won a freshman essay competition.

I never won a race, a gymnastic meet (I could barely execute a forward roll), or any sort of athletic competition. I never won the lottery. I never won an art competition.

It’s not surprising that I avoid athletic competition, lotteries, and painting. We tend to avoid venues in which we are likely to lose.

We like to win. We live in a competitive world. We want the best jobs, houses, talents, kids, and, most importantly, the best hair. Worldly winning requires comparing ourselves to someone else. It also requires someone to lose.

The kingdom of God doesn’t work that way. We are not competing with each other. Galatians 5:26 says, “Let us not become conceited, competing against each other, envying each other.” We don’t compare ourselves with others and puff up with pride. We don’t compete with each other to feel good about ourselves. And we aren’t jealous when someone else does well.

Winning, as a disciple of Christ, means showing kindness, love, and forgiveness. It means serving others. It means putting the needs of others above our own. It means walking in faith. We don’t have to compare ourselves to anyone else. And no one has to lose for us to win.

When I won in fourth grade, I got a silver dollar and I have no idea what happened to it. When I won in middle school, I got the to go to the district spelling bee, where I lost on the word, “matrimonial.” When I won the essay competition, I got a small scholarship to a college I only attended for one semester.

Those wins, in the grand scheme of things, meant nothing. I have nothing to show for those so-called victories. Not so with spiritual victories:

“If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God! True happiness comes as you pass the test with faith and receive the victorious crown of life promised to every lover of God!” (James 1:12).

Our “wins” as a Christian are eternal. Every kindness is recorded. Every difficulty we endure is noted. Our faith is recognized. And when we receive our reward for those things, it will be an eternal reward. It will never fade, it will never disappear. The ultimate victory is the crown of life we receive in heaven–and hearing the Lord say, “well done.”

No other victory compares to the victory of a disciple of Jesus who crosses the finish line and makes it home. And that, my friend, is the definition of a winner.

Dear God, give me grace to run my own race without comparing myself to others. Let me not be conceited or driven to prove my value by competing with others. Help me remember that winning means faith that endures, patience during difficulties, and perseverance in all circumstances. In Jesus’s name, amen.