Who Can I Change?

“Change the way you are living and stop doing the things you are doing.”  Jer. 7:5 

It was so clear to Fred and yet his friend didn’t seem to notice. As a matter of fact, his observations regarding friends and workmates always fell on deaf ears. Fred was quite frustrated since his motives were pure. His desire was that people would benefit from his keen sense of observation and make the appropriate changes in their lives. Instead, he seemed to alienate most people and frustrate himself. How could he get people to understand? 

One day, as Fred was reading the Bible and meditating on what he read, a section in the book of Jeremiah jumped out at him and smacked him in the face, “Change the way you are living and stop doing the things you are doing.” Jer. 7:5. Although this section was talking to the Israelites about a specific issue, God used it to speak to Fred. What stood out to him was that he should concentrate on changing himself, not others!  Like a flash, his judgmental and critical attitude flooded over him. “The only thing I can change is myself and my attitude,” he realized! 

John 7:24  “Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.” 

Luke 6:36-37  “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” 

Luke 6:41-42  “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” 

By now Fred was on his knees, tears running down his face, repenting before the Lord. This was the refining fire of personal conviction at work in his heart and  he was ready for the process. Let it burn, Lord. Let it burn. Scrape off the dross and remove the scales from my eyes.  

John 5:24  “I tell you for certain that everyone who hears my message and has faith in the one who sent me has eternal life and will never be condemned. They have already gone from death to life.” 

James 2:13  “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” 

Once again, the power of God’s Word began to sink into Fred’s receptive heart as he was powerfully reminded that it is God who makes the changes in us, not each other. Instead of taking what he saw in friends and co-workers’ lives to the Lord in prayer, Fred was misusing the information and forming it into tools of criticism and judgment. 

Heb. 10:10  For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” 

At last Fred understood that it is God, after all, who makes us holy—and the only person we can change is ourselves. 

2020 Recap!

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

I’m not one for writing an Annual Letter. So this is not one. Rather it is an end of year journal entry of sorts. As Leann works diligently in the kitchen, preparing her special magic cookie bars (she does not like the descriptive name, magic) for friends and neighbors, I am sitting at one of our portable tables in the living room, listening to Ottmar Liebert’s, Poets and Angels © 1990 album. Ottmar plays the acoustic guitar.

He is playing O Holy Night now: “Oh, night divine, Oh, night when Christ Was born. Christ is the Lord! Oh, praise His name forever; His power and glory evermore proclaim!”

According to the seemingly endless stream of news and information available, we’ve had a challenging, life-altering 2020 replete with natural and viral disasters. We are running out of money, hope, reason and solutions. Life seems to suck at this point since the formidable Pandemic has quarantined us with masks and social distancing.

“Masks don’t work. All we are doing is breathing the same air in and out. We are suffocating ourselves,” some say.

“Masks are essential to preventing the spread of this virus. Anyone caught without a mask will be punished for not caring about their fellow man (or woman),” say others.

In addition to Covid, our summer brought raging wildfires across much of the West. And wild those flames became, consuming homes in record fashion, deterred by nothing designed to help. Caravans of families climbed into  cars and trucks filled with special memories and headed for safe havens as the flames intensified. and overpowering clouds of smoke filled the air, attacking our respiratory systems. Oh God, help us. We cannot last in this calamity. Is this the end times God? Are these our final days?

As it turned out, these were not the Biblical final days for all mankind. Perhaps a foretaste. Certainly worse than many of us anticipated. As the warnings grew more urgent and threat levels reached evacuation stages, we found ourselves overcoming our fear and grabbing a few worldly possessions and jamming them into the car after we called a friend who had space for us outside the danger area. 

Driving away from our home brought temporary relief and hope. Silent prayers were constant in my mind. And then I had a strange thought. What if God is not sending a rescue ship to whisk us away to a better place where the sun is shining, the air is pure and flowers abound. What if this becomes a more serious trial and greater tribulation which brings us to the brink of death? Will I praise God for this? Will I proclaim how wonderful my Savior is in the midst of total destruction? After five days, the calamity lessened, so I am not sure what I would have done. As the days passed, I prayed for strength to undergo whatever trial He set before me. I really meant it.

Time passed. Life slowly resumed as before the fires. With one major exception: Coronavirus! Otherwise known as COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease of 2019.

Raging fires. Worldwide pandemic. Financial ruin. Businesses forcefully closed. Schools are closed. Wearing masks mandatory and an increase in thoughts of suicide. The government has newfound powers to control life.

“Since the coronavirus arrived, depression and anxiety in America have become rampant. Federal surveys show that 40 percent of Americans are now grappling with at least one mental health or drug-related problem. But young adults have been hit harder than any other age group, with 75 percent struggling.” (The Washington Post).

Is there any hope at all? The answer seems to be a resounding, NO! Not really. But that is not true. Hope is as close as your heart calling out to God: “Lord please save my soul. I am lost, confused, frightened and full of fear.” What does the Bible have to say about our hope?

Romans 8:31-39  “If God is for us, who can be against us? Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

“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.”

In case we’ve allowed fear of fire, financial ruin, and covid to send us into a downward spiral of depression, remember these verses, these promises of God that He will always be with us and absolutely nothing can separate us from Him.

Isaiah 41:10  Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

He Lives!

“Father! In your hands I place my spirit!” ~ Luke 23:46

He knew before it happened. He and His Father were the only ones who did know. The knowledge brought great agony for Jesus, the perfect man, the Lamb led to slaughter. In the garden before he was arrested, he agonized over his obedience to the horrible, tortuous truth about to unfold. But even more unthinkable to Jesus was his brief separation from The Father…that terrible moment when He would become sin for the whole world. Was there any other way to accomplish what had to be done?

Then He went off from them about the distance of a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed. “Father,” He said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me” (there must have been a long pause as the man Jesus waited for a reply different from what He knew to be God’s will). “Not my will however, but your will be done. Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him. In great anguish He prayed even more fervently; His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”  (Luke 22:41-44)

And then, in a tumultuous swirl, he was arrested, questioned, horribly beaten, convicted, condemned to death, mocked, hated, spat upon, forced to drag his own cross up crude roads, experienced excruciating pain of nails driven through his hands and feet, abruptly attached to the cross as the taunting continued…and then, amazingly, forgave the very people who did this to Him as life was passing from his body.  

Suddenly God blackened the brightness of the mid-day sun for three hours! At the same time, the huge curtain hanging in the temple was torn in two (from top to bottom) Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father in your hands I place my spirit.” He said this and died. (Luke 22:44-46)

A man named Joseph from Arimathea, who was waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God, arranged to have the body of Jesus removed from the cross, wrapped in linen and placed in a tomb which had been dug out of solid rock and never been used. It was Friday and the Sabbath was about to begin.

“Very early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James arrived at the tomb of Jesus to apply the spices and perfumes to his body. They found the stone rolled away and did not find the body of Jesus in the tomb. Suddenly, two men in bright shining robes appeared and the women bowed down to the ground.

“Why are you looking among the dead for One who is alive? He is not here; He has been raised. Remember what He said to you while He was in Galilee: The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.”

“Then the women remembered His words, returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest.” (Luke 24:1-9)

The impossible happened, Jesus was dead and is now alive. Just as the Bible predicted, He was resurrected from the dead. His sacrificial death, the blood of the Lamb of God, provides eternal life and forgiveness of sins to all who believe.  

Perhaps you are more hesitant to believe such a story, perhaps you are like the apostle Thomas who proclaimed, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting and believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)

Now what? What is Jesus doing now, after His majestic resurrection? The answer is found in Hebrews 1:1-3 “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

“Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.” (Romans 8:34-35)

History Changed by Rock and Roll

British Rock and Rollers Bring World-wide Change!

Initially the UK was ruled by Kings and Queens, then by a parliament consisting of Lords and upper-class men. The established rule of law was passed down to the working class who expected to live in a type of subjection to those living in castles and mansions. Working class people grew up with class distinction firmly in place.

In the sixties, change crept into life in the UK and around the world; Change brought about by teenagers who tossed aside the status quo and turned their backs on tradition. They looked for and found their own idols who were their age, had long hair and danced about on stage, banging on drums, guitars and singing songs of revolution, sex and drugs.

Their new idols were an incredible success and changed the status quo forever. Although rich barons and lords still had wealth and power, the young rock and rollers brought societal changes for good and for bad. Actually, they brought a bloodless revolution with far-reaching effects.

Not only was their music challenging, loud and in-your-face, their behavior was totally outlandish which gained them a world-wide following among teens. They were sudden idols; stars who misbehaved, tore hotel rooms apart, smashed guitars on stage, openly took drugs, had sex with young women who clamored after them.

They broke all the norms of society and did it with bravado. Of course they should do whatever they wanted, they were famous and quickly became rich as well. The adults didn’t know what to do so they did nothing which brought out the very worst behavior in these teen idols.
They became wild and out-of-control which made them even more famous. It was sort of “Just how bad can we be before someone stops us?” The answer? “As bad as you want!”

For the first time in history, admiration was now reserved for the young and disdain for adults. Society was tipped upside down and has never recovered. Along with replacing adults with teens for respect and admiration, morality also went out the window. For the first time, the most sexually exaggerated behavior was not only condoned but revered as well. Before this global change, teenage sex and pregnancy were the exception but now became the rule.

Enter abortion! Now that promiscuity was predominant, what about pregnancies and unwanted babies? Some insidious, evil people stepped forward with a simple answer–abortion. If you find yourself inconveniently pregnant, we can take care of that issue. It is a woman’s reproductive right, after all. No, that thing is not really a human yet. That doesn’t happen until it is born.

And now, more than fifty years later, thousands of young people have been ruined by drugs, alcohol and abortions. How can it be fixed? Actually the disastrous state of affairs in which we now live can only be “fixed” by faith in Jesus Christ who brings total forgiveness and a new life. The search for pleasure, independence and freedom from rules will always bring an unhappy ending.