Writer’s Desk

What Happened to Common Sense?

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying that common sense isn’t so common. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why that’s true?
 
I think Proverbs gives us a few clues on this topic. Proverbs 9:10 states “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.”
 
To fear the Lord is to show Him the respect and honor He is due and to recognize His might and just wrath. There is a severe lacking of the fear of the Lord in today’s culture – which means a severe lacking of true wisdom, for the wisdom of this world has no foundation.
 
Proverbs 2:6-7 says “For the Lord grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. he is a shield to those who walk with integrity.”
 
If we tie those 2 passages together, we see that we must first fear the Lord, which lays the foundation for true wisdom, which comes from Him. Wisdom gives us knowledge and understanding, which equip us to exercise common sense – which also comes from the Lord.
 
Do you feel like you’re lacking in wisdom or common sense? If so, check your view of God. Do you respect Him as you should? Do you have a reverent fear of the Lord? If not, Proverbs exhorts us to begin there.
 
James 1:5 promises that God grants wisdom generously to those who ask Him for it. If you are walking with God and fear Him, ask Him for wisdom and believe He will give it to you. You might be surprised at the changes that prayer will bring into your life and your circumstances! We have a generous and gracious God!

How Do You Reach Others?

Do you believe your words have impact?
 
A week ago, I was at a church small group and one of the ladies shared about a Sunday School class she was taking through her church. The class was about gender identity and sexual orientation – specifically, how do we as believers approach people of alternate lifestyles?
 
As she was sharing, I was convicted by how quickly we – myself included – jump to judgment. When we are speaking with non-Christians, why do we feel the need to jump straight to confronting them with their sin?
 
This applies to all areas, not just the ones referenced above. We see someone who gets drunk and does drugs and we jump all over them because of those sins. We confront lying, cheating, laziness, gluttony – the list goes on.
 
And yet… Jesus never responded to people that way.
 
Over and over in the gospels, we see Jesus interacting with “sinners”. His first step? Not pointing out their sin. No, He meets them where they’re at. He addresses what they think is their greatest need, then gently points them to what their greatest need truly is – Himself.
 
I’m not saying we should ignore sin. Scripture makes it clear that sin is serious and that believers are called to speak truth into the lives of others.
 
But what if we followed Jesus’ example? What if we met people where they were at, loved them there, then gently and lovingly – at the right time – explained to them that God’s way is better than our own?
 
I think there’s no story that illustrates that more strongly than the one shared in John 8:1-11. The religious leaders drag a woman caught in adultery and toss her in front of Jesus, demanding He uphold the law and stone her.
 
Jesus’ response? Mercy.
 
Was she guilty? Absolutely. Was her sin an offense before a holy God? No question. But did Jesus jump on the condemnation band wagon? No way.
 
He offers her mercy first and foremost, then challenges her to sin no more.
 
He did the same thing with the lame man in John 5:1-15. In fact, if you read through His miracles, rarely does He address the sin nature of the individual who sought Him out. Instead, He heals, loves, and ministers.
 
How do you approach those who don’t know Jesus? Do you throw their sin in their face right away? Or do you reach out in love, reflecting the God who loves them, and wait to address the sin in a way and time that’s consistent with the life of Jesus?

Your Story is Powerful!

There is power in YOUR story!
 
Do you ever feel like your story doesn’t matter? That you know you should share the gospel, that you should tell others about what God has done for you, but that you don’t have a great story to tell?
 
Trust me, I’m right there with you.
 
We hear these people with amazing testimonies, how God pulled them out of a life of drugs and despair, turned them around, and now they’re living for Him. Praise God for those stories! They demonstrate His power and grace in amazing ways.
 
Yet for those of us who weren’t pulled out of a life of drugs, who don’t have a defining turning point but have just steadily walked with God for years, we often feel like our story lacks the power to reach people. If we’re honest, we often feel like our story is unimportant.
 
Or maybe we feel like we can’t share Jesus with others because they might ask us questions for which we don’t have the answer.
 
Have you been there? I have!
 
Be encouraged by the woman at the well! Scripture doesn’t even give us her name. She encounters Jesus during the course of her mundane daily activities – getting water from the well. That encounter with Jesus radically alters her life, so much so that she immediately runs back to town and tells other about it.
 
What does she say? “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29)
 
That’s it. She doesn’t speak eloquently or poetically, she doesn’t persuade everyone that she’s right, she doesn’t even rehash the entire conversation. She just shares her experience with Jesus in a simple – yet powerful – way. We can see she doesn’t even have all the answers, for she asks if Jesus could be the Messiah.
 
The results of her simple story are amazing. John 4:39-42 say that many in the town believed in Jesus. And it all started with one woman who was willing to share her story.
 
What story has God given you? No matter how seemingly boring or insignificant, there is great power in your story. Share it today! You never know how God might use your story to change someone else’s life for eternity.

The Beauty of God

sunrise

Why is there beauty in this world?

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself this question? I did, just the other day as I noticed a beautiful sunrise. Yes, there’s a science behind the sunrise, I understand that, but ultimately, we have beautiful sunrises because God created it that way.

But why? What is the point of beauty? A beautiful sunrise serves no logical purpose… or does it?

Psalm 19:1-4 might argue that it does.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.”

A beautiful sunrise testifies to the beauty of – and existence of – God.

When God paints the sky with color, I’m reminded of just how amazing He is. He didn’t have to give me a view of a magnificent sunrise – in fact, just a few minutes later and I would have missed it entirely – yet He displayed His glory before me in a bright and colorful way.

So the next time you see something beautiful, turn your eyes to the One who made it. From the powerful ocean to the majestic mountains, from the delicate flower to the magnificent trees, from the variety of animals to the uniqueness of every human being, every aspect of nature points us to the Lord, the powerful Creator of all.

Are You Muddy?

Sometimes being a dog owner gives me a very dim glimpse into what God must see when He looks at me.
 
The other day, both dogs came in coated in mud. They’d been having a great time playing in the back yard and had gotten filthy in the process.
 
They didn’t see a problem with their muddy condition. I did. I knew the mess it would create in the house. I also didn’t really want to hold, pet, or interact with them in such a condition.
 
So I did what any good pet owner would do. I gave them baths. They hate baths. Yet after the bath, when they are clean and still damp, they tear around the house with great joy.
 
As I was bathing them and they were fighting me in the process, God reminded me that He does this with us. Our sin makes us dirty and often we don’t even realize how “muddy” we are. Being perfectly holy, God can’t stand the sight of us being so dirty, so He lovingly and gently cleanses us.
 
Sometimes the process is painful. Sometimes we hate the cleansing and fight Him on it, but He loves us too much to leave us in our dirty state.
 
When the cleansing process is complete, we’re clean, we smell good, and we have restored communion with God. The end result is worth the struggles we might go through to get there.
 
I love God’s promise in Jeremiah 33:8: “I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me.”
 
Just as my muddy pups couldn’t clean themselves, only God brings the cleansing we so desperately need.
 
Will you join the Psalmist in praying: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:1-2, 10.

What is Your Image of Jesus?

Merry Christmas!
 
As we celebrate the day Jesus crossed from eternity into mortality, I want to ask you something – how do you picture Jesus?
 
Is He a helpless baby in a manger? Is He a rock star thronged by the masses? Is He the compassionate healer who reaches out to the hurting and lonely? Is He the falsely accused who is brutally killed on a cross?
 
Yes, He is all those things, but He is so much more. His story didn’t begin in the manger any more than it ended at the cross. I think one of the dangers of Christmas is that we keep Jesus in the manger – a sweet and innocent baby. We forget that He existed long before the manger. We forget that the One who created all chose to become part of the world He created! (John 1:1-14)
 
We also forget that He will return in power. One of my favorite Christmas songs is “In the First Light” by Todd Agnew. In that song, there’s a line that reminds me
      “Before His life began
      He knew He’d come back
      Not as a baby
      But as the Lord…”
 
Revelation 1:14-17 gives us John’s vision of this coming King. “His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth. And His face was like the sun in all its brilliance. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead. But He laid His right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look – I am alive forever and ever! and I hold the keys of death and the grave.'”
 
So as you celebrate Jesus’ birth, may you remember that the baby in the manger is just a small part of God’s grand story of redemption. He came once as a helpless baby, but He will come again as a mighty King!

The Son Makes All the Difference

Most of my novels have been written over a series of lunch breaks. True story! Often, I sit in my car on my lunch break to write.
 
Fast forward to winter. I hate the cold, so sitting in my car and shivering as I write ranks pretty low on the list. Yet to really write, I need the solitude and quiet.
 
So I watch the weather closely. See, if the sun is out, even if the temp is only in the thirties or forties, the sun warms the car enough for it to be quite comfortable.
 
The sun makes all the difference.
 
As I was contemplating this, God changed the spelling. The SON makes all the difference.
 
It’s a good reminder, especially as Christmas approaches. We wouldn’t have Christmas without Christ – the Son of God. We wouldn’t have forgiveness of sin without the Savior – the Son of God. We wouldn’t have hope, or peace, or the promise of eternity without the Son.
 
You see, the Son makes all the difference.
 
In fact, scripture tells us “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:16-18.
 
So as you prepare for Christmas, remember that it’s the Son we celebrate. We love our family, enjoy our festivities, but it’s the Son who makes the day special. More importantly, it’s the Son who loves us and promises eternal security to all who believe in Him.

God’s Choices

God’s choices are a wonder. The birth of Jesus is a prime example.
 
The first recorded visitors after Jesus’ birth were shepherds. Not kings or princes or men of wealth, but people who lived outside of regular “civilized” society. They spent their time out in the elements, watching sheep, so it seems likely to me that they were dirty and probably didn’t smell that great.
 
Yet God chose them, placing value on their lives. Can you imagine being one of them and having angels appear to you and announce the birth of the Messiah? The angel encouraged them to find Jesus by giving them clear direction.
 
The result? The shepherds went. There was risk involved. I doubt they took the entire flock into town with them, which meant that they had to leave their flocks, their livelihood, exposed to thieves or wild animals. Even if they did lead the entire flock into town, there’s risk there, too, as I suspect that the people in the town wouldn’t welcome this procession with open arms.
 
Either way, they risked being shunned by society, being sneered at or looked down upon, possibly even being verbally abused by the townspeople.
 
Then, after seeing Jesus, Luke 2:17 reveals that they went around telling people all about what had happened to them. The encounter with Jesus, even as a baby, changed them.
 
Maybe you, like the shepherds, feel like an outcast. Maybe you feel judged, ostracized, and unwelcome in “normal” societal circles. God has placed a call on your life; He’s chosen you for His purposes. Will you put aside what the world says you are and embrace who God says you are? Will you choose to follow Him and believe He didn’t choose you in error, even if it involves personal discomfort or risk?
 
Maybe you have some “shepherds” in your own life, people who feel unwanted and unwelcomed. Will you choose to be like the angels, calling them to come and see Jesus for themselves? Will you welcome them, extending the love of Jesus so that they can know their lives have value?
 
God has chosen each one of us. Listen for His call and be like the shepherds – respond immediately!

The Timing of Christmas

As we begin this season of advent, I’m pondering God’s timing.
 
Have you ever thought about what it was like to be Mary and Joseph? Mary is nearing the end of her pregnancy and then this decree is issued stating that they have to travel to Bethlehem.
 
At 7 or 8 months pregnant (my guess, scripture doesn’t tell us), she had to be uncomfortable. Traveling a long distance on the back of a donkey was probably super low on her list of things she wanted to do, yet they had no choice.
 
Then, when they arrive in Bethlehem, there’s no place for them to stay except a dirty stable. To complicate things further, she goes into labor while in that dirty stable! Can you imagine?
 
She and Joseph might’ve wondered why God didn’t prevent the census from happening – or at the very least, make it happen another time. They might’ve asked why God didn’t save a room for them – just one room! – which would’ve been a simple thing for God to do.
 
And yet… we see God’s perfect plan unfolding. He controlled the timing of the decree, just as He controlled the timing of Jesus’ birth.
 
Maybe you’re looking at some circumstance or event in your life and wondering why God is allowing – or not allowing – it now. Maybe it’s one crisis on top of another on top of another. Or maybe you’ve prayed for something and God has put you into a pattern of waiting. Maybe He’s even told you no.
 
Will you trust that He has a plan and that His plan is perfect? Will you choose to thank Him in the midst of this thing that feels like poor timing? And will you watch in eager anticipation of what He will do through this situation? God has a plan in all things and works for our good (Psalm 31:19, Romans 8:28), even when we don’t see how He can.

Snatched From The Fire

Fire is a force we can’t contain. All you have to do is see the images coming out of California to see the raw power and destruction fire can cause.
 
My heart aches at the loss of life from the California wildfires. There were so many people, trying to flee the destruction, who just couldn’t get out before the fire caught up with them.
 
Yet in the midst of that, I’m awed and inspired by the heroes who purposely went into the inferno to rescue and help others. Stories of everyone from first responders to medical professionals to a garbage man who helped an elderly woman make it out… it’s amazing to see people show the selfless love of Jesus. Jude 1:23 speaks of “saving others by snatching them from the fire” and, while Jude is using fire as a spiritual analogy, the California wildfire images give me a strong picture of what this looks like.
 
You see, there are people caught in the flames all around us. It might be the fire of hard times, the fire of intense sorrow, the fire of regret, the fire of consequences, the fire of illness, the fire of loneliness, or so many other things. Our first instinct is to try to help them extinguish the flames, but that isn’t always possible… and usually leaves them to deal with the scarred landscape that remains.
 
Maybe instead, we should snatch them out of the fire by pointing them to the only One who can save them from the flames of both this life and eternity – Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can rescue them from the flames. In this life, He might take them out of the fire or, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, He might just join them in the flames, shielding them from the fire (Daniel 3).
 
Even more concerning than the flames of this life are the flames of hell. Not a popular topic these days, but Jesus spoke of it (Matthew 5:22, 29-30, 18:9, 23:15, 33, Luke 12:5) so we can be assured that it is a very real, very horrible place. If you’re a believer in Jesus, YOU have the vehicle that can bring people safely out of the flames of hell – Jesus. Will you be brave and heroic enough to share Him with those who aren’t trusting in the eternal safety He offers? Remember that at one time, someone cared enough to do that very thing for you!