Category Archives: Religion

The Words of the Wise

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 

—Proverbs 15:1

Like the old saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” Proverbs 15:1 tells us that being polite and flattering is more effective than being hostile or demanding. Proverbs 15 consists of thirty-three verses that, in various forms, tell us the difference between a wise man and a foolish man. Proverbs 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.” Mark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” In a way, Twain condensed Proverbs 15 into one sentence. 

Often, people will try to do everything independently, but then they are not using all their available resources. We should listen to criticism or praise and learn from it. Proverbs 15:12 says, “A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise.” If you find yourself with a problem you do not know how to fix, seek the answer from someone who does. Proverbs 15:28 says something similar, “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil,” in other words, “Think before you speak.”

When studying history, we are taught to be objective and to look at all the sources before reaching a conclusion. You may go in with preconceived ideas, but you have to be open to finding evidence that disproves your biased assessment. The same lesson is given in Proverbs 15:22, “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” If you only go on your assumptions, you might find the evidence to back up your claims, but if you look at an issue objectively and study all of the sources, you have a balanced and far more accurate portrayal of an event. 

The other lesson from Proverbs 15 is summed up in Proverbs 15:7, “The lips of the wise disperse knowledge, but the heart of the fool does not do so.” One of the problems with 24-hour news stations is that they follow an old tradition from print newspapers. In the early years of the newly formed United States, the American press grew rapidly during the First Party System (1790s-1810s) when both parties sponsored papers to reach their loyal partisans. Newspapers often told their political affiliation in the paper’s name, such as the Baltimore Republican or the Delta Democrat-Times in Mississippi.

In the same way, news channels have a predetermined perspective they want to portray, and they find the evidence to prove it, even if it skews what was said or written. They no longer spell out what party affiliation they pander to in their name, but we know who’s who anyway. They are often inflexible in their views, and their viewers become the same way. Most of these news channels claim to follow a more balanced version of the truth. They don’t. Proverbs 15:14 warns us, “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.” People watch the different news channels to be told what they want to hear instead of what is happening. Some are better than others at leaning more towards the truth, but all of them are flawed because their goal is to get viewers, and they attract viewers by telling them what they want to hear.

The primary purpose of Proverbs 15 is to tell us to “think before we speak,” “seek counsel from wiser people,” and “take criticism well.” These three things are challenging for some people, especially independent and strong-willed people. We all know that one person with no filter, and they speak before they think. We all know the person who forges ahead, trying to prove they know what they are doing when they need to ask for help. And here is one that I am sometimes bad at, we need to listen and learn from criticism, not get angry when someone tries to tell you something is incorrect or poorly worded. An old saying says, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Though there is also the Southern version, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.”

All of us are guilty of not following the advice of Proverbs 15. Sometimes we feel the world is moving too fast to stop and think, ask for help, or listen to advice. So, I challenge you today to take life a little slower. Consider how your words affect others, and seek help when needed.

Loyalty and Friendship

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

—Proverbs 17:17

Few things in this life are better than true friends. If I were ever to marry, I would want him to be my best friend. There is no greater love. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” For true friends, we will never forsake them, and we will do anything for them. Proverbs 12:26 tells us, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

Friendship should be the same love we have for Jesus; He is our friend and guide. As one of my favorite hymns says, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!” On more than one occasion, I poured out my soul to one of my friends; then, I realized how selfish I was in only talking about myself. My friends have always said, “That’s what friends are for. We listen when you need us.” I have said the same to my friends when they tell me their woes. Jesus is always there to listen to our troubles, and if we are to live a life that imitates Jesus, then we should listen to the good and the bad our friends go through.

Romans 8:38-39 illustrates to us what kind of love and friendship we have with God, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When I think of how God is always there for us, I always think of the poem “Footprints in the Sand,” or sometimes, it’s simply called “Footprints.” I’m sure that most of us know the poem. My grandmother kept this poem on the wall of her bedroom, so it has always had a special place in my heart and makes me think of her. 

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed
You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child,
I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

We sometimes forget that God is with us. In our most trying times, he is carrying us. The poem “Footprints,” nobody actually knows who wrote it, was probably inspired by Deuteronomy 1:29-31, “Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.'”

Our true friends are there for us because of God. I think God brings people into our lives. We may sometimes wonder if God has forsaken us, but He never will. God is there with us, and our true friends will also be there. God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes when we need Him the most, he helps us through our friendships on Earth. A true friendship is eternal, just as our relationship with God is eternal.

*Some of you may notice that the man walking alone on the beach is naked. I don’t usually use images of naked men on my Sunday posts, but I thought this picture was the best one for this post. If we think about it, we are all naked before God. He hears our innermost thoughts and sees everything we do. 

Love and Acceptance

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

— Matthew 22:37-40

Christianity is in a time of crisis, and the LGBTQ+ community is suffering more and more because of it. We aren’t even allowed to be talked about in some schools. Books about us are banned from schools and libraries. When I hear someone say they are a Christian, I, sadly, have a visceral reaction and often equate it with homophobia and bigotry. Too many Christians, and especially the current Protestant leaders, are duplicitous, hypocritical bigots who do everything but follow the teachings of Christ. They wrap their words in biblical language while preaching hate and fear. They are the furthest from Christ’s teachings as they can be, yet they hide behind a cross. They are a disgrace to Christianity, and they are rejecting the teachings of Jesus for their own distorted and hate-filled beliefs. Jesus’s teachings can be summed up in two words: love and acceptance. Jesus’s love and acceptance are unconditional, yet for many Christians, it is very conditional. If you do not live by the hateful words spewed by Christian leaders, then you are rejected by their congregations. They may even claim they are accepting and affirming to all people, but they are only accepting and affirming on the condition that you follow their beliefs that have no basis in the teachings of Christ as seen in the Bible. When we look at the megachurches in the United States, you see ministers doing everything they can to get more and more people into their churches, but it’s not to grow Christianity and make the world a better place, it is so they can feed their greed for money and have control over people. It’s not about Christianity; it’s a power trip.

The need to control others leads to attempting to mold people into someone they are not. They want to preach the teachings of men and not the teachings of the Bible. God, who is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, created all things and knows all that has been and will ever be. Revelation 1:8 says, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” He created us in His image. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God, He created him; male and female He created them.” Therefore, how can someone hate another for the way they were born? When people in our lives want us to be something we are not and try to change who we are, then they fail as Christians. How can someone follow God and at the same time try to be God by molding someone into their distorted vision of who they should be? It is not possible because they are rejecting the belief that God created man in His image and that Jesus taught acceptance. When the scribes and Pharisees brought Jesus a woman caught in adultery and demanded that she be stoned, John 8:7 tells us that Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.

Yet, Christians today have declared a crusade against the LGBTQ+ community. Are they all without sin? No, Romans 3:22-24 says, “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Christ commands us not to judge others. In Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus preached, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” We must remember that nowhere, not a single time, is the LGBTQ+ community mentioned in the teachings of Christ. In the Old Testament, Leviticus 18:22 says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Yet this rule is amid numerous other laws that Christians ignore and do not follow. Eating bacon is just as much an abomination as lying with another man. So, is eating shellfish, wearing two different types of fabric, etc. Jesus came to this earth to bring a New Covenant. If the LGBTQ+ community should be condemned, Jesus would have mentioned it. Yet, there is nowhere in the Bible where He does.

Being gay is an innate dimension of personality. For those of us who identify with the LGBTQ+ community, it is the way God made us in “His own image.” Sexual orientation was not even understood in biblical times. Yet, as stated before, God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. If He had felt that sexuality should be addressed, it would be mentioned in Jesus’s teachings. If you are like me and grew up in a rural area, you were not made aware of sexual diversity. Chasten Buttigieg, who I greatly admire and is the husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, described his struggles growing up gay in a small town:

“When I was growing up in conservative rural Michigan, I thought I was the only gay person in the world. I thought something was twisted and wrong with me. I thought something in my DNA was compromised, and I spent 18 years of my life hating this fact about me [but] when you embrace the qualities about yourself that make you weird or make you different or make you feel like you stand out from the crowd, you start to see what actually makes you truly powerful and unique and beautiful. [You see] you’re not defined by the opinions of other people.”

LGBTQ+ people were never discussed in my church. If they were discussed in other churches, it was to say they are an “abomination” and God is punishing them with AIDS. In fact, in all the years I attended church, only once did one of my preachers mention any LGBTQ+ issues, and that was after the Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized gay marriage. That Sunday, my preacher gave a sermon in which he used verses out of context and verses exclusively from the Old Testament to condemn gay people. I wish I’d been brave enough to either stand up and tell him how wrong he was or had simply walked out of the church. Instead, I left at the end of the service and never went back. It angered me so much because I was raised Church of Christ, which is a New Testament church. We follow the teachings of Jesus, not the laws of Judaism. We don’t have musical instruments in church services because it is not mentioned in the New Testament, but musical instruments are mentioned as being part of Jewish religious celebrations. This preacher abandoned the beliefs of my church to preach hate and to twist the words of the Bible. Twisting the Words of God and abandoning the New Testament is an abomination in the beliefs of the Churches of Christ. Yet, the Churches of Christ are not an affirming Christian denomination. They have abandoned the teachings of the founders of the Christian Restoration Movement to put forward their own hatred of all things different.

When I was younger, and something bad would happen to me, I always thought it was because God was punishing me for being gay. I would have some gay things that I’d acquired, and I’d get rid of all of it. I’d throw any toys, magazines, or books away. I’d delete anything gay on my computer. I’d even delete my profiles on dating sites and the phone numbers of people I knew who were gay. I’d get rid of it all and try to make myself believe it would get better. If I just did away with my gayness, God would not punish me, and life would get better. But you know what? It didn’t. Either these bad things were because I caused them or just bad luck. They were not God punishing me. It took me years of prayer, meditation, and research to understand that I could not change who I am. I could not change my sexuality. Enforced celibacy was not the answer either. It just made me feel guilty and like a failure when I had gay thoughts or gay encounters. We need to have the option to find love, and romantic love does include intimacy. 

I think one of the reasons I gained weight is because it made me undesirable to other men. It wasn’t until I began to accept and love myself that I quit this destructive behavior and quit trying to do away with my sexuality. Everything I tried to do to make myself “straight” caused more problems, greater depression, and destructive behavior like drugs or alcohol. I used to drink way too much, though it was never to the point of being an alcoholic, and I never abused drugs too badly, but that was more because it usually made my migraines worse. I still get migraines if I smell marijuana. Those times when I struggled most with the denial of my sexuality were the times when my migraines were their absolute worst. I prayed at times for God to let me die just so the pain would stop. That led to using more powerful painkillers that could melt away the pain for a little while, but that just caused overmedication migraines which became a vicious cycle. Before I could stop that type of behavior, I had to love myself and accept my sexuality. It was the only way to heal. I still have migraines but for other reasons, not because I am struggling with my sexuality.

One of the things I have always endeavored to do with my Sunday devotionals is to give people who are looking for answers on how to be a good Christian and a gay Christian a place where they are welcomed. I wanted those who were struggling to see that they are not alone. Growing up, I felt very alone, and I thought something must be wrong with me. It took me a long time to come to terms with my sexuality because it went against what I was taught by my parents and community. When I realized that I could not change who I was and that God made me the way I am, I dove into the Bible for answers. James Neil Hollingworth, better known by the pseudonym Ambrose Redmoon, said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” We must have the courage to believe in God’s Word. We need the courage to accept who we are. We need to fight for what is right and for the true message of Christianity. If we are Christians, we should not hate anyone, no matter what their beliefs are, but we can fight for what is right. James Baldwin is quoted as saying, “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” 

Too often throughout history, Christianity has been rooted in oppression and denial of the diversity of humanity and its right to exist. This is not God’s work. It is the work of evil and hatred. People who claim to be “Christian” yet are anything but completely reject Christ’s teachings in their everyday lives, and Christianity is shrinking because of the hatred it fuels. While Christians continue to make up a majority of the U.S. populace, their share of the adult population was 12 points lower in 2021 than it was in 2011. Currently, about three-in-ten U.S. adults (29%) are religious “nones”—people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious identity. That number is nearly double what it was in 2007. Christians are driving people away from religion. In Acts 2:40, Peter said, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Today, we need to be saved from the perversity of Christians who are rejecting Christ for their own greed, desire to control others, and hunger for power. If Christianity in the world today continues on this trajectory, the “nones” will continue to grow.

Those who are attacked for their sexuality by “Christians” too often end their own lives. They are made to feel so guilty for how they choose to follow God’s word and to embrace their sexuality because God created them with a different sexuality than the majority of people. We must learn to love ourselves. If those who say they love us reject us and make us feel shame because of our sexuality, they do not really love us. They are putting conditions on their love, and by doing so, they reject all the teachings of Christ. They are doing evil’s work, not the work of God. Evil is destroying Christianity, and instead of fighting for what is right, too many are leaving the religion, or they try to mold themselves into the image that “Christians” want and end up destroying their own lives. There will always be people who care about you, who love you, and who want the best for you. Reach out to that person or those people and let them help you accept you for who you are. A true friend will not judge you. They will do everything they can to help you, but you can’t be afraid to ask.

I leave you with this advice: Love who you are. Accept the person God created. Don’t be bullied by unchristian beliefs. Live your life in a way that makes Jesus proud. Spread God’s Word. Eschew hatred. Embrace LOVE and ACCEPTANCE. Seek out someone who truly loves you not for who they want you to be, but for who you are and the way God created you.


Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.” 

—Isaiah 49:15

What the Bible is saying in this passage is: that while a mother can forget the love she has for her child, God never will. The design of this passage is apparent. It is to show that the love which God has for his people is stronger than that which is produced by the most tender ties created by any natural relation. The love of a mother for her infant child is one of the strongest attachments in nature. The question here implies that it was unusual for a mother to be unmindful of that tie and to forsake the child that she should nourish and love. With that being said, in the passage above, Isaiah was asking a theoretical question when he said, “Can a woman forget her nursing child?” This passage praises mothers as symbols of amazing compassion, never forgetting their beloved children.

Mothers are not perfect. Mine sure isn’t. Every mother is flawed, just as we are all flawed. However, no matter how flawed we may be, God’s love for us is unchanging and unchangeable. He gives us generous grace and great compassion for all time and throughout eternity. While my mother and I may have our disagreements, we have a strong bond, though not nearly as strong as it once was. While it is not as strong as it was before I came out, it is still there. She is my comfort, even when she is not comforting. That may sound odd, but when I was young, my mother often sang to us. Sometimes it was silly little songs like “Fishy in a Bowl,” “Do Lord,” or “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” though she had her own versions of each one. However, the one I remember most is “You Are My Sunshine.” Even today, when I am sad and lonely or having anxiety or even a full-on panic attack, I can remember my mother singing ‘You Are My Sunshine,” and I am comforted. Part of it has to do with the rhythm of the song helping to slow my rapidly beating heart, but it’s also because I remember the good times when my mother would sing this to me. 

As she has gotten older, she tends to focus more on herself, and her doctor believes she is either in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Because I don’t have daily contact with her like the rest of my family, I think I am able to recognize the signs easier than they can. Sometimes, she can be a caring woman; she just shows it a little differently these days. It’s hard to find a Mother’s Day card for my mother. They all say things like: 

  • You’ve always been there for me.
  • Mothers like you are what makes families special.
  • World’s Greatest Mom!
  • The world is a better place because of you. (Well, that one may be true because she brought me into this world, and I hope I make it a slightly better place.)

Anyway, my point is that I don’t want to send a card that is completely insincere and disingenuous, so I search for the most generic one I can find that says, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

I want to leave you with a different verse because while we may see things very differently, my mother does still love me. I firmly believe that she always will. She can’t help but love me. (Who couldn’t? I’m quite loveable. LOL)

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

—1 Corinthians 13:4-7


Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.

— Romans 12:12

In tough and uncertain times, it can be difficult to look beyond what’s currently happening in our lives and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whether we’re going through a big life change, a hard time with our family, or personal health concerns, an optimistic frame of mind can help us see a difficult challenge as an opportunity for gratitude. When you’re feeling low, try to find the silver linings in your hardships. 

People can survive with minimal amounts of food, water, shelter, clothing, transportation, and even affection. For example, take a look at the Digambara of Jainism. They are male ascetics who relinquish all property and wear no clothes. They are extreme in their belief in non-violence, even brushing away the path in front of them so as not to step on and possibly kill a living creature. They drink water from a gourd, beg for only a handful of food, and eat only once a day. However, if they hear a cry for help, animal or human, they forgo their food for the day and try to help whoever is in need. What drives them is the hope that their devotion to asceticism will allow them to achieve moksha, a spiritual release that ends the cycle of reincarnation, and the liberated pure soul goes up to the summit of the universe and dwells there in eternal bliss.

The idea of moksha is similar to our idea of heaven. We hope that we live our lives in such a way that God’s love will envelop our souls after death, and He will welcome us in heaven, where our souls will dwell in eternal bliss. Have you ever wondered what hope truly is? It is a difficult term to define because it is more than just wishful thinking, though that is how we often use it. It goes deeper than that. Even dictionary definitions show that hope should be more substantial than mere wishful thinking. One dictionary defines it as “a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.” Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

One scholar said that for those who do not know Jesus, hope is a verb. But for the Christians, hope is also a noun. This is an important distinction. Hope is not simply something we do with teeth gritted and fingers crossed. Hope—joyful expectation—is something we have. We possess hope because we know the God who is the source of and the reason for our hope. True hope is not simply the equivalent of “hoping” everything will turn out for the best. True hope is dynamic and powerful because it considers the circumstances of life realistically—and then confidently rest in the promises and character of God. 

Hope gives us life. The fictional author Pittacus Lore wrote, “When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope.” Can we survive without hope? I think the answer to that question is that we cannot survive physically or spiritually without hope. Physically, if we abandon hope, we would give up our minds and bodies, and life would no longer be important to us. Spiritually, hope is the essence of the Christian faith. We hope to go to heaven one day, we hope that God hears and answers our prayers, and we hope that our labor isn’t in vain. Proverbs 23:18 advises us, “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” Hope can be an expectation and anticipation that rests on what we believe. This means that for Christians, hope can be as strong as what we have learned about God’s goodness and faithfulness. Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” In a way, as long as we have hope, we have the Holy Spirit within us. Lamentations 3:20-24 says, “My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” 

As the flowers start to bloom, the leaves begin to bud in the trees, and the sun stays out a little longer, we’re reminded that spring is the ultimate time of renewal when we can take the time to reset ourselves and spiritually prepare ourselves for the year ahead.  As the poem An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope says, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blest.” Over a hundred times, the Bible mentions hope. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall soar on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” We should follow the example of the American historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman who wrote, “I inhale hope with every breath I take.”

I Know

For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;

Job 19:25

Yesterday, I opened up the Bible Gateway website to see what the verse of the day was in hopes that it would give me some inspiration for today’s post. The verse was Job 19:25. When I read, “For I know that my Redeemer lives,” I thought of the song we used to sing in church, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.” I always liked this song. When I was the song leader, it would often be my closing hymn, and we’d just sing the first verse and the chorus. 

I Know That My Redeemer Lives
By Fred A. Fillmore


I know (I know) that my Redeemer lives,
and ever prays (and ever prays) for me;
I know (I know) eternal life He gives,
from sin and sorrow free.


I know, I know that my Redeemer lives,
I know, I know eternal life He gives;
I know, I know that my Redeemer lives.


He wills (He wills) that I should holy be,
in word, in tho’t
(in word, in tho’t) and deed;
Then I (then I) His holy face may see,
when from this earth-life freed.


I know (I know) that unto sinful men
His saving grace
(His saving grace) is nigh;
I know (I know) that He will come again
to take me home on high.


I know (I know) that over yonder stands
a place prepared
(a place prepared) for me;
A home, (a home,) a house not made with hands,
most wonderful to see.


Seeing Job 19:25, I wondered about the context of the verse that was the inspiration for this song. The verse ends in a semicolon, so there was more to it. So, let us put this verse into context. Job is an interesting character in the Bible. Often when we consider Job, we emphasize his suffering but remained certain of the Lord he served and the relationship he shared with Him. Job 19:25 seems to tell us how Job survived during this horrific trial in life. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth.” His knowledge of the Lord should serve as a reminder to every believer, bringing hope even in the midst of our greatest trials.

In context, the verse is part of a lament that everyone Job knows has turned against him. He says in Job 19:25-27:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.

Job had a personal relationship with God. He walked with the Lord; he honored and served Him daily. Job had lost much that pertained to this physical life, but he had not lost his relationship with God. As I’ve studied this passage, I have come to a realization that not only did Job know the Redeemer, the Redeemer knew him. Job knew one thing for certain—his Redeemer lived. His hope was not in an idol made of men’s hands, one which had no power. He did not worship a monument that lacked the ability to see, hear, or move in his situation. Job knew he served God, and God was aware of his situation.

When suffering and pain come our way, we can rest in the fact our Redeemer lives! He is alive and well today, able to provide for every need we face. Job knew the Redeemer would come. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth.” This reveals the perspective Job had in his trials. Life had been difficult; he had suffered and lost much, yet his hope and faith were to the time when the Lord would come in righteousness, restoring what was lost and bringing peace. Job revealed the assurance he had in the Lord.

This is the cornerstone upon which our faith in Christ is built – Redemption, Reconciliation, Restoration, and Resurrection. Job suffered much, and yet his faith was not destroyed. In the midst of his pain, he was comforted by knowing his Redeemer lived. We can also take comfort in knowing that our Redeemer lives. He is looking out for us. He will get us through any trials in life. Even if, unlike Job, our faith wavers, God will be there for us.

The Wonders of Nature

“For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

—Isaiah 55:12

hat a wonderful image, especially as I sit here in the midst of the Green Mountains! I can almost hear the mountains singing to me. As it continues to warm up, I hope to do some hiking in those hills and let the beauty of nature sing to me. Maybe it’s just me, but I am reminded of  Julie Andrew’s voice when I read Isaiah 55:12. We probably all know the opening song to The Sound of Music:

The hills are alive
With the sound of music
With songs they have sung
For a thousand years
The hills fill my heart
With the sound of music

Spring is here, and the grass is turning green again. There is a renewal in the air. Whether it is the soft white stillness of newly fallen snow, the colors of the autumn leaves, or the bright sunshine of summer, each season has its beauty. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:28-29 to “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” 

Psalm 8:3-4 reminds us about God’s creation of this beautiful universe, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” The Bible says that natural beauty is a gift from God. He created everything in the universe, and His handiwork is perfect. When we look at nature, we can see the remnants of His power and glory. Psalm 19:1 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse of heaven shows His handiwork.” This means that even the stars and planets are declaring how amazing our Creator is! Nature truly is a remarkable thing. In Ecclesiastes 3:11, we are told, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” This suggests that when we see things like sunsets or waterfalls, we are getting a glimpse of something much bigger than ourselves.

There are many ways that Christians can cultivate the worship of God through nature. One way is to spend time outside in nature, soaking in the wonder of creation and letting it fill us with praise for our Creator. Another way is to find ways to connect what we see in nature with our faith journey, using it as a lens through which to see God more clearly. Additionally, we can use nature as a tool for teaching others about who God is and how much He loves us. Ultimately, whenever we interact with nature, we have an opportunity to draw closer to God and worship Him more fully.

Be Confident in Yourself

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.

– Hebrews 10:35-36

No person is one-dimensional. One way to look at it is that there are three views of every individual: the view that God has of us, the opinions that others hold concerning us, and the perception we have of ourselves. Each of these is quite important.

First, how does God see us? First Samuel 16:7 tells us that, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” In 1 Kings 8:39, Solomon tells us that God “alone know the hearts of all the sons of men.” Hannah, the mother of Samuel, acknowledged in the prayer she offers in 1 Samuel 2:3, “For the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.” Similarly, in John 2:25, Jesus affirmed that “He knew what was in man.”

If you consider Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian is an exceptionally beautiful man, and an artist becomes infatuated by his beauty. Dorian begins to believe in a hedonistic worldview that beauty and sensual fulfillment are the only things worth pursuing in the life of others, and he expresses the desire to sell his soul to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade. It is through the portrait that Dorian can see the ugly results of his self-indulgent actions. The figure in the painting grows older and uglier as time goes by. Similarly, if some of the world’s “beautiful people” were turned inside out and revealed as God sees them, they might appear as grotesque as the painting of Dorian Gray.

It is not our outward looks that God judges us by, but our inner hearts. 

Second, how do others see us? The view others have of us is only relatively accurate. People may hold an opinion of us that is greatly exaggerated. Those who are in the public eye are idealized at times, even when they have done nothing to deserve it or have told people what they want to hear in order to get their approval. On the other hand, people who have the utmost character are sometimes slandered unjustly. Jesus did not deserve the hateful reproaches that were heaped upon him by the self-righteous religious leaders of the time. The apostle Paul lived as a Pharisee and participated in the persecution of early disciples of Jesus and suffered character assassinations for his actions before he became a believer in Christ. Then, he faced persecution from the Romans for being a follower of Jesus.

Sometimes, we don’t give a person a second chance because of how we have perceived them in the past, and sometimes, others don’t give us the second chance we deserve because of things in our past.

Finally, how do we see ourselves? We constantly appraise our own lives, and our perceptions of ourselves can become distorted. Our self-perception may be grossly inflated. Either we see ourselves as better than we are, or we do not have the self-esteem to have confidence in ourselves. That is why we are cautioned not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. Romans 12:3 tells us that a person should “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 11:20 warns us “not [to] be haughty,” and Romans 12:16 tells us not to “be wise in your own opinion,” but instead we should “associate with the humble.” Therefore, we can’t overvalue our self-worth if it is unwarranted.

It is important, though, that we have a healthy view of ourselves. In Matthew 22:39, Jesus commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” While this is the Golden Rule we should all live by, it also implies we need a concept of self-esteem to treat others in a way that we and all humans deserve. Sadly, we often harbor a low appreciation of ourselves—so much so that it hinders our effective service to God and torments our lives with much unhappiness. Self-confidence and self-esteem can make us better Christians because if we deserve that self-confidence and self-esteem, then we know we are serving God in the best ways we can.

My new favorite quote is by a fellow Alabamian, Zora Neale Hurston. She said, “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.” We should live our lives in a way that we know we are worthy of God’s love, no matter what others may think of us.

Happy Easter 💐✝️

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

  But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”-and that he had said these things to her.

—John 20:1-18

Easter celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Growing up, I was always taught that Easter was the most important celebration in all of Christianity. The death and resurrection of Jesus are the most important events and a foundation of the Christian faith. Whether Jesus rose from the dead is the most critical question regarding the Christian faith. The resurrection of Jesus was part of the plan of salvation and redemption by atonement for humankind’s sins.

For Jesus’ mother, his disciples, and his followers, Jesus’ death was a tragedy. When I think of the arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus, I always think of how terrified his disciples must have been. Rome was the greatest authority in the known world for them, and Jesus had been arrested by the Temple guards of the Sanhedrin, the representatives of Imperial Rome’s authority in Judaea. They had to be asking themselves: Would they be next? Would they be tried and crucified? What would become of them? How could they go on without their leader and Savior?

Even though Jesus told them he would be resurrected, the disciples did not understand. In John 2:19, Jesus “said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’” The disciples thought he was speaking literally of the Temple, but John 2:21 tells us, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” Even if they believed that Jesus would rise from the dead, they thought he was speaking of living in eternity in Heaven with his Father or of a literal rebuilding of the Temple. It was not until they saw him in the flesh that they believed in a literal resurrection. So, the fear of his death was real. They were in a heightened state of fear during this time.

They felt that all their hopes were lost. We today can face the same feeling. Many times in life, with homophobic politicians, the increasing rise of anti-gay homophobic groups, laws, and censorship, and everything that is going on in the world — war, famine, disease, natural disasters, discrimination, and hate — there can be a loss of hope and faith. Yet the resurrection gives us hope that no matter what has happened in our lives, no matter how much faith and hope we have lost, we can experience hope, and we can overcome and regain whatever we have lost in our lives.

Our hope includes the knowledge that evil does not win. Sometimes today, it seems that the bad guy often wins. Sometimes it seems that the one who cheats, the one who lies, the one who steps on others to get ahead, is the one who prospers. Far too often, I read of this person cheating or that one (or catching a student cheating) or another kid, gay or otherwise, who has been bullied, lost hope, and committed suicide. How often do we read of politicians cheating or working to make sure their businesses get a good contract? It seems that there is no hope for the little guy, the one who lives right, to ever get ahead.

With a positive attitude that through God we can accomplish anything, we truly can make the world a better place. In Matthew 19:26, Jesus told his disciples, “With God all things are possible.” With the hope that springs eternal, just as the flowers in spring show the rebirth of the earth, we can be assured that God’s promises will deliver a better day, a rebirth for our faith. The promise that Jesus would rise from the grave on the third day is remembered every Easter Sunday; it is the greatest sacrifice God could give for our sins. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” When we are baptized, it is done in symbolic reverence as our old body dies in its watery grave to be reborn and rise from the dead as Christ did for our sins.

Spring is a time of rebirth and hope. The world is coming alive again after the cold desolation of winter. Many of the symbols of Easter are also of rebirth and hope. Happy Easter, and hang in there. Just as the disciples had their darkest days between the death of Christ and his resurrection, the world often goes through periods of dark times, but good will prevail.

The Donkey

The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:

‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
The King of Israel!”

— John 12:12-13

Today, Christians throughout the world will celebrate what many consider our holiest week of the year on what is popularly known as Palm Sunday. It commemorates one of the few events in the life of Jesus recorded in all four gospel stories: his entry into Jerusalem, followed by a raucous and warm welcome and a lot of waving branches. (Only John 12:13 mentions they were palms.) In Israel today, churches still reenact the journey from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem—the route supposedly taken by Jesus all those centuries ago.

As I study this story in Scripture, I’m struck by the fact that the primary symbol for this day—a palm—was not chosen by Jesus. John writes, “took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!”” (John 12:13). Why did the crowd choose palm branches? It could simply have been that palms were nearby. But history tells us there might have been a deeper reason: Those plants were symbolically linked to military victories and the Messiah.

First Maccabees, a book not included in Protestant Bibles, is the most extensive source of information on events in Judea from 175 to 135, and a generation before Jesus, when Simon Maccabee drove Israel’s enemies out of Jerusalem, people celebrated by waving palm branches:

On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred seventy-first year, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel. (1 Maccabees 13:51)

Jews during this period connected palm branches to the expectation of the Messiah. So when Jesus entered Jerusalem, people used them to interpret his identity. He was another Simon Maccabee—a long-hoped-for king who would drive out the Gentiles.

All the Gospels are clear that Jesus chose a symbol, a way for his people to make sense of his kingship. But it was the young donkey, not the palm branch (John 12:14). John rightly sees the donkey as Jesus intended. It was the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, which says, ““Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Jesus picked a symbol that emphasized humility and lowliness instead of military strength. That fact should inform how we celebrate and remember his entry into Jerusalem. Of course, it would be impractical for every church across the globe to find a donkey to drag into and out of its sanctuary. But we can spend Palm Sunday reflecting on what it means to follow a king who rejected the way of violence.

As we look to the donkey, not the palm, what practices might it inspire? What aspects of American Christian culture might it critique?

For some, their expressions of Christianity are too confident in our own judgment of others. They’re convinced that they are right and their enemies are not just wrong but evil. They profess that Jesus must hate the same things they hate when often they are putting words in Jesus’s mouth that was never recorded as him speaking. Jesus did not (nor could he have foreseen) that some Christians would attempt to establish their rule by distorting the words of Jesus, one angry tweet and fiery comment at a time. And so on Palm Sunday, they pick up their palm branches and raise their shouts in support of the Jesus they’ve created in their minds, not the crucified Messiah—whose rule is rooted and grounded in love. He has become a rallying cry for their agenda, not His.

As Russell Moore writes, “Jesus is right in saying this sort of hatred and violence never leads where we think it will—to a vanquishing of all of our enemies and to a victory for ‘us,’ whoever ‘us’ is.” We have forgotten that the world is both the object of God’s affection and a place in rebellion against its creator. Christian faithfulness involves holding these things in tension. Many Christians have granted so many exceptions to the love command that it’s almost empty of meaning. They have hoarded God’s grace for themselves while refusing to offer it to others. They shout about Jesus but do not pay attention to His own words and actions.

Jesus’s claim to be the Messiah was not simply about a goal—God’s rule over all things. He and the crowd agreed on that point. His earthly life and ministry were also about the means of accomplishing that goal: namely, sacrificial love. Jesus gave us not only the gift of forgiveness, flowing through his Passion and resurrection, but also a way to follow. Too many Christians, in their desire to defeat who they see as enemies, have lost Christian virtues—the fruit of the Spirit.

As these same people who called themselves Christian strive to establish God’s rule through self-assertion over neighborly care, pragmatism over principle, and malice over love, then whatever else they think they accomplish, they are not following in the way Jesus taught. God chose meekness, integrity, and love to gather his people. That is the message of Palm Sunday. For all the shouts of acclamation, Jesus never lost sight of the cross. This Holy Week and all the weeks of the year, let’s follow Jesus, who sat atop a donkey so that He can remind us again how to best follow his example.