Cure for The Fear Pandemic

By Heather Walton

About 20 years ago, shortly after I became a Christian, I was participating in some job training. One day we took a lunch break at a local outdoor food court. As we ate, a bee took an interest in my food and wouldn’t leave me alone. I was terrified of insects, especially the stinging type, so I began panicking like a 3-year-old. One of my fellow trainees, a middle-aged Jewish woman, looked at me pointedly and said, “You know, I’m really surprised that someone with your great faith would be so scared of a little bee.”

At that moment, I was stung with such conviction that I determined that I would no longer fear insects, and to this day, I have succeeded. My fear had ruined my ability to enjoy lunch, but more than that, it had marred my testimony to an unbelieving friend.

A pastor told a story of a family taking a car trip in which a bee decided to ride along. One of the children was shrieking in terror, when his father decided to intervene. The father caught the bee in his hand, took the sting, and then let the bee continue to fly around the car. He assured his child that there was nothing more to fear, since he had already taken the stinger. The pastor likened this father to our Lord, who took the sting of death for those who trust in Him, that we might not fear the sting of death.

How many of us are doing just that, though? We are living in fear of so many things today:

  • a microscopic virus that could make us sick and has less than 1% chance of killing us
  • violent crime
  • losing our livelihood
  • losing our savings
  • being shamed for wearing/not wearing a mask
  • losing our civil liberties
  • who will win the election
  • being forced to take a vaccine
  • what the next big development of 2020 will be

Add to the list any personal fears we each carry, and it can be really overwhelming.

I’ve been considering a few questions lately:

What’s more important — surviving or living?

First, what’s more important — surviving or living? If I have to live in a bubble in order to stay alive, is that really living? If I have to fear every little thing when I walk out of my house and every little thing that comes into my house, is that really living? If I am missing out on relationships, is that really living? Would I rather live long or would I rather live well?

I’ve also pondered why this particular illness is the ONE that has us all paralyzed and isolated. We’ve never done anything like this before, as far as shutting down so systematically and for so long. Other illnesses and activities have killed far more people, but went virtually unnoticed. What’s the difference?

Part of the problem today, I think, is that we are so entitled as Americans. We believe that we simply should live to be very old and that we should have our needs provided for us. We expect life to be safe and sterile, and current events don’t fit our expectations.

I look at America today and, technological advances aside, I doubt our ancestors would recognize us. Think about it: People boarded ships, risking illness, starvation, and death, to come to America. Pioneers trekked across the country on foot and in wagons, risking life and limb, to make a better life for themselves and their posterity. America has been known for its independent spirit. Americans have historically been leaders who took risks to advance and rise above circumstances. Yet, here we are, allowing our country to be brought to a screeching halt by a microscopic organism that is not nearly as likely to affect us as the dangers our patriot predecessors faced.

At the turn of the 20th century, the average life expectancy was mid-forties, meaning I personally probably would have gone onto glory by my age if I had lived during that time. Today, we expect — even demand — to live twice that long. The average coronavirus death happens to those over the average life expectancy, and though every death is sad, it seems presumptuous for us to expect to cheat death. With the exception of two people in history (Enoch and Elijah), every single person has died or will die, barring the rapture. God has determined every one of our days before even one of them came to be, so for us to think we can come up with a humanistic solution to the problem of death is utterly prideful and foolish.

We are creating a generation of germaphobes and hypochondriacs. We need to remember that we shouldn’t fear death so much as we should fear and revere the One who determines how we spend eternity.

Another area of fear relates to our liberty. There are people threatening America’s freedoms, people who violate the Constitution in the name of peace and safety and people who push a Marxist agenda. Many of us know we need to stand against this, yet we are afraid to do so. We fear legal penalties, social stigma, family safety, and more. We would do well to look at the example of our nation’s founders. They put it all on the line for their families and their descendants. They risked all of this for us, people who were not yet born, but would benefit from their willingness to sacrifice. How would they feel, knowing we have taken this freedom so for granted that we don’t mind giving it up?

Let’s take it a step further: How must God feel toward us, knowing that He created our bodies to be resilient and our brains to be wise, yet we are so fearful? How must He feel, knowing that He sent His precious Son to die for us, that we may have the abundant, eternal life, yet we are so caught up in the physical existence? How must he feel, knowing that He died to set us free, never again to be enslaved, yet we willingly submit ourselves to multiple yokes of slavery? How must He feel, seeing us shaking our fists, kicking our legs, writhing in anger and fear, and demanding long life, prosperity, and security, when He has all of those things laid up for us, just not in the form we demand?

There are at least 100 verses that tell us not to fear. Why?

  1. God is on His throne.
  2. He is never taken by surprise.
  3. He has promised never to leave or forsake us.
  4. He has our best interest in mind.
  5. He takes care of the lilies and the birds, and will certainly take care of us.
  6. He loves us.
  7. He is our father and we are His children.
  8. He determined our times and places, and knew all of our days before even one came to be.
  9. He gave us a spirit of power and a sound mind.
  10. He has promised us the abundant life.
  11. Our eternal life is secure if we trust in Him.
  12. He delights to take care of us.
  13. He will provide for us in the midst of our enemies.
  14. He will not allow evil to triumph.
  15. Nothing can separate us from His love.
  16. He is the One with the power over life and death.
  17. Greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world.
  18. He will uphold us with His righteous right hand.
  19. He has already told us how it ends. Spoiler: He wins and we get the spoils.
  20. He has prepared a place for us.
  21. We are already seated with Him in heaven.
  22. He has freed us from slavery.
  23. He has taken away the sting of death.
  24. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.
  25. He is in control!

I could go on forever …

If you’re a Christ follower and you’re fearful or anxious, this is understandable, especially given the uncertainty we currently face, yet the Lord has given us the remedy:

… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

This is the believer’s prescription for peace. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is attainable.

If you don’t yet know the Lord, then no wonder you are anxious or concerned; not only is this life precarious, but your eternity is unsettled. I have good news: That can change today!

Simply acknowledge that you are a sinner, meaning you agree with God that you’ve done bad things, and that you have offended Him with those actions. Because of this, you don’t deserve to spend eternity in His presence. However, God sent His Son, Jesus, to live as a man, to identify with our weaknesses, to live a perfect life, and to die an atoning death, not for His own sins, because He was sinless, but for our sins. Accept that payment for your sins and transfer your allegiance from this world and your flesh to Him. Commit to allowing Him to be in charge of your life from here on out. Confess Him as your Lord, knowing that He died for your sins and rose from the dead, confirming that He is God and that He has authority to forgive sins and power to give you eternal life. When you do, He will save you and begin the process of sanctifying you, which means making you a more Christlike person. Your eternity will be secure, and you will be reconciled to Him. This will give you peace, joy, and comfort, no matter what circumstances come your way. Out of response for what He has done, get plugged into a local congregation, get baptized, read the Bible, pray, and serve others, all in order to know Him better and to glorify God to others, all because you’re grateful for His free gift. We can’t earn any of this; we simply accept it and it’s ours.

A right relationship with God, one in which we believe His promises are true and that He has our best interest in mind, is the cure for the fear pandemic.

Are We in the End Times? (Part 2)

By Heather Walton

This is the second article in a series about the End Times. I highly recommend reading this article first.

I enjoy studying prophesy because I love to see God’s plan unfold, and it’s exciting to think that Jesus Christ could come for the church in my lifetime, that I may not actually have to die in order to go to heaven. To think the God may have chosen me to live in this particular time in history is thrilling. In Acts 17:26, we learn that God determines when and where each of us fits into His eternal tapestry. I trust that He has placed me exactly in this time and place for a purpose, and I’ll consider it a bonus if I get to be one of the ones who gets to be taken to heaven while still alive.

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 ESV

I have long wondered if I might be part of the generation that gets to be on the earth when the Rapture takes place, but recent world events have brought me to a greater degree of anticipation. Signs of the times have been appearing a long time, and we have been in the “last days,” since Jesus ascended into heaven. But I’m specifically referring to the very last days, the end times.

In Matthew 24, we are told that many people will be taken by surprise, simply living life, marrying, eating, drinking, working, going on with business as usual. And suddenly two people will be working together or lying down together and one will suddenly be gone. Jesus says that the hour he comes will be unexpected, but, like in the Jewish wedding custom, we should be able to tell when the time is getting close for the groom, Jesus, to come get His bride, the church.

Many people are looking hard for certain signs that will only be fully revealed after the rapture takes place, such as the identity of the antichrist or the mark of the beast. While there are some people and things that strongly appear to have the potential to fulfill these prophesies, I don’t believe we will be able to know for sure before the one who holds the man of lawlessness back, the Holy Spirit, is taken out of the world via the church’s disappearance from the earth in the rapture (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7).

The spirit of the antichrist has been at work since the Garden of Eden, when Satan said to Eve, “Did God really say that you can’t eat from any tree in the garden” (Genesis 3:1)? There are some noteworthy elements of this question. First, he got her to question God. Second, he subtly twisted God’s words, so that there was an element of truth, yet it was mixed with a lie. A truth mixed with a lie is a lie, because partial truth is no truth at all. Third, he took his question to Eve, rather than Adam, probably in part because she hadn’t heard directly from God; this was a way to get her to question God, as well as her husband. Fourth, this question was designed to get Eve to doubt God’s goodness, and to make her feel oppressed.

Satan followed up with, “He knows if you eat of it, you won’t surely die, but you will become like Him, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4). In other words, Eve, honey, He’s holding out on you. He’s oppressing you. In fact, he’s lying to you. He wants to keep all the power for Himself. But you deserve better, don’t you? You know, I have a solution: if you eat this fruit, you won’t die; on the contrary, you’ll be like God, and you can get out from under His oppressive yoke and get what’s due you. Doesn’t that sound good? Come on, darling, just one bite and you can be your own god.

He appealed to her emotions, he lied to her, and he created discontent in her, in order to compel her to action. He created a false gospel that we see alive and well today; he tempted her to believe that she could solve her own problems, in her own power, that she didn’t need God, and that she would not only escape the consequences God had laid out, but would instead be rewarded for going against God’s design. Not all who buy into these humanistic lies are atheists, but they operate in various degrees of functional atheism, depending on human solutions and achievements to solve the world’s problems. This, I believe, is the spirit of the antichrist that is in the world.

The mark of the beast is symbolized by the number 666 (Revelation 13:18). Since perfection in Scripture is symbolized by the number seven, six falls just short of that. Notice that Satan’s lies in the garden were close to the truth, but had a subtle difference, one you would have to be very attentive to notice. The devil is clever, “masquerading as an angel of light” (2 Thessalonians 11:14), and his tactics have an appearance of godliness, yet deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5). The doctrine of humanism fits this description well.

While humanism fits the principles of the spirit of the antichrist and the mark of the beast, I also believe there will be a literal man who culminates history by embodying the spirit of the antichrist, being possessed by Satan himself (Daniel 7:25; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; 1 John 2:18). I also believe that there will be a literal mark of the beast, which people will be required to have in order to buy and sell (Revelation 13:16-18; Revelation 19:20). I believe the antichrist is alive today and ready to step onto the world stage, and the technology to implement the mark of the beast is in development. I don’t know exactly who the antichrist is, or what the mark will be, but I can see several players emerging and multiple technological possibilities.

The books of Daniel and Revelation (Daniel 7:24; Revelation 13:1-18) tell us of 10 kingdoms, with 3 dominant kingdoms, and 1 leader emerging. People have long thought these 10 kingdoms are 10 countries, but I would like to propose a different possibility. I believe these 10 kingdoms may be 10 global organizations, committed to bringing about a unified governing body that will solve the world’s problems. There are multiple global organizations working toward a common goal of ushering in world peace, ending hunger and poverty, bringing about health reforms, lowering the population, creating imposed equality, reversing climate change, and creating a united human community. While these may sound like excellent goals, they propose humanistic means to meet humanistic ends.

The United Nations’ 2030 sustainable development goals, the pope’s Human Fraternity initiative, the World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset,” the World Health Organization’s Constitution, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s core beliefs, Babylon Health’s “accessible and affordable health care,” the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, the World Bank, the Open Society Foundation and the World Trade Organization are among the global players with a humanistic agenda. Many, if not all, see needs for global unity and collaboration in order to usher in an era of peace, equity, and health for all people.

The current worldwide health crisis provides an opportunity to advance the agenda of these and other likeminded organizations. The World Economic Forum published an article this week that detailed how the COVID-19 crisis can facilitate a “global reset.”

“We set up a new world order after World War II. We’re now in a different world than we were then. We need to ask, what can we be doing differently? The World Economic Forum has a big responsibility in that as well – to be pushing the reset button and looking at how to create well-being for people and for the Earth.”

Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/covid19-great-reset-gita-gopinath-jennifer-morgan-sharan-burrow-climate/

The global health situation has not actually changed the world, but has revealed what was already going on behind the scenes. Many refuse to see what’s taking place, or they see these initiatives as good. Again, there is an appearance of godliness. The problem is that humanistic solutions provide a false gospel, one that says we can save ourselves. They don’t require that we denounce faith in the god of our choice, even the true God, as long as that faith leaves room for us to also bow down to the gods of human achievement, personal entitlement, and political correctness, to name a few. The problem is that God refuses to share His glory with another. He is a jealous God, requiring our complete allegiance. Just as a loving parent doesn’t consider partial obedience to be true obedience, neither does our Creator consider partial allegiance to be acceptable worship.

Jesus said we are either for Him or against Him (Matthew 12:30). Those who are with Him, who truly follow Him, will spend eternity with Him, but those who deny Him or are lukewarm in their devotion will spend eternity separated from Him (Matthew 7:21; Matthew 10:33; John 3:16-18; Revelation 3:14-22). In light of this, we should examine ourselves. The time is short. Even if the rapture doesn’t take place anytime soon, though I believe it will, any of us could die at any time. That’s why those of us who know the Lord need to be intentional and passionate about sharing the Gospel and discipling others (Matthew 28:16-20; Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5) and who those who don’t yet know Him need to confess their sin, turn from their wicked ways (even though they may seem like “good” people), confess Jesus as Lord, and allow Him to guide their thoughts and decisions from now on (Acts 2:38; Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Acts 16:31; Titus 3:5; Romans 3:23; Romans 10:9-10).

Whether you’re reading this before or after the rapture of the church, it’s important to recognize that humanism doesn’t solve our problems because we don’t have the control we think we do. If there’s anything these times should teach us, it’s that we are not as powerful as we think we are. The only wise way to deal with this truth is to humbly accept it, and then to accept the grace God freely gives, to worship Him, and to serve others for their good and His glory.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Revelation 22:17 ESV

It’s all about control

Rosie the RiviterBy Heather Walton

We need to protect the most vulnerable.

We must protect our Constitutional rights.

Where is my unemployment?

I will not wear a mask!

It’s my body, and my choice.

Everyone needs to take the vaccine before we can get back to normal.

I will not take a vaccine.

Answer the phone when the health department calls, and cooperate with the contact tracers.

I will not answer the phone. In fact, I’m not doing any updates on my phone and I’ll leave it at home when I go out. 

You don’t value my life!

You don’t value my livelihood!

Since the beginning of the human race, it’s been about control. Did God really say you should not eat of any tree in the garden? … He knows that when you eat of it, you’ll be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3). In other words, He is in control, but if you eat this fruit, you can be in control.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but the enemy of old, Satan, sure wants us to think it is (Ephesians 6:12). We get angry because we want to be in control. We fear because we want to be in control.

Guess what: we are NOT in control! We never have been. It’s an illusion. God is in control, but He has temporarily allowed Satan to be in control of certain aspects of the world (Matthew 4:8-9; Luke 4:5-6; John 14:30; John 12:31-33; Ephesians 2:1-3). I believe that the “spirit of the antichrist” which has been in the world since the beginning, is largely a spirit of control (1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:3). Satan himself, as Lucifer, fell from heaven because he wanted to be in control, rather than trusting God to be in control (Isaiah 14:12-15; Luke 10:18).

When we allow God to be in control of our lives (Romans 10:9-11) by accepting Jesus as Lord (master, one in charge), we gain a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). The very things we desire to have control for — peace, provision, victory over death — we gain by giving up control. It seems like a paradox, doesn’t it? However, it is true.

The spirit of the antichrist may soon be revealed as world leaders navigate this global crisis (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 John 2:18). They have a global answer: They believe we need to seek world peace through a concept called globalism. They believe all people need to unite to end world hunger, poverty, inequality, illiteracy, “overpopulation,” and so on; however, God called us to scatter, to fill the earth and subdue it. Granted, our greed has tempted us to become bad stewards of the earth and to oppress people. That doesn’t change the fact that God wills us to populate, to work, and to be diverse. At the tower of Babel, the people wanted to stick together. They defied God by building a tower, not so they could reach heaven, but so they could keep from wandering too far. God had told them to scatter, but they reasoned that if they could build a tall enough tower, they could make sure that they could all see it, and that way they wouldn’t go too far. They would stay one global community, in defiance of God’s clear command to spread out. He confounded their language so that they would not remain together (Genesis 11).

Today, some of the world’s most powerful people want to control the world once again by uniting us all in a global community. This global crisis calls for a global solution, they say. They want control, pure and simple. Their motives may look noble and pure, but in reality, they don’t trust God. Did God really say? Is there really even a God? Don’t you know that we can do anything we set our minds to? 

Many people believe would agree with Bill Gates:

“I’ve been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that’s kind of a religious belief. I mean, it’s at least a moral belief,” said Gates. “I agree with people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths. Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them. Now science has filled in some of the realm – not all – that religion used to fill.” (Rolling Stone, March 13, 2014)

You see, if science is the answer, we can control that. We can’t control God, but we can, at least in some ways, control science. We can control what we understand, but we cannot understand God because His ways are so far above our ways that they are beyond comprehension (Isaiah 55:8-9). We don’t like that. We want to understand. We want to know. We want to control.

We cannot control, but we can put our lives in the hands of the One who is in control, the One who can give us the abundant life now and eternal life when we die (Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15; John 3:16-17; John 10:9-10).

It seems to me that so many of us are addressing the things we can’t control and are angry at those who seem to hinder our control. In the end, though, we are all going to die and our fortunes will be given to another (Psalm 39:6; Psalm 49:10; Proverbs 27:1; Luke 12). We aren’t guaranteed our next breath or our next paycheck, no matter how hard we try. We should take good care of our bodies, we should work hard to earn a living, and we should try to keep our country free from tyranny. However, we also must recognize that our days are numbered and the world can change in a moment’s notice. We could literally be ushered into the presence of our Creator at any moment. We need to be ready.

The one thing we can do to control our future is to put our lives and our eternity into the hands of the One who possesses ultimate control.

If you have never accepted Jesus as Lord, you can do that right now. This takes an honest and genuine acknowledgement that you are a sinner, that you can’t do enough good deeds to be right with God because He is holy and we are unholy, that you need Him to save you, and that you are willing to follow Him and allow Him to govern your life. Baptism is the outward expression of this inward decision and should be done publicly and by immersion, in an act of obedience, submission, and testimonial to others. You also should read the Bible, pray, gather with other believers, and obey God’s commands, not to be saved, but out of gratitude for salvation, a desire to grow in your relationship with God, and in hopes of winning others to the Lord. If you have any questions about that, reach out to a believer you know, begin fellowship with a local church, and/or reach out by filling out the contact form below.  

Exploiting Women Hurts Everyone

Rosie the RiviterBy Heather Walton

I have hesitated to share this because I don’t want to dishonor anyone in doing so, but here’s the problem with that: many people are hurt because people fail to stand up and call evil what it is. Like many of you, I watched the Super Bowl half-time show. I actually sat there horrified at this display of borderline pornography. Oh, it’s just a little harmless entertainment, you say? I beg to differ.

As a victim of childhood sexual abuse and a failed first marriage due to pornography and its effects, I can tell you, without hesitation, that this was not harmless entertainment, a celebration of culture, or any other positively spun act. It was evil, vile, and exploitative. How awful that one of the performers’ young daughters saw this, and actually was part of the show!

How many of us would welcome women dressed like that, doing a sensual dance, in our living rooms? Isn’t that exactly what we did on Sunday?

Our culture has normalized sexual sin. We expect that “boys will be boys,” we think it’s fine for people to have sex outside of marriage and to love whomever they want. As women, we want to be treated with dignity, yet we excuse pole dancing because it’s entertainment or a display of athleticism. We endorse practical nudity because they did a great job dancing. There is something very wrong with this reasoning, which is nothing short of justification of sin.

I’m thankful that my husband turned his head and talked with me while this scene was playing out, but some of the men in the room did not. As someone who previously had felt she had to try to compete with women with flawless bodies, I feel for the many women whose husbands or boyfriends didn’t turn away from the screen. But I feel even worse for those who are okay with that.

Ladies, we have the power to ignite a cultural transformation by insisting that women not be considered mere eye candy, that we be valued for what’s beneath our skin, that we be applauded for contributions other than those related to sex and physical attractiveness. The Lord created us with a special beauty, but He did not create us to flaunt that beauty or to be objects. And we are the ones with the power to shape the way men, other women, and especially children, view us. If we see ourselves as sex objects, they will too. We need to consider the logical consequences of our thoughts and our actions, rather than blindly accepting cultural attitudes.

We are worth more. We need to believe it, we need to express it, and we need to live it.

Solutions for Shattered Times

2chron714We live in shattered times. Our nation argues over politics and policies. Our churches are segregated by race, music style, and secondary theological issues. Our families are strangers in their own homes as they live in their personal worlds of social media, pornography, and virtual reality. Addiction, self-harm, depression, and suicide are rampant. We debate over statues when we should examine our stone-cold hearts. Our first-world problems are killing our souls, and we passively partner in our own demise.

What can we do about this? I’ve been pondering this for years. Second Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) says, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

Notice it doesn’t say that we are to straighten everyone else out. We don’t have to convince the unbeliever to change his wayward habits. We don’t even need to convict our spouse or our Christian friend, because that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. We must start with ourselves. Looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14 again, it says, “if my people … will humble themselves … and turn from their wicked ways … ”

As Christians, we are called first to get the planks out of our own eyes (Matthew 7:4), to check our own habits, to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, to be living according the Scriptures ourselves. If I’m living a sinful lifestyle, I have no right to pick at you about your lifestyle, let alone that of the unbeliever.

Once I’ve checked myself, though, I’m not free to stop there. Jesus said I’m to remove the plank from my own eye before removing the speck of dust from my brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:4-5). Like Paul, I must be qualified to boldly say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I must be willing to disciple other believers and to encourage and admonish them to good works. (Hebrews 10:24).

Second Chronicles 7:14 not only calls us to humble ourselves, but also to pray, and seek God’s face. We need to get to know God, to have a relationship with Him. Knowing God, loving Him, turning from our own ways and following His—those are the things that will change our hearts and will heal our land. Notice there is nothing mentioned in 2 Chronicles 7:14 about what the church should be expecting unbelievers to do.

Christians have a place in the culture at large. Our duty is to be the church. I’m not advocating that we abdicate our responsibility to be the moral conscience of our society. Scripturally, we will not be held guiltless if we allow oppression in our midst, if we allow the innocent to be slaughtered, if we fail to speak up for the marginalized, or if we refuse to care for the orphan and the widow. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear … Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.” We must be the voice for the voiceless, and act on behalf of the weak and marginalized, and brothers and sisters, we must start by serving our fellow man, not by criticizing him or ridiculing him. We must reject the urge to be greedy or self-protective. We must follow in the footsteps of our Savior, just as 1 John 2:6 states.

Can you imagine our community, our state, our country, and our world, if the true believers followed these principles? We would be so changed that we wouldn’t even recognize ourselves. And the revival that would take place would solve so many of the problems that plague us, because the world would see the true meaning of service, of worship, of Christianity, of discipleship, and of love. The world would see who Christ really is, and we all would be transformed.

 

 

 

Empty Places

18519930_1375503069197376_5749210635434995505_n-e1502742680730.jpgThis is a very different first day of school.

That’s because there are a couple empty places in my heart. Big empty places.

For the first time in 18 years, I woke up without my second-born daughter under my roof. Of course she has spent the night away from home before. But for the first time, this is not a sleepover. We said our goodbyes yesterday as she began her college career. What a bittersweet time. There is sadness of knowing there will be an empty place at the table, but an even greater joy at knowing that she has a foundation in Christ and that she is working toward her dreams.

And then there’s another empty place.

For the first time in eight years, I’m not decorating a classroom, planning first-week-of-school activities, outlining classroom expectations, working and reworking seating charts and floor plans, and preparing for open house. For the first time in four years, I’m not in charge of the school I founded. I’m not coordinating opening programs and answering last minute emails.

These are wide-open empty places. Give-me-a-home-where-the-buffalo-roam kind of empty places.

Places where God is preparing to write new stories, to draw new pictures, to create new masterpieces, to compose new melodies. But right now, those places seem a little stark, a little bare, a little bland, a little … well … a little empty.

In the next few weeks, I’ll begin the homeschool journey with my boys, and I’ll get baby Emma into a routine (hopefully), and I’ll find my place God’s place for me, and those empty places will become beautiful, abundant, joyful places in His time and in His way. You see, empty places aren’t void of life and goodness, and if you look hard enough, you’ll see that they aren’t actually empty. They’re full of possibilities and grace, just waiting to blossom, if we’re still enough to wait.

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The Sifting

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We don’t know how much time we have, but if we relax and listen to God, if we are still enough and if we acknowledge that He is in control (Psalm 46:10), then we can trust that there truly is enough time for His plan to unfold in His timing. We don’t have to be stressed, to overanalyze, to force things, or to make things happen. We can listen to His voice and follow His plan, and if we do mess up, we can trust Him with that too. He is able, more than able, to handle anything that comes our way.

This is a lesson I have had to learn over time. God has graciously been teaching me in many ways. He has sent wise people into my life to gently attempt to steer me the right way. He has given me His Word and His Spirit. He has allowed me to see the positive and negative outcomes of others’ decisions and lifestyles. Yet, like most people, I’m a hands-on learner. The most powerful way I’ve learned the hard lessons has been through my circumstances. And like many other people, I’m also a slow learner, so I haven’t learned through the first hard thing, or the second, or the third. No, it’s taken several serious difficulties to get my attention.

A little more than two years ago, I was watching a Beth Moore Bible study, in which she discussed a period of “sifting” that took place right before her public ministry took off. As soon as she finished relating her sifting journey, I heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit say, “You’re about to be sifted.” Honestly, I didn’t think too much about it at the time, but I did take it seriously.

Within two weeks, I discovered I had a life-threatening and heart-breaking ectopic pregnancy and had to have emergency surgery. During the following year, I had many struggles in my full-time ministry. It seemed we were relentlessly attacked by the enemy. The next year I became pregnant again, and we now have a healthy, sweet baby girl, but I developed a postpartum condition called PRES, which involved a blood pressure spike, a brain hemorrhage, a Grand Mal seizure, and many after effects, and which also kept me away from my ministry for longer than anticipated. When I returned to work, I fell and broke my ankle within a week and had to sit out for another couple of weeks. Since then, I’ve had simple partial seizures on a regular basis.

Through all of this, I kept hearing God say, “Be still and know that I am God.” And I kept saying, “Yes, God, I will.” And I kept returning to the hamster wheel of being busy and thinking I had to do it all myself.

At the end of the school year, circumstances made it clear to me that it was time to move on from the ministry that I had founded four years earlier. This was not what I had planned, but I knew it was the right thing. The timing seemed bad,  but in retrospect, I can see God at work.

Again, I could hear God say, “Be still and know that I am God.” And I said, “Yes, God, I’m going to take the summer to be still. Just let me put in my resumes and I’ll be still right after that.” OK, so I didn’t exactly say that, but that’s what I did. I put in resumes the day after I resigned. I had four interviews and had three offers within a week. I accepted a position at a wonderful school and was so excited, and then I proceeded to be still–relatively at least. And it was a good thing, because God really did have an opportunity to speak to me over the summer, because I could finally hear Him. I was going at a more reasonable pace, and it felt good. I had time for relationships–both with God and others.

But there was something nagging at my soul. I kept hearing, “Be still and know that I am God.”

And then last Thursday happened. I suddenly ended up in the ER, wondering once again if I would live to see another day. And then it clicked. It’s time to “be still and know that (He is) God.” He wants me to slow down, take care of myself, pay attention to the people closest to me, and listen to His voice before making major decisions. He wants me to have enough time to be in His Word regularly so I can learn from Him. He wants me to let go of my pride and impulsivity and self-sufficiency, because He is my all in all and He can take care of every detail of my life. There is nothing He can’t handle, so He doesn’t need me to take over His position. He simply wants me to accept His provision and direction.

He wants me to stop doing, and start being, so He can stop sifting.

What Does it Mean to Be Like Christ?

By Heather Walton

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Have you ever prayed to be like Christ? Have you ever prayed to know Christ? Then what have you prayed for? Can you relate to any of these? (According to Isaiah 53 and many other Scriptures)
 To be unattractive
 To be despised and rejected
 To suffer
 To endure pain
 To have others hide their faces
 To be despised
 To be looked down on
 To be betrayed by those closest to you
 To have those close to you think you’re crazy
 To have those who know you lose heart and abandon you in your hour of need
 To bear great responsibility
 To teach people who won’t listen to you
 To have one of your closest friends betray you, then refuse to accept forgiveness
 To not receive the glory due you in this life
 To completely trust the Father when it doesn’t look good
 To have Satan gloat over your “defeat”
 To be alone
 To not indulge in things you have a right to
 To not claim your rights
 To go up against the religious authorities
 To hang out with people the church looks down on
 To be considered radical
 To have even your family think you’re crazy and abandon you
 To have no place to lay your head
 To have to put up with people who think they’re great, when they’re so clueless
 To be so afraid and grieved that your body has intense physical symptoms
 To not make a move without praying and listening to the Father’s voice
 To have to fight off the greatest temptation, which is to do something you’d be completely justified to do and are completely entitled to
 To have those who should be singing your praises actually mocking you and calling for your death
 To be humiliated and embarrassed publicly
 To be falsely accused
 To be punished for doing the right thing or being right
 To be beaten within an inch of your life
 To be poor
 To be hungry and thirsty
 To be misunderstood
 To be without honor
Think of the opposite of each of these points. Isn’t that what we normally pray for? For example, don’t we normally pray for things like being loved, not suffering, being understood by those close to us, and having our needs met? There is nothing wrong with praying that way, because God tells us to bring our needs to Him. However, how many of us have prayed to be like Christ, but then we protest when God allows difficulties to come into our lives? I know I have. Instead, we need to appreciate the opportunities we have to be be conformed into our Savior’s image. So the next time we go through something tough, let’s try to remember to thank God for giving us an opportunity to be more like Christ. It will likely change our perspective, and help us to grow more in our Christian walk than we would have otherwise. I know this is counter-intuitive, but it is the truth.

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