Gad and God

IMG_5653Unless you are one of those persistent, adventurous types that have actually ventured past the longsuffering list of Hebrew genealogy in the opening and eye-closing chapters of 1 Chronicles in the Old Testament, then you probably don’t know much about the Gadites. Recently, I slapped my glassy-eyed self awake several times to get far enough into the book of Chronicles to find them.

Recall that Jacob had twelve sons and Gad was one of them. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and thus his descendants are referred to as the children of Israel, or the twelve tribes of Israel. Gad’s descendants, the Gadites, were one of these twelve tribes.

The Gadites lived east of the Jordan River between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. They were joined east of the Jordan by two other tribes of Israel – the Reubenites to the south and half the tribe of Manasseh to the north. Bordering them on the west were the rest of their family – the remaining twelve tribes of Israel – and on the east were their enemies, including the Ammonites and the Hagrites. We meet up with these east siders in 1 Chronicles 5:18-22:

“The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh had 44,760 men ready for military service – able-bodied men who could handle shield and sword, who could use a bow, and who were trained for battle. They waged war against the Hagrites [and others]. They were helped in fighting them, and God delivered the Hagrites and all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him.”

A few chapters later we are introduced to eleven individual Gadites whom God deemed worthy of honorable mention. These brave men left the ranks of the reigning king of Israel, Saul, to support David, whom the prophet Samuel had anointed as Saul’s successor and whom Saul was intent on killing:

“Some Gadites defected to David at his stronghold in the wilderness. They were brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles in the mountains. These Gadites were army commanders; the least was a match for a hundred and the greatest for a thousand.” 1 Chronicles 12:8,14.

You do not want to meet these men in battle; you want these Gadites fighting on your side. No doubt David was grateful to know they had his back. I was grateful God kept me conscious long enough in 1 Chronicles to discover these lessons from the Gadites:

1. Preparation is key to success. The Gadites diligently trained so that when the battle came, they were ready to fight. They worked their bodies until they were strong. They practiced using the tools of the warrior trade – shields, swords, bows and spears – until they were skilled. As a result, when conflict came, they could face it with the courage of a lion and could scale mountains as fast and steady as a gazelle.

If we want victory over the enemy of our soul who uses sin, temptation and trials to get us to fall, like the Gadites we must prepare for it. If we want to do something well, we have to first be willing to do it poorly until, after constant repetition and correction, we have become skilled at it. Training takes consistent effort and perseverance. To grow strong in the Lord and to be changed so that we look more like Christ we must daily study the Word of God, seek Him in prayer, serve in his kingdom and follow him in word and deed.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13.

2. God helps those who cry out to him. Man says, “God helps those who help themselves.” God laughs and says, “How’s that workin’ for you?”

The Gadite soldiers were strong and able; their least capable could fight one hundred men alone, and their greatest could handle a thousand. But more important than their strength and ability was their wisdom. The Gadites knew that they needed God to fight for them during the battle because no matter how strong they were, they would lose without God on their side.

When we come to the end of ourselves and realize that we cannot do life on our own apart from God; when we acknowledge that we need him to guide us, to comfort us, to give us wisdom and strength; when we finally cry out to him, then, as the Psalms repeatedly attest, God will come along side us and say, “Here, let me help you.”

“I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me.” Psalm 3:4.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1.

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.” – George Muller.

3. God answers prayer when we trust in him. God didn’t hear the prayers of the Gadites because they were strong, skilled, prepared, courageous or fast. He answered their prayers because they trusted him. The Gadites had a firm belief and confidence not in themselves, but in the reliability, truth, power, and promises of their God. They knew they were able, but not always able. They were wise enough to understand that God alone is able always.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.” Psalm 28:7.

Like the Gadites, let us train for victory, but trust and rely on the only One who delivers the victory.

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A River Runs Through It

For all of my adult years, I have enjoyed a constant flow of life-giving love and encouragement from a small town, Idaho farm girl. She passed last night from this life into heaven.

Like a river, Jan Feil Dean ran through my life for over 34 years, beginning when I was in high school and fell in love with her brother. She welcomed me into the Feil family even before I was a Feil, and long after I no longer bore that name. When I was injured in a serious truck accident shortly before my wedding day, Jan brought me home to her house from the hospital and tenderly cared for me. She was my maid of honor and helped me plan our wedding, and I counted it a privilege a few years later to attend her wedding to her hero, Wendel, an honorable, true and simple gentleman.

Birthdays, Mother’s Days, Father’s Days, Memorial Days, Thanksgivings, Christmases, family reunions, barbecues, graduations, weddings, births and funerals piled up over the years like gold in the treasure chest of my heart and always, Jan was there. We moved away, but Jan’s love and support moved with us, wherever we went.  She was the first person who made me believe I was special and beautiful and worthy of love, and continued to make me believe it when my life shattered and I was a broken, desperate mess. She taught her children and grandchildren to honor and love me, and thereby allowed me the joy of loving them, too. She was, in turn, my friend, nurse, mentor, confidante, counselor, mother and sister, as well as an aunt and, after her own mother passed, a grandmother to my children.

Jan never lectured me, but instead taught through her example how to be less selfish, more giving; less angry, more kind; less fearful, more trusting; and to experience less pain and more peace. She lived the truth of Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

It is pathetically inadequate to say I was blessed to have known Jan. But say it I must, for her light illuminated many of my darkest places. Much of the good in me today is a result of spending years watching and trying to be like this sister of my heart, who I held up as the gold standard of what it meant to be a Christian wife and mother. Jan would have been the first to tell me how misguided I was in seeking to emulate her imperfect model, rather than that of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who we both knew and loved. Eventually, I came to understand that it wasn’t Jan I wanted to be like, but the Rabbi she resembled and tried to follow.

Scripture tells us that the evidence of our salvation is found in our changed lives, as demonstrated by certain characteristics of the Holy Spirit who lives in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22. Jan was not perfect, but she possessed these qualities in increasing measure as she grew closer to meeting her Maker. I saw her fruit and I wanted my life to produce the same bumper crop of righteousness.

God blessed me by planting me in the rich and fertile soil next to the river of life that was Jan, that I might drink from her soul and become kinder, gentler, and more loving than I would have been otherwise. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for his gift of this life-giver. I will miss her sweet presence every day until the day God calls me home and we are reunited in heaven.

Perhaps you have someone like Jan who runs through your life, a person who imperfectly but dependably follows the example of Christ, loving God, loving others and loving you. Someone who lifts you up and fills your cup with her kindness, who leaves you better than they found you. If so, be refreshed by your loved one’s presence, and then seek and find the true Source of their fullness and joy, Jesus, so that you may not just drink for their lifetime, but for eternity.

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Doors

It was 35 years ago this month that my mom handed me a box and told me to pack up my belongings. She then drove me several hours away to my grandmother’s house in another state. During the drive, she told me she was going to pretend as if I had never been born, to never contact her, or my younger siblings who still lived with her, ever again.

We pulled into my Grandma’s driveway, and, with the engine still idling, I opened the car door and got out. I said goodbye to my mom, who sat holding the steering wheel and staring straight ahead through the windshield. She did not speak a word to me. I took my box and closed the car door, and the door on a chapter of my life and a room in my heart.

Then I turned, and walked toward the house and the next door.

In the intervening years so much has changed, including me.

I have been hurt many times and I have hurt others, often those I loved the most.

I have gained a little wisdom from experience and a lot of wisdom from the Word of God.

I have long since forgiven my mom for childhood hurts she inflicted on me, but which I believe in her heart of hearts, she never intended to do.  I understand that my mom suffers from deep-seated mental illness, that Christ alone can deliver her from her demons, just as he delivers each of us from our own sin and shame. She has sought freedom in many wrong places instead of in genuine surrender to Jesus, the real lover of her soul. I pray for her salvation.

And though my heart is not hard, it is cautious. I do not want to walk back through that door and into the crazy fire that once scorched me. I am a 51-year-old little girl who is still afraid of her 74-year-old mother.

Perhaps one day God will lead me to reconcile with this poor, broken old woman who once loved me as best she knew how and was capable of, and who I once loved. Letting go, like forgiveness and healing is a process. Sometimes, it takes a lifetime.

While there have been many times when I felt alone and abandoned, I see now that never once did God leave me all alone. Whether I knew it at the time or not, he has always walked with me, held me and pursued me. I am thankful that God picked me up out of the muck and mire at an early age and set my feet on the Rock. He has been opening doors for me to walk through and closing others ever since. And he wants me to be a door, a conduit through which his love can pass to others and light their way.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4: 6-9.

If a door in your life has slammed shut, turn toward God and ask him to lead you to the next one. Step into the light of grace. Yesterday’s a closing door; you don’t live there anymore. Tell your heart to beat again.

“You’re shattered
Like you’ve never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again

Beginning
Just let that word wash over you
It’s alright now
Love’s healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
‘Cause your story’s far from over
And your journey’s just begun

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven’s working
Everything for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again.”

– “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again,” by Danny Gokey

Go Long

“I am not going to introduce Jesus to my children. Instead, I am going to wait and let them decide for themselves as an adult whether they want to follow Christ.”

Sounds like a fair-minded, reasonable proposition, until you carefully examine it.

As a mom, I often struggled with forcing my children to do things they did not want to do. When my kids were younger, with minimal weeping and gnashing of teeth, I was usually successful in getting them to abide by reasonable, socially acceptable behavioral expectations consistent with a Biblical worldview. This included such things as brushing their teeth, taking baths, observing a decent bed time, doing chores, playing fair, being kind and respectful toward others, and attending school, sports practices and church consistently.

I required my kids to do all these things (and many more) not because I wanted to control them for control sake, but because I deemed these behaviors to be in their best interest and necessary for them to have a good life here on earth and eternal life in heaven. I cared more about their long term best interests than their temporary comfort and happiness. It didn’t make me very popular, but I wanted my kids to possess good character and integrity, to love and be loved, to be healthy and strong, and to trust and obey God. In short, I wanted them to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ so that they could experience the blessings of obedience, including peace and not just happiness, but fullness of joy.

However, as our kids entered their teens, it began to dawn on them and us that they did not have to obey mom and dad if they did not want to. The control we thought we had over their conduct was illusory. We could not force them to do anything they did not want to do, but could only encourage them to do the right thing by offering rewards for good choices and negative consequences for bad. Consistently enforcing family rules and consequences is the hard work of parenting and it is rarely fun.

If by their teen years our kids did not care more about having a good life than we cared about them having a good life, we – and they – were in trouble. It is disappointing, frustrating, heartbreaking and depressing when our kids choose less than God’s highest and best for themselves. Even though there were consequences for disobedience – being grounded and losing privileges like cell phones, computer time and driving, coupled with an angry lecture – kids are kids. Sometimes they would either fail to consider those consequences, or after a brief risk-benefit analysis, occasionally would decide to do things their way instead of our way. (I can hear God saying to me, “Now, do you get it?”)

We hoped their way would mirror our way which we hoped followed God’s way. But just as we did not always obey the Lord in all we said and did, neither did our kids. However, if there came a point in time when their behavior was more disruptive or defiant than it was peaceful and compliant, it was time for them to move out and make their way in the world where they could do what was right in their own eyes. We would no longer impose consequences for undesirable behavior – the real world would now do that through financial hardship, lost jobs, and failed relationships…just as it had for us.

Our goal as parents was to prepare our kids to survive and thrive in life – on earth and in heaven.  We knew that Jesus was the key to a good and righteous life that God would bless. We understood that their internal compasses needed to be set to true north – the absolute, unchanging and infallible truth of the Bible – so that their conduct and choices would be governed by a perfect, eternal standard, and not by their parents or others, or even by their own best judgment. However, we didn’t always know how best to do that, and we often bumbled along in our humanity and made a mess of things.

Yet we were convinced of this: to not offer our kids Jesus would have been to give them less than the best, to gamble with their salvation and possibly deny them the hope of eternal life. We loved our kids. Why would we ever deprive them of Christ during their learning and growing years, when their beliefs and values were being firmly rooted and established? They needed the teachings of Jesus to give them wisdom and discernment and the Holy Spirit to strengthen and comfort them even in childhood and certainly to navigate their teen years with all those challenges.

For these reasons, we required our kids to regularly attend church, even when they did not want to go. We knew it was in their best interest because it was in Sunday School, during the worship service, in the fellowship of our Christian brothers and sisters, and serving others that they would experience the love of God and begin to know his Son, Jesus Christ. We figured there would be plenty of years ahead of them when they could decide whether worshiping God was a priority for them. But as for me and my house, we would serve the Lord.

The Word of God is our playbook for life. We don’t always execute those plays perfectly and sometimes don’t follow them at all, but we know there is no higher standard than Jesus to govern our thoughts, actions and plans. The most important thing a parent can do is teach their kids the Playbook. We have experienced the blessings that come with following the example of Christ and doing things by the Book, and we have suffered the consequences when we substituted our wisdom for God’s and stubbornly insisted on doing things our way. We want our kids to be men and women of the Word, to be better than we have been in following Christ, to see the unseen and to go long.

Jesus told us to make disciples, to baptize them and to teach them to obey him. Our first mission field is our children. My husband and I did a lot wrong as parents, but we sure tried to do this right: to share the love and teachings of Jesus with our kids in the hope that they would decide for themselves to accept him as their Lord and Savior and follow him the rest of their days. We don’t always feel like doing what is best or what we need to do, and our children are no different. As parents, it is our job to train them to be self-disciplined, to help them choose to do the next right thing and enjoy the peace that accompanies it. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11.

While we cannot and should not force our children to believe his claims and accept Jesus as Lord, we can and should introduce them to Jesus at an early age and help them get to know him, so that they can be guided by wisdom and one day make an informed decision whether to believe and follow Christ. We pray daily for our kids and their families and ask God to relentlessly and continually pursue their hearts that they may tune into His voice more, and the world’s less. To the extent there is good in our kids – and there is plenty of it – it is all because of Jesus, the great gap-filler, who took our inadequate parenting efforts and has continued to make something beautiful of all of our children, in his time.

Don’t wait to introduce your kids, grandkids, and other children to the One who gave it all so that they might live. Now is the time. Today is the day. Plant Christ in the next generation while the soil of their heart is still soft and ready to receive the truth. When times of famine and hardship come in childhood and beyond, He will sustain them and they will thrive.

 

Enough is enough

How much is enough? We spend most of our limited time on this planet working not just to meet our needs, but to acquire and enjoy more and better stuff. John D. Rockefeller said, “I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness.”

How and on whom are we spending our time and our money? Do we use those resources primarily to build his kingdom in heaven or our kingdom on earth? Is cash our king, or is Christ?

When was the last time we gave generously to the poor and needy, or to further the kingdom of God? When we receive a bonus or unexpected funds, do we ask, “Who needs this money more than me?” or do we instead wonder, “What can I buy or where can I go with this?”

As followers of Christ, we would do well to consider whether we are managing the resources God has given us in a manner that would please Him. But don’t take my word for it. Let God, the source of all wisdom, have the final word on our attitude toward and behavior regarding money:

  1. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17.
  1. “Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” Proverbs 11:28.
  1. “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:7-10.
  1. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalm 127:2.
  1. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21.
  1. “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Revelation 3:17.
  1. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24.
  1. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:25-33.

 

 

Waiting

Recently I had to wait five days for the results of a biopsy that would tell me whether I had cancer. For most of those days I was able to stay busy, keeping myself distracted from dwelling on the possibilities. But the last day before I received the pathology report was the longest day of my life and I allowed my mind to have its way with me.

A nagging fear settled into the pit of my stomach and quickly grew out of control. What if I did have cancer? What would I do? How would I respond? Ever the planner, I tried some reactions on for size, just in case.

“That sucks.” Ridiculous understatement.

“Oh, God, no!” Too desperate and terrified.

“Can I get a second opinion?” Disbelief, denial, confusion, shock.

Like millions who have waited for this news before me, I cried out to God, asking him for the obvious. Then I prayed the prayer that never fails: “Lord, please take this cup from me. Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Finally, I turned to the Psalms, my bridge over troubled waters.

“Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:1-3 (KJV).

The Hebrew for “look up” used here means to look about, as one would from a watch tower. The New International Version translates it as “wait expectantly.” According to one commentator, “it refers to a tower which has a wide prospect. The idea here is properly that he would watch, narrowly and carefully (as one does who is stationed on a tower), for some…answer to his prayer.” – Barnes’ Notes on the Bible.

Another commentator indicates the Hebrew phrase for “look up” used by the psalmist “is expressive of hope, expectation, faith, and confidence, that an answer would be returned; and therefore the psalmist determines to look upwards to heaven, whither he directed his prayer, and from whence the answer must come; and to look out from his watch tower, where he was waiting for it, and to continue patiently expecting it till he had it.” – Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible.

Like the psalmist, I waited expectantly, if not patiently. I could not know how God would answer my prayer, but I knew that he had heard and would answer. Perhaps not with the pass I desperately desired, but I trusted the only Trustworthy One to walk with me, come what may, and to accomplish his purposes in and through me, even as I pleaded for relief.

After five days of waiting, I was thankful and relieved to hear that I don’t have cancer. Sadly, millions of others have had, and do, and will have cancer. Why did God take this cup from me and not them? I don’t know. Nobody but God knows. We live in a sinful, broken, disease-ridden world and bad things happen to good people and vice versa all the time. Life is not fair.

For me, the only path to peace in the midst of life’s chaos, trial and tragedy is trust. When I do not trust God, I am adrift, putting my hope in things that are temporary, fickle and fragile like bank accounts, good health, friends, family, and my own strength and abilities. When I put my trust in the Lord, he anchors me to that which is unseen, solid, and eternal – himself.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7.

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13.

Lord – please help us to lay our requests before you and to look up. Make us eager and expectant for your answer and give us peace as we wait and trust in you.

 

 

Lost in Lawlessness, Not Love

“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”—Proverbs 14:12.

“Religion is Losing Influence in U.S,” according to the Easter Sunday headline on the Opinion page of The Dalles Chronicle. While that may be news to some, it is no revelation to Christians. Religion’s importance in America has been declining since the 1960s, accelerating its downward descent exponentially in the last dozen years. Churches once crowded with people of all ages have dwindled in size as the faithful have become fewer and grayer. Many in the younger generations now rarely darken our church doors, and the friendly, familiar echo of children laughing and little feet running up church steps and down corridors has grown muted before soon becoming a memory.

At the same time that religion is losing influence in the United States, not surprisingly, lawlessness, or sin, is increasing.

The value of human life is near rock bottom, as evidenced not only by human atrocities around the world executed by foreign governments on their own people and ISIS supporters, but in our own nation. Crime has become increasingly random and shocking. Law enforcement officers, Christians, Muslims, homosexuals, black men and white men have all been killed at random simply because they were members of a certain group that somebody hated. For many, rape and murder have even become a form of entertainment, as evidenced by the callous and arbitrary murder of an elderly man on Easter Sunday, recorded live, posted by his killer on Facebook, viewed with utter disregard for the value of this man’s life by over 22,000 people and shared by another 1,000 plus more on their own social media.

Drugs are ravaging our families and communities, with heroin related deaths surpassing gun homicides in 2015 for the first time ever according to the CDC. Long term substance abuse is linked to mental illness, with both conditions on the rise and wreaking havoc on our citizens. Our response to drug abuse has been to make it easier than ever to use and abuse drugs by handing out fresh needles, antidotes for overdoses before they are needed, and legalizing entry level drugs like recreational, aka “just for fun”, marijuana, making it as easy to purchase as a gallon of milk at the grocery store. And we wonder why our children become addicts.

Is it merely a coincidence that when faith in God is declining, lawlessness is on the rise? What is it within a man or woman that restrains him from evil and causes him to do good and to love others as himself? Is it mankind’s inherent goodness?

I think not. As for me, I am not a good person. I am selfish and want what I want, when I want it, and I want to do what I want to do, not what you want. What restrains me from living out my selfishness is my faith. If I dare to call myself a Christian – a disciple, or follower, of Jesus Christ – then I must study who he is and become like him. Jesus is good. If there is anything good in me, it is solely because of him and his righteousness living in me.

Reverence for and love of God restrains sin, not the goodness of man. “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’” —Exodus 20:20.

Without a belief in and reverence for God, “good” men and women will eventually become lawless as their love grows cold. That is what our nation is seeing right now. “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” Isaiah 5:20-21. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” — Matthew 24:12.

Brother and sister, don’t go with the flow. Keep pushing back the dark with the love of Jesus. Stand firm and be counted with Christ. Go back to church. Open your Bibles, read and study the Word of God. Scripture is playing out in real time, folks. We would be wise to know the Word so we can recognize it at work in our world, to follow the example of Christ and be saved, and bring others to a saving knowledge of him through our love, not our lawlessness.